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What Melbourne Has to Offer (Besides Tennis) During the Australian Open

January 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM | by | Comments (0)

The whole of Australia is consumed with the Summer tennis circuit currently touring around the country, and the pinnacle of the tennis season down under is marked by the Australian Open played in Melbourne. As the only grand slam tennis tournament held in the Southern Hemisphere, the city is showcased not only as a sport capital, but the cultural capital of Australia.

Melbourne is located on the southeastern Aussie coast and it boasts a vibrant cafe society and an avant garde fashion scene. Originally established during the Australian gold rush, Melbourne's rich history and causes it to be called the "Paris of Down Under." If your plans bring you to the city for tennis, plan to soak up more experiences than just seeing top seeded Novak Djokovic or Caroline Wozniacki.

Being so walkable, Melbourne is perhaps best explored by just wandering around. The Rod Laver Arena (the tennis venue) is a short walk from the city and worth the calorie burn. Once in the central district, it's down to Collins Street for international and local brand shopping.

After dropping some cash, lunch should be had in any one of the lane-ways that Melbourne offers. The alleys are no longer just for trash, since throngs of cafes and small boutiques have set up shop. Most of them either start or end at larger tourist areas and might be overlooked by tourists dead set on sticking to the main streets. More space for you!

Hungry? Here are some standout Melbourne restaurants we recommend:

· Hare & Grace:
With a menu that's not shy of meat and midwestern-type dishes, Hare & Grace is relatively new to the scene. Housed in a vintage butter factory, the design has maintained a rustic feel with modern touches. A must-try is any steak with your choice of flavor with a mustard service, and side of potato wedges with house-made tomato relish. They also offer late-night small plates in the adjoining bar.

· New Wind:
This little gem in the suburb of Prahran doesn't look too flashy from the outside, but serves the best Thai dishes in the area. This might be the one and only chance to sample kangaroo curry or a crocodile lemongrass stirfry. Yes, kangaroo and crocodile. Australia is the only country to eat the animals on their coat of arms, but sadly, emu is not on the menu here.

· Flower Drum:
With a 3-month wait list, this 5-star Chinese restaurant is worth the forethought. Located down an unassuming lane way, behind an unmarked door, Flower Drum is a special secret. It repeatedly takes top restaurant honors and the Peking Duck is properly presented as if you were in China. In our experience, everything we ordered was a complete win.

· Lygon Street:
On the north side of the city, is Lygon Street. A pocket of Italian restaurants and gelaterias flank the sides of the lively area. Casual, rustic Italian menus cooked up by grandmotherly types waving from near stoves made us feel as if we walked into a family kitchen.

How to get Around: Melbourne's iconic trams are the way to go. Similar to San Fransisco's cable-cars, this city had made this public transport a mainstay of the culture. There is something totally alluring about enjoying a coffee and being interrupted by the rumble of a tram passing ringing its bell.

How to Get There: Qantas flies from Los Angeles non-stop to Melbourne with some help from the big birds, A380s. Virgin Australia also has a non-stop from LA using some Boeing metal with a 777. United does offer flights to Melbourne with a stop in Sydney on the way from the United States.

Outside of the City: If you are less into big city touring there is plenty of things to do outside the city. Only 2 hours north of the city are a handful of wine regions such as the Yarra and Goulburn Valleys. A weekend getaway to the south gets you to the Great Ocean Road and the famous 12 Apostles rock formations.

[Photo: Chuck Johnson / Flickr ]

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