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Escapes: When you say, ‘Ewww, I’m not going there,’ are you cheating yourself out of memories of a lifetime?

Escapes: When you say, ‘Ewww, I’m not going there,’ are you cheating yourself out of memories of a lifetime?
The shimmering Severance Hall, part of the reason to attend a performance here. The other part: the spectacular Cleveland Orchestra. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

As we do with many things, wittingly or otherwise, we bring our biases to travel. “I would never go to A,” you say, “because B.”

“B” might be real obstacles (a language barrier or distance, for instance) or things that seem unwelcoming (disagreeable climate or troubling politics).

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Facts usually can overcome what’s real or imagined, but the most damning “B” answer is, “Why would I want to?”

Other than civil war or other issues of safety, the real question, if given an opportunity to go, is, “Why would you not?”

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. I’d like to propose a drum roll — hold the eye roll — for the latest entry in the section’s Sites and Sounds series, which has sought music venues across the country as reasons for visiting.

Staff writer Christopher Reynolds began with New York’s Carnegie Hall and continued with San Francisco’s Fillmore.

Next stop: Cain’s in Tulsa, Okla. Candygram! For Reynolds, who has traveled all over the world, Cain’s was a surprise, especially because its musical history includes more than twangy country tunes. It also has entertained Sid Vicious and the Sex Pistols and Bob Dylan, among others.

Then it was on to Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a gorgeous setting that has hosted an operatic soprano and Steve Martin singing “King Tut.” Then he headed to Chicago, where the Windy City’s special brand of blues, performed in a variety of clubs, tries to stave off musical erosion, and finally to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, full of the ghosts of Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and others. The delight for Reynolds was not the temple of country music but the sheer amount of music of all kinds.

His most recent assignment was in a city that’s home to one of the most amazing classical orchestras in the world, built into a powerhouse by conductor George Szell and led by numerous others since. The orchestra’s home is a stunning 1931 Art Deco/Egyptian Revival Palace that fairly shimmers.

And the place? Cleveland.

Don’t say it’s too far, it’s too cold, it’s too conservative, it’s too this, it’s too that.

It’s too remarkable to ignore. Cleveland in winter may not be the warmest spot, climatologically speaking, but you’ll be inside (and you may also want to dip your toe into the city’s Playhouse Square, where restored theaters echo the sophistication of other eras). Plus, there’s the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. This city is more than a one-trick pony.

In other news, you may be headed to a huge event in Vegas where the tickets are sold out. Fear not. We tell you how to have fun anyway. Or you may want to do a little Christmas shopping on the Central Coast, or get a preview of a travel-related float in the Rose Parade.

You might want a wrap-up of the fall color season (yes, the Golden State does put on an autumnal show) or get an inside look at what those strict AAA inspectors look for in a hotel. And you can top it all off with National Geographic’s Best of 2019 list, which jaw-dropped another of my travel colleagues who also may not — yet — have an appreciation for the riches of the fly-over states.

It’s all part of a menu of stories that we hope will surprise you — in a good way, which is the wonder of travel. Read on.

No mistake about it: This Ohio city is a music powerhouse

Cleveland got a bad rap and a bad rep in the wake of a downward spiral that led to its unflattering nickname: Mistake on the Lake. Even during the worst of times, Christopher Reynolds writes, the Cleveland Orchestra stood tall and was bathed in the opulence of its home, Severance Hall. If you go to Cleveland Orchestra’s homepage you’ll see “Welcome to Our Second Century.” It’s going to be hard to top its first century, but given its tremendous musical muscle, it may be on its way.

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The Cleveland Orchestra performing at Severance Hall in Cleveland.
The Cleveland Orchestra performing at Severance Hall in Cleveland. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Vegas as cowtown?

Each year Las Vegas hosts the National Finals Rodeo — Dec. 6-15 this year. It’s so popular that tickets are sold out. But you can still have fun, Jay Jones writes in his guide to getting the most out of an event you may not be able to see.

Olin Hannum from Malad, Idaho, competes in steer wrestling in the 2017 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. If you can't get tickets, you still can have fun.
Olin Hannum from Malad, Idaho, competes in steer wrestling in the 2017 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. If you can't get tickets, you still can have fun. (David Becker / Las Vegas News Bureau)

To market, to market

Santa Barbara brings a touch of Europe to its Christmas market but in its own, American Riviera way, Mary Forgione writes. For one thing, unlike the fantastic markets in, say, Vienna, Austria, and Prague, Czech Republic, you won’t be freezing your nose and toes off.

The Paseo Nuevo shopping area off State Street in downtown Santa Barbara decorates for the holidays every year. The new Night Market adds to the holiday vibe.
The Paseo Nuevo shopping area off State Street in downtown Santa Barbara decorates for the holidays every year. The new Night Market adds to the holiday vibe. (Paseo Nuevo Shops & Restaurants and Visit Santa Barbara)

Keeping afloat

New year, new entry, new ship. For the first time, Carnival Cruise Line will have a float in the Rose Parade, Rosemary McClure writes. The new Carnival Panorama will homeport in Long Beach and sail the Mexican Riviera. The 130th Rose Parade will begin at 8 a.m. Jan. 1.

