What have I been up to? Read on, friends.
For the cover of Hong Kong Airlines’ +852 Magazine, I spent two days exploring San Francisco’s POPOS, privately-owned public open spaces. Perched on office rooftops and nestled between glassy towers, these little-known landmarks are like secret parks scattered around Downtown, great places to read a book, grab a bite or just opt out of the Downtown crush for a few peaceful minutes. Over 22 POPOS and 25,000 steps, I met a modern emperor, discovered a pair of legendary local strays and ate some truly satisfying chicken rice. Join me for an urban scavenger hunt, and don’t forget to wear layers. (Hong Kong Airlines +852)
Founded a decade ago by third-generation cheese importer Adam Moskowitz, the Cheesemonger Invitational is a bi-annual summit held in New York and San Francisco. Over the course of a weekend, dozens of mongers meet international producers, attend seminars, and advance their culinary educations. Then, they get down to business with the main event: a 10-part Olympic Decathlon of cheese selling that tests knowledge, palate, and mongering mojo. For the non-competing public, it’s spectator sport-meets-all-dairy buffet. For the mongers, it’s no picnic.
Winter in Chile, from June to August, is usually the slow season in this high-altitude valley, which stretches from the Pacific coast to the Andean foothills. Not this year. The 90-mile-wide region will be in the path of totality—the swath in which the moon completely blocks the sun—for the next solar eclipse on July 2, and more than 500,000 people are expected to gather to watch the action.
It was 9:30 on a Thursday night, and there was a photo shoot in the Palms porte-cochere. A couple of young women teetered on heels in front of an AstroTurf wall, with the resort’s name spelled out in Jeff Koons-like balloon sculptures behind them.
In the hallway to the hotel’s Fantasy Tower, visitors broadcast massive canvases by Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami to their Instagram feeds, and Scotch 80 Prime, the hotel’s new steakhouse, showed no signs of closing in 30 minutes. At one booth, a bartender mixed cocktails to order while guests filmed the show; at another table, a guy pointed a selfie stick around the dining room in a slow, deliberate pan.
This scene did not mean that millennials are tech-obsessed narcissists who can’t put down their iPhones. It did mean that the Palms is halfway through a $620 million reinvention, and the plan is working. (Travel Weekly)
The first thing guests see when they arrive at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas is the name of the hotel spelled out in shiny faux balloons. The letters were created by artist Adam Parker Smith, and they evoke Jeff Koons à la Instagram—the top of the “P” formed by a sprinkled donut, two Champagne flutes tipped to make the “A”. So many people reach out to touch the sculpture, that Palms Creative Director Tal Cooperman finds himself scolding strangers, begging them not to touch the art.
“The Purgatory Administration Office is CLOSED.” So says the note on the door to the Totally Social Anti-Social Room inside the Embassy San Francisco. Signs, both witty and instructive, are scattered all over this grand house. In the dining room, a placard sums up the philosophy of the “dispossessed closet.” In the kitchen, posted notices direct visitors to wine glasses and admonish those who would dare leave dirty dishes in the sink. In the downstairs bathroom, a framed proclamation on toilet roll etiquette references the butterfly effect and is attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
Just off the main living room, a chalkboard sign in a cozy nook denotes the Totally Social Anti-Social Room and cautions against interrupting those seeking a moment of serenity. “Every time someone talks in here an introvert fairy dies.” Living in a commune, Zarinah Agnew explains, can be socially overwhelming. “You have to carve out space to be silent.”
Rooms of their Own
“This place is a total catalyst,” says Tatyana Kabealo, The Hivery’s director of events, steering me under the massive skylight in the loft’s atrium. “If you stand right in the middle and make a wish, it’ll come true.”
I don’t believe in wish-granting architecture, but The Hivery is a dream realized for founder Grace Kraaijvanger, a professional dancer turned tech marketer who had envisioned a safe, creative space to connect with other women since long before the term “co-working” joined the vernacular and communal office start-up WeWork was valued at $20 billion.
Over the last few years, the doors have opened on a handful of work spaces in the Bay Area that cater explicitly to women. For US$50-$295 per month, they offer the standard trappings of shared office environments – conference rooms, phone booths and printers with endless toner – but throw in amenities like acupuncture and breast-milk pumping rooms and activities like branding workshops and yoga classes. The most valuable asset they provide, however, may be the hardest to define: a community.
(Hong Kong Airlines’ Aspire Magazine)
The cage, Cassie Weinberg tells us, is optional.
It’s a sunny morning on the southern coast of South Africa, and we’re bobbing on indigo waves a few miles off shore, while the wind kicks around air that smells of salt, stale wetsuit and a dash of fear. We’ve come this morning with Aliwal Shoal Scuba for a cage dive with sharks, specifically oceanic blacktips, which reach lengths of about seven feet and are generally non-aggressive. But the scuba divers will be outside the metal enclosure, and snorkelers can ditch it too, provided we’re competent swimmers and committed to one crucial contingency.
