TIME Culture

American Cities and Towns With the Most Holiday Spirit

Aspen, Colorado
Aspen, Colorado Jeremy Swanson

Twinkling lights, sumptuous meals, and maybe even Santa skiing down the slopes: T+L readers share their favorite towns for the holidays

Johnny Johnston has lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, but when he goes home for the holidays, he finds himself enchanted all over again by the winter wonderland where he grew up: Vail, CO.

“From the moment you drive into the valley, the streets and public spaces are all lit with Christmas lights, creating a Norman Rockwell moment,” says the broker for Sotheby’s International Realty. Even if his mom still hassles him about what shirt he wears to his aunt’s dinner party, “Vail is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen for the holiday season.”

Many Travel + Leisure readers agree, ranking the Colorado mountain town at No. 2 for seasonal cheer in the America’s Favorite Places survey. Readers evaluated hundreds of towns in dozens of features, from romance to thriving art scenes to irresistible bakeries. To determine the best towns for the holidays, we combined the scores in a few festive categories: department-store shopping, notable restaurants, and Christmas lights.

Plenty of the top 25 holiday towns offer creative spins on holiday traditions, too, whether they look like winter wonderlands or not. In a South Carolina town, you can have your turkey dinner in barbecue sauce. In one mountain town, the annual tree lighting involves a faux pine made of recycled skis. And in places from Healdsburg, CA, to Charlottesville, VA, you can pick up holiday gifts—local wines, French linens, or antique cookbooks—that you’d never find at the mall back home.

Another kind of holiday magic (low-season rates and fewer crowds) can create a blissful version of Silent Night. That’s why Far Hills, NJ, resident Gavin Macomber has spent a few Christmases by the beach in Nantucket, MA. “It’s fun to walk around town sipping hot chocolate and watching snow fall,” says the founder of Andegavia Cask Wines. “Nantucket is particularly peaceful this time of year—which makes it an ideal place to escape to during the holidays.”

No. 1 Aspen, CO

A combination of luxe living and quaint charm helped this Rocky Mountain town capture the spot as the merriest of them all. Wandering along Cooper Avenue, you may chance upon cookie exchanges, public s’mores roasts, or elf meet-and-greets. But the two most famous hotels in town act as the nerve centers for holiday cheer. The lobby of the Hotel Jerome regularly hosts carolers, while the Ajax Tavern and Element 47 at the Little Nell both serve fabulous holiday meals, with indulgences like venison loin with huckleberries, black truffles, and chestnut-and-caramel profiteroles. The Little Nell also hosts the all-you-can-sip Bottomless Cristal New Year’s Eve Party.

No. 2 Vail, CO

Ski season kicks into high gear during the holidays in this Colorado wonderland. December brings the festivities of Snowdaze—where the fresh powder is celebrated with live concerts every evening—and Holidaze, which includes the village’s tree lighting during the winter solstice and a New Year’s Eve torchlight parade down Golden Peak, followed by fireworks. Any time of year, readers love Vail’s liquid nourishments, ranking the town highly for its hot coffee (compare local favorites Yeti’s Grind and Loaded Joe’s) and equally warming cocktails. You might toast the New Year with a Rosemary Lemon Drop (rosemary-infused vodka with lemon juice and a sugar rim) at the icicle-decorated bar Frost, inside the recently renovated Sebastian Vail.

No. 3 Ogunquit, ME

Readers may be drawn to this former artists’ colony in Maine as a beach getaway, but the holiday season brings the perks of winter on the sand: lower prices and overall calm, with just enough festivity to keep things humming. Mid-December’s Christmas by the Sea Festival typically includes a bonfire on the beach and a soul-warming chowder fest. From Ogunquit, you can also easily reach two shopping areas for getting through your list: the Kittery Outlets and, an hour away, Freeport. For distinctive local shopping, browse the Harbor Candy Shop, where the gift boxes include a Vegan Sampler, featuring soy truffles, marzipan, and orange peel enrobed in dark chocolate.

No. 4 Nantucket, MA

The banner event during the holidays in this island town started in the 1970s, because too many locals left to shop in Cape Cod. Today, during the annual Christmas Stroll—typically the first weekend in December—you can shop downtown amid dozens of seven-foot, decorated Christmas trees, and take part in wine tastings, ghost walks, and home tours. Pick up some gifts at Murray’s Toggery Shop (the mother ship for holiday-ready Nantucket Reds pants) and Jessica Hicks, the boutique of a local jewelry designer. For more tree-gazing, go to the Whaling Museum, which houses 80 trees decorated by local artists, merchants, and kids. Nantucket also scored well with readers for feeling both mellow and romantic.

