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Spending Two Perfect Days In Savannah



Planning a quick getaway to any city always brings up one issue: how to get the most out of the little time you have. For a visit to Savannah though, don’t fret. This Southern gem is a walkable locale with most of the city’s finest stops just mere footsteps from each other. While this cuts down on your travel time, you still need to know where to go, so here’s my guide to spending two perfect days trekking around the coastal town (with a car trip thrown in for good measure).

Start day one in Savannah with a cup of 100 percent organic coffee at The Sentient Bean. If you need something other than caffeine, the breakfast burrito with two eggs, cheddar, spinach, salsa and black beans will hit the spot. Now with an extra spring in your step, walk through the Spanish-moss-covered paths of Forsyth Park. Stop and appreciate the central fountain, modeled after one in Paris’ Place de la Concorde. Once you hit the edge of the park, it’s just a few blocks until you reach the famed Mercer-Williams House Museum, the setting of the movie Midnight in the Garden of the Good and Evil.

By the time you finish your stroll in the park and tour the museum, it’ll be time to satiate your appetite. Walk up Whitacker Street and grab a “faux boy” sandwich with blackened shrimp, slaw, remoulade and tomato at The Public Kitchen. Couple it with a ginger-infused bourbon cocktail for a playful take on a traditional Southern lunch.

After you refuel, it’s time for shopping. Continue north until you hit West Broughton Street — the best place to quench your material thirsts in Savannah. Get some bath fizzies at Nourish (go for the hibiscus or Savannah garden scents) to enjoy in your hotel room later. Fashion fiends need look no further than ARC, a trendy boutique that carries women’s blouses by Mink Pink and Maison Scotch, men’s shirts from Life After Denim and stylish reads like A Brief History of Curating. Pick up some frozen yogurt, like the sweet and tangy mango, at La Berry for a post-browsing snack.

Now that your wallet has had some exercise, it’s time to focus on your mind. First stop: Telfair, the oldest public art museum in the South. Designed in the Regency style, the museum lines its walls with art from the region’s storied history. After that, it’s time for something more current. Skip the polish of the SCAD Museum of Art, and instead head to the school’s Alexander Hall Gallery (open only on weekdays) at the edge of town by the river. Browse the raw works of aspiring artists still in incubation. View Cory Cameron’s “Schrödinger’s Nyan Cat,” a lithograph of the Internet meme as filtered through philosophy, and realize that though it may be reductive, it’s of-the-moment. Wander the halls and peek in at different classes working away. It’s a great opportunity to witness the process behind the work — something you don’t get at your average gallery.

For dinner, try Planters Inn’s Olde Pink House, but look out for the ghost of its original owner, James Habersham. The staff can regale you with plenty of stories. Of course, the restaurant is good for more than just spooky tales. Order the grilled portobello mushrooms with blue cheese and truffle oil and the filet mignon with a peppercorn demi glace in a setting of chandeliers, fireplaces and period paintings. Everything about the experience is classic — ostentatious in just the right way. However, if you’d like your first dinner in Savannah to unfold without any hauntings, slip into the subterranean Alligator Soul and order anything featuring the restaurant’s namesake, like the bayou gator, and couple it with a Soul Sazerac, mixed with organic dark rye whiskey, absinthe, angostura and creole bitters, simple syrup and a lemon twist.

Still want more? Head to Seed Eco Lounge after midnight for trendy cocktails — like organic gin mixed with elderflower liqueur — in a hip vibe, and dance the night away with the area’s vivacious twenty-somethings. Aside from being a popular late-night spot, Seed Eco Lounge also is conscious of its carbon footprint: True to its name, the eco-friendly bar has bamboo bar tops, recycled cushions and compostable to-go cups.

After a good night’s rest, grab an egg dish at Goose Feathers Cafe, like the Eggel Bagel (scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese on a bagel), and wash it down with a dark cup of its house-blend coffee.

Hit up City Market afterward and browse shops like All Things Georgia, Byrd Cookie Company and Scents of Savannah while wandering through the open-air space that nods to the city’s past through such touches as wooden carriages filled with potted plants.

And don’t dare leave City Market for lunch. In the far corner, you’ll find one of the best pizza places in the South: Vinnie Van Go Go’s. The cash-only eatery offers limited hours, sparse seating and custom-made Neapolitan pies. Throw one together with anchovies, black olives and feta cheese — or choose among many other possible combinations. For dessert, leave the market and head to Leopold’s for ice cream. The shop harkens back to its 1919 founding with a black marble soda fountain and a wooden phone booth. Try one of the more inventive seasonal flavors like eggnog, Japanese cherry blossom or a Thin Mints and cream option that references another of Savannah’s home-grown organizations — the Girl Scouts.

Tired of walking? Get into your car and escape to Wormsloe to see the ruins of the oldest-standing structure in the city. The site played host to military drills in the 18th century, which you can see reenacted daily in the Colonial Life Area of the park.

