8 Cool Cities For Summer

Many people’s winter vacation plans understandably revolve around sand and sun and colorful cocktails sporting tiny umbrellas. But summer in the states can be just as oppressive, whether you’re battling sweat-inducing humidity, malodorous public transportation, or overzealous mosquitoes. So for those who want to skip the sunscreen (I know, I know, you’re supposed to wear sunscreen all year round) and instead wrangle that favorite fuzzy sweater out of storage, here are eight cooler cities to visit. A few are in the Southern Hemisphere, offering a double helping of winter. Others have an Arctic vibe. And some made the cut because they stay relatively chilly all year round. Forget endless summer and embrace its polar opposite.

Anchorage, Alaska
Explore the U.S.’s northernmost city this summer by walking or biking the 11-mile Tony Knowles trail. The paved path curls along the spectacular coastline where you might even catch a glimpse of beluga whales along the way. And, since temperatures stay pretty cool, you won’t even break a sweat doing it.

St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
If you think Canadians in general are nice, Newfoundlanders will blow your socks off – and then give you their own socks because your feet might be cold. St. John’s, the capital, is the foggiest, snowiest, wettest, windiest and cloudiest of the major Canadian cities. Have I sold you on it?Katoomba, Australia
Only an hour from Sydney, Katoomba is the main town in the Blue Mountains region – a wonderland of eucalypt forests and gorges where Aussies often vacation. Katoomba is also the home of Yulefest, where, throughout July, the entire place pretends it’s Christmas. Area restaurants and hotels serve up multi-course traditional holiday meals, even hiring local carolers and Santas to complete the picture.

Galway, Ireland
Summer temperatures in this west coast city don’t typically top 65 degrees and nights are frigid enough to justify rounds of Guinness at the local pub. At the end of July, Galway hosts an awesome Arts Festival, not to mention an incredibly popular seven-day horse race, the longest in all of Ireland. Be sure to ask a local lady’s help picking out the right fascinator for the event.

La Serena, Chile
Located 300 miles south of chaotic Santiago, La Serena is Chile’s second oldest city. A normally overpopulated beach town during the summers, La Serena transforms into a friendly, laid-back locale in winter, making it the perfect time to visit this “City of Churches.” There are more than 30 of them, many dating as far back as the late 16th century. Where better to keep warm?

Reykjavik, Iceland
It might be the land of the midnight sun, but you definitely won’t overheat in Reykjavik. Arrive by June 21 for summer solstice festivals that take place around the city, including ones where residents wear traditional Viking garb. Don’t think that you can shirk your sartorial duties just because it’s chilly, though; Reykjavik residents dress to impress when they go out no matter the season.

Queenstown, New Zealand
Known as the “adventure capital of the world,” spend your Kiwi winter skiing, bungee jumping, mountain biking, skydiving or paragliding. You can even go canyon swinging if choosing from several ways to launch yourself off from a 100-meter-high, cliff-mounted platform sounds appealing. I hear it’s easiest if you just let someone push you off the edge.

Buenos Aires, Argentina
Sure you can tango, eat the world’s best beef and load up on all kinds of leather goods, but you can do that any time in Buenos Aires. So instead check out a distinctly winter event this July: the Annual Buenos Aires Chili Cookoff. This ex-pat organized affair has quickly become a must-attend for locals, too. And word on the street is they still need judges.

[Flickr image via Unhindered by Talent]

Seattle Ranked ‘Best City For Hipsters’ According To Travel & Leisure

So Travel & Leisure has published a list of “America’s Best Cities for Hipsters.” This is amusing – and a wee bit annoying) to me for a variety of reasons – not least of which because Seattle makes the top of the list. I’ve lived here (actually “there,” because as I write this, I’m in a sublet in Oakland) for nearly three years. Apparently, I’m reverse-trending, because San Francisco is #3 (Portland, OR is #2).

As the sun (metaphorically – this is Seattle we’re talking about) sets on my time in the Pacific Northwest and I prepare to relocate back to the Bay Area for what I hope to be at least a couple of years, I’m filled with mixed emotions. Hipster-mocking and -baiting has been one of my favorite pastimes in Seattle, which is both ironic and hypocritical of me when you take T & L‘s definition of “hipster” into consideration:

“They sport vintage bowling shoes and the latest tech gear-but they also know all the best places to eat and drink. [The magazine] ranked 35 metropolitan areas on culturally relevant features like live music, coffee bars, and independent boutiques. To zero in on the biggest hipster crowds, we also factored in the results for the best microbrews and the most offbeat and tech-savvy locals.

It’s our take on the debated term hipster….whatever your take, you generally know hipsters when you see them-most likely in funky, up-and-coming neighborhoods. A smirking attitude toward mainstream institutions means they tend to frequent cool, often idiosyncratic restaurants, shops, and bars-the same kinds of venues that appeal to travelers looking for what they can’t find at home. There’s also an eco-conscious influence in contemporary hipsterdom.”

So let me get this straight: I’m a hipster because I care about the environment, and I write about food, thus I eat and drink in places that are too idiosyncratic for mere mortals. And jeez, I just edited a craft beer guide. And I really support my local indie businesses. Conversely, I know jack about tech, and you will never, ever see me in a pair of bowling shoes. I also want to bitch-slap the bejesus out of smirky, pretentious funksters who feel the need to categorize themselves in order to maintain a sense of self. Cliques are for high school, kids.

[Image via Flicker user Conor Keller fortysixtyphoto.com]I also find it deeply ironic that a luxury magazine likes to think it knows what’s hip, because real hipsters love nothing more than a bargain, whether it’s $2 happy hour PBR’s or a sweet bowling shirt from Value Village. I can assure you the average T & L reader does not shop at Value Village.

What I find interesting, however, is that part of my mixed feelings about leaving Seattle have to do with its very hipsterness. I love street fashion, vintage, indie anything, tattoos and food artisans (hipster alert!). People watching has been one of my favorite activities in Seattle, because most Seattlites have such great style. It’s a city where the alternative-minded can grow old semi-gracefully, without looking like roadkill from Gen X or beyond. In Seattle, no one gives a f— about what you look like, or what you’re into. You can just be.

It’s sheer coincidence that last week, while reacquainting myself with Berkeley (where I lived for nearly a decade), I wondered why it is the natives here have no style (in my hipster eye view, pilled fleeces, flowy hemp clothing and ergonomic shoes are terminally unhip). I already missed Seattle’s eclectic street style, which never fails to inspire, amuse, and yes, sometimes horrify me (Boys, please stop with the neon, nuthugger skinny ankle jeans. Just sayin’).

Is this essentially a very shallow essay on an incredibly superficial topic? Yes, absolutely. But if it is a “tipping point” as T & L claims, then hell, I’m game. I’m ultimately leaving Seattle – an amazing, beautiful, vibrant city – because the climate kicked my ass (see my forthcoming post on “Sleeping In Seattle: SAD And Its Side Effects”). I’m back in the Bay Area because the economy is simmering and for someone in the food business, this is Ground Zero.

You can’t have it all, and the grass is always greener. Those cliches aren’t very hip, but they’re true. I miss all the hipsterness that once surrounded me, but I also love seeing sun, citrus trees and the Bay Area’s unbeatable food scene again. And that, in a nutshell, is why I’m trading down to a place a little less hip. I can always visit Seattle when I’m feeling frumpy.

[Image via Flickr user Andrew . Walsh]