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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

Woodsman Tavern, Portland, Oregon

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, October 25 09:34 AM

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Stumptown Coffee founder Duane Sorenson put Portland on the caffeinated world map. But now he's turning his attention to other pursuits, namely those of the alcoholic and gastronomic variety, at the new Woodsman Tavern. The restaurant's roster reads like a who's who of the Portland dining scene, all in one unassuming, reclaimed-wood setting.

Joining Sorenson are chef Jason Barwikowski and bartender Evan Zimmerman from city institutions Olympic Provisions and Laurelhurst Market, respectively. They're serving a mix of drinkin' food such as chorizo crisps and pickled mackerel along with haute tavern fare including guinea fowl with savory bread pudding. Wash it down with a cask ale or a cocktail of rye, vermouth, and cedar-steeped Campari. Or both. You can caffeinate off the hangover back at Stumptown tomorrow.

Photo: Courtesy of the Woodsman Tavern

Shore Hotel, Santa Monica, California

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 24 09:10 AM

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You drove your Prius to the airport, bought carbon offset credits for your flight, even saved your leftover pretzels to compost back home. And now you have a place to lay your head guilt-free, thanks to Santa Monica's new Shore Hotel, the only LEED Silver-certified property in the city.

Half of the building materials were "upcycled," the pool is solar-heated, a Green Concierge directs guests to nearby eco-friendly businesses. And the building itself, designed by L.A. firm Gensler Architects, is quite the looker. The 164 rooms have bright poppy- and turquoise-accented interiors, custom teak furnishings, and balconies that overlook the Pacific. Hotels of green, skies of blue, what a wonderful world.

Photo: Courtesy of Skott Snider

Salón Hecho, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, October 21 09:00 AM

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Just when we considered ourselves fluent in the upscale Mexican nightlife movement sweeping Nueva York, along comes Salón Hecho to school us in a whole new lingua franca of mezcales, micheladas, and curados.

Next to sister restaurant Hecho en Dumbo, the brand-new space is modeled on downtown Mexico City's hip neighborhood cantinas: part local watering hole, part performance space (Thursdays will feature live music), part showcase for the many moods of the agave plant. We're intrigued/borderline-scared about the cantina's signature tipples, abocados--mezcal traditionally infused with out-there flavors like juniper, lamb, and turkey. Owners Ethan Smith and Danny Mena assure us they'll be sticking to more benign spikings, however, including avocado and allspice. How do you say, "I'll ease into it with a margarita?"

Photo: Courtesy of Kimberly Sentner

Scandic Grand Central, Stockholm, Sweden

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 20 10:31 AM

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Ikea, meatballs, herring--of all the amazing things Sweden exports, it's the music that gets our heart beating. And Stockholm's new 391-room Scandic Grand Central serves it up five times a week with free live shows in the lobby.

Located near the train station in the city center's shopping district, the hotel occupies the fully renovated quarters of the 1885 Lundberg Palace. The modern Scandinavian decor earns pop-rock cred with song lyrics scrawled on guest room walls and portraits of local celebs (rapper Adam Tensta, Lady Gaga video director Jonas Åkerlund) in the lobby. Book a suite, and you'll have your own record player to jam to. Or, just blaze up Spotify on your laptop; Wi-Fi, like the certified organic breakfast, is free. Starting with ABBA's "Thank You for the Music" sounds about right.

Photo: Åke E:son Lindman AB

Herschel Supply Company Novel Duffel Bag

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, October 19 12:06 PM

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We've all got baggage. But if you'd like to keep yours in hand, we'd suggest scoring the new Herschel Supply Company Novel Duffel Bag ($80 from Flight 001).

A zip pocket in the side keeps your sneakers or dirty laundry separate from the main compartment. The bag has a detachable shoulder strap and is the perfect size for a weekend away (23 x 11 x 10.5 inches). The look? Think 1950s gym rat meets urban lumberjack. Definitely a step in the right direction for carry-ons.

Photo: Courtesy of Flight 001

Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, Miami, Florida

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, October 18 01:09 PM

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It may be in the South, but Miami has always chosen hard bodies over barbecue, bottle service over bourbon shots. That's all about to change, thanks to former Top Chef-er Jeff McInnis. The Panhandle native's new Yardbird Southern Table & Bar is putting the deep-fried South into South Beach.

Within the cozy confines of the reclaimed barn-wood walls, you can throw calorie counting to the wind with sweet tea-brined ribs, skillet-fried chicken and waffles, and pimento cheese jars. Wash it all down with one of 51 bourbons, including house-made infusions such as peach or bacon. McInnis and crew are currently serving lunch and dinner, with brunch coming soon. Because nothing cures a bottle service hangover like beignets and buttermilk biscuits.

