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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 30, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 53
BEST OF TRAVEL 2016: Our picks for the top hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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BEST OF TRAVEL 2016: Our picks for the top hotels, restaurants, bars and visitor attractions

by Albert Rodriguez and Jessica Price - SGN A&E Writers

Wherever we go, there's always a place we sleep, eat, or drink at, or something we experience that makes the trip so much more memorable. Whether it's that hotel with the incredible views, or the bar we stumbled upon on our first night, there's usually something that stands out from the rest. So, from our travels in 2016, here is our list of hotels, restaurants, bars and lounges, coffee shops and tourist attractions that we truly loved, all in alphabetical order.

HOTELS

1. The Alise - San Francisco, California (USA)
With an art deco, old Hollywood feel, the lobby and chic d├ęcor of the guest rooms breathe new life into the 100-year old building just a ten minutes' walk from Union Square. (J. Price)

2. ARIA Resort & Casino - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
Any guest room at ARIA Resort & Casino is marvelous, though for a ritzier stay book yourself a Sky Suite, which is like having your own condo in Vegas with dining room, entertainment room, 1.5 bathrooms and floor to ceiling windows with dazzling views of The Strip. It's a hotel within a hotel with exclusive entrance, elevators and lobby. (A. Rodriguez)

3. the ART, a hotel - Denver, Colorado (USA)
Situated in the Golden Triangle Museum District, this 165-guest room hotel is a marvelous place to call home when visiting Denver. Dedicated to art, as one would guess, you'll find beautiful art pieces displayed throughout the property, including its curved driveway and chic lobby. And if you have time, a drink or two at its signature restaurant and lounge, FIRE, is highly recommended. (A. Rodriguez)

4. The Crawford Hotel - Denver, Colorado (USA)
A luxurious hotel inside a train station? You better believe it! Located within Union Station, The Crawford is a stone's throw to Denver's sports stadiums and downtown attractions, allowing guests the convenience of walking to just about everything in the central part of the city, plus direct train service to and from the airport. (A. Rodriguez)

5. Fleur de Chine Hotel - Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan
Sun Moon Lake itself is memorable, but the accommodations at the 5-star Fleur de Chine Hotel is an even more unforgettable experience. Among the unique amenities are hot springs pools on the lower level of the property - though guests can enjoy the hot springs experience with built-in bath/Jacuzzis in their own rooms - and an all-ages recreational area with pool and foosball tables, swimming pool and fitness center with lake views. (A. Rodriguez)

6. Hilton Anatole - Dallas, Texas (USA)
Despite it being an enormous business-style hotel, the Hilton Anatole provides guests with a convenient location in Dallas, aside from classy decorated rooms with generous space and premiere amenities. The hotel's on-site restaurants, such as SER Steak & Spirits on the top floor, an illuminated indoor courtyard and its own resort pool complex, plus its affiliation with the local LGBT community, earns it high marks. (A. Rodriguez)

7. Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows - Kohala Coast, Hawaii (island of Hawaii, USA)
A 30-minute drive from the Kona airport on the Big Island is this fabulous hotel that is a slice of paradise all by itself. Rooms are tastefully furnished with contemporary amenities, and the spacious lanais - especially those looking out to the ocean - are the place to catch Hawaii's splendid sunrises and sunsets. (A. Rodriguez)

8. Millennium Hotel Taichung - Taichung, Taiwan
Everything about this hotel was magnificent, from the stylish rooms to the rooftop bar to a wide assortment of food offered at the breakfast buffet. It was pure modern elegance at every turn, and my only regret is staying for just one night. (A. Rodriguez)

9. Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club - Honolulu, Hawaii (island of Oahu, USA)
This new boutique hotel in Waikiki is loaded with charm, from its cheery front desk personnel to its colorful and wonderfully laid out rooms that come with their own balconies. Complimentary snacks upon arrival, a great restaurant and bar on the main floor and an outdoor pool with the slogan 'Wish You Were Here' at the bottom are a few of the nice touches you'll find at the Surfjack. (A. Rodriguez)

10. W Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan
W hotels have a reputation around the world for being trendy, cool and very modern, which perfectly describes the brand's 405-room property in Taipei. The outdoor swimming pool and deck with dreamy city vistas is a recreational oasis, as is the hotel's top floor Woobar, and it should be noted that the W Taipei is a loyal supporter of the LGBT community. (A. Rodriguez)

RESTAURANTS

1. Avanti Food & Beverage - Denver, Colorado (USA)
A contemporary food and beverage hall nestled in Denver's happening Highlands neighborhood, Avanti offers hungry folks two levels of multiple eateries, plus bar counters on both floors and an outside deck on the top floor with amazing views of downtown. This hotspot is an absolute must when you're in the Mile High City. (A. Rodriguez)

