Best Things To Do In New York That Only Locals Know About

There many things to see on your trip to New York City. From the Statue of Liberty to Time Square and many amazing museums, there is something for every type of traveler. Part of the New York experience is experiencing the hustle and bustle of the city but the crowded tourist spots can get old fast and, not to mention can be quite overwhelming.

While there are many must-see tourist destinations, did you know there are many hidden treasures across the city too? Not acting like a local is just one of the common mistakes most tourists make in New York City. So be sure to make the best of your trip and explore New York like a local, escape the overwhelming crowds, and discover the hidden gems that only the locals know about!

1. Visit The High Line

The High Line is a 1.45-mile-long linear park located on the west side of Manhattan, NYC. What makes this park unique is that it sits atop a former New York Central Railroad. The railroad was active until 1980, however, this unique park wasn’t created until 2009.

While this may not be one of the most secret destinations, it’s definitely worth checking off your list. In this park, you will see lots of greenery as well as beautiful art installations and not to mention the breathtaking view of the New York skyline.

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2. Take a Break From The City At Rockaway Beach

When a break is needed from the busy city, locals make their way to Rockaway Beach. Here you can unwind, relax, and soak up that much-needed vitamin D. This sandy beach also has a 5.5-mile boardwalk so you can lounge by the water or take a stroll, your choice.

A local secret is to visit during the week as the weekends can become overcrowded. While it is a 24-mile ride to the beach from Time Square, the beach is accessible by subway.

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3. Explore The Museum Of The Moving Image

The Museum of the Moving Image is a media museum located in Queens, New York City. This one of a kind museum is the only museum in the country that is dedicated to the history, art, technique, and technology of filmmaking, television, and all things digital media.

Travelers of all ages will love this destination because there is a lot of history to learn but there is also an interactive portion you’ll enjoy too. Some of these include playing old video games or creating your own stop-motion animation. A secret tip, if you visit between 4 and 8 pm on any Friday (excluding certain holidays), you can gain admission for free!

4. Take A Ferry To Governors Island

Nestled in the New York Harbor is a 172-acre island called Governors Island. You can spend the day here and all it will cost you is a round trip ferry ride for just 3 dollars. Keep in mind the Island is only open from May 1 through October 31.

There are many activities to keep you busy on the Island, between hiking, zip-lining, mini-golf, and more. Additionally, you can sight-see on foot or make it easier by renting a bike. There is also plenty of food stands on the Island too which means you won’t go hungry!

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5. Visit The Waterfall In Greenacre Park

Located on East 51st Street, between second and third Avenue is Greenacre Park. The park is hidden in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, and it features this stunning waterfall. Be sure to head here if you’re seeking relief from the hustle and bustle of the city.

This waterfall is mostly only known by the locals but is certainly worth a visit. Here you can relax and unwind from the busy city and grab a treat from a refreshment stand.

6. Take In The View At The One World Observatory

The One World Observatory is located on floors 100 through 102 of the One World Trade Center. While this seems like a sky-high treck, the observation deck can be reached in just 47 seconds. This is because you’ll take a sky pod elevator. This is another not-so-secret destination but is definitely worth the visit.

On your ride up, you’ll be able to watch the floor-to-ceiling screen that displays a video explaining the history of the city and the building. As you reach the top, the screen will lift and expose a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. Take in the view, visit the gift shop, step on the 14-foot wide glass floor, and grab a bite at ONE Dine.

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7. Learn The Stories Of The Central Park Benches

Many people plan a trip to Central Park during their stay in New York City, but what most people don’t realize is that there is more to see in that beautiful park. Nestled among the rows of benches are little plaques that display quotes. These are definitely worth a read as each bench has its own story.

The plaques are often in memory of a loved one or tell a love story of sorts. You too can have your own plaque on a Central Park bench if you’re willing to pay about $10, 000! Or you can take a trip to the park and appreciate the ones that are already there.

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8. Catch A Show In The Theater District

Locals and tourists alike head to the theater district to catch live outdoor entertainment as well as a show at one of NYC’s 40 Broadway theaters. The vast theater district spans approximately between 6th Ave to 8th Ave and 41st Street to 52nd Street.

Outside under the bright lights, you’ll often see costumed characters entertaining crowds but you can also line up to buy a ticket to see one of the compelling shows. Each season brings new musicals and there is always something for everyone.

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9. Tour The Rooftop Farm At Brooklyn Grange

When you think about traveling to New York City, farming doesn’t exactly come to mind. However, locals know too well about the working farm located on the roof of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. This rooftop farm is called Brookly Grange.

You can book a tour to see and learn about the farm as well as take in the skyline view. Additionally, the farm offers yoga classes on Monday evenings from June through September but be sure to book your class ahead of time as they fill up quickly!

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10. Relax At Fort Tryon Park

Central Park may be one of the most popular parks in NYC, especially for tourists, however, there are other parks hidden in the city too. If you want to escape the overwhelming groups of tourists as well as take in a greenery landscape then be sure to head to Fort Tryon Park.

Fort Tryon Park is hidden in Manhattan, NYC and boasts a stunning green space that will have you forgetting you’re in NYC in the first place. Some of the best views can be seen on a walk to Linden Terrace which is the highest point in Fort Tryon Park. Finally, finish your tour with a visit to The Cloisters museum which we’ll talk about later.

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11. Check Out The Abandoned Subway Stop

The City Hall Subway station was the original southern terminal station for the New York City Subway which opened in 1904. What made the City Hall station unique from the rest of the subway line was it was built with tall tile arches, chandeliers, skylights, brass fixtures, and many other elegant details.

While the track is technically still active, trains no longer stop at this station making it an abandoned subway stop and a must-see hidden gem. To explore the station you have to take a tour with the New York Transit Museum, however, to gain access you need to be a member of the museum and pass a security clearance. This is part of the reason why this isn’t an overcrowded tourist destination but nonetheless would be an amazing experience if you’re able to gain access to the facility.

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12. Visit The Metropolitan Museum Of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, also known as the Met, isn’t technically a hidden tourist destination but it is definitely a must-see museum while visiting New York. Upon arrival, you’ll be greeted by the stunning Neoclassical architecture, but behind the doors lie 5,000 years of art from around the world.

There is something for everyone to enjoy from ancient Egyptian artifacts to modern photography. There is so much to see that you can easily spend an entire day here and still may only see a fraction of what it has to offer. Additionally, if you do plan a full day visit, the museum does have a cafeteria as well as several restaurants so you can refuel throughout the day.

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13. Visit The Cloisters

Alternatively, if you’d like to visit a less touristy place than the Metropolitan Museum of Art, be sure to check out The Cloisters. The museum, located in Fort Tryon Park, is full of medieval Europe architecture, sculpture, and art.

As you tour the museum you’ll be able to see many amazing artifacts from the Romanesque and Gothic periods but the building itself is worth noticing too. Built from European monasteries, the design and brickwork are simply breathtaking. The architecture is unlike the rest of the city that you may even forget that you’re in New York City in the first place.

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14. Ride The Aerial Tram

The locals consider Roosevelt Island as one of the city’s best-hidden gems. Located in the East River between Manhattan and Queens are quaint streets, parks, and gardens and because it’s mainly a residential area, not many tourists visit here. However, A visit to Roosevelt Island is certainly worth it especially to ride the aerial tram.

While the aerial tram transports passengers between Manhattan and the island, it’s a great opportunity to see a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. Plus its incredibly budget-friendly too as the aerial tram uses the same price as the New York subway or bus fare which is currently about $2.75 per person.

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15. Visit The 9/11 Memorial And Museum

The 9/11 Memorial and museum may not be a hidden destination but it certainly worth the visit. The memorial, a footprint of where the Twin Towers once stood is also North America’s largest man-made waterfall. The architect behind the design, Michael Arad, said the pools represent “absence made visible”. Water flows into the void, but the void can never be filled.

Each pool is one acre in size. The edges are lined with bronze walls that are inscribed with the names of the 2,983 people who perished in the 2001 and 1993 attacks. Additionally, you can visit the museum to pay your respects as well as to learn more about the horrible tragedy.

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16. Grab A Book At The Strand

The Strand isn’t any ordinary book store, it houses over 23 miles of books. It’s located at 828 Broadway, the corner of East 12th Street in the East Village neighborhood of Manhattan.

Even if you don’t love reading, The Strand is worth the visit even if it’s just to see the multi-level store of mile-high books. The store’s collection ranges from bestsellers to first editions, and everything in between.

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17. Explore Snug Harbor

If a ferry ride to Staten Island wasn’t already on your agenda, you may want to add it now! On the island sits Snug Harbor, a former home for retired sailors.

This location is a hidden gem as many people don’t know about it but the locals certainly do. What makes this a must-see destination is that the site spreads across 83 acres of land and features a cultural center, a large botanical garden and is surrounded by quaint cobblestone streets as well as Victorian and Tudor homes. During your visit make sure you don’t miss out on a tour of the Chinese Scholar’s Garden.

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18. Catch Local Entertainment In Joe’s Pub At The Public Theater

Head to Joe’s Pub, located at The Public Theater to grab some drinks, dinner, and enjoy a live act. Joe’s pub is an independent, non-profit music venue that is committed to supporting artists of all levels.

