Hotels have played a prominent role in movies throughout the years, from the glamorous places where James Bond stayed to the exotic resorts. Let’s discover the iconic hotels that were featured in famous films where you can stay and be treated like a star!
10. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, California
Maybe because of the proximity to Hollywood or maybe because it is a beautiful hotel full of grandeur and luxury, either way, the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles has been featured in a lot of movies. In fact, the hotel has a list of movies, TV shows and other appearances listed on their web site that is 15 pages long. Some of the more famous movies shot all or in part here include Jersey Boys, The Italian Job, The Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man, Rush Hour 3 and Rocky III. When not starring in movies the Millennium Biltmore has hosted celebrities, presidents, and dignitaries for the last 90 years. The 27 suites range from 900 sq. ft. one-bedroom suites to the 4,600 sq. ft. Presidential Suite that encompasses 2 floors, has 3 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, and an antique elevator. Rounded out by a piano, full kitchen, dining room, and library it is truly majestic.
9. The Fontainebleau, Miami, Florida
Since opening in 1954 the Fontainebleau Hotel has popular with the rich and famous. You might remember the swimming pool from the movies Scarface starring Al Pacino and the James Bond classic Goldfinger. Parts of the movies The Bodyguard as well as Police Academy 5 were shot on location here as well. The hotel occupies 22 acres of prime oceanfront property in the heart of Miami’s Millionaire’s Row and offers luxurious accommodations along with a touch of the glamorous golden era. The hotel offers guest rooms ranging from the standard room at 300 sq. ft. and luxuriously appointed to the six luxury penthouses. For $3,000 a night you can book the La Baie Presidential Suite with its polished marble floors. The hotel has a marina where yachts can dock for the day and enjoy the award winning restaurants at the hotel or the famous pool and beach.
8. Hotel de Paris, Monaco
Long thought of as a playground for the ultra-rich, Monaco is still one of Europe’s premier destinations. No hotel exemplifies the opulence and luxury of Monaco more than the Hotel de Paris. Built in 1864 the hotel is still the standard for others to try and copy. Movies such as Iron Man 2, The Red Shoes from 1948 and the movie Monte Carlo from 2011 were shot here. What would a luxurious European hotel be without James Bond? Two of the famous spy’s movies were shot in part here, Never Say Never Again and Goldeneye. This 5-star hotel has 182 rooms appointed in European style and luxury to include Louis XVI chairs and heated floors in the bathrooms. The hotel has three restaurants where gentlemen must wear jackets and a private wine cellar holding over 400,000 bottles of wine, some dating back to 1850. Free entry into the famed casinos and 24-hour concierge service await you at the Hotel de Paris.
7. The Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills, California
Originally opened in 1928 the Beverly Wilshire sits across from Rodeo Drive in the heart of Beverly Hills. The hotel made an appearance in movies like Escape From the Planet of Apes and Sex and the City: The Movie. The world really came to know the hotel when it served as the setting for the blockbuster movie Pretty Woman with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. With 395 rooms and 137 suites, the hotel has hosted celebrities, political figures, and royalty. The guest rooms are big, 400 sq. ft. and just get bigger from there. The Presidential Suite is 5000 sq. ft. has a media room and a huge walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Enjoy a meal at the Wolfgang Puck restaurant CUT where you can get some of the best steaks in the country including True Japanese 100% Wagyu Beef from Japan.
6. The Plaza, New York, NY
The Plaza Hotel in New York has been featured in several movies. The hotel was featured in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby, featuring Robert Redford and in the 2013 version as well. The Plaza also appears in the Hitchcock thriller North by Northwest as well as Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Sleepless in Seattle and Scent of a Woman. The Plaza Hotel is the ultimate in New York style and sophistication. The hotel has 282 guest rooms and 102 suites including the Royal Plaza Suite. The three-bedroom suite overlooking 5th Avenue comes with a fitness room, baths with marble mosaic tile complete with 24-carat gold plated fixtures and butler services. The Plaza Food Hall is a culinary dining and shopping venue popular with guests and locals. Chef Todd English prepares award-winning meals in the European style food hall featuring rustic Mediterranean food.
5. Bellagio, Las Vegas, Nevada
The Bellagio in Las Vegas and its iconic fountains have played a prominent role in movies about Las Vegas. The movies Oceans 11, Oceans 13, were shot there. Besides the fountains which attract thousands to the musical dancing waters, the hotel continues to be a favorite destination for Vegas visitors. Cirque du Soleil makes its home at The Bellagio and the conservatory and botanical gardens are a favorite. From the Fiori di Como chandelier containing 2,000 hand-blown glass blossoms that adorns the lobby to the fine art gallery The Bellagio strives to provide the utmost in luxury. The concierge can obtain those hard to get show tickets and the staff goes out of their way to make you feel special. The resort rooms are 510 sq. ft. and have marble floor entries, sitting areas, and mood lighting. The Executive Parlor Suite is 2,500 sq. ft. and features a billiard lounge, theater room, and wet bar. For the most discriminating an 8,000 sq. ft. three bedroom, seven bathroom villa is the ultimate in luxury. Featuring a fitness center, massage room, dry sauna and private hair salon the villa comes with a 24hr butler service.
4. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, California
This 5-star hotel on famed Nob Hill in San Francisco sets the standard for luxury and elegance. The movies Hotel and The Rock use this as a filming location along with the 1958 classic Vertigo, starring Jimmy Stewart. The hotel has 592 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants and bars and a culinary garden where the hotel maintains honey bees that serve up over 800 pounds of honey each year. The Fairmont Hotel has 62 suites with the main building suites containing a parlor, bedroom and marble floors. The Penthouse Suite is 6,000 sq. ft., has three bedrooms and four bathrooms. Complete with a fireplace in the living room, formal dining, library, billiard room and terrace overlooking the city.
3. Waldorf Astoria, New York, NY
The 47 story Waldorf Astoria Hotel has over 1,400 rooms and is one of the largest luxury hotels in the world. The hotel has welcomed presidents, celebrities and royalty throughout the years. Movies have been using the Waldorf since the 1940s because of the grandeur and location on Park Avenue. The 1970 comedy The Out of Towners with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis was filmed at the hotel along with The Great Gatsby. Remember the scene in The Godfather Part III where George Hamilton, who plays the Corleone family lawyer, negotiates with the crooked Arch Bishop? Yep, filmed at the Waldorf. Rooms range from luxury guest rooms in the tower to suites, including two-bedroom apartments where figures such as Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, and Marilyn Monroe have all stayed. No word on whether JFK and Marilyn were staying there at the same time.
2. Turtle Bay Resort, Oahu, Hawaii
The movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed at the beautiful Turtle Bay Resort in Hawaii. What most people don’t know is that Turtle Bay has been the setting for over 150 movies and television shows. The original Hawaii Five-O filmed there as well as Magnum PI, the movie Soul Surfer and a host of others. There is no wonder why. I mean come on you have the beautiful tropical setting, great beach and of course the resorts impeccable attention to detail. Instead of a fussy concierge, you get a staff that is friendly and willing to do whatever is needed for you to have the ultimate resort experience. You might find yourself enjoying a cocktail with a local or a well-known pro athlete or celebrity. The resort is situated so you get an ocean view from every room whether it be one of the suites, beach cottages, villas or rooftop premier rooms with walk-in stone showers and soaking tubs.