No. 5 Naples, FL

This Florida town lacks snowman-building material—it ranked highly in the survey for warm weather and beach getaways. But the snowbird-style winter wonderland still lured holiday revelers with its luxury stores, cool boutiques, and festive ambience. Third Street South is the headquarters for the official tree, evening “snow” showers during Thanksgiving week, and gorgeous window displays, like those at department store Marissa Collections in the Old Naples Historic District. Continue shopping along Fifth Avenue South, and check out whimsical clothing and gift shop Wind in the Willows, whose window won Best in Show at the 2013 local holiday decorating contest. Of course, the holidays are about more than retail; catch the Naples edition of the worldwide TUBA Christmas, a concert on Fifth Avenue South’s Sugden Plaza featuring brass tubas, euphoniums, and baritones.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Education

America’s Best College Towns

Syracuse, NY
Syracuse, NY Wainwright Photography

Visit these thriving college towns for a crash course in live music, craft beer, art, and history

“Depending on how you look at it, Santa Cruz is either the best or the worst place to spend your college years,” says Keijiro Ikebe, a Silicon Valley visual designer who graduated from the University of California Santa Cruz in 2002.

“With the town surrounded by shimmering water and lush forests under sunny blue skies, the last thing you want to do is spend a beautiful day taking notes in a lecture hall.”

After all, ivy-covered walls, stately libraries, and cafeteria meals don’t make a great college town. It’s more about the distractions—and Santa Cruz is overflowing with them. There are miles of beaches with some of the best surfing in the country; mountain-bike trails at Wilder Ranch State Park; artisanal coffee bars almost as numerous as craft-beer taps; and your nightly choice of any genre of live music.

This kind of lively atmosphere earned Santa Cruz a place among the top 20 college towns in America, as chosen by Travel + Leisure readers in our latest America’s Favorite Places survey. They evaluated hundreds of towns for live music, pizza, dive bars, hamburgers, and other qualities that add up to a great college town.

Syracuse, NY, takes home top honors, thanks largely to an abundance of choices for such collegiate necessities as beer, good, cheap food, and strong coffee. Lafayette, LA, was a close runner-up, with high marks for its live music, cocktail bars, and singles scene.

Read on to discover which other college towns scored big.

No. 1 Syracuse, NY

Syracuse earned top marks for things that fuel your typical university student. It was voted No. 1 for both pizza and hamburgers (sharing the latter honor with Lafayette, LA), No. 2 for coffee, and No. 4 for both food trucks and craft beer—apparently consumed by an abundance of hip locals, for which this Finger Lakes town rates No. 2 in the country. You’re likely to find aforementioned hipsters at Faegan’s Pub on Tuesday nights, when patrons earn their name on a plaque after completing a “tour” of some of the 44 brews on tap. Syracuse also ranked in the top 20 for its historic sites; start that sort of tour at Hanover Square, surrounded by buildings dating back to the Civil War era.

No. 2 Lafayette, LA

Lafayette made the grade for its plentiful extracurricular activities. The Acadian town ranked No. 1 for both its concerts and live music scene, and came in second for its nightclubs, cocktail bars, and singles scene. Music has deep roots in the heart of Cajun Country; tap into it with some “swamp pop” at the Blue Dog Café, a zydeco dance party at Vermilionville, or a Creole jam at the Blue Moon Saloon. When you’re done dancing, curl up with a good book—Lafayette was voted second best for bookstores like husband-and-wife-run Alexander Books.

No. 3 Charlottesville, VA

The University of Virginia was not only designed and founded by Thomas Jefferson, but it’s also the only beautiful campus named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. That stately attractiveness extends to downtown Charlottesville itself, where a brick-paved pedestrian mall is the place to meet for shopping, gallery-browsing, dining, and drinking. You might start the day with a currant donut at the Albemarle Baking Company, then slip into your running shoes for a jog up Observatory Hill. Come evening, slip over to the Whiskey Jar, featuring more than 125 kinds of bourbon, rye, whiskey, and scotch. It’s a decidedly grown-up spot to strike up a conversation with locals, voted No. 1 for intelligence, yet still approachable—among hundreds of towns, Charlottesville came in at No. 24 for friendliness.

No. 4 Fort Collins, CO

The untamed Cache La Poudre River apparently isn’t the only thing to run wild through Fort Collins: the home of Colorado State University was also voted No. 5 for “wild weekends” by T+L readers. Some credit goes to the abundance of destination breweries, both big (Anheuser-Busch, New Belgium) and small (Black Bottle, Equinox). At the Bike Library, check out a free set of wheels and pick up an itinerary for an eight-stop brewery tour. End the day at Social, an underground speakeasy in Old Town serving a toothsome menu of nibbles, including blistered shishito peppers, roasted bone marrow, and charcuterie plates.

No. 5 Duluth, MN

Duluth grew up around the world’s largest freshwater port, Lake Superior, where captains of industry built magnificent mansions (many are now B&Bs), and immigrant dockworkers loaded ships with ore from Minnesota’s nearby Iron Range. Today the waterfront Canal Park is Duluth’s most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike, who grab a seat on the deck atGrandma’s Saloon & Grill to sip one of the dozen or so local microbrews and watch the Aerial Lift Bridge rise to let ships through, just like it has for nearly 110 years. And while the winters are frigid in Duluth, you’re bound to get a warm welcome from this town ranked 22nd for friendly people.

Read the full list HERE.

