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Zojirushi Makes the Best Stainless Steel Travel Mug for Coffee

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Welcome to The Esquire Endorsement. Heavily researched. Thoroughly vetted. These picks are the best way to spend your hard-earned cash.

Coffee ought to be hot. Even when you made the batch you’re currently sipping two hours ago. Even after you’ve commuted miles away from the coffee maker. That coffee should till be hot. And although you likely have plenty of travel coffee mugs stashed in your kitchen cupboards or in the back seat of the car, none of them are all that good. They’re either too flimsy, they imbue the drink with a metallic-y flavor, or they splash hot liquid all over every time you open the cap. Zojirushi doesn’t make mugs like that. It makes mugs that retain heat, stop spillage, and defy all expectations. Its SM-TA vacuum-insulated mug is a mug worth buying, and it won’t cost you all that much it do it.


This mug comes in nine colors and three sizes.

Tim Mulcare

It keeps coffee hot for hours.

Zojirushi’s mug keeps your beverage steaming for an astonishingly long time—long enough to survive terrible commutes and early-morning meetings. Technically speaking, the midsize, 16-ounce model preserves drinks at 189 degrees Fahrenheit for one hour, and at 160 degrees for six hours. Its cold retention is just as good, should you prefer cold brew or iced tea. This is all thanks to the construction of the stainless steel bottle itself, with a double-layered interior, and the lid, which keeps it all locked down. You won’t be sipping tepid, lukewarm coffee from this thing.

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The locking system keeps the mouthpiece from dripping beverage everywhere.

Tim Mulcare

It locks tightly and flips open for easy drinking.

Spills are not an issue with this Zojirushi mug, even when you’re flipping the lid open to drink. If its lid is locked up tightly, you won’t get coffee everywhere should you drop the mug or drive over a big bump in the road; that lock means business. And when you’ve unlocked it and hit the big button to open the lid, you won’t have to duck out of a splash zone—unlike a lot of cheaply constructed mugs that spit coffee when the vacuum seal is broken. Zojirushi also built in an air vent into the lip if the lid, so the liquid inside flows out steadily. You’d think that’d be a no-brainer for all travel coffee mugs. It’s not.


These four pieces come apart and go back together with ease.

Tim Mulcare

It’s very easy to clean.

Cleaning a mug is the worst part of owning a mug. You put it off for one day. Then another. Next thing you know, it’s been a week since it’s seen soap, and there’s a scum building along the spout. Just me? Anyway. Zojirushi engineered a cap system that not only does the stuff I talked about before—locks tightly, stops spillage, prevents heat escaping—but also comes apart into four pieces that you can clean. Sure, it’s not as simple as your standard reusable, two-piece plastic mug. But all the pieces are necessary for making this mug what it is: the best travel coffee mug you can get for cheap.

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8 Epic Travel Destinations Inspired by Superhero Movie Set Locations

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What to Know And Why It’s Worth Upgrading

Apple set a trio of new iPhones upon the world last week: the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The phones are equipped with a batch of new features—but, of course, the camera technology is what it’s all about, and all three have new systems.

First, think of the iPhone 11 as the successor to the iPhone XR. It’s cheap(ish), it comes in flashy colors, and it has the longest battery life of any iPhone. It also has a dual-camera system with wide and ultra-wide zooms. But it doesn’t have a triple camera. Apple reserved that trio of lenses, its so-called Pro Camera, with telephoto, wide, and ultra-wide depths, for the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. The only significant differences between the Pro and the Pro Max are size (the Pro Max is bigger) and battery life (the Pro Max is better, although both are long-lasting).

We were able to test out the phones over the past week, giving us a little more insight into how they function.

iPhone 11 (6.1″)


For all of its buzz over the three cameras, the 2019 iPhones are definitely more of an evolution than a revolution. All three are equipped with the new A13 Bionic chip, which Apple says is its fastest, most efficient smartphone processor to date. Plus, those triple cameras finally bring Apple up to the level of other smartphone photography from Google and Samsung. But if you don’t care much about photography, there’s nothing else as impressive.

With all this in mind, here are the buzziest features about the new iPhone 11s. Consider the following before deciding to upgrade or to sit this year out. The phones are available for pre-order now and will be released September 20.

iPhone 11 Pro (5.8″)


iPhone 11 Pro Max (6.5″)


The Triple Camera


These three images of the Brooklyn Bridge were taken from the same spot with the iPhone 11 Pro.

You can’t miss the triple camera. It’s massive on the back of the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max; people suffering from trypophobia have registered their complaints. Going all the way from telephoto to ultra-wide gives you 4x optical zoom range for one shot, which is another way of saying you can stand in one place and take the same photo with the three different zoom options, and all three photos will look like they were taken at drastically different distances—and all will be high quality, with much improved contrast and color. In fact, significantly higher quality than the iPhone X, thanks to upgrades like Smart HDR. Your photos will look beautiful without you having to actually be good at taking photos.


This photo, taken at a Dr. Dog concert in New York on the iPhone 11 Pro, didn’t require any editing to look pretty damn good.

