The car is gassed up, my bags are packed and I'm ready to hit the road, beginning at our closest destination, Nationals Park, home to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
It opened in 2008 and seats about 41,500. It fits very well into the Southeast Washington neighborhood, near the Navy Yard. The infield dirt comes from Maryland and the field consists mainly of Kentucky Bluegrass. It was designed after the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art. The deepest part is, of course, in center field at 402 feet. It is an excellent place to watch a game. One of the features is the 4,500 square foot scoreboard. Single game tickets start as low as $10.
From there I headed to western Maryland, to Allegany County, and stopped at the Rocky Gap Resort and Casino. It is actually located in the town of Flintstone. This is Maryland's newest and smallest casino. But remember not to judge accomplishment by size alone. The casino opened in May and has 558 slots and 10 table games. The casino is smoke free, though they do provide an outdoor smoking area. The gaming area is quite comfortable and easy to navigate. I can't tell you how many times I've been lost in one of the larger casinos located in our general area.
There's no doubt this is a most welcome addition to the county. It provided jobs for many people and will hopefully provide revenue for the county. One of the really neat features of the property is that it's situated on a man-made lake. As you drive in, you'll be struck by its beauty. There is also a Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course, a conference center, restaurants and nearby beach on the lake. From the Beltway and 70 it took me two hours. From 70 West go to 68 West and follow the signs.
Heading north, I visited Lancaster. By this time, I was a bit exhausted so a good night's sleep was in order. For that, I checked into the Double Tree by Hilton Lancaster, located at 2400 Willow Street Pike. It's surrounded by a par three and four golf course. There are 185 rooms including 30 suites. This is a perfect spot for families. Some of the amenities, besides golf, include tennis, basketball, a pool and water playground, Cafe 2400 for all meals and on Saturdays they offer a complimentary three-hour bus tour of Lancaster and those great Amish farms.
There are various packages from which to chose, be it golf, honeymoon or amusement park - Dutch Wonderland or Hershey Park. The average summer rate is about $159. I especially like the fact this hotel is locally owned. One member of the family is always on premise. For more information, visit http://www.doubletreelancaster.com.
Time to get back on the road, on the way to Atlantic City. I wanted to stop by the Steel Pier because I heard good things are happening there. At one time, it was one of the country's top attractions where big names performed. But as time marched on, this iconic pier has undergone many changes, including being closed. Thanks to a New Jersey native, who bought the pier in 2011, it is open for business and is doing quite well this summer.
One recent piece of news is that in early 2014 a giant wheel - I'm talking 200 feet with gondola-like cars - will provide tremendous views of the hotels, ocean and boardwalk during its 20-minute ride. There are currently about 25 rides, 20 games and 16 food outlets. On the ocean end is a stage for live performances. When in A.C. give the Steel Pier a look. It's located across from the Taj Mahal. For more information, visit http://www.steelpier.com.
Speaking of Atlantic City, there is currently a very active campaign to promote activities other than gaming. The Atlantic City Alliance has launched a season-long promotional plan to highlight such things as the museums and shopping. For one thing, Ripley's has a museum right on the boardwalk. Cordish has developed a very nice shopping area off the boardwalk behind Caesar's. Let me also point out I found the beaches to be very clean and big. There is lots of room from the boardwalk to the ocean. The beach patrol takes care in maintaining the upkeep of the beach. On the outside of Boardwalk Hall every night at dusk there's a free laser light and sound show.
The final destination is New York. It's been a few years since I last saw Lady Liberty, and since she's been through so much in the last two years, I thought a visit was necessary. After a massive clean-up due to destruction brought on by Sandy, she re-opened her island and doors on July 4th. To get an up-close visit, just hop a ferry from Battery Park. While down in lower Manhattan, walk by the location of the Freedom Tower, the skyscraper replacing the World Trade Centers. You'll be amazed at its design and height.
If you take a bus into New York from any of the Baltimore companies, most likely you'll be dropped off on or near Times Square. Your first stop should be the Visitor's Center at about 45th Street. Everything you'll want to know about New York, including a video, will be found there. Pick up brochures, ask questions and be on your way.
I could go on for pages listing all there is to do here, but space limitations mean I can only list a few. There's always a Broadway show. Stop by the Tickets Booth on Times Square and try to get some discounted tickets. You can go in any direction from Broadway and you'll soon run into something exciting. For suggestions, I recommend visiting Central Park, the New York Library, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Macy's, Saks, 5th Avenue, Radio City, St. Patrick's Cathedral, a subway ride anywhere, like to Chinatown, Chelsea, Greenwich Village or one of the burroughs for a real adventure. Enjoy yourself, but please don't miss the bus home. For more information, visit http://www.nycvisit.com.
One last and most important point, when the bus driver says we're leaving at 6 p.m., he means it. If you arrive at 6:05 you better start looking for another way back.