360 Degree Virtual Tours

I have recently began working on creating 360 degree panoramic photography.  The type of virtual photography has many implications especially in the real estate and commercial markets.  These virtual tours allow real estate agents to showcase homes for clients without having to bring them out to the property only to discover it's not a good fit for the party involved.  These tours will allow clients to narrow down the applicable properties prior to meeting with the agent saving time for everyone involved.

On the commercial side, businesses can provide a virtual tour of their establishment so clients know what to expect prior to entering the business.  This can apply to car dealerships, dental offices, salons, banks, and everyone hoping to increase exposure to new customers.  This technology is in its early stages and will continue to grown and become a dominant force for years to come.

I plan on involving this service for clients looking to provide a more immersive three-dimensional experience rather than just the standard two-dimensional photographs. 

I have provided an example below.

 

THE CITY OF BRIDGES

The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania which happens to be the twentieth largest in the United States, has been appropriately referred to as the "Steel City" due to the fact that it is home to more than 300 steel-related businesses.  While this has been well publicized, many are not aware that the city of Pittsburgh has also been coined the "City of Bridges" due to the fact that it contains 446 bridges - the most of any city in the world...except Venice, Italy. 

Pittsburgh has also been a manufacturing giant of aluminum, glass, shipbuilding, sports, computing and electronics. The city houses world renowned medical and research centers, museums, and libraries along with a vibrant cultural scene as well as laying claim to having the most bars per capita in the United States. Some of the world's biggest names in tech have offices located here.

 

Pittsburgh is a palette begging for an artist with a brush. Photographers have endless opportunities to create a plethora of stunning imagery including but not limited to world class architecture and jaw dropping skylines. I look forward to returning to this wonderful city to bask in all its glory. 

PREPARING FOR BEACH SEASON

As the brisk and chilling mornings soon become a memory, our thoughts lead back to warmer and happier times.  This comes from a trip I took last summer and imagine I will be revisiting this site in near future. Otsego Lake State Park is located up North near the sleepy Alpine Village of Gaylord, Michigan.

Sunset on Otsego Lake

Established as a state park in 1920, Otsego Lake State Park is shaded with large oak, maple and pine trees while spanning 62 acres and providing more than a half mile of sandy beach and large campgrounds near or within sight of the lake. Whether you want to absorb the rays while on the beach, catch some trout or camp out for the weekend, Otsego lake checks all the boxes for nice relaxing and serene weekend.

SEDONA'S FAVORITE GEM

A small locale tucked away in Verde Valley, Arizona, Sedona is best known for its glorious red sandstone structure and mild year-round climate. The city sits 1372 above sea level providing some of the most marvelous views of all the existing nature and wilderness.

The most visited landmark in Sedona is Cathedral Rock which also happens to beone of the most photographed sites in America by enthusiasts and professionals alike. The Rock formations which change colors throughout the day are known to resemble a shrine. The area appeals to hikers and nature enthusiasts as well as the risk-takers who attempt to climb this gargantuan structure. Cathedral Rock is located in the Coconino National Forest in Yavapai County. Words simply cannot justify the vision that awaits anyone visiting this amazing landmark.

WALKING THE STRIP

I recently traveled to Las Vegas for a long weekend of work-related events.  Although I had a detailed shot list for sites I wanted to photograph, reality left me with very little time to actually make images.  After completing my obligations, I headed out down the strip at 11:00 pm on a brisk and windy March night. As I walked around trying to capture the hustle and bustle of the Vegas Strip, I settled on an area with active traffic and a backdrop of hotels including Treasure Island, The Venetian and The Mirage.

Lighting up the Strip

The extended light trails lead the eye straight down the strip populated with gargantuan hotels filled with casinos, high-end retailers and countless five-star celebrity-owned restaurants.  This level of excess and grandeur can only be seen in aplace known appropriately as Sin City.

Anchors Away

Today's photo comes from a photowalk with a group headed by Alanna St.Laurent in downtown Detroit.  We visited a few locations on a chilly winter evening to get some great night photographs of the Motor City.