The photo app interface is very simple to use, letting you toggle between the three cameras in the frame, or use a dial to get a zoom that’s in between the telephoto and wide zooms, for instance. And even if you take a photo with the telephoto camera, the camera still captures the scene outside the frame, should you need a more zoomed-out option (if you activate this feature in the settings menu, that is). This likely won’t come up often in your own photography, though.

In short, the triple camera is a huge boon to Apple fans who’ve envied the camera capabilities on the Google Pixel 3 or Samsung Galaxy 10+. Although the iPhone 11 only has a dual camera, it also takes gorgeous photographs. Your depth of range will just be more limited.

Night Mode


Night Mode illuminates dark settings, like this candle-lit dinner.

Night Mode, available on all three iPhones, is perhaps the most exciting new feature for amateur photogs. In low-light situations, it automatically turns on, prompting you to hold a shot for one, two, or three seconds. Essentially, it takes a longer exposure, letting more light into the image. If your subject is moving within those one-to-three seconds, the photo won’t turn out well. But if your subject stays still for those one-to-three seconds, the image will look remarkably light and clear. And because everyone takes photos in darkly lit rooms or outside at night, Night Mode is definitely useful for any iPhone user.

4K Video

4K video taken at 60fps captures smooth motion.

For the video-takers of the world, all three iPhones will let you record 4K video at 60 frames per second. That’s some crisp, high-res stuff with impressively smooth motion. And the editing tools Apple gives you let you alter, chop, and correct video just like you would a photo. Another cool feature lets you transition cleanly from a photo-taking scenario to a video-taking scenario. As in, if the dog you’re taking a picture of starts doing something really freaking cute, you just hold down the camera button and the iPhone will start recording. Then, you can lock it into video recording mode.

Additional Camera Features

Speaking of features that will not likely impact your life: the new front camera on the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pros now gives you the ability to take slow-motion selfies, or Slofies, as Apple dubbed them. Who will use this newfound ability? Likely the same people who used those Animojis Apple introduced with the iPhone—a.k.a. children (who then tired of it) and the influencer/vlogger crowd.

Apple also added a new Portrait Mode setting called High-Key Light Mono that it’s excited about, but it is decidedly not a good enough reason to invest in a new iPhone, unless you really like taking Portrait Mode photos. Basically, it takes the Stage Light Mono mode and swaps in a white background. It looks cool, but c’mon, how often are you going to utilize this? In general, however, Portrait Mode is better all around, including on the front-facing camera.

Non-Camera Features

And then there’s everything else the new iPhones have to offer. All three look nice, with stainless steel and glass finishes that you’ll be loathe to cover with a protective case. The iPhone 11 comes in six colors, and the iPhone 11 Pro comes in four colors, one of which is a deeply gorgeous midnight green. The iPhone 11 Pro also has an OLED screen. It looks damn good, but so did the iPhone X models, meaning the little improvements Apple made will only matter to screen snobs who know what Nits are.

Apple also gave all the iPhone 11s improved spatial audio, so you almost forget you’re watching John Wick 3 on a screen so small. For all of us who spend a not-insignificant amount of time watching television or movies on our phones while lying prone in bed, the new theater-mimicking surround sound is a big winner. Finally, iOS 13 allows you to AirDrop content to someone by pointing at them, thanks to new U1 chip that is a big deal to tech heads. It’s not exactly a groundbreaking feature, but it is handy.

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30+ Best Star Wars Gifts 2019

It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. Actually, at the rate these new movies and games and TV shows are coming out, it’s always going to be a great time to be a Star Wars fan. But right now, there’s The Mandalorian to look forward to on the small screen, The Rise of Skywalker on the silver screen, and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order on your PS4, Xbox, or PC—all before the year ends. If you’re on the lookout to celebrate the intense, emotional connection you’ve kept to the series from the moment you saw those blue letters appear on the screen—but don’t worry, you’re not one of those fans—or you know someone who fits that bill, here are more than 30 awesome Star Wars gifts, from cool merch to literal lightsabers. May the Force…well, you get it.

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American Sailor Randall Reeves Completes ‘Figure-8’ Across the Globe

On Sept. 30, 2018, Randall Reeves sailed out of San Francisco Bay aboard his 45-foot, aluminum-hulled boat, which he named Mōli. Over a year and 40,000 miles later, he’s back. On Oct. 19, 2019, he sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge after following a massive figure-eight route that brought him down to Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, around Antarctica, up through the Atlantic Ocean, across the Arctic Ocean above Canada, and back down around Alaska to San Francisco. To do it, he had to navigate across some of the most dangerous stretches of ocean on the planet—completely alone and unsupported. He’s believed to be the first person ever to complete the route solo.

“One of the cool things from my perspective about the figure-eight is that it takes you to the extremes of the world,” Reeves told Men’s Journal over the phone. “To be able to complete it has been thrilling.”

The 57-year-old sailor, who lives in Oakland, California, has sailing in his blood. The son of a naval captain, he grew up with stories of ocean voyages and began sailing himself while in high school, according to CNN. His dad purchased a boat, and Reeves would “borrow” it while his dad was away, eventually making longer and longer journeys on California’s rivers and into San Francisco Bay. While in college, he met the legendary French sailor Bernard Moitessier—he participated in the first nonstop singlehanded round-the-world sailboat race, and then opted to keep on sailing instead of returning to the finish line. The meeting made a big impact on Reeves.

