The Daily Traveler: Amazing Observatories Around the World Perfect for Stargazing

Amazing Observatories Around the World Perfect for Stargazing

If Cosmos has piqued your interest in the stars, then you need to add one of these incredible observatories to your bucket list. Perched upon mountaintops and even volcanoes, these high-tech towers are perfect for studying the heavens from behind a telescope.

Antofagasta, Chile
Chile has become a hotspot for the science, and there are at least a dozen observatories—at various levels of tourist-friendliness—working within the country's borders. Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), Paranal is open to weekend visitors, who come to see the simply named Very Large Telescope (VLT). The VLT is actually comprised of four smaller telescopes—named Antu, Kueyen, Melipal, Yepun, meaning Sun, Moon, Southern Cross, and Venus in the indigenous Mapuche language—which can be used in tandem to create an interferometer that allows astronomers to see details up to 25 times finer than they could with individual telescopes.
Visit: Free, guided tours are offered on Saturdays at 10 am and 2 pm. There is no charge, but reservations are required.

Click through to see the full slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: Gabriel Brammer/dpa/Corbis




The Daily Traveler: Inactive Volcanoes You Can Visit


Enjoy the drama of nature's violent geological history—without the fear of molten lava—by visiting one of these extinct, inactive, or dormant volcanoes. Plus, they're all just stunning.

MOUNT EDEN
Auckland
Mount Eden, also known as Maungawhau, is the tallest of Auckland's 50-plus volcanic peaks. From the 643-foot-high summit, you can get a 360-degree panorama of the city and harbor. You can also see a now grassy, well-preserved crater, along with the ruins of a Maori settlement. Locals use this as a fitness trail, so suit up and join them for a jog to the top. Others say that the best views are had at night, with the illuminated city below.


Photo: Doug Pearson/Jai/Corbis 

I'm the Expert: The Daily Meal Gift Guide

The Daily Meal Gift Guide

Quoth the editors of The Daily Meal: "To help you tackle your epic Christmas list this year, we sought the help of some of the top editors and planners in the entertaining world who know a thing or two about choosing the best gifts." Hey, that's me! Yes, this happened way back in 2013, but I'm just circling back to it now. I was approached to give my best gift suggestion for seven different types of recipients: the hostthe beer/wine drinker, the coffee/tea drinkerthe cook, the bakerthe wannabe food critic, and the traveler. Luckily, none of my picks are too tied to the holiday season—feel free to use them for birthdays, hostess gifts, and gifts you just give to yourself. 

Pictured: Fred & Friends Ninja Bread Men cookie cutters, available at Amazon.com.





The Daily Traveler: What to Do After the Whitney Biennial


The Whitney Museum of American Art may be leaving the Upper East Side for new downtown digs, but that doesn't mean that you have to follow. Before or after you're done browsing the museum’s Biennial exhibition—held for the last time at its current uptown location—visit these neighborhood spots for shopping, food, live music and, of course, more art.

...SEE MORE ART

The Leo Castelli Gallery
If you didn't get your fill at the Whitney, head over to this gallery, which was founded in the '50s by an art dealer who was one of the first to catch on to the likes of Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. The gallery still exhibits art titans of that era, and it's currently hosting an exhibition of works by Robert Morris, including two of his iconic felt sculptures. 
18 E 77th St (212) 249-4470; castelligallery.com.

...SHOP AROUND

Fivestory
You can find a little of everything at Fivestory: some women's fashion, some men's fashion, and some housewares—all of it from high-end, hard-to-find lines—displayed in an UES brownstone that's made to look like a scaled-down luxury department store. If you see something you like (and can afford), better snap it up, as the store prides itself on carrying items that, if not one-of-a-kind, are stocked in very limited quantities. 
18 E 69th St (212) 288-1338; fivestoryny.com.