The Princess riverboat cruises are generally 2-3 hours long, traveling from Hart Plaza to Belle Isle, and back. The boat hosts dinner cruises, fall color cruises, moonlight cruises and dinner cruises. The boat is available to book for private parties when you want to take it to the next level. This is something to consider during the dog days of summer for some great sunset shots of Detroit or when you are looking to make a serious splash for a special occasion .

WELCOME TO SHAWSHANK

I recently traveled to Mansfield, Ohio with Thomas Nighswander of Michigan Photo Adventures and a group of photographers to tour the Mansfield Reformatory which was made famous by being the predominant location for the famous movie "The Shawshank Redemption".  The exterior represents a Romanesque style design with its castle-like appearance. 

The Mansfield Reformatory was constructed between the years of 1886 and 1910 and functioned as a full fledged prison until it was closed down by a federal court in 1990.  The historic prison has also been a venue for scenes in the movies Tango & Cash, Air Force One, as well as music videos by Godsmack and L'il Wayne.  

The original use of the reformatory was a training camp for Civil War Soldiers.  The construction of the institution was completed by well-known architect F.F Schnitzer whose name also appears on documents as a Superintendent.  The first group of prisoners were brought in from Columbus in 1896 and were immediately put to work on the prison sewer system.

Locked in

The East Cell block which is comprised of six tiers remains the largest cell block in the prison.

One door always leads to another.  The stairs though the door lead to what was once a church which now seems to be a fraction of what it once was.  Although there are areas of moderate dilapidation, the majority of the building is sound.

This area of worship barely resembles such an institution yet contains just enough artifacts to imagine what might have been here.

Pick a room - any room

The cells are open for viewing to imagine what the cramped living quarters might have been like.  This serves as a reminder is that there is always a price to pay and retribution has its purposes.  Unfortunately, these spartan conditions and tortuous lifestyle only lead to an inability to cope with society causing criminals to return after a short time.

This photo gives one an ideal of the amenities or lack thereof for one in such a situation.  The message here is for must of us, things are not that bad.  Then again, we didn't place ourselves in such a position to receive such accommodations.

Above is a birds eye view of a prison cell in the main cell block.  One can only imagine what a day in here would be like.

The cause of the reformatory shutting down in 1990 was due to a prisoners' class action lawsuit which claimed extreme overcrowding and inhumane conditions. 

These are the main stairs which greet the visitors beginning the tour.  The Mansfield Reformatory Preservation Society is currently working to restore the prison to its original condition.  The repairs are completed by funding from the ongoing tours and various donations.  This place is definitely worth the drive and can be visited year round.

 

 

HANGING OUT IN BEANTOWN

The city of Boston is a definite must see since it offers a multitude of activities which will please even those with the most discriminating tastes. History buffs can get lost for days on the Freedom Trail while reliving such as acts as the Boston Tea Party. Sports fans need to look no further than the one and only Fenway Park. Foodies will appreciate the diverse dining options the city has to offer.

The Boston Skyline

As with any major city possessing a vibrant downtown scene comes the opportunity to photography the city skyline consisting of several tall and iconic buildings. One of the best  places to photograph the Boston skyline is Fan Pier Park. One thing to note is that some city cab drivers have no idea where this is so be sure bring additional information or there is no telling where you will end up. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way.

Omni Parker House Hotel

When in Boston, one must be sure to sample the legendary Boston Cream Pie at the Omni Parker House Hotel. This culinary delight is known as the official dessert of Massachusetts. 

Baseball fans will definitely stop by and experience the charm and history of the world renowned Fenway Park. Home to the Boston Red Sox, this place is virtually a way of life for Bostonians. During gamedays, the area around the park practically closes down due to the immense traffic situation. When the stadium is not being utilized, tours are offered which I hope to capitalize on during my next visit.

