The Enjoyment of Window Shopping

Some store displays make window shopping a uniquely rich and rewarding experience, without having to spend a penny. 

What Makes Window Shopping So Special?

The excitement of shopping is just as much about the experience of looking at what is available and how it is displayed.

Seeing brand new beautiful clothing, toys, books and more showcased with the perfect lighting and arrangement is actually a joyful and uplifting experience.

You don’t even have to swipe the credit card to get this great feeling. According to Tara Parker-Pope in the Wall Street Journal, studies of the brain showed that people received a surge of dopamine from the shopping experience before a sale.

So window shopping can provide the same good feelings as making the actual purchase. There are indeed some stores and even whole blocks of stores that take the window shopping experience to a whole new level! 

Where it all Began

The window shopping concept began with the development of plate glass. Kunle Campbell tells us in Big Commerce that in the late 19th century, plate glass was more widely available. Retailers began installing it across their storefronts to display merchandise. People were so fascinated by the unique displays that they would gather on the streets to watch.

Macy’s in New York City was one of the first to put up these window displays in 1874. This quickly caught-on as an effective marketing practice and spread across the country and eventually across the world. 

Window Shopping Experiences

When in New York City, the opportunities to see grand store displays are plentiful. Even in a world that is going increasingly to online sales, there is still a place for retail, and they are doubling down on the window shoppers!

In New York City there’s the obvious Times Square where you’ll find enough visual stimulation for an entire lifetime!

But the streets are so crowded, it may be hard to casually wander. Head over to SoHo where you can learn a lot while looking around. SoHo is known for hipsters and cutting edge hipster fashion. Browsing the windows of the shops may give you some cutting edge ideas for what’s cool.

In Chicago, the famous Magnificent Mile gives visitors some of the best window shopping in the world! You don’t have to spend a penny to walk up and down historic Michigan Avenue. 

Small Town? No Problem! 

You don’t have to be in a big city to find some great window shopping experiences. Boutique stores are in cities and towns all over the country. They have experienced a surge in recent years largely because of those that love the experience that comes from shopping.

As Ashley Alderson writes in Forbes, shopping is a very different experience than just buying. Boutiques are great places to window shop because it’s a huge part of their business model!

In fact, wandering in and out of boutiques in smaller communities can provide for some great window shopping, just as if you were in the big cities.   

During the Holidays

Window shopping (and actual shopping) are at their finest during the holiday season. Wandering Chicago’s Magnificent Mile or looking at Macy’s in New York City during the holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is a very rewarding experience.

It’s very hard not to feel some joy when you see the brilliance of the decoration and the attention to detail given to making the displays come to life. Everything seems to pop a little more and feel a little fresher during the holiday season. Window shopping is a great way to spend a few hours to brighten your day. 

The excitement you feel from window shopping is very special and uniquely personal. Everyone feels something different, but the experience yields the same activity of your brain’s reward center for everyone.

So take some time and wander around looking at what’s out there. You never know what you’ll see!  

Scuba Diving Lessons Are a Unique, Enlightening, Vacation Activity

Sometimes we forget that the world is much more than we see.

Even a shallow trip into the ocean reveals secret beauty that is right under our noses at all times. Scuba diving is a fun adventure that offers us a glimpse into unique beauty and adventure of the underwater realm.

Many vacation spots offer scuba diving lessons that give you the chance for education and adventure.

What is Scuba Diving?

Scuba stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Scuba diving is a method of underwater diving in which the diver is completely independent of the surface. The diver carries their own source of breathing gas which gives them much more freedom to explore than other types of diving.

Scuba diving is a very popular recreational activity, but it is also used for scientific, educational, and military, applications. Generally, scuba divers wear swim fins on their feet so their movement underwater is quicker and more fluid. 

History of Scuba Diving

Humans have been exploring the water throughout history. As technology has progressed, so too has our ability to venture deeper into the ocean.

In fact, the first underwater breathing equipment arose in the late 1800’s. At this time there were two main types of systems.

  • Open Circuit- A system in which the diver’s exhaled carbon dioxide is vented into the water.
  • Closed Circuit- A system in which the diver’s exhaled breath is recirculated after oxygen is added and carbon dioxide is removed.

Open circuit diving tends to be simpler, inexpensive, and reliable. It is usually the type that is used for recreational diving. 

Safety

Scuba diving has the potential to be a dangerous activity. For this reason, reputable dive companies take the safety of their divers very seriously. Most require education before they will allow divers to enter the water. They also monitor the divers very closely during all stages of the dive. 

