Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Mob in Las Vegas



People have always been interested in the mob’s presence in Las Vegas. You can learn everything you’ll ever want to know about America’s Organized Crime in Las Vegas’ Mob Museum. Housed in a former courthouse where big mob trials were once held, this authentic and informative account of gangsters and lawmen is definitely worth a couple of hours away from the casino.
The tour begins on the third floor of the building, and you work your way down. Stories of Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel (who opened the Flamingo Casino in Vegas) and other legendary bad men are told in detail alongside the famous lawmen who took them down. There are many surprising facts, like discovering a real town in Sicily named Corleone. Some displays are interactive, as in seeing yourself in a criminal lineup and by sitting in an electric chair. Many of the artifacts curdle the blood, but one unexpected artifact is the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Massacre.
On the second level, experience the solemnity of the courtrooms where Meyer Landsky and others were tried, and where the Kefauver Committee hearings drilled members of Organized Crime. But you’ll spend lots of time studying the photos and inside stories of lesser-known, modern-day and fictional gangsters – their lives and demise. You’ll learn the secrets behind the technology used by law enforcement. The area that focuses on Hollywood will bring back memories of great films. It also reveals the mob’s attempted stranglehold on the industry.
The gift shop is full of fun and serious items to take home.
The Mob Museum is open seven days a week. Students, the military, seniors, law enforcement and Nevada residents receive a discount on their entrance fee.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Discovering Beer in Madison

True, Madison never was the beer capital of Wisconsin, but it is the state’s capital. You can’t miss the strikingly beautiful Capitol Building that squats in the center of town. Go inside to view the spectacular rotunda. On Saturday mornings, the Dane County Farmers’ Market sets up on Capital Square. Over 300 local purveyors provide Wisconsin seasonal produce, meat, poultry, fish, sausage, baked goods, plants, cheese (lots of cheese), flowers and much more. Customers are encouraged to walk counter-clockwise, and, amazingly, they do.


The only Wisconsin specialty not sold at the outdoor market is beer. But as for independent and craft beers, Madison has a surprisingly large number of businesses. Here are a few of the best:

Capital Brewery was the first company to introduce a quality malt beverage to the citizens of Madison who had been lost in what Capital’s brew master, Kirby Nelson, calls “a beer desert.”  So 25 years ago, the company made Capital Pilsner, fashioned after the pilsners of Bavaria and Bohemia, and Capital Dark, that’s made from four different malts. They still make these beers and have no plans to stop. But for their silver anniversary, they created Eternal Flame. Among their wheat beers is the competitive Door County Lager that’s clean and pleasantly nutty.


Otto Dilba had the good sense to open the Ale Asylum in 2006. In five short years, his production has gone from 850 barrels that first year to 10,000 in 2011. As a beer purist, Dilba uses four basic ingredients: malt, hops, yeast and water – no corn or rice. He says, “I make bold flavorful beers that are approachable, but that (sic) connoisseurs can enjoy.” Although his beers are distributed statewide, you can partake in the Ale Asylum’s large taproom.

Try one or more of their superb ales. Sticky McDoogle is a medium-bodied Scotch ale with a hint of hops; Gold Digger Blonde has a perfect blend of hops and malt; discover coffee and chocolate as you guzzle Contorter, a dark Porter ale; and Hopalicious contains 11 kinds of hops, and is the highest selling pale ale in Wisconsin.

In 1994, college buddies Eliot Butler and Rob LoBreglio founded Madison’s first brewpub, Great Dane Pub and Brewery Company. The tavern, that’s located within steps of the capitol, began its life in a mid-19th century hotel, and soon spread to the adjoining old antique store. The classic pub interior includes a restaurant, a bar and a billiards parlor.

The brewery has 16 beers on tap, including the gold medal-winner German Pilsner. Its inventory highlights many international selections, such as Czech Pilsner, American Pale Ale, German Wheat Beer, Scotch Ale, English Extra Pale Ale and Emerald Isle Stout. Tours of the on-site brewery can be arranged by appointment.

Their hearty pub fare features man-sized sandwiches and platters alongside Wisconsin specialties. Face it -- you can’t visit a place without consuming at least one of its iconic dishes. Great Dane Pub serves several: Brats and Mash, starring a juicy Wisconsin bratwurst banger (sausage); Wisconsin Style Cheddar Mac, a twist on the traditional macaroni dish that’s oozing with a creamy combination of Wisconsin cheese and Great Dane’s Pilsner; and Beer Battered Cheese Curds, a beer-infused version of the deep-fried Wisconsin favorite. Join the Madison tradition to feast at Friday night’s Fish Fry, and Great Dane Pub goes one step further with its New London Bridge Fish Fry. According to legend, during the establishment’s renovation, workers discovered King William IV’s recipe for frying fish. Whatever… this English-inspired version offers a crunchy crust on haddock filets, which are accompanied by homemade Tartar sauce, Kohl slaw and pub fries.

Madison is keeping up Wisconsin's reputation as the home of exceptional beer.
(This is an excerpt from my article in Pathfinders Travel Magazine.)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Albany, Georgia is Naturally F-F-Fun

When a city’s trademark is a turtle, it’s a sure sign that the natural world matters. I became aware of Albany’s love of nature when I noticed the cement in center city giving way to parkland. The city gives the Albanians (residents of Albany, not Albania) RiverFront Park, located on the shores of the scenic Flint River: six acres of manicured outdoor recreational space with pavilions and picnic groves, and one and one-half miles of natural trails.

I strolled along the paved Riverwalk that runs three miles – it’s a wonderfully safe and easy way to see the river. Kids find fun at the park in a play fountain and Turtle Grove Play Park that features recreational areas for children ages one to 14. Activities range from a Tot Lot to a Rock Climbing Wall.

You can climb to the Horace King Overlook near the historic bridge built in 1858 by the former slave and master bridge builder, Horace King. I had learned about King when I started my day at the Albany Welcome Center. It’s housed in the 19th century Bridge House, and sits at the end of the famous bridge. At the entrance to the ancient span are detailed markers that tell the history of the bridge.