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Best Places to Eat in Anchorage

Best Places to Eat in Anchorage: Blinis with caviar at Marx Brothers Café
Best Places to Eat in Anchorage: Blinis with caviar at Marx Brothers Café

The best places to eat in Anchorage range from food trucks to fine dining restaurants. On our trip, I tried to sample it all. Of course, salmon is to Alaska the way lobster is to Maine, so if you arrive during salmon season, as most visitors do, do as the grizzlies and feast on it. Keep in mind that different kinds of salmon run at different times, with king salmon starting off the season and silver salmon finishing it off.

In addition to salmon, look for crab, oysters, steelhead trout, and halibut. Due to its price, king crab can be found mostly in more expensive restaurants. The listing of reindeer on a menu can give out-of-state visitors the willies, but perhaps not as much if you think of it as venison.

Due to the city’s outpost town vibe, even upscale dining does not require the dressiness that you might find in a major lower-48 city. When in doubt for dinner, adopt business casual.

I’ve divided the best places to eat into categories, so scroll down to find what you’re looking for. The sidebar contains only some of the restaurants I review below.

Best Upscale Restaurant: The Marx Brothers Café

Great For Pacific Rim Cuisine: Ginger

Excellent Full Breakfast: Snow City Café

Best Happy Hour Food: Sullivan’s Steakhouse

Cozy Small Plate Restaurant: Crush Bistro

Best View: The Crow’s Nest

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Archives Restaurants Travel

Top Restaurants on the Maine Coast

Top Restaurants on the Maine Coast: Lobster tasting menu at Natalie's
Top Restaurants on the Maine Coast: Lobster tasting menu at Natalie’s

As you plan for an upcoming visit to Maine, you’ll need to make your dinner reservations early if you want to eat at some of the top restaurants on the Maine coast. You will be well-rewarded if you do. Note that many coastal restaurants do not open for the season until mid-April or May and then shutter for the winter.

Although I’ve already detailed the best lobster rolls on the coast, I wanted to share here some of the best restaurants for dinner. As in many New England towns, the top restaurants are often associated with inns. On our trip, we stayed at B&B and inns that didn’t have their own kitchens, so we had to venture out and explore.

Best fine dining experience: Natalie’s at Camden Harbour Inn

Best lobster: The Reading Room

Most intimate space: Salt and Steel

Best view (tie): Ocean and The Reading Room

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The Haven on the Norwegian Joy: Review

The Haven on the Norwegian Joy: The pool and atrium in The Courtyard
The Haven on the Norwegian Joy: The pool and atrium in The Courtyard

For a recent cruise of the western Caribbean, I booked Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Haven on the Norwegian Joy as a last minute substitute for a cancelled European trip.  NCL’s upscale “ship within a ship” concept in The Haven aims for a more exclusive cruise experience, with pricing to match.  Although I had previously cruised in many NCL ships, including The Joy, I had never before tried The Haven because of the cost.  But with fewer people traveling and The Joy being one of NCL’s mid-sized ships, the stateroom price was the lowest I’d seen for The Haven.  I jumped on it. 

Luxury — and pricing — of The Haven depends highly on the individual ship.  The smallest and oldest ships in Norwegian’s fleet don’t offer all the perks while the largest and newest ones go all out.  Probably because the Joy fits somewhere in the middle, some aspects of my experience disappointed me while others met, or even exceeded, my expectations.

Because each ship has a different lay-out, décor, and staff, this review refers only to the Norwegian Joy.

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Best Things to Do in Anchorage

Best Things to Do in Anchorage: Visitor’s Information in downtown

The list of best things to do in Anchorage, Alaska might be better described as the “best things to do from Anchorage,” since the city can be a jumping off point as well as a destination. As you plan your visit for the upcoming Alaska tourist season – generally described as May through August – keep in mind that you will want to leave the city to see the state’s natural wonders and wildlife. But not everything to see is outside the city.

Anchorage maintains its outpost town vibe while still offering modern conveniences. Despite being the most populous city in Alaska, you should not expect a lower-48 major city. Buildings are mostly low-lying and spread out. If you stay in the downtown area, as we did, you won’t be able to walk to a pharmacy, although you’ll find plenty of restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops, and starting points for various activities.

The list of best things to do in Anchorage, Alaska might be better described as the “best things to do from Anchorage,” since the city can be a jumping off point as well as a destination. As you plan your visit for the upcoming Alaska tourist season – generally described as May through August – keep in mind that you will want to leave the city to see the state’s natural wonders and wildlife. But not everything to see is outside the city.

Anchorage maintains its outpost town vibe while still offering modern conveniences. Despite being the most populous city in Alaska, you should not expect a lower-48 major city. Buildings are mostly low-lying and spread out. If you stay in the downtown area, as we did, you won’t be able to walk to a pharmacy, although you’ll find plenty of restaurants, art galleries, souvenir shops, and starting points for various activities.

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Review of CanoeHouse on the Big Island

Review of CanoeHouse on the Big Island: Just after sunset
Review of CanoeHouse on the Big Island: Just after sunset

I had the good fortune to dine at CanoeHouse on the Big Island of Hawaii twice last year, seven months apart. Each time, my dining experience was spectacular, with a prix fixe menu that varied from visit to visit. Foodies will delight in presentation, atmosphere, and, of course, cuisine. The chef features local and seasonal ingredients elevated to haute cuisine.

Not surprisingly, given that CanoeHouse rates as the best restaurant I’ve encountered on the Big Island, dinner here costs more than most. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Reservations: Required

Dress: Smart casual, or dressier

Location: Auberge Resorts of Mauna Lani

Tips: Ask for a table facing the ocean (weather permitting, which it usually is.)