1. The Savoy, London
The Savoy in London has long been an iconic Hotel and one known for elegance and style. Located on the Thames River, near the shopping and theater districts, the Savoy has attracted politicians, celebrities, and visitors from around the world seeking luxurious amenities. The movie industry is no exception and has the Savoy for settings in several movies dating back to 1921, including The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981, Notting Hill in 1999 and Made of Honor in 2008. The 5-star hotel has 268 rooms decorated in either Edwardian or art deco styles featuring luxurious marble bathrooms. Suites also have the luxury of having a dedicated butler. The Royal Suite covers the entire 5th floor and was recently refurbished at a cost of over $3.7 million.
Rooftop bars continue to pop up all over America year after year and as this trend continues to grow, rooftop patios continue to get bigger and better. Although many assume that rooftop bars can only be accessed in the summertime, or in warm weather states, they would be mistaken, as shown by the sheer number of four-season rooftop bars, even in cold places such as Chicago. From rooftop bars that feature crystal-encrusted pools to those featuring incredible Latin-American street food, we have rounded up 12 of the best rooftop bars in America.
12. SODA Bar, NYLO Hotel, Dallas
Visitors can unwind and relax at this ultra modern rooftop bar complete with foosball tables, faux grass, and Texas brews. Located on top of the century-old Dallas Coffin Co. building this rooftop looks out onto the twinkling lights of downtown Dallas. Relax near the rooftop infinity pool; pull up a seat at the unique blue lighted bar or stretch out around the glowing fire pit.
Make sure to try one of the specialty cocktails such as the Black Forest Martini or their signature Nylorita. Handmade sandwiches, thin crust pizzas and a variety of delicious appetizers accompany their expanding bar menu. SODA Bar is open to the public, not just guests of the NYLO Hotel and is perhaps the perfect place to spend an evening relaxing under the twinkling stars.
11. I|O Urban Roofscape, Chicago
It boasts itself as the highest indoor-outdoor rooftop lounge in the city of Chicago and this unique bar features a state of the art retractable roof that allows visitors to enjoy the lounge all year round. This 10,000 square feet space features uninterrupted views of the city’s skyline. Chic modern furniture sets the stage, along with ultra-modern umbrellas, splashes of color and superior service.
Other amazing features include a video wall, shimmering water elements, a fire pit and retractable roof. A menu that includes eats such as black truffle fries and grilled pork belly skewers goes perfectly with the handcrafted cocktails that are sure to wow any guest. Visitors should be sure to dress to impress if they plan on visiting this bar at night, as it is located inside a 4-star luxury hotel and requires upscale casual attire.
10. Six Feet Under, Atlanta
It is one of Atlanta’s most popular rooftop bars and with two locations one simply cannot be in this city and not visit here. Known for their locally made beer, chilled out vibe and extensive seafood menu, Six Feet Under is always hopping with action. We suggest heading to the location on Memorial Drive as the rooftop bar overlooks the Oakland Cemetery, another must see if you are in the city.
Locally crafted beer is not the only drink you should try here though; make sure to sample themed cocktails that the talented bartenders craft every day. Catfish tacos, an alligator appetizer, and raw oysters are just a slice of what you will see on this menu. Don’t expect to see any art-deco or chic furnishings here as this place is truly a reflection of the South. Do expect friendly service, incredible seafood, and great company.
9. Three Sixty, St. Louis
Electric colors of bright yellow and green set the stage for this rooftop bar that is located nearly 400 feet above downtown St. Louis. Three Sixty offers sweeping views in all directions, hence the name, and includes a bird’s eye view right into Busch Stadium. In addition to the Cardinals-themed cocktails, Three Sixty offers a variety of wine, beer and handcrafted small plates such as roasted BBQ oysters.
This stunning 6,000 square-foot space features indoor and outdoor seating, multiple indoor bars, an open kitchen, dramatic wine wall, fire pits and a giant outside bar. On Friday and Saturday nights visitors should expect to see a DJ spinning the beats and on all Cardinal home games, this bar is the place to be. Open after 4 pm, every day of the week, this is truly the hottest place to be in the city.
8. Stars Restaurant & Rooftop Bar, South Carolina
This rooftop bar is a haven away from the hustle and bustle that makes up Upper King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. It also happens to be the only rooftop bar in Charleston with 360 degree views of the surrounding area. The location is unique in itself, the bar housed in a restored Arts and Crafts building that features 1930’s décor and views of the city’s beautiful historic district. With a large selection of international tap wines, specialty cocktails, and craft beer; there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Lunch and dinner are served here seven days of the week and feature both classic and innovative dishes. The furnishings include seagrass planters filled with fresh herbs, recycled wicker furniture, a reclaimed Tigerwood Bar and space heaters for the cooler nights. Make sure to try one of the bar’s original cocktails before you leave, we recommend the “Southern Belle Bathwater”, an innovative spin on the traditional Southern spiked lemonade.
7. Bar 54, New York
There are a plethora of rooftops bars in New York to choose from but the one that stands out from all the rest is Bar 54. Located on the 54th floor of the Hyatt Times Square, visitors shouldn’t expect loud music, excessive crowds or cheaply made cocktails like many of the rooftop bars in the city. Instead, visitors here will find a calm and unpretentious environment, with some of the absolute best cocktails in the city.
The views aren’t bad either: the Chrysler building, both rivers, and Manhattan’s southern skyline. Visitors can choose to sit inside or out, both offering the incredible views, the high windows run the length of the establishment. Expect superior service, an excellent snack menu and unforgettable cocktails. It will cost patrons at least $20 and up for a cocktail, but hey this is Times Square in New York City after all.
6. Perch, Los Angeles
It hails itself as an elevated resting place, a rooftop bistro located on the 15th-floor that oozes with unique ambiance and is inspired by vintage French restaurants. Visitors to Perch may, in fact, feel as though they have been transported to the South of France; if it weren’t for the nearby skyscrapers that surround them. Antique-inspired furniture, detailed woodwork, intricate fireplaces, wicker chaises and plush lounge couches greet patrons as they arrive.
Whether you want to sit outdoors and enjoy one of the many fireplaces, lush landscaping, and gorgeous L.A views; or choose to sit indoors, with its intimate bohemian like atmosphere with stretching 30-foot ceilings; you won’t be disappointed. Head up to the 16th floor on cooler evenings to experience live jazz music, fire pits, and incredible cocktails, with names such as the “French Maid”.
5. Frol!k Kitchen + Cocktails, Seattle
It is one of Seattle’s most beloved destinations, featuring expansive outdoor seating, colorful modern furniture, and beautiful outdoor fireplaces. Whether you are meeting a group of friends or on a hot date; there are plenty of things to do for everyone, including shuffleboard courts. Or why not try your hand on one of the bright orange ping pong tables throughout the bar.
