Tag archives for Urban Insider

Love exploring new cities around the world? Join @NatGeoTravel’s Urban Insider and Orbitz travel editor Sarah Gorenstein for a live Twitter chat on Wednesday, November 5.

Oakland is enjoying a moment in the sun right now, as evidenced by a recent spate of media hits and amorous outpourings on social networks. But after Nat Geo photographer Catherine Karnow and I spent time there on assignment, we both left convinced that the city’s ascent isn’t fleeting, but one that will have a long tail, bolstered by a steady stream of colorful shop and restaurant openings and an influx of equally colorful characters seeking lower rents and a less stressful lifestyle.

If you think traveling with a Nat Geo photographer is a dream project–like I did when I heard I’d be working with Catherine Karnow–I’m here to tell you that it most definitely is. Not only did I gain insight into Catherine’s singular brand of photojournalism, I made a new friend–one I hope to see and work with again around the world. Here are a few things I learned from Catherine in the hopes that you, too, can benefit from her vision and experience as you explore and document the world.

As our joyful adventures in Dublin drew to a close, it was good to know that there were more adventures ahead. Catherine and I would be flying back over the Atlantic to explore the place Catherine calls home: San Francisco. And after exploring Catherine’s favorite spots, and discovering new gems together, we figured out the perfect way to spend a day in the City by the Bay. Here’s our recipe.

Dublin for Foodies

There was a time when I thought getting a world-class meal in Dublin involved hopping a plane to New York. That’s why I was blown away by the culinary scene Catherine Karnow and I encountered. The quality, creativity, and dedication to local ingredients we witnessed were on par with what you’ll find in some of the most sophisticated cities in the world–yet set apart by a uniquely Irish emphasis on comfort and simplicity. Here are ten must-try foodie havens that are making waves in Dublin.

My trip to Dublin marked the first time I’d be traveling with a National Geographic photographer and I was hoping to pick up a few tips. But I had no idea that the whole experience would be an immersive lesson in how to fall in love with the world and people through the lens of…

Destinations often call to mind other locales. Quebec City has a whiff of Paris to it, Laguna Beach can feel vaguely Italian, and the horse farms of New York’s Hudson Valley offer whispers of the English countryside. But Williamsburg and environs is hard to compare with anywhere else. Here are 11 things I loved about this picturesque region of Virginia.

The Archaearium at Historic Jamestowne is all about reality, warts and all. Some of the museum’s exhibits feature relics that shed light on the darkest moments of the settlement’s early days–including the skeletal remains of “Jane,” which many believe proved that the colonists resorted to cannibalism in the winter of 1609. After viewing the skull, which had been found, discarded carelessly in a cellar, in 2013, I was told it was “clear from the beginning that she was processed to be eaten.”

Some artistic efforts have the ability to powerfully move you, while others are meant to be enjoyed for enjoyment’s sake. I encountered both in Williamsburg, a town that has long attracted an intellectually curious crowd partly owing to the fact that America’s second-oldest university, the College of William and Mary, is located there.

The greater Williamsburg area is a fantastic place to be outdoors. During my stay I rented a bike, took long walks, sipped wine in a spectacular setting, and boarded a boat for a cruise down the James River. Exploring the land from different perspectives gave me a greater appreciation for the complexities of America in its earliest stages–and the spirited community that occupies the site of its earliest permanent English settlement today.

If you’re an American history nut, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. But as I discovered on a recent visit, Williamsburg is much more well-rounded–and upscale–than its reputation lets on. The locals, far from standing still, are opening great restaurants, producing award-winning wines and beers, and creating an environment capable of luring big-city dwellers to this relaxing southern city.

I enjoy eating out in L.A. more than any other city in the world. That’s a bold statement, especially coming from a New Yorker, but the combination of superior produce grown in a Mediterranean climate, fresh (and inexpensive) sushi, comfort food at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, and authentic Mexican cuisine spilling over the border holds…

While I have an unabashed appreciation for all things Los Angeles, it’s carefree Santa Monica that hooks me every time. I don’t worry about what I’m eating, what I’m breathing, or about the carbon footprint I’m leaving behind when I’m in in Santa Monica, where sustainability and organic, healthy living are top of mind.

In 1888, two things I love were born: the National Geographic Society (obvious bias here) and the Hotel del Coronado. I realized the coincidence as I stood in the Del’s wood-paneled lobby, where, on the surface, little appears to have changed in the past 126 years except for the attire of the crowds passing through. But this American classic isn’t frozen in time.

The Bard of Avon was born 450 years ago and, rightly so, England is celebrating his enduring legacy. Rather than zipping over to Stratford for the day and checking off Shakespeare sites from a list, I wanted to experience the landscapes that inspired his words. That’s how I found myself ordering waterproof shoes, packing light layers and Lycra, and landing in London to bike Shakespeare’s Way, a self-guided route around the English countryside.

When I know I’m going on a trip, I immediately start canvassing my network of friends around the world for advice about what to see and do. So when I heard I’d be heading to San Diego, I went straight to Nat Geo Travel’s digital director, Carolyn Fox, who grew up a few miles north of the city, in Del Mar. Here’s her idea of a perfect day in San Diego County–and what I found along the way as a visitor armed with her recommendations.

I set off from Miami without an agenda. I was headed south to Key West on the famous Overseas Highway and wanted to let serendipity lead the way. With only a short amount of time on my hands, I didn’t want to be saddled with an endless list of to-dos. Here’s what I found on my…

The Miami of today may not look like any place my grandparents would recognize–at least from the outside. But Magic City’s big heart and carousing spirit are here to stay.

“Have a seat by the window; it’s better to watch the wildlife that way,” the host at Osteria del Teatro said with a wink as he led me to a table with a view. Before long, I was enjoying the show–a parade of people streaming toward Washington Avenue, one of the most happening thoroughfares in Miami’s…

Fort Lauderdale used to be known as a raucous spring break haven in the 1980s, with hundreds of thousands of college coeds descending upon the city each year for a 24-7 celebration of all things frivolous and decadent. But after the locals finally put their foot down and declared, “Enough!,” the binge-drinking crowd has all but vanished, paving way for new, more grown-up kind of place. Here’s why I love it.

My first glimpse of the ancient temple was in the still-dark morning. To my left, I saw the shadowy outlines of the architectural feat I’d waited my entire life to see, and to my right, a veritable wall of people with cameras flashing, all waiting to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat.

For those of us blessed (or cursed) with incurable wanderlust, the allure of an unexplored city or destination is hard to resist. But, this time of year, what I crave is tradition and a deep-rooted sense of home. I asked ten of my most trusted friends around the world about their favorite winter traditions in their home cities, and it put me in a wonderful, festive, globally inspired mood. I hope their stories do the same for you. Happy Holidays!

When New York City puts on its holiday charm, even the grumps among us can’t help but be enchanted. There’s just something about twinkly lights, sweet treats, and whiffs of roasted chestnuts that is universally appealing. Here’s my custom itinerary for a festive holiday crawl that will take you from Greenwich Village all the way to Central Park.

Mexico wowed me in so many big ways, from the level of sophistication I saw in hotels and restaurants to the profusion of cultural wealth on display in every town and city I visited. The country surprised me in small ways, too — the quiet benches in beautiful parks, the noticeable importance of family life, the cute cafes and coffee shops. Here are some of the best things I discovered on my journey.

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Before this recent trip to Mexico, I had only a vague understanding of what the Day of the Dead was all about and had always found the holiday a little creepy. Come to find out, it’s a heartwarming occasion that serves an important dual function.