Cape Town's Winter-Proof Beaches

Offseason Cape Town

Capetonians might like tourists to believe that beach season shuts down come June, but – thanks to warm winter winds and a few extra layers – the Mother City remains the last word in urban sand seeking through its winter months (June – September in the Southern Hemisphere). The only hazard of visiting Cape Town off season might be getting used to low prices and lonely breaks.

Muizenberg, blessed by winds out of the northwest, is literally and figuratively the city's hottest hibernal haunt. Offshore swells – announced by local wave-riding disc jockeys like Deon Bing[3] – sweep up and break both right and left as the beach fills with spectators and swimmers. Closer to the city, a rad break off Clifton 2nd Beach brings the locals in at high tide. And along Cape Town's west coast, great waves arrive regularly at Table View, Dolphin Beach, and Blouberg, which are all served by Cape Town's new MyCiTi[4] bus service (boards are welcome along for the ride).

For an old-school Capetonian day trip, catch Cape Town's Metrorail[5] and head for the city's knockout False Bay, a vibey vintage town, where colonial antique stores stand alongside boho boutiques and hippy cafés. En route, hop off for a sheltered swim in the tidal pools at St. James beach, grab an ice-cold Castle Lager at Brass Bell[6] in Kalk Bay – the bar sits right on the tracks – or snap a group photo with the braying Jackass Penguins at Boulders Beach[7].

Fancy a foodie day at the beach? Stock up on picnic provisions, including delectable ostrich steaks, at V & A Market on the Wharf[8] before hitting Oudekraal Beach on the rugged Atlantic Seaboard. Secretly tucked between Camps Bay and LLandundo, the tiny cove has its own braai, or barbecue, facilities and sits just across from the Twelve Apostles Hotel[9] – the ultimate location for Cape Town sundowners. Don't forget a blanket to offset that winter nip and some extra ales for the locals who will want to share their grilling expertise.

Finally, for a real winter paradise, make a break for West Coast National Park 70 miles north of the city. Consider the warm waters of Langebaan Lagoon the spot for your winter dip. Springbok chow on scrub in the surrounding bush as visitors float happily in the azure water. If you don't want to leave this idyllic bay, don't. Book a roomy houseboat[10] as your floating pad.


The New World's Old City

Granada, Nicaragua

Vicki Beaver / Alamy

Granada, Nicaragua

The best way to see the oldest inhabited city in the Americas is at dawn, on foot, with a camera in hand. Granada, Nicaragua has been painstakingly restored by a new generation of homeowners and the colorful colonial architecture glows when illuminated by sun, which blasts across Lake Cocibolca ("sweet sea" in Nahuatl) and splashes against cathedrals. The only other people on the streets early in the day are blue-and-white uniformed children riding bicycles to school and street vendors carrying baskets of vegetables and fruit.

But the glory of Granada is not just its pretty charm and deep history. Its location – an hour from the airport in Managua, surrounded by natural and cultural attractions – has made it the center of Nicaragua's rising tourism industry[1]. Granada's many hotels and B&Bs offer a long menu of day trips, making it an easy base camp for travelers looking to explore one of Central America's more chaotic countries.

Walking up Calle la Calzada, where many tour operators are based, visitors can see the trip possibilities listed on signs and chalkboards: Visit the markets of Masaya; ascend the Masaya and Mombacho volcanoes; shop the artisan villages of Pueblos Blancos; swim in Laguna de Apoyo. The best option – and they are all good options – is also the most convenient: Kayaking in Las Isletas, an archipelago of tiny islands that appear to float along the shores of Lake Nicaragua, the nineteenth largest body of fresh water on earth, is more about drifting than pulling. The volcanic specks of land are home to birds and host a few casitas, which look out on the water from their tiny plots. Wave to the men smoking cigars on the open porches or casting lines into the lake.

After a paddle, head back to Granada to walk through the churches, markets, and plazas. The biggest of the latter, Parque Central, a large tree-shaded, bird-filled square in front of the main cathedral, buzzes in the mornings, making it a good place to end an early-morning walking tour.

Greet the sunset from the bell tower of Iglesia La Merced[2], which floats above an ocean of clay tile roofs. Watch as the sky fills with stars and Granada's denizens – many of them members of Nicaragua's political elite – come out to chitchat on their front stoops or relax in rocking chairs while sipping Nica Libres[3], a combination of Flor de Caña rum, lime, ice, and just enough Coca-Cola to give it some sweetness and color. Despite the age of the city, the beginning and end of each day is still treated with ceremony.

More information: Delta[4], United[5], and TACA[6] fly into Managua International Airport, which is connected to Granada by a bus that runs from the terminal every half hour.


