Natalie Wearstler

Correspondent

  • Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Natalie Wearstler is a Forbes Travel Guide correspondent based in Atlanta. She was the managing editor of White Publishing Company, covering lifestyle topics for Jacksonville Magazine and its sister titles. Wearstler also has contributed to GO! The Airtran Magazine and The Florida Times-Union. Her nomadic upbringing in a Navy family instilled a love for travel. She daydreams about seaside destinations like Greece and Italy, but is equally prone to spending an afternoon exploring antique shops in rural small towns or taking in a museum exhibit (and maybe a craft brew or two) in landlocked cities.

  • On September 13, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the sound quality of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones?

    The sound coming through a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones trumps everything else you’ve ever experienced. Unlike the flat, tinny sounds that most computer speakers and earbuds deliver, Beats headphones are engineered to provide a clear, full-bodied listening experience. The signature sound that Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are known for is the direct result of the experience of the company’s cofounders, rap legend and Aftermath Entertainment founder Dr. Dre and Interscope Geffen A&M chairman Jimmy Iovine. The two visionaries combined their expertise in the music industry to develop a line of headphones that would bring the appreciation of great sound back to the people through a carefully designed product that puts the listening experience at the forefront. Every detail of Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, from speaker location to the quality of the amplifiers, was meticulously designed with your experience in mind.
  • On September 9, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the design style of Loews Atlanta Hotel?

    The design style of Loews Atlanta Hotel is best described as bright and modern. When you walk into the lobby, you first notice the floor-to-ceiling windows, sleek marble accents and hardwood finishes. Oranges, reds and blues in the artwork displayed throughout the lobby add pops of color, and large pillar lights accentuate high ceilings, creating an overall effect that is airy and inviting.

    The same modern aesthetic is carried into the guest rooms in details like marble foyers, tall headboards, plush linens and those signature windows — in fact, the windows you see in the lobby run up the entire height of the building, which means you’ll enjoy ample sunlight in your room, whether you’re staying in a deluxe guest room or the presidential suite.
  • On August 29, 2013
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  • On July 30, 2013
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  • On July 29, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best Hong Kong shopping?

    ©iStock/ytwong Even if you hate shopping, you’ll find at least one gem to buy in Hong Kong. Since spending money is so deeply embedded in the Hong Kong culture (and consumerism runs deep in this manufacturing hub’s roots), this island has definitely earned its status as a shopping mecca.

    You’ll see gaggles of Hong Kong hipsters in Causeway Bay, which resembles Tokyo’s famously youthful Harajuku station. The reason for this lies in the number of bargain street chic and upscale boutiques among the area's many malls. There’s Lee Gardens and Lee Gardens Too, which are both packed in along the narrow streets and almost look like office buildings. Inside, you’ll find high-end labels like Valentino and Yohji Yamamoto. Shaghai Tang, Gucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Kookai and Zara can be found in the Pacific Place mall. But a stop by The Landmark is a must, especially if you're itching to engage in luxury shopping; even British department store Harvey Nichols has an outpost here. The 1881 Heritage center is a collection of luxury boutiques housed in the renovated historic Marine Police headquarters. Here you’ll find the flagship store for Shanghai Tang as well as Rolex, Cartier, Dunhill and Tiffany & Co. Nearby Park Lane, located on Nathan Road, offers fuss-free shopping with G2000 and Moiselle.

    Being sharp will come in handy in terms of avoiding tourist traps, and as any savvy Chinese shopper will tell you, compare prices at three different places before you hand over any cash. Hong Kong markets, though spectacular and culturally rich, require some patience. Venture deeper into Kowloon, stopping at Mong Kok for legendary Ladies’ Market, originally named because its goods were hawked to women only. Today, vendors sell goods to both men and women, running the gamut from socks to stuffed animals and luggage and handbags. Continue exercising your bargaining skills at the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei, where rows of stalls sell jade in all shades and shapes. You’ll find high quality pieces here, but the impure variety lurk in the shadows, so don’t fork over your cash unless you’ve done your homework. Finally, head to the Temple Street Night Market in Jordan, which is perfect for after-dusk shopping and a taste of night market life.

    Many of Hong Kong’s top designers are both Hong Kong- and foreign-educated, and they use their varied backgrounds to create a unique mix of items from that you won’t find stateside so be sure to check out some of their original threads. A few standout options include the stunning evening and bridal gowns designed and sold by Cecilia Yau at her namesake shop, Cecilia Yau Couture in Central; edgy t-shirts by Henry Lau from his Spy Henry Lau shop in Causeway Bay; glamorous frocks by Ruby Li, which can be picked up from her Causeway Bay shop; flowing dresses and Kentucky Derby-style hats by Ranee Kok, sold at her Ranee K. boutique in Central; and quirky home décor, bags, accessories and t-shirts by Carrie Chau, which can be procured at the popular Homeless shop in Central.
  • On July 29, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best Hong Kong shopping?

