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Seven Reasons To Visit Shanghai in 2016

For the traveler, a new year represents an open road, a blank journal just waiting to be filled with travel stories. There is something exciting about the uncertainty of a new year. Where will your travels take you? What new place will you discover this year? The possibilities are unimaginably endless. This year, instead of the usual tourist destination, why not go for the unconventional?

visit Shanghai

There are dozens of tried and true destinations to choose from, but in our opinion, the place to visit this year is Shanghai. A blossoming metropolis, Shanghai has been growing in popularity and presence over the years, and is worth the visit. Leafcanoer, searchingforyourzen, recently shared his advice on what to do in Shanghai in his leaf entitled, “Top 8 Things To Do in Shanghai!” For those looking to add more travel to their new year resolutions, here are seven reasons to visit Shanghai in 2016.

The old meets the new
The area in China known as Shanghai dates back to around 700 BC when it belonged to the Kingdom of Wu. Since then, it has grown from a small village to a large market town, and finally to a full-fledged city, with its city walls erected in 1554. In Shanghai, you can find historic gardens and temples, juxtaposed with some of the city’s newest buildings, including the Oriental Pearl Tower, which offers 360 degree views of the city. It’s the meeting of the old and the new that makes this city so unique and special.

visit Shanghai

A shopper’s haven
The strong US dollar makes spending money in Shanghai relatively easy. In fact, the city is often called a shopper’s paradise. Two of the major shopping roads in Shanghai are Nanjing Road, which still has shops that are centuries old, and Huaihai Road, known for its high-end designer stores. In 2015, the city adopted a tax refund policy, in an effort to entice more foreign travelers to visit Shanghai and shop.

visit Shanghai

The festivals
Shanghai has a number of festivals worth experiencing. Just a few weeks away is the Lunar New Year, usually falling in January or February. In the spring is the Dragon Boat Festival, which celebrates one of China’s national heroes, Qu Yuan, and often features boat races. Summer time festivals include the Shanghai Film Festival, the Shanghai Television Festival, and Shanghai Tourism Festival. And one of the more notable fall festivals is the Shanghai International Art Festival, which falls in October.

The Bund
The waterfront area in central Shanghai, stretching a mile along the Huangpu River, is known for its stunning skyline. With over 50 buildings representing a variety of architectural styles, this stretch of waterfront, known as the Bund, is one of the most visited destinations in Shanghai. Here, visitors can marvel at buildings showcasing Romanesque, Gothic, Neo-Classical, and even Baroque style architecture, as well as some more modern architecture.

visit Shanghai

The culinary scene
Shanghai cuisine has been around for over 400 years. Characterized by its frequent use of seafood, the cuisine found in Shanghai has traveled well beyond its borders to places like New York City. Yet, with its influence outward, it has also been influenced by the many cultures that have visited Shanghai. Many of the newer restaurants in Shanghai take traditional Shanghai and Chinese cuisine and rethink it in more modern terms. In this way, the culinary scene of Shanghai is much like the architecture and design of the city: a meeting of old and new.

visit Shanghai

Water town excursions
Sometimes the best way to experience a city is to get out of the city. There are about 8 towns just outside of Shanghai that are built around water and are worth visiting. Many of these towns date back centuries, and still have some of the original architecture remaining. Qibao Ancient Town is the closest water town to Shanghai, but is arguably one of the smallest. Zhouzhuang Water Town, on the other hand, is one of the most visited water towns, although it is approximately 79 kilometers from Shanghai.

The metro system
Speaking of excursions, one of the best ways to get around Shanghai is by metro. Considered one of the longest metro systems in the world, with a total route length of 420 kilometers, the Shanghai metro system has had several upgrades over the last few years and is expected to grow. Four new lines were added in 2014, and nine other lines began construction in 2015. This growth and development will make getting around the city a lot easier.

visit Shanghai

With the new year coming up, it’s time to think about where you want your travels to take you. For 2016, why not visit Shanghai?

For more ideas on what to do in Shanghai, or to consider other travel ideas for 2016, download the LeafCanoe app     .

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Chicago

Chicago is one of the most visited cities in America. Set in the heart of the America’s mid-West region, Chicago is a vibrant and exciting city, full of history, culture, and grit. Leafcanoer, searchingforyourzen, recently posted a Leaf about Chicago titled, “Chicago’s Skyline Tour.” It’s full of great suggestions for exploring the city.

To really get to know Chicago, you need months, or better yet years of living there to fully understand the local character. But even if you only have a short time for a visit, there are still ways to get a taste of life in Chicago. For those with a limited amount of time, here’s a list of how to spend 24 hours in Chicago.

Get a morning workout at Millenium Park
Start your day off with a visit to Millenium Park. In the summer time, the park offers free workouts on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But even if you’re not there in the summer, Millenium Park and adjacent Maggie Daley Park, are great places to take a morning walk or jog. There are a few art installations worth seeing at Millenium Park, including the Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, and Boeing Galleries. After your workout, head north to Randolph Street for pancakes at Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe, or try Caffe Rom on Stetson Avenue for Italian coffee and European pastries.