  1. ^ rising tourism industry (
  2. ^ Iglesia La Merced (
  3. ^ Nica Libres (
  4. ^ Delta (
  5. ^ United (
  6. ^ TACA (

Milwaukee's Showtime

Milwaukee's Showtime

Jim Kemper / Zuffa LLC / Getty Images

Anthony "Showtime" Pettis's Milwaukee guide

UFC contender Anthony "Showtime" Pettis[1]'s hometown Milwaukee[2] holds an annual Summerfest[3], now in its 45th year, which bills itself as the world's largest music festival, and the fine folks at Guinness World Records confirm it. For two weeks each summer (this year: June 26–July 7), the brewing hub along Lake Michigan hosts the busy concert series known as the "Big Gig," with major headliners ranging from Metallica and Pearl Jam to Prince and Stevie Wonder.

One of the most enthusiastic voices in last year's crowd for a jam-packed performance by the rapper Wiz Khalifa belonged to Anthony Pettis, a native son who has become the face of Milwaukee's fighting spirit. On August 3rd, Pettis will challenge UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo for the title belt. Already one of the top-ranked lightweight contenders, Pettis will drop down to featherweight (145 lbs.) to make the fight with Aldo.

They're both electrifying fighters. "I think Aldo is one of those guys everyone's afraid of, and that's intriguing for me," he tells 'Men's Journal.' "He's on the [UFC's] 'pound for pound' list, and that's where I want my name to be . . . It's definitely a superfight."

Pettis's nickname, "Showtime[4]," was validated when he unleashed one of mixed martial arts' more memorable moments in late 2010 against the current UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, scoring a knockdown by pushing off the cage with his foot, then kicking his opponent flush in the side of the face[5]. "Did you see that?" screamed announcer Stephen Bonnar[6]. "He ran off the wall like a ninja!"

That fight earned Pettis the World Extreme Cagefighting lightweight championship. It was their last fight in the WEC before the organization's merger with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Pettis, who has a record of 16-2, is always in training, so his annual visits to Summerfest with his family provide him with a chance to blow off steam – and find a little comic relief. "I can't drink," he says, "so it's funny to watch all these drunk people walk around during the daytime." He appreciates the fact that the festival books music for all tastes: "I'm into reggaeton and salsa music. There's a real variety."

With his trainer, former kickboxer Duke Roufus[7], Pettis co-owns the Showtime Sports Bar[8] in Milwaukee. Roufus has helped make MMA the sport that made Milwaukee famous, with his gym[9] producing stars such as Bonnar, Jens Pulver[10], and Erik Koch[11]. Pettis loves the fact that his hometown has been fertile ground for MMA fighters: "There's a core group of guys who are getting after it," he says. Not that he would ever consider leaving: "My family's huge, man," he says. "My grandpa on my mom's side had 17 kids. For my daughter's birthday, I think we had 500 people there. It was nuts." With a name like Showtime, the man can undoubtedly work a crowd.


  1. ^ Anthony "Showtime" Pettis (
  2. ^ Milwaukee (
  3. ^ Summerfest (
  4. ^ Showtime (
  5. ^ pushing off the cage with his foot, then kicking his opponent flush in the side of the face (
  6. ^ Stephen Bonnar (
  7. ^ Duke Roufus (
  8. ^ Showtime Sports Bar (
  9. ^ his gym (
  10. ^ Jens Pulver (
  11. ^ Erik Koch (

Central Asia's Leaning Tower

Astana's Khan Shatyr

Getty Images

Astana's Khan Shatyr

Astana looks like a city planned by a sixth grader with a bottomless collection of Lego starter kits. A replica Dutch windmill spins next to a replica Bukharan mosque rising like a pepper shaker in the shadow of one of the twisting skyscrapers Kazakhstan's government has constructed out of chrome and oil money. Local journalists have spent a good part of the last decade writing architectural criticism bemoaning the city's ostentatious development, but a strange thing is now happening. Thanks to a fever dream of a tower designed by Sir Norman Foster[1], the skyline is starting to cohere into a vision of Central Asia's future.

The Khan Shatyr[2] is an odd rebuttal to the pyramidal Palace of Peace and Reconciliation and the cone-and-ball Bayterek Monument, two structures so plainly symbolic of Kazakh pride that they seem more like corporate icons and less like buildings. The 500-foot-tall, gray-purple, tilted elliptical tent is hardly subtle itself, but looks as completely at home on the steppe as the traditional yurts that inspired its form. Opened on the 70th birthday of autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the steel and glass masterpiece houses a luxury shopping center, a mini golf course, and an indoor beach. Astonishingly, the indoor coastline is more romantic than kitsch. The view calls to mind both dystopic films and postcards from the Bahamas or Belize[3].

