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How Apple Is Changing the International Data Roaming Game

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Dominic Lipinski—PA Wire/AP

Instantly connect to a local data network in more than 90 countries and territories

Data roaming was once one of the great pain points of traveling. Slowly, but surely, it is easing up—and perhaps going away all together. A short history, for the uninitiated: first, the EU proposed legislature to end roaming on the European continent by 2017 (a bill that was just approved today). Then T-Mobile made it free to roam in 120-plus countries (sluggish network speeds be damned). A third development was the perhaps quietest—Apple launched a technology called Apple SIM poised to instantly connect travelers with local data networks the second they touched ground in an international country. The only catch? They didn’t have any significant telecom partners available when the technology deployed, so the development flew largely under the radar.

Until today, that is. This morning, Apple and GigSky have announced a partnership that includes the ability to instantly connect to a local data network in more than 90 countries and territories upon touchdown—no need to visit a kiosk, talk to a service agent, or really, do anything at all. Instead, iPads with AppleSIM cards will automatically offer the option to sign up for a data plans as soon as a local network is in reach. (The GigSky network includes most of Western Europe, from France and Germany to the Netherlands; Australia; South Africa; parts of the Middle East; and beyond.)

Because travelers are accessing onto local networks, rather that roaming from their domestic carrier, prices are impressively affordable as long as you’re traveling on the beaten path. Entry-level data plans begin at just $10, covering anywhere between 10MB (in Papua New Guinea) to 75 MB (in Italy); in countries with better access, the premium plans top out at 3GB for $50. By comparison, AT&T’s best deal currently charges $30 for 120 MB or $120 for 800 MB. And unlike with most major telecom companies, travelers won’t need to worry about overage or monthly recurring charges—GigSky’s plans are inherently short-term.

For now, the technology is limited to iPad—AppleSIM has been coming pre-installed on iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 models with WiFi + Cellular capability (and have been since that model debuted last year). They’re also available at Apple stores for a mere $5 if one isn’t already in your device. Not sure whether you have one already? Simply pop out the SIM card and see if there’s an Apple logo on it.

Now there’s only one caveat that remains: at this point, Apple could confirm no plans to bring the technology to iPhone. But perhaps a year from now, we’ll have another surprise to report on that front.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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TIME Travel

The Best Small Hotels Around the World

From Colombia to Chicago

Choosing a tiny hotel will certainly ensure you with that extra attention (or in the case of The 404 in Nashville, extra privacy), as well as more authentic, creative amenities. We’ve rounded up a dozen with incredible appeal—from elephant rides on a private beach in Sri Lanka to complementary Apple TV in Chicago to archery practice outside a restored Airstream trailer from the ‘50s.

  • Little Island Lighthouse in Vesterålen, Norway

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    Gabi Reichert / Littleisland Lighthouse

    If visiting an old European lighthouse, going whale-watching and gazing up at the Northern Lights are on your bucket list, check into Norway’s Little Island Lighthouse, which lets you do all three in a single day. Upon arrival, the caretaker will lead you to the lighthouse’s separate residence. The accommodations come with a guest library and two bedrooms that can each sleep three. In addition to watching the pods of Orcas break the surface from the cliff, a trip in summer also means exploring the island’s super cool, underground cave.

  • Iniala Beach House in Phuket, Thailand

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    Iniala Beach House

    Akin to vacationing in a curated art collection, this personal beach home was expanded and reimagined in 2013 by the biggest global names in art and design. It includes three villas and a penthouse option for rent.

    From the Collectors Villa, where the Campana Brothers of Brazil created sculptures made of thousands of broken tea cups, to the Carpenter’s Chamber filled with its magnificently carved wooden bed by Irish artist Joseph Walsh, no two spaces are alike. However, every one comes with a spa treatment room and a personal infinity pool. Bonus: all of that furniture and art is for sale.

  • The Gideon Ridge Inn in Blowing Rock, North Carolina

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    Gideon Ridge Inn

    A few miles beyond the historic, mountain town of Blowing Rock, in the pristine nature of The Blue Ridge Mountains, the 10 rooms of The Gideon Ridge Inn feature four-poster beds, fine Swiss soaps, ultra-plush bedding, and French doors that beg to be opened to let the cool morning air flow in off the stone porches.

  • Casa Noble Villas in Tequila, Mexico

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    Casa Noble Villas

    What’s better than sipping fine tequila at its source? Knowing you are only feet from your own personal hacienda for the night. Casa Noble has become synonymous with producing a great spirit, but they are quickly becoming as famous for their attention to design detail and warm hospitality at the adjoining four distillery villas. Expect terra cotta floors, rock-wall murals, hand-woven blankets and traditional artwork.

  • Topia Inn in Adams, Massachusetts

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    Moroccan Room by Bea Merry / Courtesy of Topia Inn

    There’s a lot to love at this quirky B&B, which that celebrates a separate culture in every room. The Moroccan room at Topia Inn is the collaboration of a video producer and a costume designer. Featured: gleaming tile floors, rich tapestries and a massive spa tub with air-jets and chroma-therapy. Meanwhile, in the Aloha room, the floating bed, surrounded by immense clay flowers, is the focal piece. What’s more, down the road you’ll find Mass MoCA, America’s largest contemporary art museum, plus an 11-mile bike path along rivers, lakes and the mountain passes.

  • Hicksville Trailer Palace in Joshua Tree, California

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    Courtesy of hicksville.com

    This fun retreat offers nine fully-restored Airstream trailers from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, plus a funky little cabin to rent. Amenities include archery, a swimming pool, and Ping Pon. This year, there’s also The Sideshow, a newly acquired, vintage trailer that formerly served as a traveling one-man circus. Within: a ceiling that resembles a big top and compartments where the owner once kept his curios and potions.

  • Tcherassi Hotel & Spa in Cartagena, Colombia

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    Tcherassi Hotel

    A restored, 250-year-old colonial mansion in the heart of Cartagena features seven stately bedrooms, with designs curated by famed Colombian fashion designer Silva Tcherassi. She’s used original wood and stone alongside her modern fabrics, and added accents like the vertical, 3,000-plant garden, three swimming pools and an Italian-inspired restaurant. The 1,200-square-foot Gazar room in particular offers the ultimate in opulence, boasting a private rooftop pool, sun deck and sweeping views of Cartagena.

  • The Villa at Taprobane Island in Sri Lanka

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    Courtesy of Taprobane Island / Vladi Private Islands

    You’ll have to rent the entire island to stay in one of the five bedrooms in this 1920s mansion. The $2,200-a-night price comes with 360-degree ocean and shoreline views from sprawling porches, home-cooked Indian cuisine by a private chef and elephant rides on the beach sunset.

  • The 404 in Nashville

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    Ron Manville

    A new concept in travel, The 404 is an urban cross between renting an apartment and staying in a hotel. There’s no lobby, save the square footage surrounding an espresso machine, and you’ll likely never see the onsite manager unless you need him. Each of the five loft-style apartments off the lone hallway features a mix of modern and vintage furnishings, flatscreens, and rotating artwork. The adjoining 404 Kitchen offers some of the city’s best farm-to-table cuisine and craft cocktails.

  • Hotel Covell in Los Angeles

    10-hotel covell
    Bethany Nauert

    Twenties-inspired Spanish design abounds at this five-room boutique property located above Bar Covell in East L.A. The rooms each depict a “chapter” in the life of a fictional character named George Covell. One is a nod to his childhood in Oklahoma, another his early years as a writer in New York City. One room even centers around his starving-artist days in Paris, which he shared with his beautiful lover Claudine.

  • The Royal Street Inn in New Orleans

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    James Thiebaud

    The Royal Street Inn & Bar is a “Bed and Beverage” located just a block outside the French Quarter. It won’t feed you breakfast, but it will treat you to a round of welcome drinks when you check in at the R Bar, the inn’s neighborhood drinking institution that also serves as the hotel’s de facto lobby.

    The Inn offers four single-bed suites: Storyville, La Sirena, Mississippi, and Marigny. The grandest option is the two-bed Royal Suite, with a living room, balcony, clawfoot tub, kitchen and reclaimed heart-of-pine wood bar.

  • Longman & Eagle in Chicago

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    Clayton Hauck

    Coming in at under $200 a night for a two-person room in Chicago’s bustling Logan Square, Longman & Eagle is as affordable as it is fun. The rooms come in various shapes and sizes, with several offering homages to the ‘80s in the form of tapes and cassette consoles. Your dose of Duran Duran comes alongside Apple TV, custom beds, and complementary Wi-Fi.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

The 9 Coolest Train Station Restaurants

It's worth getting to the station a little early

Train station dining is usually serviceable at best: a fast food mega-chain here, a coffee-and-newspaper stand there. Real culinary tourism is best saved for one’s destination, not the journey. But there are some real gems bucking that norm. Iconic or even Michelin-starred dining experiences can be found in stations in major metropolitan centers such as Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and London. Meanwhile, stations in Denver and Washington, D.C. have seen their fare improve in recent years. (And New York’s Grand Central is slated for another winning concept—a Nordic restaurant and food hall from respected Copenhagen restaurateur Claus Meyer.) Read on for nine of the world’s best restaurants that just so happen to be located inside train stations.

