Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kalahari Resort, Visit Africa in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Kalahari Resorts and Convention Sign in the Pennsylvania Poconos.
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in the Pocono Mountains
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions have opened a facility in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The Poconos, long a destination for outdoor family fun, has now become even more to attract both leisure and business travelers to the legendary Pennsylvania mountains.  Kalahari Resorts & Conventions is finishing the next phase of their recently built resort to include more options in sleeping rooms supporting both a state of the art convention center, banquet and meeting facility, as well as a year-round family activity adventure park.

African wildlife sculptures on the Kalahari Resort property.
Plenty of African wildlife sculptures on the
Kalahari Resort property.

Kalahari Resort Room Signs in the shape of the African continent
African themes throughout. 
Kalahari Resorts group opened their African themed 150-acre Pennsylvania property in 2015, continues to expand with phases opening up now through 2020. Initially with 456 sleeping rooms straddled in between a 65,000 square foot, full service convention center on one side and a 100,000 square foot waterpark and family activity center on the other. While some find the business and the family leisure focus are conflicting on the same property, Kalahari wants to provide the opportunity to combine both family fun time and business offerings on the same property, so that at the end of the business day, a family can re-connect together.

Kalahari Poconos doubles their water park to 220 K square feet
Kalahari Poconos will double the size of the water park to 220 K
Square feet all indoors, for year-round fun.

The property will boast the largest indoor waterpark in America, with 220K square feet, doubling its present size. With a zip line and treetop adventure facility opening soon followed by snow tubing and miniature golf, bringing more family activities as well as opportunities for business team building, on site.

Kalahari Resorts has plenty of rooms to accommodate both convention and family events
Kalahari Resorts has plenty of rooms to
accommodate both convention and family events.

Business planners will appreciate the flexibility of having 65,000 sq feet of flexible space, all in one place, from convention floor to ballroom, reception and board meeting space. A 25,000 square foot exhibit hall that can be broken into 8 individual spaces, connected to a separate 9K hall that opens to a covered terrace overlooking the nearby forest and mountains. Add to that six board and meeting rooms that range in size from 750 to 1500 square feet, with dedicated grade level access loading dock. All with the internet bandwidth with speeds up to 100Mb/s with capacity to increase to 1Gbs with advanced order. State of the art HVAC, lighting and audio visual, and numerous built in hi-lumen/Hi-Def projectors and monitors. 

Wonderful African inspired art is a highlight throughout the Kalahari Resort property.
Wonderful African inspired art is a highlight
throughout the Kalahari Resort property.
Leisure planners will appreciate the family friendly spaces with activities for the youngest child to the Spa services for adults looking for a relaxing escape. An activity center set up with everything from a separate area with child sized chairs and tables to plenty of arcade games, duck pin bowling and more for the teens. Of course the 200 K sq foot indoor waterpark with a lazy river, tubes and slides. The full service spa, wellness center and gym to get mind and body in shape. Outdoors is a seasonal swimming pool and humongous hot tub that the entire family can enjoy. Then when everyone wants to get their inner American Ninja going there is the new zip-line and the tree-top adventures. Toss in 6000 square feet of retail shopping, including a Moroccan style market place featuring hand-made African items, clothes and more.

Lots of food and libation options on property at Kalahari Resorts, with more coming soon
Lots of food and libation options on property at Kalahari
Resorts, with more coming soon

Wi-Fi in all rooms, meeting, convention and public spaces, so everyone can stay connected. No one goes hungry, as meal options abound, with grab & go, buffet and cafeteria to white table cloth fine dining options, all on site, with more coming as Kalahari continues building.

Kalahari's Desert room features two queen beds and a pullout sofa in a large room space for the entire family to stay.
Kalahari's Desert room features two queen beds and a pullout
sofa in a large room space for the entire family to stay.
Want to try a taste of Kalahari, and you have a Groupon account?  Kalahari has a Groupon available at the moment. A $149 per night in the Desert Room, their basic room with two queen beds and a pull out queen sleeper sofa, includes the room that sleeps four with $50 arcade credit per night and waterpark admission; dates into December. Additional waterpark passes (2) may be added at check in for $35 each, (normal water park admission is $79 per day.) 

