Holidays

Where to welcome the Year of the Rat

Courtesy Oakland Museum of California

Cities celebrating the Year of the Rat

In 2020 the Chinese New Year – also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival – falls on Saturday, January 25 and will be followed by 15 days of celebrations marking the transition from the Year of the Pig to the Year of the Rat.

While this is a major family-oriented holiday for many Asian communities, all are welcome at the colorful parades, festive pageants and impressive fireworks displays that will take place in Hong Kong, Singapore, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York and many other cities.

Hotels, restaurants, museums and other venues will be offering special packages and events as well to welcome travelers and “consumers who are increasingly embracing their own and others’ multi-cultural backgrounds,” said Joy Lu, assistant professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.

Here’s a sampling of celebrations we gathered first for CNBC.

Lunar New Year in New York City

Lunar New Year, Chinatown, NYC. Walter Wlodarczyk _NYC & Company

Many Chinatown neighborhoods throughout New York City will host Lunar New Year events, but two of the key celebrations are the Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival on January 25 and the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade & Festival in Lower Manhattan on February 9.

The Mandarin Oriental, New York is offering a Celebrate Chinese New Year package from January 24-February 9, 2020 that includes daily breakfast for two, $50 dining or spa credit and other perks. Rates start at $745/night. The hotel will host a traditional Lion Dance in the lobby at noon on January 24(complimentary) and a special cocktail called The Jade Rat ($24) will be on the menu throughout the month in the Aviary NYC bar.

Celebrate in San Francisco or Oakland

Dragon mural sketch – Artist David Cho, The Dragon School affiliate

In San Francisco, which boasts the largest Chinatown outside of Asia, the Chinese New Year Parade dates back to the 1860s. This year’s parade takes place Saturday, February 8 with elaborate floats and costumes, lion dancers and a 288-foot-long Golden Dragon carried by a team of 180 people.

The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco, located near Chinatown, will offer a special Chinese Afternoon Tea ($80) on Sunday, January 26 and a Lunar New Year Tasting Menu ($155/per person) on January 31 and February 1, 7 and 8. On January 20, artists from Oakland’s Dragon School will begin painting a dragon-inspired mural across multiple interior and exterior hotel walls.

And the Oakland Museum of California will hold its annual Lunar New Year Celebration on Saturday and Sunday, February 8 and 9. The event is free with museum admission and includes live cultural performances, demonstrations, hands-on activities, food, traditional and contemporary music and dance, a petting zoo and more.

Lucky Lunar New Year in Las Vegas

Courtesy Las Vegas News Bureau

As is their tradition, many Las Vegas venues commemorate the Chinese New Year in an over-the-top way, with decadent culinary offerings, impressive décor and lots of live entertainment.

The Las Vegas Spring Festival Parade takes place on January 25 in downtown Las Vegas as part of the Chinese New Year in the Desert festivities, with elaborate floats and costumes and dragons.

The Forum Shops inside Caesars Palace will welcome back the 22-foot-long celebratory, good-luck dragon adorned with 30,000 flickering red and amber LED lights.

From January 11 to March 7, the Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Gardens will honor the Year of the Rat with elaborate creations made from flowers, seeds, silks and plants. In addition to a gilded gold rat sitting on gold ingot bowls, the gardens will feature four other golden rats bringing more ingot bowls up a gold staircase, as well as two 20-foot gold coin trees.

And starting January 15, the waterfall atrium between The Venetian and The Palazzo will sport a  2,000-pound, 18-foot tall golden rodent sculpture surrounded by a garden filled with red and orange bromeliads, golden yellow chrysanthemums and red and yellow orchids.

Celebrate Lunar New Year in Rhode Island. Or Dallas 

Courtesy Castle Hill Inn

Castle Hill Inn, a Relais & Châteaux property in Rhode Island, is offering a two-night Chinese New Year Travel Package January 24 through February 2 that includes a special Cantonese-inspired Chinese New Year dinner for two, a Chinese-inspired welcome amenity, gourmet breakfast and afternoon tea. Rates start at $525+/night mid-week and $595+/night weekend, based on a two-night stay. 

And why not celebrate the Chinese New Year with skating and shopping?

From January 14 through February 8, look for a striking display of more than 250 giant red lanterns hanging over the ice-skating rink at the Galleria Dallas mall in Texas, which has the Westin Galleria Dallas on-site.

Chinese New Year in London, Hong Kong or Singapore

Courtesy Fullerton Hotel Singapore

Major Lunar New Year celebrations will take place in a wide variety of other cities, including a parade in London’s West End on January 26; a four-day International Chinese New Year Carnival January 25-28 in Hong Kong and the Sydney Lunar Festival, January 25 to February 9, in Australia.

A wide variety of Chinese New Year events and festivals will take place in Singapore, including the Mardi Gras-inspired Chingay Parade, January 31 to February 1, with fireworks, firecrackers, laser lights, pyrotechnics and performances.