Some nights, you can watch a comedy act while other nights feature dancers and musicians. Regardless of what type of show you get to see, it will be a great experience and opportunity to dive into the creative culture of New York as well as a great way to meet the locals.

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19. Take In The Architecture At Grand Central Terminal

The locals may not be the only ones who know about the Grand Central Terminal, but it’s certainly a place worth visiting. After all, many locals use this station as a transportation hub.

Aside from having the opportunity to meet the locals, you’ll also be able to take in the breathtaking architecture. You can even try out the whispering gallery which is located just outside the Oyster Bar.

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20. Indulge In Delicious Food At Smorgasburg

Every fellow foodie needs to take a trip to Smorgasburg, a food cart fair. The fair is located along the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The venders are stretched across a parking lot and park and offer a variety of delicious food from 100 local vendors. You’ll be able to dig into tasty food from a variety of cultures such as Chinese, German, American, Cuban, and many other cultures too. If you love all things food, a trip to Smorgasburg is a definite must-see.

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Famous Movie Hotels Where You Can Live Like A Star

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.

Amazing Destination Bakeries Worth Traveling For

Perhaps paradoxically, at the same time North Americans have been waging war on carbs and gluten-laden treats, there has also been a growing infatuation with bakeries of all stripes. Of course, not all bakeries are created equal and very few of them are worth traveling far from home for. From traditional European shops to all-American classics, here are 8 world-class bakeries that definitely justify the purchase of the plane ticket, all on their own.

8. Konditori Fågelsången (Uppsala)

A konditori is a Swedish café and meeting spot that usually serves pastries, in line with the Swedish tradition of fika (a social coffee break). The Konditori Fågelsången in Uppsala, while maybe not as trendy as some of the cafes in Stockholm, was established in 1954 and still bakes their pastries, cakes and other sweets in-house. While it isn’t headed by a world-renowned pastry chef or perhaps as innovative as some of the other bakeries mentioned here, Konditori Fågelsången makes traditional treats and makes them well. You’re not going to find a better spot for Swedish treats like kladdkaka or prinsesstårta. If you do find yourself here, a traditional Swedish cinnamon roll (kanelbulle) is always a safe choice. A personal favorite is the wienerbröd, similar to American-style Danishes, but infinitely better.

7. Le Panier (Seattle)

Opened in 1983, this Pike Place establishment is committed to making Normandy-style pastries; the owners still make regular trips to France to ensure they’re on the up-and-up with French baking. Given that Seattle’s a bit closer for West Coasters than France (or even Montreal), visiting Le Panier is the next best solution. Try the tarte aux abricots, a fruit tart with almond pastry cream and sour apricots, or one of the bakery’s own creations, like the Feuilletes: puff pastry with savory fillings like spinach and mushrooms. Macarons, eclairs and friands round out the menu. Le Panier offers seasonal variation on some of their staples too, like their pumpkin macaron, the apple friand and the hazelnut éclair. If you’re in Seattle, skip Starbucks and head over to Le Panier instead.

6. Elizabethan Desserts

Whoopie pies, cupcakes and homemade Twinkies are features on the menu of classic, 1950s-style American treats available at Elizabethan Desserts in El Camino Real, California. The strawberry rhubarb pie is made with a shortbread cookie crust and the peanut butter in the chocolate peanut butter praline crunch cake is made from scratch. Vintage cookie jars and a mint-and-white palette add to the old-timey feel. Consensus is that the must-try entry is the Louis Gooey Butter Cake Bar; Elizabethan Desserts adds a fruit topping to their version and the classic yellow cake batter that serves as the foundation of the dessert is mixed with cream cheese to create a decadent delight for your tastebuds. The creamy vanilla custard filling rounds out the flavor experience.

5. Bäckerei Balzer (Berlin)

Germans are noted for their rich pastries and desserts: Black Forest cake and what we call Danishes (known as “Vienna bread,” after the capital of Austria, in some parts of Europe), as well as German chocolate cakes and bundts are all part of the average North American’s catalogue of sweet treats. Many of these treats emigrated to North America in centuries past, but if you want to taste the authentic, you need to get to Germany. The Bäckeri Balzer in Berlin was established in the 1920s and continues to make traditional German treats to this very day, even as other establishments have given way to trendy cafes and shops. The Bäckerie’s streuselschnecken are famous amongst locals, and you’ll have to arrive early if you want a chance at sampling one; they sell out fast. Apple fritters, bread rolls and buttercake round out the bakery’s offerings.

4. Muddy’s Bake Shop (Memphis)

Muddy’s Bake Shop in East Memphis, Tennessee, has ended up on a few best-of lists, and one trip to the bakery itself makes it clear why. Muddy’s is a homey sort of establishment that hands out mismatched coffee mugs to customers perched on vintage furniture. Make no mistake, though: the bakery does it while serving up serious Southern treats, including decadent cupcakes, pies and toffee bars. The Prozac cake, which is 2 layers of devil’s food cake smothered with smooth chocolate buttercream, and the Frankly Scarlett cupcakes, which are red velvet with cream cheese frosting, are 2 of the best items on the menu. Other treats include banana pudding, butter cookies and the Nancy’s Boy pie, a chess pie with coconut. You can’t miss the Shady Wake pie, a classic pecan pie.

3. Bakery Lorraine (San Antonio)

Texas may not be high on your hit list for places with great bakeries, but it should be: Bakery Lorraine is there and it would be a darn shame to miss a bake shop this good. Open since 2012, the bakery has been hailed as one of the best new bakeries in the whole of the U.S., and the shop had already outgrown its original location by 2013. Owners Anne Ng and Jeremy Mandrell take a novel approach to both French and American pastries, ranging from Pop-Tarts to kouign-amann. Most popular are their colorful macarons, which come in a plethora of refined flavors, including dark chocolate lavender, chamomile vanilla, earl grey and pumpkin spice. The menu is ever-changing, based on seasonal ingredients and locally sourced products. If you have a chance, try the fig chevre tarts, which are filled with fig jam and vanilla-flavored goat cheese.

2. Maison Christian Faure (Montreal)

If you want French-style baking without traveling all the way to Paris, a trip to Montreal is on your itinerary. The city has probably more than its fair share of bakeries serving up traditional French treats and New World-twists, like the Montreal-style bagel, but Maison Christian Faure is a standout in a place full of exceptional establishments. Chef Faure maintains his own pastry school in the French tradition, which should give you an inkling about the quality of the pastries available in the shop. Everything is accented by a focus on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal Quebec produce. Enjoy an éclair or a traditional mille-feuille without stepping off the North American landmass. The absolute best menu item is Paris Brest with praline cream. Not feeling something sweet? The shop also has a snack menu and a deli.

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery (New York)

Dominique Ansel, creator of the international sensation known as the cronut, is something of a celebrity chef in the Big Apple, and for good reason. His Soho bakery, located at 189 Spring Street in Manhattan, has a wide variety of delicious goodies up for grabs, including mini-meringues, large cakes, macarons and other gifts. The chef creates a signature item every year; past inventions have included the Frozen S’more and the Cookie Shot. His imagination has earned him the title “Willy Wonka of NYC” and his bakery, opened in 2011, has been named the best bakery in the city by various magazines and newspapers. If you’re in the Big Apple, you need to stop by; in fact, you can probably justify traveling to NYC based on a visit to the now-iconic shop alone.

The Best Hotel Hot Tubs In The World

Hotels are often praised for their outstanding accommodations and incredible dining, but what about the extra amenities that can make your vacation go from good to outstanding. Hotel hot tubs can play an important role in making your experience unforgettable. Forget the dingy hot tubs located beside the hotel pool and get ready to experience some of the best tubs in the world. From outdoor hot tubs that give views of mountains, valleys and wildlife to hot tubs that are built right into your room; these 15 hotel hot tubs will make you want to book your vacation today!

15. Amangiri, Canyon Point, UT

Set on 600 acres in Canyon Point and built right into the landscape, this luxury resort offers views over the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, perfect for travelers who love the desert. Along with a massive size swimming pool and incredible terrace, there is a beautiful hot tub located at the base of the rock wall.

King-sized daybeds and sun loungers provide the ultimate place to relax while not in the water. Whether you choose to visit in winter or summer, the hot tub is the perfect place to gaze up into the open sky and watch for stars at night. Guests here will also enjoy the water activities on nearby Lake Powell, exploring the national parks and experiencing the spa treatments.

Via Pinterest

14. Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort & Spa, Beaver Creek, CO

This luxury resort doesn’t just offer one hot tub but five, each with their own selling points, which make this resort one of the best to visit if you are looking to spend some time soaking. If you are looking for some adult only time make sure to wander over to one of the two adults-only hot tubs, if it is a view you are after, make sure to check out the one with a jaw-dropping view of the Vail Valley.

Our favorite hot tub here though is the one with the cascading hot waterfall, straight off the natural rock formation that surrounds the tub. If you are looking to get slope-side service, make sure to head over to the tub that comes complete with cocktails, a personal waitress, plush robes, hot towels and truffle popcorn. If you feel more like swimming and less like relaxing make sure to check out the year-round heated outdoor pool.

