Posts in Destination
Global street foodie

My favorite street foodie is the YouTuber Mark Wiens. He is half-Chinese, lives in Bangkok, but specializes in eating street food around the world. It’s no surprise to me his channel has 5 million followers because he is enthusiastic, thrifty, do-it-yourself, and he goes to the places I would go for street food: Pakistan, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan, China. His “tours” are more useful than say Anthony Bourdain’s or Andrew Zimmern’s, in part because he doesn’t have a crew and stays low to the ground. When I headed somewhere remote, I check his extensive archive out. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
SFO Museum

For years the San Francisco airport has been accumulating and displaying stellar modern art throughout its four terminals. They now call this ongoing collection the SFO Museum. Though thinly dispersed, IMHO it’s one of the better modern art museums today,. It is well worth going to their website to discover where the works are and what is showing. Most are in post-security areas, so it’s convenient if you have extra time once checked in, or are in transit. I’ve been seeking them out with great pleasure. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Getting close to space launch

A destination that is a lot of trouble to reach, but one I found to be worth the effort, is the Cosmodrome, in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, the only place on the planet currently launching humans into space. This coming Tuesday, September 25, 2019, the Cosmodrome will send up the next three astronauts to the International Space Station. In between launches, regular tourists can get amazing access to the legendary launch facilities, and during launches you get to watch the liftoff way, way too close. Visits are organized by Baikonur Tours. (At home the NASA Live channel broadcasts the Cosmodrome launches live.) — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Room of Silence

One of the most profound experiences I’ve had while traveling was visiting the Raum der Stille, a non-denominational room of silence in the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. I sat in a clean, nondescript room in a chair facing other chairs with maybe 2 or 3 other people. The room wasn’t sound proof, but we were all silent and in our own reflective states. I didn’t want to leave. I felt connected to these strangers and I felt connected to myself, which is something I never felt in any church. I was so overwhelmed and grateful for that short experience, and was excited to visit more quiet rooms. Unfortunately, these rooms seem to only exist in Germany or Scandinavia and I have not been able to find one in the United States. I encourage anybody visiting there soon to seek it out. You can read more about it here. — CD

Favorite natural destination

My new favorite US national park is Zion. Like Yosemite (my former favorite) it is a walkable valley enclosed in sheer vertical steepness. There’s a spectacular view each time you turn, or turn around. Hot in summer, it can be cool-ish much of the rest of the year, and has lots of trails around it. Like Yosemite, they restrict cars, so you get around on shuttle buses. It rewards repeat visits. — KK


I’ve been exploring the vast territory of Central Asia, sometimes known as the Silk Road. Between the Caucuses in the west, and remote parts of China in the east, these places are exotic, beautiful, vastly varied (deserts to alpine) sufficiently developed to be fun, yet devoid of tourists. In the near future these will be prime tourist destinations. But right now it can be hard to navigate and occasionally hard to get visas. By far the best resource is a website, called Caravanistan, run by a English-speaking couple that has the clearest, most up-to-date information on the practical aspects of traveling along the Silk Road. Not what to see, but how to see it. Highly reliable, immensely helpful, and always inspiring. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
5 things to do in LA

If you are in LA, 5 Every Day is one of my favorite smartphone apps. It’s very simple and its purpose is clear: it recommends five things to do in Los Angeles that day. Art openings, lectures, art house movies, music, food, etc. Many of the events are free. If you come to LA for more than a couple of days, install it on your phone. — MF

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Offbeat attractions guide

Whenever I travel I search for my destination at the Atlas Obscura website. It will yield dozens of very obscure, very offbeat attractions in the area. How else can you find a nearby museum of parasites, or trail of doll heads, or a restaurant of robots, underground tunnels, or a store for time travel? — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Visit culturally significant sites

My first choice when seeking exotic destinations is to check this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These are 1000 culturally significant places worth preserving, which means they are usually the best places to visit. While many sites are well known, many more are little known gems. Most counties have at least a couple. I’ve never been disappointed traveling to a World heritage site. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Intimate boat tours

A tour in the Galapagos was one of our best vacations ever. There are no hotels so you live on a boat, which travels during the night so you wake up in the cove of a different island each morning. Each island is a different biome (inspiring the idea of evolution for Darwin). You spend the day actively hiking around the islands encountering myriad perfectly tame animals and birds. While there are large cruise boats, the key is to sail on a small boat to minimize transit times ashore. Go to Happy Gringo to find diverse small boat tours, rated by previous customers. They are utterly reliable and 1/3 the cost of others. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Scale of our War

The Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand has a permanent exhibit, Scale of Our War, that is almost worth going to New Zealand to see, and should certainly be on a must visit list if you happen to travel there. Weta Workshops, the folks who made all the props and special effects in the Lord of the Rings movies and other Peter Jackson productions, created a set of sculptures to mourn the disaster of the WWI battle of Gallipoli, Turkey, which was the seminal trigger for New Zealand independence. Weta created 2X lifesize versions of soldiers and nurses in the war that are hyperreal in their detail, from each hair on their arms, to flies on their frayed jackets, the 2X scale of threads in the cloth, and uncannily realistic flesh and faces, all at twice the size. You are looking up, in the embrace of these large beings, like a child in the arms of its parent. I’ve seen statues and art, ancient and modern, around the world, and no sculpture has been so emotionally potent as these. Worth going out of your way to see. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Escape rooms

My family and I are obsessed with escape rooms. Twelve people are locked in a themed room (theater backstage, 1940s Hollywood private eye office, alchemist’s laboratory, etc.) and given one hour to solve clues to get out. You’ll quickly get over any shyness of strangers as you collaborate to beat the clock. There are escape rooms all over the world. I recommend Escape Room LA in downtown Los Angeles. — MF

DestinationClaudia Dawson
SF interactive exhibit museum

Since I live in the San Francisco metro area, I get a lot of out-of-town visitors. My favorite place to take them is the Exploratorium, along the bayside waterfront. It is the original hands-on science museum, and still the world’s best hands-on learning experience. Many of the interactive exhibits now common at science museums around the world began here; the Exploratorium has all of them and many more found nowhere else. This sprawling temple of innovation and maker-goodness can easily occupy me — even after my 50th visit — for four hours or more. (I normally get saturated after only one hour in other museums.) Of course while it is perfect for kids of all ages, every Thursday evening it’s reserved for adults, and crowded with innovators and artists of all types. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson

If Burning Man was created by a single eccentric artist, it would be Robolights, a four-acre mind-blowing sculptural landscape in Palm Springs, California, created by Kenny Irwin. It’s the only place I’ve visited that matches the surreal feeling I get from dreams. Free. Open from November to January each year. — MF

DestinationClaudia Dawson
Coolest nature museum

The world’s coolest nature museum: The Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, England. It’s a day trip from London. Take the 1-hour train to Oxford, then walk 15 minutes from the station to the museum, co-housed with the Oxford University Nature Museum. Enter into a lost world of curiosity. You are surrounded by three floors of artifacts collected over centuries by eccentric British explorers. Displays include shrunken heads, voodoo dolls, tomb relics, weird insects, ancient folk tools, dinosaur skeletons, taxidermy galore, uncountable biological, and mineralogical specimens, all stacked in glassy cabinets with typed cards and labels. It’s supremely old-school and hugely satisfying. — KK

DestinationClaudia Dawson