The Best Global Cities to Blend Business and Pleasure

Business or leisure? Why not both? For those lucky enough to travel for business, we suggests turning business trips into mini vacations, or what some call “bleisure” trips. The cities below are known for their economic prowess as well as their entertainment dexterity, making them perfect for bleisure. With stunning skylines, rich cultural sites, wilderness centers and upbeat night scenes, these cities are the ideal places to blend business with more than just a dash of pleasure.

1. Sao Paulo, Brazil

As the financial capital of Brazil, this concrete jungle of skyscrapers knows how to cater to business travelers with luxury hotels and fine restaurants. Sao Paulo also offers great antique markets and cultural institutes making it a great city to extend a business trip into a short vacation. The InterContinental Sao Paulo on Avenida Paulista makes it easy to get to meetings as well as the Sao Paulo Museum of Art, which has a fine collection of national and European art. On Sundays, an antique fair operates underneath the suspended museum’s open space. Leave the bustle behind and stay at George V Also De Pinheiros in Villa Magdalena, the bohemian area of Sao Paulo. Benedito Calixo square is sprawling with vendors of art, and handmade and antique treasures on Saturdays.

2. London, U.K.

With six international airports and the Eurostar high-speed rail service connecting London to the rest of Europe, the city is a must-stop for international business travelers. Stay a few days longer to partake in London’s rich history. It’s oldest financial district, often referred to as The City or The Square Mile, conveniently houses many of the must-see sights. St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, theMuseum of London, the Barbican Center, and 30 St. Mary Axe (better known as The Gherkin) are within walking distance. The modern Apex Temple Court Hotel is between the City and Covent Garden in the Theatre District. The Grange Tower Bridge resides near Jack the Ripper’s old haunts in the East End, which is now a trendy area filled with markets, bars and restaurants.

3. New York City, New York

There’s no need to travel the world on business, when the business world congregates in New York. Forget the stereotypical Wall Street bankers, New York draws people for more than just work. The City has something for everyone:museums, on and off-Broadway shows, secret speakeasies, green spaces, fashion, and sports teams galore. The food selection is as diverse as its people with mini communities throughout the five boroughs representing much of the world’s cuisine. Stay at the W New York Times Square in the heart of all the action and spectacular views of the city and only a couple of stops from Central Park. Avoid the touristy scene altogether by staying at the Sixty on the border of East Village and the Lower East Side neighborhoods for an eclectic glimpse of New York.

4. Singapore

Singapore’s geographic location, top-tier AAA credit ratings, low taxes, and zero-tolerance for corruption make it a highly desirable place to do business. The 13.6 percent of public green spaces that occupy Singapore’s land mass makes it a great place to relax and escape the madness of city life. In 2015 the 202 acres that make up the Singapore Botanic Gardens, were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just as impressive are Gardens by the Bay with 250 acres filled 500,000 species of plants, fountains and promenades. For more nature action visit the Singapore Zoo or go on a night safari to see animals in their natural habitat and experience a rainforest ecosystem. Stay at the lovely Sheraton Towers Singapore, which offers rooms with balconies opening directly to the pool.

5. Tokyo, Japan

Trade and tourism make up Tokyo’s largest industry output with 18%, according to the Brooking’s Institute 2015 Global Metro Monitor Map. This city was made for business and pleasure. The Grand Hyatt Tokyo is in the center of Roppongi, known its night scene, which attracts both locals and foreigners. Karaoke is a favorite outing for locals and Tokyo knows how to do it right. The Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo offers four private karaoke rooms with incredible views of the city. Fashion is Tokyo’s forte so take time to explore the city’s array of eclectic styles. Head to the ward of Shibuya to check out the Harajuku district made famous by singer Gwen Stefani in her hit songHarajuku Girls where youths dress in mixed colorful styles of traditional dress, cosplay, Goth and more. Locals also strut their Harajuku Sunday best at the nearbyYoyogi Park near the Meiji Shrine, a forest spanning 170 acres.

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The Best Airports for Long (Unexpectedly Fun) Layovers

It’s not often you hear someone rave about his or her time at the airport. More often than not our layover is spent on our phones scrolling through emails or texts (or let’s be honest, Tinder) while trying not to overhear the conversation of the person next to us at the gate. But there is good news for all travelers expecting a longer airport wait this year: It turns out there is a lot of fun to be had when waiting for the next flight. We are talking everything from massages to jumping into in a rooftop pool. With fun in mind, we’ve put together the list of the airports taking the layover experience to the next level.