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These Are the Most Visited Tourist Attractions in the World

Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Grand Bazaar in Istanbul Michael James O'Brien

Embrace the wisdom of crowds by adding the world’s most-visited tourist attractions to your bucket list

For nearly 500 years, the emperors living within Beijing’s opulent Forbidden City dictated who could enter and leave. Well, the gates have opened, and tourists are pouring in to see it all for themselves. Attendance is up by 2.5 million since 2010.

The Forbidden City is a dream destination for some Americans, but most have never researched a trip to Everland or Lotte World. Yet these South Korean theme parks also rank among the world’s 50 most-visited tourist attractions—beating out the Eiffel Tower (nearly 7 million), the Great Pyramids (4 million), and Stonehenge (1 million). And there are more surprises.

Where we choose to spend our vacation time says a lot about what we value. Despite—or perhaps because of—what the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) calls “global economic challenges,” more travelers are hitting the road than ever. International tourist arrivals increased by 5 percent in 2013, according to the UNWTO. That translates to a record of more than one billion trips. With its population of 1.36 billion, China became the second-largest exporter of tourists. Russia, now the fifth-largest outbound market, increased travel spending by 26 percent.

Like it or not, theme parks clearly have worldwide appeal. France’s Disneyland Park draws about the same number of visitors (10.5 million) as Sacré Coeur, and four of the world’s 20 most-visited tourist attractions are Disney parks.

Many inspiring and iconic places can’t quite keep up. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum narrowly missed the top 50, as did the British Museum in London (6.7 million), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (6.3 million), and the Roman Colosseum and Forum (5.1 million each). The Berlin Wall Memorial Site logged only 500,000 visitors in 2013, though extra crowds are arriving in November 2014 for the 25th anniversary of its fall.

Accessibility can be a factor. It takes extra effort to reach Yellowstone National Park (3.2 million) or the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, China (4.8 million). And Peru’s Machu Picchu has restricted tourism to help maintain the site’s integrity; only 2,500 can enter per day, or 912,500 per year.

So what is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world? And can 91 million people be wrong? Read on to see the results—and an explanation of our methods for calculating it all.

The Methodology: To tally up the world’s most-visited attractions, we gathered the most recent data supplied by the attractions themselves or from government agencies, industry reports, and reputable media outlets. In most cases, it was 2013 data. Attractions that don’t sell tickets gave us estimates as best they could.

We defined “tourist attractions” as cultural and historical sites, natural landmarks, and officially designated spaces. So Boston’s shop-filled Faneuil Hall Marketplace (est. 1742) made the cut, but not Minnesota’s Mall of America, which, with 40 million annual visitors, would otherwise have tied for No. 4. Short walkways and plazas also fit our definition of tourist attractions; that disqualified the Blue Ridge Parkway. We also omitted beaches, bridges, and sites that draw almost exclusively religious pilgrims.

No. 1 Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Annual Visitors: 91,250,000

Hand-painted ceramics, lanterns, intricately patterned carpets, copperware, gold Byzantine-style jewelry, and more eye-catching products vie for your attention within this 15th-century bazaar’s vaulted walkways. It has since expanded and become increasingly touristy, but locals, too, are among the millions of bargain hunters. To haggle like a pro, lowball your starting offer and don’t be afraid to walk away. And if it all gets overwhelming, break for a succulent doner kebab or strong cup of Turkish coffee.

No. 2 The Zócalo, Mexico City

Annual Visitors: 85,000,000

Formally known as the Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous Zócalo thrums with activity. It hosts military parades, cultural and political events, concerts, exhibitions, fairs, and public art installations. Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace flank this historic public square, and an imposing Mexican flag, raised and lowered daily, waves over the scene.

No. 3 Times Square, New York City

Annual Visitors: 50,000,000

Tourists flock to New York’s neon heart for the flashing lights, Broadway shows, megastores, and sheer spectacle—including costumed characters eager to pose for photo ops. Pedestrian-only areas with café tables introduced a few years ago have made it easier and more appealing to hang out here. Times Square can even be a convenient, if chaotic, base, thanks to hotels at every price point and easy access to public transportation: subways, rails, buses, and more yellow taxis than you can count.

No. 4 (tie) Central Park, New York City

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

New York has larger green spaces, but none is more famous than Central Park, which stretches across nearly 850 acres of prime Manhattan real estate—an oasis for both tourists and locals. You can ride in one of the horse-drawn carriages, check out the modest-size zoo, climb to the top of 19th-century Belvedere Castle, or take a break from pounding the pavement to sprawl on the Great Lawn, gazing at the skyscrapers above.

No. 4 (tie) Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Annual Visitors: 40,000,000

Opened in 1907, this busy station shuttles some 12,500 passengers daily in and out of the city. But it also handles millions of tourists who pass through to take in the impeccably mixed architectural styles throughout the colossal building: from Classical to Beaux-Arts to Baroque. More than 70 retail outlets make Union Station a shopping destination, and it’s also a jumping-off point for many D.C. tours.

Read the full list HERE.

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The Best and Worst Airports for Flight Delays in America

Airport terminal
Jeff Greenberg/Alamy

Flight delays are on the rise at airports across the nation. Learn where you’re most likely to get stuck at the gate—and how to boost your odds of taking off on time

A word of advice for anyone who dreads being stuck in the purgatory of an airport terminal, gazing wistfully at the departures screen: avoid Chicago.

