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8 Great Hanukkah Celebrations Across America

By Robin Honig
November 28, 2018
Row of people wearing neon
Gracie Malley
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights, arrives early this year on December 2. With nationwide menorah lightings, latke eating, dreidel playing, and much more, we’ve got the best eight celebrations for those eight special nights.

From Atlanta to Los Angeles, from raucous to quirky, the U.S. is home to some truly exceptional Hanukkah bashes, including family favorites like dreidel spinning and menorah lighting and commemorations of the ancient Jewish rebellion led by Judah Maccabee around 200 BCE. Here, a look at some of the biggest festival of lights parties you can find in major American cities.

1. Atlanta: Grand Menorah Lightings and Hanukkah Celebrations

December 2-9; free; locations throughout the city; (404) 898-0434; atlantajewishconnector.com

With daily Hanukkah celebrations throughout the city, the simcha (party) never ends! Decatur Square hosts the first night, when the grand menorah is lit. Come hungry - there’s hot latkes, fresh donuts, plus music, dancing, dreidels, raffles, and prizes. Spread some Hanukkah cheer at the Menorah Car Parade on December 6, when cars decked out with menorahs go on a drive from the Beltline throughout Atlanta.

2. Boston: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights

December 5, 4:30 PM – 10:00 PM; free events with food at extra cost; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; (617) 267- 9300; mfa.org

Art, music, and Jewish heritage come together at this celebration, held at one of the best museums in New England. Come for the community menorah lighting and stay for the family song and story time, scavenger hunt throughout the galleries, dreidel making, and face painting. Then nosh on latkes, rugelach, and Star of David cookies. Don’t forget to save room for the top-your-own donut bar. Be sure to check out “The Maccabees and the Hanukkah Story,” a special installation featuring three centuries of Jewish decorative arts and ritual objects from Hanukkah lamps to embroidered silk.

3. Chicago: “Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins”

December 1 – January 5, 2019; $25 adults, $20 children; Strawdog Theatre Company; (773) 644-1380; strawdog.org

Don’t miss this amazing stage production of the classic children’s book by Eric Kimmel about a weary traveler who stumbles upon a village taken over by a band of goblins who have ruined the town’s Hanukkah festivities. Live music tells the story as Herschel tries to defeat the wily fiends during the holiday’s eight nights.

4. Dallas: Hanukkah Hoopla

December 2; 1:00 PM - 5:30 PM; free; Aaaron Family JCC of Dallas; (214) 739-2737; jccdallas.org

Get your shop on at this holiday celebration and marketplace where more than 35 local vendors sell handmade art, glass and pottery, jewelry and Judaica, and yummy homemade treats perfect for gift-giving. Music and dancing plus storytelling, face painting, and a balloon artist entertain the kids while adults hit up the Latke Piano Lounge. L’chaim! (Cheers!) Menorah lighting begins around 5:30 at the Chabad of Dallas (6710 Levelland Rd).

5. Los Angeles: Hanukkah on the Canals Parade

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December 9, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM; free; Venice Canals, Venice Beach; (310) 821-1414; opentemple.org

Rock the boat, Hanukkah-style as decorated canoes, kayaks, barges, paddle boats, and yachts take to the canals of Venice to celebrate the holiday. Bring the kids - there’s also menorah making and live music, plus the menorah lighting at sundown. Favorite local chef the Latke Lady serves up… you guessed it… her famous homemade potato pancakes just like your bubbe (grandma) used to make.

6. New Orleans: Latkes with a Twist

December 6, 7:00 PM; $35; Press Street Station; (504) 828-6334; jcrs.org

If you’re hoping this “twist” includes a lime, you’re in luck! This holiday event serves up a mean vodka latke punch, a bourbon Hanukkah highball, plus lots of other spirits from an open bar. Self-ordained Latke Master and local chef Adam Biderman slings his signature potato pancakes at the latke bar while the Joe Gelini Trio keeps the crowd dancing. Proceeds from the event help support local Jewish children with scholarships.

7. New York City: 10th Annual Latke Festival

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December 3; 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM, $75; Brooklyn Museum; latkefestival.com

The classic Hanukkah dish gets a fun makeover by more than two dozen local chefs at this incredible tasting event. Forget your typical potato pancakes with apple sauce; past year’s dishes have included rueben latkes stuffed with corned beef and sauerkraut, duck confit latkes, and even bay scallop ceviche latkes. The creativity alone makes the entry fee well worth it, with proceeds benefitting the Sylvia Center, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching healthy eating habits to children and their families.

