The New York Times, 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada

Edited by Barbara Ireland
Published by Taschen, 2011

July 3rd, 2012

© Illustration Olimpia Zagnoli/TASCHEN

Before hopping a plane or hitting the road we always check the New York Times 36 Hours column for reliable and savvy tips and tricks on what to see, eat and do when headed to a new destination for a quick jaunt or even a more extended stay. For a decade, the New York Times has published this weekly travel column providing highlights of cities all over the world, giving readers a carefully curated weekend itinerary that serves as an insider’s guide to mini-breaks. Although the schedules are based on the idea of having just two nights to spend, dedicated to maximizing your sojourn in any given city, the columnists seem to consistently capture the essence of a place. This weekly feature was recently catapulted into hard copy in a tome called The New York Times, 36 Hours: 150 Weekends in the USA & Canada, focusing on 150 fully updated weekends in North America – the perfect tool to inspire weekend getaways now that summer is upon us.

Divided into geographic areas – the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, the Southwest and the West – 36 Hours includes the obvious urban centres like New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver as well as the sites of natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and the thundering falls of Niagara. Major metropolises like New York City are given both the 36 hour overview and then broken down into neighbourhoods offering itineraries in Lower Manhattan, Broadway, Harlem and Brooklyn, proposing plenty of ideas to keep you well-occupied in the city for more than a week. Where the book really shines is in inspiring jaunts to lesser-known spots like Oxford or Portland, Maine, that are full of undiscovered character. North America is probably best explored by car to really get a sense of its vast terrain and several of these programs could be strung together to form many a fantastic road trip.

While 36 Hours definitely includes some examples of what would be considered “greatest hits” in any given city, it also avoids stating the self-evident, figuring art lovers know to visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York without having to be instructed to do so. It is interesting to note, for example, the writer of the text on Vancouver, Denny Lee, recommends stopping at the Western Front, a quirky artist-run centre that many locals may not even be familiar with. The suggestions run the gamut from high to low, including high tea at the Petrossian Bar in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas or Marea near Central Park, to Garcia’s Las Avenidas, a family-run, home-style Mexican joint in Phoenix and in Orlando, “Dive-Bar Hopping” begins at 10 pm with Wally’s Mills Avenue Liquors for its “tobacco-stained wallpaper with a motif of naked women.” The best part is that the book really works – the suggested schedule can actually be followed from spot-to-spot easily since suggestions are grouped by location and a numbered destination map is provided.

Published by Taschen, known for its art, design and architecture books, 36 Hours is generously illustrated with nearly 1,000 photographs sprinkled throughout which are supplemented by charming graphics that riff off the sights and character that define a place. Reading this guide makes us nostalgic for our well-worn, dog-eared copy of Let’s Go Europe that was our valuable companion when hopping trains and cities on the continent for the summer several years ago. This book is a more sophisticated guidebook but just as brimming with possibilities, adventure and discovery.

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