Words and images by William West Hopper
Note: Kalahari Resorts and Conventions hosted
my trip to their Pocono PA property, covering
lodging, travel and meals for this review trip.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Post Transformers, a Daylong Technology Conference - An opportunity to hear from leading voices on a variety of topics designed to provide a more educated vision of the world around us.

Washington Post Transformers Conference May 18, 2016 #PostTransformers
Washington Post Transformers Conference May 18, 2016.

Post Transformers, a daylong Technology Conference at Washington Post Headquarters in Washington DC. Here was an opportunity to hear from leading voices from a number of high tech industries on a variety of topics. The conference was designed to provide a more educated vision of the world around us, and for me it did.
Held at the Washington Post Headquarters in Washington DC
Held at the Washington Post Headquarters in Washington DC.
As the Washington Post promoted their upcoming Transformers Conference, and seeing the list of noted speakers, it occurred to me that it would be a chance to expand my own horizons and to educate myself on topics, that I do not come in contact with daily. From drones transporting human organs for transplant, to Artificial Intelligence. From 3-D printing of spacecraft to process of philanthropy.

Katie Couric Leads a Panel on Philanthropy #PostTransformers
Katie Couric leads a panel on philanthropy.

While a day-long series of panel discussions on Brainiac subjects may seem like a sleeper, it was anything but. The energy level from both the audience and the speakers was switched on HIGH, just when you were lulled into a routine of a panel discussion, a single presenter would emerge, generating a very different energy.

Eric Schulte did a stand up routine on DNA, Is it the Cosmic tool or the universal messenger? #PostTransformers
Eric Schulte did a stand up routine on DNA, Is it the Cosmic
tool or the universal messenger?

As evidenced when Eric Schulte, a Science Communicator did a stand-up routine on DNA: Is it the cosmic tool or the universal messenger? Or when Vinton G. Cerf, labeled “The Father of the Internet,” an internet evangelist from Google “Techsplained” the internet, using a basic postcard as the visual image, explaining how billions of devices connect to one another in what we call the world wide web, and what is needed for it to continue in the future.

There's No Place Like Space. Recent milestones in commercial crew space transport, and new frontiers for business. #PostTransformers
There's No Place Like Space. Recent milestones in commercial
crew space transport, and new frontiers for business.
the Transformers Conference brought together an audience of over 200 attendees to hear from panels and single presenters on a topics, from Artificial Intelligence to philanthropy, from, neuroscience to one-on-one conversations with business and technology leaders like Arati Prabhakar, Director of DARPA, Craig Venter, co-founder of Human Longevity, Inc. and others including at the very end, Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon and the Washington Post.

Martine Rothblatt opened the day with a discussion on technology with Neely Tucker, of the Washington Post. #PostTransformers
Martine Rothblatt opened the day with a discussion on
technology with Neely Tucker, of the Washington Post.
It pleased me that the Washington Post opened the event with Martine Rothblatt, founder of Sirius XM satellite radio, and a number of other technology companies, and now heads a healthcare group that employs hundreds of people in states that still repress the idea of equal rights for many. While LGBT rights were not center stage, Ms. Rothblatt presented on technology and has it outrun humanity. Though a brief discussion was held on her thoughts of the state of LGBT affairs, interracial marriage discrimination as well as other issues where equal rights have not been afforded to human beings.

Neil Harbisson, a Cyborg, with John Werner and Shelia Nirenberg on a panel about neuroscience moderated by Lois Romano. #posttransformers
Neil Harbisson, a Cyborg, with John Werner and Shelia Nirenberg
on a panel about neuroscience moderated by Lois Romano.
As a gay man in my late 50’s, who has seen LGBT acceptance emerge as the norm, I found several moments throughout the day exposing my own prejudices. I wrestled with accepting a cyborg, who had an antenna implanted in his skull. Neil Harbisson, a Cyborg Artist, with the Cyborg Foundation and recognized as a cyborg, spoke on the topic of neuroscience and augmented reality along with John Werner, of Meta, and Shelia Nirenberg, a Cornell University Neuroscientist. While it may also have been a first for many in the audience, I found myself saying this is just too weird. Though listening to the other panelists, and the moderator, Lois Romano, Washington Post Live Editor, and the main force behind Transformers, who appeared also struggled with the cyborg concept. This moment of personal confrontation turned me around to be more open minded and accepting.

Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman and Twich Founder, Emmett Shear speak with Caitlin Dewey.
Reddit co-founder Steve Huffman and Twich Founder,
Emmett Shear speak with Caitlin Dewey.
The Washington Post’s selection of moderators was well curated. Each bringing with them a wealth of knowledge, but not at all overshadowing the panelist. Young and old were brought together on stage in interesting and diverse panel discussions led by moderators befitting to the topics presented. Caitlin Dewey, Digital Culture Critic from the Washington Post introduced two young tech company founders and CEO’s with a “What’s UP?” opening, the millennial way of starting a conversation.
Katie Couric, a well-known personality now a Global News Anchor for Yahoo, moderated a panel on the new currency of giving. Talking to three wealthy donors about the current wave of tech entrepreneurs become wealthy philanthropists and starting their own foundations for good.
High School Students building robots for competition.
High School Students building robots for competition.

Bringing the panel discussions to a close was an award ceremony for students from three different high schools who throughout the day had been participating in a robot build and testing their machines outside of the auditorium.

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, presenting awards to students who built robots.
Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, presenting awards to students.

The student robot build was judged by Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, Cyborg Artist, Neil Harbisson, and others, with the top award going to the Robotics Team from Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest Washington DC.  Jeff Bezos, conversed with the students from the teams, bout their desires to be engineers, one student responded with how it would better his world already made better by Amazon. (which got an announcement of unsolicited endorsement, from Mr. Bezos.)

Martin Baron, Executive Editor in candid conversation with  Washington Post owner, Jeff Bezos.
Martin Baron, Executive Editor in candid conversation with
Washington Post owner, Jeff Bezos.
The day closed with a conversation with Washington Post owner, Jeff Bezos and a bashful, Martin Baron, Executive Editor of the Washington Post. Bezos, who himself was a draw to attend the event, came across very frankly and relaxed as if he were talking among a close group of friends, which resonated well with the audience. Baron presented a number of topics including current political controversy involving Bezos and the GOP presumptive Presidential candidate. As well as the question of why he purchased the Washington Post in the first place.

Frederick J. Ryan, Publisher, The Washington Post with Martin Baron and Jeff Bezos, conclude the #PostTransformers
Frederick J. Ryan, Publisher, The Washington Post with
Martin Baron and Jeff Bezos, conclude the #PostTransformers.
Bezos spoke of his childhood interest in world news. An interest encouraged by his parents, and how as a family, they discussed stories written in the Washington Post during the Watergate era. He further explained that that the Post had a seat at the Washington DC, thus the world table, and how the Post had so much potential in providing digital information to a greater audience. Personally, I gave the Post great credit for putting Mr. Bezos at the end of the event, so that he did not overshadow the event's speakers.

Shankar Chandran, V-P of Samsung Electonics Spoke to the audience on Investing in the Futur
Shankar Chandran, V-P of Samsung Electonics
Spoke to the audience on Investing in the Future.
Samsung and Lockheed Martin were Presenting Sponsors, while both had key placement throughout the day, with Samsung’s Shankar Chandran providing a sponsored content on trans-formative technology: Investing in the Future. Samsung offered attendees a hands-on
experience with their virtual
reality goggles as well as a
device charging kiosk
(not compatible with Apple
products) outside the

#PostTransformers presenting sponsors Samsung and Lockheed Martin.
#PostTransformers presenting sponsors
Samsung and Lockheed Martin.

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, The Home Depot, Makeblock, GoPro, &Pizza and adafruit were contributing sponsors supporting the event, and the student’s robot build competition.

#PostTransformers contributing sponsors Georgetown University, McDonough  School of Business, Home Depot, Makeblock, GoPro, &Pizza, adafruit.
#PostTransformers contributing sponsors
Georgetown University, McDonough
School of Business, Home Depot,
Makeblock, GoPro, &Pizza, adafruit
The event ended with a light reception with wine and beer and hor d’oeuvres served on silver trays by tuxedo clad wait staff, in the auditorium's lobby, the perfect way to end an intelligent discussion.