Cloud Gate

Explore art at the Art Institute
After breakfast, head back south through Millenium Park to the Art Institute of Chicago. Home to an extensive collection of classical and modern art, the Art Institute of Chicago is an excellent place to spend a relaxing morning in Chicago. The Art Institute has five wings, with art from all over the world and throughout history. Worth a look is the Modern Wing, which features 20th and 21st Century art.

Art Institute

Hang out with aquatic life at Shedd Aquarium
You could easily spend the day away at the Art Institute of Chicago, but instead, why not spend the afternoon with sea animals? First, head over to nearby Wabash Avenue for a bite to eat at any of the restaurants that line the street. Then head south through Grant Park to the Shedd Aquarium, located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Shedd Aquarium is the world’s largest indoor aquarium and boasts over 8,000 aquatic animals.

Shedd Aquarium

Ride the Loop
After a long morning and afternoon of sight-seeing, it’s good to have some down time. A fun and unique way to see the city is to ride the Loop. The Loop is a set of elevated railway circulating through downtown Chicago. From the Shedd Aquarium, head west on Roosevelt Road to the Roosevelt station. From there, catch the Orange Line north. The train will circulate around downtown starting from the Harold Washington Library-State/Van Buren station to the Adams/Wabash station, before heading back south to Roosevelt station. Be sure to get off at the Adams/Wabash station.

Chicago train

Go out on the ledge at Willis Tower
From the Adams/Wabash station, head west on Adams Street to visit Willis Tower, located on Franklin Street. Formerly called the Sears Tower, and built in the 1970’s, Willis Tower is considered the tallest building in America. Open 365 days a year, until 10pm from April to September, and 8pm from October to March, the Willis Tower is the perfect place to catch a sunset in Chicago.

Willis Tower

Rest your head at a historic hotel
At the end of the day, the best thing to do is rest your head on a comfortable pillow and curl up under a warm blanket. There are a number of historic hotels located throughout Chicago, with most of them centralized around the downtown area.

Chicago is a fun and exciting place to visit, regardless of whether you only have 24 hours in Chicago, or years to explore. There are so many attractions to see in the city, much more than what’s described here. This list is just a starting off point, and can be a great source of inspiration for your own adventures in the windy city.

Crown Fountain

For more ideas of what to see in Chicago and in other cities, download the Leafcanoe app.

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Experience Belgrade Street Art

No matter what part of the world, every major city has its own form of street art. Once considered a form of vandalism, street art has grown into a respectable art form, with a growing cadre of internationally-recognized artists among its ranks. Street art received its start in New York City in the 1920’s and 1930’s, when gangs would write graffiti on the sides of train carts and walls. As the years progressed, street art began to take on a more political stance, as youth would use this art form as an anonymous way to express their social and political opinions. Street art gained popularity especially in the 1980’s, when graffiti art was experiencing a boom.

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Since then, street art has spread all over the world, incorporating different mediums and methods. Street art can be seen in cities like Buenos Aires, Sao Paolo, London, Bristol, Amsterdam, Melbourne, and even Johannesburg. Several conferences exist to showcase the works of street artists, including one annual street conference called Living Walls. In addition to the traditional use of spray paint, street artists these days express their art through the use of stickers, stencils, art installations, and also video projections. Some of the more internationally known and influential street artists include Banksy, Basquiat, Os Gemeos, and Blek le Rat.

In the Serbian city of Belgrade, street art has become a socially accepted form of art. Though it hasn’t lost its socio-political messaging, the Belgrade street art scene has done much to bring color and culture to the city, turning once desolate neighborhoods into a vibrant place. Within the Savamala neighborhood, street art has decorated a large portion of the walls. Leafcanoer, grassrootsnomad, recently posted a leaf highlighting Belgrade street art called, “Savamala street art – Belgrade.” Street art in Belgrade has become so popular, visitors can even take a tour of the city’s street art.

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Street art came to Belgrade in the early 2000’s. Initially consisting of graffiti and murals painted in various parts of the city, street art began to take off, as artists came to the city to showcase their sticker and stencil work. Over time, these pieces gained publicity and popularity, and were eventually included in the city’s arts festivals. This was a big step towards the social acceptance of street art as a legitimate form of art, especially in Serbia. Currently, street art fills the walls of almost every part of Belgrade, even in building hallways and school yards.

There are several well-known Belgrade street artists, including TKV, Lortek, AID, Street Dog, and Sila. Their works can be seen throughout various parts of Belgrade. One prominent piece of street art, which consists of a mural on the side of the building, is a piece entitled “Waiting for the Sun.” This piece was created by artist, Aleksandar Macasev, and supposedly was loosely based on a vintage Hungarian matchbox, originating from the post-war Socialist period. A well-known artist and designer, Macasev is best known for his mass-media work.

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Once previously written off as simply vandalism, street art has grown to become an internationally recognized and respected form of art. With street artists living in all corners of the world, street art has absorbed the cultural, social, and political leanings of its locale. In the Serbian city of Belgrade, the street art has been credited with changing the city from an industrial relic of the Soviet era, to an up and coming urban cultural center.

Interested in exploring more Serbian street art? Check out more of grassrootsnomad’s leaf, “Savamala – street art of Belgrade.” For more ideas of where and what to explore in Serbia, as well as the rest of Europe, download the Leafcanoe app.

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