Best bars and lo"/> SGN - Seattle Gay News - Page 23 - Best of Travel - Friday, January 22, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 04
                                 
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Best bars and lounges
by Albert Rodriguez, Shaun Knittel, Eric Andrews-Katz, Ron Anders, and Scott Rice
SGN Writers

There are cool bars and then there are really, really cool bars. From the many drinking spots we sipped cocktails and danced at all night long over the last year, these were the 20 coolest.

1) 8 1/2 Ultra Lounge & Piranha Nightclub (Las Vegas, Nevada) - With an ultra lounge in front and a nightclub in the rear, this over-the-top night spot has quickly become the place to be seen in Gay Vegas. (S. Knittel)

2) 20 Up (Hamburg, Germany) - Atop the Riverside Empire Hotel, this posh cocktail hangout offers a 3/4 panoramic city view and a mean martini. (A. Rodriguez)

3) The Abbey Food and Bar (West Hollywood, California) - Known simply as the Abbey in WeHo, this neighborhood favorite is where the locals go for drinks and atmosphere. (S. Rice)

4) Alaska Airlines Board Room (Seattle-Tacoma International Airport) - Polished setting, great local beers, and a second floor view of outgoing flights is worth a $40 day pass. (A. Rodriguez)

5) Arena (West Hollywood, California) - A giant warehouse of hot and sweaty, gym-toned bodies dancing to the latest thump-a-thump-a, Arena is a throwback to the days when circuit parties reigned supreme and techno was all the rage. (S. Knittel)

6) Bar Central (Frankfurt, Germany) - Dark, intimate Gay bar with two pinball machines on the back wall. Excellent service and a damn good mint daiquiri. (A. Rodriguez)

7) Chambar (Vancouver BC, Canada) - A favorite among urban hipsters, Chambar is the place to go before a big show in Vancouver BC. (A. Rodriguez)

8) Circus Disco (West Hollywood, California) - Circus Disco is West Hollywood's longest-running Gay Latino club. Weekly special events, live performances, and hot go-go boys make this Gay club a must-see for any Gay Latino fan. (S. Knittel)

9) Cube Bar (Hamburg, Germany) - More Gay than straight - and the size of a shoebox - yet it twinkles with suave decor and attractive barflies. (A. Rodriguez)

10) Erney's 32° (St. Louis, Missouri) - Gay eye candy is abundant at this bar, complete with multiple video screens and a good-sized dance floor. (A. Rodriguez)

11) Fireside Cellars, at Willows Lodge (Woodinville, Washington) - Savor a vintage wine and the fabulous garlic fries at this inviting, cozy lounge. Listen to live music or take a cooking class! (R. Anders)

12) FreeZone (Las Vegas, Nevada) - Serving Queer Vegas for over 20 years, FreeZone has long since captured a crowd of loyalists who show up for nightly drink specials, drag shows, and beer pong tournaments. (S. Knittel)

13) Krave (Las Vegas, Nevada) - The only alternative club on the Strip, Krave is a late-night Mecca for LGBT locals and tourists alike. (S. Knittel)

14) Gipsy (Las Vegas, Nevada) - A Las Vegas original, for years it's been the place to go for Vegas' Gay dance enthusiasts. Gipsy is welcoming, original, and a great place for tourists to mix with the locals. (S. Knittel)

15) Lobby Bar, at Hotel Murano (Tacoma, Washington) - Not many cocktail nooks in Tacoma scream fabulous, but this one with a fireplace and illuminated bar counter is an exception. (A. Rodriguez)

16) Mother Lode (West Hollywood, California) - A cruisy spot on the main drag of Santa Monica Blvd., complete with pool table, beer bust, and a space that almost always ensures you will leave the bar with more than one phone number in your pocket. (S. Knittel)

17) RumFire (Honolulu, Hawaii) - A perennial SGN favorite, RumFire is simply one of the coolest establishments on the planet for tapas, drinks, and ocean breezes. (S. Rice)

18) The St. Regis Bar (Atlanta, Georgia) - My search for the greatest bloody mary ended on the second level of this luxurious hotel. Pricey, though worth it. (A. Rodriguez)

19) Whiskey Blue (Atlanta, Georgia) - Perched on the top floor of the W Atlanta-Buckhead, this Rande Gerber-designed lounge is a very chic hotspot. (A. Rodriguez)

20) Zum Schmutzigen Hobby, aka Nina Queer's Bar (Berlin, Germany) - Gay boys flock to this kitschy-cool bar, where straight sex magazine clippings are plastered around the men's bathroom. (A. Rodriguez)


Best hotels
by Albert Rodriguez, Jessica Price, Shaun Knittel, Eric Andrews-Katz, Ron Anders, and Scott Rice
SGN Writers

From a strong list of top-quality hotels, resorts, lodges and B&Bs we stayed at in the past 12 months, we've chosen 20 of the very best. We're confident you'll enjoy staying at any of these.