“If you see a bull or a tiger shark, you have to swim toward it,” our captain, Weinberg, says seriously.
“How will we know if we see one?” I ask.
“Oh, you’ll know,” he says.
(Travel + Leisure)
Sondra Bernstein’s warehouse space is overflowing with cookbooks. Stacked on folding tables, they form a maze—Rachel Rays across from Alice Waters, diagonal from Thomas Kellers—roughly 10,000 tomes donated from publishers, restaurants, friends and strangers.
In late February, Bernstein, owner of Sonoma institution The Girl & the Fig, put out the call for used books to start rebuilding cookbook collections lost to last fall’s wildfires. The response was overwhelming: Boxes arrived from all over California and as far away as Massachusetts. Someone drove a full pickup truck from San Mateo. A local widower offered his wife’s cookbooks, a whole closet of them stashed in the basement that filled 30 or 40 boxes. One donation came from New Orleans, along with a note about the pain of losing a beloved collection to floods. (Food & Wine)
Terri Stark woke to a frantic call from an employee fleeing her home. Sondra Bernstein heard the chirp of a phone in the middle of the night. Katie Bundschu got a call from her cousin with an urgent warning: there’s a fire heading toward your parents’ house. You need to go. Now.
On the night of Sunday, October 8, 2017, residents all over Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties awoke to ringing phones, beeping texts and frantic knocks on the front door as a burgeoning panic spread over the hills of Northern California Wine Country. Wildfires, stoked by powerful winds, seemed to be coming from every direction, closing in on hotels, wineries and residential neighborhoods as people rushed to flee the flames.
In January, I headed back to Sonoma County for Hong Kong Airlines’ Aspire Magazine. I found a community unquestionably altered, still processing the trauma of lives lost, still clearing away the rubble of houses burned. The fires are part of Sonoma’s story now, but fresh growth has sprouted from the ashes, wineries are pouring again and that story is still being written.
(Hong Kong Airlines’ Aspire Magazine)
About an hour west of Durban, the landscape opens into a wide canyon ribbed with green ridges. The Valley of 1,000 Hills — so named for the way it strikes viewers, rather than any official census of its elevation changes — is home to the traditional Zulu villages that give this South African state its name, KwaZulu-Natal, or “the place of the Zulu.”
It was here, in the village of iSithumba on a recent morning, that I found myself sitting on a straw mat inside the home of a traditional faith healer, or sangoma. Inside the round, one-room house with blue walls, she discussed her training; the herbs, bones and potions used in her work; and the role of her profession in the context of modern life. Mental illness caused by demons? She can heal it. Mental illness caused by contemporary stress? See a psychologist. (Travel Weekly)
The best seats aboard Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa are undeniably on the back deck of the observation car. They’re just wooden benches, really, average in design, but this open-air balcony is where you feel the train. The champagne and gin and tonics are flowing, while fellow guests exchange where-are-you-froms and we rumble through Zulu villages in the Valley of a Thousand Hills. We are lightly liquored up, entranced by the passing scenery and gently giddy with the anticipation of a journey that will cover roughly 435 miles, from the Indian Ocean, past the Drakensburg Mountains to the Jacaranda City.
The golden age of rail travel might be well behind us, but across the globe, luxury trains are experiencing a renaissance. Some transport visitors to iconic destinations aboard storied trains that heave centuries of history along the rails. Others offer modern decor and experiential itineraries that cater to the contemporary traveler. Either way, industry insiders agree that interest among travelers is on the rise, and the key to continuing the growth of luxury rail is to make a romanticized travel trope relevant again.
Earlier this month, White House Director of Social Media Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted out an enthusiastic call to end “chain migration.” Also known as family-based migration—or, in the parlance of our immigration system, family reunification—chain migration is the common-sense process by which immigrants to the U.S. gradually bring their families over to join them. It’s as old as the Mayflower and a favorite buzzword of the Trump administration, typically followed by exclamation points and fear mongering over the very bad hombres moving to our fair land.
Scavino had no idea that Jennifer Mendelsohn was watching. “So Dan,” Mendelsohn wrote on Twitter. “Let’s say Victor Scavino arrives from Canelli, Italy in 1904, then brother Hector in 1905, brother Gildo in 1912, sister Esther in 1913, & sister Clotilde and their father Giuseppe in 1916, and they live together in NY. Do you think that would count as chain migration?” (A Beautiful Perspective)
As Las Vegas reeled from the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, a cadre of chefs from some of the city’s favorite restaurants cranked out hot dogs, tacos and tempura lobster tail in a food truck outside Spring Valley Hospital on the west side of the city. While the mobile kitchen hummed, local writer and ABP contributor Jason Harris and Sparrow + Wolf chef de cuisine Justin Kingsley-Hall worked front of house, serving patients, doctors, nurses, police and victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival attack that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured.
In the hours and days after the horrific shooting on the Strip, the Las Vegas food community responded in force—with meals, manpower, love and pizza.