Seasonal hand-crafted cocktails are the favorite here and patrons will want to try one of the Pacific Northwest-inspired drinks, such as the “Marionberry Smash”. Several heat sources will keep visitors warm from the Pacific Northwest chill including an amazing tabletop fireplace. Although this rooftop bar doesn’t offer sweeping views of the city, it does offer an incredible ambiance and chilled out vibe, perfect for those relaxing nights.
4. Juvia, Miami
With a motto like “our penthouse is your penthouse”, visitors to Juvia should expect great things. It is one of Miami’s most popular rooftop bars due in part to its South Beach views and ultramodern décor. Striking colors of purple set the stage for this hip venue, along with an incredible vertical garden designed by an internationally renowned botanist. Juvia offers a variety of seating options, ranging from comfortable couches to high tables.
This dining oasis hands high in the sky above Miami Beach and patrons have the choice to sit indoors or out; while indulging in the French-Asian fusion menu. With a handful of award-winning chefs and designers; it is no surprise that locals and visitors to this area flock to this rooftop bar night after night. Insider tip- make sure to make a reservation ahead of time if you want to sit at an outdoor table as this rooftop bar gets crowded quickly.
3. ABH, Sixty Beverly Hills, Los Angeles
This exclusive rooftop terrace is set high above Beverly Hills and remains one of the most sought-after drinking spots in the city. This two-level rooftop space offers full meals, snacks, and incredible specialty cocktails. The bar is open to both hotel guests and visitors although if you want to take a dip in the crystal-encrusted pool you have to be a guest of the hotel.
Elegant yet simple wooden furnishings adorn the patio and lanterns hung above to create an intimate setting. Later into the night the bar shifts into a more club-like atmosphere with fireplace lounges and DJ’s spinning beats, along with a plethora of people dancing to the tunes. Being the only rooftop al fresco bar and restaurant located within walking distance of Rodeo Drive, this rooftop attracts high-end clientele who are willing to drop serious cash on the specialty cocktails and fantastic small plates.
2. Legal Harborside, Boston
This expansive restaurant and bar feature over three floors of dining areas but if you are looking for the best rooftop bar in Boston it is up to the third floor you will head. The promenade deck here offers a four-season rooftop lounge and bar, complete with retractable walls and ceiling. During the winter months, visitors can enjoy the views of the harbor and skyline from the fully enclosed glass wall space.
Summer months the walls and ceiling are pulled back and visitors can drink under the sun and stars. An expansive wine menu, hand-crafted cocktails, and pitchers of punches pair perfectly with the incredible sushi menu. Plush lounge seating, incredible décor and the twinkling lights of the harbor create the perfect atmosphere in the city. A must visit for any visitor to the city.
1. El Techo de Lolinda, San Francisco
Famous for its incredible views that stretch all the way from Mission Street to the Bay, El Techo de Lolinda is one of the best places to grab a tequila cocktail and some Latin-American inspired street food. This rooftop bar is located above the Lolinda Steakhouse and is famous in the city for being one of the best rooftop bars around. Whether you happen upon this bar during the day, or at night, expect great things.
Make sure to indulge in one of the famous pina coladas or margaritas, made with fresh coconut. Come from brunch on the weekends and keep cool under one of the umbrellas or saunter over here at night, where the heat lamps will keep you warm and the kitchen is open until 1 am. Whenever you decide to visit, enjoy these unique tequila cocktails, fresh food, and incredible views.
It is a curious, almost inexplicable sociological phenomenon, uniquely American. The fanatical devotion and big business of college and university sport is unmatched elsewhere in the world. College teams often outdraw professional NFL franchises, minus the huge payroll. College sports fanatics (in the true sense of the word) exhibit behavior usually associated with religious fervor or membership in a cult. One Stadium features a Touchdown Jesus and nobody complained about blasphemy. A British sociologist named Desmond Morris has a theory that loyalty to a team is the modern incarnation of our Paleolithic tribal origins. The player/heroes touchdowns, baskets or goals are perceived by our caveman neurons the same way as the hunter’s, whose ‘kills’ ensured the survival of the ‘tribe’ (even if today’s version of the tribe looks like 100,000 plus screaming, slightly inebriated fans). It is rare that technically amateur sport arouses such passion. The venues in which these athletic ceremonies occur have become sports temples where fans gather to worship the brave and noble warriors who ensure not only the tribe survives, but becomes the number one ranked tribe in the nation with the divine status, glory and TV contracts that ensue. Here are the 12 college sport venues who provide the most unforgettable of sports experiences:
12. Cameron Indoor Stadium -Duke University
Home team: Blue Devils
The Duke University Blue Devils is one of the elite programs in all of college sport whose supporters’ fanaticism is up there too. How 9,314 people can make that much noise is a scientific mystery, but much of it comes from the legendary student section, affectionately known as the Cameron Crazies. The program dates all the way back to 1906 but the Cameron’s 75 year history is rich enough with the team’s five national championships.
11. Notre Dame Stadium -Notre Dame University
Home team: The Fighting Irish
Any place that has a Touchdown Jesus beneficently looking down on the stadium calls for a visit. The brand might have faded in recent years but the illustrious Fighting Irish remains one of the most legendary athletic institutions in the world. It was they who won one for the Gipper, where Knute Rockne reigned and where the great Grantland Rice (after whom the renowned website is named) wrote the most famous lead in sports writing history of the “Four Horseman of the Apocalypse. Unconvinced? Find a copy of the 1993 movie “Rudy” and get back to us.
10. Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall -University of Indiana
Home team: Indiana University Hoosiers
Home of the Hoosiers, Assembly Hall has been called the Carnegie Hall of Basketball. Three of the teams five national titles were won here. For 30 years it was home to basketball’s most famous tyrant Bobby Knight ruled with the proverbial iron fist running up an incredible record of 902 wins against just 371 losses. The intensity remains. The Hoosiers do occasionally lose but they never disappoint.
9. Bryant-Denny Stadium -University of Alabama
Home team: Alabama Crimson Tide
AKA Tuscaloosa’s Treasure. Home to the iconic perennial powerhouse Crimson Tide who spend most autumn Sundays grinding out-matched teams into dust. Originally with just 12,000 seats, its capacity is up to 101,000 and counting. The stadium is co-named after a former University President and one of the game’s great legends Paul (Bear) Bryant who strolled the sidelines for 25 years racking up 323 wins and found a young quarterback named Joe Namath. As the Bleacher Report says “In Alabama, football is life.” The 2015 Homecoming theme was Forever Crimson: Faithful, Loyal, Firm and True.”
8. Rose Bowl -University of California Los Angeles
Home team: UCLA Bruins
The venerable American institution is home to the UCLA Bruins and has seen an Olympics and World Cup. But its fame stems from traditional bowl game that bears its name. First played in 1902, it was college football’s premier event on New Year’s Day for decades. Too many legends have trod the sod to count, but included are: 17 Heisman Trophy Winners, 29 national champions, 199 consensus All-Americans and 107 college football legends inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame. It remains a mecca of college football and an afternoon watching elite teams play as the sun sets on the San Gabriel Mountains is not a memory that will soon fade.
