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The Hamilton Effect at Starr

The Hamilton Effect at Starr

The other night I experienced the smash-hit Broadway musical, Hamilton (for the third time). The 2016 Tony Award winner who took home a massive 11 trophies is still going strong with sold out theaters eight times a week and now in five cities, including Philadelphia where I was lucky to see the show last night. I know many of you are thinking that I am lucky or even spoiled to have seen this show even once! Each time has been its own experience and every time left me yearning for more. How many musicals have you seen where you can say you would want to see it over and over and over again? 

Much has been said about why the show has become a phenomenon that draws these kinds of crowds. It’s certainly a scene! There’s a crowd outside the theater when you arrive, there are long lines for merchandise and the bar and the bathroom. And after the show ends, don’t expect to be out the door in less than 15 minutes – which is fine as you need that time to let the show sink in once the company has taken their final bows. And since I walked out the door and drove the 45 minutes home, I thought about how the broad effect this show has had on so many people. And then I started thinking about the effect this show has had on my bus tour company. 

 

550 PEOPLE were lucky enough to see this show through the efforts of Starr. We first ordered our tickets in March! When the first buses sold out, we ordered more in July and another batch in September. All in all, we sent seven busloads full of people of all ages from Central Jersey, Bucks County, and Philadelphia. So many tour guests have sent us their thanks and praised us to be able to offer this tour package and we are thankful to have made so many people happy! We also sent three busloads of 10th graders from a local high school studying a civics curriculum to Hamilton with stops at Philadelphia’s new Museum of the American Revolution as well as the National Constitution Center prior to seeing the show. Talk about experiential learning! WOW! Those were some lucky 15 and 16 year olds – of which my son was one of them. Lucky kid! Every Starr guest was dropped off and picked up right in front of the Forrest Theatre! VIP Service for sure!

 

Positano Coast by Aldo Lamberti is the restaurant we brought our tour guests to for a wonderful dinner before the show. Thanks to the show coming to Philadelphia, Positano Coast fed 400 additional hungry theatre-goers who had a choice of Salmon Scampi, Chicken Marsala, and Penne Primavera all served with Ciabatta Bread, Mixed Green Salad, Dessert and Beverage Service. Yum! And the restaurant was founded and started by immigrants – just like Alexander Hamilton. 

 

22 ELATED STARR STAFF were able to see the show in Philly. 7 Tour Directors got to see it for free since they escorted each of the 7 buses. And 15 additional staffers used our generous employee discount to see the show! Many brought friends and family! One of the many great perks of working for Starr!

 

A NEW TOUR DEVELOPED AROUND HAMILTON: In 2017, our Tour Development team developed a tour program called Alexander Hamilton’s Footsteps.  Three busloads of tour guests were lucky enough to experience the following destinations in Elizabeth, NJ and learned about their relationships to Hamilton:

Liberty Hall, a mansion that welcomed many distinguished guests, such as Alexander Hamilton, George and Martha Washington, Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Gerald Ford, and George Herbert Walker Bush.

Snyder Academy of Elizabethtown, one of the oldest and most historic sites in New Jersey. The Old Academy School was attended by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Burr attended the school several years before Hamilton. However, Burr spent time in Elizabethtown during 1773 while Hamilton was a student here, so it is possible, but uncertain, that they may have met at that time. 

Boxwood Hall where Hamilton was a frequent visitor and developed a friendship with the Boudinots that would last his lifetime.

 

 

 

 

NO CONNECTION HERE: Starr’s Headquarters is located in Hamilton, NJ – but alas, this relates to John Hamilton, who served as acting governor of the Province of New Jersey from 1736–1738 and from 1746–1747. No connection to Alexander here! 

 

There is no doubt that this musically told story of an impoverished immigrant who went on to shape the very nature of this country will win your heart and mind like it did mine! So how do you relate to Hamilton? Do you have a rapper grandfather? What stories do you know that blend music and history?

Hotel-Friendly Meals

Hotel-Friendly Meals

Traveling is always fun and exciting, but dining out can take a large bite out of your wallet (pun intended!). Trying new restaurants is always a great way to experience new places and cuisines, but when you want to save money (or not spend it!), what do you do? On most of your multi-day trips with Starr, you will have either a microwave and a small fridge in your room or even a small kitchenette. While microwaveable meals can be quick and convenient, they aren’t always the healthiest options. Here are some meal ideas for when you’re in your room and the hunger-bug strikes!

If you have a small kitchenette in your room, it will most likely come equipped with standard pots and pans. In this case, you can make:

Honey Sriracha Chicken
  1. One-pan pasta! We all know that we can use pasta from a jar, but this delicious recipe from Martha Stewart is fresh, healthy, and ready in under 30 minutes!
  2. Sweet and spicy baked honey sriracha chicken. This recipe is better than take-out and is still ready in less than 30 minutes! Boil some rice to go with it and you just made one incredible meal in your hotel room.
  3. Classic grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. You can spice up your grilled cheese by using pepperjack cheese. To give it a little more flavor, slice a tomato and throw some spinach on it. Yum!

If you only have a microwave and small fridge to work with, that’s okay too! You can still have some scrumptious meals without the mess of pots and pans.

