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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, January 4, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 1
BEST OF TRAVEL 2012: Our favorite hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions of the year
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2012: Our favorite hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions of the year

By: Albert Rodriguez, Jessica Price and Jerry L. Peerson
SGN A&E Writers

We traveled to three continents, seven countries and numerous cities this year.  And from these destinations we culled our absolute favorite places to stay, eat, drink and visit, plus we've listed the best ways of transporting you there.  We look forward to bringing you more travel coverage in 2013 and wish you the safest of journeys! 

All lists in alphabetical order.

HOTELS

1 The Burrard (Vancouver, BC Canada) - This chic, retro-modern boutique hotel is the ideal spot for staying like a rock star (for a fraction of the price) in downtown Vancouver.  J. Price

2 Crystal Hotel (Portland, Oregon USA) - With room decor inspired by artists and classic songs, this musically-themed PDX hotel also has a basement-level soaking bath.  A. Rodriguez

3 Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii USA - Island of Hawaii) - Luxurious plantation-style bungalows are nestled along winding paths so lush and private, you feel as though paradise was built just for you.  J. Price

4 Hotel Five (Seattle, Washington USA) - Converting a rundown Ramada Inn into a vibrant boutique property in downtown Seattle, this artsy yet down-to-earth hotel lets you be cool without the steep price.  A. Rodriguez

5 Hotel Granvia Kyoto (Kyoto, Japan) - Conveniently attached to the city's main train station, this grand hotel is perfect for leisure and business travelers with terrific views of Kyoto Tower.  A. Rodriguez

6 Hotel Palomar Phoenix (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - This newer Phoenix property puts you within footsteps of sports stadiums, shopping centers, restaurants and bars.  It's so fabulous, even Madonna stayed here.  A. Rodriguez

7 Park Hyatt Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan) - Located in the heart of Tokyo, the always-buzzing Shinjuku district, this stately hotel played a key role in the Oscar-winning film Lost in TranslationA. Rodriguez

8 Post Hotel (Weggis, Switzerland) - Picturesque views and conviviality abound from the lake-facing balconies lining this ultra-chic, gay-friendly hotel nestled on the shore of Lake Luzern's aquamarine waters.  J. L. Peerson

9 Sheraton Stockholm (Stockholm, Sweden) - Conveniently located just five minutes from Central Station, this hotel offers stunning views of Stockholm's unique skyline and tranquil Riddarfjärden at a reasonable price.  J.L. Peerson

10 Renaissance Zürich Tower Hotel (Zurich, Switzerland) - Towering above Zurich-West's rejuvenated, Bohemian neighborhood, the aptly named Renaissance Hotel has some of the most impeccably modern rooms in town.  J. L. Peerson

 

RESTAURANTS

1 Bowery Restaurant & Bar (Brussels, Belgium) - On the top floor of Brussels' Smets multi-level fashion showroom is where you'll discover this trendy, cool restaurant that attracts many sophisticated locals.  A. Rodriguez

2 Café Trio (Kansas City, MIssouri USA) - Award-winning, gay-owned Café Trio boasts a spacious outdoor deck overlooking the famous JC Nichols Fountain and a deliciously diverse menu, including vegetarian and gluten-free selections.  J. L. Peerson

3 Collections Cafe (Seattle, Washington USA) - Tucked into the Chihuly Garden and Glass, this upscale cafe offers a nice array of salads, sandwiches, house specialities and original lemonades, aside from unique decor.  A. Rodriguez

4 Gallo Blanco - (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - A reasonably priced menu of flavorful Mexican favorites, this new'ish diner inside the boutique Clarendon Hotel is definitely worth checking out.  A. Rodriguez

5 La Brasserie De Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium) - If there's one meal I'm dying to eat all over again, it's the vol au vent at this refined, popular restaurant in the Belgian capital.  A. Rodriguez

6 Langa Raden (Stockholm, Sweden) - From a historic 17th-century building inhabiting serene grounds in Stockholm's artistic center, Langa Raden dishes out traditional Swedish cuisine with a contemporary twist.  J. L. Peerson

7 Pine State Biscuits (Portland, Oregon USA) - A Portland institution, this biscuits galore shop in the Alberta Street district whips up just about everything from scratch.  It's always busy because it's consistently good.  A. Rodriguez

8 Royal Brasserie Bruxelles (Brussels, Belgium) - A lively spot to eat, drink, mingle and feast on fantastic fare.  The mushroom risotto I had here was better than amazing.  A. Rodriguez

9 Scala Restaurant (Luzern, Switzerland) - You'll pinch yourself enjoying extraordinarily exquisite dishes made from the finest ingredients served in a palace-like dining hall with surreal views of the Alps and Lake Luzern.  J. L. Peerson

10 ‘Ulu Ocean Girl at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii USA - Island of Hawaii) - An impressive 75% of this dynamic restaurant's menu is local; Executive Chef James Babian prides himself on exquisite regional and artisanal cuisine.  J. Price

 

BARS / LOUNGES / COFFEESHOPS

1 Bar Bridge (Tokyo, Japan) - Atop a six-floor residence building in Shinjuku Ni-chome, Tokyo's bustling gay district, this polished little bar is truly a hidden gem.  A. Rodriguez