8. San Francisco: Night at the Jewseum Shimmer

December 6, 6:00 PM-9:00 PM; $8; the Contemporary Jewish Museum; (415) 655-7800; thecjm.org

Light up the night at this meshuga (crazy) adults-only, museum-wide holiday celebration where a cosmic glow-in-the-dark fashion show is center stage as a DJ pumps up the jam with club music. Other off-beat activities include a scavenger hunt held in a gallery featuring the works of a Jewish tattoo artist, and a candid clergy Q and A session called “Ask a Rabbi.” Three-piece klezmer band the Yiddiots offers up holiday tunes as guests hit up the latke and brisket bar and sip special Hanukkah bourbon and gin cocktails.

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Budget Travel Lists

8 Best TV & Movie Tours

Sure, Los Angeles and New York City get most of the credit and the glory. But many movies and TV shows are actually shot in incredible locations around the country. Lights! Camera! Action! Here are our eight favorite location tours. 1. BOSTON Boston Movie Mile Walking Tour; 1.5 hours; adults, $27, kids $19, private tours available; 866-982-2114; onlocationtours.com/tour/boston-movie-mile Bahstan is a filmmaker’s town. It’s home to Ben and Matt, after all, and also to more than 400 movies and TV shows. Find out why it’s so popular on this walking tour. Drinks at the Bull and Finch Pub, for Cheers, are an absolute must. Then sit on the park benches where Robin Williams and Matt Damon chatted in Good Will Hunting, check out the historic homes in The Thomas Crown Affair and get “made” at one of Jack Nicholson’s mob hangouts from The Departed. (Sorry, make that the Depahted.) Wicked cool: getting to read scripts exactly where they were shot. 2. ATLANTA Big Zombie Tour Part 1; 3 hours; $69 adults, $55 kids; 855-255-3456; atlantamovietours.com/tours/big-zombie-tour The. Walking. Dead. Need we say more? Watch clips from the show on a comfy bus as you visit exact locations. The hospital where Rick first woke up from his coma. The Goat Farm Arts Center abandoned building from “the Vatos.” The Jackson Street Bridge (selfies encouraged!). Every tour is led by a zombie extra who offers insider-only deets and runs a killer trivia game session. (Did you know that HBO passed on the series because it felt it was too violent?) Huge fans should sign up for Parts 2 and 3, plus there’s a walking tour! 3. NEW ORLEANS Original New Orleans Movie and TV Tours; 2 hours; adults $43, children $29; 225-240-8648; nolamovies.com If you’re lucky, you’ll hear the director yell “cut!” during this NOLA excursion, which offers a fun mix of live filmmaking (as of press time, NCIS: New Orleans was shooting), celebrity homes (Sandra Bullock! Brad Pitt!) and location tours including NOLA standbys Interview with the Vampire, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, American Horror Story, and Twilight. Don’t worry, the classics are represented too, including A Streetcar Named Desire and Easy Rider. All neighborhoods are covered, including the French Quarter, the Warehouse District and the Garden District. 4. WILMINGTON, NC Hollywood Location Walk; 1.5 hours; $13 adults, kids free; 910-794-1866; hauntedwilmington.com/hollywood-location-walk.html Wilmington, NC, otherwise known as “Wilmywood” or “Hollywood East,” has been a moviemaking mecca since director Mark L. Lester shot Firestarter here in 1983. Customize your tour and see the locations for teen faves Dawson’s Creek (the famous dock where Dawson pined away for Joey) and One Tree Hill (Blue Post Billiards, where Lucas and Sophia went on their first “tattoo” date), Cape Fear (the Memorial Bridge), Dream a Little Dream (the Coreys’ high school) and Weekend at Bernies (the lighthouse where Parker gets temporarily blinded). Or check out movie props, set pieces, and interiors, hear about your favorite actors, or find out how a winter wonderland is created in the heat of summer. 