3 Days in Malta

DAY ONE:

MORNING: There is plenty to see in and around the pedestrian town of Valletta. Take in St. John’s Cathedral and the Upper Gardens at Barrakka with views over the bay and front seats to the daily cannon firing. Home enthusiasts will appreciate Casa Rocca Piccola, a living museum and Valletta’s only privately owned palace.

12 NOON: Spot some celebs in St. Julian’s, just a short 45 minute walk away. Or, take the ferry and enjoy some ocean time.

EVENING: Book ahead to ensure you’ll get a table at either Guze Bistro or Michael’s. Either one will make an occasion out of the moment.

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Lower Barrakka Gardens – Photography by Simon Burn

DAY TWO:

MORNING: After a carb-dense breakfast (it’s ok, you’ll be walking today) head south to Marsaxlokk (on Sundays, don’t miss the Marsaxlokk Market). Explore the coastal area on foot and work up an appetite for fresh seafood at lunch.

AFTERNOON: Save some energy for the medieval cities of Mdina and Rabat. Take in the 360 degree views from the top of the hill in Mdina, and just try to put your camera down.

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Mdina – Photography by Simon Burn

DAY THREE:

AFTERNOON: Make sure to visit the 350-year-old Gozo Salt Pans. Sign up for a Jeep safari and you can make a day of touring the tiny island’s many sights.

EVENING: When the sun sets, casting its pink glow on everything in sight, everyone (and we mean everyone) is thinking about where to eat. If you meet a friendly local (and you will) ask for a recommendation.

Dabble Does Malta

Gozo Salt Pans – Photography by Simon Burn

3 Days in New Orleans

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Dabble’s Perfect New Orleans Itinerary

Day 1

MORNING If you’re staying at Soniat House or the Ritz-Carlton, breakfast is covered. Otherwise, head to the French Quarter and order a chocolate filled or straight up croissant from Croissant D’Or Patisserie. This will surely give you the fuel required to explore and shop the Quarter for the rest of the day. 617 Ursulines Avenue. (504) 524-4663

NOON The courtyard at Cafe Amelie is a perfect spot to lunch before continuing to prowl the Quarter. Once fortified, take a tour of Hermann-Grima house with its 19th century charm. Next, head to the French Market for souvenirs and end the afternoon with the best margarita in the world (yes, the world) at El Gato Negro.

EVENING Taking the streetcar to Upperline is a trip highlight. Getting a warm greeting from the owner makes you feel like a local and a VIP.

Day 2

MORNING Work up an appetite with a 40 minute stroll from the French Quarter to Magazine Street. Once there, breakfast is guilt-free, so stop at the first bakery. Or, cab it to Velvet and indulge in a Spanish latte and a tea cake (aka mini-cupcake). Either way, use the street-by-street guide (above) and shop ’til you drop. 5637 Magazine Street. (504) 450-2129

NOON Sure, it’s a few blocks off Magazine Street but no obstacle is too great for a chance to eat at Atchafalaya. If fried green tomatoes sound intriguing, this is the place to try them. Don’t linger if you plan to see Lafayette Cemetery (in nearby Garden District) as it closes by 3:00 pm.

AFTERNOON There’s more Magazine Street to explore and once that’s finished, stroll the adjacent Garden District with its antebellum homes and star appeal.

EVENING Fish lovers should try GW Fins and pork lovers, Cochon. Either way, end the evening with the joyful music coming from Frenchman Street.

Day 3

MORNING Decision time…is it a day-trip to Oak Alley Plantation or a wander through the National WWII Museum? Oh heck, try to fit them both in. You can rest when you’re back home. Head to the plantation first, then take a cab to the museum and start the tour with lunch in one of the on-site restaurants.

EVENING Finish the New Orleans culinary tour with dinner at Louisiana Bistro. The inventive menu changes frequently. Post dinner, take one last stroll through the French Quarter and Bourbon Street if you’re so inclined.