7. Mariucci Arena -University of Minnesota
Team: Golden Gophers
Named for John Mariucci, the Hall of Fame coach from the 1950’s and 60’s, this is hallowed ground for American hockey. It is a hockey factory for U.S. born players whose alumni include Miracle on Ice coach Herb Brooks. The Golden Gophers 21 Frozen Four appearances are third in the nation. It is considered the premier arena to watch top-tier college hockey for two reasons. Fifteen of the team’s 2015 players were drafted by the NHL. The arena bears a striking quotation from Coach Mariucci: “Through these gates walk the greatest fans in college hockey”.
6. Tiger Stadium -Louisiana State University
Home team: LSU Tigers
It stands to reason that, starting with the tailgating, the atmosphere of Saturday night football in Cajun Country is like no other. Just the thought of more than 100,000 Ragin’ Cajuns is unsettling. The rabidly hostile AND LOUD fans that religiously pack the stadium for home games has earned the Stadium the charming nickname of Death Valley. A sea of energy in the royal colors of purple and gold makes for a long night on the field for opponents and a memorable experience for the connoisseur of college sport.
5. Rupp Arena -University of Kentucky
Home team: Wildcats
Kentucky is another perennial powerhouse and the Rupp (named after one of the greatest coaches ever) packs an unusually large crowd of 24,000 up into its rafters. It is the winningest college team in history since it came into being in 1903. Some of the all-time greats have played here but as testament to its continuing success, the current crop of Wildcats in the NBA number 4 potential future Hall of Famers; John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With its size and noise level and consistently elite teams, Rupp Arena is easily one of the most intimidating venues in sport anywhere.
4. Michie Stadium -United States Military Academy
Home Team: Army Black Knights
The football isn’t what it used to be. They have lost 13 straight in the iconic Army Navy series, but there are things that make this worth considering. The legions of cadets in the stands is a truly unique setting. The 1912 team featured a young player named Dwight D Eisenhower. The team mascot remains a live mule which was a tribute to a valuable military mode of transport when the football program began in 1890. From 1944 to 1950, their record was 57-3 with 3 national championships behind football legend Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis, memorably nicknamed respectively Mr. Inside and outside. With three national championships. Vince Lombardy and Bill Parcells got their start here. It is like a true Field of Dreams, with ghosts of greatness still gracing the field on the banks of the Hudson.
3. The Palestra -University of Pennsylvania
Home Teams: UPenn, Villanova, La Salle, Temple, St. Joseph’s
AKA the Cathedral of College Basketball. Unique in college sport, The Palestra as a kind of sport co-op has played host to more games than any other college arena in history. It is the home of the Big Five Philly based college teams. Named at the suggestion of a Classics professor for its Ancient Greek counterpart, it is a classic venue.
2. Allen Fieldhouse -University of Kansas
Since the Allen opened in 1955, the home team Jayhawks have had a record of 666-107. Since the program began in 1898 their record is 2153-831.tradition. The court is named after basketball’s Canadian-born inventor James Naismith, who was the first coach of the Jayhawks. Going to any Big 12 game is worth the drive/flight to Lawrence Kansas to see the blue and crimson at The Phog as it’s also known, the nickname of F.C. Allen the hugely successful early 20th century coach who was also a seminal figure in the development of basketball in the United States. But to take in the atmosphere of over a century of athletic excellence from Naismith to Wilt Chamberlain to NBA Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, is more than just a game.
1. Michigan Stadium -Michigan State University
Home Team: The Wolverines
It isn’t called The Big House for nothing. It is among the top five largest stadiums in the world. Maybe the only one who can claim to be home to more people on game day than Ann Arbor the town in which it sits. The National Hockey League staged a regular season game there between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings that drew over 105,000 people on a wintry day. A great venue with one of the most powerful tribes in college sport.
Are your usual travel plans seeming a little flat? Do you want a travel experience that is truly conversation-worthy when you return home? Do you crave something out-of-the-box, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Read on below for some suggestions of amazing tours that are out of the ordinary- to varying degrees. Some will put a different perspective on familiar sites or cities. Others may have you saying- they have a tour for that?
1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom, Orlando
One of the first rules of being a magician is to never reveal the secrets behind your tricks. Well, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando turns that whole concept on its ear by providing a tour to its underground tunnel system (Utilidor) – which is where much of their magic happens. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom- think about it; have you ever seen anything the least bit utilitarian (i.e. supplies traveling) or un-magic? The complex Utilidor system is an intricate, minutely detailed system that is the conduit for Disney Cast Members (staff) to whisk from one location to another, supplies to be delivered and for garbage to be transported. It’s a whole other world underground at Disney World- complete with cafeterias, a hairdresser as well as a myriad of offices. The traveler who has a keen appreciation for well-executed logistics will enjoy this 7 hour tour, which includes lunch. It’s Disney from a whole new perspective.
2. Chernobyl, Ukraine
While touring the site of a nuclear disaster may not top everyone’s travel wish list, those wishing to gain insight into the historic 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be pleased to know that there are a number of organized tours open to the public. There are one day and two day tours offered (some include transportation to and from Kiev). Depending on your tour company, expect to see the village of Chernobyl and to travel through various checkpoints. You’ll see the abandoned town of Pripyat. Groups are taken through the Exclusion Zone (which is closed to the general public, but open to tour groups) and then brought into the Chernobyl Power Plant itself to witness the site of the disaster.
3. Helter Skelter Tour, Los Angeles
In Los Angeles you can go on a guided tour that takes you through the sites of some of the grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family. The tour delves into the minds of the killers and victims themselves in the hours prior to the murders. These cases continue to fascinate the public to this day, and this tour explores some of the reasons why.
4. Funky Chicken Coop Tour, Texas
This organized tour is a little different than other tours for a number of reasons. For one thing- it is a once-a-year event. For another, it was developed as a promotional tool of sorts. The annual tour was launched by not-for-profit Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc. in order to raise public awareness around urban farming. The tour has a home base with family-friendly activities, and proceeds to tour around several urban chicken coops in the Austin area, where the public can view urban poultry (and other) farming first hand.
5. Train with a Sumo Wrestler, Japan
Ever wonder what it would be like to be a Sumo Wrestler? In Japan, there are a number of tours intended to acquaint you with a morning in a typical day in the life of a Sumo Wrestler by immersing you in the experience. The art of Sumo Wrestling is steeped in centuries of tradition, deep history and regard for ritual. The tour begins in a traditional Sumo stable, where wrestlers live and train together. On this tour, your day starts with the traditional early morning Sumo Wrestling practice, where you’ll watch wrestlers have at it, and then have a go in the ring yourself. After your wrestling, you’ll eat the traditional Chanko meal (which is a mix of protein and veggies) which Sumo Wrestlers eat every day (these wrestlers reportedly eat about 10,000 calories in a single meal) to maintain their training regime. You’ll share the meal with the Oyakata (master) who will field any questions about what it is really like to be a Sumo Wrestler.
