November 13 2009 by Claudia Kunkel
I know you all have experienced this. You're out of town on business and you wind up with about 2 hours before you have to leave to catch your plane or check out of your hotel. Not a ton of time, but enough to do something interesting besides hanging out in your room watching old movies.
After some thought, I decided to put together a list of things you can do when faced with a little time on your hands and you'd like to do or see something memorable before heading home or to your next destination.
You can start by asking your hotel concierge about local landmarks, parks, zoos, antique shops or museums that are located nearby. It's a great way to soak up some of the local landscape and get a feel for the people living there, especially helpful if you will be returning to that city again. I know that all of the Best Western properties list local attractions and distance from their hotel property which you can find on www.bestwestern.com.
To get even more specific, I thought I would suggest a few things in three different cities across the U.S. that could turn your run-of-the-mill business trip into something a little more memorable.
New York City. Head over to the West Village (the original, western portion of Greenwich Village) and take a leisurely 2 hour stroll around the virtually unchanged 19th century neighborhood. The West Village was originally home to quite a few literary artists, but that has changed in recent years. It's a delightful diversion from the hustle and bustle of Times Square and Central Park. You'll find beautifully renovated brownstones and some great neighborhood restaurants, some offering locally grown food. If walking around New York neighborhoods aren't your thing, how about a helicopter tour around Manhattan getting a bird's eye view of Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty or the Hudson River? Some companies offer as little as a 7 minute tour up to 30 minutes, perfect for the 2 hours or less!
Chicago. Where to start - there are as many things to see and do in Chicago as there is in New York City. It's a beautiful city sitting on the North Shore of Lake Michigan. Besides the obvious of sitting and watching the boats go by, you can head over to the Magnificent Mile. Your 2 hours will speed by as you walk up and down the broad boulevard lined with upscale shops just begging you to stop and open your wallet. However, you'll be more than entertained by just window shopping. If you need a shot of adrenaline, go up the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower to the Observation Deck and step out on the sky deck on the glass balcony and look out over the Chicago River. Be sure to walk by the Old Water Tower, which is the oldest building along the Magnificent Mile and one of a few buildings to have survived the Great Fire in 1871.
San Francisco. For the last stop, I want to leave you at the "City by the Bay", also known as the place where Tony Bennett leaves his heart. You know the place, San Francisco. There are so many things to do in this city in less than 2 hours it literally makes your head spin. San Francisco is so very diverse and there are many charming neighborhoods to wander through. If wandering doesn't suit you, go down to Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and have some of the best clam chowder on the west coast; spend some calories and get it in the sourdough bread bowl. While you're there, hop on the 60 minute Golden Gate Bay Cruise to get a quick overview of the city or stay on dry land and hop on the famous cable cars and get a thrilling ride up and down the even more famous winding streets and hills. I personally love the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in its serene park setting. I found it's a great way to kick back and relax in the middle of a big city. On a tight timetable, a quick walk inside will take you to the Moon Bridge or stop at the Tea House for a relaxing cup of tea before heading out of town.
So, next time you find yourself with some time on your hands in any number of wonderful towns and cities across the country, go exploring; you might be surprised what you can do in 2 hours or less. If you have some good ideas, be sure to let me know.