Saint Paul: The Four-Day Weekend

Credit: G Ryan & S Beyer / Getty Images

Sure, Minneapolis has more lakes (about 930 in the metro area), the major sports teams, and more spotlight, but Saint Paul, across the Mississippi River to the east, is the more grounded twin. With loads of roads and trails for biking, spots for canoeing and kayaking, and enough excellent restaurants and bars to keep you here a week, put Saint Paul on your radar.


It would be easy to down 10,000 calories a day in this food-focused city. Don't expect a diet. Start your day with a twist at Cook St. Paul[1], where you can get a short stack or eggs and hash browns, but also Korean pancakes comprising ground yellow beans with spicy sausage and cabbage. Go for the more traditional at Colossal Café[2], where all-day breakfast includes various breakfast sandwiches; biscuits and gravy; or their Flappers, yeast-based pancakes that can be had traditionally with Three Rivers Farm syrup or topped with apples, walnuts, brie, and honey-brown sugar syrup. The Twin Cities are home to the Juicy Lucy, a cheese-stuffed burger, and you won't go wrong diving into a "blucy" at the Blue Door Pub[3]. Taste Hmong influence at the French Vietnamese spot Ngon Bistro[4] for a Saigon Dip (their take on a French dip with brisket and pork belly au jus) or crispy rabbit dumplings. Amsterdam Bar & Hall[5] features Dutch fare like mussels and frites, broodies (Dutch sandwiches), and a slew of gins while you watch a live show. If you're in the mood to explore an extensive whiskey list or taste through one of 89 craft beer taps while eating a bison, elk, and bacon burger and poutine, head to the Happy Gnome[6] for lunch or dinner. Two don't-miss spots for dinner include farm-to-table Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar[7], where James Beard–nominated chef and owner Lenny Russo sources all his ingredients from small family farms to craft two nightly changing prix-fixe menus, or Strip Club Meat & Fish[8], where "vegetarians [are] regarded with benevolent amusement." Go for the grass-fed, hormone-free beef and stay for the haus kielbasa with daikon slaw, pork and foie gras steam buns, or the duck confit benedict with green tomato salsa at brunch.

MORE: Best Places to Live 2016[9]


It's easy to earn those endless meals here. With 26 miles of Mississippi River shoreline (more than any other city along the mighty waterway), St. Paul has a lot of scenic places to bike and run. Case in point: Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary[10], a 29-acre urban park on the north shore of the Mississippi, where you'll often see bald eagles and red tail hawks. Or pop on your running shoes and log some miles around Lake Como and Lake Phalen, where you can also drop a kayak or canoe into the water and work your upper body while enjoying surrounding nature. Check out the 18-mile Gateway State Trail[11] that starts in St. Paul and runs along the former SOO Line railway, around lakes, through wooded areas, and a giant snowman. A popular connected offshoot is the six-mile Brown's Creek Trail[12], which follows a trout stream to the St. Croix River. The area also boasts more than 170 golf courses, and the Highland National Golf Course[13], an 18-hole, 72-par city course that features a Snoopy-shaped bunker at the 15th hole in honor of Charles Schulz, the Peanuts creator who caddied there when he was younger. 

ALSO: Chicago, The Four-Day Weekend[14]


The classic hotel in town is the simply named Saint Paul Hotel[15]. This AAA four-diamond hotel, which has hosted guests since 1910, exudes old-school charm with a prime location downtown near the Mississippi River. Each of the 254 rooms offer Aveda products, plush robes, and free Wi-Fi. Hit the white-tableclothed, steak-and-seafood focused St. Paul Grill[16] next door to enjoy its renowned whiskey selection, including a $750 one-ounce pour of Macallan 55. For something more modern, the 56-room boutique Hotel 340[17] beckons. Set inside a renovated 100-year-old downtown building, the hotel offers both free continental breakfast and use of the adjacent 68,000-square-foot Saint Paul Athletic Club.


Since 1921, Heimie's Haberdashery[18] has outfitted men with well-tailored suits, wing tips, fine cigars, or even gorgeous leather cases for hunting guns. Get a hot shave while you're there. 