3 Days in Budapest

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Day 1

MORNING Spend your first day in Pest and enjoy the flat terrain as you wander it most impressive sites. Start with a hearty breakfast of apple strudel and strong coffee at Első Pesti Rétesház just steps from the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace and St. Stephen’s Basilica— two destinations at the top of your itinerary today.

MID-MORNING Wander towards the Gothic Revival style Hungarian Parliament Building near the edge of the Danuble. The red star of communism was removed from the central steeple in 1990 and today the building is a symbol of Hungary’s solidarity. It’s worth a short side trip to cross over to the edge of the Danube from the Parliament Building and locate the Shoes on the Danube Promenade.

NOON A tour of the Dohány Street Great Synagogue is a moving and sobering experience. Professional guides provide historic context and point out the area’s most moving monuments.

AFTERNOON Next, hop a street car and exit at the Great Market Hall. Surely, you’re hungry by now? Order a cold beer and sausage with sauerkraut before taking in the souvenirs on display.

EVENING Stroll along picturesque Andrássy útca en route to dinner and an opera. Café Callas neighbours the Hungarian State Opera House so you’ll have time to eat and make the 7:00 pm curtain.

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Day 2

MORNING Have an early breakfast at your hotel before heading to the Ecseri Flea Market. Hunt for vintage Herend porcelain and fine art oil paintings among rustic outdoor stands.

Dabble Savvy: Bring cash and expect to bargain.

LUNCH Ask the cab to drop you at Buda Castle and you’re steps from Alabárdos Étterem and a truly memorable meal. Authentic home cooking tastes even better served on fine Herend china.

AFTERNOON Buda Castle’s majestic Hungarian National Gallery is the premier place to appreciate Hungary’s artistic achievements. The paintings rival Europe’s finest and a knowledgeable guide brings the experience to life.

MID-AFTERNOON For culture of a different varietal, the cellars of Királyi Borok are steps from Buda Castle.

EVENING Dinner at Café Kör is simply a must.

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Day 3

MORNING Spend the morning shopping in the folksy village of Szentendre, a mere 30 minutes from the city centre. Stay for lunch and then grab a cab back into town.

AFTERNOON What trip to Budapest would be complete without a visit to the Gellért Baths? Don’t forget your bathing suit and bring a towel from your hotel.

EVENING It’s hard to resist the romantic pull of a Danube River cruise. There are dozens of boats leaving at various times, so ask your concierge for a recommendation. For those who prefer dry land, a meal at Gundel is memorable.

New Orleans Travel Guide

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New Orleans is a haunted place. However, it isn’t inhabited by ghosts and vampires as popular tours would have us believe. Instead, it’s steeped in a history so rich and vast the present pulses with it. a0 Dabble walked NOLA’s celebrated streets, met its unique characters and discovered its historic and modern charms. Oh… and to had a little fun too.

Where to Stay

Soniat House: Staying at Soniat House is a bit like spending the week with your favourite great aunt. Provided she has fine European antique furnishings, a private courtyard and bubbling fountain and wakes you from a blissful sleep with homemade biscuits. Divine. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570

Hotel Ritz-Carlton: First class is the only style available at the Hotel Ritz-Carlton. If you’re due for a splurge, add club level service to your bill and enjoy an open bar throughout the day, excellent breakfast, lunch and dinner bites and an attentive concierge staff. As you step off the fourth floor elevator there’s even a cookie bar. Heaven. 921 Canal Street. (504) 524-1331

W Hotel: Worldwide, the W Hotel caters to a youthful fashionista set. In New Orleans there are two locations to choose from. W Hotel New Orleans on Poydras is just a little removed from the Bourbon Street fray while the W New Orleans – French Quarter is right in the centre of activity. Both have swimming pools and a lively bar scene. 333 Poydras Street. (504) 525-9444 ~ 316 Chartres Street. (504) 581-1200

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Getting Around

Big Easy Scooter: For $60 a day, the adventurous can rent a Buddy 50 scooter in bright pink or another sorbet colour. Expect to get some envious stares while zipping through the French Quarter and Garden District. 3926 Magazine Street. (504) 269-6465