  • Grand Central Oyster Bar

    grand-central-oyster-bar
    Bryan Smith

    Grand Central Oyster Bar is a New York City landmark. Opened in 1913 on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal, the oyster bar was both an architectural beauty and go-to stop for travelers coming to and from New York. To this day, it remains one of the best places for oysters in a city full of options, and the kind of restaurant that inspires food writers to wax nostalgic for its Manhattan clam chowder and timeless ambiance.

  • Stoic & Genuine

    stoic-and-genuine
    Marc Piscotty

    When Denver’s Union Station reopened last year after extensive renovations, it brought with it a clutch of new—and worthy—restaurants. Stoic & Genuine, a seafood temple from Denver chef Jennifer Jasinski commanded attention even before it opened. Between its raw bar, “seafood tower of power,” and “surf in turf” dish of big-eye tuna wrapped in New York strip steak, Stoic & Genuine won strong reviews and was even named one of 5280 magazine’s top ten new Denver restaurants.

  • Mercantile Dining & Provision in Denver’s Union Station

    mencantile-dining-and-provision-1
    McCall Burau

    In a stroke of fortune, Denver Union Station’s remodel project actually yielded two highly regarded restaurant projects. Mercantile Dining & Provision, run by chef Alex Seidel, is one part casual restaurant and one part food market selling charcuterie, cheese, jam, and more. The menu here offers a variety of pasta dishes such as squid ink bucatini, Spanish octopus a la plancha, a crispy half chicken, and family dinners like a bone-in 36-ounce rib-eye or roasted lamb shoulder, each served with a variety of sides. Mercantile, too, was named one of 5280 Magazine’s best new restaurants in 2015.

  • Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo’s Ginza metro station

    sukiyabashi-jiro
    Adam Goldberg / A Life Worth Eating

    Just as Tokyo is a place for world-class dining, the Japanese capital also offers world-class train station eats. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the most famous sushi restaurant on the planet, particularly since owner Jiro Ono’s dedication to perfection was immortalized in David Gelb’s film Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Attached to Tokyo’s Ginza metro station, Sukiyabashi Jiro has three Michelin stars, one of the world’s toughest tables to book, and an omakase offering that has won praise from critics, chefs, and even world leaders.

  • Rokurinsha in Tokyo Station

    rokurinsha
    Jonathan Khoo

    Tokyo Station is the city’s main train station and it, too, has some pretty incredible dining. For one, there’s an entire section of the station called Ramen Street, home to some of the city’s best ramen restaurants. Rokurinsha commands some of the biggest lines with its focus on tsukemen, a type of ramen in which you dip noodles into a separate bowl of soup. This is the spot that Momofuku’s David Chang has declared “the best ramen in the world.”

  • Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong

    tim-ho-wan
    Celia Hu / Girl Meets Cooking

    Hong Kong’s dim sum favorite Tim Ho Wan has several locations across the city, including one in Hong Kong Station. Famed and affordable, Tim Ho Wan’s specialties include a barbecue pork bun, steamed egg cake, and pan-fried carrot cake. Hong Kong-based food writer Janice Leung Hayes notes that the Hong Kong Station location is convenient to the Airport Express train “and if you get takeout, the queue is much shorter!”

  • Le Train Bleu in Paris

    le-train-bleu
    Train Bleu

    Open since 1901 in the Gare du Lyon in Paris, Le Train Bleu is a legend of train station dining. With a dining room that’s ornate and palatial, Le Train Bleu is named for the express train to the French Riviera that once was a symbol of all things luxurious. It has served as a scene in a variety of films, and though it’s certainly not a top-tier dining option in Paris anymore, it continues to command respect for its menu of French cookery.

  • Gilbert Scott in London’s St. Pancras

    the-gilbert-scott
    The Gilbert Scott Bar

    Dining has long been an afterthought in London’s railway stations, but the 2011 opening of The Gilbert Scott was a welcome change for many, including The Guardian food writer Tim Hayward, who declared that the new restaurant was “a rare treat: destination dining to be proud of.” Owned by British celebrity chef Marcus Wareing, The Gilbert Scott celebrates British produce and cuisine with dishes like Cornish chicken, rabbit and prawn pie, grilled sea bream, and a weekend roast menu.

  • Shake Shack at Union Station, DC

    shake-shack
    Evan Sung

    Shake Shack isn’t just another fast food company. It is a cultishly beloved burger chain borne of Danny Meyer’s New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group. In recent years, Shake Shack has expanded not only aggressively beyond New York City, but also into the airport and train station game. There’s a location in New York’s Grand Central station, but it’s by far the best dining option in Washington, D.C.’s historic Union Station. As of this spring, this outlet serves breakfast burgers now, too, for early morning travelers.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Books

6 Beach Reads to Transport You This Summer

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Getty Images

Books to take you places near and far

Every traveler fantasizes about starting over in a foreign land—what happens when you actually go for it? That question is the starting point of The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (Ecco), in which Vendela Vida tells the story of a woman who travels to Morocco and reinvents herself. Peter Nichols’s The Rocks (Riverhead) takes place in a glamorous Majorcan resort, and is both a riveting mystery and a decades-long love story. Set in Manila, Boston, and Bahrain, In the Country (Knopf), the debut story collection from Mia Alvar, dives into the way race, class, and borders can change us, or make us want to change ourselves.

Of course, home—whether going to it or leaving it—can be just as dramatic. Eleni N. Gage, in her spellbinding The Ladies of Managua (St. Martin’s Press), looks at three generations of Nicaraguan women, reunited in their homeland, while Naomi Jackson’s lyrical The Star Side of Bird Hill (Penguin Press) is about two sisters forced to leave their mother in Brooklyn to live with their grandmother in Barbados. The Unfortunates (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), by Sophie McManus, conjures blue- blooded New York with its tale of the Somner family’s struggles to hold on to a waning era of opulence.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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These Are America’s Best Cities for Barbecue

Sauce or no sauce

To find good barbecue while traveling, Michael Smith advises that you look for ambience—depending, of course, on how you define the word.

“Look for dives that have been around for a while,” says the Missouri-based healthcare marketing pro, who has sought out bucket-list barbecue joints all over the South and Midwest. “You can trust them for the best barbecue—because no one is going there for the atmosphere.”

Case in point: the original Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que, one of Smith’s favorites, which is housed in a gas station. Travel+Leisure readers seem to have enjoyed refueling in Kansas City, too: they ranked the Missouri metropolis as a top contender for the nation’s best barbecue.

As part of this year’s America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 metro areas on a variety of refined features, from art galleries and antique stores to wine bars and thoughtfully, artfully smoked meats—no matter the setting.

The top 20 barbecue cities still reveal some colorful diversity, from the dry rubs of Central Texas-style barbecue—often served “meat-market-style” on butcher-paper-lined trays—to the mustardy sauces of the Carolinas or the mopped-with-sauce pulled pork and barbecue pizza of Tennessee. (Purists take note: Because of the general parameters of the survey, some small-town barbecue meccas, like Lockhart, Tex., and Lexington, N.C., were not part of the survey.)

With or without sauce—or even a view of fuel pumps—one intangible element may also enhance the barbecue experience. Sriram Srinivasan—a Plano, Texas-based blogger for travel site UPGRD.com—loves Lockhart Smokehouse in Dallas, where the not-so-luxurious atmosphere lets you break (white) bread with like-minded meat lovers. “It has a cafeteria-style line and a communal-style dining room,” he says, “so you sit family-style, and get to know your neighbors.”

  • No. 20 Tampa

    20-tampa
    Courtesy of Kojak's House of Ribs

    If the locals had to pick sides in the regional barbecue wars, this Florida city might raise the Alabama flag: One of its most beloved barbecue joints is Big John’s Alabama BBQ, which has been in East Tampa since 1968 and is also known for its sweet potato soufflé. Otherwise, the city’s reigning source of smoked meats is Holy Hog Barbecue, which calls its Kansas City-style burnt ends “BBQ Candy” and has won awards for its mac ‘n’ cheese. For the most scenic BBQ—accompanied by some homemade sangria—go to Kojak’s House of Ribs, opened by a retired detective and housed in a converted bungalow off Bayshore Boulevard. Remember to use your napkins, though: The city ranked at No. 5 for being clean.

  • No. 19 Chicago

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    Kari Skaflen

    Chi-Town resonated with readers for its stately architecture, and two landmarks for barbecue lovers are the South side’s Leon’s and Barbara Ann’s BBQ, known for Chicago-style hot links and rib tips (preferably with fries on the bottom). But for a lot of folks, Chicago’s mother ship of barbecue is Twin Anchors, which has been around since 1932 and became Frank Sinatra’s favorite spot for post-show ribs (and he was known to tip staffers $100 each). The newest generation of barbecue spots include the West Loop’s Green Street Smoked Meats—helmed by Brendan Sodikoff, of upscale Francophile diner Au Cheval —where you can pair your meal with one of the city’s well-ranked, home-grown beers, like Local Option.

