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City Guides

January 24th, 2016 | Posted by pftq in Random Stuff | #
Just my thoughts and notes on where to go in each city, what's worth seeing and doing, what I enjoy in each city anyway.  Not so much a guide as much as a set of bookmarks for myself.  For a more anecdotal sense of what the three major coastal US cities are like, check out NYC vs SF vs LA.

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United States

- Best Area to Live: The Loop
- Cost of Living: $2k for luxury 2bedroom highrise, $10 for filling meal.
- Centers: North Side (improv/comedy), Jackson/Loop (finance), Michigan Ave (shopping)
- Conventions: Chicago SketchFest, Blues/Jazz Festivals, Venetian Night, Summer Dance
- Restaurants: Wasabi (Japanese; ramen), Greek Islands (Greek; flaming cheese, octopus, lamb), Purple Pig (Mediterranean), Quartino Ristorante (Italian), Lou Malnati (deep dish pizza), Cafe Iberico (Spanish; tapas, octopus)
- Shows: Blue Man Group, Second City
- Sightseeing: 360 Chicago, Skydeck (glass ledge), Bean, Lincoln Park

Los Angeles
- Best Area to Live: Santa Monica Promenade
- Cost of Living: $3k for paper wall studio surrounded by trash and homeless, $15 meals but $10 meal-replacing smoothies.  Use to find a place that is sound-proof enough not to hear traffic.  Use Flip.Lease to find rentals from existing tenants at lower rents and no brokerage fee.
- Best Hotel/Hostel: Freehand LA ($40/night for premium rooms + rooftop)
- Best Way to Get to SF: Megabus ($1), CA Shuttle Bus ($10), RideCabin ($80)
- Centers: Santa Monica (tech/gaming/media), West LA / Century City (film/media), Studio City (film/media), everywhere else (starving artists)
- Conventions: E3 (gaming), SIGGRAPH (animation), CTN Animation Expo, IndieCade (gaming), VidCon, GameSoundCon, Comic Con (San Diego), Anime Expo, CES (Las Vegas)
- Extra Notes: Meetup and eventbrite mostly junk, people not worth meeting, or lost souls.  Most networking is from invites or friend of friends.
- Coworking / Co-Living: Comprehensive Guide Here
- Ice Cream and Smoothies: Erewhon (organic ice cream smoothies), Flaxmaster smoothies from Earthbar/Equinox, PBH smoothies w/ blueberries from Qwench
- Restaurants: Tsujita (Japanese; char siu ramen), Shin Ramen (Japanese; kotteri miso ramen), Tsuri Sushi (Japanese; chef's special sushi with wasabi), Benihana (Japanese; fresh food made live by chef in front of you), Ulysses (Greek; flaming cheese, octopus), Aussie Pies (meat pies), The Georgian Hotel (French toast, penne rigate, lava cake, key lime cheesecake)
- Shows: Second City, but only for Ithamar Enriquez (best show being "Ithamar Has Nothing to Say"). Most other LA improv and theater is really forced and terribly acted compared to Chicago and NYC.  The technique is very sloppy and unrefined (arms giving out halfway through a gesture, expressions not matching the emotion, etc).  The laughs are made on how bad the acting is or how loud, obnoxious, or dirty they can be than at any in-universe plot or characters.
- Swing/Dance Venues: Calendar at, Clifton's (the only real lively and regular swing venue + four floors of restaurant/bar/museum), Camp Hollywood (largest annual events, competitions and more advanced classes/groups)
- Tennis Courts: Ocean View Park, Mar Vista, Cheviot Hills, Colorado Center
- Theater: Dolby Cinema at AMC Burbank 16. Pretty much the only legit Dolby Cinema in the city and much better sound + color than IMAX.