One final dining choice which must be made is that of the world renowned Lobster Roll which can be found at a plethora of establishments. Large chunks of Lobster in a mayonnaise based salad served on a roll. 

I greatly anticipate my return visit to this amazing city to continue my amazing experience.

 

CAN YOU SAY TRIDGE?

Located in the heart of Midland, MI lies the Iconic "Tridge" which represents a three-way wooden bridge located at the junction of the Chippewa and Tittabawassee Rivers. The bridge consists of a 31 foot central pillar supporting three spokes which are each 180 feet long and 8 feet wide. 

The Tridge is one of the the city's main attractions and signifies the beginning of the Chippewa Trail. It also marks the origin of the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, a Michigan Rails to Trails Conservancy Hall of Fame Trail. This area is very active in the summer with it's nearby parks, farmers market, and evening concerts. A rather unique structure indeed which is best viewed at night while fully illuminated.

ALL ABOARD

I recently visited the Jingle Rails Exhibit at the Eiteljorg Museum in downtown Indianapolis featuring numerous train layouts of famous landmarks made from materials such as moss, twigs, nuts, etc. Jingle Rails is a representation of the Real Great American West as well as an imaginary version. For those who grew up tinkering with model trains, you will greatly appreciate the attention to detail placed throughout this exhibit.

The exhibit features local Indianapolis treasures such as the Eiteljorg Museum and Lucas Oil Stadium.

Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art

Lucas Oil field served as host to the Superbowl back in 2012 and continues as home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. Notice the great attention to detail with regards to the field surface inside.

Monument Circle celebrates the Holidays every year with a lighting ceremony that draws large volumes of people from miles and miles away.

The Indiana State Fair remains a staple in the fabric of Indiana Summers while entertaining large crowds every year.


Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota has been an iconic landmark since 1925 featuring the faces of former Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and George Washington.

Old Faithful Geyser, the world's most famous Geyser located in Yellowstone National Park was named due to it's reliable ability to erupt every 65-92 minutes which still holds true today.

While in Yellowstone, why not stay at the Legendary Ahwahnee Hotel, which has seen countless celebrities throughout its long existence.

One last stop on this tour is the one and only Hoover Dam which sits on the Arizona-Nevada Border and takes in approximately 1 million visitors per year.

This is an exhibit that has been airing for the past six years around the Holidays and is definitely an attraction worth adding to your itinerary when visiting Indianapolis.

 

THE POWERS OF POST-PROCESSING

As photographers, we are always told to capture the best images in camera followed by modest enhancements made in software to create the final masterpiece. As much as I subscribe to this theory, there are times when the conditions are simply not conductive to creating great content. This is when understanding how to unleash the creative powers of your post-processing software can salvage an image that might never see the light of day.

SOOC - Before    F14   40 sec   ISO 400  14mm

Case in point - I recently spent the Thanksgiving Holiday in Indianapolis with my wife at the JW Marriott Hotel which was constructed at the request of the NFL prior to hosting the 2012 Superbowl. Unfortunately, mother nature was unaware of my arrival and did not choose to cooperate but I managed to make a few images while dodging the raindrops. The extremely overcast conditions provided very poor light leaving nothing worthwhile to be immediately captured. Observing the abundance of cloud cover, I decided to apply a 10 stop ND filter to capture a long exposure. The lack of any gaps in the clouds provided very little contrast thereby failing to reveal any streaking during the 40 second exposure. Not to mention the movement of the clouds was very slow.  Now time to make a decent photograph from this mediocrity. 

The image was imported into lightroom CC and converted to black and white. Mild sharpening and noise removal were done and then imported into photoshop. After duplicating the layer, a selection was made around the clouds using the quick selection tool. The clouds were then placed on their own layer. Using the path blur tool, the cloud streaks were made more distinctive and angled for better orientation with the building. The exposure was lowered to bring out more details in the clouds. After saving the image back into lightroom, some dodging and burning was done to create more contrast while completing the image with a heavy vignette.