(A Beautiful Perspective)
As its name suggests, deep canvassing is far more in-depth than its traditional brethren. While a regular canvas lasts around two minutes and is “about as much fun as a telemarketing call,” according to David Fleischer, director of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Leadership Lab, a deep canvas is designed to be an open conversation that can stretch 10 to 20 minutes and focuses on eliciting meaningful stories from the person who’s answered the door.
Research has shown that deep canvassing works. In an article published in Science, UC Berkeley and Stanford researchers showed that with a 10-minute conversation, canvassers “virtually erased” prejudices towards transgender people in one out of every 10 respondents. Even more compelling, three months later, the new viewpoint had stuck. (A Beautiful Perspective)
It was the light that drew Vince Sanchez to the window. He and his wife had just put down their five-month-old baby and were settling into the couch for a movie when an odd glimmer pulled Sanchez to the window of his Calistoga home. “Everything behind us was glowing,” says the chef and chocolatier of Woodhouse Chocolate and Woodhouse Barbecue in Napa Valley.
Sanchez and his family evacuated, and as soon as they were settled, he started cooking. By the time the fires were out, 11 days after Sanchez first noticed the glow beyond his living room window, his barbecue brigade had fed more than 33,000 meals to first responders, evacuees, and relief workers. (California Now)
“A super-sized sour sleepover.” That’s how BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie describes The DogHouse, the Scottish brewing company’s beer-centric hotel connected to a sour beer production facility, slated to open in Columbus, Ohio, in 2018.
The DogHouse will feature amenities like in-room taps, malted barley massages and beer fridges in the shower, but if BrewDog is creating the imperial stout of brewery hotels, it’s far from the only lodging option for hop fans. From Belgian monasteries to Oregon elementary schools, here are 10 hotels where they take the pints as seriously as the pillows. (Travel + Leisure)
Stretching 90 miles along the jagged western edge of the continental United States, Big Sur has long exercised a magnetic pull on people drawn to its dazzling landscape. Here, earth and ocean meet, not with gently sloping sands but with muscular mountains bristling with redwoods, and rugged cliffs that drop into the turquoise surf below. Just 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles, this oblong slice of California is endearingly, enduringly wild.
However, a brutal winter of heavy rains caused major landslides and road closures, making this mythic coastline harder to reach than ever. Still, if you know where to go, you can still get there, though it may be more of an adventure than usual.
(Travel + Leisure)
There’s an illustration on the MGM Resorts International corporate website that depicts a marvelous fantasyland consisting of the company’s resorts and attractions. Set on what looks like a jungle archipelago, the iconic shapes of the Aria, Excalibur and Circus Circus rise above the canopy while a curtain of waterfalls splashes into the sea.
It’s fiction, of course. Las Vegas is set in a desert surrounded by suburban sprawl, and the largest nearby body of water is Lake Mead, which doesn’t so much resemble an idyllic bay as a bathtub slowly draining. But if the details are a bit of a stretch, the feeling invoked by the image is dead on: Las Vegas is an outlandish wonder world where the pyramids are next to medieval castles, and the Eiffel Tower is located a block from the Statue of Liberty.
However, as national hotels move into the neighborhood, Vegas-born brands are expanding beyond the desert enclave; parallel trends suggesting that “only in Vegas” might not only be in Vegas anymore. (Travel Weekly)
As you drive north from Cairns, Australia, toward Port Douglas, the signs of civilization begin to drop away. Neighborhoods and shops disappear, then cross streets, until you’re left with wilderness and water — Kuranda and Mowbray national parks to the west, the Coral Sea to the east — broken by sugar cane fields, occasional hotel turnoffs, scenic lookouts and a river of asphalt snaking up the coast. (Travel Weekly)
It has been 50 years since thousands of American teenagers flooded San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in search of free love, consciousness-expanding drugs, and an alternative to the mainstream. For Visit California’s guide to marking the anniversary of that iconic era, I spoke with author and former Grateful Dead publicist Dennis McNally and de Young Museum curator Colleen Terry about the movement, its aesthetic and where the spirit lives on. (Visit California)
You can fly just about anywhere from Las Vegas, but spring is all about the drive. It’s cool enough to have the windows down and the radio up, and the West’s treasures are likely to be less crowded than the far-flung beaches that define Spring Break. Dig into Zion National Park’s adventure buffet, explore some less visited corners of Death Valley or hike to the jaw-dropping Havasu Falls. It’s time to hit the highway.
Numerous studies have found benefits to spending time in the outdoors: better concentration, elevated mood, even faster healing and improved sleep patterns. But camping isn’t just a prescription for dealing with urban angst and anxiety. It’s also a joy in its own right—an excuse to go to bed early, stare at the stars and get your hands dirty eating gooey s’mores roasted over an open flame.
Every single state in the U.S. boasts remarkable landscapes where you can bunk for the night. From remote beaches accessible only by boat to rugged canyons best explored by canoe, these are the best places to camp in every single state.
