On May 22, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:You don't have to leave The Broadmoor to engage in a little after-hours fun. The Five-Star resort recently opened Play at The Broadmoor, a dining and late-night entertainment hub that offers a full menu, bar service, six lanes of bowling and six wide-screen televisions that are equipped with gaming system favorites like Wii, PlayStation and XBox. Guests are welcome to enjoy lunch and dinner from executive chef Bertrand Bouquin and executive sous chef of restaurants David Patterson's menu daily, with dishes like hte roasted jalapeño corndog, PLAY Burger (with beef, braised short ribs, carmelized onion, bacon and cheddar) and The French Riviera Flatbread (eggplant, zucchini, tomato, olives and basil) standing out as crowd favorites. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., however, food service slows down to only the late-night dining menu — though visitors are still welcome to challenge friends and family to a game on the bowling lanes during this time.
Another late-night option is a trip to the Golden Bee, the luxury Colorado Springs resort's newly-refurbished dining and drinking hotspot. Made to look and feel like a 19th-century London pub, the Golden Bee has plenty of space for big crowds with 130 seats and a covered rooftop terrace. It's a great place to mingle with a cold Colorado or European beer and a plate of Scotch eggs with whole grain mustard. Live piano entertainment fills the air nightly from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and at 10 p.m., the Golden Bee's famous sing-along starts. Make sure your vocal chords are warmed up and ready to go, as the sing-along lasts until midnight.
On May 21, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:There are plenty of ways to enjoy your time in Jacksonville without having to spend a penny. Here are my favorite cost-free activities:
1. Walk (or jog) the Northbank Riverwalk. Located right on the beautiful St. Johns River, the Riverwalk is a paved walkway that's a favorite among walkers and joggers. It feeds right into the popular "Bridges Loop," a running route that crosses the Main Street and Acosta bridges. Swing by any evening around dusk, and you'll see runners of all ages and ability levels enjoying the pretty skyline views as they work up a sweat.
2. Get your art fix. On the first Wednesday evening of each month, rain or shine, Downtown becomes an art-lover's dream as galleries offer free admission, artists sell their wares in Hemming Plaza and live music fills the air. It's a Jacksonville tradition that's gained tons of traction with the creative community in the past few years, and it's worth checking out if only for the free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Insider tip: you can also visit the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens every Tuesday evening, starting at 4 p.m., for free. The Riverside museum is a stunning community asset that features local and international artists from a wide range of time periods.)
3. Build a sandcastle. Jacksonville Beach is only 20 minutes away from downtown. Simply hop on Beach Boulevard or Atlantic Boulevard and head east until you see the shore. Just don't try making this trip around rush hour.
4. Reconnect with nature at the Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. I almost hate to share this tip, as it's one of the city's best-kept secrets! The Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens is a natural park filled with walking trails, hidden in the city's Arlington neighborhood. From the moment you set foot on the trail, you'll find yourself amidst creeks, trees and birds — and very little else.
5. Toss a frisbee at Memorial Park. Jaxsons are very proud of the St. Johns River, and one of the best places to see it is at Memorial Park in Riverside. Grab a coffee from nearby Starbucks or pick up a few picnic items from Publix (they're both located just across the street), bring along a book or magazine and sit back for an afternoon of sunbathing and people-watching.
On May 20, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:There's no shortage of opportunitites to engage in retail therapy in Hong Kong. Any resident will tell you that the city's shopping culture has two sides: a high-fashion sensibility that appeals to couture shoppers at boutiques selling wares from lines like Chanel and Dior, and a deep appreciation for bargains that drives thousands upon thousands of shoppers to the city's famous markets each day. Most shoppers fall somewhere in the middle, seeking out trusted name brands for wardrobe staples while exploring the more unpredictable markets for accessories, home wares and gifts.
Thanks to the city's efficient subway system, it's easy to navigate the maze of malls and shopping districts. Most high-end stores can be found in the International Finance Centre (IFC) mall in Central or the ritzy Causeway Bay area. Take the escalators in Soho (you can't miss them) to explore the neighborhoods trendy boutiques. I spent four months in Kowloon Tong, and was able to stock up on everything I needed at Festival Walk, a massive shopping center that also included a movie theatre and an ice-skating rink.