 

WELCOME TO THE MISSION

I recently traveled to Mackinac Island for some rest and relaxation and spent a few days at the famed Mission Point Resort.  The resort was bought by a Detroit businessman and renamed Mission Point as a tribute to the part of the Island which housed one of the first churches and the Mission House, an historical landmark which still stands on the property. The resort has gone through changes over the years improving its structural integrity and overall esthetics.  IN 2004, Fodor name the resort as one of the top ten best waterfront hotels in America.

Hotel Lobby

As you enter the main entrance, you are greeted by a rustic yet inviting atmosphere along with towering wooden ceilings.  The front desk seen to the right work diligently to ensure the happiness of each and every guest during their stay.

Round Island Bar and Grill

hether its settling in for your favorite libation during happy hour or fueling up before a long day of sightseeing, the Round Island Bar and Grill is a great place to start or end the day.

Reading Room

One of the nice amenities this hotel provides is numerous seating areas throughout the lobby. These seating areas are great for scintillating conversation or simply enjoying a good book.  The wicker furniture and supple green leather chairs complement the wooden decor quite nicely.

Once you have completed the latest thriller and you have worked up an appetite, the ideal choice for dinner is Chianti, the hotel's flagship italian restaurant.  Fine dining and impeccable service will provide a night to remember.

Chianti Restaurant 

The wooden theme continues throughout the hotel providing a warm and comforting environment to enjoy a delicious culinary experience.

The Mission Point Resort sits about a 15 minute walk away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.  This provides a great deal of solitude allowing one to enjoy expansive property overlooking the Lake Michigan.  The multitude of Adirondack chairs provide a great way to relax on a sunny afternoon.

Take a load off

Mission Point Resort

As old man winter begins to arrive, the island will soon be closed to visitors.  Having said that, I look forward to returning next year for another memorable and relaxing vacation.

 

 

TO BE ZEN-LIKE

This past weekend I made it out to the newly opened and highly anticipated Richard & Helen Devos Japanese Garden in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Garden includes several calming staples such as boulders, waterfalls, horticulture and more. A tremendous amount of sweat equity went into creating this oasis. Islands were constructed, thousands of boulders and plants were brought in. The trees include those which have been pruned and cultivated for years to appear in a mature state.

A helping hand

As you come through the main entrance you are greeted by scupture "It Will Continue to Grow Except at that Point". This installation by Giuseppe Penone elaborates on the idea of mankind's relationship with nature.

As you continue throughout the garden residing in the middle of Lena Meijer Pond, you will come upon the masterpiece known as "Four Open Squares Horizontal Gyratory-Tapered". This creation by George Rickey demonstrates his ability to combine minimalism in combination with geometry and precise engineering. 

s with all visits to a Japanese Garden, something would be amiss without experiencing the tranquility of a waterfall. The garden contains a handful of waterfalls ranging in size a providing much needed serenity to our hectic daily lives.

Continuing throughout the gardens while encircling the pond, one will encounter Pebble beach where a number of sculptures are present composed of stones.

The artist Zhang Huan has been known worldwide for his acclaimed installations and sculptures. The artist has masterfully combined his love of Buddhism and Chinese culture to create inspirational works. His monumental steel sculpture known as "Long Island Buddha" with it roughened exterior, reflects on the relationship of human violence and its destruction of culture

As you climb to the peak, you can catch a birds eye 360 degree view of entire garden.

No visit would be complete without experiencing the traditional Zen-style Garden. The garden promotes seclusion and contemplation while being surrounded by the nearby acclaimed bonsai collection.

This garden will only continue to mature and improve over time. I look forward to many return visits and encourage anyone in the area to stop and immerse yourself in this experience.

 

 

 

CALLING ALL FOODIES!!!

The St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, Ontario was named  the world's greatest food market by National Geographic Magazine back in 2012. The market consists of two separate buildings designated as North and South. St. Lawrence Market South consists of restaurants, bakeries, delis, meat shops as well as a cornucopia of other food sources. St. Lawrence Market North houses weekly farmer's markets along with antique markets.

