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 June 17, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is public transportation like in Hong Kong?

    Hong Kong's public transportation network puts other metropolitan mass transit systems to shame. The MTR rail system is fast and efficient, providing easy transportation between 82 stops, including special lines that go straight to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland Resort. Fares are inexpensive and can be prepaid using an Octopus Card, a handy scan card that allows users to get in and out of subway stations quickly.

    Though the MTR is the most widely used form of public transportation, it's certainly not the only option. Hong Kong is filled with buses and minibuses that take residents and visitors from Point A to Point B quite easily. If you're heading to the outlying islands, you can also hop on a ferry at the Central docks. 

    A word of advice for foreign travelers: MTR station employees usually speak English, and the in-car stop announcements are made in both Cantonese and English. Some bus drivers are fluent in both languages, but it's not guaranteed. Take it from someone who has mistakenly stepped onto the wrong bus, only to find that the driver didn't know English at the end of the line — the MTR is usually your best option for getting around Hong Kong without getting lost.
  • On June 17, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is public transportation like in Hong Kong?

    Hong Kong's public transportation network puts other metropolitan mass transit systems to shame. The MTR rail system is fast and efficient, providing easy transportation between 82 stops, including special lines that go straight to Hong Kong International Airport and Disneyland Resort. Fares are inexpensive and can be prepaid using an Octopus Card, a handy scan card that allows users to get in and out of subway stations quickly.

    Though the MTR is the most widely used form of public transportation, it's certainly not the only option. Hong Kong is filled with buses and minibuses that take residents and visitors from Point A to Point B quite easily. If you're heading to the outlying islands, you can also hop on a ferry at the Central docks. 

    A word of advice for foreign travelers: MTR station employees usually speak English, and the in-car stop announcements are made in both Cantonese and English. Some bus drivers are fluent in both languages, but it's not guaranteed. Take it from someone who has mistakenly stepped onto the wrong bus, only to find that the driver didn't know English at the end of the line — the MTR is usually your best option for getting around Hong Kong without getting lost.
  • On June 13, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best things to see in Beijing?

    Beijing is a city where ancient buildings and customs coincide with modern development and new ideas. If you find yourself in this multi-faceted Chinese city, make sure to add the following stops to your itinerary:

    The Great Wall of China is the most obvious attraction that you should see in Beijing. When I visited in 2009, I went to the Badaling section, which is popular for its proximity to the city as well as its accessibility via public transportation (keep in mind that the Great Wall spans more than 13,000 miles; there are numerous options for where to start your journey).

    The Temple of Heaven, a series of religious buildings that date back to the early 1400s, is another perfect place to learn about Chinese history while strolling through beautiful buildings. 

    Sports fans should make the trip to the Beijing Olympic Park, home of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A walking path through the National Stadium, often known as the "Bird's Nest," leads visitors through important locations within the building that were the setting for important moments in the 2008 games.

    Tian'anmen Square is the entry pont for several must-visit Beijing attractions: the Forbidden City, the National Museum of China and the Monument to People's Heroes, the largest monument in China's history.




  • On June 12, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What is there to do on Amelia Island?

    Amelia Island is a beautiful piece of Old Florida that's managed to retain its charm and character over the years, without falling victim to the urban sprawl and franchise development that you'll see elsewhere in Northeast Florida. Many of the activities here are family-friendly (this is a resort destination, after all). Take your pick from one of these options to create memories you'll cherish forever:

    1. Get out on the water. From fishing expeditions and kayak adventures to guided river cruises and scuba lessons, there's no shortage of ways to enjoy the bountiful water that surrounds this barrier island. 

    2. Be "art-rageous." On the second Saturday of each month, the island hosts its "Artrageous Art Walk" at the galleries and shops in Fernandina Beach. Sip wine and converse with artists while you keep an eye out for a unique masterpiece to bring home.

    3. Eat, eat, eat. This island may be small, but its selection of independent restaurants and chef-driven bistros is quite impressive. Be sure to try locally-caught seafood at least once during your visit. The annual Amelia Island Restaurant Week (usually held in January) that allows visitors to enjoy a three-course, prix-fixe meal at several local restaurants. Make reservations early, as this popular event draws diners from all over Northeast Florida.

    4. Listen and learn. Walking tours of historic Fernandina Beach are a fun way to learn more about the area's past while also soaking in that signature Florida sunshine. After the tour, head to the Amelia Island Museum of History to continue your quest for more knowledge about the area.

