Where are you headed this summer? We've collected a few highlights from our favorite American destinations to help get you started.
Summer travel season is here! And what better way to celebrate than with a well-earned summer vacation. But why stick to just one? Pick a long weekend and head to some of these American hot spots. Here are some tips to help get you started.
My foodie friends at No Vacation Required took me around Seattle on a recent trip, so I can personally attest-their restaurant picks are to die for.
Radiator Whisky: "Outstanding elevated right in the heart of Pike Place Market, plus a seemingly endless whiskey list and amazing cocktails (without the faux Prohibition-era pretense)."
Bakery Nouveau: "The world-renowned bakery is home to the twice-baked almond croissant, a pastry so delectable that you'll be looking for property close to the Capital Hill or West Seattle locations."
Paseo: "This Fremont sandwich shop is reason enough to drive a few minutes out of the city. The fact that you get to explore one of Seattle's iconic neighborhoods with a tummy full of one of the best sandwiches you'll ever eat is just icing on the cake (or aioli on a crusty baguette, to be more precise)."
There's never been a better time to hit up northern California's wine country-downtown Napa is thriving with shops and restaurants, all within walking distance... And then there are the wineries. Delicious food plus the great outdoors? Yes, please!
Downtown Napa: Stay at Napa River Inn or the Westin (there's an oversized salt water hot tub and workout clothes for rent), and stroll over to tasting rooms such as the quirky Capp Heritage and the charming Trahan. For yummy Italian, head straight to Oenotri, then on to Uptown, City Winery or Silo's for a nightcap or cool live music.
Yountville: Home to the world-famous French Laundry restaurant, the charming little town of Yountville also has Thomas Keller's Bouchon and Ad Hoc, as well as Redd, Jeanty and some great tasting rooms and hotels. Plus, there's a trolley.
Wineries: After cutting your teeth in the quaint towns of Napa, it's time to see the wineries for yourself. I recommend calling ahead for a reservation, although it's not always required. Some of my favorites include the Italian-style Luna Vineyards, the great-for-beginners (and lovers of bubbly like me) Domaine de Chandon and the crowd-pleasing Castello di Amarosa.
I've recently moved to the Bay Area, lured by the charms of San Francisco. Since I'm still the new kid, I called my friend Andi Fisher of Misadventures of Andi for some insider tips.
Tadich Grill:"The oldest restaurant in town and always crowded (in a good way). A spot locals love (you can find tourists, too), it's one part Paris brasserie, with the all-men white-jacketed old-timer staff (the bartenders make mean martinis), and all San Francisco with tried-and-true local dishes like ciopinno and sand dabs."
Ferry Building: "You can't miss the Ferry Building, whether you graze your way through the farmers' markets and food stands, have a burger at Gott's, try exceptional Mexican at Mejite or treat yourself at Slanted Door when you're in for a good meal."Edible Excursions offers a great tour with history and tastes of all the best spots.
Pub Food: "Wayfarer can't be beat. On the edge of the financial district, it's a hot spot for beer and popovers after work, but also a great spot for fried chicken, deviled eggs and fried Brussels sprouts."
Dimsum: Head out to the Richmond District. "Or if you don't have a car (or heck, have a car, but can't find parking), check out Yank Sing for exceptional dimsum downtown. Don't miss the pork buns!"
I braved Chicago this past January to visit Cat De Orio (CatCalls) the glamorous host of the food show Check, Please! I am dying to go back this summer to taste more of her mouth-watering restaurant recommendations and see the following sights.
Italian: The Windy City lives for its Italian food, and De Orio is no exception. Favorites include easy-to-find Nico or Spiaggia, and Little Italy's family-run Rosal's. Other obsessions for Italian fare are Balena, Davanti Enoteca and old school joints La Scarola and Club Lago. Or visit Mario Batali's Italian emporium, Eataly, for the very best in take-home treats.
