Monday, April 27, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of London’s Hotels with On-Site Dining

No trip to London would be complete without sampling some traditional British cuisine. Welsh rarebit, steak and kidney pie, fish and chips, and beef Wellington are just a few of the mouth-watering dishes the United Kingdom is known for. If you stay at one of the hotels in London with on-site dining, you won’t have to go far for some tasty nibbles and noshes.

Photo by Caroline in the City via trover.com

Sofitel London St James

The Sofitel London St James has many options for dining. The Balcon serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Start with a savory full English breakfast in the morning and come back later for delicious lunch and dinner offerings including homemade foie gras terrine, aged Scottish sirloin steak with Béarnaise sauce, and roasted Oxfordshire lamb saddle. There is also a bar that serves small plates. Best of all, there is a house charcutier who makes outstanding platters of French and Welsh charcuterie. Your taste buds will be in heaven.

The Grand at Trafalgar Square

Boyds Brasserie Bar & Lounge at The Grand at Trafalgar Square has been called “unashamedly British” by Food & Drink Guide. This is the place to go for amazing beef Wellington. You’ll delight in their other dishes too, like chicken liver parfait with tomato jelly, and smoked haddock Scotched egg, and chargrilled British beef burger with onion marmalade and Cornish brie. And your meal wouldn’t be complete without a pudding; the chocolate brownie with fudge sauce and Cornish clotted cream is spectacular, as are the bread and butter pudding, and the trio of British cheeses served with grapes and biscuits.

Saint Georges Hotel

Before you even take a bite of the excellent food at the Heights in Saint Georges Hotel, you will fall in love with the restaurant. It is on the 15th floor of the hotel and has phenomenal views of the city. The food is a mix of modern European and international cuisines with scrumptious main courses like sirloin steak with grilled tomato and mushrooms and grilled chicken served on saffron potatoes with broad beans mushrooms and bacon emulsion. The restaurant also has a bar menu with light meals and sandwiches. This is where you’ll find a perfect rendition of fish and chips.

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London has four different restaurants. Brasserie Joël is a French restaurant that serves steaks, seafood, and more. The French Barbary filet of duck is a popular dish you’ll surely adore. Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar creates delectable, made to order sushi and sashimi. Primo bar is a relaxing place for a sandwich or a burger and a custom cocktail. And last but not least, 1WB Lounge & Patisserie has an all-day tapas menu and delightful pastries. With all of these choices, you’ll never want to leave the hotel for a meal.

Afternoon Tea

Another truly British tradition is that of afternoon tea, and each of the hotels mentioned serves a traditional afternoon tea that will warm your body and please your palate. The number of tea choices will absolutely amaze you. And the finger sandwiches and scones with Devonshire clotted cream are tantalizing.

Photo by Diane Wong via trover.com

Once you have tasted the British cuisine in London, you’ll want to keep returning for more.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Planning a Trip to Anaheim – Theme Park Alternatives

Anaheim is best known for its theme parks, and if you are planning a trip to Anaheim with children, a visit to one or more of the parks is inevitable.  However, there are many other worthwhile adventures and activities available for people of all age and interest groups. Anaheim and its surrounding area in Orange County are great for sporting, shopping, and bar hopping.

Photo by Megan Ball via trover.com

Sports for Watching and Playing

Anaheim is home to both Honda Center and Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Depending on when you’re visiting the city, you might be able to catch an Anaheim Ducks hockey game or an L.A. Kiss football game. The arena also hosts many other sporting events and top-name concerts. No matter which event you attend and where you sit, you will have an excellent, and comfortable, view. Honda Center has cushy seats and excellent sight lines and proximity to action. It has been ranked one of the World’s Top 10 Arenas of the Decade by Venues Today Magazine.

When it comes to playing sports, there is no shortage of options in Anaheim. Golfers will delight in the number of courses in the area and can even save money by purchasing an OC Golf Trail Card that provides a 50% discount at five of the most popular courses in Orange County (with a half off a sixth bonus round too). There are also several tennis courts throughout the city for tennis lovers. And don’t forget the ocean that is just a short distance from Anaheim. You’ll relish the surfing and many other water sports.