United Cab: For long treks, grab a cab. United uses only licensed drivers and provides the most reliable ride in town. (504) 522-9771

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What to Do

Honey Island Swamp Tours: Offers a two-hour boat tour that’s sure to satisfy the gator hunter in your family ($23 adults, $15 kids). Visitors to the Cypress River swamp learn about folklore, history and the ecology of the swamp and its inhabitants. 41490 Crawford Landing Road, Slidell. (985) 641-1769

National WWII Museum: History buff or not, a trip to the National WWII Museum is time well-spent. The museum is divided into two distinct sections: one focusing on the European effort and a second centred on the Pacific conflict. Beyond All Boundaries, a new film produced by Tom Hanks, shows daily on a 120-foot wide screen. On-site restaurants, American Sector and The Soda Shop, thrive under chef, John Besh. 945 Magazine Street. (504) 528-1944

Oak Alley Plantation: Historically, Oak Alley Plantation served as a sugar cane estate before the Civil War. Its antebellum (Latin for ‘before the war’) mansion is typical of other estates along the Mississippi River, taking its cue from French Creole and Caribbean plantation design. Though disappointing to learn the slave quarters are no longer there, its architectural and historical significance makes it a worthwhile visit. 3645 Highway 18. (225) 265-2151 Check out Plantation Adventures to book a tour. 1-866-671-8687

Horse-Drawn Carriage: Take a horse-drawn carriage ride through the French Quarter is a must. Choose a floral adorned mare and a chatty driver from the lineup outside Jackson Square. But wait for dark, when the ghost and voodoo stories seem eerily possible.

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Mardi Gras World: For a $20 admission, visitors to Mardi Gras World in the Warehouse District get up close and personal with enormous parade floats while learning how they’re made and what’s involved in this annual tradition. Lead by a knowledgeable docent, the tour begins with a brief video and a slice of king cake (traditional sweet bun with colourful icing). Fun for the whole family. 1380 Port of New Orleans Place. (504) 361-7821

French Market: Set beside the Mississippi River is the permanent location of the French Market, an ideal spot for souvenir shopping. If you love hot sauce, there’s a shop devoted to nothing but the spicy stuff. You’ll also find the feathered Mardi Gras masks for a lot less money than the same versions on Bourbon Street. 1008 North Peters Street. (504) 522-2621

Longue Vue: Quite possibly the best way to learn about interior design and architecture is through historic home tours. Be sure to visit Longue Vue, its Classical Revival home and garden setting a delicious way to peek into the past. 7 Bamboo Road. (504) 488-5488

Hermann-Grima: If you’re keen to step inside a 19th century French Quarter home, then put Hermann-Grima on your must-visit list. The horse stable and functional outdoor kitchen from 1830 are part of the reason it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. 820 Saint Louis Street. (504) 525-5661

Garden District: Stroll the Garden District to enjoy one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in the USA. Located north of Magazine Street. While there, take in the eerily exquisite Lafayette Cemetery. Save Our Cemeteries offers knowledgeable and respectful tours. (504) 525-3377

Shop the French Quarter: Sure Magazine Street has the largest selection of home design, but there’s still plenty to shop in the French Quarter. Nadine Blake is a tiny gem. 1036 Royal Street. (504) 529-4913 For antiques, Soniat House and Ann Koerner carry an impressive selection. 1133 Chartres Street. (504) 522-0570; 4021 Magazine Street. (504) 899-2664

 

1-2-3 Days in St. Pierre and Miquelon

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A Passion for Travel

When American Express Canada approached me to test drive the American Express Gold Rewards Card, I was interested to see how far these points could take me.After using my points to book a round trip flight to St. John’s, I was pleased at how easy it was to supplement my travel using points I earned on purchases. In total I saved approximately $500 on my fare to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, which of course gave me yet another great excuse to go shopping.Earning points is easy; the hardest part is deciding how to spend them. But I sure had fun in St. Pierre and Miquelon doing just that. Thanks American Express Canada.