(Travel + Leisure)
Of the 10 films nominated for the 2017 Academy Awards in the documentary categories, four deal with the Syrian conflict or refugee crisis. The strength of these projects lies in the emotional, and often stark, portraits they paint of their characters. If audiences can imagine themselves in the shoes of Syrian rescue workers, a Greek coast-guard captain, an overwhelmed physician, or a migrant mother, these films may do more than enlighten or inform. They may be able to foster real empathy and change. (The Atlantic)
Things change fast inside Mina Test Kitchen: a new amuse every week, a fresh menu every month, an entirely different culinary concept every quarter. As its name suggests, the eatery is a perpetual work-in-progress, a restaurant laboratory where Michael Mina and Co. workshop ideas and where guests flock to consume lavish meals at mid-range prices. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Gordon is the new robotic coffee-making kiosk by Cafe X, which started pouring cappuccinos and flat whites inside the Metreon food court in San Francisco on January 30. While the kiosk offers a full array of espresso-fueled staples, it doesn’t do much in the way of customization. There’s only one size and one kind of milk, so no, Gordon can’t make you a grande half-caf, almond-milk latte in a venti cup, but he also won’t sneer at you for wanting a pump of caramel in your morning mood juice. He’s a robot. He literally couldn’t care less. (Extra Crispy)
On January 8, the famed Pioneer Cabin tree, a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park that was carved into a tunnel in the 1880s, collapsed after heavy rains. When icons crumble they can deal a surprisingly heavy blow, a reminder that even something as mighty as a sequoia can be brought down by water. But across the globe there are other magnificent trees still worth visiting, from a gnarled pine born before the pyramids to a grove of ghostly clones to a Japanese wisteria whose blooms span 1,000 square meters.
(Travel + Leisure)
Last July, Urban Seed broke ground on its first farm, an assemblage of high-tech greenhouses located on a small plot of land smack in the center of Las Vegas. Eventually the space will hold six 6,500-square-foot greenhouses that will grow 25 different crops aeroponically in vertical A-frames, from bell peppers to beets to alpine strawberries. If an agriculture company launching in the desert sounds counterintuitive, that’s entirely the point. (NPR)
If you want to see Nevada, you’ll have to get in the car. Some of the state’s most intriguing attractions are flung across wide swaths of open land, and your own set of wheels is still the best way to cover the distance. Why bother? Because on these routes you’ll get to commune with 5,000-year-old pine trees, soak in remote hot springs, wander a painted car forest, cruise the Extraterrestrial Highway and marvel at some of the darkest skies in the country.
I did the writing for this gorgeous interactive, which takes readers on a tour of Nevada’s top road trips and invites them to set out on a journey themselves. (Matador)
The canvas is simple: tubular meat, squishy bun, maybe a squirt of mustard. But when that simple combination is done right, a hot dog becomes more than the sum of its parts, a meal that’s simultaneously low brow and divine. The best hot dogs in Las Vegas come in all shapes, sizes and styles, from classic franks to wieners topped with kimchi, pineapple, pastrami and more. (Time Out)
All you had to do was browse the headlines in 2016 to understand that it was a tumultuous year for travel. But amid the tragedy of terrorist attacks and uncertainty of Zika’s spread, the industry also showed signs of resiliency, with some destinations rising even as others stagnated or slowed.
To predict where you’ll visit in 2017, I spoke to travel professionals across the industry to hear about destinations poised to grow in the coming year. (Travel Weekly)
Each year, Vegas magazine and Grand Canal Shoppes at Venetian and Palazzo partner to identify and celebrate women of Las Vegas who are making incredible contributions to worthy causes in the city. Our honorees for 2016 not only have a personal connection to the organizations for which they do so much good, but most are natural extensions of their daily lives and professions. (Vegas Magazine)
Your heart is racing, your fingers twitching, a bead of sweat forming on your brow. But you’re not clutching the dice at a Las Vegas craps table or shuffling chips in the poker room. You’re poised at the apex of a gnarly mountain bike run, about to catapult into a maze of downhill single track just beyond the glare of the Strip. (Marriott Traveler)
Last December, 195 countries approved the Paris Agreement, a historic pact that commits almost every nation on the planet to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to avoid reaching a 3.6-degree increase in average global temperatures since the dawn of the Industrial Age, but we’re already nearly halfway there. According to NASA, worldwide averages have ticked up 1.6 degrees since 1880, when modern temperature tracking began. The hottest year on record was 2015, and 2016 is on pace to be even hotter.
