Jumbo Stay at Stockholm Arlanda Airport

The Jumbo Stay blends into the background at Stockholm Arlanda Airport. If you spot it as your plane rolls along a taxiway, you might notice an aging widebody jet parked by its lonesome self in a secluded part of the airport.

But the Jumbo Stay is no regular Boeing 747. A closer look reveals that its four engines are gone. A tire swing hangs from the bottom of the rear fuselage. There’s a metal structure permanently attached to its left side. It’s not going anywhere. Though it says “747” on the outside, inside it’s all hotel. As far as I’ve discovered, it’s one of just four airplanes throughout the world converted to hotels. Here’s what you need to know about the Jumbo Hostel.

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Evening in the former first-class section of the 747 that is now Jumbo Stay.

Cool Factor + Convenience
Jumbo Stay is a quick bus ride from the terminals – it’s possible to walk, but I wouldn’t do it with luggage. We arrived late in the afternoon and had a flight to catch early the nex morning. We got pretty lost while trying to walk to the terminals. Some better signage pointing the way would be nice (and yes, you will lose sight of the old Boeing jumbo as you walk). Speaking of convenience, the rates include breakfast. It’s typical Scandinavian fare – cold cuts, bread, cheese, jam, some herring – which I love. The cafe is in the first-class section of the retired Boeing jet, and you can also buy other food and beverages during the non-breakfast hours.

More Comfort Than Coach Class
The Jumbo Stay owner did a great job in keeping the air travel vibe alive. There’s still a distinct sense of Boeing jumbo jet, despite being nearly unrecognizable  as you walk down the hallway. The rooms are small but efficient; ours had bunkbeds and a small TV. The mattresses were comfortable. Despite the airport location, we didn’t hear much airplane noise – and what we did hear didn’t affect our sleep.

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Welcome aboard Jumbo Stay.

Connect to Other Fun
You can book through the Jumbo Stay website to combine nights there with stays at other cool places – the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi and the Tree Hotel.

More About the Rooms
You’ll find all sorts of rooms at the Jumbo Stay. If you’re really well-heeled, book the cockpit room – you’ll get an incredible view from the distinctive hump of the old Boeing. You’ll also find dorm rooms with four beds, private rooms and nicer private rooms with their own bathrooms. Our room had room for three, but we used the shared showers/toilets (the same room we had goes for about $112 right now).

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Our room in the Jumbo Stay.
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Looking down the Jumbo Stay’s hallway.

Fighter Pilot for a Day – Top Gun in Scottsdale?

Extra 300L aircraft D-EXFF 2009 03
Upside down is fun – but not really easy on the belly.
[Sept. 15 Update: An alert Twitter user (Yes, I still refuse to say “Tweep”) pointed out an article on Aero-News.net claiming that Top Gun Fighter Combat Adventures is a scam. In short, it sells Groupon offers, but doesn’t have a plane or facility to its name. I will follow up with more info as I dig it up. But since the rest of this post is about the coolness of air-combat maneuvers, I’ll leave it up.]

Groupon often lets me down. I don’t want weekly colon hydrotherapy or enough body waxing offers to be completely hairless for the rest of my life.

But sometimes, Groupon tips me off to something interesting. The latest example: Air combat at Top Gun Fighter Combat Adventures. The chance to be a fighter pilot for a day.

Top Gun at Scottsdale Municipal Airpark gives anyone – even those without previous flying experience – the chance to experience air combat in a real airplane. This isn’t the only place in Arizona where you can do this. I wrote about Fighter Combat International last year on Yahoo! Voices. I think Top Gun’s location is better - on the cusp of north Scottsdale and its wealthy residents. It’s also closer to the upscale resorts and golf courses – vacation is a great time to play fighter pilot.

And a Groupon deal starting at $399 (for 40 minutes of flight time) opens the proverbial canopy to more people.

I’ve never gotten to dogfight. But I’ve flown in the back seat of a World War II-era fighter-trainer and learned first-hand what air combat maneuvering feels like for a fighter pilot. (Be sure to read the link – the story has a twist.)

Even 30 minutes – so short a time on the ground! – will seem like an eternity. If you think a regional jet is small … even if you’ve flown in a Cessna 172 … nothing is like watching the horizon spin. And keep in mind – you’ll be in a propeller-driven airplane flying just a few hundred miles per hour. Imagine being a fighter pilot in the cockpit of a jet that can fly twice the speed of sound. After just a half-hour of rolls, loops and high-g turns, you will emerge from the cockpit sweaty, wrung out and unsteady. You won’t be able to think about eating. I promise, though, that you’ll look back on it as one of the most sensational half-hour slices of your life.