...GRAB SOME DINNER

Hospoda
The word "hospoda" means "pub" in Czech—and that pretty much tells you all you need to know about this restaurant. The cuisine here is "beer-inspired"—think beef tartare served on a pretzel bun, or crescent duck with red cabbage, potato, and quince—and the menu offers beer-pairing suggestions for each dish from a list of more than a dozen different brews. If your thirst for suds still isn't quenched, order the draft tasting. It comes with mugs of Pilsner Urquell served four ways, from "neat," which has no head, to "sweet," which is all foam. 
321 East 73rd St (212) 861-1038; hospodanyc.com.

...GO FOR A COCKTAIL

Bar Pléiades
You can't get a table at Café Boulud without a reservation, but you can visit Daniel Boulud's swanky bar next door for a drink or two. The mixologist here offers a far-ranging menu of cocktails, from the seasonally inspired Shiver Me Timbers (JM Gold Rhum, Ramazzotti, pine liqueur, tiki bitters, maple syrup candied walnut, and foraged pine) to the timeless Scofflaw (Cocchi Americano, rye, lemon, grenadine, as found in The Savoy Cocktail Book from 1930). Just make sure you hit the ATM before you go, as cocktails here cost between $16 and $22.
20 E 76th St (212) 772-2600; barpleiades.com.

...LISTEN TO MUSIC

Café Carlyle
Reserve a table at The Carlyle hotel's Café Carlyle for a supper-club experience, where you can knock back a martini, eat dinner, and be treated to a cabaret performance. (Fellas, jackets are recommended.) Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band have a standing engagement here on Monday nights, and Shirley Jones, John Pizzarelli, and Alexa Ray Joel all have upcoming gigs that fill out the rest of the week. If you want to skip the "supper" part and concentrate on the drinks and music, there's The Carlyle's Bemelmans Bar, named after the famed Madeline creator, which also hosts live music.35 E 76th St (212) 744-1600; rosewoodhotels.com.

...TAKE A STROLL

Central Park
For walking, biking, people watching, or any of New York City's other free pleasures, the Whitney is just a quick stroll away from Central Park. Enter at 60th St to see the newly installed cloud sculptures by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning, then head north to see sculptures dedicated to Hans Christian Andersen and Alice in Wonderland and take a lap around the picturesque Conservatory Water pond.
60th St and Fifth Ave (212) 310-6600; centralparknyc.org.

Click through to read the story on the Condé Nast Traveler's website.

Image: Olaf Breuning, Clouds, 2013, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND METRO PICTURES
Photo: Liz Ligon, Courtesy Public Art Fund, NY


The Daily Traveler: Where Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Royals Vacation


You might be going on vacation this Presidents' Day weekend, but not the kinds of vacations that President Obama, Prince Charles, and other world leaders take. These are the favorite vacation spots of presidents, prime ministers, royals, and other heads-of-state.

President Barack Obama
Martha's Vineyard

The first family has made repeated trips to Martha's Vineyard throughout Barack Obama's presidency. When on the island, they used to stay at the 28-acre Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, until the property was sold to architect Norman Foster in 2011. Last summer, they downgraded to a smaller house—but with a pool and views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Click through to see the full slideshow at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Time Out New York: Winter Activities in the New York Area

What a perfect day to post this...

Outdoor Adventures in New York

Tackle the snow with an inner tube, cross-country skis or an ice ax (yes, really) on these intrepid outdoor adventures this winter

Snow tubing

Hunter Mountain

2½ hours by car or bus

This downhill sport has all the screaming momentum you crave sans the need for skill or coordination: Just settle in and let gravity do the work. Hunter Mountain recently gave its tubing park a major makeover—it now boasts 24 shoots, each 1,000 feet long, and a new carpet lift to take you back to the top when you’re ready for another go. 7740 Main St, Hunter, NY (800-486-8376, huntermtn.com). Two-hour session $20. 

Where to stay: For a dose of kitsch, try Kate’s Lazy Meadow (5191 Rte 28, Mount Tremper, NY; 845-688-7200, lazymeadow.com; from $175/night)—founded by B-52’s singer Kate Pierson—whose suites are done up in “atomic” midcentury style.

