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5 Essentials for a Perfect City Break

I live in a big city. Within two blocks of my apartment there are over a dozen restaurants. At night, I hear sirens wailing, my neighbor’s baby crying, and the occasional shouts of revelers as they make their way home from nearby bars. I squeeze onto crowded subway cars, know my sidewalk etiquette, and am rarely, if ever, able to experience total calm and quiet. And yet, when it comes to taking vacation breaks, I somehow find myself gravitating toward other cities. Through my travels, here’s what I’ve determined to be the five most important components for a successful big city break:

1. Get a Room with a View
While you’re not going to be spending a ton of time in your hotel room, you want the time while you’re there to be well spent. So spring for the room with a view and take in a panorama that tells your eyes over and over again that you’re truly somewhere else. This past weekend, for example, I stayed in one of the sexy “Red Rooms” at Paris Las Vegas and had a view of the “Eiffel Tower” and the Bellagio fountains, with snow-dusted Nevada desert mountains in the background. It was a view that screamed Vegas from every square inch, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

2. Do Something Only the Tourists Would Do
As much as you might try to blend in, you are, after all, a tourist. So revel in it! Otherwise, what’s the point of visiting? When in New York, go the top of the Statue of Liberty. When in San Francisco, ride a cable car. When in Miami, bask in your bathing suit on South Beach. And when in Vegas, do something crazy, like put on a coat and gloves in the middle of the desert to drink vodka out of ice cups in a bar made entirely of ice sculptures, which I did at Mandalay Bay’s Minus 5 Ice Lounge.

3. Stumble Upon Something Unexpected
This isn’t really one you can plan for, but it springs naturally from all the walking/exploring you’re going to do when in the big city. You’re always in for a surprise. For me, it was ducking into the divey O’Sheas Casino on the Strip since I’d never been inside, and finding an entire back area with tables devoted to the fraternity-favorite game of beer pong. And while this game isn’t exactly my kind of thing, it certainly was unexpected and highly amusing to watch.

4. Eat Something You Couldn’t Get Back Home
You’d think with so many restaurants in easy reach of my apartment that there isn’t too much that I can’t get back home, and you’d be right. But I still love the novelty of dining out in the big city to try new things. When I saw there was a Nobu restaurant in Las Vegas (something we don’t have in San Francisco), I knew I had to go and order the vegetarian tasting menu, which ended up being the most delicious and decadent dining experience of my life. Truly something exceptional that I’ll never forget.

5. Bring Comfortable Walking Shoes
We all want to look cute, but there’s nothing cute about blisters. When in the city, prepare to walk and walk and walk some more. That’s the best way to get on the ground and really people-watch as you pound pavement from one fun sight to the next. In Vegas, that means strolling the Strip, where everything looks closer than it actually is. Whether it’s the Strip, the French Quarter, or the Mall of America, be prepared for lots of walking and make sure your feet are comfy so you can do all that walking with a smile on your face.

What’s your formula for a great city escape?


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My name: Rachel Berg.

Favorite way to get around: By Venetian gondola during starlit high tide, gliding past decaying and slightly spooky palaces, with perhaps a bottle of prosecco placed between the gondola seat cushions.

View that took my breath away: Unable to sleep in the mystical city of Sfat in Israel, I wandered outdoors predawn and was treated to a purple-on-purple sunrise below the mountaintop that seemed to emerge feet-first through ground-level clouds.

Greatest travel lesson learned: Sunny weather isn't everything. Some of my best travel memories involve go-karting through a deluge turned mud-fest in Mexico, drinking tea in the cold Denali tundra, and watching electric thunderstorms roll through national parks out West.

Most challenging travel moment: Getting leveled by altitude sickness in Cuzco and realizing that my body was forcing me to slow down and rest despite the fact that there was so much to do and see.

Travel ambition: To see the northern lights.



The second one is so important, and something I forget all too often! I’m so focused on trying to have an “local” experience that I forget I’m NOT actually a local and that’s there no harm in admitting that and letting my tourist flag fly! As you say so perfectly: what’s the point in going there if you don’t?

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May I add something to the list? for number 6 – Do one thing as a tourist that scares you. Just keep it safe and legal.

Eric Graham The Conversion Doctor

I love the 4th suggestion but also make sure you don’t miss something to bring home with you. When I am in a foreign place, I also tend to bring with me packed foods/snacks that have catchy packaging and just display them at home.

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