From down the street to halfway around the world, editors share their favorite meals, hotels, drinks, and experiences of the year.
From down the street to halfway around the world, editors share their favorite meals, hotels, drinks, and experiences of the year.
While 2017 was perhaps the most fraught year in recent history, the adventures we went on this year have shown us that there’s still some magic left in this world. Countless flights and road trip miles have taken us to deserts, glaciers, mountains, islands, and cities across five continents, but some of our favorite moments have been in our own backyards.
We’re wishing you happy travels in 2018 and beyond, even if your next big trip is just down the street.
Audrey Farnsworth, Hotels Editor
Best Place I Went: I think Portland, Oregon was the best place I went. It was really beautiful and cold and I shopped a lot. We did a brewery tour and ate donuts. Donuts and beer are my two favorite things, so this was enjoyable. Oh, and the best place I went in Portland was Powell’s City of Books. I would live in a bookstore if I could. Specifically, this bookstore.
Best Place I Spent the Night: Hyatt House in Portland was a pretty great hotel. The room was bigger than my apartment. It actually felt like an apartment. I didn’t want to leave. I mean, my apartment’s fine, but this hotel room was REALLY nice. It had a full kitchen. And the kitchen was huge. I was like, “Why is this here?????” and then I used all the silverware because I could. They gave me free crackers.
Best Thing I Drank: Summer Breeze English Summer Ale at Back Pedal Brewing (a tiny brewery in Portland). It was light and delicious and after I drank it I was less mad about having to go on a “Brew Cycle” tour where I had to pedal on a large cart across downtown. I did not want to move. I just wanted to sit in this small brewery and enjoy this lovely beverage.
Best Thing I Ate: This is only tangentially related to travel, but I tried Tim Tams for the first time this year and they’re delicious.
Best Thing I Saw: The giant marionettes walking through the streets of Montreal were the best thing I’ve ever seen, probably. And also the most frightening.
Best Thing I Did: I went to a wedding of two people I didn’t know at a Taco Bell and sat in the corner.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I just got an email from the World Championships of Santa Clauses inviting me to participate in next year’s competition, so I want to do that. I want to go to Switzerland and dress up like Santa Claus and climb up a fake chimney.
Alexis Kelly, Editor
Best Place I Went: I have dreamed about a stay at Lake Austin Spa Resort for 10 years and my visit in August did not disappoint. I was pampered from the moment I stepped foot on the boat that took me up Lake Austin to the resort, to the 24-hour frozen yogurt button, to the 2-hour “Tour of Texas” body treatment I experienced on my last night; it left me so relaxed I could barely walk back to my room. I challenged myself to try things I have never done before (forest bathing, yoga, paddleboarding, yoga ON a paddleboard) and I felt like I left there as a better version of myself.
Best Thing I Ate: It’s a tossup between the Hasiru Samudra (Chilean sea bass cooked in a tandoor) at Tamarind in Tribeca and the St. Louis Ribs at Mabel’s Smokehouse in Williamsburg. Both were literally melt-in-your-mouth meals that I still daydream about. I wonder if UberEats delivers to NJ?
Best Thing I Saw: The view of The Pitons as we traveled south along the west coast of St. Lucia to Soufriere. Seeing those peaks from the water was incredible. It more than made up for having to leave the pool at Marigot Bay Resort & Marina by Capella.
Best Thing I Did: Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my family–the view from Clingman’s Dome is unforgettable and the opportunity to show my kids as many national parks as possible before they disappear is priceless. Oh, and the side trip to Dollywood was fantastic! It’s one of the cleanest, most family-friendly amusement parks we’ve ever been to.
Where I’m Going in 2018: My tartan dreams are coming true with a trip to Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands. Not only will it be the first international trip for my children, but I’m a tad obsessed with Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
Recommended Fodor’s Video
Amanda Sadlowski, Editor
Best Thing I Drank: Hard cider is really seeing a resurgence on the craft beer scene lately, and I fell totally in love with the idea of a cidery at Citizen Cider in Burlington, Vermont. The craft brewery uses local apples to produce some interesting but always delicious and refreshing ciders (The Dirty Mayor’s my favorite).