Day 1

SAINT-PIERRE

MORNING After a breakfast of coffee and croissants, jump in Jean-Claude‘s roomy mini-van for an island tour. Stop at historic homes, abandoned fishing plants, the Pointe aux Canons lighthouse and Les Salines Fishing Stations to bask in the local colour.

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12 NOON Lunch happens. You made a reservation, right? At Cyber Poly Gone Home relax with a glass of wine and the special of the day.

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MID-AFTERNOON If the urge for carbohydrates hits, Patisserie Guillard has an eclair with your name on it. Properly fueled, head to Musee Heritagefor some island culture.

EVENING Dinner at Ongi Etorriis a trip highlight. Then off to bed because tomorrow is an early start.

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Day 2

MIQUELON ET LANGLADE

MORNING Catch the 8:00 am Le Cabestan ferry to Miquelon. Disembark at 8:55 am and head to Le Petit Indien for coffee and breakfast. Get a taste of local history at Musee de Miquelon and local crafts at Art Passion.

LUNCH The pizza is delicious, but you may be ready for a light salad at this point. Brasserie Mikhael in Miquelon serves both. NOTE: There are no restaurants on Langlade, so be prepared.

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AFTERNOON Enjoy the unpredictable landscape and wild horses on your drive to Langlade Village. On the way back to Miquelon, scan the sea rocks for visiting whales and seals.

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MID-AFTERNOON There’s time for one last coffee at Le Petit Indien before the 7:00 pm ferry returns to Saint-Pierre. Say good-bye to Miquelon and promise to stay longer next time.

EVENING Reserve a spot for dinner at L’Atelier Gourmand, which is conveniently near the ferry landing.

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Day 3

SAINT-PIERRE

MORNING Time to shop. Pick up French writing supplies at Nouvelle Papeterie, hip fashions at Diabolo-Menthe and French soaps and gifts at La Maison du Cadeau. While you’re at it, some chocolate from Arts et Delice is a great idea.

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AFTERNOON A trip to France without a crepe? Can’t imagine it. Enjoy the selection at Restaurant Creperie du Vieux Port before you walk along the harbour and bid a final adieu to Les Salines Fishing Stations and Pointe aux Canons lighthouse.

LATE AFTERNOON By now, you’ll have adapted to the slower pace of the island, so enjoy a leisurely walk up and down the town’s narrow hilly streets. Stop for coffee at the aptly named Pause Cafe (look for the building with the ‘Loto’ sign).

EVENING Tucked under trees at the top of a short incline is Auberge Quatre Temps. After a superb meal, enjoy a final stroll in the fresh night air.

1-2-3 Days in Puerto Rico

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My passion for travel is well documented, and certainly part of the reason I launched Dabble. Following our successful launch, the folks at American Express Canada approached me to test drive their new travel rewards card, The American Express Gold Rewards Card. Since it offers double points on purchases I make regularly, the grocer, drug store, gas station, and on all travel spending I was keen to see what it could do. Even more enticing for a frequent traveller like me, the points transfer 1:1 with Aeroplan, don’t expire and have no restrictions or blackout dates.

To get me started, American Express offered me 50,000 Membership Rewards points, in addition to the 15,000 bonus points I received (enough for a roundtrip flight to Paris, London or Rome) when I signed up for the card. Let’s just say, I had some fun earning points over 3 days in Puerto Rico.

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Day 1

MORNING Wake to the gentle sound of rolling waves and remember, ‘Yes, I really am on vacation.’ Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it’s even better when someone sings to you. So, visit Mares at the Ritz-Carlton when Jeremy Baptiste is working the omelette station. Jeremy moved from Boston two years ago and says he hasn’t stopped singing since. On Sundays, there’s also an unlimited Mimosa bar.

AFTERNOON Fortified with a proper breakfast, find a spot pool, or beach-side. Pack a juicy paperback and a big bottle of sunscreen.

LATE AFTERNOON Seriously, do you really want to move now? If you must, a walk on the beach and a swim in the ocean are restorative.