Via InTomorrow

13. Twin Farms, Barnard, VT

This all-inclusive Vermont resort is home to ten freestanding cottages that feel more like luxurious homes than rustic cottages. Most of these ten cottages also happen to feature incredible hot tubs. Located both inside and out, guests have their choice of accommodation when booking and whether you are looking for a sunken indoor hot tub next to a fireplace or an outdoor tub in a private screened porch, you are in luck.

Each cabin has been designed by professionals and it is no surprise that guests here come back year after year. Our favorite hot tub of all though is the one located inside the Aviary cottage. Guests who stay here will have the opportunity to soak in a tub that has been sunken in granite rock, with views of the New England forest from the huge window. A towering stone fireplace sits a stone’s throw away and you can assure you will never be cold here.

Via Andrew Harper

12. Regent Palms, Turks and Caicos Islands

Part infinity pool and part hot tub make up this incredible multi-million dollar paradise. Overlooking the North Atlantic and situated on the impressive Grace Bay Beach is a ten-person hot tub located inside the infinity pool on its own island. Wooden decking, sun pods, stylish loungers, chilled towels, fresh fruit and complimentary Wi-Fi set the stage for this incredible soaking experience.

The resort itself boasts 72 suites and is just steps away from white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Other amenities include a 25,000 square foot spa, floodlit tennis courts and an abundance of water sports including sailing, kayaking, and snorkeling. It’s easy to spend the entire vacation here poolside though, and whether you are relaxing in the hot tub or plunging into the warm pool, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Via wowamazing.com

11. Matakauri Lodge, Queenstown, New Zealand

On the edge of Lake Wakatipu is an alpine cedar and stone lodge that offer incredibly beautiful suites, rooms, and guest cottages. It is here where guests will find an incredible hot tub overlooking The Remarkables mountains. The hot tub is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass doors which open to expose it to all the elements and with lit candles surrounding it; this is the perfect romantic destination.

An additional hot tub is located outside the spa, along with a sauna and heated swimming pool. If you are traveling with a family or group of friends, make sure to book the owners cottage where you will have access to your own private hot tub located on the balcony overlooking the beautiful surroundings.

Via Andrew Harper

10. Blancaneaux Lodge, San Ignacio, Belize

It is no surprise that this hot tub makes this list as it was actually designed by Oscar-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis. The lodge actually has a hydroelectric plant that heats the 11,000-gallon tub with the excess electricity it produces, and unlike a typical hot tub that has many bubbles, this one is just straight hot water. Housed in a tropical jungle, soaking in this tub is like escaping reality, even just for a short time.

What makes this hot tub so unique is the fact that it was constructed by local stone craftsmen with thousands of pieces of local granite. Guests here can enjoy drinks served to you by the bar; just make sure to let the bartender know you are heading down there in order to get the best service.

Via thewaywardpost.com

9. The Ski Dream Home, Park City, Utah

This opulent ski-in, ski-out home is located 8,000 feet above sea level atop Deer Valley Resort’s Little Baldy Peak and offers an incredible 12-person stone hot tub. Guests here won’t have to worry about being cold in the frosty weather with the outdoor fireplaces, heated wrap around decks and a heated outdoor pool. From the hot tub, guests will be privy to watching the sun turn the Wasatch Mountain Range into brilliant shades of purple while sipping on a cocktail from one of two bars located inside the house.

Other amenities in this luxurious house include six bedrooms, ten bathrooms, DJ booth, a home theatre, pool table and a full swing golf simulator. After spending days hitting the slopes via a privately heated ski bridge, make sure to relax in this ultra swanky, breathtakingly beautiful outdoor stone hot tub.

Via Luxatic

8. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

It is one of the most romantic hot tubs on this list, located at the ultra-luxurious Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel. The hot tub is situated outside the beautiful over-water spa and is meant for just two people, giving guests the utmost privacy. Overlooking the clear Indian Ocean, surrounded by vibrant coral reef and heated to 104 degrees; guests will have no reason to ever want to leave this hot tub.

You won’t have to worry about getting out anytime soon as hotel staff will provide you with fresh fruit juices and cool aromatic towels while you are soaking. Other awesome amenities at this resort include an underwater restaurant, an underground wine cellar featuring over 20,000 bottles of wine, holistic treatments from the beautiful spa and unique experiences such as swimming with whale sharks.

Via Simply Maldives Holidays

7. Doe Bay, San Juan Islands, WA

This rustic resort is tucked away on beautiful Orcas Island and the focus here is on reconnecting with nature. Three clothing-optional outdoor hot tubs are at the heart of the resort, overlooking the Salish Sea and out to the other islands of the San Juan Archipelago. The tubs can seat up to eight people and can be used by guests of the hotels as well as drop-in guests, for a fee.

Guests of this resort can choose from campsites, cabins or yurts as their accommodations and there are plenty of activities to experience on the island. Relax and renew your spirit with yoga or massages, before heading over to the sauna and soaking tubs which remain at a lovely temperature of 104 degrees all year around.

Via Everyone’s Travel Club

6. Nimmo Bay Resort, British Columbia, Canada

Guests of the Nimmo Bay Resort in British Columbia can soak their cares away in one of two red cedar hot tubs that are tempted at a lovely 104 degrees all year around. The setting itself is absolutely stunning and the views from one of the eight-person hot tubs are equally impressive; cascading waterfalls, lush green vegetation and the feeling of being tucked in the middle of nowhere.

Many guests here dare to take a plunge in the cold pool before hopping into the hot tubs for the ultimate cold-hot experience that is meant to invigorate your body and senses. The tubs are actually filled with the clear waters that fall from the top of Mount Stephens. Other activities at this all-inclusive upscale resort include heli-fishing, whale watching, paddle boarding, hiking, and kayaking.

Via mananatravel.com

5. The Hotel on Rivington, New York City

This hotel located on the lower east side is a secretive hot spot for anyone looking for incredible views, a great party, and an incredible rooftop hot tub experience. This 10 seat coveted cedar hot tub is the perfect place to enjoy some cocktails while taking in the view. The round cedar hot tub looks more like a bucket and only adds to this ultra-hip penthouse.

Surrounding this sleek hot tub is incredible extras such as an outdoor shower to cool off in the summer, an outdoor fireplace to warm your toes in the winter and some incredible themed party nights. This hotel boasts luxurious and sleek guestrooms, celebrity parties and a full-size pool table in the lobby.

Via blog.kitchentrotter.com

4. Banyan Tree Lijiang Resort & Spa, Lijiang, China

Guests of this incredible resort won’t have to share a hot tub with anyone else, as each garden villa comes complete with its own two-person private hot tub. Hot tubs look out onto the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and are heated to a comfortable 100.4 degrees. With world-class dining, an incredible spa and luxurious accommodations; this resort offers something for everyone to enjoy.

While soaking in the tub make sure to request some local plum wine or traditional Chinese tea. Other amenities at the resort include Yoga, outdoor tennis courts, a state-of-the-art fitness center and an abundance of tours and treks to experience.

Via karmatrendz.wordpress.com

3. The Molori Safari Lodge, South Africa’s North West Province

This five-suite lodge boasts one of the most impressive hotel hot tubs in the world. This in-ground tub can seat up to six people and visitors should prepare themselves for awesome wildlife viewing. From the hot tub, guests can watch as elephants, zebras, wild dogs and even lions graze nearby. The Molori Safari Lodge is located deep inside the Madikwe Game Reserve, a 185,329-acre reserve that is teeming with wildlife, and is malaria free!

Guests can not only enjoy this epic hot tub but are also treated to a personal butler who serves them traditional drinks and snacks while they are soaking. As an added bonus this beautiful hot tub is surrounded by an equally stunning infinity pool, gorgeous wood furnishings and comfortable chairs and couches.

Via XO Private

2. Hotel Villa Honegg, Lucerne, Switzerland

This outdoor hot tub is one of the largest on this list, being more like a steaming swimming pool than a regular hot tub. On the back lawn of this 1905 mansion is where this incredible hot tub is located, overlooking the pristine Lake Lucerne. In the winter time, the dramatic landscape includes snow-covered peaks while the summertime green grassy hills roll on as far as the eye can see.

This ultra-modern tub is sleek in design, with stainless steel railings and crisp cut corners, contrasting brilliantly with the surrounding stone. Other amenities at this beautiful hotel include a 20-seat cinema, e-bike rentals, salon and fireplace room, a nearby golf course and an excellent restaurant.

Via AWOL – Junkee

1. Fairmont Banff Springs, Banff, Canada

Known for looking more like a castle straight out of a fairytale rather than a hotel, Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel offers incredible luxury, beautiful surroundings, and one epic hot tub. This enchanted landscape is home to blue skies, towering mountains, huge pine trees and snow-capped peaks. In the middle of all of this sits an outdoor hot tub that begs to be soaked in. Whether you choose to visit in the summer or winter, guest will enjoy soaking in the healing waters while they breathe in the alpine air.

Also located on this magnificent property is the equally impressive Willow Stream Spa, offering its own indoor and outdoor hot tubs, along with numerous treatment rooms and mineral pools. There may not be anything more magical than soaking in the warm waters while taking in the views of this breathtaking landscape that surrounds you on all sides.