  1. Cold-cut sandwiches with a side of fresh veggies and fruit.
  2. A cooked rotisserie chicken from the grocery store can go a long way!
    Chicken wraps! These are a go-to for me at home or when traveling. I take a wheat wrap, spread some hummus on it and add rotisserie chicken, grape tomatoes, and spinach. It’s so good!
    Chicken salad: mix with enough mayo to coat and add in your favorite ingredients like celery, chopped nuts, and quartered grapes. Or try these recipes for Italian Chicken Salad, or Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Chicken tacos: mix with enough salsa to coat, microwave for one minute and add your favorite taco toppings
  3. Garden salad and baked potatoes. If you poke holes in the potato and toss it in the microwave for about 7-8 minutes, you’ll have a baked potato in less time than it would take to cook in the oven! You can do the same thing with sweet potatoes too. (Did you know that peanut butter adds a great flavor to sweet potatoes?)

Remember, you can easily bring these ingredients from home. They don’t take up a lot of space and you can keep them cool in an insulated container.

Meal time should never be a stressor, especially when traveling! Whether you resort to a simple peanut butter sandwich or try something new like the sriracha chicken, do what appeals most to you. If all else fails, there’s always take-out!

Favorite (and unusual) Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is known for being the busiest travel day of the year in the US and the day where we loosen our pants just a little to make room for a hearty feast. We gather with family and friends, carve turkey, and mash potatoes, and enjoy the Macy’s parade from the comfort of our homes (or among those gathered in New York!). Thanksgiving is a holiday to celebrate all that we are thankful for and the day looks a little different in every home.

 

Here are some favorite Thanksgiving traditions from our office and throughout the US – and some wacky ones, too!

 

1. The Food

turkey-cake
Turkey Cake

There are certain dishes that are commonly served at Thanksgiving. The turkey is the main dish, which is why Thanksgiving is also called “Turkey Day.” Other traditional foods are stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce…and who can forget the pie for dessert?! Classic Thanksgiving pies include pumpkin, pecan, and apple. The food preparation can be an all-day affair and many families are sure to include everyone in preparing the feast! What about some unusual food traditions? For side dishes there’s Coke Salad, oyster casserole, stuffed celery, relish plate, and Thanksgiving Turkey Cake. For the turkey-haters out there (they do exist!) there’s Peking Duck, Lobster, General Tso’s Chicken, and Tofurky.

oreo-turkey
Oreo Turkey

Some other traditions include:
–  Cooking old family recipes
–  Themed Thanksgiving dinners like Pie Fest with only pies for dinner: turkey pot pie, quiche, fish pie, pork pie, and don’t forget the desserts!
–  Pasta and Meatballs: Diane, Starr’s Executive Assistant, comes from a large Italian family so every Thanksgiving starts with an Italian meal followed by a traditional turkey dinner. Her family has been having Thanksgiving in her parents’ home for the past 60 years; even after her mother passed away her father insisted on carrying on the tradition.
–  Edible crafts with the kids: Dawn, one of Starr’s Tour Coordinators, does an edible craft with her niece and nephew every year. This year they’re making Oreo Turkeys.

 

2. The Wishbone

wishbone_creditkateterhaar_flickr
Photo by Kate Ter Haar

Some families break the wishbone from the turkey on Thanksgiving. It’s fun and celebratory! Two people each take an end of the wishbone and make a wish before they pull. Whoever gets the larger part of the bone “gets” their wish!

 

3. T.V.

Many families will gather around to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. With its large inflatables, exciting performers, and marching bands it is the biggest parade on Thanksgiving day and it always ends with a sleigh ride from Santa himself. Lucille, one of Starr’s Charter Representatives, follows Thanksgiving dinner with the family gathered around the TV to watch the Dallas Cowboys football game.

 

4. Saying Thanks

–  A “thankful” pumpkin. This is a newer tradition but is one that I, personally, am hoping to bring to my family. Everyone takes a sharpie and writes what they are thankful for on a pumpkin. The pumpkin is then displayed throughout the day. It’s a great reminder of all that we have to be thankful for.
–  A Thanksgiving tablecloth. Everyone signs the tablecloth with their name and something they are thankful for that year along with the date. Some families even embroider each person’s writing after Thanksgiving to keep the memories going year after year.
–  A Thanksgiving tree. Throughout the year, or even just on Thanksgiving Day, each member of the family takes a cut out paper leaf and writes what they are thankful for before placing it in a box. Then, sometime on Thanksgiving Day, the leaves are taken out and read aloud before being placed on a cutout tree which is then laminated and kept as a decoration for the following year. You can also do a similar idea with a cut out turkey and feathers.
–  Thanksgiving buns. Slips of paper are given out and each person writes what they are thankful for on the piece of paper. The slips are then baked into the rolls (roll-up crescent rolls work great) and the messages are read aloud during dinner.

 

5. After-Dinner Fun

Many families play board games, watch old home videos, or go for walks. In my family, we always go to the movie theater to see our first Christmas movie together. It’s a great way to break in the new season! Some families pull out old family videos and watch them after dinner.