  • No. 18 Providence

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    Rick's Roadhouse

    In this artsy, gourmand-populated town—which ranked in the top 5 for chef-driven restaurants, wine, and pour-over-style coffee—the boundaries of “barbecue,” or just well-prepared meats, can stretch into the more exotic terrain of charcuterie. A great example is downtown’s New Rivers, where the meats—jagerwurst, lamb shoulder sausage or pastrami made with Wagyu beef tongue—are served with white bread and pickles. You’ll find more traditional fare at Rick’s Roadhouse, which also showcases Providence’s excellent rankings in brunch— like a Fried Chicken Benedict with bacon-braised greens and chipotle hollandaise. The locals, meanwhile, topped the survey for being nerdy.

  • No. 17 Cleveland

    17-cleveland
    BurkleHagen Photography

    The Ohio city may have made the barbecue top 20 out of its allegiance to quality comfort food: it also ranked in the top 10 for pizza, diners, and food trucks. But it also makes regionally authentic spins on barbecue, from the Polish Boy at Hot Sauce Williams to the “rib steak” at Bubba’s Bar-B-Que (de-boned using a patent process seen on Shark Tank). Cleveland also made the top 10 for its foodie-friendly watering holes, like The Greenhouse Tavern, run by James Beard Award-winner Jonathon Sawyer; in the spirit of the whole pig approach, he does a limited number of Whole Roasted Pig Heads every evening, served with housemade sauce, salad, lime, and brioche buns.

  • No. 16 Los Angeles

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    Parks BBQ

    While the cuts of barbecue-friendly beef can be a little different in California—often tri-tip instead of brisket—you can still find traditional BBQ joints in Tinseltown, like Bludso’s in Compton or Hollywood, and Horse Thief BBQ in downtown’s Grand Central Market. But L.A. really distinguishes itself with its Korean-style barbecue, like the ddong daeji pork belly at Honey Pig, or the flower-cut, marbled short rib, or kkot sal, at Park’s Barbecue. Koreatown is also a prime part of town to experience the city’s highly ranked nightlife—like the bottle-service S Bar or the speakeasy scene at R Bar.

  • No. 15 Tucson

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    BrushFire BBQ Co. / Jonathan Nguyen

    Barbecue was readers’ favorite cuisine in this Arizona college town—and here, the local style sometimes looks west, or even south of the border. Food truck Guero Loco’s Bubba-Que (also known as the Bubba Truck) does Cali-style Tri-Tip and Hawaiian Pork Tacos, while BrushFire BBQ Co. puts chili lime butter on its corn on the cob and details exactly what kind of rub each meat features, and how long it was smoked (say, up to 18 hours).

  • No. 14 Phoenix

    14-phoenix
    Debby Wolvos

    Like tumbleweeds bouncing in from the east, the reigning barbecue style in this desert city comes from Texas—with the addition of some local oak and pecan wood for smoking. At Little Miss BBQ, the brisket, ribs, turkey—even occasional lamb’s neck—are served Texas-meat-market style, on butcher paper with pickles, onions, and white bread. Texas BBQ House even takes some cues from farther east in Louisiana, with a one-pound Texas Po-Boy sandwich piled with a triple threat of brisket, pulled pork, and sausage.

  • No. 13 New Orleans

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    Brugh Foster

    The Crescent City almost overwhelmed readers with its potential for indulgent eating—it ranked in the top 10 for notable restaurants, baked goods, brunch and coffee—but folks also loved the uniquely bayou take on BBQ, which tends to feature local cane-sugar-fueled sauces, Tabasco-laden marinades and Caribbean spices. The Joint, for instance, offers both ribs and locally made Chaurice sausage, while Squeal is renowned its sauce and barbecue duck legs. Voodoo BBQ & Grill, meanwhile, uses a Cajun-spice dry rub and Mango Crystal Sauce, made with the beloved local hot sauce. New Orleans also scored at No. 1 for its festivals: you can marry your love of local music with good grub at fall’s Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival.

  • No. 12 Louisville

    12-louisville
    Christopher Testani

    Plenty of barbecue fan swear by an ice-cold beer or Dr. Pepper to wash down a pile of barbecue—but in this Kentucky city, it’s hard to argue with the merits of a bourbon slushie. You can order one at Feast BBQ, a hot newcomer in the NuLu neighborhood, which also throws a bone (so to speak) to vegetarians, with its crispy-smoked tofu as an alternative to the pork cakes and chopped chicken. Indeed, thanks to its Urban Bourbon Trail, Louisville also made the top 20 for cocktail lounges. If you want to cleanse your palate between neat-bourbon tastings, stop for some St. Louis-style ribs and butter-basted chicken at Doc Crow’s Southern Smokehouse & Raw Bar, on the city’s historic Whiskey Row.

  • No. 11 Detroit

    11-detroit
    Cybelle Codish

    Readers gave Motor City credit for its hearty eating: It also ranked in the top 11 for baked goods, burgers, and diners. Like a lot of cities in the top 20, Detroit doesn’t offers thoughtful interpretations of other regional styles: at Slows to Go, you can get a Cubano made with pulled pork, jalapenos, and South Carolina-style mustard sauce, while Greektown’s Redsmoke Barbecue offers a vinegar-based Michigan Cherry Molasses sauce, which goes especially well with chicken. Also in Greektown is a representative of Detroit’s high ranking for bakeries: Astoria Pastry Shop, known for its decadent cheesecakes.

  • No. 10 Albuquerque

    There’s no need to eat your barbecue alone: The New Mexico city made the top 10 for its wealth of good festivals, which—thanks to the wealth of chiles and other home-grown produce—aren’t limited to hot air balloons. The July 4th weekend brings the Annual Pork & Brew BBQ State Championship, while spring means the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, which boasts of the world’s largest festival for Teflon palates. If you can’t make it to town for either one, many locals swear by Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q, a far-east outpost of an Austin barbecue joint, known for its spicier-than-usual sauces. Besides having a high threshold for culinary heat, the locals ranked at No. 5 for being a little weird.

  • No. 9 Charleston

    The South Carolina city easily made the top 10 by showcasing Carolina-style BBQ—a whole-pig approach with four sauces, including a vinegary mustard elixir. But Charleston also adds the Low Country angle, infused with and Creole influences and seafood. You’ll find it at places like Home Team BBQ, which does Low Country shrimp boils and oyster tables, alongside pulled pork and creamy grits. To take some expert fixins home—from dry rubs to shrimp sauce and artichoke relish—go to the ’Cue-osk in the Old City Market, helmed by James Hagood, a former insurance advisor who has racked up several awards for his sauces and rubs. Charleston also gave readers an appetite for shopping, ranking it in the top 10 for antiques, boutiques and home décor.

  • No. 8 Atlanta

    Just as Atlantans made the top 10 for their good fashion sense, their barbecue offers classics accessorized with Georgia flourish. That’s the case at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, which offers St. Louis-style ribs—though they’ve been chicken-fried—tater tots smothered in brisket chili and spicy, Georgia-born Brunswick stew. Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt, meanwhile, offers pulled pork wrapped in fried dough as well as a rotating menu of blues bands. Atlanta indeed impressed readers with its live music, and in another kind of flash, its colorful Christmas lights.

  • No. 7 Dallas

    Big D may lie farther away geographically from Lockhart than Austin does—and readers may associate Dallas more with luxe shopping than good eating—but Dallas still holds its own with meat-market-style ’cue. Lockhart Smokehouse, in fact, is a branch of the central Texas town’s legendary Kreuz Market, while Pecan Lodge does handmade sausage, along with ribs that average one pound each. For a barbecue experience that blends with the city’s posh demeanor, go to Smoke, in the retro Belmont Hotel, where the sausage is comprised of pork andouille, rabbit and spicy lamb. Despite its high-end swagger, Dallas also made the top 20 for being affordable.

  • No. 6 Oklahoma City

    While OKC’s barbecue takes many cues from Kansas City, the Carolinas and neighboring Texas—like at Back Door Barbecue on NW 23rd, created by an Austin transplant—some of the best BBQ joints focus on Oklahoma’s strong sense of local history. Downtown’s Iron Star (with its brown-sugar-cured brisket), for instance, pays tribute to famed outlaw and Oklahoman Belle Starr, while Bedlam Bar-B-Q (where the smoked meat menu features brisket, polish sausage and bologna) is named for the rivalry between Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State.

  • No. 5 Nashville

    While it’s long ranked for its live music and concerts, Music City has more recently become a serious foodie city, where locally sourced ingredients bolster the Southern comfort cuisine. That enhanced down-home sensibility really comes out at Edley’s Bar-B-Que, where catfish and the local specialty “hot chicken” join the ranks of pulled pork, and Peg Leg Porker, where you can nosh on “Memphis sushi,” a sausage-and-cheese platter with saltines. At another Nashville favorite, Martin’s, they pride themselves on not owning either a microwave or freezer, and the signature item is the Redneck Taco, a cornbread hoe-cake topped with meat, slaw and sauce. The locals, having shed most of their rhinestones over the years, also ranked highly in the survey for their hipness and lack of snobbery.