My favorite markets are the Temple Street Night Market, the Jade Market and the Ladies Market in Mong Kok. There are also a ton of hidden shopping malls and markets in this city; I distinctly remember stumbling into a three-level shopping mall that sold only acccessories (think costume jewelry, scarves and purses). There was no sign on the entrance. I regret passing over so many shelves full of fun trinkets and inexpensive baubles; if I could go back to Hong Kong (and find this place again), I would spend all day there. Keep an eye out for places like that, as they're hidden all over the city.
On May 17, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:EverBank Field is Jacksonville's top sports venue. On Jaguars game days, the stadium fills with fans decked out in their favorite black and teal outfits. The downtown stadium is also where the annual showdown between the University of Florida gators and the University of Georgia bulldogs, a SEC college football rivalry that's as much ingrained in Jacksonville's sports community as the college towns from which the teams hail.
The Jacksonville Suns, the city's minor league baseball team, take to the field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. Located just across the street from EverBank Field, this stadium is a popular spot during the summer months; tickets to Suns games are a bargain, and promotions like dollar beer night and fireworks after every Friday night home game make a trip to the ball game a fun experience for all ages.
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is where the Jacksonville Giants, an American Basketball Association team, and the Jacksonville Sharks, the city's Arena Football League team, hold their home games.
It may not be in Jacksonville, but it's worth noting that TPC Sawgrass is just a 30-minute drive south. The famed golf course is home to THE PLAYERS Championship each spring. Even on non-tournament weekends, it's not uncommon to see professional golfers perfecting their swing on the course, as there are a number of pros who live in the nearby Ponte Vedra Beach or TPC Sawgrass neighborhoods.
On May 16, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to one of my favorite concert venues: the historic Florida Theatre. Since 1927, the stage has served as a temporary home to troubadors of all styles, from country music legend Kris Kristofferson to indie rock darlings Death Cab for Cutie. To me, the loge seats are the best in the house.
Another great venue is Underbelly, a relatively new music hall and bar that's a short walk from the Florida Theatre. Local bands and independent bands come through regularly; in the months before I moved out of Jacksonville, I saw Lost in the Trees, an orchestral folk band, and Sunbears!, an indie-pop duo. The crowd here tends to be hip, but friendly. It's a favorite stop for the city's creative professionals.
If the Florida Theatre and Underbelly draw an NPR crowd, then Veterans Memorial Arena takes care of the Top 40 fans. This is where big-name acts like Justin Bieber and Mary J. Blige book their shows. Concerts here are big, loud and bold. I saw Bob Seger here in 2012, and even in his aging state, he put on a fun and energetic show that kept the entire audience on their feet.
On May 15, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to the country's largest urban park system — with 80,000 of parks spread around the city, there are countless places to lay down a blanket and dig in to a good book. Before you set your plot of land aside for the afternoon, swing by one of these book stores to pick up a classic or that New York Times bestseller that's been on your reading list all year:
Ron Chamblin is the city's literary hero. His labyrinthine bookstore, Chamblin Bookmine, is a maze of books in every genre that are piled high in stacks and bookshelves that practically reach the ceiling. Ask an employee at the front desk for assistance if there's a specific title you're looking for — but if you have time to spare, revel in the experience of getting lost in the bounty of new and used titles. It's a hobby that local book lovers have held since the store first opened in 1976. Chamblin's Uptown, the bookmine's sister store, is located just off of Hemming Plaza in Downtown. It doesn't have the volume of options that its older sibling carries, but it does feature a charming cafe with fresh coffee and great food.
Beachcombers in the know stop by The BookMark in Neptune Beach before walking over to the shore. Owner Rona Brinlee has a sharp eye for the best up-and-coming authors and established writers, and she carefully stocks her shop with their best work. Check the store's calendar during your visit — authors are always stopping by for lectures, book readings and book signing events.
Rare first-editions are a specialty at San Marco Bookstore, a small shop that packs an impressive range of titles into its shelves. This is a particularly great place to read up on Jacksonville or Florida history, or pick up a military history volume (Jacksonville is a military town, after all). Kids' books and classics also get their fair share of real estate.