5. OAHU Hollywood Movie Site Tour, Kualoa Ranch; 90 minutes; adults $49.50, children $39.95; 808-237-7321; kualoa.com/toursactivities A vintage bus takes you 45 minutes from Honolulu to Kualoa Ranch, a 4,000 acre nature reserve billed as “the backlot of Hawaii” thanks to its role in dozens of movies and TV shows since the 1950s, including Jurassic Park, Lost, Magnum P.I., The Hunger Games, Jumanji, Hawaii Five- O, and Pearl Harbor. Examine Godzilla’s footprints, stand at the Jurassic Park gate, and check out the bunkers on Lost. An amazing World War II army bunker houses lots of props, movie posters, and memorabilia. 6. CHICAGO Chicago Film Tour; 2 hours; call for rates; 312-593-4455; chicagofilmtour.com Chi-town neighborhoods absolutely make this tour - Wrigleyville Uptown, the Gold Coast, Old Town – all home to more than 80 films over the past 100 years. Check out locations from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (where surely you’ll want to “Twist and Shout” through Federal Plaza), The Dark Knight (the Chicago Post Office), Transformers 3 (The Uptown Theatre), My Best Friend’s Wedding (the White Sox ballpark), and The Untouchables (South La Salle St.). A tour guide offers up fun film facts and trivia. (Did you know: “Twist and Shout” is the only original version of a Beatles song to appear twice in the top 40, thanks to FBDO and Matthew Broderick’s famous parade scene.) 7. PHILADELPHIA Philadelphia Movie Stars Tour, 2.5 hours, private tours from $33 per person; 215-625-7980; moviesitestour.com Lace up your running shoes to take on the 68 steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Rocky-style. This tour takes you there, plus past City Hall, the Italian Market and Ninth Street where Rocky did his training runs. Check out scenes from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia including the law firm building where Andrew Beckett worked (The Mellon Bank Building) and the library where he studied case law (The University of Pennsylvania Fine Arts Library). The Sixth Sense (St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church), Trading Places (Rittenhouse Square), and Twelve Monkeys (the Met Theatre) are also big stars on this tour. 8. WASHINGTON, DC Washington DC TV and Movie Sites Tour; 2.5 hours; from $40; taketours.com/washington-dc Where else you gonna shoot movies like Air Force One, Independence Day, A Few Good Men, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Our nation’s capital is a Hollywood dream with some of the most recognizable buildings and monuments in the world (the Lincoln Memorial is host to drunken nights in Wedding Crashers; Constitutional Hall serves as the White House in the West Wing; the reflecting pool is seen in Forrest Gump, The Firm, and Deep Impact, to name just a few). This tour explores them all, starting in Union Station seen in Hannibal, Minority Report, and the Sentinel, takes you to the steps of the house in The Exorcist, past the bar in St. Elmo’s Fire and to the mall in True Lies. Bonus: Tours are led by local actors.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Totally Adorable Trailer Hotels

