New York City, USA

Take to the streets and museums of New York City

The trees are bare, their graphic branches stretching across blue sky and frosty concrete and shiny glass amidst a forest of skyscrapers. New York City in winter has a stark beauty. But its frenetic energy is slightly softened, the constant buzz a bit muffled and every-thing seems to glow. Your breath puffs out in a big cloud as you crunch through Central Park in Manhattan. On the Upper East Side, the swish of ice skates at Wollman Rink mingles with the omnipresent hum of traffic on 5th Avenue. On the other side of the park, a short walk from Columbus Circle, people gather and take selfies at the “Imagine” memorial to John Lennon.

The Lower Manhattan skyline and street art near One World Trade Center. The "Imagine" mosaic memorial to John Lennon at Strawberry Fields on the Upper West Side of Central Park . Photos by Barb Sligl

There’s an introspective quality to the city in winter. Take to the streets and just walk. When it’s time to warm up, duck in to one of its more than 100 museums. On 53rd, the newly expanded MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) is a Midtown escape (starting February 9th is an exhibit on renowned photographer, Dorothea Lange).

Brave the chill again and walk west and then south, from Midtown into Chelsea, on the High Line—a 2.3km-long elevated greenway and rail trail—amidst outdoor art and the canopy of that forest of sky-scrapers. At the south end of the High Line, another museum beckons, the recently relocated Whitney Museum of American Art, where you can immerse in the iconic works of artists like Andy Warhol.

RIGHT Looking up at the skylight within the ribbed structure of the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub. Photo by Barb Sligl

From here, it’s a few more blocks to Lower Manhattan. Take the subway to One World Trade Center, where emerging into the station will bring a different kind of chill. Millions of daily commuters pass through its sculptural entryway, called the “Oculus,” which opens up dramatically to the sky. Brilliant white and suffused with light, it’s as if you’re levitating in the space. Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava, says of the retractable skylight, “…we are framing a piece of Manhattan’s sky.” Sunlight projects onto the floor in what he calls the “Way of Light,” and at 10:28am on September 11th—coinciding with the time of the second tower’s collapse—it illuminates the central axis of the interior.

Exhibit at The Whitney Museum (left). The exterior of the Oculus by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, meant to reference a dove in flight (right). Photos by Barb Sligl

Outside, perched atop Ground Zero, the steel-and-glass structure takes the form of 350-foot wings—a bird-shaped reference to a dove. It’s sobering but up-lifting—and somehow brightens even the darkest days of winter.—Barb Sligl

[GO] January 21 to February 9 is NYC Restaurant Week, NYC Broadway Week and NYC Must-See Week: three weeks of prix-fixe meals and two-for-one tickets.

More info: nycgo.com

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Whistler, BC

Time to hit the slopes in Whistler

The dark-and-gnarly form of Black Tusk pokes high out of the spread of mountains that surround Whistler Blackcomb. Photo by Barb Sligl

On a bluebird day at Whistler Blackcomb (the ski resort opens on November 28 this season…get ready!), there are no bad runs. But if that sun is shining, take a ride all the way up the Peak Chair to 2,182 metres.

From here, there’s Whistler Bowl (hello, moguls) back under the lift, but the easier way down is around the backside of Whistler Peak, stopping for selfies by the inukshuk with Black Tusk in the background, a gnarly finger pointing into that blue. Glide past the spread of Garibaldi Provincial Park (peak after peak after peak) and zip alongside Little Whistler Peak and into the opening of The Saddle (a Whistler-level “blue” run) next to Glacier Bowl. The steep drop will get your blood pumping. Yee-haw!

Next up: 1,925 hectares of skiable area, 1,530 metres of vertical, more than 200 runs, 37 lifts, almost 12 metres of snow…and a wow traverse of the valley between Whistler and Blackcomb via the Peak 2 Peak gondola, the longest and highest such lift in the world (with Guinness World Records).

Whew. Take a break from the downhill action and recoup with après-ski in the village (from a chilled vodka in the ice room at Bearfoot Bistro to a well-deserved bottle of Whistler Brewing’s Lost Lake IPA) and then some cultural reflection at the Audain Art Museum (home to a beautiful collection of First Nations masks and works by artists like Emily Carr). And when the stars come out, go just beyond the buzz of the village to Cougar Mountain, where the award-winning multimedia forest walk Vallea Lumina is now open throughout the winter season.