Shopping for New and Old

The Anaheim area is ideal for shoppers of all kinds. At the local malls, you’ll find everything from high-end, luxury stores, including Hermès, Tiffany & Co., Giorgio Armani, and Kitson, to trendy stores like GUESS, Roxy, and Lucky Brand Jeans, to sporting goods stores where you can pick up casual surf wear.  

If you like shopping for antiques and vintage items, head to Old Towne Orange and Downtown Fullerton. Old Towne Orange has over 60 antique dealers, and it is easy to walk from one to another so you won’t miss out on that perfect find. Downtown Fullerton is a hip area where you can walk amongst historic buildings and shop at a variety of vintage retail stores and antique shops.

Bar Hopping for Beer, Wine, and Cocktails

There are all different types of bars in Anaheim, so you won’t have a problem finding one where you will feel at home. If you like dive bars where you can belly up to the bar and rub elbows with locals, Rio Vista Inn is the place for you. Prefer an upscale bar? Try the lounge at Morton’s The Steakhouse. How about a wine bar? Versai Wine Bar has happy hour from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Do you like the convenience of having a bar in your hotel? Mi Casita Bar and Grill at the Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites has several specialty cocktails.

Photo by Melanie King via trover.com

There are several other hotels in Anaheim that also have on-site bars and restaurants. Wherever you end up staying, and whatever you end up doing, Anaheim is definitely a place where everyone is guaranteed to have fun.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: A Guide to Florence’s Nightlife

Florence is known as the cradle of the Italian Renaissance, and you can witness the results of the Renaissance all throughout the city in its architecture and abundance of artistic masterpieces. You can also rock the cradle by partaking in Florence’s lively nightlife. A night filled with music, dining, and dancing is the perfect way to cap off a day of unforgettable sightseeing on your trip to Florence.

Photo by Kitty Hemingway via trover.com

Live Music

Known for its famous banjo band, variety of nightly live music, dance floor, and karaoke, Red Garter will keep you entertained all night. It’s Italy’s first bar opened by an American, so there’s always a good mix of locals and American students studying abroad. The bar’s steakhouse serves traditional American food along with tasty Italian dishes. And you might even be able to catch one of your favorite sports teams playing on the large screens; they often show international sports events.

If you prefer more traditional live stage music, you’ll want to check the schedule at Teatro della Pergola to see if you can catch a performance at the oldest theater in Italy when you are in town. Chamber music, classical concerts, and opera are some of the regularly featured performances at Teatro della Pergola. The theater is often chosen by vocalists for their performances because of its outstanding acoustics.

DJ Music

Famous DJs from around the world come to showcase their talent at Tenax. The dance club attracts a younger, diverse crowd in general, but anyone will get carried away with the beat, the lighting, and the visual effects at this memorable club. You will get a feel for the true Italian nightlife at this club because it is a favorite of locals.

How about some Latin American music in Italy? The Girasol Ristorante Pizzeria has a nightly after dinner DJ who spins Brazilian and Cuban music. You can sip on distinctive cocktails that are selected to complement the music, or you can kick it out on the dance floor. The restaurant is also known for its pastas, Neapolitan-style pizza, and homemade desserts.

Apertif Buffets

There are many bars and clubs that offer free buffets with the purchase of a cocktail. This is a great way to dine inexpensively because the aperitif buffets have meats, pastas, vegetables, and more – enough to turn into a full dinner while you are enjoying some creative, mouthwatering cocktails.

At Moyo, the aperitif buffet menu changes throughout the week, featuring Italian, Mexican, and American cuisines, and more. The drinks are reasonably priced and you are allowed unlimited visits to the buffet. When you are ready to burn off some of the calories from your delicious meal, Moyo has DJ dance music and a dance floor.