New York City
- Random Tips: No one wakes up before noon.  You can go to Max Brenner at 2 and wait 1.5hrs, but if you go at 11:30, there is literally no line.  Use and Flip.Lease to find rentals from existing tenants at lower rents and no brokerage fee.
- Best Area: Battery Park City
- Cost of Living: $3k for studio highrise, decent meals at any price point from $5 up.
- Internet: Verizon FioS - nothing compares to the 1GB upload/download they give you for $70 per month.
- Centers: Wall St (finance, duh), Chelsea (improv/comedy), Times Square (theater/broadway), Union Square (tech/startup), West Village (jazz), Madison Ave (shopping)
- Conventions: Tribeca Film Festival, TechCrunch Disrupt, PAX East (gaming)
- Ice Cream: Blue Marble, OddFellows, Chinese Ice Cream Factory, Ample Hills, Eddie's Sweet Shop
- Other sweets: Macaron Cafe (maracons, delivered in 2 hours), Ladurée (macarons), Mariebelle (chocolate cafe)
- Restaurants: Call Me Pasta (Italian, very good customizable pasta for <$15 with free delivery), Uncle Nick's (Greek; flaming cheese, octopus, lamb), Kiki's (Greek; flaming cheese, octopus, braised lamb), Pio Pio (Puruvian; rotisserie chicken), Iroha (Japanese; cheap, squid, sushi), Jin Ramen (Japanese; kukuni ramen), Max Brenner (chocolate on everything), Amada (Spanish; tapas and paellas), Whole Foods Tribeca (food bar for $10, soy nuggets and fish)
- Sightseeing: Central Park, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, High Line Park, Breakneck Ridge, Dater Mountain Nature Park
- Shows: Hamilton, Wicked, Book of Morman, Trike at Magnet Theater (but most their other shows are also just as good, ie megawatt house teams and musical improv). For improv in NYC, I actually only like the Magnet Theater, as there is a lot more commitment to the acting/characters/stories vs the obnoxious/random/loud comedy that most other shows seem to go for.  Examples of their Trike show: 1, 2.
- Swing/Dance Venues: Swing 46 (nightly, free lesson at 9 but most lively at midnight), You Should Be Dancing Studios (aka Club 412 / Frim Fram Jam for Swing on Thursdays, standard/latin other days), Stepping Out Studios (standard/latin/swing), Midnight Summer Swing at Lincoln Center, more on Eileen's This Week in Swing.  Emmaneul-Pierre-Antoine's is also a newer and more lively studio for both ballroom and swing after COVID.
- Tennis Courts: Hudson River Courts (only free courts in the city)
- Theater: AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13  (always go Dolby Cinema, much better than IMAX)
- Things to Do: Rockefeller Park / Hudson River Park (park, courts, boardgames, etc all along river), Sky Rink/Chelsea Pier (indoor ice skating), Fat Cat rebranded to Cellar Dog (rec games and jazz), Slate NYC (food, games, music), House of Yes
- Work Cafes: Whole Foods Tribeca Upstairs, Bread and Butter on 303  5th Ave (basement lounge), Tous Les Jours (desserts)