Get “lost” in the beauty of Lost Lake, a short walk from the Upper Village. Photo by Barb Sligl

In the morning, if your legs are still burning, stretch them a slower way: a walk in the Upper Village to Lost Lake (the inspiration for that IPA—or two—last night). The body of water is a serene spot best taken in via the trail around its shores with pretty vistas framed by stoic trees. In late fall, you’ll get the last glimpses of bright-yellow leaves, another sunny counterpoint to the snowy white of the ski hill, which rises high above. Stay awhile and, yes, get lost in the Whistler vibe. — Barb Sligl

[GO] Hit the slopes: whistlerblackcomb.com

More info: whistler.com

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Seattle, Washington

OFF TO THE EMERALD CITY Take a spin in Seattle

Nature and industry and stellar views of downtown Seattle at Gas Works Park, where an old coal gasification plant is now an art-like relic on the shores of Lake Union. Photo by Barb Sligl

The Emerald City is a fitting name for this shimmering—and, yes, green—metropolis of the Pacific Northwest. Trees and water temper its high-tech, corporate side (behemoths Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon and Boeing are all based here) for a very west coast vibe; locals bike on single speeds and public e-bikes in a network of dedicated bike lanes, and there’s such a high concentration of microbreweries (each with its version of IPA, of course) that Seattle vies for beer capital of the US.

Set up base downtown, near the Rem Koolhaas-designed glass prism that’s Seattle’s Central Library. A few blocks from this futuristic glass edifice is the Alexis (alexishotel.com), an old-school building that harks back to the city’s Gold Rush days, when it was a treasurer’s office. Today, the Kimpton property is a hip hideaway close to Pioneer Square and the Seattle Art Museum and its outdoor sculpture park on the shores of Elliott Bay, just below the famous Pike Place Market.

Biking through Seattle Art Museum’s outdoor sculpture park on the Elliott Bay Trail. Photo by Barb Sligl

Hop on one of the Alexis’ complimentary bikes (a cool Public bike, inspired by classic Dutch two-wheel design) and pedal up the city’s new Second Avenue Bike Lane (complete with footrests and handrails for cyclists at intersections) through Belltown (past funky bars and shops) to Seattle Center (seattlecenter.com), where there’s a Chihuly garden (the famous glass artist is a Seattle native), the Museum of Pop Culture (the Gehry-designed steel structure is said to resemble a melting guitar; an appropriate symbol for the home of grunge music, perhaps) and the iconic Space Needle.

From here, go north and cross the canal at the Chittenden Locks (linger for some mega-yacht watching) to the historic ’hood of Ballard, where fishing and Nordic roots are strong (check out the swish new Nordic Museum). Ride along the much-beloved Burke-Gilman Trail, a bicycle path that’s one of the original rail-to-trail conversions and now used by thousands of commuters and day-trippers—everyday.

Mandatory beer sampling at Fremont Brewing, in the “centre of the universe”(left), along the Burke-Gilman Trail; (right). Photo by Barb Sligl

Go west to Golden Gardens Park for some beaching and then back east into Fremont, known as the centre of the universe…really (there’s even a proclamation that’s been ratified by the city council).

The Fremont Troll. Photo by Barb Sligl

Visit the Fremont Troll, who lives under the Aurora Bridge (a legendary public art installation), have an IPA at Fremont Brewery’s (fremontbrewing.com) hopping beer garden and then continue towards the University District, home of the University of Washington (or U-Dub, as locals call it). En route, Gas Works Park, where a rusting coal gasification factory is being reclaimed by the greenery, is a prime picnic spot overlooking Lake Union and the skyscrapers of downtown Seattle on the far shore, where you started.

Sir Mix-a-Lot at the Graduate Hotel in the University District. Photo by Barb Sligl

Or, even better, join the Mountaineering Club at the U District’s Graduate hotel (where rooms pay homage to another local legend: rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot; graduatehotels.com/seattle), a rooftop bar where the views include yet another Seattle behemoth: Mount Rainier. Order an IPA, sip, stare, repeat. -Barb Sligl

[GO] More info: visitseattle.org

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