    5. Enjoy one of the island's festivals. This active community sure knows how to throw a party; if your visit to Amelia Island coincides with the annual Concours d'Elegance antique car show, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival or the Holiday Home Tour in Fernandina Beach, consider yourself very lucky.
  • On June 11, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best day trips near Los Angeles?

    Catalina Island is a perfect day trip destination if you find yourself in need of a break from the congestion of Los Angeles.

    To get there, hop on board the Catalina Express for the short trip — the island is only 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, and the high-speed boat will have you there in just over an hour. Once you've docked, take some time to explore the quaint city of Avalon. The independent boutiques and shops sell a little bit of everything; on a recent visit, I particularly enjoyed picking up a bag of saltwater taffy from Lloyd's of Avalon and admiring the carefully curated inventory of jewelry and home décor at Two's Company of Avalon. I also recommend taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the Catalina Casino to learn about history of the beautiful Art Deco theatre and ballroom. If you're feeling brave, the Catalina Zip Line Eco Tour is a breathtaking way to spend two hours.

    For breakfast or lunch (depending on when you arrive on the island), you simply must make reservations to dine at the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Inn on Mount Ada. The charming boutique hotel has a lovely outdoor patio that overlooks Avalon Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Pair it with a bountiful turkey sandwich or a plate of banana pecan French toast, and it's even better.
  • On June 4, 2013
  • On May 31, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    When is the best time to visit New York City?

    It's true what they say — there's no wrong time to visit New York City. With that said, there are certain times of year that are more convenient or comfortable than others. My personal favorite time to visit the city is during spring. Winters in New York City can be brutal, but once flowers start blooming and temperatures start to rise, a palpable energy fills the air. It's the best time to hit the rooftop bars, stroll through Central Park or simply take a walk through Manhattan or Brooklyn.

    Of course, there are many other times to visit that are equally magical. The holiday season, with all its twinkling lights and good cheer, is a wonderful time to visit New York. Summer brings a certain carefree attitude to the city, and with it comes a full calendar of only-in-New-York events like Shakespeare in the Park. The richness of colors seen at the cusp of autumn is simply indescribable. 

    My advice? Be wise in choosing when to visit, but know that there are no wrong choices. If you're a Southerner like me, be prepared for a shock if you visit during the winter. But if you're the kind of person who can appreciate the city for all that it is, no matter the weather, any time is the right time.
  • On May 30, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best places for dessert in St. Augustine?

    One of my favorite things about St. Augustine is roaming around the cobblestone streets, searching for just the right treat to satiate my sweet tooth. Here are a few of my favorite places to stop for a sugary indulgence:

    The Hyppo is a homegrown popsicle purveyor that makes quirky flavors like mango habanero, orange cream, datil strawberry and ginger pineapple. On a hot day, these tasty treats are perfect for a quick refreshment on the go.

    St. Augustine may be a long way from France, but you'd never know it once you set foot in Bon Ami Confections. The cute bakery on Hypolita Street makes bright, colorful macarons in a whirlwind of flavors (my personal favorites are lemon and salted caramel), and the handmade marshmallows are equally tasty.

    If you're a fan of the sweet and spicy combination, head to Hot Shot Bakery for a chocolate-dipped datil pepper — if you can handle the heat, that is.

    And, although it's a chain, you can't go wrong with fresh-made fudge or a scoop of chocolate ice cream from Kilwins


  • On May 29, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best activities to do in Hong Kong?

    Whether your passion is fashion, nature or exploring the diverse culture of Hong Kong, you'll find plenty of ways to stay busy in this ever-busy city. Here are my recommendations for the best activities in Hong Kong:

    Engage in retail therapy. From high-end retail stores to the busy local markets, there's always a great treasure waiting for you in Hong Kong. Causeway Bay and the International Finance Centre towers are surefire places to find designer threads, but don't miss out on the quirky jewelry, sourvenirs and trinkets that can be picked up for mere pennies at the famous outdoor markets.

    Get outside. For an urban city, Hong Kong has a surprising number of outdoor escapes that are a breeze to access via the MTR and public transportation system. Take a ferry to Lantau Island and climb the staircase that leads to the Big Buddha. Hike Lion Rock. Swim at Shek O beach. Whatever you do, don't stay cooped up inside during your stay in Hong Kong.

    Get out of your comfort zone. Venture to Lamma Island for a fresher-than-fresh dinner of seafood pulled from the waters by local fishermen. Take the Peak Tram to Victoria Peak. Try moon cake during the Mid-Autumn Festival. Hong Kong is full of opportunities to try something that's a litlte unusual, or perhaps a tad different from the way things are done at home; that's what makes a visit here so special.
  • On May 29, 2013
  • On May 28, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What language is spoken in Hong Kong?