Best Thing I Ate: Is it possible to have a meal in New Orleans that isn’t one of the best of your life? This happens to me every single time I visit the city, and my last trip over the summer was no exception. I’m still dreaming of the gumbo soup with Andouille sausage and Creole barbecue shrimp I devoured at Mr. B’s Bistro.
Best Thing I Saw: Okay, I really can’t choose just one, so I’m going to name two things I saw during my incredible journey throughout Alaska in the fall. During our hike in Denali National Park, we got insanely lucky with the weather and were actually able to see the peak of Mount Denali, a breathtaking sight that makes you feel very, very small (in a good way). Then, during our cruise through Glacier Bay National Park, we were able to travel through our own mini-Ice Age and glimpse the magnificent Hubbard and Margerie Glaciers. The thunderous process known as calving (aka the ice breaking off into the ocean) is an awesome thing to watch until you realize that this means the ancient glaciers are slowly but surely melting away.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I’m escaping the frigid New York winter in February for the California desert. I’ll be spending a few days in Los Angeles eating all the tacos available to me, and then it’s off to Joshua Tree National Park for hiking and star-gazing.
Chantel Delulio, Staff Writer
Best Place I Spent the Night: If there’s something more magical than stargazing from a naturally heated spa pool mere steps from my hotel room, I don’t know what it could be. Termas Papallacta is located high in the Ecuadorian Andes and though it’s just an hour’s drive from the city of Quito, the outside world quickly fades away as you’re ensconced within the range of mist-laden mountains. The various pools and spa treatments will restore your body, but it’s the quiet and natural beauty of this place that makes you feel whole.
Best Thing I Ate: Every course of the Chef’s Table at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino (which will be taking reservations again starting January 8, 2018) is almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. The menu, created by the property’s outrageously talented executive chef, Jannette Berríos Villanueva, is playful and ingenious both in flavor and in presentation. For example, a cherry filled with meat was a culinary experience I hadn’t realized I needed and yet now it’s pretty much all I can think about.
Best Thing I Saw: There’s something wonderfully eerie and humbling about an afternoon sky sans sunlight—something I didn’t fully appreciate until I found myself standing in a random field somewhere due south of Portland, Oregon during this summer’s Great American Eclipse. Because the sun’s light is so overwhelming, it completely blinds us to the other types of light that exists. But at the height of totality, a veil is pulled back, allowing you a glimpse at a world apart from and yet parallel to our own.
Best Thing I Did: As a person who’s been known to tear up at cute animal videos, being able to see and walk alongside absolutely fearless animals in their natural environment is the definition of a dream come true. While visiting the Galápagos Islands, I swam alongside sea lions, turtles, and sharks.
I stood on a beach within arm’s reach of a curious baby penguin that had swam up to the shore to get a better look at its human visitors. I even stumbled upon two giant tortoises making the—ahem—beast with two shells. While that last one was far from being cute or even something you’d choose to see, it serves as a helpful reminder that the world can still surprise you.
Doug Stallings, Editorial Director (Print)
Best Place I Went: I almost always go to Walt Disney World in the spring, when the parks preview their newest attractions and shows, but 2017 was a true highlight. Disney’s Animal Kingdom was by far the best place I went this year for the opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar. The Imagineers outdid themselves this time, creating a world that really does transport you to a different realm. Plus, Avatar: Flight of Passage is the most exciting ride I’ve ever experienced in my life.
Best Thing I Saw: On August 21st, North America had an excellent view of a total eclipse of the sun from coast to coast. I’m not a planner, and I soon discovered that hotels in the best places had been booked far (sometimes years!!) in advance and were, quite suitably, astronomically expensive. When I heard in June that Royal Caribbean International was planning an eclipse cruise on their megaship Oasis of the Seas, I booked my cabin within days and brought friends along for the ride. The eclipse was exciting enough, but getting to watch and hear Bonnie Tyler sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” as the moon’s shadow began to pass over the sun was priceless and clearly my year’s highlight. (The concert by DNCE was also pretty cool as well.)