  • No. 4 Houston

    While some barbecue purists would say less is more when it comes to sauce, more is more when it comes to anything barbecue-related in this Texas city, which also impressed readers with its generous burgers and wine bars. Gatlin’s BBQ in the Heights, for instance, asks, naturally, what kind of meat (pork, sausage or beef, for starters) you’d like piled on your baked potato. Killen’s in Pearland goes the meat-on-trays route, adding local St. Arnold’s Beer and heaping desserts (you can buy the crème brule bread pudding, for instance, by the quart). And while it is easy to fill up on the low-and-slow meats at Goode Company—with its original location on Kirby Drive—fans always leave room for the jalapeno cheese bread and the Brazos Bottom pecan pie. The locals clearly have an eye for masterpieces, edible and otherwise: it ranked at No. 3 for its museums, like the Menil Collection.

  • No. 3 Austin

    The Texas capital made the top 3 again this year for its old-school, Central Texas-style barbecue—prepped with a dry rub and often served on wax paper and trays with white bread—found at the renowned Franklin, La Barbecue, trailer Micklethwait and Black’s, a branch of the legendary restaurant from the town of Lockhart, about an hour away. Austin also ranked near the top for its good-looking, offbeat locals: one good place to absorb that Keep Austin Weird vibe—along with more brisket, ribs and sausage—is Stiles Switch BBQ and Brew, which played the part of a pool hall in famed Austin flick Dazed and Confused.

  • No. 2 Memphis

    The Tennessee city need not sing the blues over a second-place finish: its devotees are fiercely loyal to the local barbecue style, which is dry-rubbed, smoked over hickory, and often mopped with sauce during cooking. You can enjoy a classic example at Payne’s Bar-B-Que, housed in a former service station, or Cozy Corner, where barbecue Cornish hen and bologna get equal billing. Memphis also gets special credit for stretching the boundaries of the genre: you can experience the birthplace of barbecue spaghetti at the Bar-B-Q Shop (home of Dancing Pigs Sauce) or partake of the seminal barbecue pizza at red-checker-tablecloth Coletta’s‚ which once counted Elvis as a loyal customer. No surprise, Memphis also ranked well in the survey for its music scene and its melodic sense of history.

  • No. 1 Kansas City

    Whether it was for the sweet, tomato-y sauce, the rich history in meat-packing or those densely flavorful scraps—the burnt ends—this Midwestern city took the gold medal this year. To understand its basics, start at legends Arthur Bryant’s or Gates Bar-B-Q, which date back to the 1920s and ’40s, respectively. Then, branch out to the newbies, like Q39—led by national barbecue champion team Rob Magee—or Char Bar, which complements its burnt ends and pulled pork butt with lobster deviled eggs and a vegetarian-friendly, smoked jackfruit. Char Bar has also has added a huge beer garden with bocce ball, croquet, and local beer—like beloved Boulevard Brewing—a reminder why KC also won the silver medal for its craft beer scene.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

The World’s Most Beautiful Train Stations

Up ahead, turrets frame a dome above a grand hall finished in marble, glass, and gold. But this isn’t another European cathedral. You’ve arrived at Belgium’s Antwerp Central Station.

Whether neo-Baroque or contemporary, the world’s most beautiful train stations were designed to make a big impression. Many were constructed during the late 19th century, a golden era when train travel was new, intriguing, and glamorous. Today, stations from every era continue to impress, attracting travelers who aren’t even catching a train.

It’s not surprising that these stations have withstood everything from wars to urban development. Train stations weren’t just transportation hubs; they became symbols of entire empires, as rulers transported their architectural and engineering know-how as far as India and Mozambique. Equally ambitious train routes spanned entire continents; most notably, the luxurious Orient-Express linked Paris to Istanbul’s Art Nouveau Sirkeci Station.

Train travel has since fallen in and out of favor. Recently, the growth of high-speed rail has been accompanied by interest in restoring and building iconic train stations. In London, for instance, workers cleaned 300,000 pounds of dirt from the neo-Gothic red brick façade of St. Pancras and restored 8,000 glass roof panes.

And in Melbourne, a thorough overhaul has converted Southern Cross Station into a cutting-edge landmark whose undulating glass roof also serves a practical purpose: ventilating the train platforms by drawing train exhaust through the pitched domes.

It’s a welcome change after years in which train travel more often took a backseat to cars and planes, particularly in America, where some stations fell into decline or faced the wrecking ball. Detroit’s Michigan Central Station was abandoned in 1988, although broken windows and graffiti give its Beaux-Arts exterior an eerie beauty. Perhaps most infamously, New York’s gorgeous Penn Station was demolished in the 1960s, only to be replaced by the current dreary underground station.

New York has wrestled with concepts for a majestic new Penn Station and Madison Square Garden for more than a decade, so far without success. But elsewhere, cities are embracing their train stations. After all, even fliers often arrive via airport trains, which means the station is their introduction to a new destination. Still other travelers appreciate the benefits of a scenic, hassle-free train ride.

You don’t need to show up at the station hours in advance to go through airport-like security. But we recommend arriving early for a more pleasant reason: to take stock of these gorgeous cathedrals to locomotion.

  • Gare du Nord, Paris

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    iStock

    This station in the central 10th Arrondissement is one of the busiest and most picture-perfect in Europe. The façade is sculpted with 23 statues representing Amsterdam, Vienna, and other destinations served by the Chemin de Fer du Nord company. The interior is just as lovely, especially when the sun filters through the panels of the glass and cast-iron roof to the platforms below.

    How to See It: Gare du Nord looks especially fine when you pull in from Charles de Gaulle airport or from London via the Eurostar. If you can’t make it overseas, look for this Neoclassical station in movies such as Amélie and The Bourne Identity.

  • St. Pancras International, London

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    Courtesy of St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

    This neo-Gothic red brick façade won raves when it was unveiled in 1868. And it’s in the news again. After a 20th-century decline, St. Pancras got a recent £800 million makeover. Workers cleaned 300,000 pounds of dirt from the bricks and restored 8,000 panes of glass in the roof of the immense train shed. As a result, the station looks its part as one of the finest Victorian landmarks in London.

    How to See It: Book the Chamber Suite at the newly restored St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel for a view of the blue Barlow train shed.

  • CFM Railway Station, Maputo, Mozambique

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    Thomas Cockrem—Alamy

    Mint-green exteriors, a large dome, and wrought-iron latticework make the capital city of Maputo’s train station an unexpected, if modest, beauty. Reportedly designed by Gustave Eiffel in the early 20th century, the station showcases several historic steam locomotives. Modern-day trains bring passengers through here daily.

    How to See It: On the weekends, catch some of the city’s best live music at Ka Mfumo Jazz Café, located within CFM Railway Station.

  • Sirkeci Station, Istanbul

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    imagebroker—Alamy

    Built in 1890 as the terminus for the Orient-Express journey from Paris, the façade of this Ottoman Art Nouveau building is particularly attractive. Swaths of red brick surround the wide entrance, and stained-glass windows provide colorful splashes of light inside. Although this entrance is no longer used, people still stop to admire the interior and catch occasional performances by whirling dervishes inside the grand entry hall.

    How to See It: The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express retraces the historic train route once a year in restored coaches from the 1930s. It’s never too early to book your seat—passage is already sold out for the 2011 and 2012 rides.

  • Southern Cross Station, Melbourne

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    topaa mons images—Alamy

    Previously called Spencer Street Station, the station got a new name in 2005 as part of an elaborate modernization project. The undulating roof, which stretches an entire city block, has been compared to a gigantic air-filled blanket floating on a forest of Y-shaped columns. The form is also the function here: fumes trapped in the domes high above the platforms escape naturally through holes cut into the top, making it a sort of breathing roof.

    How to See It: Head to the western end of the station to admire the colorful details on the History of Transport mural. Originally installed in 1978, this 27-panel mural was removed and restored as part of the renovations.

  • Kanazawa Station, Kanazawa, Japan

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    mikecranephotography.com—Alamy

    Many residents were initially dismayed by the city’s modern “entrance” when it was unveiled in 2005. The station’s wooden hand-drum-shaped Tsuzumi Gate and glass umbrella-shaped Motenashi Dome were controversial because they clashed with the traditional architecture of this old castle town—one of Japan’s best preserved as it was spared in WWII bombings. But the station has been so popular with tourists and photographers that many skeptics have come around to see the beauty in its sleek modern design.

    How to See It: After admiring the futuristic design of the entrance, stop by the ultra-cool fountain out front that displays time like a digital clock.

  • Atocha Station, Madrid

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    iStock

    With the opening of a new terminal in 1992, locals had the inspired idea to convert the original adjacent station into a concourse with a beautiful tropical garden of palm trees reaching toward the steel and glass roof in the center—as well as a nightclub and several cafés. The new station is accessed through the old terminal, where passengers can buy tickets and wait for their trains.