Everywhere you look, climate change is on a collision course with tourism. In Venice, the rising seas are damaging important buildings. In Vietnam, historical Hoi An is at risk of extreme flooding. In Costa Rica, the Monteverde Cloud Forest, home to 2.5% of the planet’s biodiversity, is seeing unusual swings in precipitation. If the trend continues, local experts worry that the cloud cover could lift entirely. (Travel Weekly)
When Wolfgang Puck opened Spago inside Caesars Palace’s Forum Shops in 1992, he launched a dining revolution in Las Vegas. Almost a quarter-century later, the Strip is a culinary wonderland stacked with Michelin-starred chefs and bold cuisines that would’ve once seemed unthinkable in the city formerly known for bad buffets and free chicken dinners. And the Vegas restaurant scene isn’t content to grow lukewarm, let alone stale. (LA Confidential)
Just in time for Halloween, it appears we’ve reached peak coulrophobia. But while the irrational fear of clowns might be making headlines right now, it’s far from a new phenomenon. UNLV professor and psychology department chair Dr. Christopher Kearney says our discomfort with the face-painted characters actually has roots in something far older than Internet hoaxes and far simpler than bygone villains like John Wayne Gacy, who worked as Pogo the Clown and killed 33 young men and boys during the 1970s. (Las Vegas Weekly)
I scolded their wood-handled knives with their disgusting, bacteria-laden cracks. I talked about the dangers of dull cutlery. I commiserated over bad knives that tore up loaves of bread and squished tender tomatoes, and marveled at the time you could save by just having a knife that works. I’d have customers grab their go-to kitchen knife and ask them to struggle through pieces of thick rope and leather. Then I’d watch their eyes go wide as a brand new Cutco blade slid through these things effortlessly. “This is what cutting should feel like,” I cooed. (Supper Club)
Mrs. Mary Boyer Shewell had just used her elegant, gray scarf to strangle our tour guide inside the de Young museum. There was a nefarious look to the woman immortalized in the 1775 portrait by American painter Henry Benbridge, and other figures on the walls were also clearly up to no good. Before the group left the gallery, our Museum Hack guide would also be hypothetically killed by poison, a shotgun-wielding toddler and a baby lamb. (Travel Weekly)
It is the best kind of magic trick. One minute there is a building, a tower, a monument to stacked chips, spilled drinks and dreams dashed or fulfilled. The next there is nothing. With the push of a button, a self-contained world becomes rubble. Crowds often cheer when a casino crumbles, but just as thrilling as the symphony of explosions and the crash of concrete is seeing what rises from the ashes.
You could never make the most complicated latte in the world at Starbucks. The caffeine king’s syrup assembly line simply wouldn’t allow for it, and last I checked, they didn’t stock blowtorches. To make the most complicated latte in the world, you need a blowtorch. And maybe a fedora. (Extra Crispy)
The failed coup was but the latest in a series of blows to Turkish tourism. Even before military tanks appeared on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul during the July coup, and a terrorist assault on Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on June 28 killed 42 people and left more than 200 wounded, tourism in Turkey had been devastated. (Travel Weekly)
It’s hard to comprehend now what Caesars Palace meant to Las Vegas’ nascent tourist corridor when its fountains first began to spew. The resort that opened in 1966 had just 680 rooms (today: 4,610), but it was bigger in every sense than anything else in town. Caesars was grander, more luxurious and more flamboyant. It was an A-list playground, where Andy Williams valeted his kelly-green Rolls-Royce, civilians rubbed elbows with celebrities and everyone dressed like movie stars. Decades before what happened here stayed here, Caesars embodied that infamous attitude, shocking guests with its nude statuary and toga-clad “goddesses,” paid to pour wine down your throat or massage your temples. It was a Roman fantasy, risen from the desert like an outrageous oasis and ready to deal you in. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In San Francisco, guests can sample ales at a craft brewery, followed by a home-brewing workshop and dinner at a secret supper club. Host Justin Tung will even mail participants the results of their brewing efforts. In Tokyo, former sumo champion Konishiki introduces visitors to the sport’s culture with a hosted dinner, a visit to a sumo house (where guests can sample a traditional hot pot meal and learn to throw a 440-pound wrestler) and tickets to a tournament with behind-the-scenes access.
Both jaunts are part of Airbnb’s new City Hosts tour product, “multiday trips curated by local, knowledgeable hosts,” which the sharing-economy giant quietly introduced in June. (Travel Weekly)
Running often seems like the simplest sport. It’s a motion our bodies perform naturally, the only gear required is a pair of shoes (if even that) and we get to pick the pace. Around the world people run for work, play, fitness and even spiritual enlightenment. And while you might think that running is running is running, it is practiced differently depending on where you do it.
After graduating from Rice University, NCAA All-American runner Becky Wade spent a year traveling the globe and studying the way the world runs. During her journey, she met legendary sprinter Usain Bolt, ran on hallowed ground at Roger Bannister Track in Oxford and gathered new techniques and fresh perspective from 22 countries and more than 3,500 miles. Here’s what she learned. (ESPNw)
When I was in college, I saved a Dunkin’ Donuts from almost certain destruction. I was at Tufts University just outside of Boston, and I’d stumbled off campus to present my hangover with a peace offering of doughy bagel and hazelnut iced coffee. Apparently the Dunkin’ staff were similarly impaired on that Sunday morning. When my bagel lodged in the toaster and proceeded to burst into flame, no one seemed to notice. Smoke started to rise from the machine. Still nothing.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I think my bagel’s on fire.”