“That bit me,” Reeves said. “Along with just the beauty of being out there, being able to see the wild parts of the world yourself.”

Randall Reeves
Reeves sails into San Francisco Bay at the end of his journey. Heather Richard

Reeves first came up with the idea for the figure-eight route after a long solo voyage in the Pacific Ocean in 2013. Looking for his next trip, his wife challenged him to go for something even bigger, and that’s when he decided on a truly epic journey: Sail from California to Cape Horn and around Antarctica and the Americas, all in one year. Reeves noted that the route incorporates two legs that are legendary among sailors—rounding Cape Horn and sailing through the ice-clogged Northwest Passage in the Arctic.

“For me, it’s really cool pulling together two pieces of history into one super, super long ocean voyage,” he said.

He first attempted the journey in 2017, but Mōli sustained serious damage during a storm in the Southern Ocean, and he chose to abandon the journey and start over.

“I was pretty confident when I left that I knew what I was doing,” Reeves said. “[But] the Southern Ocean is a beast, and really taught me that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was.”

Even so, that didn’t deter him, and the first attempt gave him valuable lessons for the next journey, he said. Despite raging storms, towering waves the size of houses, lack of sleep, and the inherent dangers of long offshore passages, Reeves’s second attempt was successful.

Randall Reeves
Courtesy Image

Reeves made only one resupply stop on his journey, pulling into Halifax, Nova Scotia after over 230 days at sea. That meant that he had to pack enough food, fuel, and water to last him for months at a time. To maintain control of the boat, he had to limit his sleep to 90-minute stretches, and he went 200 days without hearing another human voice. At one point during the journey, he was closer to astronauts on the International Space Station than any human on land. But Reeves was in his element.

“I’m adapted for this kind of stuff. I definitely appreciate solitude,” he said. “I really just don’t feel alone.”

His sailboat was another big asset. The sturdy aluminum vessel was custom-built in Germany in 1989 for a man who wanted to circumnavigate the Americas, and it’s designed to be simple, rugged, and with its full keel and reinforced hull, capable of handling the worst conditions on the ocean. It passed through two more owners before Reeves purchased it a few years ago. He describes it as more of a “tractor” than a yacht, but it was exactly what he needed for a trip like this.

“I could not have bought a better boat. I just got so lucky,” he said.

Randall Reeves
Courtesy Image

Although the journey put him and Mōli to the test, it’s clear that Reeves enjoyed it. He described meeting pelagic sea birds out on the open ocean and marveling at how they’re so well adapted to their harsh environment. He was awed by the howling storms of the Southern Ocean and the surprisingly mountainous terrain near the Arctic Circle. But one of the biggest surprises came during his trip around Antarctica, when he saw Cape Horn—a notorious graveyard for ships—twice. Many sailors never glimpse the fabled landmark because it’s nearly always shrouded by bad weather.

“That’s like the Everest of sailing, and I got to behold it twice,” he said.

According to CNN, the Ocean Cruising Club honored Reeves with a plaque commemorating his record-breaking journey on Saturday. For now, he’s looking forward to spending some time in Oakland with his wife and eating real meals again beside a crackling fire. But he’s sure he’ll be out at sea again eventually.

“I gotta keep going somehow.”

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40 Mandela Effect Examples That Will Blow Your Mind

The Mandela Effect is a phenomenon that makes us question even the most mundane memories from the past. In June 2019, the famed New York Times crossword puzzle made it the theme, and defined it as, “a recent refinement of false memory that typically refers to pop culture or current event references.” Named by paranormal researcher Fiona Broome, it’s basically remembering something that doesn’t match with historical records. For example, the stuff you use to make your home smell fresh isn’t “Febreeze” (more on that later).

Broome has said that she “loves” the idea that the Mandela Effect, or others claiming they distinctly recall different events or details, could be proof that we’re existing in alternate realities. We’re not so sure that’s the truth, but these comparisons between popular belief and reality is making our jaws hit the floor as we type. Check out 40 of the most gobsmacking “facts” below.

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Where to Go, Stay, and Eat

While most people visiting Vietnam opt for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, we recommend bypassing the throngs of tourists in favor of Hoi An. Located on the country’s central coast, this well-preserved 17th-century port city is rich with culture (its Old Town was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999), white sand beaches, a mouthwatering culinary scene, and best of all, an incredibly warm and welcoming community.

Though the climate year-round is tropical and humid, you’ll find a bit of relief in March and April—along with fewer crowds, too. As for how to get to Hoi An, you’ll want to fly into Da Nang International Airport. Although the airport is small, many Asia-based airlines (including Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air, and Hong Kong Express Airways) offer regular and relatively affordable flights there.

Here’s our guide on how to have the ultimate long weekend in Hoi An.