 1. Changi Airport – Singapore

Changi won the World’s Best Airport Award (voted on by travelers) in 2015, and when it comes to spending time during a layover, this airport certainly does not disappoint. What better way to pass the time than a dip in the airport’s rooftop swimming pool? Or take in a film at their movie theater. There is also a butterfly garden, orchid garden, and sunflower garden that boasts a field of more than 500 sunflowers. Changi is also home to the world’s tallest slide in an airport at nearly 40 feet tall. The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport Hotel also has a swimming pool and 24-hour fitness center for those looking to spend the night near the airport. In addition to a plethora of shopping and dining locations, Changi’s unique airport features make it stand out as a luxurious and entertaining spot for long layovers.

2. John F. Kennedy Airport – Terminal 5, New York, NY

Of all the terminals at JFK, Jet Blue’s Terminal 5 is the one you want to spend your layover in. With more than 30 food and beverage spots, you can find just about anything to nibble and sip on. That includes places like Deep Blue Sushi, Dylan’s Candy Bar, and Bar Veloce. The terminal hosts more than 35 retail shops. If sitting down and relaxing is more your style, people watch on the Grandstands while you charge your phone and use the terminal’s free Wi-Fi.  The Marketplace at T5 also hosts concerts with musicians from all over the world, including Taylor Swift, James Blunt and Robyn. Travelers can step out of the airport and over to the Crowne Plaza JFK Airport Hotel to ensure a solid night’s sleep during an overnight layover. Their complimentary shuttle bus will get you right back to the airport in time for your flight.

3. Heathrow Airport – London, United Kingdom

This bustling airport caters to an exceptionally diverse crowd, and the range of shops, restaurants and entertainment options reflects just that. The airport has two spas that offer services ranging from manicures and pedicures to aromatherapy and facials. The No1 Travel Spa offers a jet lag revival package for those who need to recuperate from exceptionally long trips. The iconic shopping destination Harrod’s of London has shops located in each terminal, and personal shoppers are available by appointment to provide fashion and style advice. Restaurants and cafes regularly host events all year round, including special activities and menus for Chinese New Year, like complimentary 2016 Chinese Horoscope cards and special dishes like Hoisin Duck Puffs from Rhubarb British Restaurant and Bar. Travelers can step out of the airport and head to nearby Sofitel London Heathrow for afternoon tea at the hotel’s tea salon or check email at one of their workspaces.

4. Vancouver International Airport – British Columbia, Canada

Voted by travelers as the Best Airport in North America, YVR is not short on entertainment and services to help you spend your time in between flights. The airport has a Meet and Great Service that provides travelers with an Airport Butler who can customize your experience, from getting you to your gate to helping you with the purchase of duty-free items and spa services. The Absolute Spa and Hair Salon can handle all grooming needs, from hair styling and removal to massages. There is a diverse selection of international fare, from sit down restaurants and bars to fast food chains. Less than three miles away is the Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport where those with longer or overnight layovers can relax in the indoor pool and spa tub, grab food at one of many fine-dining establishments and easily hop back to the airport with complimentary on-demand shuttle service that operates around the clock.

5. Denver International Airport– Denver, CO

Denver’s airport stands apart with its appealing architectural style, complete with a vast collection of public art, more than 140 shops and restaurants, and relaxing lounges. The airport offers free Wi-Fi, but many travelers find themselves putting down their phones to stare at the gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains near gates C23 and C24. Denver is also home to Paradise 4 Paws, 9http://www.flydenver.com/traveler_services/pets) an on-site pet resort. Dog suites have their own flat screen TV’s and massage therapy and veterinary services are also available. Cats won’t feel left out either with their own bungalow and Adventure Jungle. Who said layovers can’t be fun for pets too?

6. San Francisco International Airport – San Francisco, CA

San Francisco airport is a tech-lovers layover dream. The #Converge@flySFO loungeis a unique space inside the airport created specifically for travelers to share ideas around technology, entrepreneurship and ways to create change (among many topics). The room has free Wi-Fi, white boards to write down ideas and places to charge electronics. For less business-minded guests, the airport also houses theAviation Museum and Library, the Berman Reflection Room for quiet meditation, XpresSpa’s for spa services and a free yoga room. Travelers and their pets with longer layovers are welcome at the Aloft San Francisco Airport Hotel located just two miles from the airport. Guests can enjoy stretching their legs on the scenic jogging trail or taking a dip in the hotel pool before grabbing a bite to eat and heading back to their airport to catch their next flight.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on March 11, 2016.

 

Exploring London’s Underground Secrets

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Over the past century and a half, London’s Underground has seen two world wars, millions of passengers, and more secrets than we could begin to count. The “Tube” is used by Londoners and visitors to the beautiful city every hour of every day, but most are unaware of the history they’re traveling through.