San Francisco
- Best Area to Live: Embarcadero
- Cost of Living: $3.5k for studio highrise with asbestos, $20 for a meal.  Most decent food under $20 closed down or raised prices.  Use Flip.Lease to find rentals from existing tenants at lower rents and no brokerage fee.
- Internet: The only real option is Monkeybrains, which offers >=100MB both upload and download for $35.  Most times it's well above 500 MB download and 200 MB upload (Monkeybrains Speedtest).  Comcast and AT&T don't even offer >15MB upload speeds and charge double the price.
- Best Way to Get to LA: Megabus ($1), CA Shuttle Bus ($10), RideCabin ($85)
- Centers: Embarcadero (finance), SOMA / Montgomery / Powell (tech/startup/conventions)
- Conventions: Game Dev Con (GDC), TechCrunch Disrupt, LAUNCH Festival
- Extra Note: Meetup and Eventbrite are big things.  There are code/gamedev/etc every week.  You could literally meet big tech company founders, the creator of blockchain tokens, etc at regular Meetup events.
- Ice Cream and Smoothies: Humphrey Slocombe (Tinroof Sundae with Salted Fudge and Caramel), Bi-Rite, Mitchell's, Flaxmaster smoothies from Earthbar/Equinox
- Restaurants: Slanted Door (Vietnamese Fusion; chicken claypot), Kokkari (Greek; saganaki, octopus, lamb), Limon Rotisserie (Puruvian; rotisserie chicken), Dongbei Mama (Szechuan Chinese; pork belly w/ napa), Kirimachi (tonkotsu ramen), Bask (spanish tapas), Schroeder's (German; jager schnitzel), Osha Thai (Thai fusion; pineapple fried rice and lychee iced tea), DJ Sushi (Japanese; nigiri with extra kick in flavor like Tsuri in LA).
- Shows: SF has no real improv or theater scene compared to Chicago and NYC.  The few that are there are very obnoxious and forced, with it being more about laughing at random keyword hits and loud noises.  Almost no effort at believable characters or coherent stories.
- Sightseeing: Bernal Heights, Corona Heights, Parrots at Ferry Park, Land's End, Top of Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Top of the Mark, Top of the Hyatt, Top of My Apartment (especially new year's eve), Top of One Market, Grand View, Buena Vista Park, Dolores Park, Black Point, Fort Point near Golden Gate Bridge, Tomales Bay, Muir Beach
- Swing/Dance Venues: 9:20 Special (Thursdays), Cat's Corner (Wednesdays), Verdi Club (aka Tuesday Night Jump), Wednesday Night Hop, Just Dance Studio (standard/latin), more at Hep Jen's Calendar but no matter where you go it tends to be a sparse scene and more exercise or formulaic than actually dancing because you enjoy it.
- Tennis Courts: Alice Marble Courts (Russian Hills, no lights), Dolores Park (has lights), Corona Heights, Buena Vista Park
- Theater: AMC Metreon (Dolby Cinema > IMAX)
- Things to Do: Ice Skating and Bowling at Yerba Buena, iFly (indoor skydiving), Mission Cliffs (indoor rock climbing)

- Contrary to popular belief, cost of living is very cheap even in Tokyo due to no tax or tip on already very low food prices - heavy bowl of ramen with free refills for 500 yen ($5USD) - see Tokyo Prices vs SF/LA.
- Never take taxis.  Expensive and takes 30 min for a 1-station subway ride that'd only take 5 minutes.
- Sweets and desserts usually on top floor or basements of malls.
- Always carry cash. Credit card not widely adapted, not even to refill subway cards.
- Smoking is still common, so be careful when going into restaurants as you might end up sitting next to a smoking table.

- Best Area to Live: Gion (clean and upscale, central, next to river and all restaurants/shops), The Millennials Hotel if visiting (luxury upscale capsule hotel, dorm-like living for just $30/night with 500mbps internet)
- Game Developer Events: Kyoto Indies, Kyoto Bitsummit
- Ice Cream and Sweets: Kagizen (sweets), Tsujiri Tea House (green tea ice cream), St. Marc's Cafe (smoothies)
- Restaurants: Nishiki Warai (okonomiyaki), Hakada Ippudo (ramen)
- Sightseeing: Nazen-ji (behind it), Yasaka Shrine, Higashiyama Jisho-ji, Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Arashiyama, Bamboo Forest (near Arashiyama)

Sapporo, Hokkaido
- Sweets: Shiroi Koibito Park (Chocolates)
- Restaurants: Ramen Sakurajima (sakurajima ramen), らーめん信玄南6条店 (kukuni ramen)
- Sightseeing: Mt. Moiwa, Nishioka Park, Moerenuma Park, Onuma Quasi-National Park (3 hrs by Hokuto train), Lake Toya (Toya station stop via Hokuto train)