    How to See It: Pay your respects at the memorial to victims of the March 11, 2004, bombing. The 36-foot-tall glass cylinder, just outside the station, is inscribed with messages of condolences from the days following the attacks.

  • Union Station, Los Angeles

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    PCL—Alamy

    Father-son team John and Donald Parkinson contributed to this station’s design, blending the area’s Spanish Colonial heritage with then-contemporary Art Deco styles. The tall white bell tower of the station’s exterior is reminiscent of California’s missions while its main waiting room is sumptuously finished with a painted wood ceiling and multicolored marble inlays on the floor.

    How to See It: On a sunny day, you can wait outdoors in the meticulously maintained rose-filled gardens and courtyards with mosaic-tiled fountains.

  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

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    iStock

    British architect F. W. Stevens worked with local craftsmen to blend Indian architectural traditions with the Victorian Gothic Revival style. Originally named for Queen Victoria, the Empress of India, the station has endured as a Mumbai landmark—and a vital resource for the three million commuters who use it daily. The turrets and elaborate ornamentation are similar to design elements found on Moghul and Hindu palaces across the subcontinent.

    How to See It: Keep your eye out for symbolic details like the figures atop the columns of the entry gates that represent Britain (the lion) and India (the tiger).

  • São Bento Station, Porto, Portugal

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    James Osmond Photography—Alamy

    While the exterior is certainly beautiful—and brings to mind 19th-century Parisian architecture with its mansard roof and stone façade—it is the front hall that will make you gasp. The walls are covered with 20,000 splendid azulejo tin-glazed ceramic tiles, which took 11 years for artist Jorge Colaço to complete.

    How to See It: Zero in on the blue and white tile panels, which depict the history of transportation as well as historic battles and artistic renderings of 14th-century King João I and Queen Philippa of Lancaster by the city’s cathedral.

  • Union Station, Washington, D.C.

    Built in the Beaux-Arts style in the early 20th century, this grand train station was modeled after the Arch of Constantine and the Baths of Caracalla and Diocletian in Rome and finished with white granite and solid mahogany woodwork. More than 70 pounds of gold leafing was used on the coffered plaster ceiling of the main hall during an extensive restoration project in the late 1980s that cemented the station as a natural treasure.

    How to See It: Union Station has hosted several presidential inaugural balls. If you can’t snag an invite, dine at the two-story Centre Café in the middle of the main hall for the best views.

  • Antwerp Central Station, Belgium

    When this palatial neo-Baroque station was completed in 1905, it was criticized for its extravagance (it is decorated in more than 20 types of marble and stone). But it’s proven tough to resist the station’s eclectic, opulent style and enormous arched dome. You may recognize the main hall of this station from a viral video from early 2009 of 200 people performing a choreographed dance to “Do Re Mi” from The Sound of Music.

    How to See It: After a large refurbishment project there are now three levels of train tracks, but the best views of the glorious iron- and glass-vaulted ceiling are from the original upper platform.

  • Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, Malaysia

    Architect A. B. Hubback went for a Moorish style when designing this terminal in the early 1900s. Commuter trains still come through this magnificent white station regularly, though it’s referred to as the “old” station since intercity trains started using the newer KL Sentral station in 2001.

    How to See It: This station serves local commuters more than tourists, but it’s worth stopping by to take in the minaret-like towers of the building and the similarly designed Railway Administration Building across the street.

  • Grand Central Terminal, New York

    This Beaux-Arts terminal, constructed at the beginning of the 20th century, is full of dazzling architectural details. The 42nd Street façade’s giant Tiffany clock, the main concourse’s iconic information booth with its four-faced clock, and the domed gold-and-cerulean-blue ceiling painted with astronomical signs and studded with fiber-optic stars are justly famous around the world.

    How to See It: People-watch while sipping cocktails at one of the bars on the palatial mezzanines, or take a self-guided audio tour to spot lesser-known gems of the terminal.

    This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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TIME Travel

These Are America’s Best Music Scenes

Jazz legends, symphonic masterpieces—and some really cool punk karaoke

In Austin, going out to see a band is not just an excuse to have drinks.

“This is a musicians’ town,” says Caleb Campaigne, the official Insider at W Austin Hotel; he’s a sort of concierge of coolness, whose job includes steering guests toward the best live music in the state capital. “Musicians know that the audience is going to be appreciative—but also prepared. Even if you’re a smaller band, folks are going to have done their research and know who you are.”

That high bar for excellence made Austin a shoo-in for the top 3 of America’s best music scenes, according to Travel+Leisure readers. In the latest America’s Favorite Cities survey, readers ranked 38 major metropolitan areas for the best cuisine, most interesting shopping and even the nerdiest locals. Readers also ranked the cities for their music scenes—whether that means indie rockers in crowded bars, symphonies in state-of-the-art concert halls or renowned banjo bands that still play the local Elks Lodge.

Across the top 25, one can find the birthplaces of legendary music styles and landmark venues—as well as an ever-changing landscape of live music options. We also found plenty of non-performance-based musical diversions, whether that means shopping for vintage guitars in Chicago or eating at Elvis’s favorite pizza parlor in Memphis.

After all, the best musical scenes reflect the spirit of the city behind it. “Austin is inspired in everything it does—from ice
cream to boots and botanical nurseries,” says Campaigne. Even the city’s notorious traffic can have a musical upside: “It’s just a little more time,” he says, “to rock out before arriving at your destination.”

  • No. 1 Nashville

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    Andrew Hetherington

    The world is truly a stage in Music City, where live acts perform anywhere from the Grand Ole Opry to honky tonks and corner markets (like Puckett’s Grocery). True-blue country fans still love the Lower Broadway classics—Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western World—and the songwriters’ haven Bluebird Cafe. But as Nashville has expanded beyond its rhinestone-studded culture, other less-twangy venues have joined the must-stop list, like Mercy Lounge and East Nashville’s 5 Spot. One of the latest hot venues also fits with the city’s high gourmand rankings: City Winery on South Broadway has a 300-seat venue, a restaurant and a wine-tasting room, featuring 14 house-made tap wines. If you want to talk music with the locals, don’t be shy: they also ranked as the friendliest people in the U.S.

  • No. 2 Austin

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    Merrick Ales

    The city that once launched Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, and Steve Ray Vaughan may be best known, these days, for its annual music-and-tech festival South by Southwest. If you find SXSW too crowded, though, you can catch excellent shows year-round at the Moody Theater (where they tape the TV series Austin City Limits), at clubs along South Congress (like Continental Club or C Boy’s Heart & Soul), or the brisket-fueled Sunday Gospel Brunch at Stubbs BBQ. Austin also scored well in the survey for feeling safe; one reason may be that, at beloved music store Waterloo Records, you can still listen to an album before buying it.

  • No. 3 New Orleans

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    Ellen Isaacs—Alamy

    As the birthplace of jazz—and arguably the world’s greatest purveyor of zydeco, Cajun music and even hip-hop-influenced Bounce—New Orleans makes loving music both easy and easily accessible. Most venues here don’t charge a cover, and if you need musical guidance, you can always seek help at the New Orleans Jazz National Park, an NPS-funded visitors center in the French Market. To bask in the music away from tourist crowds, go to Frenchmen Street—with spots like The Spotted Cat, Blue Nile, Maison or Snug Harbor. New Orleans is also the No. 1 city for festivals—like June’s Cajun & Zydeco Festival, July’s Louis-Armstrong-celebrating Satchmo Summerfest and fall’s VooDoo Music Experience.

  • No. 4 Cleveland

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    The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

    Beyond being the home of a certain Hall of Fame—one reason the city ranked in the top 5 for its museums—Cleveland can claim to have created the concept of rock ’n’ roll: the term was coined by Cleveland deejay Alan Freed in the early 1950s. To step into one landmark from that era, catch a live show at the Beachland Ballroom, which started life as a Slavic community center in 1950 but by 2000 was hosting rock bands. Today, Cleveland’s music scene also thrives at indie places like The Grog Shop and the Music Box Supper Club. Meanwhile, if you didn’t have a seat for this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, you can now catch monthly live shows, Sonic Sessions, at the museum. Perhaps ironically, Cleveland also scored well in the survey for relative peace and quiet.

  • No. 5 Minneapolis/St. Paul

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    Explore Minnesota Tourism

    Readers declared these Minnesotans to be the smartest people in the U.S., which clearly correlates with good taste in music. Rock ’n’ roll scholars will certainly want to stop at Minneapolis’s First Avenue, where local bands like the Replacements and Husker Du once cut their teeth, and where native son Prince filmed part ofPurple Rain. For the more classically inclined, the new hotspot is the Ordway Center for Performing Arts—home of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra—already renowned for its great acoustics, thanks to unique wall panels and concrete floors. For a night of good music and good food—Minneapolis and St. Paul ranked well for both diners and notable restaurants—go to Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant, which specializes in jazz, blues, and sustainably grown ingredients.