We analyzed data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics for 29 major U.S. airports to highlight which have experienced the least and most delayed departures over a 12-month period (July 2013 to June 2014). And both of the Windy City’s major hubs are among the worst offenders.

At Chicago’s Midway International Airport, one in three planes left behind schedule, earning it the title of tardiest airport—for a second year in a row. Nearby O’Hare International Airport landed at No. 4, with more than a quarter of its flights running late.

At the other end of the spectrum, Salt Lake City International held on to its No. 1 spot as the most punctual of American airports, with less than 13 percent of departures behind schedule.

Airports, admittedly, are largely at the mercy of air traffic control and weather when it comes to delays, says aviation consultant Mike Boyd. “The airport itself has really no control whatsoever on reducing delays,” Boyd says. “They care, but they can’t do anything.”

Nor can you always control which airports you fly through. Yet you can plan your travel in a way that lessens your chance of sitting at the gate. For each airport, we identified the time of day to depart. Hint: the times to avoid are often in the afternoon and evening, thanks to the domino effect of cascading delays. “An earlier flight always makes more sense than a later flight,” Boyd says. “But that’s still not a guarantee.”

To find out your odds, see where San Francisco, Dulles, Orlando, and other major hubs rank among the best and worst airports for avoiding delays.

Best: No. 1 Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC)

Flights Delayed: 12.9%

This Delta hub retained the top spot for punctuality for the fifth time since 2008, despite a 1.2 percent uptick in delays year over year. More than 90 percent of flights depart on time for 12 hours each day at SLC. Just avoid the dinnertime twilight zone, when nearly a third fall behind schedule.

Best Time Window: 6–10 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 6–8 p.m.

Best: No. 2 Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)

Flights Delayed: 14.3%

Up three spots from last year, the oldest airport serving the nation’s capital is also the one least likely to keep you there longer than planned. While the other two D.C.-area gateways both rated among the worst for delays (BWI at second worst and Dulles at eighth worst), DCA posted an on-time score better than 85 percent.

Best Time Window: Before 1 p.m.

Worst Time Window: 8–10 p.m.

Best: No. 3 (tie) Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Flights Delayed: 14.6%

Although delays increased by 1.5 percentage points compared to last year, Sea-Tac still held on to its third-place position. Just over 40 percent of the airport’s total passengers arrive and depart via Alaska Airlines, which operates its primary hub here—and was recently rated the second-best airline for avoiding flight delays.

Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 4–5 p.m.

Best: No. 3 (tie) Portland International Airport (PDX)

Flights Delayed: 14.6%

A 2.1 percent bump in delays cost PDX the No. 2 ranking that it’s owned for six previous years. But the airport—which introduced in-line baggage screening in 2010—still managed an on-time percentage of 90 percent or higher for half of each day. It has also won praise for its food selection and free Wi-Fi.

Best Time Window: Before 11 a.m.

Worst Time Window: 2–3 p.m.

Best: No. 5 Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport (MSP)

Flights Delayed: 15.6%

One of three Delta hubs among the 10 most punctual airports, MSP transports nearly half of its passengers via the legacy carrier, which holds the title of best major airline for avoiding flight delays. Travelers will appreciate MSP’s consistency; its percentage of on-time departures dips below 80 percent for only four hours daily.

Best Time Window: Before noon.

Worst Time Window: 6–7 p.m.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Food & Drink

The Best Whiskey Bars in America

Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington, D.C. Courtesy of Saloon

Toast your next vacation with craft cocktails or a tasting flight at one of these top whiskey bars

Mark Twain once observed, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough”—a philosophy Americans are increasingly taking to heart. In 2013, sales of the heavenly brown liquid outpaced all other spirits, and specialty bars are popping up at an overwhelming rate.

“Five years ago, you could count the good whiskey bars on two hands,” says Lew Bryson, managing editor of Whisky Advocate. “Now it’s impossible to keep up.”

So what makes a whiskey bar stand out from the crowd? A solid selection (at least 50 bottles) is imperative, according to Bryson, as is staff knowledge and enthusiasm. “I want servers who actually drink the stuff,” he says. It’s also promising if a bar hosts a whiskey tasting club, as does L.A.’s Seven Grand.

Some whiskey fans seek out bars stocking an encyclopedic variety, from American small-batch rarities to Japanese single malts. At Seattle’s whiskey emporium Canon, you’re spoiled for choice between a menu that runs more than 100 pages, a selection of tasting flights, and craft cocktails like the Skull and Blackberries (Canon select double rye, dark rum, Rossbacher, blackberry, blueberry smoke).

For others, bourbon is king. And the seat of that kingdom is Kentucky, where the Bluegrass Saloon serves bourbon from nine regional distilleries, including every variety imaginable from companies like Bulleit and Wild Roses.

Bourbon, rye, Scotch—all these types of whiskey are distilled from fermented grain. Yet the flavor can be infinitely affected by variables like type of grain (bourbon legally has to be 51 percent corn, for instance) and the barrel in which it’s aged.

