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48 Hours in Honolulu

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Why Go?

How about sparkling azure ocean, white sand beaches, surfers, hula dancers and swaying palm trees for starters? Throw in the opportunity to enjoy some world-class shopping/dining experiences and a laid-back aloha vibe. There’s no doubt where in the world you are when you hit the hedonistic streets of Waikiki. Before heading out to the other islands, make sure you take a couple of days to soak up the delights of this dynamic Hawaiian city.

Getting There

All flights arrive at Honolulu International Airport, from where you can take a taxi to Waikiki Beach about nine miles away. The other alternative is a shuttle bus. If you haven’t got too much luggage, you could take the airport bus, which is the cheapest option by far.

Most tourists stay in Waikiki. This is where the beach and most of the attractions are located. They are all within easy walking distance of one another. Honolulu’s downtown area is three miles from Waikiki.

Checking In

Although it is possible to seek out a bargain, hotels in Waikiki are on the expensive side. One of the most iconic places to stay is the romantic and luxurious Royal Hawaiian Hotel, located on the beachfront. Easily recognisable by its pink exterior, it has been used in many TV shows and movies. At the other end of the scale, check out the quirky Royal Grove Hotel, a great budget option and only a block away from the beach! http://www.royalgrovehotel.com

Day One

Before you head to the beach, enjoy a relaxed breakfast at Lulu’s http://www.luluswaikiki.com. While you tuck into local specialties Loco Moco or Longboard Benedict, check out the stunning views of Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach.

Waikiki is probably the most famous beach in the world, and deservedly so. Where better to learn to ride the waves than the birthplace of surfing? If you don’t bring your own board, you can rent one – the waves are perfect for beginners. As well as being incredibly warm, the ocean is the most sublime turquoise you will ever lay eyes on. If you prefer a more sedate experience, rent a sun lounger and simply chill in paradise.

Hit the waves! Many establishments hire out boards or give surf lessons

If you can tear yourself away from the beach, check out Waikiki Aquarium, which has a vibrant display of native fish, turtles and two Hawaiian monk seals. http://www.waikikiaquarium.org.

For the ultimate Hawaiian shopping experience, make tracks to Ala Moana Center https://www.alamoanacenter.com/en/events.html, a sprawling mall chock-a-block with stores and restaurants. There are regular Hawaiian music and dance events on the stage and lots of opportunities to buy souvenirs or sample local delicacies.

Make your way back to Waikiki Beach, with a pause at Moose’s (310 Lewers St. Honolulu) for Happy Hour and a bite to eat. The cocktails here are great value. You will soon be feeling the aloha spirit and  be ready to hit the beach again, this time to watch the sun sink over the ocean. The torch-lighting and hula show takes place on the beach most evenings, and crowds gather to watch the entertainment in the fading light. It’s a magical time of the day in Waikiki and the atmosphere is mellow as everyone enjoys the vibe and beautiful setting.

If you are in the mood to party, you can’t go wrong at Hula’s Bar & Lei Stand, Honolulu’s longest established LGBTQ venue. It’s a friendly spot, where both locals and tourists congregate. There are views over the ocean and live entertainment most nights of the week. The cocktails are potent and the staff welcoming https://www.hulas.com.

Day Two

Start the day energetically with a hike to the summit of Diamond Head, the dramatic volcanic crater which overlooks the city. Take some snacks and plenty of water. if you head out early, you will avoid the intense midday heat. The trail is steep and a little uneven, but the hour’s climb is worth it for the sweeping views of the ocean and city skyline.

After building up an appetite on the trail, enjoy a lunch buffet at the famous Duke’s www.dukeswaikiki.com. Duke’s Barefoot Bar is right on the beach and serves up a buffet featuring locally grown produce and an abundance of tempting accompaniments. Alternatively, try the fresh fish dishes or burgers. There is often live music, and a visit to Duke’s is a quintessential Hawaiian experience not to be missed.

The Barefoot Bar at Duke’s

After some more beach time, stroll along to the historical Royal Hawaiian Hotel https://www.royal-hawaiian.com and take in the traditional ambiance. Treat yourself to a delicious cocktail at the Mai Tai Bar, a mere few steps away from the sand.

The Royal Hawaiian

Next up, take the elevator to the Top of Waikiki https://topofwaikiki.com. The revolving restaurant offers spectacular views, especially at sunset. Appetizers and cocktails are available during Happy Hour, which goes from 5.00pm-9.30pm. The perfect ending to two blissful days in Honolulu!