Best Thing I Ate: I like to try new restaurants, but the most exciting opening of the year for me was The Grill, the reinvention of the Grill Room at the now-departed The Four Seasons. It’s a magnificent room that’s only been made more beautiful after a renovation. And the food here was some of the best I’ve had in NYC in recent years, and the Minted Black Bass one of my favorite dishes of the year. If you go, bring your platinum card, though, because the prices are stratospheric. But sometimes the splurge is worthwhile.
Where I’m Going in 2018: My travel habits tend to go in cycles. I make it to Europe almost every year. I’ve visited Germany more of late, but I’d like to go back to London or Paris in 2018, if only for a quick trip. I haven’t been to Asia since I went to Japan and the Philippines in 2015, so I’m likely to make a trip to Asia in 2018. I’ve always wanted to go to Palawan, so that could be on my travel agenda, but I’d also like to visit Hong Kong and see some of the new happenings there since I haven’t been for over a decade.
Jennifer DePrima, Editorial Production Manager
Best Place I Went: The Atacama Desert! I’m fascinated by desolate, remote landscapes, and this place is about as desolate as it gets: the highest and driest desert in the world. It’s so inhospitable that NASA tested the Mars Rover here! That said, it’s the most otherworldly and beautiful place I’ve ever seen. It’s definitely worth the (considerable) effort to get there.
Best Place I Spent the Night: The opposite in every possible way from a dusty frontier town in the northern Chilean desert, I’d say London’s Milestone Hotel is the best place I’ve spent the night . . . maybe ever. The luxury at this small hotel is completely over the top, but the service is so friendly and cheerful and the décor is so individualized (and occasionally a little weird) that it never feels stuffy or too formal.
Best Thing I Drank: A “Canadian Old Fashioned” crafted by the mixologists at Pendleton Whisky, which tasted even better when enjoyed with the fresh mountain air and gorgeous views of the western Rockies off the back porch at Smith Fork Ranch.
Best Thing I Ate: All the seafood in Chile! It’s a tough choice between the delicious caldillo de congrio (Chilean eel stew) that I enjoyed on a cold, rainy day at a café in Santiago’s Mercado Central or the pil pil de mariscos (a garlicky mixed-seafood stew) at Chipe Libre in Santiago’s chic Barrio Lastarria. The extensive pisco list there is also a runner-up for best thing I drank.
Best Thing I Saw: It’s a toss-up. My main objective in visiting the Atacama Desert was to see the rare Andean flamingos that live on the salt flats there. They were even more beautiful than I’d imagined! I also got up in the freezing pre-dawn to see the sun rise over the Geysers del Taito, the highest geothermal field in the world, which was worth the near-frostbite in my feet.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I haven’t made plans yet, but am hoping to visit Montana for the first time this spring or summer; I also want to travel around Argentina. And I really should make a long-promised trip to see an old friend who has settled in Porto.
Jesse Tabit, Social Media Manager
Best Thing I Ate: Dinner at Copetin Restaurant & Bar in Toronto. My dining experience at Copetin was excellent—the restaurant is stylish and features a laid-back, (yet refined) atmosphere, and the servers were very friendly. Oh, and the cuisine. The beef tartare, ricotta, and lamb loin are all exquisite–please check this place out the next time you’re in Toronto.
Best Thing I Saw: Gamers (including myself) storming Nintendo’s showcase at E3 2017. The Electronic Entertainment Expo is internationally recognized and, as a gamer myself, it’s something I’ve waited a lifetime to attend. It didn’t disappoint.
Best Thing I Did: Spelunking at St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park in Belize. Diving deep into the cave was no joke; it was as thrilling and exciting as it was terrifying.
Where I Want to Go in 2018: Melbourne!
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Jacinta O’Halloran, Senior Editor
Best Thing I Ate: Guinea Pig! While I had so many memorable and delicious meals in some of Lima’s top restaurants this past summer, the best thing I ate was a traditional Pachamanca (meaning “earth oven”) meal prepared by a Quechua family in Peru’s beautiful Sacred Valley. The family dug a hole in the ground and filled it with hot stones, meats including cuy (Guinea pig–a local delicacy), and a selection of vegetables and herbs pulled directly from the garden. Everything was covered with leaves and soil and left to slowly cook for a few hours, while I ate a delicious quinoa soup, learned about local crafting techniques, and was entertained by “grandpa’s singing and flute playing” (until “grandma” elbowed him to cut it out). The final banquet of meat falling off the bone, juicy corn, and rich, flavorful veggies had me singing my thanks to the Incan earth mother, Pachamama … although I haven’t been able to make eye contact with a Guinea Pig since.