Via photos.banfflakelouise.com

The 9 Best Fashion Museums in the World

Fashion week takes over the world in London, Paris, New York City and Milan twice a year but that doesn’t mean fashion lovers can’t get their fill in the rest of the year. All across the world are incredible fashion-focused museums, some free to check out while others accept a small payment. It is here at these museums where visitors will find one-of-a-kind pieces, a history of shoes, more bags and purses in one spot than you ever imagines, famous articles of clothing, avant-garde fashion and more. From Milan the capital of the fashion world to a UNESCO site in Amsterdam to Italy, there are the best fashion museums in the world.

9. Palazzo Morando, Milan

It wouldn’t be a complete list without a fashion museum in one of the worlds most important design capitals. The Palazzo Morando is housed in the Renaissance palace that was at one point home to Milanese noble families until it was donated to the city in 1945.

It wasn’t until 2010 when the Castello Sforzesco’s costume collection was merged with the former Museum of Milan’s collection that this became one very chic museum. Although you won’t find loads of clothes on display like others, this museum features two separate display areas and includes a collection of clothing, accessories, and uniforms. As a bonus, this museum is free and open to the public.

Via Artribune

8. Christian Dior Museum and Garden, Granville, France

This museum is actually the former childhood home of the famous couturier and now is a place of memories dedicated to the life and work of Christian Dior. Since the year 1997 a temporary exhibit is held each summer who theme is linked to the fashion designs of Dior and his fashion house and since 2010 an Autumn and Winter exhibition presents the museums own collection.

This cliff-top villa houses the designer’s exquisite creations as well as pieces from the fashion houses other notable designers including Yves Saint Laurent and John Galliano. Open 7 days a week from 10am-6:30 pm, this is truly a treat for the biggest of fashion lovers.

Via Le Relais du Louvre

7. Ferragamo Museo, Florence Italy

This museum is dedicated to Salvatore Ferragamo, the inventor of the wedge and the cage-heel, one of the greatest inventors when it comes to shoes of all time. The museum opened in 1995 in an effort to illustrate Ferragamo’s artistic qualities and the important role he played in the history of shoe design and international fashion. Much of his success came from Hollywood Starlets across the pond such as Marilyn Monroe.

The museum is host to photographs, sketches, books, magazines and over 10,000 models that were designed by him until 1960 when he passed away. The shoes are on a biennial rotation and are all works of refined craftsmanship. Visitors can marvel at the incredible display of shoes and step back into a true artist’s mind through the many artifacts displayed.

Via style.corriere.it

6. Costume Institute at the Met, New York City

For anyone interested in costume fashion, there is perhaps a no better place on earth than the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This museum is home to over 35,000 costumes and accessories ranging from the 15th century to the present and representing five continents.

It underwent a two-year renovation between 2012-2014 and has since reopened to the public with one more special exhibitions annually. Fashion-focused tours are available year-round that discuss costume history within the context of the Museum’s collection of armor, textiles, paintings and more with an audio guide. If you can attend the annual gala expect plenty of celebrities and high profile fashion designers.

Via amny.com

5. Museum of Bags and Purses (Tassen Museum), Amsterdam

It is the largest of its kind in the world, a fascinating story that features fashion, art, customs, and history. The museum also happens to be situated in a lovely canal house in the center of Amsterdam and is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Canal Ring Area.

On display is the development of bags and purses from the Middle Ages to the present day and this is truly the only place in the world where you will find so many handbags in one spot. Featuring 17th-century-period rooms, the actual Versace bag used by Madonna, over 5,000 bags and purses, a lovely restaurant with a view of the gardens and guided tours, a trip here is well worth taking, especially if you just happen to love bags.

Via Afar

4. Museo De La Moda, Santiago, Chile

This privately operated fashion museum has an incredible permanent collection of Western clothing, particularly from the 20th century and is well known for a few key items. It is here where you can see John Lennon’s jacket from 1966, the cone bra that was designed for Madonna and an evening gown worn by Lady Diana in 1981. There are more than 10,000 pieces in this collection, with only a fraction on display at one time.

Temporary exhibits here are incredible and have ranged from a Michael Jackson tribute to a Mad Men 60’s theme. There are thousands of sketchbooks, photographs, and books on fashion and design that are also available to view as long as an appointment is made in advance. Opened in 2007, this fairly new museum is host to an impressive number of important fashion pieces.

Via juliensauctions.com

3. Museum at FIT, New York City

New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology has given the world incredible fashion stars and its museum is one of the only ones in the city that is open to the public. It hosts rotating exhibits that pull from the school’s impressive collection of one-of-a-kind pieces from designers such as Chanel, Alaia, and Halston. Not only does this museum feature exhibits but also talks, tours, lectures, book signings and fashion conversations with leading designers.

The permanent collection here encompasses over 50,00 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, with an emphasis on avant-garde fashion. With three different galleries, a photographic studio, workshop, and conservation laboratory this is one impressive museum. Expect patrons here to be dressed to the nines while they check out the fashion.

Via RueBaRue

2. Gucci Museum, Florence

Guccio Gucci started the label in Florence in 1921 and it is fitting that in 2011 a museum devoted to this designed finally opened its doors. The museum provides a history of the Florentine fashion house, containing a permanent exhibit of the iconic pieces of the brand such as bags, clothes, and accessories.

Along with stunning evening gowns including ones worn by Hilary Swank, amusing exhibits such as monogrammed scuba diving flippers and early-edition monogrammed luggage, there is a contemporary art space which features incredible related exhibits. Black and white photographs line the staircase and a Gucci-upholstered car from the 70’s complete the picture here.

Via Florence Inferno

1. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It is the world’s largest museum dedicated to art and design and contains an incredible collection of costumes and applied arts from all over the world. It can be overwhelming at times to decide what to look at and taking the one-hour tour is a good way to get acquainted. The collections here range from Indian textiles to painful footwear but for the fashion lovers, heading to the fashion section should be first on the list.

It is here where you will find a 400-year span of men and women’s clothing and one gigantic collection of hats, after all this is Britain. Except for occasional special exhibits, this museum is actually free to visit as well. Check out 17th-century gowns, samurai armor and medieval love rings, all on display here at this incredible museum.

Via evelinakhromtchenko.com

8 Things You’re Missing If You Don’t Visit Harlem

Harlem, on the north side of Manhattan, hasn’t always had the best reputation and, in fact, many travelers have avoided this area of the city. Once characterized as a rough neighborhood where one was likely to get into trouble, Harlem has been a predominately African-American community since the 1920s. Harlem served as a major cultural center for African-Americans and many immigrant groups throughout the 20th century, which means the neighborhood is rich in history and significance. These days, Harlem should be a must-visit for anyone traveling through the Big Apple—to not go is to miss too much.

8. Morris-Jumel Mansion

Harlem was originally founded in 1658 by the Dutch; the area is named after Haarlem in the Netherlands. The Morris-Jumel Mansion was built over a century later, in 1765, by retired British Colonel Roger Morris. Today, the house is the oldest house in the borough of Manhattan. The house has had many celebrity inhabitants since that time, with the most famous being George Washington himself. Washington used the house as a vantage point to direct his Continental Army against the British during the Revolution. Today, the house is not only a treasure trove of Palladian detailing, but also host to many cultural and educational events, such as art shows by international art stars. The house has been designated a New York City landmark and a National Historic Landmark.

Morris-Jumel Mansion

7. Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Although the Cathedral of St. John the Divine remains unfinished, it claims 4th place on a list of largest Christian churches not just in the Big Apple, but in the whole world. There’s also debate about whether or not it is the largest Anglican cathedral in the world. The cathedral, originally designed with a Byzatine-Romanesque Revival sensibility, was built in the late 1800s. Ongoing construction in the early 20th century saw the design switched to a Gothic Revival plan. The church was damaged in a large fire in 2001 and underwent reconstruction; it reopened in 2008, but construction is still ongoing. The cathedral features the longest Gothic nave in the U.S., as well as the largest rose window. Thanks to its size, the cathedral is often to host to large events, including art exhibitions, and it functions as the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of New York City.

 

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

6. Studio Museum in Harlem

Enough about colonial heritage; let’s talk about the rich African-American cultural history that Harlem is famous for. The Studio Museum is one of the best ways of getting at some of that legacy—the museum is famed for exhibiting works by artists of African descent and has been doing so since 1968. The museum’s artist-in-residence program has supported over 100 highly regarded artists as their careers developed, and it has played a significant role in expanding public awareness about African-American art and literature. To accomplish this, the museum hosts a number of public education events, including lectures, performances and interpretive programming, all of which aim to foster awareness and appreciation for an oft-overlooked group of modern artists and writers. The museum is open for tours Thursday through Sunday, and is open late on Thursday and Friday evenings.

Photo by: Travel With a Mate
Photo by: Travel With a Mate

5. El Museo del Barrio

African-Americans were long the largest group in Harlem, but they weren’t the only ones to claim the neighborhood as home. Many immigrants landed in Harlem; Harlem also has a large Latino community. El Museo del Barrio is an homage to that heritage, and is one of New York’s leading Latino cultural institutions. Located on the city’s famous Museum Mile, El Museo celebrates Latino artists, Caribbean cultures and Latin American heritage. It also functions as a meeting place for those looking to discover more about these vibrant art scenes and cultures. El Museo’s wide-ranging collections have won awards and are complemented by films, literature and performances of visual and dynamic art. Current exhibits include works by Rodriguez Calero, Presente! The Young Lords in New York and a number of collages.