  1. ^ Cook St. Paul (
  2. ^ Colossal Café (
  3. ^ Blue Door Pub (
  4. ^ Ngon Bistro (
  5. ^ Amsterdam Bar & Hall (
  6. ^ Happy Gnome (
  7. ^ Heartland Restaurant & Wine Bar (
  8. ^ Strip Club Meat & Fish (
  9. ^ MORE: Best Places to Live 2016 (
  10. ^ Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary (
  11. ^ 18-mile Gateway State Trail (
  12. ^ Brown's Creek Trail (
  13. ^ Highland National Golf Course (
  14. ^ ALSO: Chicago, The Four-Day Weekend (
  15. ^ Saint Paul Hotel (
  16. ^ St. Paul Grill (
  17. ^ Hotel 340 (
  18. ^ Heimie's Haberdashery (

Stellan Skarsgard’s Sweden: A Weekend in Ljusterö

Credit: Heerde / ullstein bild / Getty Images

“I don’t travel when I’m not working,” says Skarsgard. “I like being home.” When home is Ljusterö, a secluded Swedish island full of meadow, world-class fishing, and coastal hiking — you probably wouldn't want to stray far either. That's one of the benefits of having teamed up again with Hans Petter Moland’s for In Order Of Disappearance[1], filmed just over the border in the mountains of Norway. The production was able to convince the Norwegian government to allow them to open the winding winter roads for their tale of a father’s revenge against the killers of his son.

Shelter of the Week: A Swedish Cabin That's Completely Off the Grid[2]

Despite finding the location “breathtaking,” Skarsgard says that he couldn’t wait to return to Ljusterö. Part of the Österåker Municipality, the secluded retreat is only accessible from the mainland by ferry, or chartered boats out of Stockholm proper. “If you go to Stockholm you must take a steam-powered boat through the archipelago,” he says. “They serve some great food on the boats, so you can enjoy a nice meal while you cruise through the grouping of thousands of islands.”

Skarsgard considers himself a homebody and spends his summer on the island hosting family, including his acting sons Alexander[3] and Bill, to elaborate family meals. Evenings often end with a large group circled around the grill. “There is some incredible produce in Sweden,” he says. “Of course because of the location the seafood is all top notch.” Skarsgard recommends the locally caught Baltic Sea herring. “They are an amazing fish, just throw a few into a pan and fry it up,” he says. “Sprinkle a little bit of vinegar on top and serve it along with some mashed potatoes. It is fantastic.”

ALSO: 24 Luxury Escapes Worth the Money[4]

A Long Weekend In Ljusterö

Ljusterö is one of the largest islands of the Stockholm archipelago, and thus has quite a few more amenities than the others. The pristine natural environment overlooking the Saxaren Bay and its proximity to the capital makes it an excellent escape.


To get around the island (it's big), you'll want to rent a car at one of the agencies like EuropCar. Skarsgard personally stands by his nation’s most recognizable automaker and cruises around in the Volvo XC90 SUV. The drive from Stockholm is about one hour, which ends with a car ferry. The ride is free of change, frequently leaves, and takes just about five minutes.


If you have a big group, try to rent a country home on the island. This is, after all, where Stockholm summers. Right across from the ferry-landing pier at Linanäs is the Rastaborg Country House[5]. Built in the early 1900s, the place was once a popular watering hole for Stockholm's aristocrats and now is an idyllic bed and breakfast. The windows look out on the property’s apple park and out into the harbor. The building is also a short walk from the shoreline, making it easy to catch the sunrise. 


Just a few steps away from the Rastaborg is the seaside dining experience at Restaurang Skärgårn På Ljusterö AB, serving up, of course, seafood. Try their mustard dillpenslad herring dish that's topped with melted butter, anchovies, capers, lingonberries, and a side of potatoes. 


For some incredible views, take your car for a drive out to Ljusterö’s natural reserve, by the waterside meadows. Pack a lunch to take, as you can easily spend a few hours walking the beaten earth paths. Now it's time to go fishing. Join one of the boat trips operated by Waxholmsguiderna[6], and see if you can catch a pike or sea trout for a dinner at home. 


To get to Ljusterö, you must pass through Stockholm proper. Take advantage: “When you get off of the steam-boat ride Stockholm has some of the best bars and nightlife in the world,” says Skarsgard. Try Kvarnen, one of his favorites. The beer hall, one of the oldest in the city, is commonly home to a lively scene and some traditional Swedish food to sample.

A little slice of Ljustero. Getty Images


  1. ^ In Order Of Disappearance (
  2. ^ Shelter of the Week: A Swedish Cabin That's Completely Off the Grid (
  3. ^ Alexander (
  4. ^ ALSO: 24 Luxury Escapes Worth the Money (
  5. ^ Rastaborg Country House (
  6. ^ Waxholmsguiderna (

Shelter of the Week: Perched Above an Italian Lavender Farm

Credit: Maurizio Brera

The Place: This treehouse sits 26 feet off the ground in an old oak tree on a hundred-acre lavender farm in the central Italian province of Viterbo. It’s a 473-square-foot, double-bedroom structure with a furnished outdoor terrace, a four-poster bed, running water, and a heating system. The quirky locale essentially functions as a B&B; breakfast is served straight to the bedroom via a pulley mechanism down below — and the furnished terrace, overlooking rolling lavender fields that stretch in every direction, is the perfect place to enjoy a home-cooked meal.