Olives Aplenty

As a fan of various olives, the multitude of options at the market is simply astounding. Whether searching for the Greek Kalamata, the italian snack favorite Castelvetrano, or the Nicoise olive from the French Riviera, you can be sure whatever your heart desires will be readily available during a visit here. 

Martini Anyone?

One quality I share with all my male counterparts is my love for all things beef. Fellow carnivores will find endless options here as the market plays host to a handful of meat purveyors. Whether you prefer a filet, porterhouse, t-bone, delmonico or ribeye, you can purchase whatever cut you desire in various sizes. 

A Carnivores Dilemma

Along with enough servings of beef to put you into a food coma, fans of proscuitto will find some of the best offerings from the finest regions in Italy. Proscuitto is a dry-cured ham usually sliced thin and served uncooked. Along with this, you will also find the famous and pricey Iberico Ham which is not something readily available in most places. Enjoy it while you can.


As I continued my visit throughout the market I came upon another of my favorite indulgences, Cheese. Here at the market, all regions around the globe have found a way to pleasantly coexist. Whether you prefer a soft and spreadable brie or camembert, a pungent roquefort blue cheese, or an aged and firm Emmental swiss cheese,  this is the place to be. The market host numerous cheese vendors who will provide you with more offerings than one can possibly fathom. Although the options are endless, the journey is extremely enjoyable. 

Cheese and more cheese

In closing, any trip to Toronto must include a stop to the renowned St. Lawrence Market. Be sure to come famished since the plethora of culinary options will definitely prove to be irresistible. Although the line is absolutely ridiculous, be sure to eat at Buster's Sea Cove - it is all worth the wait. If weather permits, walk outside to the rooftop patio and enjoy the view. 

I look forward to returning here later this summer.

TESTING OUT THE TAMRON 150-600 TELEPHOTO-ZOOM LENS

While dabbling in bird photography the past few years, the one common complaint I share with the majority of photographers is that one can never get close enough to these amazing creatures. As an adopter of Canon equipment, I naturally gravitated to the Canon 100-400 USM Telephoto Lens.  This lens provided me countless images I was proud to share, however it was not without its limitations. The one major gripe I had was that the 400mm focal length was simply not enough to compose and photography birds with the intent to fill the frame and avoid unnecessary cropping. The other minor limitation was that the lens tended to produce soft images when racked out to 400mm.  While this is not surprising for a non-prime lens, I simply found it to be little too soft for my taste. After recently selling off this lens, I set out to find a satisfactory alternative which led me to test out the newly released Tamron 150-600mm Telephoto Lens. The additional 200mm of reach may just be the solution I am looking for as there are countless positive reviews of this lens online. Having said that this is not meant to be an in-depth scientific review but rather a simple and easy to understand review which can benefit the average weekend shooter looking for a similar solution. 

I recently headed off the the Detroit Zoo to capture images of wildlife while putting this lens through its paces.

Male Drill

In the photo above of a Male Drill, the lens was able to focus rather quickly with the abundance of sunlight present in the scene without signs of hunting. Having shot this racked out to 600mm and wide open at aperture of 6.3, I was able to blur the background relatively well while isolating the subject. Minor tweaks were made such as contrast and minimal noise reduction since this was shot on a 1st generation Canon 7D. The level of detail in the drill's feathers was quite surprising to me having shot this on a monopod and not a tripod.

Ring-Tailed Lemur

In this shot of the ring-tailed lemur, the lens did a nice job in the shaded conditions to capture color and detail of lunch being consumed. This image was shot through a cage which presented another challenge for the Tamron which it passed with flying colors. Small adjustments were made to contrast, vibrance, white and black points with a bit of high pass sharpening for the final effect. This was shot at 309mm with an aperture of f5.6.

American Bald Eagle

This Bald Eagle was captured at the maximum focal distance of 600mm wide open at f6.3. Although the tree behind the eagle was quite close the longer focal distance managed to create some separation while providing moderate bokeh. The colors rendered nicely with minor adjustments made to contrast, vibrance and sharpening. Again, the overcast conditions did not present any significant autofocus issues on the eagle.