Photo by: El Museo del Barrio
Photo by: El Museo del Barrio

4. Gospel Wednesdays

There’s a saying New Yorkers know: if it’s Wednesday, it’s Gospel in Harlem. The community’s black roots have led to a vibrant tradition of Gospel performance in Harlem, and many residents still participate—especially mid-week. To that end, several walking tours centered around this tradition have emerged in the neighborhood: the Hallelujah! Tour offers an hour of uplifting music, with options for dining after. Another tour, entitled “If it’s Wednesday, it’s Gospel in Harlem,” runs twice a day, at 11:30 and 5:30. This tour takes visitors through the Hamilton Heights and Strivers Row communities, before joining an hour-long Gospel service. The New York Visions Sightseeing company also offers a Harlem Gospel tour, which visits some of the iconic sights of the neighborhood before allowing visitors to experience Gospel in Harlem.

gospel

3. Walking Tours

Speaking of walking tours, there are a great many of them in the five boroughs and it seems that more of them are cropping up each day. Harlem is no stranger to that trend; there are walking tours in the community that cater to just about every taste and interest. There are the several Gospel walking tours (Hallelujah, “If it’s Wednesday …” and the Harlem Gospel tour by the New York Visions Sightseeing company). In addition, there are walking tours through various neighborhoods, like Sugar Hill, Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights and Central Harlem. A culinary tour through West Harlem will intrigue foodies and a swing dance tour, which includes a dance class, will appeal to those who want to try something new. There’s scarcely a better way to discover Harlem!

walking tour

2. Ristoranti Settepani

The five boroughs have a reputation for hosting some of the best restaurants in the world; many of them are helmed by world-class chefs and offer up gourmet menus. Harlem hasn’t really been a hot spot for the culinary scene, however; most of those restaurants are concentrated in the neighborhoods of lower Manhattan. That said, Harlem has a vibrant culinary scene, and walking tours will allow you to sample some of the best Harlem has to offer. One of the must-visit locales is Ristoranti Settepani, owned by Leah Abraham. In operation for over a decade now, Settepani has an eclectic menu that reflects the evolution of the eatery and its focus on community. As a result, Ristoranti Settepani has become something of a meeting place for all sorts: long-time residents, newcomers and tourists all find themselves at the crossroads of this eatery.

Photo by: Time Out
Photo by: Time Out

1. Historic Central Harlem

If you visit Harlem, then there is one destination that stands above them all as a must-visit: historic central Harlem. The center of the neighborhood has served as a touchstone for important cultural movements, like the Harlem Renaissance, and as a meeting place for Harlem’s African-American community. As such, it is the home of the Lindy Hop and swing and jazz still echoes through its streets. The central district still serves as the center of Harlem’s art community, which remains just as vibrant as it has been in bygone eras. Visit the world-renowned Apollo Theater, which launched the careers of noted African-American singers like Ella Fitzgerald and booked big-name acts like Aretha Franklin and the Supremes. Music, clearly, is important to Central Harlem and the history of the neighborhood; history buffs and music aficionados alike will find plenty to delight them in Central Harlem.

Apollo theater

7 Legendary Toy Stores That Even Adults Will Love

It is no secret that kids go crazy for toy stores and planning a vacation with a trip to one always brings smiles. But what about the adults, can they have fun too? There are your run of the mill toy stores and then there are legendary, knock your socks off toy stores that appeal to both kids and adults. Think of towering dinosaurs, interactive play areas; classic toys that take you back to your childhood and more Lego than you have ever imagined. These seven awesome toy stores, located around the world will have both kids and adults leaving with a smile on their face.

7. Hamleys -London, England

Established in 1760, Hamleys is the oldest toy shop in the world and one of the most loved. The flagship store in London is located on Regent Street and features over seven floors that house more than 50,000 toys. It is one of the city’s most visited attractions welcoming more than five million visitors each year. The toy store is divided into separate toy categories; each having their own floor and generally the ground floor is devoted to anything soft from teddy bears to life size giraffes and elephants. It’s not just toys here at this toy store though; throughout the year various events take place including appearances by Father Christmas and his elves and incredible birthday party opportunities. Even Snoopy and Charlie Brown are known to make an appearance every now and then. You will have no trouble finding the perfect toy here, if anything you will come out with much more than you expected!

Photo by: Sharonsree
Photo by: Sharonsree

6. Kiddyland -Tokyo, Japan

This toy store appeals to kids and adults that are looking for anything Japanese, as you won’t find many of these toys anywhere else in the world. A constantly changing inventory makes this shopping experience unique every time you visit. Spread over five floors the atmosphere in the store is playful and relaxed, letting shoppers unwind and find their inner-child. Explore the entire Hello Kitty floor, the Snoopy floor and others that include Pokémon, Star Wars and Lego. Kids will love the variety of toys and figurines while adults will appreciate unique souvenirs such as Star Wars chopsticks. To get shoppers even more in the spirit, Kiddyland has decorated their stairs and elevators with characters. Overwhelming at times, this toy store is a must visit.

Photo by: tokyo.parallellt
Photo by: tokyo.parallellt

5. Playthings Etc. -Pennsylvania, USA

It proclaims to be the “world’s coolest toy store” and looking at the outside we may just have to agree, considering the store is actually shaped like a spaceship. Inside shoppers will find toys and hobbies for all ages, over 3,000 toys to discover. What makes this toy store so awesome is the fact the staff let you try out just about anything, inside or out. There are toy stations set up all over the store, where you can try out classic toys and new futuristic ones you have never seen before. Whether you are looking for old classics, futuristic toys or science experiment toys, you will find it all here. The employees who do demonstrations on unicycles, rockets, pogo sticks, magic and more will also entertain visitors to the store.

Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World's Coolest Toy Store!
Photo by: Playthings Etc. The World’s Coolest Toy Store!

4. Nintendo World -New York, USA

Hop into your very own warp pipe into the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond when you visit this incredible store located in Manhattan’s historic Rockefeller Center. There is over 10,000 square feet of gaming goodness here, spread over two floors, awaiting both news fans and old. This store is definitely not “hands off” as there are gaming stations throughout, with both new and old systems to explore. This is also the place you will find more memorabilia and games than anywhere else in the world when it comes to Nintendo. Don’t miss checking out the awesome Nintendo Museum, which is a part of the store and was recently upgraded and renovated. Events are constantly happening here with new releases of games and systems and it doesn’t seem to matter when you visit, we promise you will leave with a new found appreciation for Nintendo.

Photo by: NintendoNYC
Photo by: NintendoNYC

3. The Lego Store -New York City, USA

Lego has been entertaining kids since 1932, when the brand was developed and clicked with children all over the world. Lego has an impressive amount of stores and it can be hard to narrow down which is the best but the award has to go to New York City. Its two-story Rockefeller Center location boasts over 3,000 square feet of iconic plastic bricks, and all the accessories to go with them. The Pick-A-Brick wall is perhaps the most impressive feature of this store. A structure dressed with 116 bubbles filled with individual Lego pieces, ranging from rare colored bricks to flowers to wheels, fences and more. The Master’s Builder Bar is where you can design your own Lego kit and even play Lego inspired video games. If that wasn’t enough to win you over, how about searching the store for the 50 Lego scenes of the Big Apple that are situated throughout. We aren’t sure who will enjoy this store more, the kids or the adults.

Photo by: TimeOut
Photo by: TimeOut

2. Disney Store -London, England

It wouldn’t be a list of epic toy stores if it didn’t have at least one Disney Store on it and the largest one in Europe gets special mention here. From the outside, the store is impressive in itself featuring a 28 foot high Princess Castle with an animated clock. The Princess makes appearances in the windows while Tinkerbell flies across the walls. Guarding the store are Mickey and Donald Sentries. Inside is where the real magic happens though, featuring 8,200 square feet of toys, games and clothes, all featuring Disney’s iconic characters. Free interactive events constantly happen throughout the year including animation classes, storytelling, trivia quizzes and even full fledged parades. Adults will enjoy the interesting map that shows Disney’s connection to London by pinpointing movie locations such as Big Ben and St. Paul’s Cathedral from movies such as Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians and more.

Disney Store london

1. American Girl Place -Chicago, USA

American Girl Place is the ultimate toy store to visit for any doll fan, whether you are an adult or child. Located at Chicago’s Water Tower Place it is the largest American Girl store in the United States. This shop is home to all of the beloved doll characters including the Girl of the Year and more. It is here where shoppers will find an extensive range of doll accessories, clothing, posters and books. Doll lovers will absolutely love designing their own matching doll and girl t-shirts, appearing on the cover of a souvenir issue of American Girl and watching their doll get their hair done in the Doll Hair Salon. There is even an elegant American Girl Café that is open for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, reservations are highly recommended. Special events happen throughout the year here and include private shopping nights, meet and greet with Santa and holiday parties.

Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly
Photo by: Flickr/popaitaly

The 7 Best Cheap Eats in New York City

The Big Apple can get pricey and with so many gourmet restaurants and notable chefs in the city, food sometimes doesn’t seem to come cheap either. It might seem like the only place to grab something for a reasonable price is at a big-name fast food joint—which is not the case at all. But eating out in the 5 boroughs doesn’t need to break the bank; in fact, there are some places where you can pick up delicious food at a price your pocketbook will love too.