Negroni is another club that has a no limits aperitif buffet every day of the week. Their buffet features meat, fish, ethnic, and vegetarian food on different nights during the week. Negorni also has DJ music and dancing.

Photo by Alessandro Ricciardi via trover.com

Some of the bars and clubs in Florence are open until 3:00 a.m., so to get the most out of your time in the city, select one of the hotels in Florence that is centrally located to the daytime and nighttime attractions you plan to visit. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Planning a Trip to Rome – Don't Ignore the Cityscape

Rome has one of Italy’s most visually and historically fascinating cityscapes, and no trip to the city would be complete without taking in the amazing art and architecture of the city streets, both above and below ground. When you plan your trip to Rome, make sure to schedule a walking, biking, or Segway tour to experience the city’s street level wonders and schedule acatacomb tour to see the city’s underground treasures.

Photo by Allan Tan via trover.com

Famous Fountains

The fountains in Rome are not only beautiful pieces of artwork, they are also part of Rome’s history. The largest, most famous fountain is the Baroque style Trevi Fountain that was featured in the 1960 Fellini movie La Dolce Vita. It was completed in 1762 after years of delays. You will be awed when you see it in person. Another famous fountain is Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain). It was designed and sculpted in 1643 by Bernini (notable as his first public commission). Rome actually has more than 2,000 fountains that each have their own history and artful splendor.

Photo by Travel Loafers via trover.com

Obelisks - Egyptian and Roman

Rome has more obelisks than any other city, and many are Egyptian. You might be wondering why. It is because they were transported to Rome after the Romans conquered Egypt. Rome’s oldest and tallest obelisk is Egyptian and was brought to Rome in 357. It was originally built for Egyptian pharaohs in the 15th century B.C. and is now located in Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano. The tallest obelisk made in Rome actually sits atop of one of Rome’s famous fountains, the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, in the Piazza Navona.

Photo by Charles Arcudi via trover.com

Talking Statues of Rome

When the pope governed Rome’s citizens in the 1500’s, they took to using statues as an outlet for posting anonymous criticisms. People would glue pieces of paper to the statues, so it was as if the statues were talking. Pasquino, a male torso, was the original talking statue. He was joined by Marforio, Madama Lucrezia, and Babuino to name a few. The fascinating statues are all around the city. Some are full bodies, and some are torsos. They are each a sight worth seeing.

Treasure-Filled Catacombs

Art history buffs will love the catacombs that contain several genres of early Christian art. Catacombe di San Callisto is the largest of the catacombs and was Rome’s official Christian cemetery. Nine third-century popes were buried there. You’ll see their crypts, as well as many paintings, frescoes, and sculptures. Catacombe di San Sebastiano is smaller, but contains impressive early Christian mosaics and graffiti. The oldest catacombs are Catacombe di San Domitilla. You enter these catacombs through a fourth century church and get to see a second century fresco of the Last Supper.

Photo by Brink of the World via trover.com

There are fountains and statues and amazements around every corner in this historic city. Plan to stay in one of the centrally located hotels in Rome, and you will be surrounded by the aesthetics of Rome’s cityscape day and night.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Seattle’s Best Hotels for Live Entertainment

Because Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, it’s long been a regional center for many genres of the performing arts, including orchestra, opera, ballet, and theater. In the 1990s, Seattle became known as the birthplace of grunge. The bands Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and many more began their rise to fame playing in their hometown of Seattle. Grunge music’s popularity may have faded, but Seattle is still home to incredible bands and many forms of performing arts. And, there are many hotels in Seattle that bring a wide variety of entertainment to you.

Photo by Mytanfeet via trover.com

Sorrento Hotel

Seattle’s Sorrento Hotel  is well known for the unique programs they present in their Fireside Room and the Top of the Town. On any given night, you could attend a CD release event, a musical performance, a reading, or a discussion with a panel of experts on various topics. Your stay in one of the boutique hotel’s rooms will be as unique as the hotel and its events. No two rooms are alike; they each have individualized curves, corners, character, and charm. Decorated with crisp colors and vintage furnishings, they will spoil you with comfort.