The Cost: $434 per night — maximum two people. Book it here[1].

Maurizio Brera

The Region: Apart from this treehouse, the owners of the lavender farm run it as a sort of bed & breakfast; there’s a pool on the grounds and an 18th-century farmhouse that serves as the base of operations and reception area for travelers. Viterbo can be reached by a short train ride from both Florence, to the north, and Rome, to the south. The farm sits just a few miles from Lake Bolsena, a crater lake formed by volcanic activity. The ancient Estrucan village of Tuscania is also located a short drive from your dwellings.


  1. ^ here (

'Narcos' Fans: How to Tour the Streets of Pablo Escobar's Medellín

A girl walks in the Pablo Escobar neighborhood in Medellin, Colombia. Credit: Raul Arboleda / AFP / Getty Images

The performances in Netflix’s Narcos are compelling and buzzed-about, but even the actors concede that the true star of the series is the country of Colombia. “If we weren’t doing the show here, I have no doubt it wouldn’t be as good,” says Pedro Pascal, who plays DEA agent Javier Peña. “There is a strange and powerful beauty. The light is unbelievable. Everyone is going to want to shoot here because it is so cinematic.”

ALSO: Resurrecting Pablo[1]

Medellín, nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring,” is a beautiful and romantic metropolis where flowers are in constant bloom. But with the success of programs like Narcos, many visitors are more interested in the dark legacy left by its most notorious citizen, Pablo Escobar. Plenty of companies have popped up to capitalize on the interest, offering informational expeditions. Medellín City Tours is a standout, especially when led by former Colombian police officer Carlos Palau, who served on the force while Escobar was at the height of his power. “Doing this tour allows me to talk about this man’s horrible deeds without having to burden my family with the memories,” says Palau. “And I think it is a great way to remember the mistakes of the past, but also [to recognize] how far we’ve come.”

Here are some of the standout stops on the Narcos tour.

Photograph by Charles Thorp

La Catedral

Overlooking the city from scenic mountains, the self-designed “prison” was constructed as the result of secret negotiations between Escobar and the Colombian government. It was jokingly called "Club Medellín" in those days, due to the lavish amenities allowed to the criminal, but the structure left now lacks any of that former glory. When it was announced that Escobar was caught, the townspeople raided the building with sledgehammers and stripped it clean of all his valuables. It has since been converted into a home for the elderly, run by Buddhist Monks. The property still has a few touches of its former occupant, including a plaque engraved with one of his most famous sayings: “Better a grave in Colombia than a cell in the U.S.”

MORE: The True Story Behind Pablo Escobar and 'Narcos'[3]

The Monaco Building

Located in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods, a car bomb exploded outside of this eight-story apartment building owned by Escobar back in 1988. The blast was an assassination attempt by the Cali Cartel, but Escobar escaped unharmed. Palau used to lead visitors through the entire complex, including the chilling torture chamber in the basement. But after tourists posted photos from the penthouse’s balcony on social media, the government blocked entry. Now armed guards stand at the entrance, and you can only peak at the abode from over the fence.

Colombian police and military forces storm the rooftop where drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead just moments earlier during an exchange of gunfire between security forces and Escobar and his bodyguard, December 2, 1993. Jesus Abad / El Colombiano / AFP / Getty Images

The Kill Site

Though Narcos was blocked from filming on the actual roof on which Escobar died, you can still drive by the house to see the otherwise unremarkable building. Try not to loiter around too long though, and expect some evil stares from the locals, as many are frustrated by the shadow still cast on their community. “The owner says that he just wants to move on and run his business,” says Palau.

The tomb of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar at the Montesacro cemetery in Medellin. Raul Arboleda / AFP / Getty Images

Escobar’s Grave

Taking up the most impressive plot at the Cemetario Jardins Montesacro, Escobar's grave site is managed by an elderly man who was given a home by Escobar. You'll always see fresh flowers leaning against the headstone, from the people he helped during his more gracious periods, and from fellow druglords who still leave tokens of respect. Others have a different way of paying homage, according to Palau. “Some tourists will come and do a bump of cocaine over his remains,” he says.

The King’s Ranch

A few hours outside of Medellín, in Puerto Triunfo, lies one of Escobar’s more opulent estates. The multimillion-dollar property featured a Spanish colonial house, sculpture park, kart-racing track, and a zoo stocked with exotic animals. It now operates as a theme park, but there aren’t too many traces of its former owner around besides a Piper airplane atop the entrance, an ode to the first plane Escobar used to ship cocaine into the States. Other reminders have left the grounds, including most of his once-prized hippos, which escaped into the neighborhood lakes and now terrorize local fishermen. Just another unfortunate legacy left for the country he claimed to love.