Scuba equipment has evolved through the years to be as streamlined as possible. This allows for greater freedom of movement and comfort while submerged. They have also increased efficiency which allows for longer, safer, dives. 

Equipment

A recreational scuba diving company will provide all of the equipment that you need to safely dive. However, it is good to know the basic equipment that you need to have a fun and safe dive. 

  • Regulator
  • Dive computer
  • Alternate air source
  • Pressure gauge
  • Dive booties and fins
  • Mask
  • Buoyancy compensator 
  • Air tank
  • Weight belt

What is a Dive Like?

After you are educated on the equipment and procedures, you will be able to explore.

Following the instructor’s advice and regulations will make for a successful dive. Scuba diving will give you a new perspective on the environment and your place within. If you are diving in the ocean, you will no doubt be in awe of the magnitude of the great seas.

Moving freely through the ocean will also give you a sense of freedom and respect for the vastness of the world that we live in. 

Famous Scuba Divers

There has been many pioneers and famous divers throughout scuba’s history.

The world-renowned diver, author, filmmaker, and scientist, Jacques Cousteau is the most famous name associated with scuba diving. He helped design the Aqua-Lung, which was the first open-circuit scuba apparatus.

This invention revolutionized our ability to study and understand underwater environments. 

Scuba diving has become a very popular activity for vacationers. It offers you an opportunity to see some of this planet’s unique beauty. It allows you to observe and appreciate the extensive, underwater, ecosystem.

Scuba equipment is designed to give you as much freedom to explore as possible and has evolved throughout its more than century long history.

Safety is a primary concern and scuba diving should only be done under professional supervision. 

Visit The Historic Lick Observatory Near San Jose

Would you like to visit a historic location centered on astronomy?

If so, drive 20 miles east of San Jose, California, to the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, high above the Bay Area. Here, you’ll find a spectacular view of the Diablo Mountain range and Santa Clara Valley.

You may even see distant planets by using the telescopes at Lick Observatory, the world’s first permanently occupied observatory. This historic edifice is located at 4,209 feet (1283 meters) above sea level in a cool, windy part of the East Bay. The altitude places the observatory above the Bay Area “fog belt” for most of the year, so you’ll get clear viewings in the evenings.

This historic observatory was completed in 1888 when the practice of stargazing through giant telescopes was in its infancy. The observatory was established by eccentric California pioneer James Lick, who is buried on the site.

The 101-year-old facility is managed by the University of California Observatories (UCO) headquartered at UC Santa Cruz. Tours are offered every half hour, and the observatory is open to the public Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 5:00 pm.

Admission is free and the tours are guided by knowledgeable docents. Special evening programs are offered in July and August. However, note that summer event tickets sell out early! The summer program includes special concerts and astronomer-led lectures about new discoveries and future space explorations.

The Telescopes

Visitors to the Lick Observatory will get to use the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the 40-inch Nickel Reflector. Nighttime visitors at special summer evening programs will be able to look through these telescopes and see the stars. Still, many amateur astronomers do set up their own telescopes for the evening programs and share the viewing experience with other visitors. The evening programs can also include a four-hour walking tour of the observatory.

The 36-inch telescope was completed in 1888  eleven years after Lick’s death in 1877. A brass tablet marks Lick’s burial site under the building, where the telescope was built. Lick left $700,000 of his fortune for the construction of the observatory. That sum today would be equal to about $22 million!

The refractor was the largest telescope in the world at that time. Today, it is the second-largest refractor telescope in the USA. This telescope uses a glass lens to focus the light. In fact, Jupiter’s fifth moon Amalthea was discovered in 1892 using this telescope. Several scientists also measured the circumference of Jupiter’s moons using this telescope during the 1890s.

Visitors will also see the 120-inch reflector telescope with mirrors that was commission by the State of California in 1950 and completed in 1959. Today, scientists from the University of California work at the observatory and study exoplanets, supernovae, and other planetary sightings using powerful reflector telescopes. The information they glean is shared with astronomers and astrophysicists throughout the world.

A Little Trivia

The Lick Observatory installed a special clock in 1886 to provide accurate time to the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and other West Coast railroads. The time signal was transmitted to railroads west of the Rockies through telegraph lines from the observatory. 

In recent times, the City of San Jose is one of the first cities to install modern low-power LED street lights to conserve energy and curb light pollution. Less light emanating from the city below helps the Lick scientists observe the night sky from the telescopes.

Plan on a Visit

The Lick Observatory is a great place to visit if you are interested in astronomy. Plan on an hour’s drive along the undulating road to the top of the mountain and at least an hour to explore the observatory and its grounds on a clear day. Older children and adults will find that the observatory provides much insight on space exploration.