For lovers of the open road and Americana culture, few accommodations are dreamier than a vintage Airstream. And as temperatures drop, trailers also provide a good alternative to camping outside. With retro options running the gamut from eco-friendly to stylishly bohemian to high-end glamping, trailer park life has never looked so good—and all while reducing the environmental footprint, too. 1. El Cosmico: Marfa, Texas (Nick Simonite) Situated on 21 acres of high plains desert by Texas hotelier Liz Lambert, El Cosmico (elcosmico.com) is more of a way of life than a campground. Choose to wake up in a yurt, a Sioux-style teepee, or a safari tent, if not in one of the property’s 13 refurbished 1950s-era trailers, painted in colors like robin’s-egg blue and daffodil yellow. Each trailer comes equipped with creature comforts like cozy serape robes, Geneva bluetooth speakers, Chemex coffeemakers, and minibars stocked with essentials like Topo Chico and rolling papers. Outdoor showers and a communal outdoor kitchen continually invite you to connect to your surroundings, while hammock groves and wood-fired Dutch hot tubs—not to mention a purposeful lack of WiFi—encourage you to truly unplug and enjoy the peaceful pace of desert life. Pro tip: Check El Cosmico’s calendar and plan a visit around its diverse programming, from the annual Trans-Pecos Festival of Music + Love to film screenings, yoga classes, and outdoor cooking intensives. 2. Kate’s Lazy Desert: Landers, California (Kate's Lazy Desert) Kate Pierson, a founding member of the B-52s, and her wife, Monica Coleman, opened Kate’s Lazy Meadow (lazymeadow.com) to create a truly campy (wink!) travel experience. It all started in Woodstock, New York, where they added Airstream trailers to a cabin-studded campground, but when flooding from severe rainstorms damaged the newly renovated vehicles, they moved them somewhere safe and dry, and Kate’s Lazy Desert was born. Just 20 minutes outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California's Mojave Desert, the six trailers, which have names like Hot Lava and Tinkerbell, are colorful and kitschy, thanks to artist team Maberry Walker. After exploring the surrounding region’s near-intergalactic landscape by day, take in the star-glittered sky at night, or head to the iconic Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneer Town Palace for live music and burgers. 3. Hotel Luna Mystica: Taos, New Mexico (Amanda Powell) Hotel Luna Mystica (hotellunamystica.com) is located eight miles from the heart of Taos, just across the street from Taos Mesa Brewery. Described on its website as “12-plus acres of mesa, 10 vintage trailers, 60 campsites, one planet, one moon, a gazillion stars,” the property features a collection of refurbished trailers from the 1950s through the 1970s, including Spartans, Airstreams, and Aristocrats. Each has a private bathroom, a kitchen, and a patio, plus amenities like high-quality linens, locally made soap, and French-press coffee makers. All the trailers maintain vintage vibes while incorporating eclectic design elements like potted succulents, Turkish lanterns, and colorful pillows. Some also have WiFi access, but living off the grid is really the best choice here. How better to enjoy the breathtaking mountain views before gathering around the fire pit to share stories with fellow travelers at night?  4. The Shady Dell: Bisbee, Arizona Unlike most renovated trailers that rely on modern amenities, the dwellings at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court (theshadydell.com) include period-specific books, magazines, décor, and even appliances like percolators, phonographs, and black-and-white televisions. These 10 trailers range in style, from a 1947 Airporter converted into a tropical tiki oasis to a 1955 Airstream exuding Southwestern chic. Cooking is not permitted inside the trailers, but there are outdoor grills available at this adults-only, seasonal park (it closed every summer and winter). Located 30 minutes south of Tombstone, once the center of the Wild West, and just a few minutes south of quirky Bisbee, it’s a perfect home base for exploring the historic mining town. 5. Caravan Outpost: Ojai, California Located just a stone's throw from downtown Ojai, Caravan Outpost (caravanoutpostojai.com) features 11 refurbished Airstreams shaded by lush tropical foliage. Each trailer comes with a stocked kitchen and peaceful outdoor shower and sleeps between one and five people. Most are pet-friendly. Record players add to the vintage feel, and vinyl can be swapped out at the on-site General Store. The hotel also offers tailor-made experiences like wine tastings and vineyard tours, visits to hot springs, meditation packages, and outdoor adventures from surfing to rock climbing to mountain biking. And even when they’re not hosting farm-to-table dinners or speaker series, there’s plenty of opportunity to connect with fellow travelers, particularly over s’mores and conversation around the nightly bonfire. 