William West Hopper "Selfie" at the  beginning of the #posttransformers event.
William West Hopper "Selfie" at the
beginning of the #posttransformers event.

  William West Hopper

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pennsylvania 6, The New Meeting & Dinning Spot in Downtown Washington DC

Pennsylvania 6

Marquee for Pennsylvania 6
The Marquee reminds of the great
era in entertainment and dinning out.
When a new restaurant opens, it is a party, and we were invited to participate in one of the opening parties for this new downtown DC eatery, located in the heart of the business district right off of Franklin Square.

Pennsylvania 6 Bar
The bar is large and has lots of options and friendly bartenders.
Pennsylvania 6 at 1350 EYE (I) Street NW, is the new restaurant that opened in what was once an Italian eatery. And this new hotspot is going to be known for cotemporary cuisine, as well as handmade cocktails, a great wine selection, and a fine selection of craft beers. Pennsylvania 6 totally transformed the space, when you walk in there is no question that the lively bar will be a go to place meeting up with friends and business colleagues in DC. For those that want to sit and convene in a quiet environment, there is an elegant parlor, complete with fireplace, and seating areas for two or four, or eight, or more.

Pennsylvania 6 Parlor
The parlor is an intimate space just off the bar, great place
to meet friends and relax with a handcrafted cocktail.
Pennsylvania 6 is not just a hot new bar, or meeting place, it is a darned fine place to eat! With several large Dining rooms, as well as a VIP table for entertaining 6 or 8 guests. We expect that it will be this table, and who dines here, that you will read about in the celerity blogs and style columns. Surrounded by a wine display, and quite visible, yet removed enough, so you can see and be seen.

Pennsylvania 6 Chef, Staff and Friends
Pennsylvania 6 staff, including Chef Matt Ifkovits
 with our team member, Missy Millikan.

We were lucky enough to get a private tour of Pennsylvania 6’s kitchen with Chef Matt Ifkovitz, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, he proudly showed us around back of the house, where they prepare an eclectic culinary assortment of different dishes, not just the old fare that of steaks and chops, plenty of fresh fish and seafood options, abound as well. What was being served the night we were there was quite delicious.

Pennsylvania 6 Kitchen
A behind the scenes tour of the Pennsylvania 6 Kitchen
was a highlight of our visit. 
Owned by Public House USA which has restaurants in New York City, Philadelphia, Stamford, and two locally, at National Harbor. Pennsylvania 6 is reminiscent of a mid-20 century New York Celebrity hangout, you can just imagine looking across the bar and seeing Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and anyone from the Rat Pack enjoying one of the delicious drinks, or a glass of wine from their amazing wine selection that their sommelier has gathered. No doubt you will want to put this on your list of downtown DC spots to spend some time in this winter.  (Hint) If your party is 6 to 8 for dinner, ask to be seated at the VIP Table. No doubt you will be noted as a DC Celebrity.

Want to get a look at Pennsylvania 6?

Video of the HIP Network Opening Party 11/18/15

Open Table takes reservations online, or you can call them directly.

Pennsylvania 6

1350 Eye (I) Street, NW, Washington DC, 20005


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Vanity Fair & Shinola Open the Holiday Season with a Benefit Party in Washington DC

Shinola DC Clock
Iconic Shinola Clock

Vanity Fair Party at the 

Washington DC Shinola Store 

Shinola DC Party
The Washington DC Shinola Store was decked out.
Shinola DC Goods
Shinola known for shoe polish

We were thrilled to be invited to a holiday shopping party at the Washington DC Flagship store for Shinola, @Shinola 1631 14th, NW. Shinola is a luxury goods maker and purveyor that promotes Made-In-America goods, that people want to buy, classic watches, bikes, leather goods, and more. This by-invitation only was promoted by Vanity Fair @VanityFair as an event to showcase their new DC location, recently moved from the West to the East side of the street, and more than tripled their display space to this corner of 14th and R Streets, NW, in the now hip, Logan Circle neighborhood.