On May 15, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:Jacksonville is home to a rich variety of museums to explore. Take your pick from these five museums to gain a new perspective on the Bold New City of the South:
The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens is considered by many to be the crown jewel of the city's museum scene. Established in 1958 by longtime art collector and community advocate Ninah Cummer, the Cummer's permanent collection includes works by masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Winslow Homer, Thomas Moran and Norman Rockwell, plus one of the world's top three collections of Early Meissen Porcelain. Rotating exhibits often highlight the work of local artists, photographers and students, and the museum's stunning gardens along the St. Johns River are used throughout the year for concerts, classes and special events.
From the 1920s through the '60s, Jacksonville's La Villa neighborhood was considered the "Harlem of the South." The Ritz Theatre and Museum highlights the artistic contributions of the African American community with a permanent exhibit of photographs documenting this period. It's also a gathering spot for locals who come together for monthly spoken word nights and jazz concerts.
The ever-changing exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art make it a regular favorite for River City residents. As the partner gallery for the University of North Florida, MOCA is a community learning place where free lectures and film screenings complement intriguing student artwork and thought-provoking temporary exhibits (past highlights have included folk art by Howard Finster and photography by Melanie Pullen). Admission fees to MOCA are waived for the monthly Art Walk held in Downtown Jacksonville on the first Wednesday of each month, rain or shine.
The coast of North Florida has drawn explorers throughout history, from French and Spanish sailors to modern-day treasure hunters who flock to the shore in search of relics of the past. Learn about the history of Jacksonville Beach and its sister communities at the Beaches Museum and History Park, a family-friendly learning center that has hosted exhibits like "Mermaids of the First Coast" (an exploration of the women's surfing community) and "Lifeguard on Duty" (a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the American Red Cross Lifeguards Corps' presence in Jacksonville Beach).
Kids can't resist all the hands-on activities at the Museum of Science and History. The inner workings of the human body, the majestic world of marine biology and the nature of energy are displayed in fun, interactive exhibits that challenge young minds (and adults, too) to see the world around them with new eyes. Try to catch a show at the Bryan Gooding Planetarium during your stay — your kids will rave about it for weeks.
On May 13, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:New York City's urban parks play a very important role as the yin to the Big Apple's notoriously busy yang. I always like to take a bit of time to explore new parks when I visit the city. Here are my three favorite places to unwind with a nice stroll in Manhattan:
Central Park. No matter how many times you visit this world-famous park, there's always something new to discover in the city's most famous greenspace. A stroll through the park's many trails is a simple and lovely way to pass an afternoon. If you have kids in tow, head to the Central Park Zoo to see the latest exhibits or book a horse-drawn carriage tour to whisk you and your little princess (or prince) through the city's most majestic courtyard.
The High Line. If you find yourself in Manhattan's West Side, look up — you'll find this unique park elevated above the streets on a historic freight rail line. While you can't enjoy all the activities permitted at Central Park (like biking, skating or playing catch with Fido, as no dogs are allowed), this park should be on your must-visit list. Where else in Manhattan can you walk alongside skyscrapers and manicured gardens at the same time?
Morningside Park. Situated just past Columbia University in Manhattan's Harlem and Morningside Heights neighborhoods, this lovely park is a gathering spot for students and families who live nearby. Visit during a spring or summer weekend, and you're sure to find children's sports leagues holding games on the baseball and basketball grounds. There's a beautiful cascading waterfall just across from the baseball diamonds, perfect for relaxing with a slice of famous New York-style pizza from a nearby restaurant and someone special.
On May 10, 2013Natalie Wearstler answered the question:I grew up traveling to Chicago throughout the year to visit relatives just outside the city, and I have to say, the summer trips always stuck out as my favorite. There's a palpable energy in the air on long summer days. It's best experienced at some of the Windy City's best festivals — my personal favorite is the Taste of Chicago, a multi-day food festival that brings food trucks, pop-up restaurants and dozens of vendors offering their veresion of Chicago-style hot dogs, pizza and cheesecake, plus other specialty items. Lollapalooza and Pitchfork Music Festival also draw big crowds during the summer. I'm also a fan of taking a leisurely stroll through the Lincoln Park Zoo and an afternoon at North Avenue Beach.