Photo: Courtesy of Yardbird Southern Table & Bar

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

Variety Voyager Cruises to the Arabian Gulf

By Conde Nast Traveler Thursday, October 13 10:52 AM

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Our boating tastes run more to super-yachts than supersize cruise ships, so an exotic new excursion from a luxury line is reason enough to break out the Champagne. Variety Cruises, whose small upscale fleet mostly plies the Mediterranean, is branching out into the Middle East with a brand new vessel, Variety Voyager.

Starting in 2012, the 36-cabin vessel will introduce cruise passengers to the Arabian Gulf and Omani coast. Highlights of the eight-day itinerary include sailing the fjordlike Musandam Peninsula aboard a traditional Omani dhow, cavorting with dolphins near Telegraph and Seebi islands, and exploring the third-century, pre-Islamic fortress of Nakhal in Sohar, Oman. The ship's decor is a mix of muted creams and sand with glam marble and mirrored touches. Because variety is the spice of life.

Variety Voyager's Arabian Gulf cruises, from $2,790. Sailings from Abu Dhabi: November 29, 2012 to April 4, 2013; sailings from Muscat: November 22, 2012 to March 28, 2013.

Photo: Courtesy of Variety Cruises

Nikon 1 J1

By Conde Nast Traveler Wednesday, October 12 10:51 AM

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A lion sprints across the savanna and you have to make a split-second decision: pictures or video? Well, thanks to the fine folks at Nikon, the answer can be both. The new Nikon 1 J1 ($649.95) can simultaneously shoot photos and HD movies, capture flip book-like moving images, and switch out lenses to suit your subject. Best of all, there's a new Smart Photo Selector option that shoots ten pics and singles out the sharpest.

The serious functionality is combined with slick simplicity--we dig the monochrome white, red, or silver color options. A camera that looks good and keeps you focused on documenting your vacation? That's worth a shot.

Photo: Courtesy of Nikon

The Chatwal, New York City

By Conde Nast Traveler Tuesday, October 11 10:49 AM

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The landmark 1905 building that houses New York City's Chatwal hotel has always been fashionable. Originally a private theater called the Lambs Club, it attracted Gilded Age glitterati such as Fred Astaire and the building's architect, Stanford White, whose young lover, model Evelyn Nesbit, was the Kate Moss of her day. To help current guests dress the part, the hotel has introduced the Fashion Cognoscenti package, a half- or full-day shopping and styling tour led by stylist and Lacolleta.com founder Jean Mayer.

We're particularly sold on the Meet the Designers add-on, in which guests get a one-on-one with a fashion world luminary plucked from Mayer's address book. Zac Posen, Tim Gunn, Lela Rose, and Lisa Salzer of Lulu Frost jewelry have signed on, with other big names to be announced.

Fashion Cognoscenti package, including a two-night stay at the Chatwal, from $1,295. Meet the Designers add-on from $5,000 (select designers will apply this fee towards purchases). Offer ends March 31, 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of the Chatwal

Momiji, Seattle

By Conde Nast Traveler Monday, October 10 10:59 AM

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It seems Seattle is turning Japanese. At least it looks that way, when you see the straight-out-of-Kyoto stylings of Momiji, a blissed-out new oasis in Capitol Hill. Woodworker Craig Yamamoto constructed East-meets-Pacific Northwest furniture, including elegant tables hewn from brawny maple. Installation artist Yuri Kinoshita added whimsy, with cloudlike chandeliers and back-lit woven murals. And landscape architect Junji Miki designed a serene courtyard that's all whispering bamboo and gurgling water.

But what will really transport you is the menu. There's sushi and udon, of course, yet Momiji also offers kaiseki, Japan's artfully presented answer to Western tasting menus. Tokyo native chef Chikako Watanabe draws inspiration from Washington ingredients for dishes such as tempura seasonal vegetables with green tea salt and somen noodles with salmon roe and fresh sliced tuna. Simple and fresh, elegant and playful. Seattle and Kyoto were made for each other.

Photo: Courtesy of Momiji

Bar Ilegal, Austin, Texas

By Conde Nast Traveler Friday, October 07 07:00 AM

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Your dusty boots have trodden the weathered wood of unruly saloons all over the world. But so far, you've managed to stay on the right side of the law. Well, partner, there's a new bar in town, and it's got danger written all over it. Saddle up for a night at Austin's new Bar Ilegal (609 Davis Street).

This 1920s stone shack lit by a rusted iron candelabra serves up one thing and one thing only: Ilegal Mezcal. The smoky-smooth cousin of that rabble-rouser tequila comes in jicama bowls made for sipping. It's illegal in name only (the brand hails from Oaxaca). But what you do while under the influence? That's anyone's guess.

Photo: Courtesy of Bar Ilegal

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

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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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