1) Aqua Bamboo and Spa, Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Hawaii) - Restored boutique hotel in the heart of Waikiki with a lovely courtyard and impeccable service. It's all about the details. (S. Rice)

2) Arcotel John F (Berlin, Germany) - Elegant rooms, contemporary lobby, classy amenities, and a stone's throw from Berlin's bustling Alexanderplatz area. (A. Rodriguez)

3) Aston Waikiki Beach Hotel (Honolulu, Hawaii) - Smallish rooms, but extraordinary views of world-famous Waikiki. Location, location, location: Cross the street for a dip in the Pacific. (S. Rice)

4) Blue Moon Resort (Las Vegas, Nevada) - Las Vegas' only hotel exclusively for Gay men, the cozy Blue Moon Resort boasts elegant rooms, a private pool and spa, and a killer location just off the Las Vegas Strip. (S. Knittel)

5) Christopher's by the Bay (Provincetown, Massachusetts) - Centrally located on the strip with perfect hosts. Comfortable rooms led me to a peaceful and well-rested sleep. Dog-friendly. (E. Andrews-Katz)

6) DC Guesthouse (Washington DC) - Great hosts, wonderful location, well priced, extreme comfort, and easy socialization with guests and hosts over delicious communal home-cooked breakfast. (E. Andrews-Katz)

7) The Fairmont Orchid (Kohala Coast, Hawaii) - An oceanfront property providing all the bells and whistles to suit Hawaii-bound travelers with stylish tastes. (A. Rodriguez)

8) Hawaii Island Retreat (Kapaau, Hawaii) - Nestled deep in lushly forested terrain, you won't find a more isolated spot or picturesque setting on Hawaii's Big Island. (A. Rodriguez)

9) Hotel Vertigo (San Francisco, California) - Indulge your passions for elegant accommodations and Hitchcock's masterpiece at this colorful boutique hotel in the heart of San Francisco. (R. Anders)

10) Hotel Vitale (San Francisco, California) - This sleek, elegant luxury hotel across from the San Francisco Ferry Building features a stunning view of the waterfront. (J. Price)

11) Jupiter Hotel (Portland, Oregon) - Retro-modern, sexy, and adjoining Portland's trendy Doug Fir Lounge, the Jupiter is an affordable hotspot for weekend jetsetters. (J. Price)

12) Kimber Modern (Austin, Texas) - Located in the heart of ultra-hip Austin, a stunningly gorgeous and modern hotel built around a tangle of live oaks. (J. Price)

13) Le Parc Suite (West Hollywood, California) - Gorgeous and tucked between the bustle of Santa Monica Blvd. and Melrose, Le Parc is a perfect pet-friendly home base for exploring WeHo. (S. Rice)

14) Liberty Hotel (Boston, Massachusetts) - Opulent and beautiful with very comfortable rooms, great restaurants and lounges. Not for the budget-conscious. (E. Andrews-Katz)

15) Lux 11 (Berlin, Germany) - If Jared Leto can stay here, so can you. A cool, well-situated place to sleep and hang in Germany's busiest city. (A. Rodriguez)

16) Moonrise Hotel (St. Louis, Missouri) - If you find a seat on any weekend on the rooftop bar of this popular Delmar Loop hotel, consider yourself lucky. (A. Rodriguez)

17) Opus Hotel (Vancouver BC, Canada) - There's no hipper place to recharge your batteries in Vancouver BC than Opus, smack in the Yaletown district. (A. Rodriguez)

18) Shangri-La Hotel (Vancouver BC, Canada) - Asian-hinted decor throughout, amazing spa, and good on-premise restaurants spells luxurious splurging in Vancouver BC. (A. Rodriguez)

19) Tulalip Resort Casino (Tulalip, Washington) - A four-star hotel between Seattle and the Canadian border? Absolutely, with an indoor pool and chic ambiance to boot! (A. Rodriguez)

20) W Atlanta-Buckhead (Atlanta, Georgia) - Steps away from Atlanta's best shopping malls and restaurants, this property also provides guests with Bliss bath amenities. (A. Rodriguez)


Best restaurants
by Albert Rodriguez, Jessica Price, Shaun Knittel, Eric Andrews-Katz, Ron Anders, and Scott Rice
SGN Writers

Eating can be the centerpiece of a vacation - it's that inaugural dinner to kick off a weeklong agenda of good times or the final meal of an intimate getaway that we remember most on a trip. Sometimes, it's simply the food that can never be produced from our own kitchens, a perfectly seared steak or a homemade peach cobbler. Given the difficult task of selecting the top restaurants from the dozens we ate at last year, here's the coveted list.