At its most blunt and obvious, the Khan Shatyr is an echo back to the nomadic past of the Kazakhstani people, but the building is also profoundly futuristic. The sculpted carapace is covered in environmentally friendly and temperature-regulating ETFE-cushions, which massively reduce heating costs and allow natural light to envelope the building. That act of alchemy, picking up elements of the past and warping them into the future, is the story of Astana and of Kazakhstan itself.

In the 1960s, Soviet commanders forcefully reconfigured the 19th-century Russian Cossack outpost of Akmolinsk into Tselinograd, the headquarters of an agro-industrial project designed to turn the steppe into a giant wheat farm. The then U.S.S.R. crumbled and Tselinograd became known as Aqmola, meaning "White Tomb," a nod to its abandoned factories and blockhouses. Then, in 1998, Nazarbayev announced that the ailing city would be renamed "Astana," meaning capital, and serve as the seat of government. The news came as a bit of a surprise to everyone familiar with the ailing backwater.

That the city is not – in the manner of other planned metropolises – a skull-bashingly simplistic, underpopulated cultural wasteland is a tribute to a singular idealism of Central Asia, where cities are designed to break molds. Astana walks the tightrope between being playfully eclectic and being overstuffed in the manner of the Vegas strip. That why the Khan Shatyr is so important. It is not just a place for oil barons on holiday. It attracts locals and facilitates the mixing of people from all walks of life. The tower engages the local population in the imaginative process of believing in its capital while simultaneously building it from scratch.

Astana's other draws are almost all architectural and lesser-than. Still, there is something sublime about strolling through a city that exists more as an idea than as a space. A palpable sense of possibility hovers over the empty spots in the skyline and the towers that corkscrew heavenward are audacious. It makes sense that the centerpiece of this metallic garden is slightly askew.

More information: Flights from Vienna, Moscow, Beijing, Delhi, Seoul, Istanbul, London, and Amsterdam arrive daily at Astana International Airport[4].


  1. ^ Norman Foster (
  2. ^ Khan Shatyr (
  3. ^ postcards from the Bahamas or Belize (
  4. ^ Astana International Airport (

The Big Apple Bike Share

Citi Bike

Stan Honda / AFP / Getty Images

Citi Bike

How people get around often becomes a defining characteristic of world-class cities. Think of Tokyo's train stations; Prague's streets; Venice's gondolas. A sign of modern greatness – or at least a bit of hipster cachet – is the bike-friendly city. Look to Amsterdam, Paris, and London. Add New York City to that list.

In the past three years, the Big Apple has doubled its protected bike lanes (now around 400 miles) and, this week, it launched the biggest bike-share program in North America. As of launch, the Citi Bike[1] program has 6,000 bikes at more than 300 solar-powered stations in the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn, serving 15,000 annual pass holders (it opens to daily and hourly riders in the following weeks). Akin to the most advanced car-sharing programs like Car2Go[2], the system runs a point-to-point technology. Cyclists who pay $95 for a yearly pass receive a USB-shaped RFID[3] key in the mail. Then, it's simply a matter of inserting the key into the station by the bike, waiting a few seconds for the light to turn green, and taking your two wheels for 45 minutes. Once you get to your destination, you can use the Citi Bike App to find the nearest of the now 300-plus active stations[4]. Push the front wheel into an empty rack and the computer automatically checks you in.

On a recent ride, the system worked flawlessly. We keyed in, the yellow light turned to green, and we were off. The bike itself is a heavy, three-speed cruiser, with built-in front and back lights (powered by the gears, which create some noticeable drag), mud flaps, and a small front basket. It's no performance bike, but it is just right for its intended use: a restaurant-hopping (or, unintended, a bar-hopping) taxi alternative that will cause you to slow down and take in the city as you move through it. You must bring your own helmet and be sure to use Google Maps' bike directions to follow the bike lanes. (Our advice on north/south lanes: Avoid Fifth Avenue, Sixth, and Park Avenues if you can – they're bike-lane-free taxi and bus death traps. Instead, go out of your way to take in the protected, gardened, waterviewing Hudson River Park.) If you go over your 45 minutes, the charge is $2.50 for an extra half hour and $9 for every half hour beyond that (the pricing scheme encourages the use of these bikes as a short-distance transportation alternative to taxis or walking, rather than day-long bike rides). Tourists or occasional bikers can buy a day pass ($10 for unlimited 30-minute sessions) or week pass ($25 for unlimited 45-minute sessions) at the kiosk by the bikes, where they are given a number to punch into the individual bike stand. In the next year, the city plans to expand north of 59th street in Manhattan as well as putting stations in Queens, and further into Brooklyn. [[6]][5]


  1. ^ Citi Bike (
  2. ^ advanced car-sharing programs like Car2Go (
  3. ^ RFID (
  4. ^ use the Citi Bike App to find the nearest of the now 300-plus active stations (
  5. ^ Google Maps' bike directions (
  6. ^ (