Lots of times the phrase "intimate venue" is simply another way of saying "a rather tiny spot that no one of any importance every plays." Yet there's no denying the intimacy — or importance — of the Black Cat. Located in the U Street Corridor since its opening in 1993 — it moved in 2001, but only three doors away — and co-owned by Dave Grohl, this legendary venue specializes in indie, alternative, punk, and experimental music, and has played host to everyone from Jeff Buckley and Neko Case to The Killers, Radiohead, and The Roots. The Cat is also home to the Food for Thought Café and the Red Room Bar, so you can find an excuse to stop by even if the show hasn't started yet.
We've long been fans of Topo Designs' gear, and finally there's a place to browse their whole catalog at once. The new flagship Topo Designs Store gives you an opportunity to browse their range of bags, apparel, and accessories, from accessory pulls and wallets to klettersacks and duffel bags. Also on offer are some choice outdoorsy magazines, as well as a range of camping and outdoor equipment and a solid selection of sunglasses. And as you might expect from an outdoor-focused company, the store itself is easy on the environment, as it's built from two recycled shipping containers, giving it an appropriately rugged feel.
Ever tried to decide between heading to the local record shop or stopping somewhere to have a drink? Neither have we, but at Mojo Record Bar, it's not even an issue. This unique spot sits below street level, and features a well-stocked record store — with a huge selection of vinyl — in the front, and a terrific bar in the back. As you might imagine, this combo makes for some very relaxed browsing experiences, and killer tunes on the speakers in the bar. Shop, drink, whatever — just make sure you go.
Forget your pre-conceived notions of Thai food at the door — if you're looking for Pad Thai, you've come to the wrong place. That said, Pok Pok is serving up some of the best Asian cuisine in the Pacific Northwest, with plenty of surprises — and spice — in store. The Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings are a must-order, and are joined on the menu by a number of sharing-style options, grilled specialties, and single plate meals. And don't forget the drinks, which are good enough on their own to warrant a sister bar across the street.
Sure, Michigan might not be the first place you think of for a surfboard shop, but anyone who's ever been out on the Great Lakes can attest to the surfing being just fine — if you know where to find it. Third Coast Surf Shop seeks to outfit these hardy lake surfers, offering a full compliment of wetsuits, leashes, wax, racks, carriers, surfboards, paddleboards, skateboards, magazines, books, surfing DVDs, and self-branded shirts, hoodies, sandals, and hats. In addition, the company runs another location in New Buffalo, so you have more than one place to get geared up.
Is it a motel with a bar attached, or a bar with a motel attached? Either way, the Memory Motel is one of a kind. Set in the historical village just a block from the beach, this hallowed hangout offers 13 rooms with TV, cable, and private baths — apparently important amenities since they're listed front and center on their website — as well as an attached bar that's frequently host to live music. And if you're not up on why it's known at all, see The Rolling Stones' 1976 album Black and Blue which featured a song of the same name that was supposedly inspired by this very place.
Anyone can stride up to the local Chevy dealership and take a spin in a Corvette, but if you really want to appreciate the care that goes into building this American motoring icon, you need to take the Corvette Assembly Plant Tour. Held at the same plant that's been building the sportscar since 1981, this unique one-mile walking tour lets you see the chassis and body come together, the engine and working bits being installed, the finishing touches applied, and the cars driving off the end of the assembly line. It only costs $7, but don't expect to be taking your own photos, or even real-time tweeting your experience — you're expected to leave cameras, phones, and tablets in the car.
Unless you're a hardcore cocktail nerd, one of the most difficult parts of ordering a complex drink is understanding how the ingredients work together — and what they taste like. Pouring Ribbons makes it easy. This second-floor East Village bar — created by the minds behind such well-regarded watering holes as The Violet Hour and Bradstreet Craftshouse — uses a simple set of scales to give you a clue as to each drink's personality. Less boozy, more accessible drinks will have their markers placed closer to "refreshing" and "comforting", while wilder, more potent concoctions lean towards "spiritous" and "adventurous". The bartenders are more than happy to help out with recommendations — be sure to ask about their Chartreuse collection — and the atmosphere strikes a good balance between inviting and overly dim, making it an ideal place to begin or end your night.
We'll admit: there's probably more than one Festival of Lights held around the world — and maybe even held December 6-9. But the one in central France is the only one that counts. With attendance measured in the millions, it's one of the largest celebrations in the world, as the entire city joins together and places candles along the outside of all the windows, paying homage to the Virgin Mary. While the candle ritual dates back to the 1600s, in modern days this old tradition is joined by a number of performances, light shows, and buildings — most notably the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and Cathédrale Saint Jean-Baptiste — awash in color.
It might not look like much from the outside, but as you can tell by the parking lot full of cars, the lines, and the fact that the road's named after the place, B's Barbecue is a big deal. And that's due to the tiny place's food, most specifically the pulled pork and chicken, which are slow cooked over charcoal and spiced so well that it's unlikely you'll need to take advantage of the bottle of sauce on your table. The sides are solid, the prices are low, and the lines are long — so plan on getting there early, because they shut down when they run out of food. And that happens more often than you might think.
Most people might know it better by the name of the TV show it was featured on — Miami Ink — but by any name, the artists at Love Hate Tattoo Studio are some of the best in the business. Owned by Ami James and Chris Nunez, this shop is located just where you'd expect — in South Beach — and is home to a dozen artists, each with their own strengths. While they still handle walk-ins, they're rather popular (as should be expected), so it's probably best to make an appointment if you plan on getting work done while you're in town.
Oh sure, it sits on the ocean. And it offers six waterfront villas, as well as a variety of rooms set in picturesque gardens. There's a large pool overlooking the ocean, a lounge set on the beach with a bar that serves up both tasty libations and light meals, and a full-on restaurant for dinner time. There's even an aloe tree outside each room in case you spend a bit too long in the sun. But the real jewel of The Manta Resort is the Underwater Room, a private floating island with a top deck for sunbathing, a water deck for lounging and eating, and a bedroom that sits four meters below the surface, giving you unbelievable views of the native marine life. [Scouted by Emil]