The Heart of the Earth Spa, sitting on a koi pond at Four Seasons The Nam Hai
The Heart of the Earth Spa, which looks out over a koi pond at Four Seasons The Nam Hai Courtesy Image

Where to Stay in Hoi An

There’s no shortage of bold-faced accommodations in the area, but the best spot to call home base is Four Seasons The Nam Hai. Perched on a serene stretch of Hoi An Beach, the resort encompasses 86 lush acres, yet maintains a hushed, intimate feel. Rather than rooms, guests retreat to airy villas, all sumptuously appointed with outdoor showers, spacious patios, and dreamy platform beds.

Thursday Night

Since you’ll probably be exhausted upon arrival from traveling, stay put for the night to take advantage of the resort’s amenities. First, pay a visit to The Heart of the Earth Spa, where eight private treatment pavilions seem to float on a koi-filled pond. Instead of pampering—which there’s no shortage of here—the spa is focused squarely on wellness. The signature 150-minute Nam Hai Earth Song treatment helps restore body and mind with a cleansing smoke ritual, deep pressure massage, and immersive sound bath.

After hitting your reset button, head to La Sen, one of the resort’s restaurants, for some traditional Vietnamese hot pot (Lẩu). Offered on Thursday nights, this interactive, family-style meal gives you the chance to cook assorted proteins, vegetables, and starches table-side in a bubbling broth.

A Hoi An Sunrise Cruise Tour along the Thu Bon River
A Hoi An Sunrise Cruise Tour along the Thu Bon River Courtesy Image

Friday Morning

Jet lag have you up at the crack of dawn? No problem: book a Hoi An Sunrise Cruise Tour. The three-hour excursion commences at 5 a.m., and gives you an up-close look at local fishing culture and its prominent role in the community. Where the Thu Bon River meets the Cua Dai Sea, watch fishermen catch the freshest seafood and try your hand at paddling a Vietnamese bamboo basket boat. (Though all the guides are terrific, locals highly recommend Lilly—ask for her.)

Friday Afternoon

Unlike the touristy sister cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An’s Old Town is blissfully easy to navigate on foot, and not nearly as crowded (in fact, many streets are reserved for just pedestrians). And because the port town was frequented by the Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and French, you’ll pick up on a range of cultural influences in local architecture and attractions, such as the Old House of Tan Ky Japanese Covered Bridge, and Quan Cong Temple.

To see how locals shop for everyday food, check out Central Market. Situated riverside, it’s bustling with vendors doling out everything from pristine seafood to fresh handmade noodles. And because Hoi An was a trading port on the old silk route, the town brims with tailors who can custom make—sometimes in as little as 24 hours—any kind of garment, from button-down shirts to suits. Bargaining is the norm here, so don’t settle for the initial price.

For lunch, try a banh mi from Bánh Mì Phượng. A favorite of the late Anthony Bourdain, the hearty baguette sandwich is stuffed with pork, pâté, herbs, and pickled vegetables. Don’t be put off by long lines, as they move quickly. Just order yours to go, and enjoy it while exploring town.

The roads of Hoi An. Most of the main pedestrian streets are lined with shops and street merchants.
The roads of Hoi An. Most of the main pedestrian streets are lined with shops and street merchants. Courtesy Image

Eating locally doesn’t get more authentic (or more fun) than the Streets & Eats of Hoi An. For four hours, your guides will you zip you around town on Vespas to some of the destination’s best street foods—all of which are paired with cold beer. Among the stops is White Rose Restaurant, which specializes in the namesake dumplings unique to the city. (Imagine delicate rice flour purses resembling flowers, filled with pork or shrimp, then topped with crispy shallots.) The excursion ends on a sweet note with Banh Flan, a Vietnamese spin on crème caramel.

Saturday Morning

Since cuisine has a big social aspect in Hoi An, why not learn how to whip up some dishes on your own? Headed up by chef Huynh Van Hien, the Nam Hai Cooking Academy goes far beyond the usual demonstrations and classes. Depending on what kind of experience you’re seeking, you can visit Central Market with Hien to source ingredients for your lunch, learn about traditional farming methods at Tra Que Village, or even dive into the delicate art of rice milling.

An Bang beach, only a few kilometers from Hoi An’s Old Town
An Bang beach, only a few kilometers from Hoi An’s Old Town Courtesy Image

Saturday Afternoon

You’ve had a productive morning, now it’s time to kick back at a beach. Look no further than An Bang, a sandy white oasis just a few kilometers from Hoi An’s Old Town. Beach loungers are widely available (and super affordable, too) with no time limits. Because there’s little wind, the waters are relatively calm, and ideal for swimming and paddle boarding. Feeling peckish? Check out Soul Kitchen, at the northernmost tip of the beach. The casual shack, an An Bang mainstay, turns out dependable bar food and cocktails.

Saturday Night

While Old Town is beautiful during the day, it lights up (quite literally) at night—thanks to thousands of colorful paper lanterns lining the narrow streets and alleys. You’ll also notice vendors selling small paper lanterns by the river. Buy a few, make some wishes, and release them on the water: The tradition is believed to evoke luck and happiness. Afterwards, head to Hoi An’s Night Market—not to be confused with the Central Market—located just across the river on Nguyen Hoang. With over 50 stalls, it’s a prime spot for souvenir shopping and wallet-friendly snacking.