6. Tragic History Tour, Los Angeles
Unfortunately, often with fame comes a lot of tragedy and promising young lives are cut all too short. So it is no surprise that star-studded Hollywood has been the scene for a number of star-related deaths and scandals. There are a few organized tours that let you be celebrity voyeurs, and get your fix of celebrity gossip, complete with guided commentary. The Dearly Departed, Tragic History Tour brings you to 75 different sites over the course of an afternoon. See where Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and River Pheonix died. See the sites of the scandals that surrounded Hugh Grant, Rhianna and Chris Brown. With a nod of decidedly dark humor, this tour is delivered from a “tomb buggy” (a bus). It’s the perfect tour for the celeb-obsessed.
7. Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam
There is nowhere quite like Amsterdam, the ultimate melting pot of all vices. Why not benefit from a little local commentary from an expert guide while taking in the “sights”. One tour company (named, plainly Amsterdam Red Light District Tours) has a tagline of ‘History, Hookers and Hashish: we have an awesome tour for you’. Delivered in English by local Dutch guides, guests of this tour will see the first condom shop in the world, peep shows, the infamous Amsterdam pot-smoking coffee shops, prostitutes (including the Museum of Prostitution) and appropriately, the Hangover Information Centre.
8. Crop Circle Tours, UK
Paranormal believers unite! You have likely heard of crop circles, but did you know that they have a high season? (which interestingly peaks in the middle of high traffic summer vacation season). There are a number of tours that take you out to tour recently formed circles. If you’d like to extend your extra-terrestrial tour time, then combine the crop circles with a “Magical Mystery tour” which hits all the local crop circles, but also takes you to see Stonehenge and Avebury, which borders the Warminster Triangle, where there has reportedly been strange sights, sounds, ghostly/unexplained apparitions- not to mention a very strong electro-magnetic field, which is requisite it would seem for UFO encounters.
California is a delightfully diverse destination with a colorful history. Long a magnet for visitors with its warm weather, spectacular scenery and reputation where fortunes can be made if you’re willing to take a chance, California is understandably chock full of hotels with histories as interesting as the state in which they reside. From seaside resorts and legendary cruise ships to Hollywood playgrounds for the rich and famous and desert oases, California’s historic hotels are fantastic and fascinating.
10. Hotel Del Coronado, Coronado Island
The Hotel Del Coronado, aka, The Del, has been a legendary resort from the moment it opened on Coronado Island in 1888. It attracted a wealthy clientele, with elegant amenities like electricity, telephones, elevators and even private bathrooms. In fact, it was one of the largest buildings in the U.S.to have electric lights when it opened. A sunny playground for the rich, it offered billiards, bowling, croquet, boating, cycling, archery, golf, swimming and fine dining. Meticulously maintained to present day, the 28-acre, 757-room resort has been a haven for Hollywood’s elite and a backdrop for many films and TV shows. In 1918, Rudolph Valentino starred in “The Married Virgin” there, while Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis filmed “Some Like It Hot” on The Del’s beach. The ghost of Kate Morgan is among The Del’s most famous celebrities. She has been a ‘guest’ since she died there in 1892.
9. The Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco
Some hotels are merely old while others are truly historic, as is the case of The Fairmont Hotel, the landmark hotel that graces the pinnacle of Nob Hill overlooking San Francisco Bay. The Fairmont’s original planned opening in 1906 was ill-timed, as fires resulting from the infamous earthquake that struck the city on April 18 that year substantially damaged the hotel. It opened a year later and quickly assumed its place as San Francisco’s social hub and one of the nation’s most revered hotels. Memorable moments in the Fairmont’s history include when delegates met there in 1945 to draft the United Nations Charter. Every U.S. president since Harry Truman has stayed there, and Tony Bennett first sang his iconic song, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in the hotel’s Venetian Room. A recent $85 million renovation to the 592-room hotel has the San Francisco treat shining like new.
8. The Mission Inn & Spa, Riverside
The spectacular Mission Inn & Spa that now occupies an entire city block in downtown Riverside had a most modest beginning as a two-story, 12-room adobe boarding house in 1876. Looking to capitalize on the influx of wealthy people flocking to Riverside’s warm climate and booming citrus industry, owner Frank Miller opened the first wing of the Inn in 1903 in a Mission-Revival style. He eventually added three more wings, with the final Rotunda wing opening in 1931. The 238-room resort incorporates an amazing mix of architectural styles including flying buttresses, grand archways, interior courtyards, fountains, bell and clock towers and an open-air, five-story rotunda with a wrought-iron, circular staircase. The Inn closed for seven years to undergo a $55 million renovation but reopened in 1997. Docent-led tours of the resort highlight its 6,000-piece art collection and rich history that includes visits by 10 U.S. presidents and countless celebrities.
7. Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles
Throughout its 92-year history, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel has been one of Tinseltown’s most treasured downtown assets. The Beaux-Arts-inspired hotel has been used in the filming of dozens of movies and TV shows over the years including “Ghostbusters,” “Chinatown,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Mad Men” and “CSI.” High tea is still served on weekends at the opulent Rendezvous Court, and the Gallery Bar is remains one of L.A.’s top bars with its signature martinis and classic look with rich wood paneling and leather couches. The 683-room hotel, which is currently undergoing a renovation slated for completion in 2016, has hosted everyone from Rudolph Valentino and the Prince of Wales to Howard Hughes, Herbert Hoover and Eleanor Roosevelt. John F. Kennedy even used the Biltmore as his headquarters during the 1960 Democratic National Convention.
6. U.S. Grant Hotel, San Diego
Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. built the 11-story U.S. Grant Hotel now situated in San Diego’s Gaslamp District in honor of his father, Civil War hero and 18th U.S. president. The 437-room luxury hotel opened to great fanfare in 1910 with an Italian marble grand staircase with carved alabaster handrail, a ninth-floor ballroom that could host 1,200 people and two rooftop terraces. During U.S. Prohibition, the Bivouac Grill became the city’s most popular speakeasy, the Plata Real Club. During that time, the Italianate Ballroom was built with travertine floors and hand-painted ceiling. In the 1930s, a radio tower was installed on the roof and Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast one of his first “fireside chats” from the hotel. FDR is among 14 U.S. presidents to visit the hotel. Over $130 million in renovations in recent decades saved the grand dame of San Diego from the wrecking ball and restored its original splendor.
5. Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco
The Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel opened in 1926 on Nob Hill, adjacent to the iconic Fairmont Hotel that opened in 1907. The hotel’s namesake, among the founders of the Southern Pacific Railroad, built a 40-room mansion at the site that was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. In 1939, owner George Smith created quite a stir around town when he converted the 19th floor’s 11-room penthouse into a glass-walled cocktail lounge that came to be known as the Top of the Mark. It was an instant hit with its sweeping views of the city and bay. The opulent, 391-room hotel has hosted five U.S. presidents and world statesmen like Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and French General Charles de Gaulle. Celebrities from Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones to Michael Jackson and Liz Taylor also have stayed at the landmark hotel, which received a multi-million-dollar restoration in 2002.