While the Shinola Store and its line of luxury products are relatively new, beginning in in 2011, with the first watches produced in 2013. The brand name is one that has a long history in the leather goods industry, as Shinola produced and sold shoe polish products, mostly known from the World War II era with the colloquialism, “You don’t know shit from Shinola.” Referring to the brands shoe polish. While the original brand was no longer in business, the name was resurrected for this Detroit Michigan manufacturer.

Shinola DC Pet Goods
Dog Collars and Leash
Shinola DC Watches
Shinola Watches
Shinola Signature Watches
Shinola Stores, which are showing up in many cities, sell products made in their own workshops, primarily in Detroit Michigan. Though they do source materials from elsewhere, their focus is to make American made products, and employ workers. The most well-known products are their distinctive watches, which are becoming the “It” watch to be seen wearing. Shinola also builds bicycles in a classic American style, offers leather goods, folio’s wallets, key fobs, and Shinola Pet, a line of dog collars, leashes, and alike, all branded with their distinctive name. Recently a watch with a classic mid-20th Century design was released under the iconic name of Muhammad Ali, celebrating the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville Kentucky. The purchase price of $2,250 comes not only with the watch in a hand-crafted hickory box, prints of the athlete and membership in Shinola’s Foundry, a members only collective that offers VIP benefits to members.

Shinola has expanded to offer a limited signature line of coats and sweatshirts, as well as elegant writing journals.  Price points for their items, are higher than items sourced from off shore, their market research has shown that consumers will pay a premium for American-Made goods.

Shinola DC
Shinola's VF Partygoers shop and socialize
The Party which was promoted by Vanity Fair, as a fund raiser for the Sasha Bruce Youth house ( and was quite swank, with a guest list at the door, coat check, cocktails and passed bites. Shinloa staff were throughout the store with iPad in hand to write orders, and pack purchases for customers. VF Celebrities Michael Carl, @carlscrush, Mat Ullian, @mullian, Carol Blue Hitchens, as well as local names like Heather Podesta, @HMPodesta, Luma Hakki, and Sohelia Rostami were touted as participants. While we did not meet them, there was surely a well turned out crowd of young and upcoming Washingtonians on the scene that night.
Shinola DC
Shinola DC has a new Store on 14th St NW
in the Logan Circle neighborhood.

Having such a high-end luxury goods
Shinola DC
14th St NW is a lively friendly place
store like Shinola in the heart of the now vibrant 14th Street shopping mecca, with its restaurants, home furnishings stores, and alike is a boon for Washington DC, where just a generation before the area was in dire straits. New business and building development is bringing young professionals back to live in the city. And they are staying to raise their families. This new energy defines the Logan Circle neighborhood as more than a passing fad of a hip community, making it a place where people want to live and work. So much of DC is changing, such as the new City Center, the now lively U Street NW and H Street NE, making the city a thriving residential/commercial community that it once was known to be.  

Story and Photos by William West Hopper @wwhopper

Shinola Store - DC
1631 14th Street NW, Washington, District of Columbia US, 20009 202-470-0200

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Dinner on the House @ Uncle Julio's, Mexican Made From Scrach

A visit to Uncle Julio’s -Mexican- from Scratch – Bethesda Avenue, Bethesda MD

We got an invitation in the mail for Cena con Amigos, a complimentary dinner at Uncle Julio’s Mexican restaurant. And like anyone who is invited, we accepted, though wondering why a Mexican restaurant chain would invite us for a free dinner.

While our local Uncle Julio’s has been around for a while, it seems they are upping their game, with some new food and with their great service it was a chance to revisit a restaurant that we have not frequented in a few years.

This special event came with complimentary freshly prepared table side guacamole for our group of four, and our choice of ten entrees from Fajitas and tacos to taco salad and Enchilada, non-alcoholic beverages and a tasty though very doughy desert covered with powdered sugar and served with a honey dip. While the alcoholic drinks were our responsibility, we did get a chance to taste a fresh watermelon margarita, which was quite tasty, and will have to remember to order during the summer months.

Our selected reservation time was later in the evening, 8pm, and the restaurant was lively, though not packed we were quickly shown to our seats. We got a booth by the window, which was great for our little foursome, larger tables are available for bigger groups, and the place is set up into multiple dining rooms and a lively bar area, so there is plenty of space. The interior is well appointed and maintained, not dominated by heavy decoration, as seen in some other Mexican restaurants.