Close your long weekend by visiting My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about an hour’s drive from Hoi An. A complex of Hindu temple ruins dating as far back as the fourth century A.D., it served as the capital of the Champa Kingdom until the 13th century. After the fall of the kingdom, the site fell into a state of disrepair until the end of the 19th century, when the French rediscovered it and began excavation. With its towering temple structures, My Son is considered one of the strongest examples of Hindu architecture in Asia.

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These Incredible NASA Photos Show a Volcano Erupting From Space

Earlier this year, astronauts in the International Space Station got a front row seat for an epic event, but it wasn’t happening in space. On June 22, the astronauts looked down at the earth and saw the Raikoke Volcano erupting, which led to some incredible images captured by NASA and other satellites.

It was very rare sight—the Raikoke Volcano most recently erupted back in 1924, according to the National Museum of Natural History. Before the 1924 event, the volcano hadn’t had a recorded eruption since 1778. The volcano is located on an uninhabited island in the middle of the Kuril Islands chain between Japan and mainland Russia, and it reaches 1,808 feet at its highest point.

The volcano has a 700-meter-wide crater and the explosion created a large plume of ash and gas that reached between 13 kilometers (8 miles) and 17 kilometers (10 miles) into the sky, according to NASA’s report on the eruption.

“What a spectacular image. It reminds me of the classic Sarychev Peak astronaut photograph [see photo below] of an eruption in the Kuriles from about ten years ago,” said Simon Carn, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech, in a NASA statement about the volcanic eruption. “The ring of white puffy clouds at the base of the column might be a sign of ambient air being drawn into the column and the condensation of water vapor. Or it could be a rising plume from interaction between magma and seawater because Raikoke is a small island and flows likely entered the water.”

NASA gallery of World Cup countries - 13 Jun 2014 Sarychev Peak Eruption, Kuril Islands, Japan. On June 12, 2009, a fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) made it possible for an astronaut on board to capture Sarychev Volcano in the early stages of eruption. 13 Jun 2014
The International Space Station (ISS) captured the Sarychev Peak Eruption in the Kuril Islands, Japan in 2014. NASA/Shutterstock

Here are a few more of the incredible photos of the Raikoke eruption, courtesy of NASA:

Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA
Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA
Raikoke Volcano Erupting - Photos Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA
Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA
Raikoke Volcano Erupting - Photos Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA
Courtesy of NASA / Earth Observatory EOS Project Science Office at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / NASA

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10 Best Video Game Consoles


Every three-to-five years, video game fans are treated to a new generation of consoles. In this way, gaming is different than any other artform—it’s as if there was a new way to experience music or movies every few years. Sure, technology advances over the decades in all mediums. But gaming is founded upon these so-called console generations.

At any given time, there are usually three massive companies duking it out for players’ attention: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo. In past years, we’ve seen huge systems from Sega, Atari, Intellivision, and others, but today, the big three absolutely dominate the console market. And, as the companies vie for dominance, the success of each studio ebbs and flows. Sega and Nintendo competed back in the ’90s. The online capabilities of Microsoft’s Xbox changed the game in the early 2000s. And today, the PS4 remains the best-selling console on the market.

But it’s not just sales that make a console great. Games, of course, are everything. A system is only as good as the applications that support it. The quality (and quantity) of original and third-party titles can make or break a console. And while we’ve had some technologically powerful consoles over the years, only a select few have been propelled by a sizable catalog of exceptional video games. Here are the best consoles in the history of gaming.

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10. Nintendo Wii

Released in 2006

It’s no secret that I’m the president of all Wii Sports fan accounts and clubs. And honestly, Wii deserves to be on this list just for Wii Sports. The Wii was a remarkable turning point for the gaming industry—not because of gimmicks and motion controls, but because it renormalized gaming. Everyone, and I mean kids, teens, parents, and grandparents, knew what it was and how to pick it up and play. It was the hottest thing on the market, with its family-friendly, “let’s bond over gaming” attitude. The Wii helped make gaming accessible for everyone. It also had a killer library, with some of the best Mario titles (Smash, Mario Kart) and many other remakes and new IPs, making it a near perfect console for its time. —C.S.

9. Sega Genesis

Released in 1989

Sega entered the game in 1989 in an effort to be the cooler, hipper alternative to Nintendo’s more kid-friendly programming. And while that may seem like an arbitrary choice now, for a good chunk of years, it really worked for Sega. Titles like Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, and Earthworm Jim really broadened the canvas of the industry. These games captured the spirit of the ’90s, and while the Genesis or its predecessor, the Master System, aren’t exactly as well-remembered as Nintendo’s landmark consoles, they did leave an impression. Heck, the Genesis sold 35 million units; that’s more than even the Nintendo 64. —D.N.

8. Xbox

Released in 2001

It was a close call between the OG Xbox and the 360, but we felt like the freshness of the original just edges out the later model. The original Xbox console started Microsoft’s now-massive gaming empire, and it brought the vastly popular Halo franchise to the gaming world. Above all else, the first Xbox revolutionized the way we now play online with Xbox Live. It was a monumental gaming achievement that made such a splash that its online practices are an industry standard today. —C.S.