View from Top of Waikiki

 

 

Originally posted 2017-08-24 18:54:31.

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48 Hours In...

48 Hours in Mexico City

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Mexico City is a sprawling metropolis full of color and culture. You could easily spend a month there and still not get to see and experience everything the city has to offer. If you only have a weekend, you can get a taste of Mexico City’s delights, but be warned – you will probably be booking your next trip as soon as you arrive home.

With more museums than any other city in the world, amazing architecture, a scintillating LGBTQ scene, delicious street food and many other attractions, Mexico City is one of the most exciting cities on the planet.

Getting There

Juarez International Airport is located eight miles from Mexico City. If you arrive late at night, it is advisable to take an official taxi to the downtown area. During the day, the metro is a good alternative.

Getting Around

Mexico City’s metro system is extensive and one of the cheapest underground systems in the world. Having said that, it isn’t the most comfortable of transport options during rush hour. Taxis are cheap, but make sure you take one from the official sitio taxi stands or use Uber.

Day One

Start the day with Huevos Rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast – tortillas, fried eggs, salsa and refried beans. Try Café El Popular (5 de Mayo esq Palmas, just off the Zocalo). It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists and has a diner-style ambiance.

After a hearty breakfast, head to the charming neighbourhood of Coyoacan. The number one attraction here is La Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo’s house, which has now been turned into a museum. It provides a fascinating insight into the life of artist Frida and her husband Diego Rivera. www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

The garden in La Casa Azul

Afterwards, you could head around the corner to the house where the exiled Leon Trotsky lived the last year of his life. It was there that he was murdered by an assassin in his study. In contrast to Frida’s colorful abode, it is an austere house which has been changed little since Trotsky lived there, but is an intriguing slice of political history.

Coyoacan Plaza is a great place to sample some tasty street food. At weekends, it is particularly lively with food and handicraft stalls. There is often live music, adding to the festive atmosphere. It feels like small town Mexico in the heart of the big city.

Back in Centro Historico, take a stroll around the huge main plaza, the Zocalo, the second largest public square in the world after Russia’s Red Square. There are plenty of museums, shops and cool street art to explore in the surrounding areas.

La Catrina, the iconic skeleton lady

El Balcon del Zocalo is a perfect place for dinner. The restaurant has a rooftop terrace, bestowed with spectacular views of the cathedral and Zocalo. It has an international, Mexican and veggie friendly menu. www.balcondelzocalo.com

For a taste of Mexican style nightlife, head to Calle Amberes at Paseo de la Reforma in Zona Rosa. This area is the hub of the LGBTQ scene in Mexico City. Have a wander and take your pick of the many bars and clubs that line the street.

Day Two

Pasteleria Ideal (Calle 16 de Septiembre 18, Col. Centro) could be the largest and most heavenly bakery you have ever seen. The choice of baked goods, both sweet and savory, are a feast for the eyes and as the name suggests, is an ideal place to grab some pastries. With breakfast and coffee in hand, make tracks to Alameda Park and find a bench to sit to enjoy your first meal of the day and partake in a spot of people-watching. You can’t miss the opulent architecture of Palacio de Belles Artes, the grandest building in Mexico City.

Just across the road (Calle Revillagigedo 11, Cuauhtemoc), check out the Popular Art Museum. Housed in an ex-fire station, this contemporary museum is full of colorful Mexican folk art. It’s fun and quirky and the exhibits range from Day of the Dead skulls and skeletons to vibrant piñatas. www.map.cdmx.gob.mx

Museum of Popular Art – fun and quirky

La Ciudadela is an artisan market (Calle de Balderas, s/m Centro, 06040 Cuauhtemoc). It specializes in Mexican handicrafts from 0axacan fantasy animals to beautifully decorated skulls. Prices are reasonable and you are bound to find something that catches your eye.

Even if you have never considered attending a wrestling match before, lucha libre is a unique Mexican experience and not-to-be-missed. (Arena Mexico,189 Calle Dr. Lavista, Colonia Doctores).  Regular sessions are held on Tuesday and Friday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The atmosphere is electric and whole families attend shouting abuse at the bad guys and cheering for their heroes.  

Round off your time in Mexico City with some tequila shots and mariachi music at a bar on Plaza Garibaldi. The haunting sound of roving mariachi bands echo around the square, as you reflect on two action-packed days in this amazing city.

Tequila shots at the ready!

 

Originally posted 2017-07-29 11:22:36.

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48 Hours In...

