Monthly Archives: December 2015

One of These Museums Might Just Be the World’s Leading Culture Destination

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 16, 2015.

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The Countdown to the “Oscars for Museums” is on. On October 9, the winners of this year’s Leading Culture Destinations Awards will be announced at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Knightsbridge, London.

The awards are designed to “celebrate the vibrancy and vitality of museums around the world,” and to honor the ways in which museums are continually evolving to meet the needs of their patrons and embrace technological innovations. Where once museums existed strictly for art and education, many have become social destinations that offer places for people to eat, shop, work, socialize, and (in some cases) sleep. And it’s not just New York, London, and Paris that are getting in on the action. Visionary museums are cropping up all over the globe.

In advance of the official awards, a jury of creative leaders has selected the Leading Culture Destinations Awards shortlist, which recognizes museums that demonstrate excellence in the following categories: Exhibitions and Programming; Architecture and Spatial Design; Digital Experience; Eating and Drinking; and Shopping.

This year (the award program’s second year in existence) will also recognize Emerging Culture Destinations around the world as well as the Traveler’s Awards for Best Art Experience in a Hotel and Best Emerging City for Culture, which honor a hotel and city that showcase remarkable art collections and programs.

The shortlist and winners are chosen by a jury from a large number of nominations, which are put forward by creative professionals from all over the world who serve as global ambassadors for the awards program.
The Shortlist for the World’s Leading Culture Destinations

Let’s get to the good stuff: Where are all these exciting museums and cities?

When it comes to the Traveler’s Awards, the shortlist for the category of Best Art Experience in a Hotel includes:

La Colombe d’Or, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, France
Gramercy Park Hotel, NYC
Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resort, Rome, Italy
Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, Canada
Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China
Palace Hotel Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

As for the Best Emerging City for Culture? Manchester, UK; Oslo, Norway; Palma de Mallorca, Spain; Mexico City, Mexico; and Venice, Italy are all contenders for the title.

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Meanwhile, the rest of this year’s shortlist includes:
Best Emerging Culture Destination of the Year

Europe

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Foundation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
Barcelona Design Museum, Barcelona, Spain
Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, UK
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia
Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy

Asia

Museum SAN, Wonj, South Korea
Asia Modern, Wufeng, Taichung, Taiwan
Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China
Oita Prefectural Art Museum, Oita, Japan
Pinacothèque De Paris, Singapore

Africa

Museum Mohammed VI, Rabat, Morocco
Museum MMP +, Marrakech, Morocco
Ouidah Museum of History, Benin
Thread by Foundation Annie & Josef Albers, Sinthian, Senegal

North America

Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Winnipeg, Canada,
Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, USA
The Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, USA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA
Mana Contemporary, New Jersey, USA

South America

The Biomuseo, Panama City, Panama
Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Mexico City, Mexico
Museo Soumaya, Mexico City, Mexico
La ene – Nuevo museo energía de arte contemporáneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR), Rio de Janerio, Brazil
Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida, Merida, Mexico

Middle East

Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar
Oman National Museum, Muscat, Oman
Design Museum, Holon, Israel
Dubai Moving Image Museum, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Salsali Private Museum, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Leading Culture Destination – Best Exhibitions & Programming

Tate Modern, London, UK
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
New Museum, NYC
Serpentine Gallery, London, UK

Leading Culture Destination – Best Architecture & Spatial Design

Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, France
Guggenheim Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain
State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NYC

Leading Culture Destination – Best Digital Experience

Tate Modern, London, UK
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
Getty Center, Los Angeles
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Leading Culture Destination – Best Eating & Drinking

Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
Tate Modern, London, UK
Serpentine Gallery, London, UK
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France
Somerset House, London, UK

Leading Culture Destination – Best Shopping

Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK
Museum of Modern Art, NYC
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France
Tate Modern, London, UK
Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, France

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If this list doesn’t inspire everyone who’s able to book a plane ticket to any one of these destinations, stat, then we don’t know what will. But on the off chance that none of these museums have piqued your interest, you may find that the newly opened Chicago Food Museum (which honors the humble hot dog) or Ralph Nader’s Tort Museum in Winsted, CT—which seeks to educate citizens about Tort Law and its role in protecting personal freedoms, health, and safety—are more your speed.

In the meantime, let us know if you’ve been to any of these leading culture destinations—and which ones you think should win—by getting in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

Where to Travel For The Best Stargazing In The World

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 16, 2015.

In most urban areas, only around 500 stars are visible on a given night, but in the prized locations highlighted below, up to 15,000 are easily seen. That’s pretty incredible. It you’re planning a trip and want some nighttime eye candy, here are six of the best places in the world to go outside and look up.