    ©iStock/ytwong Even if you hate shopping, you’ll find at least one gem to buy in Hong Kong. Since spending money is so deeply embedded in the Hong Kong culture (and consumerism runs deep in this manufacturing hub’s roots), this island has definitely earned its status as a shopping mecca.

    You’ll see gaggles of Hong Kong hipsters in Causeway Bay, which resembles Tokyo’s famously youthful Harajuku station. The reason for this lies in the number of bargain street chic and upscale boutiques among the area's many malls. There’s Lee Gardens and Lee Gardens Too, which are both packed in along the narrow streets and almost look like office buildings. Inside, you’ll find high-end labels like Valentino and Yohji Yamamoto. Shaghai Tang, Gucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Kookai and Zara can be found in the Pacific Place mall. But a stop by The Landmark is a must, especially if you're itching to engage in luxury shopping; even British department store Harvey Nichols has an outpost here. The 1881 Heritage center is a collection of luxury boutiques housed in the renovated historic Marine Police headquarters. Here you’ll find the flagship store for Shanghai Tang as well as Rolex, Cartier, Dunhill and Tiffany & Co. Nearby Park Lane, located on Nathan Road, offers fuss-free shopping with G2000 and Moiselle.

    Being sharp will come in handy in terms of avoiding tourist traps, and as any savvy Chinese shopper will tell you, compare prices at three different places before you hand over any cash. Hong Kong markets, though spectacular and culturally rich, require some patience. Venture deeper into Kowloon, stopping at Mong Kok for legendary Ladies’ Market, originally named because its goods were hawked to women only. Today, vendors sell goods to both men and women, running the gamut from socks to stuffed animals and luggage and handbags. Continue exercising your bargaining skills at the Jade Market in Yau Ma Tei, where rows of stalls sell jade in all shades and shapes. You’ll find high quality pieces here, but the impure variety lurk in the shadows, so don’t fork over your cash unless you’ve done your homework. Finally, head to the Temple Street Night Market in Jordan, which is perfect for after-dusk shopping and a taste of night market life.

    Many of Hong Kong’s top designers are both Hong Kong- and foreign-educated, and they use their varied backgrounds to create a unique mix of items from that you won’t find stateside so be sure to check out some of their original threads. A few standout options include the stunning evening and bridal gowns designed and sold by Cecilia Yau at her namesake shop, Cecilia Yau Couture in Central; edgy t-shirts by Henry Lau from his Spy Henry Lau shop in Causeway Bay; glamorous frocks by Ruby Li, which can be picked up from her Causeway Bay shop; flowing dresses and Kentucky Derby-style hats by Ranee Kok, sold at her Ranee K. boutique in Central; and quirky home décor, bags, accessories and t-shirts by Carrie Chau, which can be procured at the popular Homeless shop in Central.
  • On July 26, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best places to hear live music in Hong Kong?

    With a host of musical genres, City Hall is always a good bet for live entertainment. Back in 1933, Hong Kong demolished its original City Hall — an elegant two-story colonial structure built in 1869 — to make room for two bank buildings. The stark, blocky waterfront complex that replaced it in 1962 may not match the original’s architectural charm, but it still stands as a vital cultural outpost in a city where money often comes before art, let alone music. Good thing there’s plenty of space here; in addition to a library, a marriage registry, a theater and two exhibition galleries, City Hall also houses a concert hall and recital hall, both preferred venues for the compact but lively Hong Kong Sinfonietta, which stages year-round concerts of orchestra favorites, as well as newly commissioned works.

    Love it or loathe it, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre’s controversial pink-tile-clad structure (comparisons have included “a giant ski jump”) reigns over Victoria Harbour and serves as Hong Kong’s top performing arts venue. A must-visit for classical music aficionados, the venue opened in 1989 and provides up to 1.4 million seats annually for cultural events, including Western operas, ballet, theater and modern dance. Not only is it a hub for touring troupes, but it’s also home to the city’s two foremost classical-music ensembles: the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, both of which regularly perform in the 2,019-seat Concert Hall and the 1,734-seat Grand Theatre. Past highlights include concerts with world-class soloists such as Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as well as performances by the Sydney Symphony.

    In a city that often favors new over old, many times at the expense of its own heritage, it’s refreshing to find Loke Yew Hall, a beautiful, historic 1912 structure tucked within Hong Kong University’s main campus. It served as a hospital during World War II, though now, in its role as theater, concert and lecture hall, it has hosted both the Hong Kong Philharmonic and the venerable Chinese political leader Dr. Sun Yat-sen, a crucial figure in the creation of modern, post-dynastic China. Head here for lunchtime and early evening concerts by young and emerging musicians, and look out for the free HKU Concert Series (held each September).

