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A Startup Store in Beta, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, December 22 12:35 PM

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Part pop-up shop, part interactive exhibition, this Chelsea newcomer provides a brick-and-mortar home for online-only retailers based in New York City. Like the idea? Don't get too attached to it. This is A Startup Store in Beta, and it will soon evolve.

Every couple of weeks, the shop will remake itself around a new theme (look out for a coffee-oriented surprise in January). For now, BaubleBar and Joor will bling you out with direct designer-sourced jewelry and accessories. Gadget geeks can get their fix from invention incubator Quirky, while Artspace sells affordable pieces from the self-same contemporary artists that you might see at galleries down the street, including Ross Bleckner and Nick Cave. And Birchbox lets you test-drive the products of its prescription beauty service via mini facials. Try to find an app for that.

Photo: Courtesy of A Startup Store in Beta

Tiger & Turtle, Magic Mountain, Duisburg, Germany

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, December 19 01:31 PM

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Step right up! Ladies and gents, we present Tiger & Turtle--Magic Mountain, now open on a hill a half hour north of Düsseldorf, Germany. Standing at 148 feet tall with nearly 1,000 feet of zinc-plated steel track, it is the world's first roller-coaster for the acceleration-averse, with speeds of up to two miles per hour.

Built by artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, the walkable sculpture has paths and stairs that careen and curve, plus views of the Rhine from the top. Unlike a typical roller-coaster, this one offers a climb that will get your heart pumping with effort rather than adrenaline. Gotta love art that keeps you in the loop.

Photo: Courtesy of Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth

Black Tomato Swedish Lapland Tour

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, December 02 02:57 PM

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Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh? It's not just the stuff of Christmas carols. On the hip travel company Black Tomato's new Swedish Lapland tour, it's your mode of transportation.

After a food tour of Stockholm, you'll kick it Santa-style under the Northern Lights, sleep in a mod tree house in an enchanted forest, and fly (literally) over the icy wilderness of Lulea in a hovercraft. Reindeer meatballs are on the menu, but having a nibble of Santa's little helpers could land you on the naughty list. Consider yourself warned.

Photo: Courtesy of Black Tomato

Boxpark, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, November 28 12:34 PM

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Ah, holiday shopping: those glaring fluorescent lights, the high-stakes fight for parking, the gratingly cheerful soundtracks. It's enough to make you want to flee the country. May we suggest London?

Our cross-pond neighbors are rethinking the mall experience with the new Boxpark. Made from 60 repurposed shipping containers, the shopping complex in the hip East End neighborhood of Shoreditch will peddle funky jewelry, streetwear, books, and bikes from a mix of up-and-coming and established brands. Add to that some coffee shops and cafés and an art gallery or two, and you've got a happy holiday. Our excitement cannot be contained.

Photo: Courtesy of Boxpark

Southern Spirit Whistle Stop Tours, Australia

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 15 12:08 PM

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You may have noticed that Australia is big. Really big. Only slightly smaller than the United States, in fact, with vast stretches of countryside separating its cosmopolitan cities. Flying around the country is expedient, but on Great Southern Rail's new routes aboard the Southern Spirit, you get to see all the gorgeous landscapes in between.

Passengers on Southern Spirit Whistle Stop Tours can hang ten in hip surfing town Byron Bay, quaff New World wines in the scenic Hunter Valley, pet koalas at Taronga Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, and go walkabout in the beautiful forests of the Grampians. Now that's the spirit.

Southern Spirit six-day Whistle Stop Tours from $4,235

Photo: Courtesy of Southern Spirit Tours

Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980, Los Angeles

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, November 03 11:52 AM

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Los Angeles's edgier side sometimes gets lost among the Botox and bling of tabloid Hollywood. Yet SoCal has long been a locus of left-field creative endeavors. That's why we're loving Pacific Standard Time, an ambitious six-month project exploring the often turbulent history of art in L.A. Sixty cultural institutions in the area are taking part by hosting exhibitions, performances, and concerts now through March 2012.

The Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, meanwhile, slated for January 19-29, will restage performance pieces and seminal works. For Accidents in Abstract Painting at the Armory Center for the Arts, for example, Richard Jackson will load a large-scale model airplane full of paint and then crash it into a wall. We can't wait to see whether the performance--originally staged in 2003 at Zurich's Hauser & Wirth gallery--makes as much of a splash this time around.

Photo: Courtesy of Harry Gamboa, Jr.; © 1974 Harry Gamboa, Jr.