To get the most out of each whiskey’s flavor, Moiz Ali—cofounder of Caskers, a crafts spirits club with hundreds of thousands of members—recommends tasting it neat first. “For high-proof whiskey, I might add a few drops of water or a cube of ice,” he adds. “This helps open up the whiskey’s aromas and flavors, which can be masked behind the high alcohol content.”

As a first pour, we’ve rounded up 16 notable whiskey bars across the nation. While fans will have their own favorites, we can all get behind the meaning of the word whiskey: “water of life” in Gaelic.

Jack Rose Dining Saloon, Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., is our nation’s capital, and a visit to Jack Rose may convince you it’s also the center of the whiskey universe. The Adams Morgan saloon serves whiskey on tap and stocks an incredible 1,800 bottles of the golden stuff. Consider a spirit like the 15-year-old Jefferson’s Reserve from the Rare Bottlings collection. You can savor it in the cozy, wood-paneled whiskey cellar, on the open-air terrace, or in the dining saloon itself, where cigars are also on the menu.

The 404 Kitchen, Nashville

Nashville has recently attracted national attention for its food and drink scene. Credit goes to innovators like the 404 Kitchen, located within a 40-foot former shipping container adjacent to the 404 Hotel. Here, whiskey aficionados will find more than 150 varieties, including super-rare spirits from Ireland to Utah—and a sizable collection of Japanese “juice.” Hungry? You’ve come to the right place: 404 is a James Beard Award semifinalist, known for locally sourced Italian-style dishes like delicata squash soup and cornmeal-crusted fluke.

Bluegrass Tavern, Lexington, KY

Since 2009, 2.5 million tourists have traveled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to tour its nine historic distilleries, including Bulleit and Woodford Reserve. So a Lexington bar better be legit: patrons are guaranteed to know their stuff and expect to be impressed. Bluegrass Tavern comes through with 230 kinds of bourbon, including scarce vintages like Four Roses Limited Single Barrel.

Canon, Seattle

Seattle may be famous for its coffee, but not to the detriment of other vices. Canon, the rainy city’s very own whiskey library, offers the largest selection of American whiskey in the Western Hemisphere. Stacks upon stacks of bottles are piled high to the pressed-tin ceiling, and Canon’s booze book dedicates nine to rare batches alone. Guests can browse old-school bartending books while they wait for a craft cocktail and helping of Angostura-bourbon nuts from the ever-changing menu.

Flatiron Room, New York City

Manhattan’s premiere whiskey destinationcharms patrons with nearly 500 varieties—some accessible only by ladder—as well as highly informed whiskey guides, live jazz music, a swanky setting (plush banquettes, cabaret-style tables, chandeliers), and A-list people-watching. You can even get schooled during one-day classes in its private upstairs room. Just be sure to make your reservation ahead of time. As Flatiron’s website states: “We love our guests. So much so that we are willing to turn some away so the ones inside can best enjoy their experience.”

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Food & Drink

These Are America’s Most “Haunted” Bars

The Jury Room in Columbus, Ohio.
The Jury Room in Columbus, Ohio Courtesy of The Jury Room

At these historic bars, spirits aren’t just on the drink menu—they’re making noises in dark corners and downing patrons’ glasses

Here’s one way to ensure a bar will be haunted: open it in a former morgue. That’s the case with Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West, FL, also a former speakeasy, where you may find yourself sipping gin and tonic next to a grave—or a ghost.

“Ghosts tend to go to places they frequented when they were alive,” says California-based Loyd Auerbach, author of A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. “Consequently, places like bars, where people gather for social reasons or for other personal reasons, are often the target sites for the disembodied.”

Every city seems to have a haunted bar and an intriguing story behind it. The ghostly presence can often be traced back to an erstwhile love affair or, sadly, the result of a grizzly murder. In Austin, TX, the victim of a bar fight has been causing mischief at The Tavern for decades, changing the TV channels or banging dishes in the kitchen. And outside of Las Vegas, a gambler killed when caught cheating still roams the poker tables at Pioneer Saloon.

Still, some ghost tales are taller than others. Jim Fassbinder, who leads ghost tours in San Francisco, says: “There’s a bunch of haunted bar stories out there mostly promoted by barkeeps who know a well-told ghost story keeps ’em drinkin’ and gets the barkeep a tip.”

Not so at Stone’s Public House in Massachusetts, where paranormal experts confirmed eerie happenings the owner had noticed. It’s one of our picks for the most haunted bars in the nation—and you might want to consider a nice tip, after all, if you want to keep the resident spirits happy.

The Ear Inn, New York City

The charmingly ramshackle interior of this old sailors’ drinking spot in SoHo is still the preferred haunt of at least one sailor, Mickey. He likes the ladies, as female patrons and employees have complained of being goosed by Mickey. And he also likes his drink; regulars have been perplexed to find pint glasses suddenly empty. In September 2014, there was a ghost sighting by a waitress’s boyfriend. They were sleeping in an upstairs room (the space used to double as an inn), and she woke up in the middle of the night to find him transfixed. When she asked what her boyfriend was doing, he said, “I’m just saying hello to the strange man standing in the corner.”

