Travel Tips

In the summertime, Venice belongs to tourists — 18 million tourists to be exact. Crowds clog the (barely) three square miles of this wondrous city, vastly outnumbering the roughly 270,000 Italians that call La Serenissima home. Literally meaning “the most serene,” this nickname is often replaced by another, less attractive moniker: Italian Disneyland. Though summer in Venice can certainly be nice, long lines and screaming children do not a happy vacationer — nor a happy Venetian — make.

But with winter’s arrival, the city appears to reclaim itself. In those short weeks between the holidays and Carnevale, Venetians indulge in life the way it is meant to be. Whether they’re tossing back un’ombra (more on this in a bit) or sloshing their way through l’acqua alta (and this, too), Venetians revel in their alone time — and who wouldn’t want to join them? Traveling to Venice in the winter allows visitors to experience the city at a slower, more peaceful pace, sans crowds and itineraries. To help you choose where to begin your journey to reclaim La Serenissima, here are some Venetian traditions you shouldn’t miss:

1. Gondola through the fog.

The gondolas at S. Giorgio Maggiore stand ready to show you their city in a whole new light.

Venice’s unique landscape is always enrapturing, but in winter the lightly grayed, slanted light of this canal city becomes hauntingly beautiful. Fog lingers through the canals, creating a mysterious and eerie atmosphere (that incidentally looks lovely in photographs). And if a bit of snow catches you by surprise, well, that’s even better — Venice is never more romantic than at times like this. As a bonus, with few tourists in town, there is no jostling for position on the waterways, allowing visitors a solitary ride back in time.

Where to Stay: The Hotel Palazzo Stern has its own vaporetto stop on the Grand Canal — and we’re sure Venice’s gondoliers will also be happy to drop you off at this historic boutique.

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Watch out for the "free tickets" in Times Square

Watch out for the "free tickets" in Times Square

1. “Free” Comedy

It’s virtually impossible to walk through Times Square without being offered free tickets to a comedy show. First: It’s not really free. A mandatory two-drink minimum is the norm, and each of those sugary cocktails might run you $15 a pop. Second: It’s rarely funny. Most clubs advertise a celebrated legacy, but where so-and-so “got his start” doesn’t mean much in a city where every well-known comedian plays just about every low-level stage at some point in his career. For a real dose of the city’s humor, seek out some off-off Broadway that tickles your fancy (there’s always ample downtown), catch some improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, or browse the funny happenings during your stay in any of New York’s free weekly papers, such as the Village Voice.

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‘Tis the season for lots of feastin’! With turkeys, sweets, fatty trimmings, and sugary cocktails in your face all winter long, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to bump fitness center offerings up closer to the top of your priority list when you’re searching for a place to stay. To offset your festive calorie bombs during your holiday travel, you best be hitting those hotel gyms — and here are our selections for the finest hotel fitness centers in Los Angeles.

Terranea Resort

Fitness Center, Terranea Resort

Fitness Center, Terranea Resort

With floor-to-ceiling windows and top-of-the-line equipment (as well as a separate exercise studio with spinner bikes), the Terranea’s large fitness center feels more like a full-service club than a typical hotel gym. On the less-rigorous side, the resort offers boccie ball and croquet terrain with free equipment rental, and three pools with great views of the ocean.

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