Ultimate Urban Getaways

Sexy in the city. The best urban destinations selected by the editors of Zoomer magazine.

LAS VEGAS, NEV.

Why: Because you don’t need to be a gambler to enjoy Vegas, baby. Like the Rockefellers during the Great Depression, those who invested in Sin City’s latest hotel casino-shopping super-complex no doubt hoped that staying the course of construction through the latest great recession would keep jobs and help revitalize the city’s flagging economy. CityCenter may not have had as great an impact as the completion of the Rockefeller Center had on New York City way back when, but the complex, with its network of residences, hotels (including the Mandarin Oriental, Aria and Vdara) and Crystals’ high-end shops (from Tom Ford to Tiffany & Co.), has certainly had an impact on the look and feel of the Vegas Strip.

In Las Vegas, just like shopping, serving up good food is like a full-contact sport. With such big name players as Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Michael Mina competing for top chef status, there’s no room for foul – even if there is fowl – play in the kitchen. But then, there’s France’s Chef of the Century. Yes, Vegas has instant wedding chapels, Elvis impersonators – and Joël Robuchon, the cook who, according to the palates of France’s revered Gault Millau restaurant guide, is the best of the best. We’re talking France here, folks, where they take their food very seriously. And it’s no wonder. Robuchon is a three-star Michelin, five-star Forbes and five-diamond AAA award winner. The chef came out of retirement to open Joël Robuchon, his first restaurant in the United States, and you’ll be very happy he did.

MORELIA, MEXICO

 

Why: For a modern and colonial experience at the same time. Morelia, the pink-stoned capital of the state of Michoacán, lies halfway between Guadalajara and Mexico City. Its colonial heart is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site with more historic buildings and sites than Mexico City but with less traffic. Ya gotta love a city with a candy market. Try the many traditional sweets and buy bargain gifts at the same time. At night, Morelia’s centre rocks, so join the locals for evening fun. Old wooden doors with hand-forged locks set the atmosphere for a night’s stay at Hotel Los Juaninos, a boutique hotel in a former bishop’s palace. If you’re a single woman, walk 13 times around an upside-down statue of St. Anthony to ensure a wedding in your future. Good luck!

HOUSTON, TEXAS

 

Why: ’Cause there’s more than big hair and boots. A sophisticated city, Houston has a museum district with 18 museums within a two-kilometre radius. But few patrons of the arts in the Energy Capital of the World had the passion or taste of the late John and Dominique de Menil. Their collection, which ultimately included 15,000 works, can be seen for free in the simple Renzo Piano-designed building located in a peaceful residential section of the museum district. A block away is the Menils’ ecumenical Rothko Chapel, with its Barnett Newman sculpture, Broken Obelisk, and the Menil Foundation’s Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum housing 13thcentury frescoes from a Turkish chapel in Cyprus.

SAN DIEGO CALIF.

 

Why: FOR A THROWBACK ROCK AND ROLL VIBE. After brunch in Old Town, considered the birthplace of California, surrounded by wonderful examples of Mission architecture, head downtown to the Gaslamp Quarter. A revitalized Victorian-era area that spans a strollable 16 downtown blocks, it’s a place where the once seedy has been replaced with thriving independent boutiques and dining options for every budget and palate. Spearheading the neighbourhood’s rebirth is Ingrid Croce-Rock, the widow of troubadour Jim Croce and owner of Croce’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar, which she opened more than 25 years ago. After humming a few bars of “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” walk a few blocks to the city’s harbour, where the USS Midway, the longest serving aircraft carrier in U.S. military history, is docked. It’s now a naval museum that will fascinate war bu s and history lovers alike.

 

(September 2011)