EVENING Dinner at Jose Enrique is guaranteed to be memorable, once you find it. Your cab driver can help.

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Day 2

MORNING If you’re enjoying the food (and I bet you are) an early morning yoga class at It’s Yoga may be in order. Following class (let’s face it, you worked hard) cross the road to Kasalta and order a cordatito, espresso with a sheen of steamed milk. Then, good luck choosing just one of the tempting pastries on display.

MID-MORNING Make your way to Old San Juan and enjoy a leisurely day exploring. Kimberley’s suggestions are on page 132.

Include a visit to El Morro (seen here) with its 18-foot-thick walls rising some 140 feet above the sea. Open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

San Juan’s sister protector, Castillo de San Cristobal covers 27 acres. As a strategic defense it’s something of a masterpiece, built around five self-sufficient, independent units connected by moat and tunnel. Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.

EVENING Having enjoyed the shopping, history and setting of Old San Juan for the day, you’ll want to stay for dinner. In the mood for romance? Try 311 Trois Cent Onze.

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Day 3

MORNING Whether you are renting a car or participating in an organized tour, you’ll want to set out early to explore El Yunque National Rainforest. Hike the trails and take a dip in the crystal clear waterfalls. Perhaps these are the fabled Fuente de Juventud (Fountain of Youth)?

AFTERNOON It’s a short drive to rest and relaxation at Luquillo Beach. Parking is tricky, but be patient and you’ll find a spot. If you’re hungry, there are 50 roadside kiosks at the ready with deep fried (and fried again in some cases) snacks. For lighter fare try Ceviche Hut #38 or Martes #26 for puertorriquenos meat tacos. It’s worth saying the kiosks at Pinones are more picturesque, so if you’re staying in San Juan it may be worthwhile to head in that direction.

EVENING For a casual beachside dining experience, you can’t beat the setting or the food at Uvva Restaurant. For an urban, NYC bistro vibe, try BLT Steak. They serve fresh pop- overs at the start of the meal and provide patrons with a copy of the recipe. The house red, Gnarly Head cabernet, at $8.00 per glass is great value.

Seattle Travel Guide

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The most recognizable city in the United States’ Pacific Northwest, Seattle is the birth place of grunge music, mass coffee consumption, entrepreneurial spirit, and much of the salmon consumed by this outdoor-loving, tech-savvy, caffeine-buzzed population who appreciate the good life and know how to share it.

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Stay:

Hotel 1000Consistently voted one of Seattle’s top luxury hotels, Hotel 1000 is smack bang in the middle of the Seattle action. The uber-tech hotel features The Golf Club virtual reality room where you can swing a club at the world’s top courses. Or forget technology altogether at The Spaahh. If your faithful companion is your roommate, Hotel 1000 provides pet beds and pooch pastries too.

Four Seasons SeattleLocated in the heart of all the Seattle excitement, this five-star hotel is a maximum 15-minute walk to Pike Place Market, Seattle Waterfront, Seattle Aquarium, Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle Art Museum and downtown shopping. All suites have views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountain Range, and our favourite spaces are the Deluxe Bay View rooms that look out over Puget Sound. The vista from the rooftop pool is pretty special too.

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Eat:

Portage Bay Cafe Their slogan ‘Eat like you give a damn’ sums up the passion these guys feel for food. Using only local and/or organic ingredients, and with gluten-free options, you’ll love their omelettes and scrambles, or load up your pancake stack at the berry bar. Make a reservation at one of their three locations, or put your name down at the door and explore the area (like the newly refurbished South Lake Union Park) while you wait. Closes at 3:00 pm.

LolaWhether you’re going for the famous ‘donuts in a bag’ teamed with jalapeno-infused vodka Bloody Marys at breakfast, or Greek-meets-North-African small plates for lunch or dinner, you could spend an entire day eating here; and we recommend you do.