  • No. 6 Los Angeles

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    iStockphoto

    Readers gave L.A. high marks for its colorful people-watching—still a worthy diversion along the most famous stretch of its music scene, the Sunset Strip. Here, the Whisky a Go Go hosted the Doors and Janis Joplin back in the day, and The Roxy, first opened by David Geffen, had Neil Young as it first act in 1973. To see more future stars, go to spots like songwriter-friendly The Hotel Café, off Sunset; indie-magnet The Echo and Echoplex in Echo Park; and the newcomer Theatre at downtown’s Ace Hotel. L.A. is not just for the rockers, of course: the acoustics and the “house band” (the Los Angeles Philharmonic) at the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall could make anyone a classical-music lover.

  • No. 7 New York City

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    Richard Cummins—Corbis

    The Big Apple could easily make the top 10 on its musical history alone— found at such landmarks as the Apollo in Harlem, the Village Vanguard, and the standard-setting Carnegie Hall. And while the cradle of punk, CBGB, is now gone, the East Village is still the go-to neighborhood for cutting-edge music, at spots like The Bowery Electric—which offers anything from new wave to blues and folk—to Lit Lounge, which includes an art gallery and Sunday-night punk karaoke. Readers also gave NYC props for shopping, and you can still find several fabulous record stores around the city, like the classical vinyl at Academy Records & CDsand the eclectic mix at Williamsburg’s Earwax Records. Music snobs will find plenty of kindred spirits: New Yorkers struck readers as being a little elitist.

  • No. 8 Memphis

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    Ian Dagnall—Alamy

    As the home of the blues—and Graceland, the ultimate pilgrimage for Elvis fans—it’s easy to lose yourself in the Tennessee city’s storied musical past. You can still see free blues, jazz, or even opera at Overton Park’s Levitt Shell (where Elvis had his big debut) and up-and-comers at two recently reborn venues:Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square and Hi Tone, in the reemerging Crosstown Arts district. While readers were generally more interested in the city’s barbecue than its pizza, you can find both at Coletta’s‚ a red-checkered-tablecloth classic that boasts of being the birthplace of BBQ pizza—and of being Elvis’ favorite pizza parlor. Blue suede shoes aside, locals ranked near the bottom of the survey for style.

  • No. 9 Louisville

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    Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau

    The Kentucky city made the musical top 10 for its long bluegrass heritage, but also for its solid hipster culture—cultivated by its good coffee bars, craft beers (like the aptly named Bluegrass Brewing Co.), and indie-pop-oriented music venues. To hear the best local bands, go to The New Vintage in Germantown, Haymarket Whiskey Bar, or Zanzabar, which also features a vintage arcade and a school-cafeteria-style lunch line. To experience more downhome-style music, come in the fall for the Kentucky Bluegrass and Bourbon Experience, held by the Louisville Water Tower.

  • No. 10 Houston

    10-houston
    Spenser Harrison

    It may not be as well known as Austin for its music scene, but this Texas hub still made the top 10, perhaps for its cosmopolitan combination of high-brow culture (like the acclaimed Houston Grand Opera) and crowd-pleasers. Sure, there is still the boot-scooting crowd (remember, Urban Cowboy took place in Houston), who go to old-style country joints like Dosey Doe, located in a former tobacco barn; but Houston also has a long-time punk haven, Mango’s. Singer-songwriter fans, meanwhile, will love the Montrose bar Anderson Fair (where Lyle Lovett first got his start). To combine a love of barbecue and music, look for the giant armadillo with glowing red eyes outside Goode’s Armadillo Palace, the dance hall next door to the legendary Goode Co. restaurant.

  • No. 11 Chicago

    The City of Big Shoulders may have made its musical mark with its blues and jazz scenes (still thriving, thanks to places like Buddy Guy’s Legends), but it also stays relevant with annual festivals, like the Chicago Blues Festival, Pitchfork in the summer, and the metal-friendly Riot Fest. Chicago is also a hotbed for Americana acts—at venues like Pilsen’s Thalia Hall, Hyde Park’s The Promontory or Wicker Park’s 1st Ward (the latter attached to a hipster-worthy butcher shop and salumeria). Music geeks who want to do some good instrument shopping—and heady people-watching—should stroll the aisles of the Chicago Music Exchange, a wonderland of vintage and new electric guitars that has been known to attract shoppers like Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and even Johnny Depp.

  • No. 12 Kansas City

    The city that inspired its own early-rock song—famously performed by Little Richard, James Brown, and the Beatles—gives both music fans and meat-lovers reasons to sing: it also won the survey for the best barbecue. There are also more than 40 jazz venues around the city, from classics like the Blue Room (inside the American Jazz Museum) to hot newcomers like the no-cover Green Lady Lounge. For both burnt ends and soul-searching blues, go to B.B.’s Lawnside Barbecue, where the pit has been smoking ribs for more than 60 years. One reason not to have the blues in KC: it won the survey for feeling affordable.

  • No. 13 Atlanta

    Despite its big-city status, Atlanta still knows how to keep it country. Go to Midtown’s Red Light Café, for instance, and you can catch its Bluegrass Thursday, or the renowned Americana Open Mic on Wednesdays—featuring roots rock, C&W, and folk. For alt-rock, go to The Earl, in East Atlanta, where munchies include boiled peanuts and fried okra. Outside town in Decatur, meanwhile, Eddie’s Attic can claim to have helped launched the careers of locals acts Sugarland and the not-so-twangy John Mayer.

  • No. 14 Seattle

    With its notoriously melancholy skies, the Pacific Northwest city has been a fertile breeding ground for iconoclastic rock stars, from Jimi Hendrix to Heart and Nirvana. To experience the next big things, your best bets are spots like the revamped Columbia City Theater, the hip-hop-friendly Crocodile in Belltown, or the Americana-rich Tractor Tavern in Ballard. If you’re not the club type, you can always bang drums, play DJ, and browse pop-culture exhibits (like the current display of Star Wars costumes) at the Experience Music Project—or even see live shows at the museum’s Sky Church venue.

  • No. 15 Las Vegas

    This is the home of a musical venue with 10 stage lifts—built so that Celine Dion could have a reasonable place to perform. No doubt, Sin City’s music scene may be best known for its epic concert residencies, from the Canadian chanteuse to Cher and Elton John. But Caesars’ Colosseum is not the only mind-bending place to see a show in Vegas—The BLVD Pool at the Cosmopolitan, for instance, converts into a giant stage with a 65-foot screen. For smaller crowds, stick with Vinyl at the Hard Rock, or Brooklyn Bowl at the Linq, where you can see touring acts, bowl, and tuck into the fried chicken and chocolate-chip bread pudding from NYC transplant Blue Ribbon.

  • No. 16 Portland, OR

    As a high-scoring city for both quirkiness and hipness—and most recently giving the world the band the Decemberists—Portland has a unique and thriving indie music scene. Appropriately, the coolest venues have interesting twists: Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar is a former Baptist church (and offers cocktails like a lavender-infused vodka cocktail called Ken’s Friend), and downtown’s McMenamin’s Crystal Ballroom has a mechanized, “floating” dance floor that gives your moves a softer sensation. As an alternative to all of the alternative options, you can also see famed jazz drummer Mel Brown three nights a week at Jimmy Mak’s.

  • No. 17 Philadelphia

    If the City of Brotherly Love embodies the American spirit, then it doesn’t get much more American than Chris’ Jazz Café, an old-school club with multiple sets a night and democratic discounts for students. The globally-minded Ben Franklin might have also enjoyed the World Café Live, a University City venue affiliated with local radio station WXPN, which boasts of “music for grown-ups” and has supper-club-style seating. Even punks like to snack: At Union Transfer on Spring Garden, every concert features a post-show happy hour with locally churned scoops from Little Baby’s Ice Cream. Otherwise, readers might go for some late-night cheesesteaks: the city’s sandwiches ranked at No. 3 in the survey.

  • No. 18 Providence, RI

    Readers commended this collegiate state capital for its smart and attractive locals. And like any cool college town, Providence has an ever-rotating crop of homegrown bands, like Deer Tick (which named one recent album Divine Providence) and The Low Anthem. The latter indie-folk band was instrumental in the launch of the city’s reigning cool music venue, the Columbus Theatre, a former XXX theatre in Federal Hill. Other hotspots include downtown’s Aurora and Olneyville’s Fete (which is about to debut its own pizza café).

  • No. 19 Denver, CO

    Readers love this city for its macho side: outdoor pursuits, craft beer, and burgers. But this is also a longtime jazz town, once nicknamed the Harlem of the West. Today, you can relive that era at the 1940s-supper-club-style Nocturne, in the RiNo Arts District, which offers jazz every night, as well as a no-TV “Social Hour” where they spin classic jazz on vinyl. The Colorado city also made the top 20 for its festivals—like JazzFest Denver, the Five Points Jazz Festival, and the more-rockin’ Underground Music Showcase.