Once you learn of the 150-years’ worth of secrets and history housed below England’s capital, you’ll earn a completely new appreciation for this feat of engineering and human-kind.

Underground History
In the early 1800s, London was booming. The influx of people bustling about quickly made it apparent that a better method of mass transportation was needed, and fast. The Metropolitan Railway took on the immense challenge of constructing the first underground line below the city. After months of construction, the 3 and three quarter mile railway carried 38,000 passengers safely to their destination on the inaugural ride on January 10, 1863.

For the following five decades, London’s Underground saw changing ownership, builders, and thousands of passengers. However, once World War I began London saw its first air raid, and the tube was transformed into much more than a transportation system. The safe-haven continued on into the World War II.
London2Image Source: BiblioArchives

Initially, British government officials tried to prevent the tube stations and lines use as bomb shelters. But, after their attempts to keep people from taking shelter there were decisively ignored, they decided to regulate the shelters instead. Trains continued to run on certain lines, bringing supplies, food, and other Londoner’s seeking shelter. A number of unused stations were converted into factories for wartime productions.
London3Image Source: secretlondon123

While the Tube was considered by many to be the safest haven, no place in London was completely protected from German Blitzes. Hundreds of Londoner’s lost their lives when the tube was hit by German bombs in 1940 through 1943.
Even in the times of crisis and tragedy, the Underground has remained as a point of togetherness for the people of London. It’s an unmistakable symbol of the ingenuity and strength of Britain as a whole.

Traveling the Underground Today
The Underground lines cover nine zones and stop at more than 200 stations. Even though there are nine zones, tourists typically stay in Zones 1 and 2 because they cover Central London where many of the major tourist attractions and hotels are located.

These days, 11 Tube lines transport locals and tourists throughout Britain’s capital:
 Bakerloo Line
 Central Line
 Circle Line
 District Line
 Hammersmith & City Line
 Jubilee Line
 Metropolitan Line
 Northern Line
 Piccadilly Line
 Victoria Line
 Waterloo & City Line
Generally, the Underground runs are between 5:00 a.m. — 12:00 A.M., Monday through Saturday. Sunday times are reduced by a few hours with later starting times and earlier stopping times.

Secrets Along The Stops
We alluded to the importance of the Underground during the World Wars, and proof of that is beneath 8 of the 11 Tube lines. For under these lines sit deep-level air-raid shelters. The construction of the shelters took place between 1940 and 1942. Originally reserved for government officials, 5 of the 8 shelters opened up to civilians as bombing intensified.

London4 Image Source: secretlondon123

The shelters that were constructed include:
 Chancery Lane
 Belsize Park
 Camden Town
 Goodge Street
 Stockwell
 Clapham North
 Clapham Common
 Clapham South.
After the war ended, several of the shelters were still used by London’s military. The Goodge Street shelter was used by the army until the 1950s. The Chancery Lane shelter was used for the Kingsway Telephone Exchange during the Cold War years.

London5 Image Source: Shiny Things

In addition to the secrets you’ll uncover while traveling the Underground, you’ll also see all of the most iconic sights of the region.
 Circle Line – Tower Hill Station
Tower Bridge – Built 120 years ago, the Tower Bridge is an engineering marvel and arguably one of the most recognizable attractions in the world. If you’re feeling brave, trek out onto the high bridges suspended between the bridges towers.

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 District Line – St James’s Station
o St. James’s Park
o Millions of visitors flock to the beautiful St. James’s Park every year. It’s the oldest of London’s eight Royal Parks, and it includes The Mall and the Horse Guards Parade.

London7 Image Source: foshie

 Jubilee Line – Westminster Station
Big Ben – Is there a more iconic London sight than Big Ben? Lucky for visitors, this sight is right along the Jubilee Line outside of Westminster Station. Whether you’re a history buff or just want to check it off of your bucket list, you need to stop by Big Ben.

London8 Image Source: Nan Palmero

 Northern Line – Waterloo Station
London Eye – The London Eye is a larger-than-life Ferris wheel on the River Thames in London. From here, you will be treated to the most spectacular views of the city and a ride you won’t forget.

London9 Image Source: Altug Karakoc

 Piccadilly Line – Covent Garden or Leicester Square Station
Covent Garden – The district of Covent Garden in London is a hub for local shops, delicious food, and incredible street performers. Once you hop out of the Covent Garden station, you’ll have a tough time fitting everything you want to explore into just one day.

London10 Image Source: Aurelien Guichard

Parts of the Tube’s storied history are somber, but the incredible spirit of London persists and prevails. For once you wander the stations and secret passageways hidden beneath the surface, you’ll never think of London the same way again.