7. Pizza

Okay, it might seem like a bit of a cheat to start off with something so generic—of course pizza can be cheap. Pizza can also be really expensive, especially in NYC. But since the city is one with such a rich Italian heritage, you just know that there have got to be a few great mom-and-pop style pizzerias, places where you can grab a slice (or a whole pie) for what amounts to pocket change. The Big Apple is full of shops like Joe’s Pizza and John’s Pizzeria, both in Greenwich Village and both highly regarded by locals. A classic New York slice will run you $2.75 at Joe’s—very reasonable considering Joe uses nothing but the best, including imported Italian mozzarella and tomatoes to make fresh sauce for the pies.

Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban
Photo by: Flickr/Adam Kuban

6. Taqueria Izucar

This place might as well be billed as “all you can eat tacos.” Tacos are just $1.25 a pop, and come stuffed with things like braised veal, pig stomach or stewed potatoes. Although the Taqueria itself is a counter-serve establishment, there is an attached Mexican restaurant where you can pause for a sit-down meal. For those on the go, however, Taqueria Izucar serves up good food at low prices and even has vegetarian options for those who prefer their food sans-carne. Open from 11 in the morning til 10 at night, this Brooklyn eatery is the perfect place to grab lunch during a busy workday, dinner after a long day at the office or even to grab a snack with some friends before heading out to the bar on a Friday night.

Photo by: Eater
Photo by: Eater

5. Northside Bakery

Northside Bakery is a European-style bake shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. A division of Old Poland Foods, the bakery has been voted “Best European Bakery in New York” by various outlets. Their baked goods are all handmade, without preservatives, and the company is now looking at introducing a line of organic baked goods. They stock everything from baguettes to bagels to donuts, but you can also drop by for a lunch special. A cabbage roll will cost $2.50 (and be warned, these are decidedly filling). Other Polish specialties and daily soups round out the lunch menu; the buffet will set you back around $4. And after lunch, you can also grab a slice of cake or another treat to take home with you and enjoy later. All in all, Northside Bakery is a pretty sweet deal!

Photo by: Sprung on Food
Photo by: Sprung on Food

4. Lakruwana

You might not think that trekking out to Staten Island would yield much in the way of cheap eats, but you’d be wrong. Don’t believe it? Hop the ferry (which is free) to the island and check out Lakruwana, an artsy Sri Lankan restaurant serving up traditional dishes from the Indian Ocean island. Their weekend lunch buffets are a great deal; priced at $13.95, it might seem a touch dear, especially compared to some of the other entries here, but the value is great given the extensive menu. The restaurant also offers take-out, which is a great option if you happen to be on Staten Island anyway. And although most of the entrees are priced around $14, the portions are generous; if there are two people dining, you can likely pick one dish and split it—although it tastes so good, you may not want to share.

Photo by: New Lakruwana
Photo by: New Lakruwana

3. Yun Nan Flavour Garden

Not only is this Brooklyn restaurant a tasty and cheap option for diners, it’s also one of New York’s only Yuunan restaurants. In a city littered with Chinese eateries, Yun Nan Flavour Garden is a refreshing option, serving up a menu with flavors from China’s southernmost province. The restaurant specializes in noodle dishes, like guoqiao mixian, and the noodles themselves are made fresh in-house. Although the eatery itself is tiny and you’ll likely share a help-yourself bin of utensils with your fellow diners, the food is a great deal: bowls of noodles go for around $5—and are generally large enough to feed 2 or 3 people, or to make another meal out of. Service is usually quick, but remember to bring cash, since the establishment doesn’t accept credit or debit cards.

Photo by: NY Times
Photo by: NY Times

2. Gray’s Papaya

Given the name of this establishment, you might not think of a hot dog stand, but that’s exactly what Gray’s is. The long-time New York eatery specializes in dishing up low-priced dogs to hungry crowds. The Papaya in the name comes from the papaya drink the restaurant sells, although they also sell a variety of other beverages. Gray’s has been featured in films, television shows, literature and music, making it something of a cultural touchstone for New Yorkers. Open since 1979, Gray’s had expanded into additional stores, although only the 2090 Broadway location is open nowadays (however, reports have surfaced that Gray’s will be opening a new Midtown location by end of 2016). The restaurant is open 24 hours a day, year-round, which means you can grab a cheap, delicious, high-quality dog any time you visit the Big Apple. A single dog is just $1.25 and the “Recession Special” will set you back only $3.50.

Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton
Photo by: Lauren Klain Carton

1. Rahman’s Kwik Meals

There are a heck of a lot of food carts in New York City, especially in busy areas like Midtown and the Financial District, where both hungry office workers and tourists will congregate, looking for a quick bite to eat. With so many vendors, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick one. Many sell foods like pretzels and bagels, but the best food carts have full meals, like falafel with grilled chicken, on offer. New York Magazine recently named Rahman’s Kwik Meals one of the best food carts in the whole city. The cart is something of a legend in NYC; after brief stints cooking for other establishments, cart owner Muhammed Rahman is back selling lamb, fish and rice dishes at 45th Street, near Times Square. There are also two additional carts in the Kwik Meals empire, Quick Delight (45th and 3rd) and Kwik Gourmet (47th and Park Avenue).

kwik meal

 

The 7 Best Bakeries in the 5 Boroughs

Cookies and cakes, bread and bagels, oh my! New Yorkers love baked goods—that’s no surprise, especially given that the city’s unofficial pastry patron is the bagel. It’s a fact that goes a long way toward explaining why there are so many bakeries in the Big Apple, scattered throughout the five boroughs. With so many choices, it can be daunting to try and pick just a few favorite establishments; in fact, it’s nearly impossible to crown a single “best” bakery. So here are our top 7 picks for the best bakeries in the whole of NYC.

7. Milk and Cookies

On a tour of Greenwich Village, we passed by this neat little bakery on Commerce Street. A local, who lived in Midtown, pointed the shop out and was delighted to learn we’d already had a chance to sample the wares fresh from the oven. Even David Schwimmer, who played Ross on Friends, is a fan of Milk and Cookies and their focus on American classics, like the classic chocolate chip cookie. The shop was also recently voted best ice cream sandwich in NYC, so you know they have to be doing something right. The bakery has packaged their chocolate chip cookie dough, but nothing beats the real McCoy; Milk and Cookies is open until 10pm every night, so swing by and grab a sweet treat—or get creative and take advantage of the shop’s “design your own dozen” service, which lets you pick and choose flavors.

Photo by: Milk and Cookies
Photo by: Milk and Cookies

6. Almondine

When Hurricane Sandy hit NYC 3 years ago, the storm leveled one of Brooklyn’s best bakeries. Pastry chef Herve Poussat didn’t expect his bakery to flood, but it did and he lost most of his equipment—and the Big Apple almost lost Almondine, one of the most revered French bakeries in Brooklyn and beyond. Luckily, Poussat was able to re-open in April 2013. Since then, Almondine has continued to do what the bakery does best: make delicious French-style breads and pastries, including some of the city’s best baguettes. Almondine consistently places on lists of the best bakeries in the five boroughs, and New Yorkers know that a trip to Almondine is always a good idea. A pilgrimage to 85 Water Street should be on every gourmand’s New York bucket list.

Photo by: Dumbo NYC
Photo by: Dumbo NYC

5. Amy’s Bread

Amy’s Bread has been serving NYC for 23 years now, in three locations around Manhattan: Greenwich Village, Hell’s Kitchen and Chelsea. Open early to late every day of the week, Amy’s Breads offers up an assortment of homemade artisanal breads, like basil-infused foccacia, fresh on a daily basis. Oh, and if you’re hankering for something sweet, the bakery dabbles in treats too—like their cupcakes, which garnered a 5-star rating in a recent Zagat survey. The fact that the bakery was voted as the best spot to grab a loaf in all of NYC should tell you a bit about the quality of the goods; others just can’t compare. The bakery also supplies various restaurants in Manhattan through its wholesale channel, but the best place to pick up a treat is still one of the cozy bakery locations.

Photo by: Amy's Bread
Photo by: Amy’s Bread

4. Cannelle Patisserie

Don’t let the fact that this French-style bakery is located in a mall in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens throw you off: it is simply one of the best in all of NYC. New Yorkers and the media alike will tell you that making the trip out to Cannelle Patisserie is well worth it; not only are the pastries cheaper than the puffed-up price points you’ll find in Manhattan bakeries, but the goods are just as delectable (if not more so). They’re open from 8 til late, 7 days a week, so there’s no excuse for not dropping in for breakfast, lunch or dinner or a coffee break somewhere in-between. Sandwiches, quiches and a breakfast selection round out a menu full of exquisite cakes, tarts and cookies. With items starting at just $1, how can you possibly go wrong?

Photo by: Serious Eats
Photo by: Serious Eats

3. Valencia Bakery

Manhattan has more than its fair share of excellent bakeries, but that doesn’t mean that you should count out the other boroughs: all of them are graced with places to pick up some sweet treats. Valencia Bakery, located in the Bronx, is an excellent example. The shop has to come up in conversation about the best bakeries in NYC, and it’s known as the place to get a birthday cake (or a cake for just about any other occasion) in this borough. Valencia has several locations in the Bronx, and 2 additional locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They also make pastries so even if you’re not celebrating, you can still treat yourself to something sweet from this bakery institution. If you’re in town for a birthday or other occasion, celebrate with a pineapple or guava cake from Valencia—you won’t be disappointed.