Just below Forsyth Park lies one of the best restaurants in Savannah. Aptly named Local 11 Ten for its address, the eatery boasts locally grown foods and seasonal ingredients. Order the Asian pear salad with speck, toasted pecans and beet vinaigrette; coq au vin with housemade bacon; and beignets with pear jam, peanut butter ice cream and peanut brittle. Enjoy an evening of upscale epicurean excess while admiring hints of the restaurant’s former life as a 1950s bank. Traveling with a group? Reserve the semi-private “vault room” in front of the Old Savannah Bank’s historic safe.

Afterward, trot on over to a far end of West Liberty Street to the Distillery for an extensive selection of beers, including a malty Allagash Curieux and raspberry-flavored Lindemans Framboise, plus fun infusions like a coconut-pineapple-honey rum. Then head back to City Market for a raucous end to your trip listening to live music at the Jinx.

Photos Courtesy of Telfair Museums, Nourish, SCAD and Local 11 Ten

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Shanghai Revs Up For The F1 Grand Prix



Living in Shanghai is life in the fast lane. The economy is booming attracting risk-taking entrepreneurs, entertainers and executives who love to play as hard as they work. When the F1 Grand Prix comes to town, all drivers will start their engines out at Shanghai F1 Track on April 14 while partygoers rock out at world-class galas, glamorous clubs and boisterous sports bars.

Celebrating its 10th edition, the race promises tension, thrills and excitement for all attendees. Drivers speed through 56 laps — last year’s winner hit almost 190 miles per hour — which makes the atmosphere electric. Favorites include last year’s winner, Lewis Hamilton, current points leader Sebastien Vettel and Michael Schumacher, who will be hoping to best his astonishing 2004 lap record of 1.32 minutes. Schumacher is also a beloved celebrity to local taxi drivers (after taking the wheel of a taxi so he wouldn’t miss a flight in 2007), so if you’re hoping to speed through traffic just mention his name.

Bar Rouge, located in the city’s most prestigious address along the riverside Bund walkway, will throw a star-studded bash that started on Thursday and keeps the champagne flowing through the wee hours of Monday (April 15) morning. They’ve got various famous DJs from Felix Da Housecat to Aeroplane lined up, and the city’s elite crowd will celebrate on its landmark terrace.

The rest of the F1 crowd will flock to upscale M1NT just down the road. Expect to catch a glimpse of the racers and models galore if you can manage to get in the door — try reserving a table (RMB3,000, about $485, and up) or book a steak dinner and stick around for the party. CODE 20, organizers of Grand Prix parties around the globe, are taking the place over and bringing in Parisian trapeze performer Sofia Tsola.

If you prefer a beer-garden style setting, Sasha’s Restaurant & Bar in the former French Concession will have a packed garden with everyone from racing fans to cocktail connoisseurs. Plan on beer, wine, mojitos and bubbly in copious amounts.

Those seeking a classy place to crash can check into the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star PuLi Hotel and Spa. Expect a contrasting vibe — this place oozes tranquility so you’ll sleep sound after the parties have died down. The downtown location is ideal for partygoers and the Sunday brunch is divine, featuring a selection of fresh seafood, charcuterie, cheese and freshly baked breads and pastries. Other Forbes Travel Guide Star-Rated hotels in Shanghai include the Five-Star Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund and Five-Star The Peninsula Shanghai, which both offer experiences that truly drive home luxury and sophistication for F1 fans.

Photos courtesy of F1Grand Prix, M1NT, The Leading Hotels Of The World LTD and Bar Rouge

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Palm Springs' Rockin' Spring Music Festival Lineup



Live music, warm weather, late nights, great food — is there anything better than music festival season? This wonderful time of year is already in full swing and will only pick up speed as the summer months approach. Spring offers a breath of fresh air for music fans who have spent all winter holed up in concert halls and live music clubs, impatiently waiting for the day when they can pack up the car, hit the road and enjoy a weekend away with other like-minded live music devotees.

This month, thousands of festivalgoers will make their annual pilgrimage to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, a two-weekend event that takes place in Indio, California. If you plan on venturing there this year, count on big crowds — some 80,000 people attended last year’s event — and some difficulty digging up tickets to the sold-out event. Should your wanderlust crave a more contained California festival experience in the coming weeks, consider one of these smaller options in Indio or Palm Springs, a breezy SoCal city that’s just 30 minutes north.

Tachevah: A Palm Springs Block Party
Whether you’re planning to stay a few days after the first Coachella weekend, arrive a bit early for the second weekend or you simply plan to explore Palm Springs in between the massive festival’s two lineups, make a point to attend this open-air concert at Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs. Indie rock band Passion Pit will headline the free, all-ages show with additional performances by local bands The Pedestrians, Tribesmen and You Me & Us. This inaugural event is arguably one of the best places to experience the local desert music scene while also catching a big-name act. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the music should end around 11 p.m. —leaving you with plenty of time to utilize the energy from the show by exploring the local nightlife scene. April 17