Prairie dog

As the Prairie Dog surfaces, I locked on and grabbed this image. This was shot at a focal length of 500mm at f6.3. Once again shooting at ground level, blurring the background was a cinch thereby isolating the subject. While a monopod is great for portability, a tripod would be the ideal choice to steady the lens due to its significant weight which becomes noticeable after a while.

Male Peacock

The iridescent shade of bright blue on this male peacock was simply captivating. The focusing mechanism grabbed onto the subject without any hiccups. This was shot at 500mm at f6.3. The background separation was quite easy to achieve in this case since I was at ground level removing most background objects. The one issue I did notice was the lens was slow to grab focus on the eye in particular while preferring the larger surface area of the body. Had the peacock been moving at a faster rate, this lens would have some trouble keeping up - this is where a stronger focusing system such as that on the Canon 1D-x might help overcome the limitations of this lens. Having said that, for a minimal investment of $1069, one cannot go wrong as a weekend warrior looking to photograph wildlife and sports in abundant lighting. 

TRINITY CHURCH OF BOSTON

Located in the Back Bay of Boston, Massachusetts, lies one of the most important developments in the history of American Architecture known as the Trinity Church of Boston. The church which serves as home to numerous high level choirs was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson during the years of 1872-1877. In 1971, the church was given the honor being designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The church possesses one of the finest stained glass collections in the world, using examples from nineteenth century American and European stained glass studios. The groundbreaking glass work was the ingenious design of John La Farge. He was the first to pioneer the use of layering opalescent glass for designing stained glass.

This allowed La Farge to create new colored effects and shading by layering pieces of glass rather than the traditional method of painting on glass. 

Along with the copious examples of stunning stained glass, one will find a presence of commanding architecture with it's towering ceilings and columns which provide countless opportunities to observe the fine detail and craftsmanship which went into the construction of this masterpiece. The impeccable artistry can also be witness with a quick glimpse upwards. 

This room features the bust of Phillips Brooks, a clergyman, author and long the Rector of Boston's Trinity Church. He graduated from Harvard at the tender age of 20 and was fired while working briefly as a school teacher. After overcoming the lows associated with termination, he went back to school for his Seminary studies which led him to his role with the Trinity Church.

An example of the seating area on the left side of the church.

As you turn around preparing to exit the Church, there are plenty more features to absorb including the organs along the back wall. For anyone visiting Boston, this is a definite destination to add to one's itinerary. Allow ample time to bask in the glory of one of the finest building ever built in the United States of America. 

YOUR GUARDIAN AWAITS

A few weeks back I headed downtown with Thomas Nighswander and some members of Michigan Photo Adventures to ride along the Detroit People Mover in order to search out future photographic opportunities. One of the main stops of the day was the landmark Guardian Building located within the Financial district of downtown Detroit. Built in 1929, the building served as a great example of bold Art Deco Architecture while being designated in 1989 as a National Historic Landmark. 

The lavish interior of the Guardian building is clothed in mosaic, Pewabic and Rookwood tile. It has been nicknamed the Cathedral of Finance due to the building's exterior resemblance to a cathedral as well as the existing interior archway.

The overwhelming Native American Themes are evident both inside and outside the building. The architect Wirt C. Rowland worked closely with the Muralist Ezra Winter to ensure the exterior architecture and interior furnishings presented a consistent theme throughout.

The skyscraper extends 36 stories into the sky  while housing numerous offices for large corporations. In 2007, Wayne County Executive, Robert Ficano signed an agreement with the current owners  to purchase the Guardian building in order to relocate its offices from the Wayne County Building.

WELCOME TO THE SEMINARY

Established in 1855, The Chicago Theological Seminary is the oldest institution of higher education in Chicago, while being one of seven seminaries historically affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Located on the campus of the University of Chicago, this is one of many attractions that will appeal to most visiting photographers.