Agua Verde Cafe and Paddle ClubWork up an appetite first by renting a kayak from the Paddle Club ($18 for one hour) and cruise past Seattle’s famous houseboats on Lake Union with views of the Space Needle. Or, paddle through the city’s beautiful Arboretum, home to bald eagles, heron, beavers and muskrats. Hungry yet? Float back to shore and indulge in modern Mexican dishes, like spicy grilled catfish tacos, at the cafe for lunch or dinner.

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CantinettaA Wallingford neighbourhood favourite features Tuscan fare with locally-sourced ingredients and handmade pastas. The warm, friendly atmosphere and spot-on service makes you feel like you’re actually at a friend’s house for a dinner party. In fact, the manager lives upstairs, so it’s kind of like hanging out in his dining room.

Molly Moon Ice CreamTake your place at the end of the line at this tiny Wallingford neighborhood shop where, even in winter, the queue snakes down the street. It’s worth it for the Salted Caramel ice cream alone. Alternatively, follow them on Twitter @mollymoon to scout their roving ice cream truck whereabouts.

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You can’t visit the Capital of Coffee without experiencing our favourites. Yes, you’ll find a Starbuck’s on every corner but it’s the indie establishments that give the city its flavour. Try Zoka Coffee Roaster & Tea Company, Fuel Coffee Seattle, Espresso Vivace and Kaladi Brothers.

See:

Pike Place MarketPike Place must be your first stop in Seattle. You could easily spend a day here, getting lost in the underground burrows, exploring the cobblestone alleys, weaving through the hundreds of stores, craftspeople, farmers and entertainers. Dodge the freshly-caught salmon being thrown between performing fish mongers (watch the webcam at Pike Place Fish), taste locally produced cheeses, grab a giant tulip bouquet for $10, and visit the original Starbuck’s.

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There are so many places to shop at the market. We love: Antiques at Pike Place, Watson Kennedy Fine Home, Pike and Western Wine Shop, Sur la Table, World Spice Merchants, and Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. And our restaurant picks include Steelhead Diner, Cafe Campagne (upstairs for fine dining, downstairs for delightful French cafe fare), Matt’s in the Market and The Pink Door (for a date-night, go for the Burlesque show after 11:00 pm Saturdays.)

The Space NeedleGet your bearings and see Seattle and her surrounding areas by taking a trip up to O Deck at The Space Needle. From Puget Sound, Lake Union, Elliot Bay, and Lake Washington, to the snow-capped Mt. Rainier, the Cascade Mountains to the East, and the Olympic Mountains and Peninsula to the west. Get a preview of what you’ll see with The Space Needle webcam. (Ok, that’s cheating, you really need to see it for yourself.)

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Seattle Art MuseumLocated just a couple of blocks from Pike Place Market is Seattle Art Museum, aka SAM. The newly refurbished art center houses ever-changing exhibitions. Alternatively, head outdoors to the Olympic Sculpture Park (run by SAM but situated about two miles west on the waterfront) where families can run amok among such important works as Alexander Calder’s Eagle (1971).

Experience Music ProjectThere’s no doubt Seattle has a rich music history, and it’s here that it is encapsulated. You won’t have to look hard to find it; it’s the big (Frank Gehry-designed) shiny blob at the base of The Space Needle. Get up on stage in front of your own adoring crowd, or learn a guitar lick in the Sound Lab.

Shop:

Velocity Art & DesignA temple of great modern decor and design. Capitol Hill

LuccaUnique decor finds, delicious teas, chandeliers, unique jewellery and letterpress cards. Ballard

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TotokaeloHigh-end masculine-meets-feminine lines. Pioneer Square

Great Jones HomeExquisite designer pieces, antiques and vintage, decorative objects, pillows and bedding. Belltown

Butch BlumA miniature department store with classic pieces for both men and women from the world’s top designers. Downtown

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Revival Home and GardenColourful reupholstered vintage and bold new furniture and accessories reign supreme. Capitol Hill

EssenzaPerfume heaven, exquisite jewelry, and intimate apparel. Fremont

Kirk AlbertAn eccentric burrow of industrial finds. Perhaps nothing will fit in your suitcase, but come for pure inspiration and the wow factor. Georgetown

Guest post by Sophie Vander.