2. Beerhaus - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
In addition to the many regional beers on tap at this newly opened Las Vegas eatery and bar, guests can also play foosball, ping pong, or a board game while waiting for their order. The atmosphere is lively and the food is terrific, plus it's a two-minute walk to T-Mobile Arena. (A. Rodriguez)

3. Gracias Madre - San Francisco, California (USA)
Healthy vegan Mexican fare served in the heart of the Mission with flavors so rich you'll be coming back every time you visit. (J. Price)

4. Ice Monster - Taipei, Taiwan
When in Taipei, definitely check this place out. It's the Taiwanese version of shaved ice, a much more interesting and bountiful way to enjoy the chilled dessert that's served in a variety of flavors and mounted high on a plate. (A. Rodriguez)

5. Mahina & Sun's - Honolulu, Hawaii (island of Oahu, USA)
Located inside the Surfjack Hotel & Swim Club, this is the fourth restaurant opened by successful Hawaiian chef Ed Kenney. Serving farm-to-table dishes in a cool, vibrant setting, including fabulous brunch plates, Mahina & Sun's is a top recommendation when you're in Waikiki. (A. Rodriguez)

6. Pecan Lodge - Dallas, Texas (USA)
Texans love their barbecue, and in Dallas the place to go is Pecan Lodge. There's usually a line to order your food, but the wait is well worth it, as the popular joint serves up mouthwatering ribs, Southern chicken and quite possibly the best mac n' cheese I've ever eaten. (A. Rodriguez)

7. Rivea - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
High up on the 64th floor of the Delano Las Vegas hotel you'll find this wonderful restaurant by celebrated chef Alain Ducasse. The views are stunning, but the food is even better, like the Artichoke & Spinach Ravioli, the Line-Caught Striped Bass and the succulent Colorado Rack of Lamb. (A. Rodriguez)

8. SER Steak & Spirits - Dallas, Texas (USA)
On the top floor of the Hilton Anatole is this gem of a restaurant and a favorite amongst Dallas' steak worshippers. Everything I ordered here was cooked to perfection and flavored well, right down to a basic iceberg wedge salad that was anything but basic. (A. Rodriguez)

9. Wein Restaurant & Lounge - Taichung, Taiwan
Known for its traditional Peking duck dinners with all the fixins', this polished restaurant in Taiwan's third largest city is a fabulous spot to not only eat a sumptuous meal, but to also blend in with local foodies. (A. Rodriguez)

10. Yuan-Yuan Restauarnt - Taipei, Taiwan
Tucked inside the legendary Grand Hotel Taipei, this opulent restaurant provides diners with impeccable views of the city from its floor to ceiling windows as they feast on authentic cuisine of the Jiangsu and Zhejiang regions. High ceilings and traditional Taiwanese decor in an ample, immaculate dining room add to the experience. (A. Rodriguez)

BARS & LOUNGES / COFFEE SHOPS & TEA HOUSES

1. Chung Shui Tang Cultural Tea House - Taichung, Taiwan
At this popular hangout in Taichung, you can learn how to make bubble tea, which originated in Taiwan, and be certified with a bubble tea degree by taking a class upstairs at this tri-level teahouse. But you can also just enjoy a beverage in the charming cafe without having to lift a finger. (A. Rodriguez)

2. The Cooper Lounge - Denver, Colorado (USA)
Perched above the lobby at Denver's train station, this cozy and elegant lounge serves a great - if not strong - cosmopolitan, and the appetizers, like the Cheese Cart Du Jour and Colorado Wagyu Steak Tartare, are the perfect accompanimient. (A. Rodriguez)

3. Hyde Lounge at T-Mobile Arena - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
There's a Hyde inside the Bellagio, but this particular newly opened lounge sits above the upper tier seats inside T-Mobile Arena. You'll need a ticket for whatever show is being staged that night to get in, and while the sound isn't good up there, the views are outstanding. (A. Rodriguez)

4. Lava Lava Beach Club - Waikaloa Village, Hawaii (island of Hawaii, USA)
Though this beachside bar also serves food, it's a better spot to have cocktails with a fun crowd, if you're staying in or near Waikaloa on Hawaii island. Live music is provided on most evenings and the staff is really nice. (A. Rodriguez)

5. The Molecule Effect - Denver, Colorado (USA)
If you happen to stroll through the historical Arts District on Santa Fe Drive in Denver, you'll come across this beloved coffee shop that serves great espressos and lattes in a warm, inviting space. The painted mural on The Molecule Effect's building is one of many exterior art pieces to see in this artsy neighborhood. (A. Rodriguez)

6. Skyfall Lounge - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
Adjacent to Rivea, on the 64th floor of the Delano Las Vegas, this is about as high up off the ground that you can drink at, or dance, in Sin City. And although the crowd leans heavily more straight than Gay, the atmosphere is friendly and electric, making it a welcoming experience for everybody. (A. Rodriguez)