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Mauna Kea, Hawaii

The Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island has perhaps the most ideal stargazing conditions in the world. At an elevation above 13,000 feet, it is the highest point in Hawaii. Its high elevation and location in the middle of the Pacific create excellent conditions, but the surrounding cloud layer makes it even more perfect for studying the sky. A tropical inversion cloud layer 2,000 feet thick sits below the summit, preventing pollutants and moist air from the ocean from rising up. The view itself is so spectacular that one of the world’s most advanced astronomical observatories is located at the top. The visitor’s center at 9,000 feet offers lectures, question and answer sessions, and telescope viewing.
Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania might seem like an odd place for first-class stargazing, but Cherry Springs State Park is one of the best viewing points in the world. The 82 acre park is set within the 262,000 acre Susquehannock State Forest, protecting it from light pollution. A tremendous number of stars are visible at this Gold-Certified International Dark Sky Park. In fact, the sky is so dark that the Northern Lights were seen here four times in 2014, a very unusual event this far below the Arctic Circle. The park offers Night Sky Tours on Friday and Saturday nights that use lasers to identify and explain constellations and planets. Visitors can also use telescopes on site.
Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama Desert in Chile is already a stunning natural wonder with its red dunes, huge rock formations, and even a desert flowering in wet years. It’s also the driest non-polar desert in the world due to its high elevation, which makes it an exceptionally perfect place for stargazing. The newly constructed ALMA Observatory takes advantage of these conditions and the lack of light pollution in the desert. At times, the Milky Way can shine so brightly here that it casts a shadow on the desert floor.
Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah

In 2007, Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah became the first ever International Dark Sky Park, a designation since reserved for the best stargazing locations in the world. The beauty of the stars visible in the desert is supplemented by the striking natural setting. Owachomo bridge, perhaps the oldest bridge in the park, was created when a river changed course and carved a hole into solid rock.

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Denali National Park, Alaska

The Northern Lights are caused by a coronal mass ejection, which is a gust of solar wind and magnetic fields that interact with the earth’s atmosphere. The result are stunning dancing waves of green, red, blue, and violet that are occasionally visible in northern climates. Denali National Park in Alaska is one of the best places for viewing the phenomenon. The park encompasses four million acres of federally protected land, and the cold and clear Alaskan nights made conditions ideal. The magnificent park also offers bears, wolves, caribou, and moose as well as some of the most stunning mountain views in the world.
Tromsø, Norway

Brave stargazers might seek to venture inside the Arctic Circle itself for viewing the northern lights. There’s no better place to experience the enchanted north than Tromsø. Not only does it offer fantastic views of the aurora borealis (the sun is invisible from November to January), it’s a lovely city in its own right. In the 19th century it was called the Paris of the North, and visitors can enjoy reindeer spotting, sledding with huskies, and visiting the famous Arctic Cathedral in this Norse and Sami medieval city.

13 Luxurious Pet-Friendly Hotels

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on December 22, 2015.

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Booking hotels can be tedious enough without having to worry about whether Fido or Fifi will have anywhere to sleep. And too often, finding pet-friendly accommodations means compromising on quality, cleanliness, or location. But no more. Travel with pets—and in style—by scheduling a stay at any of these pet-friendly luxury hotels.
1. Aloft Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN

Situated in Minneapolis’ trendy Mill district, Aloft offers direct access to hip arts venues such as the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center, and Weisman Art Museum. The hotel itself serves as the center of a mini nightlife scene that includes the Re:mix Lounge and W XYZ Bar. If bars aren’t your thing, then head to the indoor pool or Re:charge, the hotel’s 24-hour fitness facility. The guest rooms are bright, spacious, and decked out with large windows, walk-in showers, and free Wi-Fi.
2. Fairmont Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

With a location that’s near attractions like Heinz Hall, Heinz Field, and PNC Park, the 4.5-star Fairmont Pittsburgh offers relaxing accommodations in the heart of Pittsburgh. Guests enjoy access to the hotel’s on-site restaurants, health club, sauna, steam room, and spa services. Or simply unwind in your 430-square-foot room, which boasts a minibar, plush bathrobes, and LCD TV. Up to two cats or dogs are allowed per room, so bring along the whole furry family.
3. Hotel Arts Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

Unless you’re willing to sleep in the sand, you won’t find accommodations closer to the Mediterranean Sea than at the five-star Hotel Arts Barcelona. The 44-story skyscraper offers guests fine dining, relaxing amenities (think an outdoor pool and hot tub, spa services, a cocktail lounge, and stunning views), and immersion in Spanish and Catalan culture. Can’t get enough? Nearby are several Michelin-star restaurants that serve Catalan cuisine.