Weekly: 48 Hours in the Big Apple – The Greatest City in the World

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Ah, my home town. While there’s no way possible to fit the entire city into 48 hours, I’m here to give you some of the highlights that take you from the Financial District  in lower Manhattan, up to the Upper West Side. And if you’re in the city and need a tour guide, I’ve got you covered there, too! Let’s take a look at what to do in New York when you only have 48 hours.

Friday: 

7:00pm – Get settled into the Hudson at Columbus Circle

This is my favorite hotel in Manhattan, and when I need a stay-cation I always book a room at the Hudson. Their lobby is decorated with vines and chandeliers, and the courtyard is gorgeous. They also have The Library bar, which features signature cocktails, including the delicious Honey and the Bee’s. The rooms are rather small, but they are cozy and have style. Start your weekend by getting settled, then heading down for a cocktail at The Library.

8:30pm – Dinner at Beauty & Essex

Head down to the Bowery and get ready for a real treat! You’ll walk in through a pawn shop to a beautiful open two story restaurant decorated like a speakeasy. You’re going to want to eat everything on the menu but I recommend the tomato soup dumplings with a bacon-cheese dumping, the beef carpaccio, and the sliders. Plus, they have a great wine and beer list, and delicious cocktails. Make a reservation in advance though. This place gets packed, and quick!

10:30pm – Christopher Street for drinks and dancing

Head on down to Christopher Street and Sheridan Square for drinks and dancing the night away. Some of New York’s best bars are all within walking distance, including The Monster, where Dan Daly can be heard tickling the ivories several nights a week for karaoke. Across the street is The Duplex, which happens to be my first gay bar experience in New York City. Down Christopher, you have Ty’s and Rockbar, which are sure to please.

1:30pm – Street Halal

If there’s one thing New York is full of, it’s street food carts. Get yourself the chicken over rice, extra white sauce. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.

Saturday :

10:00am – Brunch at Maison Pickle on the Upper West Side

This is Jacob’s Pickle’s sister restaurant, currently housing Jacob’s Pickle’s brunch menu due to a recent fire. Get the open-faced chicken biscuit sandwich covered in mushroom gravy. You’re welcome.

11:30am – Walk through Central Park

Want to go people-watching? Take a long walk through Central Park. You’re bound to see people of every variety in there. My advice is to find yourself a park bench, take a seat, and watch the parade of people and puppies. You’ll find me there, too, I’m sure.

2:00pm – Exploring Greenwich Village

This is one of the most famous parts of Manhattan. Just take a cab or the A train down to West 4th street, get out, and walk in any direction to explore this fun neighborhood. Head over to Magnolia Bakery for some sweet treats, too. Get the banana pudding for sure.

4:30pm – World Trade Center Observatory and September 11 Memorial

If you haven’t been to the 9/11 Memorial yet, it’s worth a visit. The site is so peaceful and great for reflection. In the spirit of rebirth and growth, head up to the One World Trade Center for the observatory. You’ll see a great view of Manhattan, New Jersey, and all five boroughs.

6:30pm – Dinner at Sotto 13

This restaurant in Chelsea is quite cozy and features an American-Italian menu with great cocktails and a fun atmosphere. The wait staff are all very friendly, but definitely make a reservation first.

8:00pm – Catch a show!

You’re not far from Times Square, so maybe catch a show! One of my current favorites it Waitress, a funny and heart-warming story based on the 2007 film of the same name. Or, see one of my favorite actresses, Allison Janney, in Six Degrees of Separation. She’s positively brilliant.

10:30pm – After-dinner drinks at Bourbon Street Bar

Really, you can just walk around Hell’s Kitchen and duck into any of the bars, but I’ve recently fallen for Bourbon Street Bar on 46th St between 8th and 9th avenues.

Sunday:

11:00am – Brunch at The Stand

Seriously, this one is not to be missed, unless you have a flight out of New York that afternoon. $45 gets you unlimited mimosas, Bloody Mary’s, and screwdrivers, plus entrees.

2:00pm – Battery Park before heading out

This is just a fun little part of town and a nice place to have a cup of coffee outside before you head home!

There you have it! A great 48 hours in Manhattan awaits you! Let me know when you’re here!

Originally posted 2017-06-15 03:30:36.

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48 Hours In...

Weekly: 48 Hours in Nashville – Music City, and So Much More!