4. The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles
The Beverly Hilton is as much Hollywood royalty as the countless movie stars that have passed through its doors since hotelier Conrad Hilton opened the landmark in 1955. The 569-room hotel’s International Ballroom has hosted the Golden Globes for over 50 years. It also hosts the Oscar Nominee Luncheon and the Pre-Grammy Gala. Its famed Aqua Star pool is Beverly Hills’ largest heated hotel pool and the site of numerous film shoots. Actress Angelina Jolie celebrated winning her second Golden Globe by jumping into the iconic pool, and the hotel has 36 poolside Cabana Rooms with a tropical theme. Trader Vic’s Lounge is equally famous as a legendary Hollywood watering hole for generations. Located at the iconic corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards, the Hilton has 101 suites including nine luxurious private suites that comprise its Penthouse Collection.
3. Queen Mary, Long Beach
Hotels come in all shapes and sizes these days, including ocean liners. Cunard spared no expense when it built the Queen Mary luxury liner in 1936. Now considered one of the world’s best examples of Art Deco design, the lovely lady sailed the high seas in style until 1967. During her time at sea, she hosted celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable and even royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. During World War II, the Queen Mary was transformed into a military transport vessel that was capable of shipping up to 16,000 troops. Today, she is permanently docked in Long Beach as a floating hotel and events center. Guests can stay in one of 346 original state rooms and suites, and its restaurants are open to the general public. Notorious for its paranormal activity, the Queen Mary hosts twilight tours that celebrate the ship’s ghostly guests.
2. Beverly Hills Hotel, Los Angeles
Affectionately known as the pink palace, the Beverly Hills Hotel has been a L.A. institution since opening over 100 years ago. Located on iconic Sunset Boulevard in the heart of Beverly Hills, the circa 1912 hotel supposedly inspired the Eagles’ smash hit song, “Hotel California.” Its Polo Lounge has been the scene of breakfasts, lunches and cocktails among Hollywood power brokers for generations. Its Sunday brunch remains one of the top places to see and be seen in Hollywood. The hotel’s 208 guestrooms include 23 bungalows located in its 12 acres of lush tropical gardens. Some of the bungalows have up to four bedrooms, fireplaces and private garden patios. Liz Taylor honeymooned with six of her eight husbands in these bungalows, which also have hosted Marilyn Monroe and other top stars. The Fountain Coffee Room first opened in the 1940s and still features a vintage soda fountain.
1. The Inn at Furnace Creek, Death Valley National Park
The remote Inn at Furnace Creek is located in Death Valley National Park, one of the lowest and hottest places on earth. Opened in 1927, the Inn is a spectacular architectural masterpiece of stonework that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open from mid-October to mid-May, the Inn features spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking, tennis, spa treatments and golf at the world’s lowest course (214 feet below sea level) that first opened in 1931. The Pool Bungalow rooms are located adjacent to the two pools and feature great views of the Death Valley desert and surrounding Funeral Mountains. The Inn’s fine-dining restaurant adheres to a resort attire dress code and serves a classic Sunday brunch and high tea. The scant fall rains bring an explosion of wildflowers to the desert floor, making it an especially good time to visit. The resort’s website posts updates on wildflowers during the season.
The holidays are quickly approaching and there is perhaps no better way to embrace them by attending a tree lighting ceremony. Christmas trees are erected all over the world, some man-made, some shipped from other countries and some famous. Whether you prefer a traditional tree complete with garland and twinkling lights, or prefer one made out of lobster crates, we have discovered some of the best tree lighting ceremonies in the world.
7. Lobster Trap Tree Lighting, New England Area
For a really unique Christmas Tree lighting ceremony you will want to head to any number of towns around New England- including Rockland, Maine and Gloucester, Massachusetts. It is here where apparently lobsters and Christmas go hand in hand. Rockland is home to the world’s largest Lobster Trap Tree, dating back to 2003 when the tree was built with 152 traps, all by volunteers. Each trap is outfitted with a red door and 480 ft of garland is used to decorate, along with 125 lobster buoys that were brought to the tree by lobstering families. The tree is lighted both from the inside as well as with twinkle lights throughout the garland. And the topper, a 5 foot fiberglass lobster that reigns over the tree for the holiday season.
6. Rodeo Drive Holiday Lighting, California
On November 22, 2015 the Holiday Lighting Ceremony takes place on Rodeo Drive, a place where Christmas shopping is taken to the extreme. This free event takes places on 200,200 and 400 Blocks of Rodeo Drive and features live performances, music and a whole lot of lights. It’s not just one tree that gets lit up here, instead it is 42 Palm trees that get illuminated along with twinkling birches and chandeliers. In the past, the ceremony has included a fireworks show and a snow shower of confetti. You never know what you are going to get when you show up for this over the top holiday lighting celebration.
5. Zilker Holiday Tree, Texas
This man-made tree stands a whopping 155 feet tall, featuring 39 streamers that each hold 81 multicolored bulbs, making the total number of lights 3,309. The top of the tree features a double star that measures 10 feet from point to point and displays 150 frosted bulbs. The tree was actually created by City of Austin electricians in the 1960’s and manages to hold on to its retro, mod like vibe. On November 29th this mammoth tree gets lit up in the official tree lighting ceremony where one lucky winner gets to flip the switch. Featuring local entertainment, food, novelties and live music; this celebration is truly epic. Make sure to come back to this tree after December 7th to walk the Trail of Lights, a 1.25 mile long path with over 50 displays and decorated trees. Austin, Texas certainly knows how to make its residents get into the holiday spirit.
4. National Christmas Tree Lighting, Washington, D.C.
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse to light a 48-foot tree decorated with 2,500 red, white and green bulbs. A local choir along with a quartet from the U.S Marine Band performed. All these years later this holiday tradition continues and brings citizens together to share messages of peace and hope. The lighting ceremony this year takes place on December 3rd and those hoping to attend must apply for a free ticket through the online lottery. Expect a televised ceremony complete with celebrity hosts, live music performers and of course, the President and First Family.
3. Ski Tree Lighting, Colorado
This entire ski town is loaded with Christmas trees and thus they have decided to put their own spin on a holiday tradition. Instead of cutting down one of the many trees in the area, Telluride has created a huge Christmas tree out of old skies that the community has donated. The ceremony takes place December 5, 2015 between 5:30-7:30pm and includes a ceremonial bonfire where old skis go up in flames to honor Ullr, the old Norse patron saint of skiers.
2. Trafalgar Square, London
Every year since 1947 a Chrstimas tree has been given to the people of London from the people of Norway, in gratitude for Britain’s support during WWII. The tree is normally a Norweigan Spruce, measuring over 20 meters high and aged about 50-60 years. The tree lighting is performed by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British Ambassador to Norway and the Mayor of Oslo. It is decorated in typical Norweigan fashion with vertical strings of lights and energy efficient light bulbs. Different groups performs carols in the square alongside this beautiful, handpicked and carefully delivered tree.