As you enter the building you are greeted by this massive staircase and concrete columns just begging to be photographed. The architecture of yesteryear brings be back to my childhood with thoughts of Dungeons and Dragons or Harry Potter for today's youth. 

As I make my way up the stairs I come to a short hallway which leads to a dead end, but not before grabbing my camera. The beautiful archway and cathedral windows are features not to be missed while not being seen on most University Campuses.

As I returned to the main level and began exploring, I came to another section of the building which houses rooms for studying, numerous classrooms and offices.

Just to the right of the previous staircase, I ventured into a rather unique room with minimal furnishings and a fireplace. I am not sure what functions this room serves, but I appreciate the dated decor nonetheless.

As I head up the stairs, I am greeted by a unique seating area bathed in daylight which serves as an ideal place to catch up on some light reading.

Finally, as I make my way back outside, I exit through the cobblestone-lined corridor leading back to the campus grounds. The University of Chicago provides a multitude of photographic opportunites by way of it's unique and eye-catching architecture. To all the photographers heading to the Out of Chicago Photography conference, this must be a definite stop during the weekend.  See you there. 

 

 

 

 

THE DRAKE HOTEL CHICAGO - STEP BACK IN TIME

Located in Chicago's Gold Coast, the legendary Drake Hotel has been a timeless property which provides its guests the ultimate access to the city's finest restaurants, shopping and nightlife.

The Drake is one of about 260 hotels and resorts in the country to be admitted into the Historic Hotels of America due to it's ability to preserve and maintain its historic architecture, integrity and ambiance. 

For a hotel to be honored with this distinction, it must be at least 50 years old as well as being designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Drake has been recognized for almost century as the premier destination the high society crowd to assemble. The ability of the hotel staff to ensure each guest receives nothing less than The Drake Standard of Hospitality ensures it's high level of customer loyalty. 

During the 1920's the Palm Court became the desired location for the city's elite to indulge in the ongoing tradition of Afternoon Tea. This room has seen the likes of Bing Crosby, Walt Disney and Charles Lindbergh imbibing on their favorite cocktails. 

The tradition of Afternoon Tea has become a city staple comparable to the Chicago Hot Dog. This quintessential hotspot has been frequented by royalty such as Queen Elizabeth and Princess Diana who enjoyed their favorite tea and snacks. 

The tradition of afternoon  tea was created by the Seventh Duchess of Bedford back in 1840. Since there was such a long interval between meals, the duchess began requesting tea and cake be brought to her room to satisfy her hunger pangs. She soon made this a daily ritual and invited some friends to join her. This has now become a highly desired experience at the hotel and reservations are strongly recommended.

The hotel has become synonymous with great customer satisfaction while providing the ultimate guest experience. The attention to detail can be seen throughout the hotel through its ornate decor and ambiance. While visiting Chicago, this hotel should be on everyone's list even just as a walkthrough while providing a unique perspective on the Windy City.  One final note, I must insist you stop at the restaurant Coq D'or and partake in a Lobster Roll - you will never forget it.

TOWER OF THE AMERICAS

Located in the middle of Hemisfair Park in downtown San Antonio is the iconic structure known as the Tower of The Americas. This 750-foot tower houses a cocktail lounge, rotating restaurant as well as an observation deck which provides phenomenal panoramic views of the city. The tower, recognized as the tallest building in San Antonio, was designed by architect O'Neil Ford as the main theme structure for the 1968 World's Fair, Hemisfair '68

Construction of the tower commenced on August 9, 1966 and was completed 18 months later, just prior to the opening ceremonies of the fair on April 6, 1968. Interestingly enough, the top portion of the building was constructed at ground level and hoisted on top of the concrete pillar by cables which actually snapped leaving the top resting rather precariously on the concrete shaft. The job was then completed using oil field pipes to secure the tophouse in position.

The ride to the top takes approximately five and a half minutes and can provide some great photographic opportunities if you can avoid the crowds.