6. The Vintage Trailer Resort: Willamette Valley, Oregon  Perfect for those who want to sample trailer living before committing to owning one, The Vintages Trailer Resort (the-vintages.com) is one section of the 14-acre Willamette Wine Country RV Park between Dundee and McMinnville, Oregon. With 33 vintage trailers of varying sizes and styles, each stocked with upscale amenities like L’Occitane bath products, plush bedding, pour-over coffee, and luxurious robes, the Vintages really does live up to its “trailer resort” designation. All accommodations are equipped with private bathrooms, and some also have private showers or even plunge tubs. There are also propane grills, so you can cook up a flame-kissed steak to enjoy alongside a glass of the Willamette Valley's famed pinot noir. The park also features a pool, outdoor yard games, and a dog park. A free cruiser bike rental for two is also included with each reservation, making day trips into Oregon’s wine country a breeze. 7. Hicksville Trailer Palace: Joshua Tree, California Many travelers go to Joshua Tree National Park to disconnect in the desert and get away from it all. But Hicksville Trailer Palace (hicksville.com/joshuatree/motel.html), located in the heart of the small bohemian town, offers so much to do, you may never make it off the grounds. Choose from mini golf, darts, ping-pong, bocce, cornhole, archery, and a BB-gun shooting range, or just soak in the sunset from the roof-deck hot tub. Each of the 10 refurbished vintage trailers is uniquely decorated, from the alien-focused Integratrailor, which comes equipped with a star machine, to the big top–striped Sideshow. From March through November, enjoy a solar-heated saltwater swimming pool; in fact, this entire hippie kingdom runs off the power of the sun. And though the 420-friendly complex certainly encourages fun, note there is a list of rules (i.e., no geotagging on the property) that all guests are required to read and abide by.  8. Shooting Star RV Restort: Escalante, Utah The last thing one would expect to find in the middle of Utah is a collection of Airstream trailers designed to look like old Hollywood stars’ dressing trailers, but that’s just the kind magic created by Shooting Star RV Resort (shootingstar-rvresort.com). Choose from Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot hideaway, Elvis’s Blue Hawaiian paradise, Ann-Margret’s Viva Las Vegas cabana, and more. Each of the nine trailers captures the feel of the film’s era and the actor’s character, but with comfortable amenities like queen-sized beds, flatscreen HDTVs, and fully outfitted kitchens. During the day, go explore the stunning state and national parks nearby, and be sure to reserve one of the hotel’s vintage Cadillacs, where you can enjoy a movie at the on-site drive-in theater once the sun sets. 9. AutoCamp: Guerneville, California AutoCamp (autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river/) opened its first trailer park in downtown Santa Barbara in 2013, and another will launch in Yosemite this winter. But the Russian River location in Guerneville is the only one surrounded by breathtaking redwoods. Each of its vintage Airstreams features sleek midcentury-modern interiors and the amenities of an upscale hotel—think luxurious bedding, memory-foam mattresses, plush towels, and walk-in spa showers. And it's in the heart of Sonoma, an hour-and-a-half north of San Francisco and minutes from the California coastline, so there are endless opportunities for exploration. Hike through the redwoods, canoe the Russian River, cycle to wineries, and recount it all with new friends later at night around the fire pit. 10. Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort: Arkansas Tucked away in the woods of Arkansas, this Palm Springs-inspired resort features eight renovated trailers from the '50s to the '70s. The website’s descriptions of each are as quirky as the themed spaces themselves: The Pour Some Shasta On Me allows you to “experience all the glitz and glamour of a '90s hair band without the drug problem and the narcissism,” and Candy Cane Lane is decorated in vintage Christmas decor, including “a nice selection of terrible Christmas albums.” In addition to 50 acres of woods to roam, Flamingo Springs also offers a variety of yard games (horseshoes, bocce, ladder ball, and baggo), plus a circular pool, a BB-gun range, ping-pong, vintage video games, and a jukebox that plays 45s.