I don’t mean to brag, but I’m basically a hero. They gave me the next bagel for free.
As its very name implies, Death Valley is a dangerous place. The largest national park in the continental US, its 3.4 million acres cover extremes of geography and climate: the Badwater Basin salt flats at 282ft below sea level, Telescope Peak at 11,000ft high, temperatures that can reach 120F. Many visitors retreat quickly to the relief of an air conditioned car or hotel room. But not Marshall Ulrich. The 64-year-old athlete and ultramarathoner has run more than 4,000 miles in and around Death Valley National Park. It almost killed him once, and yet, he keeps coming back for more. (BBC)
It was cold and damp on my first night in Liverpool, a biting wind blowing across the River Mersey while a blanket of light rain covered the city in a deep chill. Twenty minutes after we’d ordered a taxi, it was still nowhere in sight. There’s a football game, someone at the hotel said by way of explanation as we huddled by the door, weighing the discomfort of walking to dinner against the discomfort of arriving extremely late. We settled on an Uber. Thank God for ride-sharing apps.
The next day, when a marketing manager from VisitBritain’s Northern England division told me, “It’s not grim up north,” I practically laughed. Are you sure? (Travel Weekly)
Las Vegas has a problem.
It’s not that people aren’t visiting the city or that they’re staying out of the casinos. It’s that when they do visit, they’re gambling less, spending less money at the slots and tables. For young people especially, gambling seems low on the collective to-do list. They’re simply not that enticed by what they see on the casino floor. And besides, Dutch DJ Tiesto is spinning music upstairs. (Travel Weekly)
Maybe it disappeared while you were sipping a chilled rosé and working on a hunk of gouda at the cafe down the street. Maybe it packed up while you were sampling a flight of sour beers on the patio of the local brewery. Maybe it vanished while you were enjoying a smoked old-fashioned prepared by an earnest 23-year-old who talks about the golden age of cocktails as if he personally experienced it. Maybe you mourned its passing, or maybe you barely noticed the day your neighborhood bar unplugged its Corona sign and closed down for good.
The neighborhood bar is dying in America. (Tales of the Cocktail)
I stuck my face into the murky water, but there was nothing. Just an empty teal haze that stretched into the distance as I bobbed on the choppy surface of Bahia de La Paz, Mexico, snorkel in mouth, scanning for giants.
“Left! Left!” From the boat, our dive master and captain directed us toward the unseen creatures, but there was only blankness. Then someone grabbed my shoulder and spun me around, and there, just a few yards away, a shadow emerged from the cloudy water. As it approached, the dark form took the massive, dappled gray shape of a whale shark, the largest fish on Earth. (Travel Weekly)
With so much on her proverbial plate, conventional wisdom would dictate that Jennifer Lopez is still at least a decade shy of succumbing to a resident show on the Las Vegas Strip. But Lopez, whose All I Have residency debuts at Planet Hollywood on January 20, isn’t an anomaly. She’s the foaming edge of a tsunami wave that’s been cresting in Vegas for the past few years and has swept up artists like Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Pitbull and Bruno Mars. For more performers and more relevant ones, Las Vegas isn’t an inevitable stop on the downward slope of the fame parabola, but a place to make money and reach fans from around the world right now.
(Las Vegas Weekly)
The first thing you notice as you enter Bazaar Meat are the pigs. Pale and delicate, they hang from their hind quarters in a brightly lit display case. Their creamy skin arcs down to a dainty snout dangling just over a patch of fake grass. They are darling, these sweet little suckling pigs—and terribly delicious. The pigs are something of a coup for chef José Andrés’s SLS meat emporium. After years of working to import the three- or four-week-old pata negra Iberian suckling pigs—the same animals used to make the prized jamón hanging above the charcuterie bar—Andrés received his first shipment of 50 this fall, just around the time of Bazaar Meat’s first anniversary. (Vegas Magazine)
When the curtain closes on Jubilee for the last time on February 11, the Las Vegas showgirl will go extinct. Sure, there will be women who don the costume, but wearing a leopard-skin coat does not make one a leopard. The showgirl isn’t a mannequin in ostrich feathers; she’s a performer, an ambassador, an archetype, an ideal. She is Las Vegas’ favorite mascot: elegant and alluring, strong and sophisticated. Every time a showgirl hangs up her thong an angel loses its wings.
(Las Vegas Weekly)
In 1955, Jack Daniel’s wasn’t the liquor powerhouse we think of today, ubiquitous on bar shelves, the best-selling whiskey in the world. Back then, the Lynchburg company was still a small, regional brand, moving roughly 150,000 cases annually of its black-labeled Tennessee whiskey. By the end of 1956, however, that figure had doubled. What changed? Nineteen fifty-five was the year that Frank Sinatra brought a rocks glass onstage with him and uttered this magical line: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is Jack Daniel’s, and it’s the nectar of the gods.”