Curling – A First-Timer’s Story

Swedish curlers at Olympics 2010
You won’t get as good as the Swedish national curling team anytime soon – but you can have as much fun as they do.
Curling seems like a sport out of time and place in Arizona. So explain, then, about 50 people who have never curled before trooping to an ice rink near the McDowell Mountains on a Saturday night to try it.

The crowd includes couples. Hipsters. Corporate cliques. Athletes. Couch potatoes.

Coyotes Curling Club members lead them all during a Learn to Curl session. They divulge the history of curling. They demonstrate the techniques, the critical points of the rules and the inherent sportsmanship. Soon, the cat’s purr rumble of 40-pound hunks of polished granite sliding down ice fills the air. Next come the exultations of first-time curlers hitting milestones.

And we hit many tonight … not sprawling on the ice when we release a rock. Getting our first shots to the Hog Line. Putting our first stone into the house. And, for me (shameless bragging, I know), launching a stone 146 feet down the sheet to settle right onto “the button” – that’s curling’s version of a bull’s-eye or a hole-in-one.

I didn’t do it alone. This is a team sport. My teammates, on the instruction of one of our other teammates, swept the ice in front to make the stone go further. The teammate who told them to sweep also told me where to aim, and what direction to spin my rock.

My role – the skip. I’m the last to throw. And for all throws but my own, it’s me telling when to sweep, how hard, where to throw, what spin to put on the rock.

I figured that, since I’d watched the movie “Men With Brooms” about a dozen times, I had a slightly less-vague idea of the game. But this was my first time touching a curling stone. The end result was a low score, but in our favor: We walked off with a 2-0 victory. My team went berserk when we put our first rock in “the house,” the series of concentric circles that marks a scoring position.

Let me leave you with a few parting thoughts:

  • I know what most people think of curling. Every time the winter Olympics come around, people wrinkle their noses and say it’s not a sport. Go to a Learn to Curl session somewhere, anywhere, and tell me if it changes your mind.
  • Curlers love to introduce people to their sport. They welcome beginners, and they are part of the reason why you will have fun if you try curling.
  • Phoenix-area curlers are trying really hard to get the area’s first dedicated curling sheet. Now, they only have hockey rinks. A real curling sheet means a flatter, truer surface … and more intensity.
  • A little fun – The Swedish women’s curling team picked a song from the metal band Hammerfall as their official team song for the 06 Olympics. Hammerfall – being the cheerful Swedish dudes they are – invited the team to help them shoot a new version of the video. See it below.
Final thought: This is the second time I’ve tried something entirely new and written about it. Got an idea for something off-beat that I should try? Let me know and I’ll take a crack if it’s remotely feasible. 

Linnanmäki Amusement Park – 6 Things to Know

Getting some spin on the Salama spinning roller coaster.

When it comes to theme parks, Helsinki is no Orlando. It offers just one amusement park called Linnanmäki (“Castle Hill,” in English). About 1.2 million visited Linnanmäki in 2007 – that’s roughly the number of people in line for Space Mountain at any given time. But an amusement park doesn’t need to be a sprawling city-state to be fun. Here’s what you need to know about Linnanmäki amusement park and why I think it’s so cool.

1. It’s walking distance from the Helsinki central train station. Call it a nice 30-minute walk along a pedestrian/bike path that runs alongside the train tracks (don’t worry, Finnish trains are very quiet).

Some fire makes every roller coaster better!

2. You can ride until you’re dizzy for less than 24 Euros. Just get there after 7 p.m. for an evening pass that includes unlimited rides. You might score an even better deal if Linnanmäki still offers discounts if you sign up for a loyalty card (the employees hooked us up with this advice).

3. The lines are short, so you can walk from ride to ride, just hopping between roller coasters at will. And this was in summertime, which should be high season.

4. There are six roller coasters among its 43 rides. You’ll find some splashy water rides, so beware on a chilly day! My favorite ride was Salama, a bizarre spinning roller coaster. I’d never been on roller coasters where you might face backward or sideways by spinning vertically, no matter where the coaster was pointed.

5. Linnanmäki has the best amusement park food ever. We found Cuisine World Kattila, which had six cuisines from around the world. But it seems Linnanmäki put a Finnish spin on much of it: For instance, I can’t imagine my late Grandpa Tony making his meatballs out of reindeer – but that’s what I had. They were delicious sprinkled with mint. And the server cracked me up by repeatedly calling them reindeer balls (now that, my friends, is the difference between speaking English very well and being fluent!).

6. The nonprofit organization Lasten Päivän Säätiö (Children’s Day Foundation) owns Linnanmäki. Adds a nice bit of feel-good to your plunge down the log flume, doesn’t it?