At the end of our meal, the Manager stopped by to thank us for coming in for dinner, and introduced us to their Amigo Especial Loyalty Program. Giving us a card, which will be loaded with a $25 welcome credit for use the next time we stop in. The Amigo Especial Loyalty Program has a number of reward levels from free tableside Guacamole on your next visit, to credits towards complimentary dessert and an appetizer fiesta, as well as priority seating, all depending on the number of points you earn.

What’s next, for us it will be a regular stop when we are hankering for some good Mexican from Scratch, and tasty Margaritas.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mercedes-Benz's New Mid-Sized Van the Metris

Vans, who drives a van anymore?  Those relics of the late 20th Century, like blue jeans, both were first designed for work, then morphed into a cultural icon.

Meet the new Mercedes-Benz Metris, a mid-sized van, not as large as the Sprinter, and not as small as the competition, the City Express, NV200 or Transit Connect.  Euro style with American functionality. Combine that with a low price and great handling, and you might be behind the wheel yourself!

While it is hard to think of this as a hard working van, that is what it is, and why it is sold by Sprinter dealers, so don’t look for it in the luxury car Mercedes-Benz showroom. Though it is hard to not think of it like any other Mercedes-Benz vehicle, as the Metris combines plenty of standard features, passenger comfort, and Mercedes-Benz handling and ride, ant this will become the best van in its class. Called the V-Class in Europe, here in the US, the name Metris fits its use as a Metropolitan vehicle, with a small foot print, and plenty of interior space, both appreciated by urban users.

The Metris is very much like the C-Class with plenty of standard features and Mercedes-Benz handling and ride, there is no doubt this will become the best-selling vehicle in its class. Any M-B driver will feel comfortable with design of the interior, the switches, radio, and other operational aspects of the vehicle. The turn signal, and electronic 7-speed transmission selector stalk are right where they are in a passenger car, and for those vans equipped with cruise control, that is right where you would expect it to be. Even the familiar Mercedes-Benz smart key, while not adorned with chrome, it operates the central locking as any M-B key would.

Like the C-Class, it is powered by the same 2.0 liter 4 cylinder direct injection turbo gasoline engine and 7-speed electronic transmission, with paddle shifters. Handling and ride are also similar, with its front engine, rear drive power train. The wide doors and comfortable seats make this a very easy vehicle to get in and out of, no climbing up and into this van, just step in and sit down. Seat coverings, are either cloth or M-B Tex like leatherette. Good visibility with large outboard mirrors and plenty of window glass, even in the cargo models, and option rear view camera that displays on the 5.8” radio screen, just like a Mercedes-Benz passenger car.

Though the engine is noisy, it has no problem quickly getting up to well past the speed limit and keeping ahead in the left lane. It is designed to run on regular, it will perform better on 91 octane, with an estimated combined 23mpg. Service intervals of 15K miles will keep it economical to operate.

Park Assist, where the Van will park itself with some help
from the driver. An option found on expensive luxury cars.
The two places where this van will beat the competition, is the amount of interior space and the fact that the cargo model will now become the lowest price Mercedes-Benz model sold in the USA. The passenger version is only $32,500 all with standard blind spot, collision and lane keeping assist and electronic stability program. You can add Parking Assist, for $740 as an individual option. Like on the S-Class the vehicle will park itself, with a little help from you. Plenty of optional packages and equipment to customize this van, including a number of no-cost colors, other than just white and black.

This will be an economical, comfortable and very functional little hauler, be it for cargo or passengers, and at the under $30K price point for a base cargo model, the most inexpensive vehicle sold in the USA Mercedes-Benz line up. Take a test drive and experience it for yourself. 

Plenty of interior room in the Cargo Model for hauling!

Lots of tie down hooks and an innovative floor and wall track system to attach various items to.

Between the tie down hooks and the track, you can secure just about any load.

The Metris has a the Mercedes-Benz Star front and Center.

The Mercedes-Benz Metris has a classic van look and timeless profile that will look good for years to come.  Just like other M-B models had done for decades.