Stagecoach Country Music Festival
Think of this festival as a cousin of Coachella — one with a thick country twang and an affinity for Stetson hats and cowboy boots. This Empire Polo Club-held event attracts die-hard country music fans from all over the United States for three days of concerts, mouthwatering food competitions and family-friendly activities that keep the whole experience fun for the pint-sized festival attendees. The list of performers includes a good mix of bona fide country stars and up-and-coming songwriters, with a lineup of acts such as Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, The Charlie Daniels Band, Trace Adkins, Hank Williams Jr. and Justin Townes Earle. The Stagecoach Festival BBQ Championships add a tasty component to the weekend, with a home-style chili contest on Friday, a Texas-style BBQ contest on Saturday and a Kansas City Barbecue Society contest on Sunday. April 26-28

Brew at the Zoo
Remember all those fun zoo birthday parties you went to as a child? This is a grown-up version of that, and you don’t even have to worry about bringing a gift. “Saving wildlife one beer at a time” is the mission of this annual bash at The Living Desert, with proceeds benefiting the popular tourist attraction’s goal of preserving a portion of the Colorado Desert and the plants and animals that call it home. Raise your glass to sample premium craft beers from companies like Stone Brewing, nosh on tasty eats and enjoy R&B and rock ‘n roll from three stages. You can even get up close and personal with baby armadillos, hedgehogs and other animals. How many festivals can tout that as an activity? May 4

Photo Courtesy of Stagecoach Country Music Festival

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The Little Gem Becomes A Jazz Jewel



The Little Gem Saloon was a driving force in New Orleans’ music scene in 1906, the era when jazz was born. That history has been honored in its renovation as an upscale music club and restaurant at 445 South Rampart Street. It’s the locale of the original Frank Douroux’s Little Gem Saloon, which boasted regulars such as Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden and Jelly Roll Morton.

The long-neglected building got a lavish period revival makeover. But it isn’t all about the new look. Staying true to its history, the venue will focus on music. “The whole driving concept behind the booking at Little Gem is that it has to be soulful,” says entertainment director Marc Stone. “It has to have a tangible connection to the roots that created all the great American music and the jazz pantheon.”

The intimate Ramp Room offers a classic jazz-supper-club stage cloaked in burgundy velvet. Downstairs, the Saloon stage is awash in period detail, such as clamshell lighting. Regular performers include trumpet maestro Charlie Miller, who played in Dr. John’s earliest bands. The night we heard Miller sit in with Stone, he moved from trumpet to piano back to trumpet all in the course of one song. New Orleans jazz master Delfeayo Marsalis also holds court at a weekly gig, as does Stone with a masterful rhythm-and-blues guitar set.

While you hear them play, order some food from executive chef Robert Bruce, formerly of Commander’s Palace. The main restaurant is downstairs, but high-end cuisine is available in both rooms. Go for the local dishes, ranging from fresh Gulf fish amandine with Creole meunière sauce to shrimp, tasso and creamy grits.

The best time to visit the jazz hot spot is festival season. It all kicks off today with New Orleans’ own Benny Turner in a tribute to his brother, the late Freddie King. Turner’s band will include Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen; Walter “Wolfman” Washington; Kirk Joseph; Rockin’ Dopsie, Jr.; Chuck Campbell of Sacred Steel; and Stone. Then check out Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Quartet on April 27, or see Richard Knox & The Little Gem Jazz Men during brunch in the Saloon or Derrick Freeman: Smoker’s World Deluxe Edition in the Ramp Room on April 28. This new Little Gem is just ramping up.

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Vegas Nightlife Hot Spot Hakkasan Opens



On Las Vegas’ mission to constantly reinvent its nightlife scene, every new club aims to be bigger and badder than the last. Hakkasan, which has outposts in London and San Francisco, is making its mark with MGM Grand in Vegas. It’s raised the bar for clubbing in Sin City, pulling in huge talent to fill its five-level, 80,000-square-foot space.

Once you take the elevator up and turn the corner into the Pavilion (the main floor of the club), you’ll be reminded of the House of Blue Leaves, where The Bride battles the Crazy 88, in Kill Bill Vol. 1. Blue hues backlight the bars while wooden trellises partition the Asian-inspired room. But fear not — you won’t have to battle a cadre of ninjas to get your groove on, or to make your way to any of the round, leather booths that surround the dance floor.

The DJ booth features local Las Vegas talent in the beginning of the night, but with 17 widely-recognized residencies on Hakkasan’s roster, stick around until 1 a.m. and you’ll get to experience huge names such as Calvin Harris, Deadmau5 and Tiesto throwing down on the decks.

Behind the DJ booth are floor-to-wall digital visuals, and on the ceiling is a web of pulsating lights that go along with the music. Tired of the light show? Fix your eyes on Hakkasan’s go-go dancers who don extravagant costumes and headgear, including a full glowing body suit that looks like it was pulled from scenes out of Tron. Grand opening night featured Steve Aoki, riling the crowd up with his own blend of electro, dubstep and banging beats.

Beginning in May, Hakkasan’s restaurant opens with a high end, Chinese-influenced menu (think silver cod with champagne and Chinese honey or stir-fried black pepper rib-eye beef with Merlot). Its original outpost in London has earned culinary accolades thanks to chef Ho Chee Boon, who also oversees the Vegas menu as well.

Photos Courtesy of MGM Resorts International

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