And if you do make it to Singapore to welcome the Year of the Rat, Stephen Scott, Luxury Travel Advisor at Protravel International, recommends dinner at the iconic Fullerton Hotel Singapore. In addition to a wide variety of Chinese New Year feasts being offered now through February 8, the hotel’s Jade Restaurant is serving a special edition Gold Rush Salmon Yu Sheng adorned with an image of a rat and a traditional gold coin made from white, green and pink radish strips. The dish must be ordered three days in advance and costs about $287. 

Heartwarming stories from airports & airlines

We’ve been reading some charming and heartwarming stories from airports and airlines this holiday week.

Sweet Virgin Atlantic seat-swap

First, there is a viral post on Facebook by a Virgin Atlantic flight attendant relating the story of a passenger named Jack swapping his business class seat on a flight from New York to London for the economy seat booked by 88-year-old Violet.

“Of the hundreds of flights I’ve operated, I’ve had the pleasure of looking after footballers, supermodels and some Hollywood movie stars but let me tell you about my two favourite passengers EVER!,” wrote Leah Amy, “Jack and Violet 💜 (I wish she was called Vera or Rose 🤣)”

She went on to explain that Jack’s entire family was booked in business class. But Jack decided to swap seats with Violet. He then “sat on the row of seats directly next to the economy toilets and never made a peep or asked for anything the rest of the flight. No fuss, no attention, literally did it out of the kindness of his own heart, no one asked him to.”

A great story, right?

Well, the story gets a bit better. In response to the story of Jack and Violet, Virgin Atlantic announced it will be offering complimentary upgrades to “the most seasoned person” on board all its flights through January 1, 2020.

Nice!

Birthday treat at Schiphol Airport

Here’s another heartwarming holiday-season travel story. This one from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS) documenting a great birthday treat they were able to arrange for 94-year-old Granny Miep.

Canadian hospitality

And one more.

Community helps stranded passengers on Christmas Day. (courtesy Karen KayCee/Facebook)

According to the CBC, when 75 passengers got stranded in Deer Lake, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada on Dec. 25, the community came together in “Come from Away” style.

The town welcomed the passengerw, put together a Christmas dinner and made sure they got on their way.

The CBC notes that what happened in Deer Lake is reminiscent of what happened in 2001, when townspeople rallied to welcome thousands of passengers on planes diverted to Gander – which is also in Newfoundland and Labrador – due to the attacks on September 11.

That real-life story is the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical “Come From Away.”

In Deer Lake’s case, a plane full of WestJet passengers left Toronto for St. John’s late Christmas Eve but got diverted by bad weather.

Deer Lake isn’t a regular stop for WestJet flights, so there was little in the way support for the passengers once they were on the ground and sent over to the local Holiday Inn Express.

But this was Christmas Day. So local townspeople responded to a call-out on Facebook and rustled up a Christmas Dinner that included everything from sandwiches and cookies to turkey dinner and gravy and homemade rabbit stew.

All great stories, right?

Here’s to great travel and more heartwarming travel stories in 2020.

Safe travels to all from Stuck at The Airport

Holiday elf

If, like us, you’ll be traveling on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, be sure to watch out for elves, Santas of all stripes, and lots of other travelers hoping to get where they need to go for the holiday.

If you need a few extra gifts, keep in mind too that lots of airport shops open early and close late – even on Christmas Day – and many have some pretty cool gifts all wrapped and ready to go.

To help you out, Tampa International Airport and several others have even put together holiday gift guides.

And don’t forget NORAD

On Christmas Eve you can follow along as Santa makes his way through the skies and down the chimneys via NORAD’s Santa Tracker.

Travel Tidbits

McCarran International Airport (LAS) in Las Vegas welcomed its record 50 millionth passenger of 2019 on Thursday.

Allegiant flight #91 from San Antonio, Texas was chosen as the ceremonial flight commemorating this milestone. And to mark the event, LAS airport went out all for the celebration.

Upon arrival at the gate, passengers were treated to a true Las Vegas VIP welcome including a water cannon salute, gift bags and showgirls.

Passengers from the flight were then escorted to the Terminal 1 Baggage Claim. The entertainment there included Viva Las Vegas dancing showgirls, the Raiders organization and the Vegas Golden Knights in-arena crew.

Even better: one lucky passenger won the jackpot when she was chosen as the honorary 50 millionth passenger. In addition to the celebratory activities of the afternoon, she received a bonus Las Vegas themed prize pack.

Thursday morning StuckatTheAirport.com shared holiday travel tips with the Weather Channel hosts.

We talked about the Santa Paws event at Los Angeles International Airport. We alerted travelers to the reindeers and the holiday parades at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. And we shared details about the free ice-skating at Denver International Airport.

Shortly after the show appearance, we received a note from a new fan. He suggested we make Nick Lowe’s song, “Christmas at the airport,” our official song for this time of year.

Thanks, Ray!