Experience Flight Through Indoor Sky-Diving

If you live for exhilarating experiences but aren’t quite ready to jump out of a plane, indoor skydiving may be a great vacation activity for you.  

What is Indoor Skydiving? 

Indoor skydiving facilities employ large wind tunnels to simulate the thrilling excitement of traditional skydiving.

Basically, the tunnel blows air upward to give participants the experience of jumping out of a plane. Indoor skydiving is a safer and less complicated way for tourists and other thrill-seekers to experience flight. 

History of Indoor Skydiving

While traditional skydiving has existed in some form since at least the 1600s, indoor skydiving is a much newer concept. The modern indoor skydiving tunnel evolved from the vertical wind tunnels used to test new military theories and inventions during World War II. In the 1970s, Jean St. Germain modified the military wind tunnel for his children’s amusement. His wind tunnel became the earliest version of today’s indoor skydiving tunnel. SkyVenture Orlando premiered the first wind tunnel as a tourist attraction in 1999. 

Indoor Skydiving Equipment and Safety

Like traditional skydiving, indoor skydiving requires certain safety equipment. You don’t need to bring your own equipment, however. When you arrive, you will be given a nylon jumpsuit that fits over your clothes. The suit will help you weather the intense blasts of air more easily. You will also be given protective goggles, earplugs, and a helmet. Be sure to remove any jewelry or other items that may present a safety hazard to you. 

Unlike Jean St. Germain’s model, which leveraged a relatively small column of air, today’s indoor skydiving locations provide wall-to-wall air motion. This greatly increases the enjoyment of indoor skydiving.   

Indoor skydiving is safe for most individuals, regardless of age. However, like any attraction that involves motion, it may be unsafe in certain circumstances. You should not participate in indoor skydiving if you are pregnant, weigh over 300 pounds, or have certain back, neck, or heart conditions. All participants (or their parents) are required to sign a waiver before participating in indoor skydiving activities. 

Indoor Skydiving Locations

Indoor skydiving can be found in many major cities. One popular choice is iFly Orlando. iFly Orlando (formerly SkyVenture Orlando) was America’s first indoor skydiving location. iFly is also one of the world’s largest indoor skydiving companies, with nearly fifty locations throughout the United States and around the world.

Indoor Skydiving Pros

Want to learn new tricks? Watch how some indoor skydiving enthusiasts like Maja Kuczynska and Kyra Poh take the activity to new heights. While most indoor skydivers participate for the occasional feeling of excitement, these young athletes devote hours to perfecting the aerial acrobatic moves you find in professional-level indoor skydiving sports. Many iFly locations also host indoor skydiving competitions throughout the year, so you can show off your new skills when you’re ready. 

What People Are Saying About Indoor Skydiving

According to Trip Advisor, indoor skydiving allows you to “experienc[e] skydiving without having to jump from a perfectly good airplane.” iFly Orlando boasts an average rating of 4.5/5 on TripAdvisor and Yelp. Other iFly locations have similar ratings, as well.

If you’re searching for something exciting to do that the whole family will enjoy, indoor skydiving may be an excellent choice. The activity gives participants a similar adrenaline rush to traditional skydiving. However, you get to experience that rush in a safer and more accessible environment. Between the thrill of flying and the excitement of participating in an innovative activity, it’s easy to see why indoor skydiving has earned a spot on many people’s bucket lists!

Batting Cages Allow You To Enjoy A Fun Summer Activity

Many fun summer activities revolve around America’s favorite pastime: baseball.

For over a century, Americans incorporated baseball into their summer plans one way or another. So, a visit to the batting cage can be a fun, relaxing activity, even for members of your family who haven’t played the game before. 

Swing Into Action

Batting cages can be found in virtually every city in the country. Serious baseball players of all ages use them to hone their skills and prepare for the next game. However, many people enjoy stepping into the cage to see how far they can hit the ball. Some even enjoy imitating their favorite baseball player’s stance while practicing.

What is a Typical Batting Cage Like?

Warm nights in the batting cage fuel everlasting summer memories. Batting cage facilities are typically found in sports complexes. These sports complexes also offer a variety of family-friendly activities. They may feature arcades, miniature golf, and junior/senior league sports events. This gives you multiple choices for a night of summer fun. 

The cages themselves are usually located in a spacious area, with multiple batters’ boxes separated by netting and chain fences. About 60 feet in front of each batter’s box is a pitching machine, also enclosed by a net and fence. Some batting cages have areas behind the machines that resemble actual baseball parks. This gives each batter the feeling that they are playing in a professional stadium. Meanwhile, other batting cage facilities have a net to collect the balls directly behind the machine. 