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Archives Hotels Travel

Two Luxury Hotels in Waikiki

The Royal Hawaiian
The Royal Hawaiian
The Halepuna Waikiki
The Halepuna Waikiki

I recently stayed at two luxury hotels in Waikiki a mere month apart: The Royal Hawaiian and the Halepuna Waikiki. The two hotels, though located mere blocks apart, couldn’t be more different. The Royal Hawaiian, one of the oldest hotels on Waikiki Beach, evokes the elegant past, while the Halepuna, one of the newest hotels in Waikiki, has a contemporary Zen-like vibe. Both provide respite from the bustling sidewalks of Waikiki even though they sit just steps away from the crowds.

I cannot choose between the two as my favorite (the Moana Surfrider also competes) because much depends on my mood. I love the Polynesian decadence of the Royal Hawaiian, but I also love the contemporary décor and serenity of the Halepuna Waikiki. And, of course, neither is perfect.

If You Want to Stay Where Famous People Have: The Royal Hawaiian

Best For Modern Appointments: Halepuna Waikiki

Most Comfortable Bed: The Royal Hawaiian

For a Couples Retreat: Halepuna Waikiki

Best for Families: The Royal Hawaiian

Easiest Beach Access: The Royal Hawaiian

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Archives Restaurants

Review of F.L.X. Table

Review of F.L.X. Table
Review of F.L.X. Table

When I searched for the best restaurants in the Finger Lakes on my first wine tour of the region, F.L.X. Table came up on top, time after time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a reservation on our first trip. With seats for only 16 people per seating, available spots can fill up quickly. Knowing that, we reserved our dinner as soon as we knew we would return to the area, two months in advance. The trendy farm-to-table restaurant in Geneva, New York did not disappoint.

Because F.L.X. Table has two seatings per evening, you will have to choose between dining early and dining late. We opted for the earlier seating, mostly because I didn’t like the idea of finishing dinner after 10 pm. But if you don’t mind that, or if you can only reserve a late seating, you should go for it. You won’t regret it.

Reservations: Required

Dress: Business casual

Seatings: 5:45 pm and 8:15 pm

Menu: Prix fixe, set course

Dietary Accommodations: Yes, when notified in advance

Location: 22 Linden Street, Geneva, NY

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Finger Lakes Wine Tour, Part Two

Finger Lakes Wine Tour, Part Two
Finger Lakes Wine Tour, Part Two

Because our first pandemic vacation in the Finger Lakes worked out so well, we decided to revisit the region over the summer for another Finger Lakes wine tour. We visited new wineries as well as some favorites from last time to see how things have changed. To our surprise, this time we discovered some wines that rivaled West Coast wines, particularly those from Washington State and Oregon. And, of course, the rieslings and gewurtztraminers from the Finger Lakes are some of the best produced in the United States.

Because the region’s wineries don’t command the same attention as those in California, Oregon, and Washington, tastings are downright cheap in comparison and far less formal. Expectedly, the quality of wines can vary immensely, so it pays to research in advance.

Because our first pandemic vacation in the Finger Lakes worked out so well, we decided to revisit the region over the summer for another Finger Lakes wine tour. We visited new wineries as well as some favorites from last time to see how things have changed. To our surprise, this time we discovered some wines that rivaled West Coast wines, particularly those from Washington State and Oregon. And, of course, the rieslings and gewurtztraminers from the Finger Lakes are some of the best produced in the United States.

Because the region’s wineries don’t command the same attention as those in California, Oregon, and Washington, tastings are downright cheap in comparison and far less formal. Expectedly, the quality of wines can vary immensely, so it pays to research in advance.

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Archives Hotels Travel

Three Top Romantic Maine Inns

Three Top Romantic Maine Inns: The porch at Yellow House Inn
Three Top Romantic Maine Inns: The porch at Yellow House Inn

On a trip this past summer to the New England coast, we found ourselves in some top romantic Maine inns with their friendly innkeepers, charming rooms, and comfortable spaces to kick back after a day’s exploring. These inns aren’t just for summer travel, however. Since crowds dissipate in the cooler months, readers might find them even more desirable during the off-season when these New England accommodations may require less advance notice when booking.

The following aren’t the only excellent romantic Maine inns, of course. Still, you cannot go wrong with any of them, especially for their cozy atmospheres, opportunity to chat (or not) with other guests, and comfortable rooms. And don’t forget to check out my blog on the best lobster rolls on the Maine coast when planning your vacation.

Best Breakfast: Captain Swift Inn

Most Ideally Located: Yellow House Inn

Inn That Best Reflects Colonial America: The Nathaniel Lord Mansion

Friendliest Innkeepers: Shelly and Jeff at the Captain Swift Inn

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Best Lobster Rolls on the Maine Coast

Best Lobster Rolls on the Maine Coast: Lunch at Thurston’s Lobster Pound

I can’t think of Maine without dreaming of a succulent lobster roll. Because I spent many of my childhood summers in New England, eating a lobster roll outside in the warm sun evokes carefree and seemingly endless days. But, of course, vacations do have endings. They seem especially short for an adult. So where to get your precious few lobster rolls? Lobster pound, lobster shack, or seafood restaurant? And which one, specifically? Even with the high 2021 prices for lobster, Maine teems with people eager to devour the ever-favorite sandwich, and that means you can stand in line for up to an hour waiting for yours. You want to make the wait worthwhile by knowing in advance where to find the best lobster rolls on the Maine coast.

Best Fresh-From-the-Ocean Taste: Thurston’s Lobster Pound

Most Unusual Lobster Roll: The High Roller

Best Lobster-and-a-Beer Place: The Barnacle

Best Roadside Eatery: Sprague’s Lobster

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