The Real Cuba, Austin-Lehman Adventures

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, November 01 11:14 AM

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For decades, American citizens with a hankering to see Havana had to engage in some serious (and not recommended) 007 business to make that happen. But now, with the launch of Austin-Lehman Adventures' "the Real Cuba" itinerary, visiting Castro country is easy and--more importantly--legal.

The ten-day trip, a far-ranging intro to Cuban life, includes visiting private homes, helping out with community projects, and meeting artists, artisans, and Santería practitioners. After exploring Old Havana, you'll travel via old steam train, vintage car, and even horseback to tobacco farms, coffee plantations, and rural villages. Best of all, Austin-Lehman arranges the charter flight from Miami or Cancún and handles the visa process.

Austin-Lehman Adventures' ten-day trips starting February 2012, from $4,998 per person

Photo: Courtesy of Austin-Lehman Adventures

Amir Building at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 27 07:00 AM

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It's impossible to guess what lies beneath the new Herta and Paul Amir Building of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (opening November 2) when viewing it from outside. Architect Preston Scott Cohen's prismatic shiplike structure, made of 430 polished cement and glass panels, hides a library, an auditorium, and almost 30,000 square feet of gallery space in its unassuming angular belly. Ramped promenades and staircases spiral around a top-lit 87-foot-high atrium, its complex geometric surfaces bouncing the Mediterranean sun three floors below ground.

A temporary exhibit of works by Anselm Kiefer plus 250 pieces from the museum's permanent collection (prints, drawings, photography, design, video, and sculpture from 1906 to the present) will inaugurate the $55 million cultural hub--as well as Tel Aviv's Art Year festival.

Photo © Amit Geron. Courtesy of Tel Aviv Museum of Art

Legoland, Winter Haven, Florida

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, October 26 01:08 PM

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Build it and they will come. That's the theory behind Florida's newly opened Legoland theme park. Spanning 150 acres, it's the world's largest Legoland and is positively stacked with attractions, including rides--try the junior roller-coaster that dips and loops through a jungle populated by animated and Lego brick dinosaurs--and a section called Fun Town, where you can see how those ingenious bricks are made.

The can't-miss attraction, in our book, is Miniland USA, featuring intricately detailed scale models of cities and landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, and Washington, D.C., complete with mini replicas of the First Family (hi there, Bo!) plus tiny cherry trees that blossom every spring. Move over Harry Potter, there's a new (plastic brick) kid in town.

Photo: Courtesy of Legoland

Six Senses Yao Noi Film Festival, Thailand

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 17 11:58 AM

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Edgy movies served on the rocks? That's what's on the menu this December at luxury Thai hideaway Six Senses Yao Noi's inaugural film festival, curated by indie darling Tilda Swinton and writer/director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, winner of the 2010 Palme d'Or.

Movies by emerging filmmakers will be screened at night among the limestone cliffs of dramatic Phang Nga Bay. And if the stars overhead aren't enough for you, Swinton and Weerasethakul will be joined by art and fashion-world luminaries such as Waris Ahluwalia, Jefferson Hack, and Olympia Le-Tan. Book one of the 56 villas with private pools, fresh from a refurb, and prepare to bask in the glow.

Film on the Rocks at Six Senses Yao Noi, December 16-20, 2011

Photo: Courtesy of Basil Childers

Gerhard Richter at the Tate Modern, London

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, October 14 11:08 AM

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What better way to wish artist Gerhard Richter happy birthday (it'll be his 80th come 2012) than by paying homage at Tate Modern? The London museum is fêting the contemporary master's work with a new retrospective, Panorama.

Over the course of his 50-year career, the German painter has explored pretty much every significant art movement of the 20th century, from squeegee-painted abstraction to hyperrealism and classic portraiture. Expect to encounter delicate watercolor portraits alongside gritty social commentary, such as Richter's series on the Baader-Meinhof Gang. We're especially smitten with his 1960s-era Everyday Life paintings, in which scenes and people are subtly blurred, creating hauntingly beautiful snapshots of loss and dislocation. Who knew melancholy could make us so happy?

Gerhard Richter: Panorama at Tate Modern, through January 8, 2012

Photo: Courtesy of Tate Modern

Great Ape Escape, Rwanda and Tanzania

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 06 10:57 AM

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Sure, elephants and lions are cool and all. But when it comes to the animal kingdom, it doesn't get much more fascinating than observing our relatives. The drama, the pathos, the hairy chests (we're talking about primates, not your Aunt Sarah).