    Big-name acts, from indie rockers The XX to electronica acts like Owl City, often come to the Kowloonbay International Trade & Exhibition Centre (or, as it's commonly called, KITEC) to play for packed crowds of music fans. This massive space boasts 1.76 million square feet, making it one of Hong Kong's most versatile venues; music premieres, conferences and festivals also commonly fill the event calendar here.
  • On July 25, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is the best Hong Kong nightlife?

    ©iStock/daumiudaumiu Since most Hong Kongers consider clocking out of the office before 9 p.m. an early night and bars can stay open until dawn, it’s no wonder that Hong Kong’s nightlife carries a high-caliber reputation. Options run the gamut from divey British pubs and candlelit wine bars to trendy lounges and members-only nightclubs where well-heeled locals and expats dance the night away.

    The swanky, modern neighborhood of Central (and, more specifically, the small cluster of streets known as Lan Kwai Fong) still lays claim to the hottest clubs in Hong Kong, but other areas are joining the scene. Kowloon has become a popular after-hours location thanks to an influx of new and revamped hotels like the W Hotel, The Mira and The Peninsula. Likewise, Wan Chai — once famous for its red-light entertainment venues — has experienced a revival in recent years, drawing new pubs, wine bars and lounges to the neighborhood, along with a more mainstream crowd. For a more sophisticated, low-key experience, try your hand at the bars and lounges along the Soho escalators. 

    Like many cities around the globe, Hong Kong banned smoking in all public places in 2009. But, there is yet to be a rule about being a set distance from building entrances, so it is quite common to see clusters of puffers huddled around bar doorways.

    Keep in mind that the frequency of several MTR lines reduces quite dramatically during late night and early morning hours. Plan ahead for transportation at the end of the night; your best bet is to bring along money for a cab.
  • On July 24, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where can I go watch sports in Hong Kong?

    Making money is a favorite pastime of many Hong Kongers, so it should come as no surprise that the most popular spectator sport here is horse racing — the city’s only legal form of gambling apart from the lottery, soccer (coincidentally run by the same organization, the 1884-founded Hong Kong Jockey Club) and online sports betting. Happy Valley Racecourse has been home to the sport since 1846. Races run from September to June, when thousands of punters show up on Wednesday nights to win and lose fortunes — in fact, over the course of one season, an estimated $91 million HKD passes through the course. If you’re lucky enough to be in Hong Kong in December, you can catch a variety of mega-cash payouts during the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Races. The atmosphere ranges from charged to positively electrifying, but it’s not all high drama: The course is a green floodlit expanse, so if you aren't fixated on a scorecard, you can take advantage of the chance to relax in the great outdoors with one of Hong Kong’s cheapest pints.

    While Happy Valley Racecourse is by far the most iconic venue in Hong Kong, the Sha Tin Racecourse (which opened in 2007) is Hong Kong’s largest racecourse and is the choice destination for serious gamblers (it's also where corporate types go to mingle and enjoy lavish spreads in the many private boxes). Hong Kong Jockey Club also oversees Sha Tin, and hosts the course's frequent international races, including the annual Hong Kong Cup. You’ll have to buy a ticket to enter Sha Tin (HK$10), and if you want to venture past the public areas it will cost you even more. Tourists can gain access to the reserved areas of the racecourse by joining a tour organized by the Hong Kong Tourism Board, which includes entrance and a buffet lunch at the Visitors’ Box.

    Every year, during the last weekend of March, hordes of expats descend upon Hong Kong Stadium, claiming its 40,000 outdoor seats in the name of boozing, revelry and, occasionally, even rugby. Considered to be the most important competition in the eight-tournament IRB Sevens World Series, the Hong Kong Sevens pits 24 rugby union teams from around the world against each other. The contest’s huge popularity has resulted in the previously amateur Hong Kong team acquiring star players with professional status. Though the matches are undoubtedly exciting, the crowds are as diverting as the main event, especially at the hard-partying South Stand. If you’re more into the rugby than the crowd, a corporate box may be a better option. There is also a lively beer tent just outside the stadium with big-screen TVs for a different (yet no less lively) atmosphere for those unable to score tickets.
  • On July 23, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best Hong Kong museums?

    Hong Kong's museum draw from a rich well of history, fine art and ancient traditions to make this city's museum scenes one of the most captivating in the world. If you're looking for the best museums to add to your itinerary, consider these options:

    The Hong Kong Museum of Art — the city’s largest art museum, established in 1962 — has been located at its current premises in Tsim Sha Tsui since 1991, though the masterpieces housed inside date back much farther. Today, the museum is home to more than 15,800 unique pieces of art, ranging in style from intricate calligraphy to paintings by contemporary local artists. Permanent collections of Chinese antiquities and historical pictures complement traveling international exhibits, which keep art fiends coming back time and again. The Hong Kong Museum of Art also owns the Flagstaff House Museum of Tea Ware in Hong Kong Park.