    Cantonese and English are the official languages of Hong Kong, and many professionals are fluent in both. As a visitor, you'll have little (if any) trouble communicating with employees of your hotel, spa, restaurant or retail store in English — even in the markets, most vendors speak enough English to negotiate a sale (though you may need to ask for translation assistance if you have detailed questions about the product you're considering). 

    Since Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, you'll find that many words are spelled in the style of Queen's English rather than American English. Even on the MTR (Hong Kong's subway system), the announcements are made with a British accent. Many MTR employees are bilingual in both Cantonese and English. Should your travel plans require use of a minibus, though, ask if the driver is bilingual. Hong Kong's bus system can be difficult to navigate at first, especially if the driver can't understand your questions.
  • On May 24, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    What are the best places for dessert in Jacksonville?

    Sugar is a part of daily life in the South, and you'll find plenty of places to enjoy it in Jacksonville. Here are a few places that I recommend to satisfy a sweet tooth:

    Chocolate-covered popcorn from Peterbrooke Chocolatier is a Jacksonville tradition. It's the perfect combination of sweet and salty, and with locations in practically every neighborhood, you're never too far from the addictive treat. It's also worth popping into the shops every now and then to try samples, enjoy a scoop of ice cream and see what new chocolate-coated creations are in the works — last time I visited, chocolate-covered wine bottles were a hot new item.

    Sweet Pete's in Springfield was started by the son of the candy maven behind Peterbrooke. This brightly-colored mansion looks like it was pulled straight from the board game "Candyland." Inside, you'll find handmade lollipops, truffles, cotton candy and more. The candy-making classes are also a hit with kids and adults alike.

    The Dreamette is a Murray Hill landmark. The walk-up ice cream window has been serving banana splits, sundaes and milkshakes since 1948. On particularly hot days, the line may stretch around the corner. It's worth the wait. Bring cash, as the original location doesn't take credit cards; however, the second location in Mandarin will accept your plastic.

    The cake display at Biscottis in Avondale draws Jaxsons from all over Duval County to the quaint bistro. You could share a slice with a friend, but these treats may bring out possessive qualities in your dining companion — it's best to get one slice per person and mix up the flavors so you get twice the deliciousness.

    Just a few months before I left Jacksonville, I disocvered Threef(x) in Baymeadows — and even though I only went a few times, I crave the house-made ice cream on a weekly basis. The friendly shop employees will make ice cream right before your eyes on the anti-griddle, and you can choose any flavor add-ins that you'd like. Add a fresh taiyaki to your order, too. The whimsical fish-shaped waffles are stuffed with fillings like apples and cinnamon or nutella, and they're a perfect complement to the fresh ice cream treats.


  • On May 23, 2013

    I just tried Rooftop 866 in Atlanta earlier this week; little did I know, it's one of our local Atlanta correspondent's favorite rooftops in the city! I'm dying to try the other swanky locales on this list: http://blog.forbestravelguide.com/five-rooftop-bars-to-visit-in-atlanta

    On May 23, 2013

    What great story, and the weather is perfect for it! I have started a Clipix clipboard for being a tourist in my own town.

  • On May 23, 2013
    Natalie Wearstler answered the question: Natalie Wearstler

    Where is the best shopping in St. Augustine?

    If you're driving to St. Augustine on I-95 South, you can't miss the two outlet malls that comprise the bulk of St. Augustine's shopping clout: St. Augustine Premium Outlets and the St. Augustine Outlets. Both options are comparable for size and quality of retailers (you'll find factory stores for Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, J. Crew, Nine West and Coach at the Premium Outlets, and favorite designers like BCBGMAXAZRIA, Cole Haan and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th at the St. Augustine Outlets). It's worth noting that a large portion of the St. Augustine Outlets mall is indoors, which is a huge benefit in the hot summer months; really, though, even the outdoor shops at its competitor are close enough so that the trek between stores is bearable.

    A number of independent boutiques, antique shops and souvenir shops fill the historic downtown St. Augustine area, peddling everything from rhinestone-encrusted belt buckles to canvas photo printing services. Window shopping on St. George Street is a fun way to spend an afternoon, and if you have your heart set on picking up a special Florida souvenir like a seashell windchime or beach-chic jewelry, this area of town is the best place to find it.
  • On May 22, 2013