Captain Tony’s Saloon, Key West, FL

As the site of a former morgue, Captain Tony’s Saloon happens to be one of the few spots you can sip a gin and tonic next to an actual grave. There are, in fact, two here. Oh yeah, there’s also an old tree growing through the roof of the bar; according to legend, it was used to hang criminals. So it’s no wonder that bathroom doors become mysteriously locked on their own or that people regularly feel strange sensations while having a drink here.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop, New Orleans

The 18th-century building that houses this Bourbon Street bar is brimming with ghostly intrigue. There’s E.J., who apparently sits at the bar. There’s the woman who sometimes appears in the mirror. And then there’s Jean Lafitte himself, a former pirate who ran a smuggling business here in the 18th century—and who may have used this bar to hide his stolen loot. Patrons have apparently seen his apparition standing in a corner scowling and smelled a trace of his tobacco.

The Jury Room, Columbus, OH

It’s a bold move to build on a former Native American burial ground. Yet that’s where the Jury Room sits. Since 1831, this spot has been popular with drinkers, including the spectral kind. Regulars and employees have talked of seeing a tall shadowy man roaming the premises. Workers claim that objects regularly fly off of shelves, and one person even saw a pitcher of beer being poured by itself.

The Brass Rail, Hoboken, NJ

When a bride-to-be tripped at the top of the steps and died after breaking her neck, she ushered in a ghostly era for this Hoboken bar. Since the incident in 1904, employees have regularly seen a lady in white hovering near the steps. Note to any betrothed couples: don’t get married here.

Read the full list HERE.

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These Are America’s Best Coffee Cities

Coffee
Getty Images

Whether you’re looking for single-origin beans, personalized pour-overs, or carbonated iced coffee

When they took a train trip along the West Coast a few years ago, Stephanie Mantello and her husband got off at Portland on a mission.

It was for coffee.

“We sprinted off the train with only a 45-minute stop to get a coffee at Stumptown,” says the Sydney-based travel blogger. “It was well worth the potential of missing the train.”

Like many travelers, Mantello loves to try local java in a new place. And no surprise, Portland, OR—home of famed roaster Stumptown—was yet again in the running this year for the top city for coffee among Travel +Leisure readers. In the America’s Favorite Places survey, readers voted on the most magnetic features of major metro areas, from the quality of local coffee to the live-music scene.

Find out where to get your fix in the best coffee cities across the country—and make your opinions heard by voting in the America’s Favorite Places survey.

No. 1 Portland, OR

The Northwest city known for its latte-friendly (read: misty) weather won the coffee contest again this year—and not just forStumptown Coffee Roasters, which continues to expand beyond Oregon. Two lesser-known local favorites are in the city’s Central Eastside. One is Coava, a single-origin roaster whose beans are regulars at the Northwest Regional Barista Competition, and whose Zen-feeling Brew Bar shares space with a sustainable bamboo company. The other, micro-roaster Water Avenue Coffee, offers such barrel-aged coffees as Oak and Pinot Noir; one of the most popular menu items is a $1 sidecar shot of espresso.

No. 2 Seattle

The city that gave the world Starbucks fell to No. 2 again—perhaps because some T+L readers think only of the coffee giant when they come here. But Seattle, which also ranked well for bookstores and boutiques, supports plenty of smaller coffee operations (some even dubbed “nana-roasters”) that roast their own beans. Consider Slate Coffee Roasters in Ballard, or Convoy Coffee, a bike-powered coffee cart that does pour-overs, AeroPress, and iced coffee. If you can’t come to Seattle without visiting the mother ship, check out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, a 15,000-square-foot flagship that will offer small-batch roasts when it opens December 2014 in Capitol Hill.

No. 3 Providence, RI

The coffee culture in this state capital—populated by a lot of artists and geeks, according to T+L readers—runs deep. To understand one reason why sweet “coffee milk” is Rhode Island’s state drink, go toDave’s Coffee, which sells a high-quality espresso-based coffee syrup that locals often add to a glass of milk or use to lace their morning joe. Dave’s also does a cold-brew coffee on tap and boasts of having the state’s only Slayer machine—which helps baristas better control the temperature and pressure during espresso making. One of the best up-and-comer coffee places is in the Dean Hotel: Bolt Coffee Company, where the top order is a Chemex-made pot of coffee for two. And since nothing goes better with coffee than a little pastry, pick up some cookies from North Bakery, or scones and sticky buns from Seven Stars Bakery (Providence ranked at No. 1 for its baked goods).

No. 4 Albuquerque

The New Mexico city made the top five for its distinctive local flavor. Case in point: the New Mexico Piñon Coffee Company, offering blends made with local pine nuts, which fans say add a vaguely cocoa or hazelnut flavor. On Saturdays, the roaster offers a short coffee history class with a roasting demo and cupping. Ask Albuquerqueans for their other favorite local coffee drink, and they may send you to Golden Crown Panaderia, where you can indulge in the signature Coffee Milkshake with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and a generous dousing of espresso.