1. Rockefeller Center, New York
It has been a tradition since 1933, when a tree was placed in NYC’s famous Rockefeller Center and continues to be one of the most famous tree lighting ceremonies in the world. The lighting of the tree is considered to be a symbol of the start of the holiday season all over the world. The annual tree lighting ceremony is free and open to the public and takes place on Wednesday December 2nd, 2015 between 7-9pm and if you can’t be there, you can still watch it on TVO. The ceremony involves tens of thousands of spectators, live performances and the magical moment that the tree is illuminated.
North American airports are notoriously busy, especially when you look at holiday times. It’s not just the influx of passengers that makes these airports so busy, although that helps, it’s also the weather that cancels and delays flights and the security lines that get extra slow. Luckily some of these airports do what they can to make flying over the holidays easier, such as bringing in Santa Claus to amuse the little ones or even bringing out adorable puppies for weary travelers to pet. Discover the busiest Christmas airports in North America, and which ones are the best and worst to fly through during the holidays.
6. LaGuardia New York Airport
It is one of the worst airports in the country, that we can all agree on, however you choose to measure it. Crowded and stranded travelers often pace the terminals as there is inadequate gate seating, a lack of power outlets and even a lack of restrooms for the 27 million travelers a year that cross through the gates of LaGuardia. At Christmas time this gets even worse and as the bad weather often hits, the runways become congested leaving passengers trapped in the airport. Luckily at Christmas time the staff try to make your day a little more pleasant by offering holiday greetings as you board the plane, unfortunately that’s about the only Christmas spirit you will find here. We recommend you try to avoid this airport at all costs during the Christmas season.
5. Calgary International Airport
Although it is one of the busiest airports in Canada around the holiday times, this airport is big on sharing the Christmas spirit with traveling guests. As the hub of WestJet airline, you can expect friendly service from these workers, donning blue Santa hats and festive Christmas sweaters. As you walk through the Calgary airport expect to find a brightly lit Christmas tree and carolers singing merry tunes. Mrs. Claus will even be offering story time in the terminal. Although security lines tend to get long here, flyers are often quite friendly and the line will pass quickly as you are swapping stories with a cowboy boot wearing guest behind you. It may be busy, but this is one of the friendliest airports to fly out of at Christmas.
4. Ronald Reagan Washington Airport
This airport promises to be busy, especially considering all the government employees that fly home to see their families around Christmas time and expect to be fighting lines and crowds of people. Luckily this airport makes it a little less stressful around the holidays with some awesome ways to pass the time. Make sure to check out the humongous Christmas tree that gets erected and this year keep your eyes out for more than just one. Kill time by browsing through more than 100 shops and restaurants located throughout the three terminals. The Gallery Walk located in historic Terminal A is a great place to view paintings, sculptures and other works of art from local artists. This airport also hosts singers, dancers and performing artists throughout the holiday season.
3. San Francisco International Airport
It’s no wonder this is one of the busiest airports during the holiday season as people flock to the warmer temperatures often found here. The bad news for fliers is that this airport does get overly crowded with long line ups as more than 2 million passengers come through over the two weeks surrounding Christmas. Luckily everyone at this airport is committed to making the holiday travel season as enjoyable as possible. Think festive holiday lighting, live music, social media events and mobile performers delighting passengers with music, magic tricks and storytelling. With kids spots located throughout, plenty of power outlets to charge those iPads and art displays throughout, passengers will forget it’s even the busy season, that is until they hear those carolers busting out their holiday tunes.
2. Toronto Pearson International Airport
An airport that is notorious for its long security lines, cancelled and delayed flights because of weather and its business at Christmas. Toronto Pearson promises to be busy during the holiday season but in recent years has done its best to ease stress on travelers. Airport ambassadors are now out roaming the terminals, helping guests figure out where to go, helping with bags and otherwise on hand to deal with any questions. Christmas carolers are set up throughout the airport bringing merry tunes to all who pass them and Mrs. Claus is often seen reading stories to little ones. There is even a spot set up where families can have their picture taken in a holiday setting. Yes, you will be waiting in line, yes you will be dealing with throngs of other passengers and yes you will most likely be delayed, but hey at least there are carolers.
1. Los Angeles International Airport
It is one of the busiest airports in North America and at Christmas time it only gets worse, although thankfully they don’t have to worry about weather delays on their end. Still snowstorms that blanket the Northeast will delay flights in LA. There are an estimated 3 million passengers that go through this airport over the two weeks near Christmas but luckily LAX is determined to make traveling a little stressful. Santa is often found roaming the terminals, taking photos with little ones and handing out candy canes. Last year members of the LAX Pets Unstressing Passengers (PUPS) program fanned out across the airport and were making their furry selves available for petting, a simple stress reliever for weary travelers. Expect to see plenty of Santa hats and holiday cheer here!
Beloved American writer, traveler and culinary curator Anthony Bourdain recently published a list on his Facebook account listing his 10 favorite hotels in the world. He describes himself as a “Hotel Slut” having stayed in so many different places over the years. Certainly his busy lifestyle as a traveling foodie has taken him to some far flung places and required a lot of nights away from home. The star says “A hotel where I know immediately where I am when I open my eyes in the morning is a rare joy.” Here are his favorites:
10. The Murray Hotel -Livingston, Montana
Bouradin says that if you stay at The Murray, make sure you try to book the Peckinpah suite.
9. Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia
Grand colonial-area hotels in Asia have a certain spot in Bourdain’s heart and this one in the ancient city of Siem Reap, Cambodia is no exception.
8. Hotel Metropole -Hanoi, Vietnam
Bourdain says he’s a huge fan of English novelist and author Graham Greene and says if the writer has stayed at a hotel (like The Metropole) chances are he will stay there too.
7. The Edgewater Hotel -Seattle, Washington
The luxury Edgewater Hotel in Seattle’s downtown sits right on the waterfront. Bourdain loves watching ships slide right past your room as you look west over the water.
6. Park Hyatt -Tokyo, Japan
This posh Tokyo hotel was featured in the 2003 film Lost in Translation and as a film geek, Bourdain can’t pass up the opportunity to stay here when he visits the city.
5. Hotel Oloffson -Port au Prince, Haiti
With all his television series, books and other entrepreneurial endeavors, Bourdain can afford to stay pretty much wherever he wants. But the star appreciates more than just 5-star accommodations, ambiance is everything and he describes Hotel Oloffson as “Sagging, creaky and leaky but awesome.”
4. Hotel Continental Saigon -Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Bourdain appreciates history along with his good nights sleep, and for this reason he loves to stay at Hotel Continental Saigon; Vietnam’s very first (and consequently oldest) hotel.
3. The Raleigh -Miami, Florida
Bourdain can’t stress it enough; stay at The Raleigh for the best pool in Miami. Period.
2. Chiltern Firehouse -London, England
This old Victorian firehouse turned hotel is owned by the same team as Bourdain’s number one pick and he describes the London hotel as “pretty much perfection.”
1. Chateau Marmont -Los Angeles, California
Bourdain’s love of Chateau Marmot is clear: the author says “if I have to die in a hotel room, let it be here. I will work in LA just to stay at the Chateau.”
