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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.

United States

Chicago
- 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.
- 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), 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)
- 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 http://swingdance.la/, 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: IMAX at Universal Citywalk. Everything else is old or tiny.

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.
- Best Area: Battery Park City
- Cost of Living: $3k for studio highrise, decent meals at any price point from $5 up.
- 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: 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
- 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 (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.
- 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
- Ice Cream and Smoothies: Humphrey Slocombe (Tinroof Sundae), 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), Schroeder's (German; jager schnitzel), Osha Thai (Thai fusion; pineapple fried rice and lychee iced tea)
- 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, 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, Parrots at Ferry Park, 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)

Japan
Notes:
- 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.


Kyoto
- 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)
- 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)

Tokyo
- Best Area to Live: Ginza (upscale, quiet, central, modern), Suginami/Nakanoshimbashi (residential, greenery, 15 min subway away), The Millennials Hotel again if visiting (luxury upscale capsule hotel, dorm-like living for just $30/night), T-Tower Guesthouse for monthly under $700.
- Centers: Shibuya (shopping and food), Shinjuku (nightlife, arcades, theater), Akihabara (anime but not as much gaming as Shinjuku actually).
- 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
- 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: 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.
- Restaurants: Ichiran Shibuya (ramen), 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.
- Sightseeing: Shibuya, Shinjuku, TOHO Cinemas Shinjuku (Godzilla), Ginza Six Rooftop Gardens, Mt
Mitake
,  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: VR Zone Shinjuku, Gamespace Kashiwagi game tournaments (including poker)
- Work Cafes: Wrapple (Shibuya 2nd floor), Doutor Coffee Shop Shinjuku (4 floors with wifi and outlets)
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