1) Azure, at The Royal Hawaiian (Honolulu, Hawaii) - World-class dining with a laid-back island attitude in a historic hotel. Newly opened, Azure is uncompromised elegant perfection. (S. Rice)

2) Barking Frog (Woodinville, Washington) - A Northwest culinary landmark. The lamb shank is tender and luscious. Their re-invention of s'mores will tickle your palate. (R. Anders)

3) Beach Dog Cafe (Lincoln City, Oregon) - Awesome deals, great hotdogs, good people, and a sweet breakfast for around $10. Browse through doggie photo albums while waiting. (S. Rice)

4) Clyde Common (Portland, Oregon) - Wide, community tables and swanky lighting provide privacy, but allow for casual conversation and plenty of room for top-notch snacks. (J. Price)

5) ESPN Zone (Las Vegas, Nevada) - Calling all Gay sports fans - this restaurant is for you! ESPN Zone is for the ultimate sports fan and anyone who wants to enjoy the ultimate sports dining experience! (S. Knittel)

6) Freudenhaus (Hamburg, Germany) - On a quiet corner in Hamburg's St. Pauli district, this adorable restaurant serves impeccable food and woos the Gay crowd. (A. Rodriguez)

7) Harley-Davidson Cafe (Las Vegas) - It's motorcycle mania and a must-see for all biker/leather daddies and their boys. You can feast on all-American comfort foods while overlooking the Las Vegas Strip. (S. Knittel)

8) L'Altro Buca (Vancouver BC, Canada) - Located in the basement level of an apartment building in Vancouver's West End, it offers a great menu and chill ambiance. (A. Rodriguez)

9) Loveless Cafe (Nashville, Tennessee) - Southern cooking at its peak. The fried chicken is divine, hashbrown casserole is insanely yummy, and the homemade biscuits are sinful. (A. Rodriguez)

10) MF Buckhead (Atlanta, Georgia) - Modern, slick and sexy decor with an ambitious Japanese menu, complete with imported sake. The sushi is unbeatable. (A. Rodriguez)

11) Oak Room Steak House (Boston, Massachusetts) - Old-school ambiance and the best steak I've ever had: buffalo steak! Prices $20 and up. (E. Andrews-Katz)

12) The Oystercatcher (Coupeville, Washington) - Classic, inventive, delectable! Try the heavenly goat cheese dumplings and the pan-fried oysters, and save room for the glorious hazelnut gateau. (R. Anders)

13) Paradox (Portland, Oregon) - This organic diner and café serves up the best vegan and healthy non-vegan dishes I've ever encountered. (J. Price)

14) Parish (Atlanta, Georgia) - Hollywood actress Elizabeth Heigl ate at this New Orleans-inspired restaurant a week after I did, and we both loved it. (A. Rodriguez)

15) Potenza (Washington DC) - Homemade Italian pastas and cured meats. Moderate pricing, wide variety and the best (US) Italian food outside of Italy. (E. Andrews-Katz)

16) Ranch 616 (Austin, Texas) - This quirky, moderately upscale eatery is best described as a mash-up of Texas-style home cooking with a fanciful flair. (J. Price)

17) Sanafir (Vancouver BC, Canada) - Flavorful Middle Eastern and Indian dishes in an ornate atmosphere equals a big hit with straight and Gay Vancouverites. (A. Rodriguez)

18) Spago (Las Vegas, Nevada) - Nestled inside the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, modern Las Vegas culinary history started at this restaurant in 1992. Gourmet Italian food at its finest, Spago is a true trendsetter in the Vegas dining world. (S. Knittel)

19) Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill (Las Vegas, Nevada) - Housed inside the MGM Grand on the Las Vegas Strip, this dining destination carries the namesake of one of the world's most celebrated chef's: Wolfgang Puck. How could you go wrong? (S. Knittel)

20) Zum Schlussel (Dusseldorf, Germany) - A mix of tourist and local clientele, this Dusseldorf brewery has the best schnitzel and fried potatoes my lips have ever clamped on. (A. Rodriguez)


Best spas
by Albert Rodriguez, Shaun Knittel, and Ron Anders
SGN Writers

One of the most popular additions to any travel itinerary is a pampering trip to the spa. Here are the five that we recommend most highly.

1) Chi, The Spa at Shangri-La (Vancouver BC, Canada) - Each massage session is a spiritual experience, and the individual studios are a sweet bonus. (A. Rodriguez)

2) Mandara Spa, aboard the Norwegian Star (Norwegian Cruise Line, USA) - Taking a Gay cruise can be relaxing in itself, but couple the cruise with a day at the spa is even better! Mandara Spa has everything you deserve, from a hot stone massage to a dip in the hydrotherapy tub. (S. Knittel)

3) Spa at the Four Seasons (Seattle, Washington) - Treatments inspired by the Northwest - like the Mount Rainier Journey - make this Seattle spa a standout. (A. Rodriguez)

4) The Spa at Willows Lodge (Woodinville, Washington) - Your skin will glow for days after a gentle, restorative facial. Add a massage and soak in the hot tub for total relaxation. (R. Anders)

5) Vida Wellness Spa (at Sutton Place, Vancouver BC, Canada) - The hot stone massage is second to none, and the level of technique is truly top-notch. (A. Rodriguez)

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