2 Courier Coffee Roasters (Portland, Oregon USA) - I love anywhere that plays vinyl albums on an old school record player.  Combined with signature roasted coffee and homemade syrups, this Portland shop is sensational.  A. Rodriguez

3 Filmbar (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - A miniscule film theater, sleek lounge and art gallery all in one.  Nestled in PHX's Roosevelt Row district, adjacent to downtown, it's a scenester's bar with an actual scene.  A. Rodriguez

4 Frenz-Frenzy (Osaka, Japan) - The only foreigner-owned gay bar in Osaka, this place is a hoot.  Though it's also quite smoky, the friendly atmosphere and good music are reasons to drop by.  A. Rodriguez

5 Kona Brewing Company's Kona Pub & Brewery (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii USA - Island of Hawaii) – Take a tour and stay to enjoy hand-crafted, award-winning ales fresh from their source in Kona.  J. Price

6 Lux Central (Phoenix, Arizona USA) - Handcrafted cocktails, uber indie crowd, fun ambiance and communal seating makes this place an absolute must in Phoenix.  A. Rodriguez

7 Heile Welt (Berlin, Germany) - Pink fur-covered walls, dim lighting and low-sitting sofas render this laid-back lounge a nice respite from the raucous bars of gay Schöneberg.  J. L. Peerson

8 Louis Bar (Luzern, Switzerland) - With elegant furnishings and gorgeous scenery, Louis Bar, like it's namesake Louis Armstrong, swings to live music nearly every night and offers an extensive whiskey selection.  J. L. Peerson

9 Missie B's (Kansas City, Missouri USA) - KC's biggest gay bar is also it's most diverse thanks to a come-as-you-are atmosphere and cheap, stiff drinks. No matter your background, it's hard not to have fun here.  J. L. Peerson

10 You Night Club (Brussels, Belgium) - A stylish gay bar where Brussels' hippest hangs out, while listening to everything from Lykke Li to Gotye to Kool and the Gang.  A. Rodriguez

 

VISITOR ATTRACTIONS / TOURIST ACTIVITIES

1 Belgian Pride (Brussels, Belgium) - This is one of Europe's most festive and well-attended gay celebrations, resulting in packed streets through the wee hours of morning that become cluttered with every kind of empty drink container.  A. Rodriguez

2 Bike Hawaii (Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii USA - Island of Hawaii) – This bike tour company guides you on a gentle ride through lava beds, steam vents, and dramatic vistas you won't find anywhere else.  J. Price

3 Chihuly Garden and Glass (Seattle, Washington USA) - Some of Dale Chihuly's best work now rests here at this dazzling indoor/outdoor exhibit space at Seattle Center.  A. Rodriguez

4 Gay Ski Week (Arosa, Switzerland) - An annual devil-may-care Winter Pride Festival set amidst the Swiss Alps where beauty is in abundance both from the landscape and it's international attendees.  J. L. Peerson

5 Manta Ray Snorkel with Kamanu Charters (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii USA - Island of Hawaii) – Snorkeling at Garden Eel Cove at night with mysteriously beautiful (and harmless) manta rays is a thrilling experience you'll remember forever.  J. Price

6 Hankyu Men's Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan) - An eight-level men's department store complete with 'Refresh Court' and shops by every brand name designer makes Hankyu a godsend for male fashionistas.  A. Rodriguez  

7 Schwules Museum (Berlin, Germany) - Documenting the turbulent history of Berlin's homosexual inhabitants, this museum's scope is immense and a must-visit for gay and straight alike.  J. L. Peerson

8 Spa World (Osaka, Japan) - Six floors of spas, including the mens-only top level with elaborate baths and a sleeping/rest area, makes this the perfect spot to unwind in Osaka.  A. Rodriguez

9 Stray Cat Theatre (Tempe, Arizona USA) - An independent theater by ASU Campus, Stray Cat has been the host of imaginative, original productions such as the gay-themed play WolvesA. Rodriguez

10 The Surf Bus (Haleiwa, Hawaii USA - Island of Oahu) - This Oahu-based tour company not only transports you to the North Shore, but they provide a full day of activities once you arrive there.  A. Rodriguez

 

TRANSPORTATION SERVICES

1 All Nippon Airways 787/Dreamliner 'Business Class' (Seattle to Tokyo) - The only airline with Dreamliner service from Seattle, ANA's Business Class is a pampering experience with very attentive service.  A. Rodriguez

2 Delta Air Lines 'Business Elite' (Osaka to Seattle) - Generous-sized seats and leg room, great wine list, personalized service and a nice overnight amenity kit create an impressive Delta business product.  A. Rodriguez

3 Hawaiian Airlines 'Coach Class' (Seattle to Kona, via Honolulu) - The first thing you'll notice flying Hawaiian is generous seating split into three rows, coupled with complimentary mai tais, meals, and plenty of aloha spirit.  J. Price

4 Japan Railways Shinkansen (Bullet Train) 'Ordinary Class' (Tokyo to Osaka) - It takes just 2.5 hours to reach Osaka by train from Tokyo aboard this fast-moving train, running on-time and feeling as smooth as a feather bed.  A. Rodriguez

5 Scandinavian Airlines 'Economy Extra' (Berlin to Stockholm) - Meriting awards not only for their on-time flights, but also for an ahead-of-the-times campaign promoting marriage equality. SAS delivers efficiency and peace of mind for LGBT travellers.  J. L. Peerson

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