The Edgewater - A Noble House Hotel

Every Friday and Saturday, Six Seven Lounge at The Edgewater - A Noble House Hotel  features a schedule with up-and-coming local artists, well-known local artists, or nationally known artists. The diverse music ranges from alternative to jazz to country and more. And the list of past performers, including The Beatles, David Bowie, Rod Stewart, The Rolling Stones, gives you an idea of the caliber of performance you will be treated to. The rooms are a treat too. All rooms have pine furniture, gas fireplaces, and views of Puget Sound or the Olympic Mountains.

The Moore Hotel

The Moore Hotel is conveniently connected to the Moore Theater, which is the oldest functioning theater in Seattle. The theater, operated by the Seattle Theater Group, presents a wide variety of performances: concerts, musicals, lectures, and dance, comedy, and variety shows. You’re sure to find a performance to your liking. The hotel’s glamorous lobby with restored tile-work, moldings, and marble, and the rooms decorated in an alluring cross between hipness and tradition will charm your socks off.

Hotels Near Venues

Both the Executive Hotel Pacific and W Seattle are within walking distance of the famous Showbox at the Market. The Showbox has been open since 1939 and has hosted famous artists stretching from Duke Ellington to the Ramones, as well as Pearl Jam, Macklemore, and Prince. It is a comparatively small venue with seating for approximately 1,100, making it a great place to see a concert.

A stay at the Mediterranean Inn or the Hampton Inn & Suites Seattle Downtown places you just a few blocks from Vera Project. The Vera Project is a music venue and more. There are weekly concert featuring newer artists like The Hollers, A Weekend at the Feelies, and Karma Knows. There are also classes in sound engineering, recording, lighting, writing, and DJ-ing. The Vera Project is the perfect venue for anyone interested in becoming part of the music industry.

Photo by Ron Mendoza via trover.com

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tips for Planning a Trip to Chicago on a Budget

Planning a trip that adheres to a budget, yet still packs in all the enjoyment you want to experience, can be a challenge. And Chicago is not an inexpensive city. However, when you keep these tips in mind, your trip to the Windy City is sure to be a successful one.

Photo by Sue Macchiarella via trover.com

Finding a Flight

When looking up flights to Chicago, remember that there are two airports that service the city: Chicago Midway International Airport and O'Hare International Airport. Compare the prices of flights to each airport; you might be able to save some money by flying into one airport instead of the other. Another thing to keep in mind, if you have some flexibility with your travel dates, is that you could save money by flying into or out of town a day earlier or later. You can play around with arrival and departure dates to find the most budget friendly combination.

Finding a Hotel

With so many hotels in Chicago, it helps to know about the options before booking a room. If you’re okay with not being downtown, there are many hotels in Rosemont that have lower rates than downtown hotels. Rosemont is also close to O'Hare International Airport, and several hotels have free shuttles from the airport. Plus, it’s easy to get downtown by taking advantage of the budget friendly Chicago Transit Authority Blue Line. Two hotels that you might want to consider for their great rates and favorable reviews are The Crowne Plaza Hotel Chicago O'Hare and the Hyatt Regency O'Hare.

Do you prefer staying downtown? You can still find reasonably priced hotels. The Dana Hotel And Spa has much lower rates on average than other nearby hotels. It earns great reviews for its luxury boutique styling and its comfortable rooms. It also has a really cool rooftop lounge that is open year-round. You can also save money at the more well-known, pricier hotels by taking advantage of special pricing offers and discount packages. Sofitel Chicago Water Tower has a money saving second honeymoon package and offers substantial discounts for longer stays.

Finding Free Fun

You don’t have to spend a dime to enjoy several of Chicago’s famous activities and attractions. Kids will love Millennium Park with its famous interactive video sculpture and family activities. And the Lincoln Park Zoo is another favorite for kids. Seeing the wide array of animals will give your children outstanding memories to last a lifetime.