Best Thing I Drank: There was heavy competition in this category for me, from a Pisco Sour in Lima to a Rum Swizzle on a Clipper ship sunset tour of New York Harbor, but the best thing I drank in 2017 has to be a Guinness. While each and every pint of Guinness I enjoyed on my trips to Ireland this past year was special (mostly for the people I shared them with), it was the Guinness at my uncle’s local pub in a small village in West Clare that took the prize. It was “Old Style Night” at Daly’s pub, so the bar was lit by candles and a warm, blazing fire, and without electricity or phones, entertainment was provided by locals who took turns sharing stories and singing songs. It was a truly magical night.
Best Thing I Saw: I thought for sure that I would pick the identical one-in-a-billion quad calves (Fluffie, Jennie, Mia, and Rosie) that I fell in love with on a visit to Ireland early this year, but somehow they were inched out by Metallica at Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) this past summer! I’m not even a Metallica fan, or I didn’t think I was, but I hear the opening chords to “Enter Sandman” and I’m back, chanting “Exxxx-it Light, En-ter Nii-iii-ight!”, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of ecstatic music fans, soaking in the sun—and plenty of poutine—in beautiful Québec City. If you are a music fan and festival fan, FEQ is a great ticket: it’s a non-profit event so it’s affordable, always a great lineup, and set in a picture-postcard city with lots of attractions to check out between shows.
Best Thing I Did: Easy: Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is one of those places you really hope will live up to the hype, and it does. I will never forget the special early-morning peace and stillness while the ancient Incan ruins and surrounding mountains played peekaboo in the mists rising from the Urubamba valley.
Best Place I Spent the Night: Ashford Castle. When you talk to yourself out loud, you know it’s special: “This is nice… oh wow …love the bed ..the ceilings are so high …oh I just want to sit by that fire, sip that sherry, and watch “The Quiet Man” on repeat…oh the sandstone bathtub … wait, I can bring my sherry in here and watch John Wayne from the bathtub …” I finally had to FaceTime my sister so that I wouldn’t feel completely bonkers.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I have three weddings to travel for in the first half of 2018 and I’m planning to create some mini excursions around them. I have a wedding in Arizona in February so I am planning a sidetrip to celebrate my birthday with an early morning hike in the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. My cousin is getting married in Co. Clare in April, so I will make time for Afternoon Tea at the newly reopened Adare Manor as well as some new spots I’m eyeing to include in our next edition of the Fodor’s Ireland Guidebook. Finally, my brother is getting married in Mexico in June, so I will take the opportunity to visit Ichkabal, a recently-discovered ancient Mayan city (larger than Chichén Itzá and Uxmal) which will open to the public in 2018. Who knows what the second half of 2018 will bring!
Jeremy Tarr, Digital Editorial Director
Best Place I Spent the Night: Even though it scared the hell out of me, the Relais La Suvera in Tuscany was stunningly incredible. Once a medieval fortress, then a papal villa, then the private residence of a Princess and a Marquis (who still live there), the hotel feels magically alive with history (perhaps too alive).
Though the Relais may be my favorite hotel, I stayed at another two that I’m pretty damn obsessed with: the St. Regis in Florence (I want to live there) and the Thompson in Nashville (I want to live there, too)—basically, I just want to live in a nice hotel, regardless of where it is.
Best Thing I Drank: Every year, my wife and I go to New Orleans. And every year, we stop by the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel. And every year, we drink a Ramos Gin Fizz. And every year, it’s my favorite drink.
Best Thing I Ate: I made it to Osteria Francescana. And, it’s as good as the hype. And now I’m obsessed with Massimo Battura’s dish, Five Ages of Parmesan. It’s not only the most beautiful thing I’ve eaten this year, but the most beautiful thing I’ve ever consumed. I want to eat this every single day for the rest of my life. If I’m ever on death row, I would beg the warden to have it shipped from Modena to my cell and, dammit, I’d die with a Cheshire Cat grin.