- Best Area to Live: The Millennials Shibuya Hotel (luxury upscale capsule hotel, dorm-like living for just $90/night with 500mbps internet).  Quiet, lively, and everything you want within 1 block radius - PARCO mall/theater/foodcourt, Ichiran Ramen, Torikizoku, dentist, salon, eye doctor, cafe, and restaurants open 24hrs.
- Centers: Shibuya (shopping and food), Shinjuku (nightlife, arcades, theater), Akihabara (anime but not as much gaming as Shinjuku actually).
- Restaurants: Ichiran Shibuya (cheap, fast 24 hour ramen), Kinka Sushi Shibuya (sushi, fish), PARCO Shibuya food courts in general, Sakura Gardens (cheese and meat, lava cake ice cream), Torigin Honten (Ginza yakitori), 藤つぼ 大森店 ("Omori" - very juicy yakitori, no English so use phone pictures), 永福町 大勝軒 (Eifukucho ramen, large quantity and filling), Ramen Nagi (Shinjuku thick ramen and same price for small/large), Torihana (Nakanoshimbashi yakitori open past midnight), Meniroiro Itudemoyatu (Shinjuku Lumine Est 7F, 1000 yen for udon + 3 desserts + drink),  St Marc's Cafes (<500 yen for full plates of diner food/desserts), Toshu similarly cheap for ramen + fried rice only 600 yen.
- Ice Cream and Sweets: Honey's Kitchen (Shibuya smoothies), Bebible (Ginza smoothies), Cookie Time (Harajuku milkshakes), Daily Chico (oversized ice creams), Fuku Cha (really good and large smoothies despite being a bubble tea place)
- Music Jams: Music Island O (indie shows & music jams), Ruby Room Open Mic Tuesdays, MJ Smile, more at Live Music Jams Every Night, Jazz Jam Sessions, and Tokyo Gig Guide.  Mostly jazz or very loud percussion bands; still looking for something more just piano or video game music.  Woodpecker Lounge has a regular acoustic performance monthly meetup, but it's more taking turns performing than jam.  Crocodile, Ruby Room, and What the Dickens in Shibuya  - not jam session, but there's live acoustic music from indie bands every night.
- Game Developer Meetups: "Otaru" meetup Thursdays 8:30pm at 大衆割烹 藤八 in Nakameguro, Tokyo Indies monthly at Fab Cafe, 8-bit Cafe (popular spot for devs late evenings), 16shots (another spot where "70% of clientele" are game developers), Picotachi at Pico Pico Cafe Monthly, Tokyo Sandbox, Tokyo Game Summit, more at DampFKraft
- Sightseeing: Shibuya, Shinjuku, TOHO Cinemas Shinjuku (Godzilla), Ginza Six Rooftop Gardens, Mt
,  Mt Nokogiri
- Shows: Pirates of Tokyo Bay Improv (short form games only though, no elaborate scenes/characters), Manzai at Toyokan (Schedule)
- Swing/Dance Venues: Tokyo Swing Dance Society (6:30pm Wed at Fai Aoyama and Thurs at Ikebukuro Opera House), Swing Rosso last Sunday each month 4:30pm at Bar Rosso (at 1-chome-19-8, not 4C's), Goody Swing Saturdays weekly 6pm at Den-enchofu Fujimi Hall, Swing Bar Mondays 7:30pm at Pit Bar (only one with live band but very small space). Swing is arguably more lively in Tokyo than even NYC, but it tends to be about half the same people going to every event, although not necessarily a bad thing.
- Things to Do: Poker Guild (all the poker tournaments you can eat every day and hour, no cash winnings but that makes it even better in Japan imo as there are no degenerates and it's more like gaming/esports), VR Zone Shinjuku
- Work Cafes: Wrapple (Shibuya 2nd floor), Doutor Coffee Shop Shinjuku (4 floors with wifi and outlets)


- Notes: Essentially a much cleaner but older version of NYC where even the tap water is still separated hot and cold in many places.  Make sure to bring a lot of surge-protected power adapters because the difference in voltage will otherwise fry your electronics.  Use for grocery deliveries.
- Center / Best place to stay: Mayfair / West End - basically the Tribeca / Wall St NYC equivalent except all the theater and nightlife are also here instead of on the other side of town.
- Game Dev Events: London Indie Game Devs Mon/Wed
- Ice cream and sweets: Amorino (flower-shaped), Gelateria Danieli (served the Queen), Mamasons (purple yam flavor), Yolkin (macaron ice cream sandwiches),
- Shows: Royal Opera House, Cambridge Theater (basically all of West End), Hoopla Improv (Jams Sun/Wed), London Improv (Jams Tues/Sat), Free Association, Austentatious (rifts off Jane Austen).
- Swing / Jazz: Mondays at Market House, Tuesdays at Scolt Head, First Thursdays at Crystal Palace, Fridays at Arcola Theatre, calendar list here at Swing Patrol and Swingout London
- Tennis courts: Will-to-win Regents at Rose Gardens. Very useful tennis partners site at OpenPlay.
- Theater (movies): Dolby Cinema at Odeon Luxe
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