7. PlayStation

Released in 1995

Contrary to what you may remember, the Sony PS1 actually came out before the N64. While Nintendo’s 1996 console is regularly regarded as the system that launched the industry into the third dimension, it was actually the PS1 that pushed everything forward in 1995. Sony’s console took gamers into the 3D space with titles like Metal Gear Solid and Final Fantasy VII. It offered a more serious, adult take on the industry, while still providing zany kid games like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon. The PS1 was a landmark console. But in the end, it was overshadowed by its vastly superior successor, the PlayStation 2. —D.N.

6. Super Nintendo

Released in 1991

For many, the Super Nintendo, or the SNES, as it’s called, is still the gold standard for video game consoles. Pushing the industry into the 16-bit space, the SNES boasted forward-thinking graphics and was even capable of some primitive 3D, too. But what was most impressive about the SNES was its seemingly bottomless library of groundbreaking games. Super Mario World rewrote the book on platformers. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past practically created an entire genre. And then there’s Donkey Kong Country, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Super Mario Kartthe list goes on. With the SNES catalog getting added to the Nintendo Switch’s online service, people are rediscovering the glory of the Super Nintendo. I envy those who are just now getting the chance to play it for the first time. —D.N.

5. PlayStation 4

Released in 2013

The newest Sony system, the PS4, has led the console war this generation after PlayStation 3 staggered behind Xbox 360 last round, and it’s easy to see why. Just look at its huge catalog of exclusives, from God of War to Spider-Man, to upcoming games like the Final Fantasy VII remake, Death Stranding, and The Last of Us 2. The exclusives have just kept coming throughout its life. In addition, it’s the only console with a “true” VR headset—sorry, Labo—that works pretty well for a much more affordable price than the likes of Vive and Oculus. The PlayStation 4 has versatility and a phenomenal library to boot. —C.S.

4. Nintendo Switch

Released in 2017

After years of irrelevance with the poorly selling Wii U, Nintendo seemed like it was going the way of Sega: no longer producing consoles and just distributing its games to the superior systems of the day. But then Nintendo shocked everyone with the release of the Nintendo Switch. Upon its first reveal in October 2016, not everyone seemed sold on the idea of a console that could somehow double as its own portable handheld. But with huge titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, for fans of gaming it seemed impossible not to opt into Nintendo’s weird new idea. And opt into it gamers did. The Switch continues to sell like hot cakes, and with Microsoft and Sony’s recent attempts to deliver their console experiences on portable screens, the enduring influence of the Switch can be plainly seen already. —D.N.

3. NES

Released in 1985

The NES console completely reinvigorated at-home gaming after the Atari nearly collapsed the market. This was a jumping-off point for many of gaming’s most successful franchises, with some of the biggest faces in video games—like Zelda, Kirby, and of course, Mario—getting their humble start on this grey brick. There’s a reason these games keep getting re-released: Many of them are still extremely fun and addictive. The NES console itself had a huge library and little competition (until Sega jumped in), along with some cutting-edge tech, like the in-home light gun for Duck Hunt. Almost everything about this 35-year-old console still holds up today. —C.S.

2. PlayStation 2

Released in 2000

This console had games. So many games. Every type of game. Any game you wanted. Great shooters, fantastic licensed games, the only really good Bond games outside of GoldenEye, amazing RPGs, racers, open worlds, GTA’s, Kingdom Hearts, TimeSplitters…all of it. Everything in gaming at the time was here, save for Halo and a few other Xbox exclusives. The graphics felt amazing, and the new DualShocks and quality-of-life improvements from the PS1 made it remarkable. The PS2 system was also notoriously easy to develop for, allowing for a mound of titles yet unseen on a console up to this point. Many of my favorite games today lived on this console, as they did for many others, easily earning it a top slot on this list. —C.S.

1. Nintendo 64

Released in 1996

For folks who were lucky enough to grow up in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Nintendo 64 defined our childhoods. Though Sony’s PS1 helped bring gaming into 3D, it was the N64 that really showed the breadth of experience that 3D games could deliver to players. Mario 64 made 3D platforming an artform unto itself. And The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was arguably gaming’s first masterpiece. Though the N64’s controller was clunky, the cartridges were awkward, and the console could sometimes barely run its more demanding titles, the imaginative and forward-thinking N64 still remains a pinnacle for the industry. And no, you can’t beat me in GoldenEye. —D.N.

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Where to Go, Stay, and Eat

Prague is a city of contrasts. Among the Gothic churches, Art Deco façades, and abundant Baroques are modern marvels—like Gehry’s deconstructivist Dancing House or the renewed business district rising from the city center. If you look toward the westward skyline, there’s the 1891 Eiffel-esque Petrin Tower, sprouting from the Malá Strana hills near the 9th-century Prague Castle. But across the Vltava River, looming over the city center, is the tripod Žižkov TV tower. Completed in 1992, it’s often voted the ugliest structure in the world, due to the naked alien babies that crawl up and down its sides.