How To Get There

United Airlines and Avianca Airlines offer frequent flights. If you have the time, add a few days to explore the neighboring cities of Bogota and Cartagena, which will give you a full taste of the country’s diverse terrain. Stay at the Inntu Hotel, a stylish yet eco-friendly resort using collected rainwater and sensor-operated lights to conserve the surrounding beauty.


  1. ^ ALSO: Resurrecting Pablo (
  2. ^ Medellín City Tours (
  3. ^ MORE: The True Story Behind Pablo Escobar and 'Narcos' (

What Your Meditation Retreat Will Really Be Like

Credit: Philip Lee Harvey / Getty Images

So you’re booked for a meditation retreat. Don’t worry about how you got to this point — whether it was your wife, colleague, or a hangover-inspired promise — in all likelihood you’re going to be better for it. Meditation is great for you[1] (research agrees). And let’s face it, you know what a booze-filled weekend at a Caribbean resort holds. Still anxious? Here’s what to expect.  

Cushions. But also hiking.

“Just like there are so many types of trails and campgrounds, there are many different styles of retreat centers,” says Larissa Hall Carlson, yoga instructor and Ayurveda wellness expert at the Kripalu Center of Yoga and Health, so do your research and choose wisely. Worth noting: You may see a lot of meditation classes on the retreat schedule and expect to be sitting on a cushion for eight hours a day in complete silence. Actually, a lot of retreats focus on walking meditation classes (many of which where you'll be strolling outdoors), sound meditation classes, mindfulness lectures, and more, so you won't be glued to a cushion all day.  

Zen Out: A Guided 10-Minute Meditation Video[2]

Music, yoga, art, and a bunch of stuff that doesn’t look like meditation.

“There are lots of meditation techniques, and it’s so important to taste test and find which one you connect with best,” Hall Carlson says. “It’s like taking on a new job or trying a new sport—commit to a technique and develop the skill.” This means, you may be participating in an intense yoga class or lying down in a "sound meditation" session where an instructor plays a variety of vibrating tonal instruments. You can meditate while hiking if you like to focus on landscape or wildlife. Injured? Try yoga nidra meditation, which is done lying down and allows you to imagine yourself coming back from your injury, which research has shown can actually help recovery[3]

Pretty great food.

Most centers aren’t vegetarian only, so you won't be eating veggie scraps and brown rice all week if that's what you envisioned. But they do have a focus on clean, light eating — so don’t expect a steak and whiskey for dinner. “Eating a lighter diet allows your body to experience a sort of detox through the length of the retreat,” Keith Mitchell, former NFL Pro-Bowl linebacker and founder of the Light It Up[4] mindfulness foundation, says. 

Young people, mostly women, and, yes, people in transition.

Most retreats will have a nice mix of age. Millennials, people who are in mid-life transition, or even seniors who took up meditation for health are all retreat-goers. Age or gender doesn’t give any clue as to how long someone has been meditating or if this is their first retreat. Statistically, there are usually more women, but there is always a good show of men, too. “Retreats are just for people seeking out ways to feel better,” Hall Carlson says. “No need to worry about level of experience or your state of being. Everyone there is in the same boat as you, and they are welcoming and guiding so you can feel successful.”

Get Your Ohm On: Meditation Apps That Work[5]

Massages, wildlife excursions, and even booze.

Choose a center where you've got plenty of options to do your own thing. Some solid bets include Menla in New York's Catskills' (think "R&R Hiking Getaways" with plenty of trails-time, afternoon spa sessions or swimming, early evening wine receptions, and nighttime bonfires); Ghost Ranch in New Mexico (where you can book rafting, kayaking, or horseback trail-riding excursions); Kripalu in Massachusetts (private lakefront beach, hiking trails on property, and BYOB OK'd); and Deer Lake Lodge in Texas (spa treatments, acupuncture, and ample woodlands). Wherever you've wound up, carve out time daily to enjoy activities you do during your regular life like swimming or running. This will keep the retreat from feeling rigid and will help you practice fitting meditation into your daily life when you're back at home longing for long runs in summer rain, chirping crickets, and trying not to crack up over that one teacher who took crystal healing too seriously. [6][7][8][9][10]


  1. ^ Meditation is great for you (
  2. ^ Zen Out: A Guided 10-Minute Meditation Video (
  3. ^ can actually help recovery (
  4. ^ Light It Up (
  5. ^ Get Your Ohm On: Meditation Apps That Work (
  6. ^ Menla (
  7. ^ R&R Hiking Getaways (
  8. ^ Ghost Ranch (
  9. ^ Kripalu (
  10. ^ Deer Lake Lodge (