  • No. 20 Miami

    The Florida city has two famously distinctive musical personalities—and both inspire a lot of dancing, helping the city rank at the top of the survey for both nightclubs and wild weekends. To groove to Electronic Dance Music ’til dawn (or even later ), go to E11even, open 24 hours. And if you want to soak up the Latin music scene, head to the clubs along Calle Ocho in Little Havana, like Hoy Como Ayer or Ball and Chain, which ups the ante with karaoke and a menu featuring the Elena Ruz—a Cuban sandwich with cream cheese, strawberry jam and turkey—named after a famed 1930s socialite.

  • No. 21 Pittsburgh

    Locals in this Pennsylvania city made a solid showing in the survey for being a little quirky—and their best music venues are unabashedly offbeat. One is the Mr. Smalls Theatre, in Millville, a former Catholic Church that now has studio space (50 Cent recorded here), an art gallery, and an adjoining skate park. Or, you can head to bowling alley Arsenal Bowl in Lawrenceville—where bands occasionally take over two lanes to create a stage. Or, ring the buzzer on Wednesday nights at the Allegheny Elks Lodge, where hipsters, old-timers, and kids alike come for the free shows and sing-alongs hosted by the Pittsburgh Banjo Club, which typically numbers around 40 pickers, backed up by horns.

  • No. 22 San Francisco

    As the song says, they built this city on rock ’n’ roll: not only did readers like the city’s lovely architecture, but there are plenty of significant musical landmarks, from venues like The Fillmore to the Haight-Ashbury house where the Grateful Dead once lived. Deadheads, meanwhile, will want to visit in early August for Jerry Day, the annual festival at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater in the Excelsior District. And as proof that this city still corners the market on unique, a must-see for both jazz and gospel fans is the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church, which does noon services every Sunday, and guests are invited to bring their own instruments.

  • No. 23 Detroit

    The Motor City offers a rich musical time machine: at the Motown Museum, you can stand in Studio A, with its original instruments and equipment, where the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes recorded some of their biggest hits. Or, you can see a show at the Majestic—which, when it opened in 1915, was the biggest of its kind in the world. To explore the local jazz scene, check out the still-thriving Cliff Bell’s and Baker’s Keyboard Lounge, both of which date back to the 1930s. It’s not all in the past, though: to experience a great dive bar with local acts, go to The Old Miami, which first opened in 1975 for local veterans and still offers an excellent old-school jukebox. For an equally old-school meal, readers also loved the city’s square pizzas.

  • No. 24 Boston

    Readers gave Beantown high marks for its sense of history, but music lovers get their own version of the old days, minus the tri-corner hats: The first House of Blues opened here in 1992, while a plucky little band named U2 made their first U.S. appearance in 1981 at the Allston club Paradise Rock Club (known to locals as The ’Dise). To go back even further, head to The Burren, in Somerville, which is renowned for its traditional Irish music, accompanied by Guinness beef stew.

  • No. 25 Dallas

    Big D gets a bad rap from readers in this year’s survey—like, for its seemingly snooty locals, more inclined toward luxe shopping than whooping it up. But the neighborhood of Deep Ellum is proof that this city has an artsy side. Here you’ll find public murals, plenty of bars, and great rock-and-indie venues—like Dada, with its outdoor patio, Trees and the recently reopened Bomb Factory, whose building has been, over the past century, a Ford factory and a WWII munitions plant. Deep Ellum is even home to the Eight Track Museum, which is devoted to the much-maligned recording format and connected to the musically themed Orphic Gallery.

    Read the original list HERE.

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TIME Travel

The 12 Best Destinations for Stargazing

The immensity of the universe is beautiful and humbling—the stars reminders of billions of lives spent, in astronomer Carl Sagan’s words, “on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.” But as our population grows, so too does light pollution, clouding the atmosphere and all that lies beyond it. Today, as few as 500 stars are visible from many urban areas.

But happily that’s just not the case for these dozen locales, where as many as 15,000 individual pinpricks of light can be seen with the naked eye. The catch? They’re not exactly convenient—but that’s kind of the point.

Attention astrologers and contemplators of the universe: these are the planet’s best spots for stargazing.

  • Atacama Desert in Chile

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    Babak Tafreshi/National Geographic Creative—Corbis

    This 600-mile stretch of northern Chile boasts the trifecta for ideal stargazing conditions: high altitude, unpolluted skies, and the driest (non-polar) air on Earth. Unsurprisingly, the astro-tourism scene is booming. The ALMA Observatory, where the world’s most powerful radio telescope uses 66 satellite antennae to look into deep space, will be joined by a handful of other groundbreaking telescopes currently in development, while the dozen or so observatories currently scattered across the Elqui Valley draw hundreds of visitors a day. Elqui Domos, on the outskirts of the desert, offers a more personal experience: along with an observatory, the hotel features domed tents with open ceilings or timber cabins with glass roofs, which act as skylights to the world above.

  • NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia

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    Frans Lanting—Corbis

    When the International Dark-Sky Association (a group that recognizes places for their sky quality) formed in 1988, its first reserve to achieve Gold Tier status (the IDA’s highest award) was Namibia’s NamibRand Nature Reserve. in the arid Namib Desert and 60 miles from the closest village. Here visitors can camp out in the arid Namib Desert and take a guided tour of the dunes. There’s also Wolwedans, a camp complex whose Mountain View Suite includes a summertime ‘star-gazing’ bed on its main veranda.

  • Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve in New Zealand

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    Fraser Gunn/ Hedgehog House/Minden Pictures—Corbis

    The world’s largest dark-sky reserve sits on a high country plateau in New Zealand called the Mackenzie Basin, which is ringed entirely by mountains on the country’s rugged South Island. On Earth & Sky’s nighttime tour of Mt. John Observatory, used by astronomers from Japan, Germany, and the U.S., visitors can spot the Magellanic Clouds—satellite galaxies of the Milky Way visible only from the southern hemisphere.

  • Kerry International Dark-Sky Reserve in Ireland

    As far back as 6,000 years ago, the residents of Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula, an area isolated on either side by the Kerry mountain range and vast Atlantic Ocean, used stone formations to track solar and lunar cycles. Locals are fiercely proud of their region, which, in 2011, became the only gold-tier dark-sky reserve in the northern hemisphere, and are hard at work developing a new public lighting system that is dark-sky compliant.

  • Mauna Kea in Hawaii

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    Fraser Gunn/ Hedgehog House/Minden Pictures—Corbis

    People making the two-hour drive to the gusty 13,796-foot summit of Mauna Kea, home to the world’s largest optical telescope, have high risk for altitude sickness, but serious sky-lovers brave the elements (and low oxygen levels) for some spectacular sunrises and sunsets. The peak closes to tourists come nightfall, but the visitor’s center (at a more manageable 9,200 feet) remains open until 10 p.m. There, guests are treated to free lectures, Q&As, and a chance to peer through 11-, 14-, and 16-inch telescopes.

  • Nova Scotia, Canada

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    Courtesy of Trout Point Lodge

    In far eastern Canada’s Acadian Skies and Mi’kmaq Lands, a swath of wilderness in undeveloped western Nova Scotia, you’ll find the world’s first certified Starlight Hotel: Trout Point Lodge. The area was once the home of the indigenous Mi’kmaq nation, whose stories about constellations explained the changing of the seasons and other universal phenomena. Today, a resident astronomer leads guided star walks through the grounds as well as sessions on the lodge’s new stargazing platform.

  • Tenerife on the Canary Islands

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    Michele Falzone/JAI—Corbis

    With its high altitude, proximity to the Equator, and distance from tropical storms, the remote Canary Islands off mainland Morocco enjoy some of the clearest, darkest skies. What’s more, Tenerife, the largest island, passed a law that controls flight paths in order to protect its stargazing conditions. It’s also the host of the semi-annual Starmus Festival, a celebration of science, music, and the arts. Festival attendees, which have included Neil Armstrong and Stephen Hawking, enjoy lectures, screenings, and space-themed parties. Until the next gathering, visitors can tour the Teide Observatory (open April through December) or take a cable car to the top of volcanic Mount Teide for dinnertime stargazing.

  • Jasper National Park in Canada

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    © Prisma Bildagentur AG —Alamy

    The roads to Alberta’s Jasper National Park wend their way through spruce and pine forests, ultimately giving way to the majestic Canadian Rockies. At night, the views only get better. Much hype has been built around Jasper’s annual Dark Sky Festival, which schedules daytime solar viewings, rocket launches for kids, and telescope workshops. If you can’t pass through in October, however, spring for roadside—or backcountry, if you’re truly adventurous—camping at the more than 100 sites scattered throughout the preserve, which are open year-round.

  • Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania

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    karenfoleyphotography—Alamy

    Pennsylvania may not seem so far-flung, but in 2014, the northern lights—phenomena usually only witnessed in high-latitude regions—were spotted a whopping four times in the 82-acre Cherry Springs State Park. This year, aspiring astronomers are gearing up for the park’s annual Black Forest Star Party (September 11-13), which brings together hundreds of amateur observers for a weekend of communal stargazing.