Photo by: Valencia Bakery
Photo by: Valencia Bakery

2. Bien Cuit

This little shop in Brooklyn has made quite the splash since it landed on the NYC bakery scene in 2011. Chef Zachary Golper and his bakery have been nominated for awards consistently since then; in 2015, Golper was nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Baker. The Bien Cuit philosophy is to offer up breads and pastries that are both unique and varied, utilizing ancient techniques and modern-day sensibilities. The shop has become a favorite among locals and a must-visit for travelers passing through. Open 7 days a week, from 7 in the morning til 8 at night, Bien Cuit offers customers more than pastries and breads; their menu includes quiches, sandwiches, tartines and cookies, as well as drinks to wash it all down. Bien Cuit also offers a wholesale service, which means you can find Bien Cuit breads in restaurants around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Photo by: Bien Cuit
Photo by: Bien Cuit

1. Dominique Ansel Bakery

You may have heard of the Dominique Ansel Bakery before. Even if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard of Chef Ansel’s most famous creation: the cronut. Half-croissant, half-donut, this pastry caused quite the uproar in 2013, even spawning a black market and knock-offs due to limited production. Cronuts aren’t the only thing you can sample at this Soho bakery, however: Chef Ansel has a wide variety of delicious goodies up for grabs, including mini-meringues, large cakes, macarons and other gifts. The chef creates a signature item every year; past inventions have included the Frozen S’more and the Cookie Shot. His imagination has earned him the title “Willy Wonka of NYC” and his bakery, opened in 2011, has been named the best bakery in the city by various magazines and newspapers. Located at 189 Spring Street, the bakery is open every day of the week, inviting you to pop in.

Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery
Photo by: Dominique Ansel Bakery

America’s 20 Favorite Buildings

Consider it The People’s Choice awards for architecture. The American Institute of Architects commissioned a public poll on the most popular architectural works in the country. There are a number of well-known superstars including The Empire State Building and Faneuil Hall in Boston, but there are also the obscure and surprising; Seattle’s Safeco Field at #135, Denver International Airport at #57. The top of the list is decidedly skewed towards the northeast, especially New York and Washington D.C. who claim between them 16 of the top 20. Overall New York has 32 entries, while D.C. claims 17 and Chicago a respectable 16. Three of the favorites no longer exist: #143 Pennsylvania Station, the original Yankee Stadium of 1923 at #84 and the World Trade Center at #19. Among the architects making more than one appearance are Frank Lloyd Wright with 7 works; Eero Saarinen with 3 and one Thomas Jefferson with 2. Here are the Top 20 American structures that still stand and attract millions of sightseers and pilgrims from around the world:

20. Philadelphia City Hall – Philadelphia, PA

A truly magnificent building, it’s widely considered to be the best piece of French Second Empire architecture in the country. It is massive exercise in granite, sandstone and marble with muscular columns, some 250 pieces of sculpture including a massive 27 ton bronze of William Penn (as in Pennsylvania) on the clock tower. The 24 foot thick walls hold 4 acres of space with 700 rooms. It took 30 years to build, as only a government building can. Money was no object in a futile attempt to regain the city’s pre-eminence over the upstarts in New York and Washington, it was for a brief time, the tallest building in the world. Demolition was considered in the 1950’s and thank goodness rescinded.

Philadelphia City Hall

19. Brooklyn Bridge – New York City, NY

It was a huge deal when it opened in 1883. A sitting President, Charles Arthur, and a future one; New York Governor Grover Cleveland attended. The towers are built of limestone, cement and Maine granite delivered by schooner. It was the longest suspension bridge in the world for 20 years and like other New York landmarks it captured the artistic and popular culture’s imagination from Georgia O’Keefe through Jack Kerouac to Wycliffe Jean. Poet Marianne Moore wrote, “way out; way in; romantic passageway first seen by the eye of the mind, then by the eye. O steel! O stone! Climactic ornament, a double rainbow.” Beginning life on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War, the Bridge captures the enormous optimism of the economic boom of the Second Industrial Revolution. On ArchDaily, Cristopher Henry says the Bridge transformed not only bridge building but the city of New York itself. The Gothic Revival style span lit up at night framed by the Manhattan skyline, does seem like a road to a promised land.

Brooklyn Bridge

18. Hotel Del Coronado – San Diego, CA

What could be more striking, or make less sense, than a perfect example of 19th century British architecture on the California Pacific coast? A California beach house in downtown London perhaps? Though it may seem to an architectural fish out of water, it has been a magnet for celebrities, royalty and U.S. Presidents since it opened in 1888 at the peak influence of the Queen Anne building style. But such was its renown that its guest list includes from the Prince of Wales to Charlie Chaplin to Barack Obama. Queen Anne design is ornate and precious and violates every law of the American School which holds that buildings should be organic as if art of the site on which it’s built. But then architect James Reid apparently never studied law. The jumble of turrets and excess celebrates the Golden Age of decadence. Jay Gatsby would have been a frequent visitor had he actually existed. Gilded Age exuberance.

Vacclav / Shutterstock.com
Vacclav / Shutterstock.com

17. Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, NY

The Met, as it’s affectionately known, has been evolving as an idea and entity since 1866. It has added and subtracted whole sections over the decades and has become an imposing if not terribly harmonious mix of International, Modern and Contemporary architecture, yet it somehow fits in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Its vast interior holds collections among the best in the world, with a net worth of approximately the Gross National Product of Iceland. Of course everyone would think of fit fondly. It’s a list of the Faves not the Bests.

Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com
Nick Starichenko / Shutterstock.com

16. St. Regis Hotel – New York City, NY

It was meant to be the lap of luxury, by and for New York’s insanely wealthy aristocracy. A monument to conspicuous consumption built by the Astor family. In his book ‘Built to Last’ the renowned hotel historian Stanley Turkel described the interior like this: “marble floors and hallways from the quarries of Caen, Louis XV furniture from France, Waterford crystal chandeliers, antique tapestries and oriental rugs, a library full of 3,000 leather-bound, gold-tooled books… beautiful burnished bronze entrance doors, rare wood paneling, great marble fireplaces, ornamental ceilings and a telephone in every room”, a rare luxury at the time. In fact the New York Times reported that the St. Regis offered luxury “on a scale of sumptuosity quite without precedent.” The great Russian writer Maxim Gorky visited and remarked, “Neither the Grand Dukes, nor even the Czar, have anything like this.” It remains a Beaux-Arts gem in limestone.

DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com
DW labs Incorporated / Shutterstock.com

15. Supreme Court of the United States – Washington, DC

The Supreme Court was 146 years old before it got its own building that opened in 1935. Its austere steel-framed marble faced exterior on classic Roma temple lines with its thick Corinthian columns gives way to a more ornate interior with brass friezes, extensive statuary of mythical figures and oak carvings that suggest a place of worship rather than one of sober deliberation. Its surprise that makes it is perhaps the last D.C. project to come in UNDER budget. The website says it combines classical grandeur and quiet dignity. The courtroom alone contains 24 columns of Italian marble from the same area Michelangelo sourced his; the walls and friezes of Spanish Ivory Vein marble floor borders incorporates African marble.

Supreme Court of the United States

14. The Gateway Arch – St. Louis, MO

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the date the final piece was put into place completing the majestic span across the Mississippi and putting the iconic Arch up there with other quintessential American sites like Mount Rushmore and the Statue of Liberty. It is a memorial to the settlers who passed through the Gateway City of St. Louis. It also is a tribute of Thomas Jefferson who as President “championed the Louisiana Purchase and sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition westward. Technically it is a weighted catenary curve of over 17,000 tons of perfectly symmetrical concrete and steel. It is 630 feet high and 630 wide. The Finnish American architect Eero Saarinen is now considered one of the masters of American 20th-century architecture and furniture design. He won the design competition for the Arch in 1948 but sadly didn’t live to see construction begin in 1963 let alone to see it finished.

gateway arch

13. Grand Central Station – New York City, NY

A grand European palace masquerading as a New York train station. It looks like a transit point exclusively for the well-to-do, but in fact shepherds 750,000 people on their way, merrier for having passed through a great work of art on their way to work and home. On the outside are 50 foot high statues of Roman gods; Minerva Goddess of Wisdom, Mercury; God of financial gain, travelers, luck, trickery and thieves, eminently qualified to be the patron site of Manhattan not to mention Hercules. Within the classic Beaux Arts exterior lies a vast interior, larger than Notre Dame in Paris featuring too many masterpieces to list, bronze and stone carvings, Tennessee marble floors, frescoes of zodiac constellations. All illuminated by ten lavish chandeliers of nickel and gold, now containing energy efficient bulbs. The New York Tribune wrote, “Here is a space like the nave of an Old World cathedral. It compels to silence.”

pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com
pisaphotography / Shutterstock.com

12. Washington Monument – Washington, DC

It’s interesting that plans for a monument to George Washington were first discussed in 1783, construction began in 1848, and completion came in 1884 and the public got in in 1888. His followers wanted to build one as huge as their respect and devotion and many were rejected for being too grandiose for the new Republic. The elevator that was added in 1889 is still what visitors ride to the observation decks and their tremendous views of the capital. Technically, it is a classic Greek- inspired obelisk of 555 ft. in marble, granite and bluestone gneiss. It also contains some 193 memorial stones donated for inclusion. The donors ranged from the Sae of Utah, the Welsh people of New York to the Ottoman Empire.