7. Station 4 - Dallas, Texas (USA)
Perhaps the hottest Gay club in Dallas is the massive Station 4, aka S4, in the always-happening Oak Lawn district. Whether it's Pride weekend, or any ordinary weekend, you're sure to find a large gathering here for dancing, drag queen shows and special events, such as Gay bingo. (A. Rodriguez)

8. Terminal Bar - Denver, Colorado (USA)
You don't even need to be catching a train to enjoy this awesome cocktail lounge, wedged into what used to be the ticketing offices of Union Station in downtown Denver. Attractive bartenders, affordable happy hour specials, an upscale environment and plenty of friendly locals and visitors to mingle with makes Terminal Bar a must stop place for a drink. (A. Rodriguez)

9. Toad Hall - San Francisco, California (USA)
The first Gay dance bar in the city and a staple in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood nightlife. (J. Price)

10. Wang Chung's Karaoke Bar - Honolulu, Hawaii (island of Oahu, USA)
Whether you karaoke or not, Wang Chung's is one of the coolest and most entertaining bars to party at in Waikiki. Located behind the Hyatt towers, this nearly hidden lounge offers quality signature cocktails, Jello shots and good bites in a neatly designed space. (A. Rodriguez)

VISITOR ATTRACTIONS / SPECIAL EVENTS

1. Dallas World Aquarium - Dallas, Texas (USA)
Animal lovers, especially those fond of water creatures, will absolutely love this multi-level aquarium that includes the usual favorites - turtles, crocodiles, sharks and various species of fish - but also flamingoes, sloths and, if you're lucky enough to catch him, a manatee. (A. Rodriguez)

2. Denver Chalk Art Festival - Denver, Colorado (USA)
This summer street festival in Denver's Larimer Square features more than 150 professional and amateur artists sketching elaborate pieces of work with chalk on city pavement, which draws huge crowds that can also enjoy wine tastings, fresh meals from local food vendors and live music. (A. Rodriguez)

3. GLBT History Museum - San Francisco, California (USA)
Established in 1985 as the first museum of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender history and culture in the United States. The museum houses a permanent collection and frequently refreshes with well-researched temporary exhibitions of art or significant works by GLBT activists. (J. Price)

4. National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts - Taichung, Taiwan
This modern museum dedicated to fine arts has some very interesting exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, that features works mainly by Taiwanese artists. It's a terrific way to spend an afternoon in Taichung. (A. Rodriguez)

5. The Park - Las Vegas, Nevada (USA)
Opened in April, this Sin City outdoor attraction includes unique art sculptures and a half dozen restaurants with inside and outside seating, not to mention it's situated on The Strip, making it very convenient to get to. (A. Rodriguez)

6. Perot Museum of Nature and Science - Dallas, Texas (USA)
Housed in a 180,000 square-foot eye-catching building in the Victory Park district of Dallas, this museum is a huge draw for those interested in all things nature and science. From learning about the past (dinosaurs) to the future (robots), it's an adventure that should definitely be included on your next visit to The Big D. (A. Rodriguez)

7. Queermosa Awards - Taipei, Taiwan
In its inaugural year, the Queermosa Awards celebrated the achievements of activists, journalists, performing artists, social media personalities and local businesses who've championed equal rights and helped raise awareness of the LGBT community around the country. The ceremony, which included a pre-arrival champagne reception and multi-course dinner at the lavish W Taipei hotel, was attended by well-known LGBT people and several A-list Taiwanese celebrities. (A. Rodriguez)

8. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre - Morrison, Colorado (USA)
Commemorating its 75th anniversary in 2016, this landmark outdoor concert venue and surrounding park is a must-visit attraction when visiting the Denver area. U2, Dolly Parton, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Denver, The Grateful Dead, Radiohead and The Beatles are just some of the thousands of musicians that have performed at the famous amphitheatre. (A. Rodriguez)

9. Taiwan LGBT Pride - Taipei, Taiwan
Asia's largest LGBT event takes place on the streets of Taiwan in late October and this year 80,000 people attended the parade on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, which is more of a march than a parade. Everyone from drag queens to Gay bears to supportive allies walked side-by-side along the busy avenues of Taipei to show their pride in a great display of unity. (A. Rodriguez)

10. Twilight at Kalahuipua'a - Eva Woods Cottages at Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows - Kohala Coast, Hawaii (island of Hawaii, USA)
A monthly event held at the Eva Parker Woods Cottage, footsteps from the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, gathers Hawaiian locals and visitors for a wonderful evening of 'talk story' (storytelling), live music, hula and other cultural offerings. Everyone is invited, it's free and those attending can bring their own food and beverages while sitting on the beachside lawn. (A. Rodriguez)

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