Read the rest either by downloading the above PDF, or by clicking through to read the full list at Time Out New York.

The Daily Traveler: Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Trivia

Sochi Trivia: Olympic Fun Facts That'll Make You Sound Really Smart

From the craziest stops on the torch relay to the future of Sochi's newest venues, here's your guide from Marisa LaScala to this year's Olympic trivia.

Say Hello to the Newbies

A number of countries are headed to the Winter Olympics for the very first time. East Timor, Paraguay, Togo, Tonga, and Zimbabwe are among the debuting nations—and their athletes bring some of the most incredible stories of the Games with them.

Take, for instance, Paraguay's Julia Marino, who will be competing in the new slopestyle skiing event. How did she come to represent a country that's more likely to see its residents on jet skis than downhill skis? She was adopted by Americans when she was six months old and raised in ski-savvy Massachusetts—but chose to compete for her birth nation.

Then there's Tonga's Bruno Banani. If you'd checked in with him before 2008, you'd have found him playing rugby under the name of Fuahea Semi. In the ensuing years, he headed off to Germany, changed his name to that of a famous brand of German undergarments, learned how to luge, and will be carrying the flag for Tonga for the first time.

Click through to see the rest of the article at the website of the Condé Nast Traveler.


Photo © Jens Büttner/dpa/Corbis





The Daily Traveler: Free NYC

Even if you spend every last dime traveling to the New York area for the Super Bowl, you can still enjoy a multitude of activities in the city free-of-charge.

Laugh at Your Future Favorite Comedians

The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater—UCB for those in the know—is a training ground for some of the best comedians out there: Amy Poehler, Ed Helms, Aziz Ansari, Aubrey Plaza, and a bunch of the Saturday Night Live performers are all alums. The theater hosts comedy shows every night of the week, and most of them cost $10 or less—and a few will cost you nothing. At the UCB's Chelsea location, you can find free shows on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights, but the theater's signature free show, ASSSSCAT 3000, happens every Sunday at 9:30 pm. There, on a small stage surrounded by seats on three sides, some of the best improvisers in the area perform an unscripted show, and some big names often drop by to join in. (In the past, Lena Dunham, Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and even Mike Meyers have been spotted here.) Warning: You might not need to spend your cash, but you will need to invest your time; the line starts forming in the late-afternoon, early-evening for an 8:15pm ticket distribution. If you can't stand the idea of entertaining yourself in line, you can always buy a ticket in advance for the 7:30pm ASSSSCAT—but it'll cost you $10. 307 W 26th St (212-366-9176; ucbtheatre.com).

Click through to read the full article at the Condé Nast Traveler.

Photo: Pete Titmuss/Alamy


DVD Review: The Spectacular Now

'The Spectacular Now': What's So Great About Being an Adult?

On the surface, it seems like The Spectacular Now is no different from your average teen movie. It starts off at an Atlanta, Georgia high school sometime during senior year. The all-around popular guy, Sutter (Miles Teller), meets the pretty-but-unnoticed shy girl, Aimee (Shailene Woodley). They strike up an unlikely friendship, then an even-more-unlikely romance, and then have to figure out what to do about the world after high school.

In the hands of James Ponsoldt —adapting the novel by Tim Tharp—what could easily become your typical end-of-high-school love story becomes something much harder to create: a teen movie that resembles real life more than other teen movies. In Ponsoldt’s commentary and a handful of behind-the-scenes featurettes included in the Blu-ray, Ponsoldt says he was striving for authenticity and, for the most part, he achieves it.

Teller and Woodley, along with the rest of the cast, look and talk like real teenagers. Their clothes are worn and wrinkled and look like they were bought at Target. They sweat when it’s supposed to be hot out, and things like pimples and scars aren’t airbrushed out or caked over with makeup. (The authenticity spills over into the location as well; an Atlanta native, Ponsoldt notes in his commentary that he wanted to show off the city the way the locals see it, by including, say, his favorite college record store as opposed to the usual tourist attractions.) ...