On Safari & Conservation Company's new Great Ape Escape, you'll get up close and personal with the primate world. Starting in Rwanda, you'll trek to see mountain gorillas in their natural habitat before flying to the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania to observe chimps in the wild. The best part? With your own private plane, you avoid the hassles of airports, taxis, and charters. Because no one needs that kind of monkey business on vacation.

Photo: Courtesy of Safari & Conservation Company

Young & Free Exhibition, San Francisco

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, September 27 07:00 AM

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Australia, it seems, is a hotbed of street art. But if a trip down under is looking unlikely anytime soon, you can check out the U.S.A.'s biggest exhibit of Aussie urban art at San Francisco gallery 941 Geary. The Young & Free show brings together a diverse group of mixed media artists, wheat-pasters, and spray-painters.

Running through October 22, the exhibit includes mixed media pieces by Reka, haunting aerosol portraits by Ha-Ha, and gold-leaf skulls by Vexta. Those who wish to take one home, be forewarned: Taggers' work commands a high price these days--possibly as much as a plane ticket to Melbourne.

Photo: The Kelly Gang series, from left: Steve and Ned by Reka, courtesy of 941 Geary

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier, Montréal Museum of Fine Arts

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, September 19 01:03 PM

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We're pushovers for a provocateur, and few designers deserve that label more than Jean Paul Gaultier. Over the past four decades, he's evolved from enfant terrible to fashion's elder statesman without seeming to have aged a day (perhaps it has something to do with his boyish white-blonde 'do). And now, thanks to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts' exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, you don't have to be a boldface name to get up close and personal with the designer.

The retrospective includes 140 of Gaultier's showstopping pieces, along with sketches, costumes, movie excerpts, and videos. And, of course, the Madonna cone bra. That's a lot of blond ambition for one room.

The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, tickets $15, through October 3 in Montréal. Subsequent tour stops include Dallas, San Francisco, Madrid, and Rotterdam.

Photo: Courtesy of Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

New York Fashion Week Boutique Openings, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, September 14 10:58 AM

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The click-clack chorus of stilettos on pavement. The strutting prides of long-legged pouters. The flash-happy brigade of street-style snappers. Yes, New York Fashion Week is here again, and with it comes a slew of white-hot boutique openings.

Nicola Formichetti Pop-Up
Mugler creative director, Lady Gaga collaborator, and all-round visionary Nicola Formichetti is hosting a two-week pop-up store to end all pop-up stores in Tribeca (pictured), selling everything from Mugler pieces to plastic rings (through September 23). Designed by Gage/Clemenceau architects, the wonderfully trippy interior resembles a house of mirrors that just might push fraught fashion editors over the edge (50 Walker Street at Broadway).

Century 21
The New York City institution that made deep discounts on designer clothes de rigueur is celebrating its 50th anniversary with the opening of an uptown outpost on September 22. The new Lincoln Square Century 21 is just as gargantuan as its downtown sister--five floors covering some 61,000 square feet--and promises the same mix of big-ticket labels for less (1972 Broadway at 66th Street).

Z Spoke
Fashion world darling Zac Posen, who mingles with ingenues like Natalie Portman and Stella Schnabel, has just made it easier for you to pick up his on-point ladylike designs. Posen's younger, (slightly) more affordable line, Z Spoke, now has its own stand-alone Meatpacking District address, a cozy parlor stocked with crowd-pleasing handbags, adorable frocks, and rare books (875 Washington Street at 14th Street).

Tory Burch
The undisputed queen of relaxed uptown chic expanded her empire this month with a Madison Avenue flagship that's sure to be a (polite) mob scene. The entire four-story exterior is swathed in a collage created by street artist James De La Vega, while inside is a comprehensive collection of Burch's patterned tunics, tweedy separates, and, of course, those ubiquitous ballet flats (797 Madison Avenue at 67th Street).

Alexander Berardi
Fashion wunderkind of the moment Alexander Berardi has an enviable following despite his tender years (he's just 25) and the fact that he's only been showing at NYFW since 2010. See what the fuss is all about at the designer's new Soho digs, which will showcase Berardi's sweetly tailored ready-to-wear collection (174 Prince Street at Thompson Street).

Photo: Courtesy of Evan Joseph

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Prices and other information were accurate at press time, but are subject to change. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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