It’s these old and new contrasts that continually raise Prague’s profile against other European musts, like Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, or Barcelona. Prague has no shortage of tourists for this reason, and if you don’t budget enough days, you’ll spend the entire time in long lines or aimless crowds. Instead, you should slow yourself down, meander to the city’s graffiti-dotted haunts, and enjoy your Czech pints and wines at a fraction of the cost.

Here’s how to plan an awesome extended weekend in Prague—four days, to be precise—to experience all it has to offer.

The lobby of the Alcron Hotel Prague
The lobby of the Alcron Hotel Prague Courtesy Image

Where to Stay in Prague

The Alcron

The Alcron Hotel is a mainstay in Prague—erected in 1932 and still dripping with glorious Art Deco detail (think marble, suede, murals, statues). If you want to stay in the city center and be walking distance to the most essential stops—while also enjoying 5-star amenities and hospitality—then the Alcron is an obvious choice. You’ve got a fully equipped gym with saunas and a spa, plus three onsite eateries: the oft-Michelin-starred Alcron, with A+ presentation and pairings (and the most Art Deco room you’ve ever seen); La Rotonde for breakfast, fixe-prix lunch menus, and hearty fine dining come night; and Be Bop Bar, serving cheeky cocktails with a dash of good humor. There’s an old saying in Prague that anyone who cooks really well “cooks like the Alcron,” and you’ll take that adage home with you. But be warned—this is the kind of hotel you feel like you could live in.

Mama Shelter

At the other end of the hospitality spectrum is Mama Shelter, a boisterous and colorful hot spot in Holešovice. That location is a big draw if you want to step out of the center and surround yourself with Prague’s young creative class. Mama Shelter fits the bill, with its colorful decor and equally vibrant food-and-drink menus. Their modern rooms accommodate any budget, and like any other Mama Shelter property, Prague’s is a great place to meet other travelers.

The Vltava river and the Charles bridge beside Old Town Bridge Tower in Prague
The Vltava river and the Charles bridge beside Old Town Bridge Tower in Prague Mistervlad / Shutterstock

What to Do in Prague

Day 1: Prague Castle, Letná, Holešovice

Give the first half of your day to Prague Castle. It’s more of a castle compound, with numerous attractions contained inside. Entrance is free, but many of the interior sites charge a small fee. Get there early, before the ticketed spots open at 9 a.m. (the grounds open at 6 a.m.), since tourism groups will clog the security line entrances to the museums and churches. Those crowds typically dissipate by midday, making the final hours another quiet time to visit (3-5 p.m.). Get there by hopping on tram No. 22, or fare the steep stairs if you want to walk your way up from the St. Charles Bridge.) Once inside, prioritize the Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Basilica, and St. Vitus Cathedral, all of which can be purchased together with a bundled ticket. The other must-sees are the various garden grounds, as well as the Lobkowicz Palace, a private collection of paintings, ceramics, artifacts, and composer manuscripts (from the likes of Beethoven and Mozart). There’s also a good cafe, if you need a pick-me-up.

Next, point yourself to the neighborhood of Letná, a few dollars away via taxi or a short tram ride. It’s also walking distance from the castle, and offers equally picturesque panoramas of Prague from atop the hilly Letná Park, where the city’s infamous Stalin statue once stood. In its place now is a giant metronome overlooking skater punks and musical buskers. Savor the views with a beer in hand, then make your way for lunch. You’ll be hard-pressed to stay hungry in Letná, with the number of bars, beer gardens and restaurants springing up from the city’s younger populations. Try Letná Beer Garden for drafts with a view; Mr. Hot Dog for a bevy of (you guessed it) hot dog varieties, sliders, and French fries; Alchymista for a coffee break within the Stromovka Park Japanese gardens; or Erhart Cafe to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Letná is where you’ll get your first major contrast of the trip. The 9th-century castle grounds and pockets of the neighborhood feel almost as gritty as if it were 1989, when Letná was released from the grips of communism. But that’s not to imply it lacks grandeur and scale: Keep your eyes peeled for cultural staples like National Gallery Prague, National Museum Lapidarium sculpture grounds, and see what’s happening at the Výstaviště exhibition center—though its Art Nouveau Industrial Palace is worth seeing from the outside.

With a few hours left in your day, head to the neighboring Holešovice. You’ve got two key priorities: First, meander DOX Center for Contemporary Art, inhabiting an old factory and capped with the 42-meter-long “Gulliver Airship”. Secondly, settle into Vnitroblock and peruse its artist huts, record shops, and cafes. It’s here you’ll get a real taste of Prague’s 20- and 30-somethings who would prefer to avoid the city-center chaos. Instead, they meet over beers and music, preferring a more energetic and eclectic space.

The medieval astronomical clock at Old Town Hall in Prague
The medieval astronomical clock at Old Town Hall in Prague IvenSchloesser / Shutterstock

Day 2: Old Town and Karlín

Today, you’ll knock out the key central stops. At some point, be sure to catch the hourly bells from beneath the Astronomical Clock as it rotates a cast of religious characters. Your hour-long guided tour of the clock will show you the 15th-century mechanism up close, too, including its apostolic cast. Give yourself an hour to tour Old Town Hall, or book a tour to see even more of the site, including its underground cellars. Then, add another hour to meander the many side streets of Old Town, much of which is rendered gimmicky due to the high foot traffic and central location. Cross the St. Charles Bridge, which will surely be lined with tourists. (It’s much better from afar, in photographs.) This is a necessary part of your visit, as it leads to a few attractions on the other side of the Vltava River.

