Our Ultimate Experience List
Some of the best times in life involve an ultimate experience. We’ve rounded up a few fantastic ones from around the country and the world. What would you put on yours? There’s no time like the present.
From the Serengeti plains to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is an adventurer’s dream. At sunset, with the sky ablaze in different hues, the sun, a huge orange orb, lingers on the horizon. This serves as a magnificent backdrop for dark silhouettes—canopied trees, elephants returning from a watering hole, or a giraffe after a day of nibbling leaves. Look closely, and you may spy a leopard resting on a tree limb. And at that very moment, it’s not uncommon to feel singularly small in this vast and deceivingly peaceful wilderness.
BEST OLD-TIMEY BARBECUE JOINT IN TEXAS Speaking of limbs, we’re going out on one here. If you’ve got
a barbecue crawl through Texas on the mind, Smitty’s in Lockhart is especially memorable. From the on- premises smoked meat to the overall experience, Smitty’s rocks it old school with no frills and no apologies. Moist smoked meats with just the right amount of lean and fat are served on butcher paper. Add some basic sides then sit at one of their communal picnic tables and dive in. The throwbackatmosphere is so Texas- authentic you’ll want to go searching for Peanut Rounders and a Big Red.
MOST CHARMING NEW ENGLAND B&B
Quaintness abounds in New England, but The Cottages at Cabot Cove in Kennebunkport, Maine are truly magical. This enclave of 16 petite and immaculate cottages—each individually decorated by an interior designer—rests alongside a captivating tidal cove with the Atlantic Ocean just beyond. You can cast your worries aside in this sublimely peaceful, idyllic setting, something we can all use these days! Enjoy morning coffee and a complimentary basket of fresh baked goodies on your private cottage patio. Pick up some wine and cheese and watch the sun set after a day of beach combing, biking along scenic coastal routes, and exploring the fine shops and galleries in Kennebunkport village.
BEST NORTHERN LIGHTS HOTEL
Pack your parka and mukluks and head to Lapland for an utterly awe- inspiring experience at Finland’s Kakslauttanen Aretic Resort. Take the family and become absorbed in the enchanting beauty of the northern lights and the Lappish wilderness from the comfort of your own private hideaway. Their newly built Kelo- Glass igloos, which sleep up to six, combine the comforting warmth of
a cozy log chalet with a sensational view from a glass igloo bedroom. The cabins include a private sauna, fireplace, and kitchenette. It doesn’t get any better than this!
ULTIMATE WELLNESS AND SPA RESORT There’s something about Ubud, Bali that nurtures the soul like no other place on Earth. Ubud’s COMO Shambhala Retreat provides a uniquely immersive “360-degree” well-being experience, along with complimentary morning yoga classes with a view of the rainforest canopy. Taking a holistic approach, COMO Shambhala intertwines spa treatments and healthful cuisine with activities, adventure, and cultural discovery. The staff will develop a comprehensive plan devised for your own personal goals.
LARGEST HOT AIR BALLOON FESTIVAL IN THE WORLD Unless you’re the Grinch, the nine- day Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta offers loads of fun. It features more than 750 balloons from over 50 countries. Special events include a showcase of balloon launches before sunrise and a mass ascension when all the participating balloons float up in two or three carefully coordinated waves. Why Albuquerque, you ask? It turns out this Chihuahuan Desert city has ideal weather patterns and a geographic landscape that allow balloonists extra control over their crafts.
BEST U.S. COLLECTION OF FAMILY STYLE GERMAN RESTAURANTS
Iowa’s Amana Colonies deserve props for the selection and overall experience. Half the residents in the seven villages— Amana, East Amana, High Amana, Middle Amana, South Amana, West Amana, and Homestead—are descendants of the original German colonists. As for home-cooked German fare made from family recipes passed down from one generation to another—we’re talking crispy jäegerschnitzel, tender spätzle egg noodles, and even traditional piestengel rhubarb wine from a local winery—the Amana Colonies offer an authentic taste of Germany in America’s heartland. Choose from several restaurants, including the popular Ox Yoke Inn and the Ronneburg Restaurant. Hit up the Millstream Brau Haus for brat and a stein or two of a small batch, hand- brewed beer.
GREAT MUSIC AND PEOPLE WATCHING IN NEW ORLEANS
Skip Bourbon Street and go to Frenchmen Street instead. Located in New Orleans’ Marigny neighborhood, this is where the locals hang out, but tourists in the know swing by too, making it a great people-watching spot. Frenchmen Street offers a wide range of musical styles, many rendered with great talent. Most clubs offer free entry or at worst a minimal cover charge, which makes for easy club hopping. The Spotted Cat and Maison are two favorites. Sit back and laissez les bon temps rouler!
ULTIMATE SKI RESORT
The mountain village of Zermatt, Switzerland tops our list of world- class ski resorts. Nestled at the foot of the Matterhorn in the Alps, the skiing is on a grand scale. Naturally, Zermatt attracts advanced skiers, but it’s also 96 MAN 8-17.indd 96-97 ideal for adventurous intermediates. Not into skiing? No worries! You can access many of the ski lifts to reach magnificent viewpoints and superb mountain restaurants. The village, which retains much of its traditional charm, is perfect for an aprés ski stroll along quaint narrow streets dotted with designer boutiques and elegant cafés.
BEST CLASSIC STEAKHOUSE OUTSIDE OF TEXAS
A steak lover’s nirvana, Peter Luger Steak House has been a New York gastro-institution for 130 years. Its bow-tied waiters serve only top grade dry-aged-to-perfection porterhouse steak—thicker, more marbled, and arguably more chomp-worthy than a T-bone. The restaurant’s massive “meat box” is as famous as the steak house itself. This 2,000-square-foot walk-in cooler is packed from floor to ceiling with 30,000 pounds of aging meat, hand-selected by the owners. Peter Luger only accepts cash, but it’s a small price to pay for one of the best bites of steak you may ever eat.
ULTIMATE FLY-FISHING LODGE
Felix, the owner and manager of Owen River Lodge in South Island New Zealand, wants you to think of his lodge as your private club and luxury retreat. Known for its relaxed, understated atmosphere, the lodge is in an area heralded as the best brown trout fishery in the world, offering an enormous variety of rivers, streams, and lakes to fish. If this wasn’t enough, all meals are included in the nightly rate and every day is a foodie’s feast. The lodge cuisine—based on a fusion of multi-cultural “Pacifica” influences—is prepared from locally sourced ingredients, including organic produce from the lodge’s large garden.
BEST CITY FOR FOOD TRUCK CUISINE
Austin is a great food truck city, but for now, Portland may just remain at the top of the heap. With over 350 food trucks throughout the City of Roses, which even has designated food truck parks, you can find just about any kind of cuisine you desire— Southern, vegan, American, gluten- free, pan-Asian, dessert, Tex-Mex— you name it. Check out the Grilled Cheese Grill if you’re hankering for a creative spin on a childhood favorite. Forget calorie counting for the day and order the “Cheesus”—a burger behemoth with grilled cheese sandwiches as the bun.