Photo by Meredith Haas via trover.com

There are plenty of free things for adults too. The Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago has collections of European art, Asian art, contemporary art, and more. The works by artists including Picasso, Matisse, and Ansel Adams are really something to be seen. If you are into architecture, a visit to the Harold Washington Library Center is a must. The building is absolutely stunning architecturally. It has roof ornamentation depicting giant owls and wall medallions of the Roman goddess Ceres.

Photo by Richard Kidd via trover.com

These are just a few suggestions to get you started with planning your travel, lodging, and entertainment. Chicago is a marvelous city where you are sure to something new around every corner.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Best of Orlando Hotels with Outdoor Recreation

There's more to the compelling city of Orlando than famous theme parks. Recreational sports lovers can find their own fun at several Orlando hotels, many of which have on-site outdoor sports amenities for both adults and kids. There are hotels with golf courses, putting greens, tennis courts, biking trails, and more. You don’t have to leave your hotel to have fabulous outdoor fun.

Photo by Rita LaDouceur  via trover.com

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress has so many activities available that you might have to stay a week to revel in them all. To begin with, there are four Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses, eight clay tennis courts, and four turf tennis courts. There’s a private lake with paddleboats, kayaks, canoes, sailboats, and hydro bikes. The pool is lagoon-style with 12 waterfalls, a swim-through grotto, a waterslide, and more. If you can fit a meal in between all of the thrills, there are several dining options for everyone. Also, the rooms have everything you need for a contented night’s sleep.

Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel

While the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel doesn’t have quite the number of activities that the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress provides, it still features plenty of outdoor activities and a stay here is won’t empty your wallet as much. One of the coolest things at Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel is their Olympic size, regulation sand volleyball court. There are also tennis courts, nature trails, and four outdoor heated pools. You won’t find too many other hotels with 12 restaurants featuring Italian, Mexican, Sushi, Steak, and more. The rooms are luxuriously appointed with Georgian style furniture.

Hilton Orlando

With a stay at the Hilton Orlando, there is never a shortage of exciting things to do. You can hit the course, a 9-hole putting green course that is perfect for a quick round with your kids, or the courts — tennis, basketball, and volleyball that is. And when you’re ready to cool off, you can swoosh down the waterslide or float down the lazy river. The hotel has several dining options, from poolside cafes to a stylish, upscale steakhouse. After all that activity, you will take comfort in the handsomely decorated rooms with peaceful earthy touches.

Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Lodge

As you might expect, Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Lodge has an amazing golf course: 27 holes on the shores of the scenic Butler Chain of Lakes. It also has a tennis facility with clay and turf courts. What you might not expect at Arnold Palmer's Bay Hill Lodge is a marina. Whether you are going to fish or observe the awesome Florida wildlife, you’ll love a boat excursion. You’ll also enjoy the dining room food and the guest rooms with framed photos from Arnold Palmer’s personal collection.

JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes

Want to play an 18-hole course designed by Greg Norman? JW Marriott Orlando Grande Lakes has one. The hotel also has tennis, volleyball, biking, kayaking, fly fishing, and a pool with a lazy river. For dining, the hotel has many restaurants, from Asian to Italian, and more.  The rooms are decorated in serene tones of blue and green.

Photo by Global Heartbeat via trover.com

When you make outdoor recreation your focus, you can have as many Orlando-based thrills as you would at theme park.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Best of Chicago’s Lincoln Park Hotels

One of Chicago’s most popular attractions is the Lincoln Park Zoo, and for good reason, but the Lincoln Park neighborhood has much more to offer. There are so many high-end stores, unique boutiques, museums, restaurants, taverns, theaters, and live music clubs that you could spend your entire trip to Chicago in Lincoln Park and not even miss downtown. In fact, some of Chicago’s top rated restaurants are in Lincoln Park, including Alinea, Riccardo Trattoria, and Boka.