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Ah, Music City USA, home to Hot Chicken, The Grand ‘Ol Opry, and the Tennessee Titans, arguably one of the NFL’s worst teams in history. Still, the city is alive and vibrant. With millions of tourists flocking to the city yearly to visit the biggest sites in country music, it can be difficult to find the right places to visit to have a truly local experience. Fortunately for you, I’m a born and raised Nashville native, so I’ve got all the great eats, sites, and sounds for your truly original Nashville weekend. Let’s dive right in.

Friday:

7:00pm – Arriving and checking in to the Opryland Hotel

One of Nashville’s most famous attractions is the Opryland Hotel, a city within a city, located right next to Opry Mills shopping mall, with downtown shuttles leaving every 30 minutes. The hotel has several great restaurants and bars in it, but you won’t be spending too much time in the hotel this weekend. Still, it’s a unique experience that I’d recommend, and the rates aren’t too bad!

8:30pm – Dinner at Moto in the Gulch

One of my all time favorite restaurants, Moto, offers a unique take on Italian foods with savory dishes that are sure to please even the pickiest of taste buds. I’m partial to their Brussels sprouts and their duck course. Mix that with craft cocktails and you’re set for a great meal!

10:30pm – Lipstick Lounge

Rhonda and Jhonda have put together Nashville’s premiere LGBTQ bar, with a heavy focus on the “L” but all are welcome. The bar tenders are funny and quirky, the atmosphere is eclectic, and the music is always on point.

2:00am – Waffle House for Drunk Food

Waffle House is not a place you go during daylight hours. It should specifically only be open from 8pm to 6am, and should only cater to drunk people. After your night out, head to any of the 40 Waffle Houses in Nashville get yourself scattered, smothered, covered, and chunked. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll learn, and you’ll thank me later.

Saturday:

10:00am – Shopping at Opry Mills

Head across the parking lot from your hotel to Opry Mills and pick out a new outfit for your night out on the town. With hundreds of stores and over a mile of interior shopping in a loop you’re guaranteed to find something.

1:00pm – Hattie B’s Hot Chicken

Now, hot chicken is highly debated in Nashville. Whether you’re on the right side of the fence and love Hattie B’s like me, or you prefer the lesser quality Prince’s Hot Chicken, make sure you get out there and get your mouth burned within an inch of it’s life. Trust me, it’s worth it.

3:00pm – The Gulch for Shopping, Coffee, and People Watching

Ah, Nashville, the new hipster heaven. Congratulations, Portland, they’ve officially out-hipstered you. I love the Gulch just to grab a coffee or a bear to go people-watching. You’re bound to see some bears with beers wearing plaid shirts and rolled up jeans.

6:00pm – Before-dinner cocktails at Virago

This sushi restaurant offers one of Nashville’s best rooftop bar experiences. Their bartenders are ready to mix up anything you throw at them, or ask them to come up with a drink themselves. My favorite is to give them three adjectives and see what they come up with. You may also want to grab a roll or two while you’re there. Enjoy the view!

8:00pm – Dinner at Josephine’s

Make a reservation! This place fills up very quickly. Located in the up-and-coming 12 South neighborhood, you’ll dine on contemporary American farmhouse cuisine. From their website, “The restaurant focuses on simple, classically composed recipes accompanied by a small but carefully selected wine list in a soft industrial space that emphasizes a sense of home. Chef Andrew Little’s expertise and dedication to cooking—not just by the seasons, but by the day— has garnered him praise for the food he serves and the innovative and inspired way in which it is presented. Perfect for everyday dining or special occasions, Josephine is an experience that carries an air of ease; a great time takes care of itself.”

10:00pm – Tribe, PLAY, and Canvas

Head over to Church Street for all the gay bar action you might want! From Tribe’s trendy cocktail lounge vibe, to PLAY’s dance floors and drag shows, to Canvas, a more laid back yet fun and enthralling environment, Church Street has it all. Trust me, the Nashville gay nightlife will definitely take you to Church. (See what I did there?)

Sunday:

11:00am – Brunch at Saint Anejo

This is right next to Moto in the Gulch and is the best brunch in town, in my humble opinion. In Nashville you cannot go wrong with brunch options, but this one features Spanish twists on brunch classics, and their spicy Bloody Mary is smack-your-momma good.

2:00pm – The Frist

Head over to Nashville’s best art museum, The Frist, to see what new exhibits they have showing. If you’re buzzed from brunch, this is a short walk from Saint Anejo, and the modern art will give you fun thoughts!

Your weekend in Nashville has come to a close, but you’ve lived it to the fullest. There’s a lot to do and see, but you’ve packed in some of the best activities! Congratulations on a weekend well spent!

Originally posted 2017-06-15 01:48:21.

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