Best Thing I Did: My dad grew up in Ohio and went to Kent State University. Both he and my uncle, who I call the Dude (because he has a propensity to wear bathrobes and drink vodka, which, at the very least is an ingredient in a White Russian), were there on May 4, 1970, peacefully protesting when the National Guard opened fire and killed four students. This past May, I went to Ohio with my wife and parents and, together along with the Dude, we visited Kent. We walked the grounds and my dad and the Dude told us their stories from that day. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and incredibly meaningful.
Meg Butler, Staff Writer
The Best Thing I Drank: A drink called The Poet & The Alchemist at The Ritz-Carlton Berlin‘s Curtain Club Bar. It’s made from saffron-infused rum, cardamom, tonka bean and probably magic. I found it in a 28-page, hard-bound drink menu filled with other magical concoctions which put this bar at the top of my best-of list.
The Best Thing I Ate: Death by Duck French Fries at Beer Belly in Los Angeles. They’re french fries fried in duck fat, topped with duck confit and they’re right around the corner from my house. It’s been a good year.
The Best Thing I Did: Snorkeling in Maui! You can spot coral reefs, sea turtles, and dozens of different kinds of fish just a few yards off of the shore of the beach of the Grand Wailea. It’s a great place to go if you’re enthusiastic about seeing ocean wildlife but also slightly out of shape. The beach (and the beach bar) are only ever a few minutes away.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I’m headed to Sri Lanka in March of 2018. I hope to do some more snorkeling and hiking, see jaguars up close in a wildlife safari, and eat lots of great food.
Margaret Kelly, Senior Editor
Best Place I Spent the Night: One of my favorite cities is Amsterdam for the canals, the bikes, the architecture, and of course, the city’s scale. The narrow streets and quaint canal-side houses make this one of the most charming places I’ve ever visited. The teeny, tiny Hotel de Windketel perfectly captures the essence of place—it’s a small, free-standing octagonal building in the middle of a car-free neighborhood square. The Windketel used to be a part of the city’s waterworks but it’s now a boutique hotel for two. The clever use of small spaces epitomizes the Dutch sensibility and the decor is a who’s who of famous Dutch designers.
Best Thing I Drank: The food scene in Costa Rica didn’t blow my socks off, but I drank, hands down, the best mango margarita of my life at a mango farm outside of the San Jose. The fruit was plucked right off the tree and muddled on the spot. We taste-tested a few varieties (with and without tequila) and it was an education—I had no idea that mango flavors could vary so radically, or be so delicious.
Best Thing I Ate: A fiery bowl of Khao soi gai (Chang Mai Noodle soup) that I made myself at a cooking class at the Four Season’s in Chang Mai. I love Thai food, especially the dishes from the north, so learning about the cuisine’s flavor composition and how to mash my own curry paste from a hot shot chef was a revelation. I ended up buying a 10-pound mortar and pestle and lugging it home in my carry on.
Best Thing I Did: Once I quelled my terror of heights, taking a sunrise, hot air balloon ride over the Napa Valley was one of the most peaceful experiences I had all year. The views of the vineyards and the foothills stretching out below as the balloon rose and drifted with the wind is best possible way to start the day.
Rachael Levitt, Managing Editor, Fodors.com
Best Place I Spent the Night: Each room at the Patagonia Tierra Hotel at the bottom of Chile has a view facing the shore of Lake Sarmiento and overlooking the famed Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. At night, in total darkness, you can lay on the cozy window bench under your room’s picture window and admire the sparkling constellations of the Southern Hemisphere and the moonlight over one of the world’s most remote landscapes. It’s weep-worthy natural beauty. (And I did.)
Best Thing I Did: Rappelling and scrambling the canyons of Zion National Park. I’ve always been a huge fan of National Parks, but I wasn’t expecting the color scheme of the canyons in Zion, gradient changes from red and orange and white and blue and purple, all in perfectly layered sediment stripes heavily perfumed with sage. This sort of adventuring felt exciting without being terrifying, like something your mom would be mildly nervous about but ultimately enjoy.