 

6. Giving Back

Randi, one of Starr’s Travel Advisors, shares that her brother and sister-in-law rent out the local movie theater one day in November each year and show the movie, Elf. The cost of admission to the movie is a blanket. Each Thanksgiving Day, they take the blankets they’ve collected to their local shelter and spend some time with the people there before joining their family for dinner.

 

No matter what life brings, the beauty of Thanksgiving is that it is a special time to celebrate life with family and friends. Each gathering is unique and every Thanksgiving holds the potential to create memories you’ll remember for the rest of your life. What are some Thanksgiving traditions that you share with your loved ones? Are there any new ones that you’re hoping to start? Leave us a comment and let us know!

7 Tips For Eating Healthy While Traveling

7 Tips For Eating Healthy While Traveling

It’s easy to think that traveling and healthy eating don’t mix. You’re going to a boardwalk and there’s an ice cream shop there that you HAVE to try, or your cousin raved about the food at an Italian restaurant. Traveling doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice eating healthy; you just have to know how to do it!

Here are seven key tips for eating healthy and still enjoying your vacation:

  1. Pack your own snacks. This is simple enough, right? When the hunger bug strikes, instead of jetting for chips in the closest vending machine, just pull out those yummy nuts or granola bars that you packed. Other great snacks are dried fruit, roasted chickpeas, or a single serving packet of nut butter. Make your own before you go and save money for more souvenirs!
  2. Opt for water. Sure, you can enjoy a cocktail. Let yourself live a little. But whenever you have the chance, always opt for water. It’ll keep you hydrated and it’s the best drink for you – no calories!
  3. Resist the urge to splurge. It’s easy to just say, “I’m on vacation!” and throw all healthy eating out the window. No one says you can’t go off track some, but you don’t need to order the entire dessert menu just because you’re on vacation. Which leads to my next tip…
  4. Allow yourself one treat per day. You wouldn’t go to Italy without trying gelato, would you? It’s okay to treat yourself, but moderation is key. Like tip #3, instead of splurging, give yourself one treat to look forward to. Maybe even tell yourself that today is the day you’re going to try that ice cream parlor! It gives you a treat to look forward to, making it easier to avoid the others that might cross your path.
  5. Only eat when you’re hungry. When you’re strolling along and see something yummy being sold, but you just ate an hour ago, then you probably don’t need that treat right now. If it is something you must try, buy it now and use it as a snack for later, or split it with a friend.
  6. Choose the healthy menu items. If you’re dining out, go straight to the healthy selections to avoid the temptation of other less-healthy options. If the menu doesn’t have a designated “healthy option” section, you can ask your server what their options are.
  7. Choose a restaurant with fresh foods. Lots of times, you can see the menu on the website before you even go. Look for the places that offer salads, wraps, or seafood. These are almost always healthy meal options.

 

As always, staying active is also key. Go for a walk around your hotel, or opt to stroll down the street and window shop during your free time instead of sitting in a restaurant. The more calories you burn, the less impact those extra vacation food calories will have later.

There’s no reason why you can’t have it all. You can see the world and keep your health while doing it!

Photo credit: Max Straeten

Picking the Perfect Pair: Wine & Dine

Picking the Perfect Pair: Wine & Dine

Wine is a wonderful way to complement nearly any meal. From seafood to steak, to the most decadent of desserts, a nice glass of something red or white can complete your entire dining experience. But do you know what pairs best with your entrée?

Here are some tips for picking the perfect pairing:

Light to Dark:

Experts say that you should always drink “light to dark.” This means that with appetizers, such as cheese or salad, start with a light dry white wine. Examples of this could be Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or Albarino. Light dry whites also pair well with fish.

Your sweet white wines, such as Riesling, Chenin Blanc, or Moscato (my personal favorite), pair best with soft cheeses, carbs, cured or smoked meats, and desserts. Rich whites, like Chardonnay or Oaked Whites, go together with roasted veggies, carbs, rich fish (like crab/lobster) or white meat. If you prefer something sparkling, like champagne, the taste is best suited with appetizers or with fish.

All of your standard red wines pair best with meat, as they embody a fuller, richer taste. A light red wine like Pinot Noir can easily go with rich fish as well, like crab or lobster, and can also pair with chicken. For your red meats and cured or smoked meat, your best bet is to go with a deeper red (a medium or big red) like Merlot, Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Zinfandel.

Finishing off your wines with big flavor are the dessert wines – Port and Tawny Port, Sherry, or Lake Harvest. These wines naturally pair well with dessert, cured and smoked meats, or carbs.

Pairing by Flavor:

If you’re more interested in pairing by flavor, with items such as pasta, which typically boasts of tomato-based red sauces, then look for a versatile wine like Pinot Noir. If your dish has a bit of a spicy kick to it then you might prefer a red wine like Sangiovese.

When all else fails and you find that your dish has a variety of flavors and cannot figure out which wine would go best, consult your waiter’s opinion. They are usually very knowledgeable on these pairings as well and will be happy to help you find the right wine for your meal. Often times, a restaurant may even offer a tasting to help you see if the wine suits your preference.

For further consideration, I highly recommend this chart to help you better decide your pairing. Happy tasting!