Attractions: De Orio takes out-of-town guests on the architectural boat tour. "It's fantastic and really showcases the rich architectural history and treasures in Chicago." Then, of course, there's Millennium Park, Frank Gehry's bandshell. It hosts a ton of free concerts during the summer, and it boasts many public art pieces, such as Anish Kapoor's cloud gate sculpture. "It's affectionately known as 'the bean' in Chicago and is a perfect place for a photo op," De Orio says, before pointing to the one "must" for any visitor. "People are always surprised when they visit the lakefront, because Lake Michigan is so large it almost seems like you're on an ocean! There are stunning views of Chicago's cityscape from there, and the southern part of the lakefront is home to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium all just steps from one another!"
Fairs: Chicagoans love to get outside in the summer, especially after this year's especially long winter. From fine art to yummy eats, visit City of Chicago for details of neighborhood festivals.
The Miami food scene has exploded in recent years. So after relaxing and sunbathing all day on the white sands of South Beach, head to dinner at one of these restaurants.
Cavalli: South Beach's new sceney spot boasts fashion designer Roberto Cavalli as owner, so expect both delicious Italian food and beautiful décor and linens.
Seasalt & Pepper: Seafood by the sea (or the Miami River, in this case), Seasalt & Pepper boasts features such as a truffled gorgonzola and pear pizzette and whole fish catch of the day.
Casa Tua: If it ain't broke... Miami Beach's clubby, celeb fave Casa Tua has remained fabulous for more than a decade. A cozy patio offers a romantic atmosphere.
The frigid air conditioning year-round inside the casinos is more than welcome in the heat of summer. But don't let the word "casinos" throw you. Gambling's great, but just past the slot machines one finds the best shows, spas and restaurants.
Yellowtail: My favorite restaurant in Vegas, Yellowtail has the best Japanese I've tasted in a roomy dining room that's fine for lingering. My favorite items are the yuzu salmon, the tuna "pizza" (trust me) and a crab hand roll that has to be tasted to believed. Sit near the back to watch the Bellagio fountains during dinner.
The Colosseum at Caesars Palace: The theater that was built for Celine Dion doesn't disappoint, and Celine herself will be back through August, singing her greatest hits. Also in the mix this summer? Shania Twain, in her comeback show. Both divas give an amazing show!
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas: I've become somewhat of a Cosmopolitan junkie. The only rooms with balconies, I love running up to mine and taking in the Strip from my patio. The people-watching is great on weekends (then retreat back to the roomy and quiet rooms), it's situated right in the heart of the Strip, and there are a ton of yummy restaurants to choose from, from Blue Ribbon sushi to Jaleo's Spanish food and Milos for seafood. Oh, and there's even a "quiet" pool.
The mom-and-pop capital of the world, Austin is packed with one-of-a-kind restaurants, shops, and bars. Casual with a something-for-everyone, Austin isn't to be missed--if you can stand the heat.
Unique Accommodations: Skip the hotel chains and rest your head instead at one of these hotels: St. Cecilia, Hotel Ella, Heywood or Kimber Modern.
Eats: Tex Mex spots are known for their yummy breakfast, especially the sentimental favorite dish, migas. Mouth watering for a BBQ lunch? Head straight to Franklin for some mid-day meat. Or save your appetite for a nice dinner at La Condesa or Barley Swine. I'd be remiss in mentioning Austin food without listing some of its best food trailers, so here goes: East Side King and Veracruz.
Shopping: Austin shopping is about the boutiques. Be sure to hit up Blackmail for local designer clothes, as well as Mockingbird, Helm Handmade boots, Tesoros Trading Company, JM Dry Goods/Spartan, Waterloo Records and Farewell Books.
NEW YORK CITY
Since so many locals flee the sticky city for the Hamptons, summer in NYC is bliss for those of us who don't love crowds. There's so much to do in the Big Apple that you need to just show up, but here are a few spots to get you started.
Hotel Lounges: In New York, some of the best spots to grab a drink are inside hotel lobbies. A summer favorite? Jimmy, on the rooftop of the James hotel.
Broadway: There are too many amazing shoes on the Great White Way to skip seeing at least one show. So many old favorites are still there, or try one of the new "hot tickets," such as Pippin, Kinky Boots, Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig And The Angry Inch or Alan Cumming's Cabaret revival.
Restaurants: I don't have to tell you how great the food scene is in New York City. Balthazar is always a classic and favorite brunch spot. Others to look into: The Dutch, Lure Fish Bar, Nomad and Lafayette.
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