Peacocks freely wander the Wallenstein Garden in Prague
Peacocks freely wander the Wallenstein Garden in Prague Viacheslav Kotov / Shutterstock

First, point yourself to the Wallenstein Gardens (free entry), where you can ogle regal peacocks; a stunning grotto-esque drip wall that wraps an owl’s den; and a beautifully manicured garden, complete with a koi pond. Next is your chance to walk over to the Lennon Peace Wall and the Kafka Museum. The last hours of your day will be spent in picturesque Karlín. It sits across from yesterday afternoon’s destinations, Letná and Holešovice, though it’s got far fewer cultural institutions. You’re here to get a feel for Prague’s recent history—a neighborhood devastated by the floods of 2002 and since reborn. In some ways, that flood is responsible for its renovations, as Karlín was previously seen as too industrial by visitors. Today, it’s bustling with locals and still showcases magnificent Art Nouveau and Baroque structures, in addition to foodie favorites like Manifesto Market, as well as cafes galore, like EMA Espresso Bar. Meander the former factory grounds of Forum Karlín, photo-ready Lyčkovo Square, and Invalidovna, which houses Czechia’s Ministry of Defense. Walk up to Vítkov Hill to see the Jan Žižka military monument. Stay in the area for dinner, and pick between the down-to-earth and delightfully Czech Lokál or the equally Czech, but slightly more posh Eska.

Day 3: Malá Strana and Vyšehrad

Today is not just a contrast of old and new, but also one of exertion and indulgence.

Start the day with a hike through Malá Strana, which you may hear referred to as “Lesser Town.” (This is extrapolated from its literal translation of “Little Side Town,” since it sits beside the castle hill and across the river from the city center.) You can hike up to the Strahov Monastery (complete with its own well-regarded brewery onsite); or, you can begin atop the hill and meander down the Petrin hillside, below the Petrin Tower (again, that’s the Eiffel-esque one). You can climb the tower’s 299 stairs if you want an uninterrupted panorama from the top.

Here’s where yesterday’s trek across the Charles Bridge slightly overlaps with today’s agenda: Either day, spend some time at the base of the hill (near the river) browsing the shops along Mostecká Street. This is your second chance to see Wallenstein Gardens. Then, head south along the riverbank to the Legion Bridge. Cross here, then meander slightly south to Slovanic Island, which has a walkable inlet. Marvel at the Neo-Renaissance Žofín Palace, then block off an hour to rent a paddle boat. Hit the river and relax with a new perspective of the city.

David Černý's "Head of Franz Kafka" outside the Quadrio center in Prague
David Černý’s “Head of Franz Kafka” outside the Quadrio center in Prague Paul Carter Photography / Shutterstock

After, walk south along the east bank, past the famous Dancing House (nicknamed Fred and Ginger, after Astaire and Roger), a 1996 completion by architects Vlado Milunić and Frank Gehry. Continue south to Vyšehrad, for lunch. Get the dumplings at häppies. Meander through the Vyšhehrad Cemetery, where numerous significant Czech artists are buried. Watch out for the magnificent Slavín tomb.

Among Prague’s many architectural faces, Cubism stands out as one of the most prominent. You’ll see numerous examples of it outside the center, but Vyšehrad has it in droves. So look up! Make your way into Vyšehrad Gardens for city views, statues aplenty, and of all things, a fortress vineyard on the grounds of Vyšehrad Castle. Retire to the city center, making stops to see Wenceslas Square and the King Wenceslas monument; the shimmery, rotating Kafka head; or slip into Lucerna for a glance at the upsidedown equestrian statue outside Lucerna Music Bar. Head to dinner at The Alcron Hotel, at either La Rotonde (hearty fine dining) or The Alcron (for a special occasion, reservations necessary).

In Karlovy Vary, the embankment of the Tepla river in autumn
In Karlovy Vary, the embankment of the Tepla river in autumn Irina Papoyan / Shutterstock

Day 4: Vinohrady Half Day, or an Out-of-Town Day Trip

If you’ve only got part of the day to spare, then spend it in Vinohrady, a popular residential neighborhood just outside the center. Náměstí Míru is the square at the heart of it all, and home to the Church of St. Ludmila. Take detours to Na Švihance Street, Mánesova Street, and Římská Street to get your parting shots of Prague’s architecturally diverse façades. Hike up to the Valley of a Thousand Queens (yes, actually) for a hilltop view of the entire city. It’s optimal at sunset, but you can treat this as a metaphorical sunset on your visit. Grab beers or wine, which you can tote with you and drink in public—try Vinotéka Noelka for wine to-go—and toast to a job well done. If you’ve got time for lunch, have it at U Bulínů for a final taste of Czech cuisine.

Have a full day to spare? Consider a day trip. There’s Karlovy Vary with its mineral-rich hot springs, the quaint and churchy Kutná Hora, or the public baths at Mariánské Lázně (aka Marionbad).

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