    At the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, guests can explore six permanent galleries (Orientation Theatre, New Territories Heritage Hall, Cantonese Opera Heritage Hall, T.T. Tsui Gallery of Chinese Art, Chao Shao-an Gallery, Children's Discovery Gallery). Additionally, six thematic galleries host rotating programs designed to appeal to both kids and adults, like an introductory workshop on Cantonese opera headwear. Special events, such as an ink painting demonstration or lectures on traditional Chinese woodblock prints, round out this unique museum's offerings.

    Adjacent to the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Hong Kong Museum of Science features about 500 exhibits — many of which are interactive. The biggest permanent exhibit is undoubtedly the Energy Machine, which occupies all four stories of the museum and is the only machine of its kind in the world. Balls zip along wavy or zig-zag tracks powered by computer controlled gates, demonstrating the relationship between energy conversion and movement. Along the way, they strike gongs and chimes, and create a chorus when they hit drums and xylophones. Temporary exhibits add to the fun; when I visited the museum in 2009, an interactive exhibit about candy revealed that there's much more to the wide array of treats wrapped in bright paper than I ever imagined.
  • On July 22, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What should I pack for a trip to Hong Kong?

    ©iStock/fotoVoyage Hong Kong is a bustling, vibrant and modern city — and as such, there are few things that can't be picked up from a nearby store should your packing list exclude a few necessities. That said, you should definitely plan to bring at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes for exploring the city during the daytime. Ladies, it's not a bad idea to leave your tallest stilettos at home; the steep inclines and concrete sidewalks in Lan Kwai Fong and Soho are best traversed in flats or wedges. A small umbrella is handy for unexpected spring and summer showers. Impress your hosts or business associates by remembering to pack a few small gifts, as gift-giving is a part of Hong Kong culture. Coffee, tea or gourmet candy from a shop in your neighborhood back home is a thoughtful and practical way to extend your gratitude for the warm hospitality of your Hong Kong friends.
  • On July 22, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the five best free things to do in Hong Kong?

    ©iStock/samxmeg While we would be remiss if we didn't recommend booking reservations for a meal at one of Hong Kong's finest restaurants, we also don’t blame you for wanting to save some of your money to spend on hard-fought bargains in Hong Kong’s famous markets. It’s a good thing, then, that many of the best things to see and do in this bustling Southeast Asia metropolis can be experienced without spending a single Hong Kong dollar. Here are five of our favorite ways to soak in this city's vibrant culture while keeping your wallet tucked away:

    1. Line up on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui to watch "A Symphony of Lights." The 15 minute-long light and music show, which begins each night at 8 p.m., spotlights the many skyscrapers clustered together across Victoria Harbour. On a pleasant night, there's no better place to enjoy a cool breeze from the water. The people watching is good, too, especially if you can secure a spot near the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong's version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

    2. Even though Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, there are still pockets of protected green space where you can head out for a hike. Pack a bottle of water and a few snacks and head out for a day in the woods, starting at the top of Victoria Peak and moving (steeply) downhill through lush, tropical trees and vines. For an even more scenic trail, head to Tai Tam Country Park to hike the Dragon’s Back trail, which winds up a ridge that offers views of Stanley and the South China Sea. The trail ends at Shek O, a charming seaside village with plenty of alfresco restaurants.

    3. Learn tai chi from two revered masters. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, William Ng and Pandora Wu teach a free class from 8 to 9 a.m. in the sculpture garden outside of the Hong Kong Museum of Art. 

    4. A walk through any of Hong Kong’s many markets is a fascinating exposure to sights, sounds and smells that are unique to this international city — even if you don't buy anything. Removed from the bustle of Hong Kong shopping in the southern part of the Island, Stanley Market is an outdoor one-stop shop for souvenir-seekers. You’ll find stereotypical Chinese-inspired print bags and wallets, among Chinese calligraphy and paintings, in these stalls just blocks from the water. Some stalls can be skipped, but be persistent and you’ll find antiques (or at least well-done replicas) and potentially good deals on Chinese embroidery and prints of various eras of Hong Kong history suitable for framing. Another market worth your while is Ladies Market, which earned its name because its goods were originally hawked to women only. Today’s vendors sell goods to both men and women, including T-shirts, shoes, stuffed animals, jackets, jeans and trinkets that make perfect souvenirs.

    5. Every Wednesday, many museums in Hong Kong offer free admission, including the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, Hong Kong’s Museum of Art, Hong Kong’s Museum of History, Museum of Coastal Defense, Science Museum and Dr. Sun Yat-sen Museum. Make a day of it by hopping between several outposts.