No. 5 Houston

This business hub is one of four cities designated as a green coffee exchange port on the New York Board of Trade. For a purist’s cup, check out Siphon Coffee, in Montrose, where your coffee is prepared using the vacuum process, which promises to extract the best flavor from the beans. While Siphon’s baristas may discourage cream or sugar, they do condone snacks (like breakfast tacos and empanadas) and trying your luck on the coffee bar’s Ms. Pac-Man and Frogger machine. To taste other local brews, go to Revival Market, which offers local cheeses, charcuterie, and coffee by Houston-based roaster Greenway. Another reason to stop in: Houston also scored near the top of the survey for its foodie-friendly specialty grocery stores.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

World’s Creepiest Attractions

FRANCE-TOURISM-CATACOMBS
Photo taken on August 7, 2014 at the Catacombs of Paris shows bones stacked and arranged. These underground quarries were used to store the remains of generations of Parisians in a bid to cope with the overcrowding of Paris' cemeteries at the end of the 18th century, and are now a popular tourist attraction. DOMINIQUE FAGET—AFP/Getty Images

Whether you’re spooked by skeletons, ghosts, mummies, or murderers, get ready to cover your eyes at the world’s creepiest attractions

Capelados Ossos, Evora, Portugal

From the outside, the Royal Church of St. Francis, located in the picturesque Portuguese town of Evora, seems like any other shrine to piety. But looks can be deceiving. Inside is the Capela dos Ossos, or the Chapel of Bones. Short on space to bury the dead, enterprising monks in the 16th century moved the remains of 5,000 corpses into a consecrated chapel—and, like medieval Martha Stewarts, decorated the space with their bones.

Truly Creepy: Two rotted corpses, of an unknown man and a young child, dangle precariously from nooses.

Torture Museum, Amsterdam

This small and unabashedly lowbrow museum chronicles historical torture methods in displays that are not for the squeamish. Fans of Middle Age brutality can admire the agonizing “skull cracker,” the limb-dislocating rack, and that most efficient of killing machines, the guillotine.

Truly Creepy: The disturbing illustrations include one of a naked man hung from his ankles like a wishbone and being sawed in half lengthwise.

Port Arthur Historic Sites, Tasmania

This 19th-century Australian penal colony was once home to thousands of violent convicts sentenced to “hell on earth,” and the dissection rooms here are evidence to that. Awful conditions, vicious floggings and isolation in dark, dank cells led to as many as 2,000 deaths. Tragedy made its comeback in April 1996 when a deranged gunman killed 35 workers and visitors in the country’s worst mass murder to date.

Truly Creepy: The most-often reported ghost sightings are not of convicts but of a crying woman and young child.

The Museum of Death, Hollywood

This stomach-churning homage to murder, dismemberment, and rigor mortis houses (among other things) a collection of serial killer artwork, photos of horrific accidents and famous crime scenes, and the guillotine-severed head of the murderous Bluebeard of Paris.

Truly Creepy: The self-guided tour takes only an hour, but the truly gore-obsessed can linger over videos of autopsies and actual death footage.

Museo delas Momias, Mexico

This Guanajuato museum’s 111 remarkably preserved mummies were exhumed from the Santa Paula Pantheon between 1865 and 1989. Their facial expressions are especially scary—many seem to be shouting “No!”—and clenched fists protrude from the tattered clothes. It’s like the prop room for a zombie movie—only real.

Truly Creepy: The tiny baby mummies, dressed in local tradition as “Little Angels.”

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Food & Drink

The 14 Best Breakfast Restaurants in the U.S.

The Mud House, St. Louis, MO
The Mud House, St. Louis, MO Tim Gebauer

With piled-high pancakes and hearty egg sandwiches, these breakfast spots will give you extra motivation to roll out of your hotel bed

If you’ve demoted breakfast to slamming a glass of orange juice and rushing out the door with a granola bar, Travel + Leisure invites you to savor Cajun staples like shrimp and grits, a stack of pancakes made in California with a secret ingredient, or even a liquid breakfast of build-your-own Bloody Marys.

Read on for our favorite places to start the day across America.

Russ & Daughters Café, New York City

One of the most exciting food announcements to hit Manhattan in 2014 was the opening of Russ & Daughters’ sit-down café. A visit to the original appetizing store (est. 1914) has been a New York breakfast rite of passage for four generations. At the café just around the corner, you get all the beloved Jewish standards—from whitefish to caviar to the famous cream cheese spreads—without having to grab ’n’ go. Park on a barstool and order the popular Lower Sunny Side. It’s Gaspe smoked salmon with sunny-side-up eggs and plump potato latkes.

Cutty’s, Brookline, MA

Cutty’s elevates the sandwich to an art form, with the crowd favorite containing a piquant Oaxacan chorizo on black-pepper brioche, scrambled eggs, melted farmer cheese, a cold smear of mayo, and several sprigs of cilantro. And, like any work of art, the beauty is in the fine details. The Egg Benedict Sandwich gets brown-butter hollandaise. The Red Flannel Hash has co-owner Charles Kelsey’s famous truffle ketchup or the house spicy mayo. “We make a couple quarts of each daily,” explains Kelsey. For a 16-seat establishment, that’s considerable sauce sales.