When people talk about travel, a lot of the discussion will focus on the best places to travel—and there are certain places that rank high on the list of great places to visit. But what about places that are, according to some, better avoided by curious travelers? These 10 cities are considered to be some of the unfriendliest places in the U.S., best avoided by novice and casual travelers. Despite their reputations, however, these places still have their charms—which are left to the intrepid explorer to tease out.
10. Baltimore, MD
Located virtually right next to the District, Baltimore is sometimes characterized as being something of a bedroom community for those who work in the nation’s capital. Baltimore also struggles in the tourism arena since it has to compete directly against the sights of DC, with its museums and numerous other attractions. The city’s downtown core has begun to fall into disrepair and other key cultural attractions, such as the Inner Harbor shopping area, are beginning to deteriorate. Nonetheless, Baltimore offers travelers opportunities to take in Orioles baseball games, visit the Visionary Art Museum or go sailing on Chesapeake Bay. Some suggest that, like other “unfriendly” American cities, Baltimore is best enjoyed with someone who knows the area well—whether a friend who has visited before or a local who knows the city like the back of their hand.
9. Los Angeles, CA
The City of Angels is probably one of the most hyped cities in America, but plenty of travelers find this destination overrated. The city is swathed in smog and the streets are dirty and crowded. The culture is variously described as being “plastic” and “snobbish,” with too many people getting caught up in the bright lights of Hollywood—and too many businesses willing to cater to would-be starlets and star-struck fans. Let’s not even get started on the congested roadways—some of the worst in the U.S.—and the aggressive drivers that clog the city’s arteries. (Public transit is considered a sketchy-at-best alternative.) And while it might sound almost cliché or even borderline hipster, LA is rich in rewards for those who go looking: getting off the beaten path or garnering advice from locals will yield the city’s hidden gems to the discerning traveler.
8. Reno, NV
Reno, the capital of Nevada, is usually ignored in favor of the bright lights of the state’s Sin City, Las Vegas. The two metropolises are virtually on top of each other. People looking to stay somewhere quieter and cheaper than Vegas might think Reno is a great option for that reason—it’s not Vegas, but still offers easy access—but they might be sorely disappointed if they think Reno is just a discount Vegas. Those who hit the casinos should be prepared to feel the city is “old” and “tired,” despite ongoing revitalization efforts. If you want to enjoy Reno, skip the lure of the slots and get outdoors: the city’s proximity to the mountains offers plenty of recreational opportunities for hiking and kayaking, among other activities. There are also plenty of golf courses around, so hit the greens instead of the card tables.
7. The Hamptons, NY
The Hamptons have been enjoying a higher profile thanks to the likes of celebrities such as the Kardashians—but that should immediately tell you one thing about this vacation spot. Once a favorite among old money, the Hamptons have become the go-to vacation location for the “nouveau riche.” That means you need to have money to burn if you want to get anywhere near the Hamptons. During the summer, restaurants and accommodations will be booked and busy, and travelers have begun to decry the “see-and-be-seen” atmosphere that now pervades the area. If you want to avoid the snobbish crowd—and paying top dollar—book your trip during the off-season, when the beaches will be deserted and you can revel in the area’s natural beauty, instead of bumping elbows with superficial beauty queens.
6. New Haven, CT
One might think that New Haven, as home to one of the country’s Ivy League schools, would land on the list of “unfriendly” cities for being too much like the Hamptons—rich and snobby. Unfortunately, despite Yale’s presence, much of New Haven suffers from stark poverty, which has led to plenty of rough neighborhoods and a reputation as an unsafe place. Some have even commented on the sharp contrasts between the rich at Yale and the poor in the rest of the city. Still, visiting Yale’s historic campus can be a great starting point for a trip to New Haven. The “nine squares” are home to museums, theaters and stunning architecture. The campus is also renowned for its restaurant scene, which is a far cry from the run-of-the-mill cafeterias you’ll find on so many university campuses.
5. Boston, MA
Beantown might be rich in history and culture, but the citizens are rich in something else apparently: rudeness. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, really, since Bostonians have always had something of a reputation as being a little snobbish, something that actually stems from their city’s long history and importance as a cultural center. Even though Boston’s given way to cities like New York and LA as the cultural leaders in the U.S., the Athens of America still likes to think of itself as a more sophisticated alternative. There’s no denying the history that still lines the streets here, though, and you can find local artists at the Greenway Open Market every Saturday from May to October. If studying history works up an appetite, you can grab a bite at any one of the city’s many gourmet eateries.
4. Detroit, MI
Detroit has always had a bit of a reputation as something of a “rough” city; Motor City was historically full of blue-collar workers and a mixed population. Lately, though, things have been even worse in Detroit, with the bankrupt city cutting services and jobs migrating elsewhere. Abandoned houses have sold for as little as a dollar. In this climate, it seems little wonder that Detroit ranks as one of the unfriendliest places in the U.S. Despite this, Detroit still attracts plenty of sports enthusiasts, as it is the home of the Lions, the Red Wings and the Tigers. Those who know their way around or are willing to do their research will find a thriving culture, one where plenty of restaurants and shops are opening their doors to unique experiences in this post-industrial destination.
3. Seattle, WA
Portland, Oregon, might now be the epicenter of snobbish coffee culture and the mecca for hipsters, but Seattle still ranks high on the list. The home of coffee giant Starbucks, Seattle is also home to a number of indie cafes and microbreweries, as well as a center for foodies, locavores and others who rebel against corporate consumerism. All that can mean that the locals can seem stand-offish or rude, especially if you ask them where the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts is. While it’s easy to get the brush-off for being too “mainstream,” you’ll find Seattle natives are passionate about their interests—and more than happy to share. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, ask them for recommendations about the city’s best and most unique, and you’ll quickly see a different side.
2. Oakland, CA
A second entry from California, Oakland still hasn’t shaken the bad rap it earned in the late 20th century as a hub for crime. The East Bay city is perhaps one of the most notorious in the country and that alone is enough to keep most people away; the fact that crime rates are still high provides further incentive. The city is working hard to shed its “bad boy” image, however, introducing First Fridays in Uptown and offering support to the city’s exploding arts and culture scene. Temescal Alley is considered one of the hippest parts of the city, featuring a number of one-of-a-kind local shops (like a retro barbershop), and the restaurant scene has been experiencing a new vibrancy. Some have even suggested Oakland might be the new Portland, Oregon.
1. Newark, NJ
Almost nobody goes to Newark, New Jersey, willingly. The area is a stop on a lot of travelers’ itineraries where they wait for connecting flights, maybe weathering an overnight stop before continuing on. Despite being a major travel hub, an easy connection to New York and a city with its own draws (like the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts), Newark is used by most travelers as a stopover to other destinations—seemingly for good reason. Newark has plenty of rough neighborhoods, so visitors need to be wary when they’re out and about, and the city itself is characterized by some as being dirty or even trashy. Despite this, Newark can be a pricey destination, partially because so much traffic does come through from New York and the airport.