Budget Travel Lists

10 Books Every Traveler Should Read

Traveling is a wonderful way to explore the world, especially when it challenges you to step outside your comfort zone. Whether your trip is a spiritual quest or a physical adventure or a simple rest-and-refocus getaway, being somewhere totally new can inspire introspection and imagination, as well as open you up to meeting new people. Most have heard of Eat Pray Love and Wild, but there are so many other wonderful books that may not be on your radar. With that in mind, we have selected ten must-read books for travelers. From a classic about a female explorer who charted unknown territory to collections of travel writing by renowned writers, we guarantee that these books will spark your wanderlust. 1. Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities, and the Pleasures of Solitude, by Stephanie Rosenbloom     Rosenbloom, a travel columnist for the New York Times, revels in the possibilities of traveling solo by spending time in four cities: Paris, Istanbul, Florence, and New York. She recounts her experiences in vivid detail, which are cleverly interwoven with interesting facts that reveal each city’s culture and history. She emphasizes the importance of solitude and what can be learned from it, including the value of slowing down and an appreciation of things that often go unnoticed. 2. To Shake the Sleeping Self: A Journey from Oregon to Patagonia, and a Quest for a Life With No Regrets, by Jedediah Jenkins On the eve of turning 30, Jenkins decides to quit his day job and cycle south, from the coast of Oregon to Patagonia. What follows is an adventure that challenges his notions of both faith and identity. It is written in soul-stirring prose that that makes you feel like you are pedaling right alongside him, experiencing the vast and varied terrain of Central and South America. Like a modern-day On the Road, this is for anyone who wonders about the path not taken. 3. Without Reservations: The Travels of an Independent Woman, by Alice Steinbach Penned by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Without Reservations is the literary equivalent of sitting down to a cup of tea with a good friend and hearing all about her travels through England, France, and Italy. Steinbach has a unique ability to self-examine and mindfully observe the behavior of others, as well as an attitude that is ideal for traveling solo—she’s unhurried, open to new experiences, yet also calmly cautious. She writes of her love for sending postcards to herself from each destination, in order to capture the moment and savor the memories later. 4. The Way of Wanderlust, by Don George Don George is a remarkable travel writer, and this collection begins with the 1977 essay he published in the since-shuttered magazine Mademoiselle about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Considering the different types of travel that one may seek, George divides the book into three sections: pilgrimages, encounters, and illuminations. In these essays he crisscrosses the globe from the Galapagos Islands to Japan to Greece, forging deep emotional connections with the people he meets.   5. The Valleys of the Assassins: and Other Persian Travels, by Freya Stark Published in 1934, Stark’s memoir recounts the experiences of a single woman traveling the unknown, unmapped lands of the Middle East with local tribesmen as guides. Like a real-life Indiana Jones, Stark was both courageous and unflappable, often using her wits to help her out of potentially dangerous situations in an area that was largely inhabited by bandits. A true pioneer of her time, she explored places that intimidated even the bravest of men. 6. Far Flung and Well Fed, by R.W. Apple    After reporting from the battlefields in Vietnam for the New York Times, R.W. Apple became a food writer for the paper, and in his quest to delve into the “gastronomic trenches” (as he put it), he traveled to some of the most exotic locales in the world. With more than 50 food-centric travel essays, Apple takes the reader to Europe, South America, Asia, and the U.S. Whether it is trawling through the waters of the Chesapeake Bay in search of the perfect soft-shelled crab or devouring dim sum in Hong Kong, Apple was always ready for a culinary adventure.  7. The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000, by Jan Morris     This collection of travel writing by renowned Welsh writer Jan (formerly James) Morris spans the second half of the twentieth century. From accompanying Sir Edmund Hillary on the first successful summiting of Mt. Everest in 1953 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Morris was an eyewitness to history’s milestones. She puts these world events in context with her travels and is able to eloquently capture the essence of the places she visits. 8. Sun After Dark: Flights Into the Foreign, by Pico Iyer     In search of the road far less traveled, Iyer visits places such as Cambodia, Oman, Tibet, and Bolivia. With his trademark philosophical approach and poetic observations, he meditates on the nature of travel itself and on the inner journeys one takes during their external wanderings. It's a collection of travel stories, essays, and profiles of such figures as the Dalai Lama and the Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen. 9. Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, by Noo Saro-Wiwa     Noo Saro-Wiwa was born in Nigeria and raised in England, and every summer she reluctantly travels back to her homeland. But after her father, activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was killed there, she doesn’t return until ten years later, at which point she attempts to reconcile her feelings about Nigeria. More than just a travelogue, Saro-Wiwa combines history with current affairs and observations of daily life during her travels through the country. 10. The Solo Travel Handbook, by Lonely Planet For any type of solo traveler—newbies and veterans alike—this guide by Budget Travel's parent company handles it all, from planning your itinerary to dealing with issues that come up on the road to trip ideas for inspiration. It incorporates suggestions on managing your money, ways to meet people and stay connected, and encouragement for those who may be hesitant to travel solo. An invaluable guide that will help you to stay safe and enjoy your trip.