(Tales of the Cocktail)
The horse is sparkling. It prances around the ring, head held high, its features exaggeratedly pretty, like an equine version of those Big Eyes paintings or a cartoon. When the light catches the animal’s back it seems to shimmer. And that’s when I realise the horse is wearing body glitter. Welcome to Wayne’s world, where even the animals sparkle.
Frankenstein is making tequila. Not the monster, of course. He already has his own shot (not to mention an off-menu seasonal Frappuccino at Starbucks). We’re talking about Frankenstein the machine—a pieced-together wonder of engineering built by tequila royalty Felipe Camarena, which he uses to make G4 Tequila at Rancho El Pandillo in Jesús María, Mexico. (Tales of the Cocktail)
At 8 a.m. on Saturdays, the Las Vegas Strip is still waking up. The all-night crowd blinks into the sunshine and stumbles toward bed. The sidewalks are quiet and clean. The whole place feels like a blank slate, a new Vegas day with the promise of unknown thrills.
In the plaza in front of the Monte Carlo, Alicia Goldsmith is leading a small crowd through downward dogs and breathing exercises. The standard casino soundtrack has been replaced by soothing yoga tunes, and a water feature trickles in the background. As nearby marquees blast their advertisements and early buses rumble down the four-mile tourist corridor known for decadence and debauchery, Goldsmith takes the group through a guided meditation in the least likely place in the world: the center of the Las Vegas Strip. (Travel Weekly)
When you first meet Howard, 67, and Karen, 52, they seem undeniably out of place at their own event. Amid the sea of costume-clad dancers, stretching, popping, locking and flipping, the middle-aged Jewish couple look more like somebody’s parents than the masterminds of this expertly choreographed contest. But backstage at every phase of the competition, breathlessly singing the praises of this crew or that one, are the unlikely creators of the World Hip Hop Dance Championship and the MTV reality show America’s Best Dance Crew: Howard and Karen Schwartz. (Jewish Daily Forward)
A “car forest” of planted trucks and buses, painted with colorful murals. An ATV ride over a 500-foot sand dune. The search for new friends along the Extraterrestrial Highway. An open air museum in the middle of absolutely nowhere. From the Strip to the skies to the bottom of Lake Mead, these only-in-Nevada experiences are easily worth the trip. (Matador)
The words “can i say” are emblazoned across Travis Barker’s chest. They’re woven into a tapestry of ink covering his slender body, from an ethereal Virgin Mary floating atop his head, to the word “Lover” curling over his abdomen, to a sunburst-backed tribute to DJ AM on his left thigh. He’s so accustomed to going under the gun that the jabbing needle doesn’t really hurt anymore. A small anchor sits under one eye, a star under the other. A photo from January shows Barker smiling at the center of a small crowd as two artists tattoo both of his arms at the same time.
You’d never know by looking at him, but some of his ink is missing, literally burned off in the 2008 plane crash that killed four and left Barker and Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein critically injured. If you can read Barker’s story on his skin, it’s in the blank spaces, too. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Monika Haczkiewicz floats across the floor in a series of spins and jumps. A faint smile on her face, she pops onto the blunted toe of one satiny pointe shoe. A pink-tighted leg flies above her head as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. The 17-year-old high school student is both a natural and practiced talent, one of the few little girls who dreamt of being a professional ballerina and might actually be one—if she can standout among the best up-and-coming dancers in the world at the Youth American Grand Prix in New York. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Amelia Boone pulled herself over the top of the cargo net, still dripping from her 35-foot cliff jump into Lake Las Vegas. “Crap, that’s fun,” she said, a wide smile spreading across her face as a small crowd of spectators cheered. Then she was off, running to finish her first full lap of the ultra obstacle race World’s Toughest Mudder. Some 24 hours after that first cliff jump, Boone was grinning again, this time standing atop the winner’s podium in a massive down coat and turquoise sunglasses, holding an oversized check for $10,000 as the first-place female finisher. Total miles run: 75. Sandstorms survived: 1. Weeks since knee surgery: 8. (RunnersWorld.com/Zelle)
Las Vegas’s sinful reputation is so well ingrained that the mere mention of the city conjures images of shining neon and ringing slots. But if you head away from the glitz of the Strip, you’ll find a city of 2 million coming into its own with whimsical boutiques, destination bars, and brilliant restaurants where locals nibble on Mount Fuji-inspired cakes or slurp down stunning Thai curries at 2 a.m. (Conde Nast Traveler)
Despite the flurry of camera phones snapping photos as the train pulled into the station, I felt like I’d drifted back in time. The effect was due to the train itself, the private, three-car Great Western Limited. The conductor, in his formal uniform and smart cap, welcomed us aboard, where bow-tied servers ferried water pitchers back and forth in preparation for our journey. It may have been 2015 outside on the platform, but inside the Pullman Co. dining car it felt like 1956.