National Mall and Washington Monument

11. St. Patrick’s Cathedral – New York City, NY

The neo-Gothic Cathedral of St. Patrick is the largest Catholic Church in the United States and certainly among the most beautiful. Its marble-clad brick facade must been a powerful, imposing site when it opened in 1879. Its 330ft twin neo Gothic towers soared above the neighborhood and were said to be visible for twenty miles, since dwarfed by sprouting skyscrapers.
Inside it has the traditional shape of the Latin cross. Its altars were designed by a Borgia, a Medici and Tiffany &co. Its renowned stained glass was crafted in England but the rose window, in the Gothic tradition was crafted by Charles Connick, a master of stained glass who the New York Times described as “the world’s greatest contemporary craftsman in stained glass.” A Pieta, three times larger than Michelangelo’s in the Vatican was added in 1906. Five million people go every year to worship and just experience this architectural wonder.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral

10. Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – Washington, DC

No doubt full of intangible meaning for Americans, the memorial is a profoundly moving experience wherever you’re from. Simplicity can engender an eloquence the grandest design may not. The façade of the 600 foot straight black wall of Indian granite lists the names of the 58,175 names Americans who died in the war. Its effect is intensified by the decision to build down rather than up, as if to mirror the descent into the depths of the carnage on the descent into the and eventually, after the last name to emerge a touched and changed person, back into the land of the living. Maya Lin, a Chinese American from Ohio was just 21 years old when she won the commission. There are 57,939 names on the original. At last count, that has grown to 58,286. In a
1983 interview published in the AIA Journal, Lin explained her inspiration, “I thought about what death is, what a loss is. A sharp pain that lessens with time, but can never quite heal over. A scar. The idea occurred to me there on the site. Take a knife and cut open the earth, and with time the grass would heal it.”

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial

9. Chrysler Building – New York City, NY

Like many masterpieces the Chrysler Building opened to bad reviews. It was dismissed as a publicity stunt by Chrysler to beat the Manhattan Bank to completion and dethrone the Eiffel Tower as the world’s tallest building at the time. Its architect William van Alen was also dismissed as a “Dr. of Altitude.” But its Art Deco style has grown in stature since its heyday in the 1920’s and 30’s. It came to be regarded as over the top kitsch but went to become its own school of furniture, poster art and telephones. The Chrysler is one of the last of its kind, the Art Deco skyscraper. A counterpoint to the sombre Vietnam memorial the Chrysler emits the brash, confident futuristic exuberance of Art Deco at its best. If it had an observation deck, it may well have eclipsed the Empire State building in popularity. Its interior is yet more stunning. Lonely Planet guides suggest the best views are from the corner of 3rd and 44th. Or ironically from the observation deck of the Empire State. Where else could you see gargoyles in the image of Chrysler car parts?

Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

8. Biltmore Estate – Asheville, NC

The British writer and with Oscar Wilde once said that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” He might have had George W. Vanderbilt, one member of the wealthiest and influential American families in history, who contemporary descendants include CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. George W. fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains and bought 125,000 acres of it to build his summer estate. Only the best for a Vanderbilt, he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, the designer and architect-in-chief of Central Park. The French Renaissance ‘summer home’ has a copper roof monogrammed with the owner’s initials. Just the interior floor covers 4 acres. There are 34 bedrooms, 65 fireplace and at a time when indoor plumbing was rare, 43 bathrooms. Despite its excess it is a beautiful piece of work, intended to rival the old estate manors of Europe. The largest private home in America is a Historic Site and open to the public for tours.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

7. Lincoln Memorial – Washington, DC

It is by no means a late Italian Renaissance piece or the ages but the Lincoln Memorial is a fascinating and compelling structure. Its grand exterior is a stunning Greek temple with 36 sturdy Doric columns, one for each state in the Union in 1865. The expectation that something of this classic magnitude would be a memorial or tomb of a great champion or god even. And there is inside a sculpture of the Great Emancipator himself but if you didn’t know his history you’d wonder if he won or lost the battle. The great American sculptor Daniel Chester French presents not a triumphant demi-God but a man, seated rumpled and not just tired but so weary from having seen too much grief. This was partly aesthetic genius partly astute politics. Construction of the Monument began in 1914, less than 50 years after the Civil War ended and any celebratory construct would have been deeply offensive to the South. The Southern Wall contains an elegant rendition of the Gettysburg Address while the north wall holds his second Inaugural Address which ends with the famous words…”With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds… to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln Memorial

6. U.S. Capitol – Washington, DC

The U.S. Capitol’s design was selected President Washington in 1793. Construction quickly began but they had to start over after the British burned it in the War of 1812. Like so many buildings in DC, it is classic Greek and Roman, the neoclassical style favored by Thomas Jefferson as befitting a modern empire. In fact he wanted the Capitol to be patterned after the Roman Pantheon. It has what might be called an intimidating charm of imposing size, symbolism and history. Expanded many times to its present 4 acres and 600 rooms, its most famous addition was the cast iron dome in 1858 weighing almost 9,000,000 pounds. Inside are of course the chambers of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the home of the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government. Lesser known is the impressive collection of art accumulated and donated over the years. The Hall of Statuary is breathtaking as is the fresco in the Rotunda painted by Italian Constatino Brumidi in the Di sotto in sù (seen from below) style depicting the Apotheosis of Washington entering heaven with an escort of Roman gods representing among others War, Science and Agriculture.

US Capitol building

5. Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco, CA

One of the greatest engineering and design accomplishments of the 20th century, a rarely surpassed combination of strength and beauty. They said it would be impossible to build a bridge across the Golden Gate Strait. It took four years and the equivalent of $600 million but at is completion in 1937 it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world at almost 2 miles long. The two famous towers are 820 feet tall. The distinctive red Art Deco profile framed by the Pacific Ocean has made it known around the world a masterpiece in steel and concrete.

Golden Gate Bridge

4. Thomas Jefferson Memorial – Washington, DC

Jefferson didn’t get his wish for The Capitol to be built after the Pantheon in Rome but his memorial in Washington D.C. certainly is. It was inaugurated by President Franklin Roosevelt on the bicentenary of Jefferson’s birth in 1743. FDR proclaimed ““Today in the midst of a great war for freedom, we dedicate a shrine to freedom.” Jefferson’s intellect and influence towered above any of the founders, save for Washington himself. So it is more than fitting that the grand bronze statue of him inside the classic Roman architecture that he loved should tower over the interior showing him at the peak of his powers, with what is believed to be the Declaration of Independence in his hand.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial

3. Washington National Cathedral – Washington, DC

A majestic Gothic Revival work in Indiana limestone, its construction was launched with a speech from President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907 and was completed only in 1990. A hallowed place of ecumenical worship the church is also deeply reflective of American history. It was the las pulpit from which the Reverend Martin Luther King preached before his assassination in 1968. The funerals of Presidents Reagan and Eisenhower were held there. Woodrow Wilson is buried there. There is stained glass devoted to the Apollo moon landing with a piece of moon rock. Recently, the church stewards decided to remove two stained glass panels honoring Confederate Generals Robert TE Lee and Stonewall Jackson containing the Confederate flag. The top of the lofty Gloria in Excelsis vault is the highest point in the capital. It tries be user friendly, incorporating a young person’s design of Darth Vader gargoyle on the roof. Still, really more popular than the Golden Gate?

Washington National Cathedral

2. The White House – Washington, DC

Construction of the original Presidential residence began in 1702. It was nothing like the current version, especially being not white but a grayish Georgia mansion. Its first tenants were the second President, John Adams and wife Abigail. The British torched it in 1812 and Hoban rebuilt it but I wasn’t til a major renovation in 1824 that the portico and pillars turned the modest Georgian home into a neoclassical white building. The West Wing burned in 1929 and with is rebuilding it became what we know today. The whitewashed sandstone walls are the originals. Inside it contains 132 rooms, 28 fireplaces and 32 bathrooms, Interesting trivia: running water was not installed until 1835.

The White House

 

1. Empire State Building – New York City, NY

Honestly, if you were making King Kong in 1933 and deciding on which building in the entire world on which the huge protagonist to meet his dramatic demise, what other choice could you make but the Empire State, the tallest most glamorous building in the world? It has appeared in 250 movies from the sublime (An Affair to Remember) to the ridiculous (A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas). The 86th floor observation deck has had over a 100 million visitors, among the most popular in the world. While there are superstar architects with multiple entries in the list (Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen), the New York firm that built the Empire State has just he one. At the very top. It’s not just the view or the gorgeous Art Deco façade. It is the architectural version of swagger, the iconic image that says you are in the home of the Leader of the Free World. When Canadian Far Wray, the actress who played King Kong’s love interest, died in 2004, the Empire State went dark for 15 minutes in silent, eloquent tribute.

Empire State Building