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4. Hotel Durham, Durham, NC

Those looking for luxury-like accommodations on a budget will find a great choice in three-star Hotel Durham. Rooms are tastefully decorated and functional for anyone traveling on business or pleasure; a 24-hour business center, dry cleaning service, and luggage storage room round out the list of accommodations. If you don’t feel like being cooped up, head to the large indoor pool, which overlooks the hotel’s gardens. The on-site Lobby Bar and Bel Gusto Restaurant will satisfy any cravings.
5. Hotel Monaco Baltimore, Baltimore, MD

At Hotel Monaco, unusual amenities take center stage—think an in-room Xbox, yoga mats, animal-print robes, a fully stocked bar, personalized wake-up calls, and even spa services. Outside of the rooms, the hotel’s interior features marble stairs, chandeliers, vaulted ceilings, and stained glass. Enjoy a complimentary glass of wine by the lobby’s fireplace before retiring to your room. Pets stay free (and without restrictions on size).
6. Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia, PA

Come to the Hyatt for its proximity to the theater, stay for the luxury amenities. The hotel is situated within Philly’s theater district and sits just two blocks from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. (It’s also only five blocks away from Rittenhouse Square.) The hotel itself is as great as its location: Rooms feature city views, marble baths, and large TVs, while the massive fitness center includes an indoor running track and basketball court.
7. Hyatt Regency Maui Resort Spa, Lahaina, HI

It’s easy to see why this hotel has “resort” in its name—the centerpiece of the establishment is a 750,000-gallon pool complex featuring grottos, waterfalls, and a 150-foot slide. And then, of course, there’s the spa, where guests can relax and unwind before grabbing dinner at any of the resort’s five restaurants or enjoying some Polynesian entertainment. Retire for the night in a room featuring signature Hyatt Grand Beds, marble-topped vanities, and flat-screen TVs. Fido will never want to leave.

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8. London NYC, New York, NY

London NYC’s reputation precedes it: It’s been labeled one of the “Best Hotels of 2015” by US News and World Report. The hotel is located in the heart of downtown Manhattan—it’s steps from Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMa), and Fifth Avenue shopping. Or you can while away the hours in the hotel’s fitness center, bar, or your room, where an oversized shower and luxury Italian linens await each guest. Whenever you get hungry, head to the London’s restaurant, MAZE. Led by Gordon Ramsay, the restaurant offers a chic-yet-casual dining experience for lunch and dinner every day.
9. Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, Austin, TX

You and your pets will never want to leave Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa, where guests can choose to enjoy any and every kind of amenity—from tennis courts to golf courses, spa services, a massive fitness center, two pools, and kid-friendly activities. The resort is also a mere 30-minute drive to downtown Austin. The spacious rooms will accommodate children both human and furred, and you’ll wake up every morning to beautiful views of Texas hill country.
10. The Omni Richmond Hotel, Richmond, VA

You and your furry companions will sleep like royalty at the Omni Richmond, where beds in the Southern-style rooms feature premium bedding, pillow-top mattresses, and Egyptian-cotton sheets. The hotel is especially friendly to business travelers—it offers a business center, 14 meeting rooms, a conference center, and a large conference space.
11. Radisson Blu Agua, Chicago, IL

Sleek, modern, spacious, and blessed with stunning views of the Windy City—you may never want to leave your room at the Radisson Blu Agua. Upgrade to a Business Class room or suite, and you’ll also get to enjoy access to the Business Lounge and fresh fruit delivered to your room each day. Whenever you’re ready to leave your comfortable lodgings, you’ll find yourself minutes from many of Chicago’s most popular attractions. The location—and the service—is virtually unbeatable.
12. Sheraton Seattle Hotel, Seattle, WA

Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the Sheraton makes a perfect starting point for any urban adventure. The Washington State Convention Center, 5th Avenue Theater, Pike Place Market, Westlake Center, and other popular attractions are all within minutes of the hotel. Once you’ve exhausted yourself exploring the city, retire to your comfortable room with panoramic city views and premium bedding. The hotel also boasts a fitness center, massage services, indoor lap pool, business center, bar lounge, and restaurant. You’ll need to leave the cat at home, but one dog (weighing less than 80 pounds) is welcome.
13. Sheraton Salt Lake City Hotel, Salt Lake City, UT

The Sheraton Salt Lake City is near it all: Salt Lake City’s main airport, bustling city life, daytime and night-time entertainment, shopping, restaurants and eateries, and world-class ski slopes. It’s even accessible to the world’s largest dinosaur exhibit at the Museum of Ancient Life. The lodgings themselves range from simple to luxurious—guests can choose from eight different room types (one of which includes a Jacuzzi!). A business center and fitness center are also on site.

After you’ve booked your overnight accommodations, read up on how to make your pet’s hotel stay a positive experience. Armed with that knowledge and secure in any of these hotels, you and your fur babies are sure to rest easy.