If you stay in one of the hotels in Chicago in Lincoln Park, you will be able to fully appreciate every aspect of the beautiful neighborhood, from the architecture of the incredible row houses and historic churches, to the lush and serene parks that dot the area, to the business corridors with their incredible shopping and entertainment options. With the hotel choices available, you are sure to find one that is to your, and your wallet’s, liking. 
  
Photo by Yelena Galstyan via Trover.com

Hotel Lincoln, a Joie de Vivre Hotel

The views from Hotel Lincoln, a Joie de Vivre Hotel are stunning. Soak in the green of Lincoln Park, the blue of Lake Michigan, and the bright lights of Chicago’s famous skyline from the hotel’s rooftop bar while enjoying a cocktail. Hungry? The on-site restaurant, Perennial Virant, will not disappoint. It’s overseen by chef Paul Virant of the famed Boka restaurant. The hotel has complimentary bike rentals and pedicabs for your convenience. The comfortable rooms at this 4-star hotel are an added bonus.

Days Inn Chicago

The Days Inn Chicago is a great hotel to consider if don’t want the bells and whistles that fancier hotels have. The hotel still has everything you need for a comfortable stay, and it is a great value for its location. The rooms are sparsely decorated, but clean and pleasant, and they come with a complimentary continental breakfast. And Days Inn Chicago even has miniature golf and a driving range for your entertainment.

Villa Toscana Guest House

If you prefer lodging that’s intimate and cozy, Villa Toscana Guest House will be perfect for you. It is a charming guest house with eight European style rooms from which you may choose. The rooms — French, Venetian, English, Empire, Art-Deco, British Colonial, Neo-Classic, or Moroccan — have either queen or full beds. Every room comes with free Wi-Fi and a complimentary continental breakfast.

Chicago Getaway Hostel

You might be surprised by everything you’ll find at Chicago Getaway Hostel. The hostel has traditional dormitory rooms that sleep up to 12 people with common bathrooms, but it also has private rooms with private baths. The complimentary breakfast served in the cafeteria provides for a wonderful opportunity to meet other guests from around the world. There’s a music room with a grand piano and guitars, a television room, free Wi-Fi, and computer stations. You won’t find a better price for lodging than at this hostel which receives consistently positive reviews.

Photo by Adam Biedron via trover.com

Each of the hotels and lodging options are located within walking distance of numerous Lincoln Park attractions. Catch a comedy show at Second City, a concert at Park West, or a game at Wrigley Field. Whatever you decide to do, you are bound to have a spectacular time in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Hipmunk City Love: Incredible San Francisco Memories – An Opinion Piece

San Francisco is definitely a place where you can make incredible memories, and the opportunities to create them are numerous. Think about seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person. It is nothing like the postcard versions, and riding a cable car is nothing like watching an old Rice-A-Roni commercial. If you are planning a trip to San Francisco, consider some of the activities and attractions that are our favorites.

Photo by Steven Monigold via Trover.com

Memorable Activities

Riding San Francisco's cable cars is something everyone should experience at least once. After all, this is one of the rare places where you can ride an actual vintage cable car, not a replica, on real steel rails. The swaying of a moving cable car and the smell of the wooden brakes are unlike anything you will encounter on modern forms of public transportation. This is an activity that is certainly worth your time, even if it is a touristy one.

If you take the Hyde Street cable car, hop off near Lombard Street for another San Francisco treat. You will be near the top of what has been called the most crooked street in the world. This block of Lombard is super steep and has eight sharp turns. It also has magnificent views of the city and Bay Bridge. My husband and I especially love walking down the steps alongside the curvy street and checking out the impressive mansions with immaculate landscaping. It is considered one of the wealthiest areas in San Francisco.