Carnival Cruise Line will have a float in the 2019 Rose Parade that shows the new Carnival Panorama.
Carnival Cruise Line will have a float in the 2019 Rose Parade that shows the new Carnival Panorama. (Carnival Cruise Line)

Checking out the ick factor at hotels

Ever wonder what a hotel inspector looks for? For my On the Spot column, I had the chance to interview Inspector 63, who doesn’t reveal her name for obvious reasons. It was fascinating to hear what she looks for on the job for AAA, especially the indications of cleanliness. She looks in places that you may not: the backs of picture frames. But you may want to … just to be sure.

Hotel room inspectors review rooms and also the lobby of each hotel.
Hotel room inspectors review rooms and also the lobby of each hotel. (Tess Richards / For The Times)

Where in the world?

I worked in Kansas City, Mo., for 12 years and lived in the Kansas suburbs for all of my 15-year tenure and would still be there if life hadn’t intervened. So I was especially excited to read in Mary Forgione’s piece that Kansas City was included on National Geographic’s “Best Trips of 2019.” There were some puzzled looks from others about its inclusion, but the unexpected is part of the fun of Maryellen Kennedy Duckett’s list, which also includes one California city that I think is one of the Golden State’s most intriguing.

Giant shuttlecock on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.
Giant shuttlecock on the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo. (Beth Gauper / St. Paul Pioneer Press)

Mostly they’ve crept past our windows

Every year, CaliforniaFallColor.com documents the changing of leaves in California. The color season is over, but we look back on places that were spectacular this year in our autumn wrap-up. It’s not New England, but when you see this compilation of photos, you may ask, “Why would you want it to be?”

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Green Valley Lake in San Bernardino County.
Green Valley Lake in San Bernardino County. (Alena Nicholas)

What we’re reading

Self-driving cars are so yesterday. How about a self-driving hotel room? Nancy Trejos, writing in USA Today, discusses the “Autonomous Travel Suite,” which sounds like a mini motor home but driverless.

In June, Dean Owen wrote for the Travel section of the Los Angeles Times about changes at U.S. airports. He included Paine Field (call letters: PAE), near Everett, Wash. Now, Travel Daily News writes, United has announced service beginning in spring between Denver and San Francisco, which means a connection may get you there. (Alaska Airlines will fly from L.A. to the airport, which is in Snohomish County.) The almost-ready-for-use airport means you can skip SeaTac airport if you’re going to Everett (or maybe to Whidbey Island), a savings of about an hour.

Of course whale watching is one of the pleasures of living on the West Coast, but if you want to add a little edge to your ocean perusal, there is shark watching, David Ferry writes in the San Francisco Chronicle. The participants ply the waters just off Aptos in Santa Cruz County, where white sharks seem to have set up shop.

The Remote Underwater Video Systems at the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab in summer 2015 in Manhattan Beach. But Santa Cruz County is where you want to be for shark watching.
The Remote Underwater Video Systems at the Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab in summer 2015 in Manhattan Beach. But Santa Cruz County is where you want to be for shark watching. (Cal State Long Beach Shark Lab)

End paper

If you have comments, complaints, questions or concerns, drop us a line at travel@latimes.com.

This newsletter wraps into one neat package a host of Los Angeles Times travel articles online and in print that you may have missed. You can subscribe to it — its free — and its monthly cousin on Vegas at membership.latimes.com/newsletters. Travel isn’t the only topic that can be delivered to your inbox. We, of course, think it’s the most fun, but we are biased.

There’s that bias thing again. We may be blind to our “mental leanings,” as Webster defines them, but once we begin to recognize them, perhaps we can ask them politely to step out of the way, lest they prevent us from seeing clearly.

I’m not pointing fingers, because I’m not immune either. I used to have a real thing about Paris, of all places, a beautiful city whose imperfections keep its urban ego mostly in check. I finally went in 2004, not long after French fries were renamed “freedom fries” because France disapproved of our going to war in Iraq.

I shuddered to think of the French response to that branding debacle so I waited for it. Here’s what I heard: nothing. No one said a thing. In fact, the French were welcoming and polite, despite my speaking the language badly.

Preconceived notions almost made me miss Paris. Can you imagine that?
Preconceived notions almost made me miss Paris. Can you imagine that? (Catharine Hamm / Los Angeles Times)

I’ve been back twice since, including a brief trip with my older sister, who had never been either. Our time there is one of my most enduring travel memories, especially as I remember the look of delight as we explored the City of Light together. My takeaway from that experience: When you limit yourself, you lose out. I can’t imagine not having that travel memory in my storehouse. And so, mes amies, open your minds, and if you’re still in doubt, ask your favorite music service to play something by the Cleveland Orchestra.

Whether you’re traveling to the Midwest or Middle-Earth, travel well and safely, and remember, we’ll be here to welcome you home.

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