Best Place I Went: Chiloe Island in Chile was a totally unexpected delight—a side trip on my grand adventure through Chile. I was blown away by the incredible wool weaving and products, the freshly-caught seafood, and the absolutely adorable neighborhood full of rainbow-colored houses built on stilts over the bay. Colorful travel really charmed me in 2017!
Best Thing I Drank: It was absolutely the view that did it for me, but the drinks on the Westlight rooftop bar of the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn just taste better with all that NYC skyline to soak up. Don’t miss the cocktail “In Bloom” – beet juice, Cynar, Stoli Elit Vodka, lemon, mint, and Cava – because you should never miss an opportunity to drink spicy artichoke liqueur, and everything’s better with bubbles.
Where I Want to Go in 2018: I’m dying to get to Seoul, which is a destination on our 2018 Go List. This is a whacky reason, but South Korea is basically the future in the present, and I want to see what that’s about! I want to use the amazingly fast public transportation that takes you all over the city! And did you know that the internet is super-fast in Korea, way faster than in the US? They don’t even deal with buffering or loading. That in itself is incredible. Plus, all the buchimgae and kimchi I can eat. AND A MEERKAT CAFE!
Rachael Roth, Editor
Best Place I Went: It seems as if everyone is taking advantage of the cheap flights to Iceland these days, but that doesn’t make the otherworldly blue landscapes from the vantage point of a toasty hot spring any less incredible. From browsing record stores and warming up with coffee on Reykjavik side streets, to pulling off the road between Akureyri and Reykjavik and traipsing through the woods in search of a waterfall, I discovered that few destinations compare to this wonderland in winter.
Best Thing I Did: Paddleboard yoga in a crater in Utah.
Best Thing I Drank: SHED, a market/fermentation bar/restaurant in Healdsburg, California, has an incredible farm-to-table menu, and their low-alcohol ‘shim’ cocktails, infused with natural syrups and garnished with fruits, are refreshing and delicious.
Best Thing I Ate: Maybe it was the hangover, maybe it was the long wait time just to get a seat at the bar, but the late lunch I had at Russ & Daughters in Lower Manhattan might just be the best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life, let alone this year. I went with the intention of ordering the picturesque bagels and lox but opted instead for some comfort food: potato latkes served with creme fraiche and roe, plus matzoh ball soup, and an egg cream with a shot of bourbon. Hangover = cured.
Teddy Minford, Editor
Best Place I Went: I really can’t get over El Nido in the Philippines. It’s this gritty but charming little beach town set in this spectacular backdrop of limestone cliffs and pristine blue lagoons. I went with my mom and sisters and we spent each day exploring the islands on outrigger boats, stopping for lunch on deserted beaches, and drinking out of coconuts. It was pure heaven and I would return in a heartbeat.
Best Place I Spent the Night: The Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, India. It was gorgeous.
Best Thing I Drank: I had the world’s best negroni at the speakeasy behind Apoala in Merida, Mexico. (The food was excellent too!)
Best Thing I Ate: A Japanese feast at Izanami in New Mexico. The restaurant is part of Ten Thousand Waves, which is this Japanese Spa outside of Santa Fe. My sisters and I went for massages and a soak before sitting down at Izanami and ordering one of everything on the menu. And before you get all judgy about eating fish in a land-locked state: There’s no fish on the menu, just incredible grilled meats and exotic vegetables (there was a mushroom that looked like a sea anemone) in delicately flavored sauces. It was so good we ate there twice in one weekend.
Best Thing I Saw: A baby rhino (with its mom and sibling!) at Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. I’m crying just thinking about it right now because it was too cute for words. Here’s a video of a baby rhino so you can cry with me.
Best Thing I Did: Drove to Washington, D.C. with a few friends to march in the Women’s March. One of my favorite moments of the weekend was when I was knitting some pink hats on the way down there and during a moment of standstill traffic somewhere in Delaware, we noticed that all the cars around us were filled with women who were also knitting pink hats and everyone rolled down their windows and started honking and cheering.
Where I’m Going in 2018: I’ll be going to Brazil on my honeymoon in February, but I’ve only gotten as far as booking the tickets!