Photo by John Corvus via Trover.com

Memorable Attractions

Because I love being near water, Pier 39 is a favorite of mine. I’m not much into shopping, though there are many stores for those who are. Instead, I go for the views of the bay, the boats, and the sea lions. You can see Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and more from the pier. The variety of boats at Pier 39 Marina is amazing. When it comes down to it though, the sea lions are the best part. There is nothing like seeing hundreds of the amazing creatures basking in the sun on floating docks. It's unforgettable.
Photo by The Travelling Quill via Trover.com

It may seem contradictory for me to say that Ghirardelli Square is another favorite place since I previously said I don’t like shopping, but I do make exceptions. This exception has to do with memories. When I was young, my father took me to the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop. I loved it, and that memory has stayed with me ever since. Plus, I do like to shop at Lola Toy Shop for my kids and Yap for my dog. My husband and I enjoy the Pub at Ghirardelli Square, too.

Where to Stay

We like to stay in the Fisherman’s Wharf area, and there are San Francisco hotels aplenty there. We usually stay at either Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf or Radisson Hotel Fisherman's Wharf depending on which hotel has better rates when we go. They each have clean and comfortable rooms, impressive amenities, and a great location.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Cities Less Traveled: Trekking a Different Side of Tokyo

You might want to consider stepping off of the main streets and back into the alleys if you want a unique experience on your trip to Tokyo. The many narrow lanes throughout Tokyo are called yokocho alleys, and walking down these alleys will transport you to a funky and not-so-well-known side of Tokyo.  The yokocho alleys are filled with offbeat shops, restaurants, bars, and more. You won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to encounter the local culture and traditions in yokocho alleys.

Photo by Kate Stella via trover.com

Nonbei Yokocho

Nonbei Yokocho is also known as Drunkard’s Alley because of its many tiny bars. If you like the intimate feeling of smaller bars, you’ll love the bars here; some of them seat only four people. Nonbei Yokocho also has several bistros, Yakitori shops (skewered meat), and eccentric stores. It is considered one of Tokyo’s coolest back alleys with its retro feel. Nonbei Yokocho is located right near Shibuya Station. It's hidden well from the main streets; you’ll know you are there when you see the vibrant red lanterns.

Harmonica Yokocho

Because the rows of small shops in this alley resemble harmonica reeds and holes, it was given the name Harmonica Yokocho. It is home to several restaurants, as well as grocery stores, clothing stores, and specialty food shops that sell yokan (candy made from bean paste) and taiyaki (fish-shaped cake stuffed with sweet anko bean paste). Harmonica Yokocho even has fortune tellers. The vibe of this yokocho alley, which is just north of Kichijoji Station, is similar to that of an Asian bazaar. The variety of things to do here provides for an enjoyable and memorable day.

Photo by Takashi Kamiya via trover.com

Kurobe Yokocho

Kurobe Yokocho is also called black-fence alley because it is surrounded by chic black walls. This yokocho alley is known for the variety of cuisines served at its restaurants; there is outstanding Japanese, Okinawan, Korean, and more. You can delight in the flavors of dishes such as kushikatsu (seasoned, skewered meat dipped in egg, flour, and panko then deep fried) and Okinawan soba (thick wheat noodles served in flavored broth topped with fish cake, pork belly, and boneless pork ribs and garnished with pickled ginger). Your taste buds will be titillated. Kurobe Yokocho is just a few minutes from Tokyo Station.

Ameya Yokocho

If you like shopping and finding great deals, Ameya Yokocho is the yokocho alley for you. It is a street market with over 181 discount shops. You will find everything from unique local products to clothes, shoes, jewelry, plants, antiques, and more. Of course there are also restaurants, cafes, and fruit stalls where you can enjoy a meal or snack during your shopping excursion. What makes shopping here extra entertaining is the fact that you can negotiate prices with the shop owners. Ameya Yokocho is located next to Ueno Station.

Photo by Ross W via trover.com

There are numerous other yokocho alleys throughout Tokyo that you will be delighted by, too; this is just a small sampling to give you an idea of the variety of their offerings. For added convenience during your trip, there are many Tokyo hotels located near the yokocho alleys, so you won’t have to walk far for your adventures.

This post was written as part of the #HipmunkCityLove project.
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