Blacksmith, Houston

Open daily at 7 a.m., this cool coffeehouse showcases the talents of Underbelly chefs Victoria Dearmond and Chris Shepherd and Greenway Coffee & Tea’s David Buehrer. Dearmond developed her own special recipe for from-scratch, square-cut biscuits, and in a true kitchen collaboration, Shepherd then came up with an irresistible redeye gravy made from smoked hock, cream, Benton’s country ham, and a measure of the house coffee. You’ll want a double shot of this pour over.

Griddle Café, Los Angeles

Jump-start your day here on Sunset Boulevard with what Griddle Café calls “over-sized originals.” It serves a variety of hotcakes (batter calling for corn rather than flour), flapjacks (starch-based batter cooked on a griddle), and old-fashioned pancakes. The dozens of pancake recipes alone call for everything from bittersweet chocolate chips to red velvet to pumpkin pie filling. The Golden Ticket is the most popular stack: a banana batter hits the griddle, with caramel, walnuts, and streusel ladled in as it cooks. It’s topped with whipped cream, caramel, and more streusel (you can never have too much streusel).

Little Goat, Chicago

The domain of Top Chef/James Beard Award superstar Stephanie Izard, Little Goattakes breakfast global. You can start your day with a kimchi, bacon, and eggs dish or an Indian flatbread burrito. Yet the grandest ode to excellence is the Fat Elvis Waffle. Developed with the King’s favorite sandwichin mind, the sourdough waffle is topped with crispy bacon and sliced bananas. It’s then drizzled in melted peanut-butter butter and a bacon-laced maple syrup.

Read the full list HERE.

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TIME Travel

The World’s 50 Greatest Dream Trips

Dream Trip: Berlin
Berlin Dagmar Schwelle

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?

That’s what Travel + Leisure editors asked travelers on the streets of New York City, as well as their followers on Twitter and Facebook. Their answers spanned the globe—from the beaches of Brazil to a South African safari to the Canadian Rockies.

Berlin

“I would visit the Berlin Wall and try new foodie hot spots.” —Victor Au Yeung, 28, Doctor

The former West is buzzy thanks to Bikini Berlin, a new cool-kid shopping center full of local high-design brands such as Gestalten. Next door, there’s the whimsical 25 Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, whose rooftop restaurant Neni and Monkey Bar lounge are the city’s hardest-to-get reservations. November 9 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. See it via a new food-focused tour from Berlinagenten, which includes meals at three restaurants along or near the wall.

St. Lucia

“My husband and I would relax by our in-room pool with a view of the Piton mountains, and then enjoy a couples massage.” —Jen Christiansen, via Facebook

At the Piton-facing Jade Mountain, all but five of the 29 open-air suites come with private infinity pools. (You’ll have to tear yourself away to make it to the beach.) As for that massage: we suggest the neighboring Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort, where the Rainforest Spa has seven tree-house treatment rooms.

Argentina + Chile

“I could really get into a #SouthAmerican #food tour.” —@IMJPRO

We’ve narrowed it down to two culinary capitals. Here’s how to tackle them, one meal at a time.

Buenos Aires: In Monserrat, Gonzalo Aramburu puts a “Nueva Cocina” spin on traditional dishes such as gnocchi soufflé and suckling pig at Aramburu Bis, whileSucre Restaurant Bar & Grill reflects chef Fernando Trocca’s global sensibility (think risotto with Black Angus osso buco).

Santiago, Chile: Boragó is the top table in a city that’s just beginning to celebrate its culinary roots. Chef Rodolfo Guzman turns native ingredients—shellfish, mushrooms, herbs, and highland flowers—into edible bonsai. 99 is young, radical, and market-fresh. Don’t miss the wild-boarcaldo if it pops up on the three-course lunch menu.

Petra, Jordan

“Ever since seeing Indiana Jones, I’ve wanted to visit the historic sites of Petra.” —@sarahjenksdaly

You should follow Indy’s footsteps through the slot canyon, or siq, that leads to the Treasury building, hewn by hand from a sandstone cliff. But there are many worthwhile sites, including cave dwellings and a massive colonnaded Monastery that sits atop the highest peak (it’s a steep hike, so hire a horse or donkey). Our tips: start early to avoid the afternoon heat; use a guide, who can explain Petra’s architecture and mysterious history (we love Mahmoud Ahmed); and stay at the Mövenpick Resort Petra, with a pool and prime location just outside the entrance.

Paris

“It’s the ideal city for romance. I’d love to visit museums and eat amazing food.” —Angela Harry, 47, Patient-Care Technician

The city’s smaller museums are quieter, and much more romantic. A short walk from the Jardin du Luxembourg, Musée Maillol is a love letter to the artist Aristide Maillol founded by his muse, Dina Vierny; you’ll also see works by Henri Matisse and Paul Gauguin. The gardens of the Musée Rodinare intimate and peaceful—and right next door to Alain Passard’s L’Arpège, which offers a poetic and refined twist on farm-to-table eating. And the Jacquemart-André Museum—set in a 19th-century mansion—has works by everyone from Botticelli to Boucher.

Read the full list HERE.

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