Batting cages typically have multiple speed options. Some are used for baseball, while others are used for softball. The different speed options provide an opportunity for people of all ages and skill levels to step up to the plate. 

What do You Need to Bring to the Batting Cage?

Many people bring their own bats or helmets to the batting cage. This is necessary for those who want to improve their game, but they are typically not needed for a recreational event. Most batting cage facilities provide a choice of bats and helmets for you to borrow. This makes the batting cage an activity that can be enjoyed at the spur of the moment. Other accessories, like batting gloves or goggles, are typically not provided, however. So, be sure to bring your own!

History of Batting Cages

Batting cages have been in existence since the early 1960s. However, early cages featured only baseball pitching machines; softball machines hadn’t yet been invented. Additionally, these early cages were located in open fields, which meant that the balls often landed in an open area, similar to what occurs on a golf driving range.

This batting cage framework was not practical, as collecting the balls was time-consuming, and workers had to hand-feed the balls into the pitching machine. At this time, batting cages catered to professional team practices, rather than recreational pursuits.

It was not until the late 1970s that the first automatic retrieval and conveyor system eliminated the need for workers to feed the pitching machines. These systems usually came with sloped surfaces, so that the balls could be easily fed back into the machine. This new practical standard for batting cages allowed for an explosion in batting cage facilities throughout the United States. 

There is nothing quite like stepping into the batter’s box and hitting a few out of the park. Batting cages can be a great place to fine-tune your swing and improve your game. They also allow you to enjoy a fun and simple activity with family and friends.

Riding On Public Transportation

The United States is home to some of the best cities for public transportation.

If you’re planning to visit any of these cities, be sure to check out their amazing public transit systems. 

Origins of Public Transportation

Public transportation in the United States predates the American Revolutionary War. According to Study.com, the city of Boston established public transportation in the form of horse carts and ferries in the early 1700s.

A more modern approach to public transit materialized in the 1820s when New York City began offering horse-pulled omnibuses that could carry 15 passengers at a time. In the late 19th century, Boston pioneered the first subway system in America. By all indications, public transportation began in large cities, where it has generally flourished. 

Expanded Public Transit

Because public transportation is environmentally friendly, it has expanded beyond larger metropolitan cities. Many smaller cities now provide mass transit through public bus systems. For example, Centro offers public transportation services in smaller communities in New York state.

Cities With Amazing Public Transit

Philadelphia has a great public transportation system. As Smart Asset describes, Philadelphia provides its citizens commuter rails, an underground subway system, trolley cars, and buses. Meanwhile, the SEPTA (Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority) uses state-of-the-art chip technology in metro cards, facilitating seamless travel and providing greater protection from identity theft.

Seattle is another city with amazing public transportation. Part of what makes its Sound Transit system so effective is because it provides a faster and more reliable way to travel. In recent years, Seattle has expanded its public transit offerings. The new Link Light Rail routes allow you to bypass much of the city’s traffic, allowing you to reach your destination with fewer distractions.

Public Opinion About New Transportation Offerings

Certainly, new developments always occasion a variety of public opinions. A reviewer on Trip Advisor gives the Washington D.C. Metro System a five-star rating, citing the ease of travel and the focus on public safety.

Be sure to read public reviews about various public transportation systems because they often offer helpful hints to travelers. For example, the Metro in Washington D.C. offers a circulator bus system that supplements the bus systems connecting major city neighborhoods. You can actually travel around certain areas of the city for free by boarding a circulator bus!

The Denver Light Rail System is also very positively reviewed by residents. One reviewer discussed the ease of purchasing passes through the rail app. 

Ease of Use 

Modern public transportation systems continue to evolve in sophistication. The best systems use passenger travel statistics and analytics to improve day-to-day services. Many also focus on developing multiple payment options and making buses more fuel-efficient (and environmentally friendly). Some of the most efficient transit systems have apps that allow for better trip-planning.

Meanwhile, other communities have decided that public transportation should be offered at no charge to passengers. Of course, local taxes must be apportioned to foot the bill, but passengers won’t be charged for using public transit options. Park City, Utah, is one such city; it doesn’t charge public transportation fares.

Public transportation is definitely growing in popularity, with more cities exploring new ways to make travel safer, more efficient, and affordable. The largest cities view public transit systems as integral to their city infrastructure, but many smaller cities have begun premiering their own public transit systems. Regardless of where you live, public transit is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to get to your intended destination.