That windowless behemoth that rises next to the freeway on the edge of Downtown Las Vegas? That’s the World Market Center, a home furnishings mecca where industry makers meet buyers and business gets done. Until 2010, World Market Center was the upstart Western competitor to the veteran furniture market in High Point, North Carolina, but today they’re united under a single leadership group. The man with the vision to change the industry? That’s Robert. (Vegas Magazine)
“If anyone falls asleep, I’ll f*cking teabag them.” Miguel Medina is sitting propped against the wall of a wide dirt pit dug into the ground maybe four feet deep. His eyes are closed, but he’s definitely awake, and he’s determined that his three teammates in the World’s Toughest Mudder stay that way, too. The four men of Wolf Pack Spartan Team are 25 hours into this 24-hour ultra obstacle race, and even though they’ve already won, they’re stuck out here, huddling against the 40-degree day, the fierce winds and the depths of their physical and mental exhaustion. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In November I had the chance to visit Riviera Maya, Mexico, for the grand opening of Cirque du Soleil’s new show, Joya. Staged inside a stunning new theater carved into the jungle, the show is one part whimsical dinner, one part intimate cabaret, one part classic Cirque. It’s a welcome break from the resort stage shows and discotheques, and a taste of Cirque’s expansion into new territory, both theatrical and geographic. (USA Today)
Ride of a lifetime: Inside a Red Bull Air Race plane (vomit-free)
The minute I sent the email I regretted it: I’d agreed to a fly-along with Red Bull Air Race pilot Kirby Chambliss, and calm scenic flights aren’t exactly his thing. In his Zivko Edge 540, Kirby does aerial acrobatics—rolls, dives and flips—hurtling over the ground in a tightly choreographed, high-speed dance so thrilling even the pilot hollers. Me? I’m just hang on and enjoy the ride. (Las Vegas Weekly)
In the middle of the desert, in the shadow of the Hoover Dam, dozens of feet below the surface of Lake Mead is the ghost town of a Depression-era construction project. Tunnels, railroad tracks and cement basins tell the story of the dam and the process that built it. Last year, Tovin and I did our scuba certification at Lake Mead, and discovered its murky waters hide an incredible world, accessible to only those who can dip beneath the waves. (BBC Travel)
The Shift office at 701 E. Bridger Ave. looks exactly like what you might expect from a Downtown startup. There are brightly colored walls and comfy couches, a liquor cabinet and a wooden rack charging two electric skateboards. Whiteboards everywhere are covered in scrawl, and in a long, communal room with the overhead lights turned off, staffers sit facing away from their desks in the comfortable repose of the laptop set. A poster on the wall reads, “F*ck this. We can do it better.” (Las Vegas Weekly)
On May 18, Miki Sudo ate 11 Niko Niko’s gyros in 10 minutes. On May 11, she downed 164 chicken wings in 12 minutes. Before that it was 7 pounds, 4 ounces of deep-fried california asparagus, 13.5 pints of ice cream (all vanilla), 28.5 pork sliders and 1.687 gallons of chunky beef chili. Thinking of that third-place performance at Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., Sudo grimaces slightly, “I’m not going to be good at everything,” she says. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Imagine floating in a life raft on the 53-degree open ocean with dozens of other people, puking over the side and bailing water for eight long, nauseous hours. Then imagine looking around and laughing at your situation. That’s how Air Force S.E.R.E. Specialists handle the kind of survival scenarios that would turn the rest of us into sniveling, shivering rescue cases. I sat down with two military survival experts at Nellis Air Force Base recently to learn about training airmen to “return with honor” and why they can teach you to make shelter in the arctic or find water in the desert, but not the will to survive. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Every January, Las Vegas Weekly kicks things off with our list of people to watch in the coming year. This year’s cast included teenage talents coming into their own, artists poised to make an impact, a healthcare revolutionary and a culinary celebrity getting ready to open her first restaurant. I’m particularly excited to see how 2014 pans out for creative whirlwind CJ Jhureea, a former Cirque performing/budding artist who’s unemployed, unencumbered and open to anything. (Las Vegas Weekly)
Today, it’s been more than a year since Hardy’s last fight, the longest he’s gone without fighting since his first taekwondo match at age 7 and forever for a fighter who only gets paid when he fights. The questions of if and when Hardy will get to fight for the UFC again are still hanging in the air, but the how is not … (Las Vegas Weekly)
How well do we know the people we follow on Twitter? Do we understand their lives? Can we judge them? After the Strip erupted in violence, Las Vegas turned to the Twitter and Instagram profiles of alleged shooter Ammar Harris to understand who he was and what had led to such destruction. But was it fair to profile him based on 140-character notes? To answer that question, I rewound the social media clock on my own posts, to see what image I present to the world. (Las Vegas Weekly)
During high school, I ate a Dunkin’ Donuts bagel with cream cheese purchased from school cafeteria every single day that I didn’t go off-campus for lunch. According to the new USDA nutrition requirements going into effect this coming fall, that absolutely would not fly. As school district nutrition directors across the country look for ways to comply with ever stricter standards while staying within tight budgets and serving food kids will actually eat, we turned to a few local culinary experts and saw what they would do with a couple bucks. The results were delicious. (Las Vegas Weekly)