Budget Travel Lists

5 Cocktail Bars With Epic Views

When you’re traveling, it probably feels like you spend most of your day going from stop to stop—historic site, buzzy restaurant, charming shopping district, scenic park. Sometimes, though, taking the longview of a city can help you understand its soul as well as you would if you were sitting in a café chatting with locals. Tourist favorite viewing sites, like NYC’s iconic Empire State Building, require advanced planning and pricey online reservations as well as some serious wait time once you get there. But what if you could instantly be swept up to a perfect perch which not only offers spectacular sights—but a civilized way to enjoy them? Check out these five bars and lounges that offer jaw-dropping vistas and a respite from the crowds. A beautifully prepared drink, snack, or meal seals the deal. 1. The Aviary: New York Head to the 35th floor of Manhattan’s Mandarin Oriental and you’ll find this dramatic lounge (aviarynyc.com) overlooking Central Park and much of midtown. Set within the massive Time Warner shopping complex at Columbus Circle, this is the perfect place to kick up your feet after a long day of sightseeing or bring out-of-town guests for a special treat. Not only will you enjoy the view from the curved, floor-to-ceiling wall of windows, you’ll be tickled by the playful array of drinks and small dishes on the experimental menu. The whimsical cocktails here make The Aviary as destination-worthy as the views. They typically involve smoke, dry ice, or exotic Instagram-worthy garnishes and vessels. If you've never had a cocktail poured from a plastic bag, now's your chance to try it. During daytime hours, a good bet is the $45, three-course lunch. Walk-ins are encouraged though if you want a prime seat next to the windows, you’ll want to make a reservation on took.com. 2. 71 Above: Los Angeles (Courtesy 71Above) Perched nearly 1000 feet atop the US Bank Tower building in downtown Los Angeles, this circular restaurant and lounge (71above.com) offers an unrivaled, panoramic view of the City of Angels. Once seated, you’ll be able to appreciate the seamless glass window panes which automatically darken for better daytime viewing and then lighten as dusk falls—and each table also comes with its own simulated compass to help you gauge your direction. The mood is old-world opulence and you can walk in any time for a well-crafted cocktail at the bar in the lounge. Stick to the classic vibe and order a Vesper, the gin, vodka, and Lillet Blanc mix that James Bond made famous. There’s also a special bar menu of small bites. If you’re after the $70 prix-fixe option, you’ll have to make reservations. The menu includes French classics like steak tartar, oysters in Champagne, and foie gras—balanced with more modern dishes like the surprisingly luxe parsnips roasted in duck fat. You can also reserve seats by the window.  3. Top of the Gate/Top of the Skate: Washington D.C. Politics may be on everyone’s mind these days, but the recently refurbished Watergate Hotel (thewatergatehotel.com/dine-and-drink/top-of-the-gate) promises to keep things lighthearted. Inside, you’ll find a few small, cheeky gestures with a swipe at the namesake’s complex past, including drink coasters inscribed with “Well, I am not a crook,” and Mad Men-inspired uniforms for the staff. But it’s the year-round rooftop, featuring 360-degree views of D.C.’s familiar skyline and monuments, that inject an element of fun and fancy to every visit. During warmer months, you can head up to the 15th floor and perch yourself at the bar for an array of fruity, cheery cocktails like the Key-Bridge Sunset with Jamaican rum, pineapple, lime and ginger, or choose something simple from the G&T Bar. A popular food option is one of the sweet or savory pizzas, served with a wink in a delivery box. Come November, Top of the Gate becomes the Top of the Skate, offering those same views to ice skaters on the open-air rink—as well as a skate-up bar with seasonal selections like a bourbon-spiked hot cider and hot chocolate with Bailey’s and Irish whiskey. You can book a table or lounge seating for a minimum of $50 per person. Guests will be charged the full $50 even if the order totals less than that sum.  4. J Parker: Chicago (Courtesy The J. Parker) The 13th floor of the Hotel Lincoln (jparkerchicago.com) delivers stunning views of the Chicago skyline, Lincoln Park Zoo, Lake Michigan, and the city’s Gold Coast. The bar, named after the eponymous president’s bodyguard, is an all-weather destination with an outdoor rooftop and a glass-enclosed space to enjoy the globetrotting cocktail program featuring drinks from Mexico, Cuba and Spain—like the Capri, stirred with gin, aloe liqueur, kiwi, and lime. Quiet, cozy times can be found on the banquettes and couches, or near one of the two fireplaces. But if, for instance, you’re coming in from the beach or a day of strolling the city, take a seat at the bar or one of the high-top tables and relax with an order of the house punch—served by the bowl-- or addictive snacks like truffle fries and cheesy polenta sticks. Reservations are available for larger groups, but otherwise it's first come, first serve. 5. Top of the Mark, San Francisco This 19th floor bar sits atop the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins (intercontinentalmarkhopkins.com/top-of-the-mark.aspx), which is perched above Nob Hill. There’s nothing here that falls short of the best of what San Francisco has to offer. Take a trip on the exclusive elevator to a throw-back, glass-walled, penthouse hotel bar. It’s a classy roost, where choosing a martini from the “100 Martini Menu” is as enjoyable as soaking in the views which include the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. The wraparound perspective is perfect for sunset or a twinkling nightcap. Cocktails here lean classic with a contemporary twist. Tapas and small bites are served daily, touting locally sourced cheese and caviar, as well as shareable plates like Dungeness crab nachos. Check the online calendar for live music and dancing and if you want to make a brunch date with The City By the Bay, reservations on reserve.com is the way to go. 

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