  • Galloway Forest Park in Scotland

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    Arch White—Alamy

    It’s said that more than 7,000 stars and distant planets can be seen just with the naked eye from southwest Scotland’s 185,000-acre Galloway Forest Park, the first Dark Sky Park in the U.K. One of its three visitors’ centers overlooks Clatteringshaws Loch and the forest’s unlit center—providing ideal night conditions for gazing skyward. Or, for a more formal evening, sign up for lectures by guest speakers and evening viewings at the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory, on the park’s southern edge.

  • Hovenweep National Monument in Utah and Colorado

    It’s speculated that several of the prehistoric buildings in the deserts of Hovenweep (the barren canyons and mesas straddling the border of Utah and Colorado) were designed in accordance with major celestial events including the summer solstice. Why they were built or how they were used remains a mystery.

  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia

    Visiting Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock) and Kata-Tjuta, the two 600-million-year-old monoliths in the middle of Australia’s Red Center, are quintessential bucket-list experiences, and it’s easy to see why: as night falls, the Milky Way, with its rainbow hues, is clearly visible. Secluded lookout points are scattered throughout the nearby Ayers Rock Resort (we suggest the one behind Outback Pioneer Lodge), where you can spot the Southern Cross and—if you’re lucky—the aurora australis.

    Read the original list HERE.

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TIME Travel

These Are America’s Most Romantic Train Trips

Romantic rail rides across the country

If you’ve been thinking about sallying forth with a companion, consider a train trip to discover Wes-Anderson-film-levels of nostalgia and beauty. From the Napa Valley to Maine, riding the rails has never been so romantic.

 

  • Pullman Rail Journeys (Chicago-New Orleans)

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    Pullman Rail Journeys

    While in Chicago, ask about the Master Bedroom suite in the Pontchartrain Club car, and take it all the way down to the Big Easy. On select trips, musicians from Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music serenade riders as they snake through the South.

  • Saratoga & North Creek Railway

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    Saratoga & North Creek Railway

    If you’re starting in upstate New York, consider the old-timey Saratoga & North Creek Snow Train, which runs from January to March. As you look out the window across frozen Adirondack landscape, you can think of the lodge that’s waiting for you at the end of the journey in North Creek, New York.

  • Napa Valley Wine Train

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    The Napa Valley Wine Train

    There’s pretty much nothing more romantic than moon glow, which is why the Napa Valley Wine Train’s Moonlight Escape excursion probably beats most regular date nights. As you make your way through Napa Valley, enjoy a meal by executive chief Kelly Macdonald, along with (of course!) two glasses of wine.

  • Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor

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    George H.H. Huey—Alamy

    On its way from the Connecticut shoreline town of Old Saybrook, the Northeast Corridor train affords couples the opportunity to watch passing sailboats on Long Island Sound, which is particularly beautiful as as the sun sinks below the horizon. For the complete experience, hop off in Mystic and stay at a local B&B to complete the experience.

  • Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner

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    Lisa Werner—Alamy

    It’s really hard to go wrong with a day trip along the coastline of Southern California. Amtrak’s Surfliner takes passengers from San Luis Obispo down to San Diego, offering views of the Channel Islands and Santa Barbara, to name a few.

  • Grand Canyon Railway

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    The Grand Canyon Railway

    This route takes riders across Grand Canyon Country—through the Ponderosa pine forest and expansive prairies, all the way to the South Rim. It’s worth booking tickets in the train’s Luxury Dome car, which provides a more intimate and down-tempo experience.

  • Amtrak Cascades service

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    Amtrak

    Grab a ticket for the morning train from Seattle to Vancouver and you’ll be able to watch the sun rise over Puget Sound. As the train travels right next to the water, eagles, blue herons, and possibly an orca will be right outside your window.

  • Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

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    Art Directors & TRIP—Alamy

    There’s perhaps no better way to experience Colorado’s San Luis Valley than via the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad’s Art Deco-style club cars. The sunset dinner ride offers cocktails and a meal, plus amazing views of Colorado’s peaks.

  • Maine Eastern Railroad

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    Kevin Andrusia

    On this two-hour ride, get full view of the rocky landscape of Maine’s Midcoast region and the charming towns that populate it. As you glide along the water and through twee towns like Wiscasset, you’ll enjoy the views of Victorian homes and sailing vessels.

  • Sierra Dinner Train

    Gorgeous vistas of Northern California’s Sierra Mountains surround passengers throughout this lunch train, which features a three-course meal and drinks. After lunch, make sure and head over to the open-air car, which is particularly great for photographers—no glass pane between you and the landscape!

    Read the original list HERE.

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TIME Travel

These 6 Wilderness Retreats Will Have You Dreaming of the Great Outdoors

Escape to these new remote retreats

Hidden among the world’s mountains, deserts, glaciers, and forests, these six stays offer intrepid travelers singular experiences in spectacular settings. There’s no cell reception, no monitors, no skyscrapers, no commuter trains.

From the ice-packed villages of Greenland to the hillsides of Tasmania, these wild retreats—equal parts adventure and romance—are the perfect detox for the nature-lover’s soul.

  • Natural Habitat’s Base Camp in Greenland

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    Olaf Malver—Natural Habitat Adventures

    Greenland’s east coast is a primeval frontier, home to tiny, isolated Inuit villages and little else but ice. This August, Natural Habitats debuts Base Camp Greenland at the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet—second in size only to Antarctica—and the glacial Sermilik Fjord. Days in the arctic tundra are spent navigating the fjord’s maze of floating icebergs by zodiac boat, kayaking the Greenland Sea, and scouting Arctic fox, hare, and loon during treks through fields of cotton grass. The camp’s first season opens on Aug. 1, 2015.

  • Pumphouse Point in Tasmania

    01-pumphouse-point
    Stu Gibson

    Floating in the middle of Lake St. Clair, against the backdrop of Tasmania’s primitive Central Highlands rain forests, this hydro-pump-station-turned-boutique-hotel feels a bit like its own private island—just, you know, with all the comforts of a mountain lodge. Inside Pumphouse Point, walls of Tasmanian oak and an earthy palette of muted grays, whites, and browns evoke the wilds of its surroundings. When not indulging in the honor bar or admiring the original water turbines beneath the lobby’s glass floor, you might spend your afternoons canoeing, trout fishing, or on a bushwalk in the alpine moorlands—keep an eye out for wallabies and wombats! At night, all that’s left to do is to sit by your floor-to-ceiling windows and watch the stars come out—or even, if you’re lucky, the Southern Lights.

  • Cloud Camp at Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in Canada

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    Josh Lewis Photography

    Come May, thrill-seekers can claim their own aerie at Cloud Camp, which is launching this May at Vancouver Island’s Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. A thrilling helicopter ride flies guests 4,500 feet above sea level to the rocky mountaintop, where a one-night-only safari-style camp perches over Clayoquot Sound. Your nest is well stocked: the white canvas tent includes a four-poster bed, down duvets, and a fireplace, which is particularly lovely when nights turn chilly. By day, you’ll be treated to a guided hike along the nearby mountain lake, with spectacular views at every turn. And by sundown? A five-course dinner with wine pairings prepared by your own private chef—the perfect prelude to a night spent dreaming in the clouds.

  • Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp in Namibia

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    Wilderness Safaris

    The coastal desert of northwestern Namibia has a stark kind of beauty. It looks a bit like the surface of another planet—a sea of shifting dunes, unforgiving terrain, and not a soul in sight. At Hoanib Skeleton Coast Camp, the newest retreat from Wilderness Safaris, eight tented suites have decks for viewing the desert’s lunar plains and roaming elephants, giraffes, and lions that seek out the waterhole nearby. In addition to daily game drives, guests that spring for a three-night stay are treated to a scenic flight over the region’s undulating dune fields and dolomite mountains to Mowe Bay, where, from above, one can spot Cape fur seal colonies and the litter of offshore shipwrecks that gave the Skeleton Coast its name.

  • Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge in Alaska

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    Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge

    It takes a three-hour drive south of Anchorage followed by a 12-mile boat ride from the town of Seward to reach Fox Island in Alaska’s lesser-known Kenai Fjords National Park, but the journey is worth it. Each of the eight waterfront pinewood cabins and renovated main building at Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge look out toward the snowcapped mountains edging Resurrection Bay, known for its orca whales, sea otters, and bald eagles. Other perks: naturalist-led hikes along temperate rain forest trails, cooking classes (skewered salmon belly, anyone?), and kayak tours of Pederson Glacier.

  • Inn at John O’Groats in Scotland

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    Natural Retreats

    A mere 310 people call the barren, windswept landscape of John O’Groats home, though interest has peaked since a dilapidated 1875 hotel was reborn as the stylish Inn at John O’Groats. The restored whitewashed mansion now stands alongside a colorful extension of buildings housing multi-bedroom apartments. Interiors are chic and spacious, with wood-burning stoves, mini libraries, and armchairs that afford stunning views of sea—and the palpable feeling that you’re sitting at the edge of the world.

    Read the original list HERE.

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