Here's proof that the year wasn’t entirely a bad dream. —By Samantha Leffler
The last year was dominated by a crazy-nasty presidential election, the global crisis in Syria and unsettling acts of global terror, but there were also things to celebrate in the past 365 days. This year was an especially strong one for new TV and music — Beyoncé can do no wrong — and saw the openings of myriad award-winning restaurants and luxury hotels, and that’s just the tip of the gilded iceberg. Read on for our complete picks for the best of the year in culture, and get inspired by brilliant albums, movies, tech and more.
Blonde by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean’s second studio album made its long-awaited debut in August 20, one day after his visual album, Endless. More abstract and experimental than Ocean’s previous releases, Blonde debuted at No. 1 in several countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. It features guest vocals from André 3000, Beyoncé, Yung Lean, and Kim Burrell, among others. Download it here.
Speaking of Beyoncé, we've gotta give Bey an honorable mention for Lemonade. The visual album is in an artistic league of its own — and it gave us the meme “Becky with the Good Hair.” Bravo, Bey.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A year after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One was bestowed upon us. The film, which stars Felicity Jones, details how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans to destroy the Death Star. Chronologically, it’s set after the events of Revenge of the Sith and immediately before the events of A New Hope. Since opening on December 16, it's grossed more than $357 million worldwide. Get tickets here.
This moving play about a fractured family that gathers for Thanksgiving dinner in New York City drew praise from critics — Charles Isherwood of The New York Times called it the "finest new play of the Broadway season so far” — and swept the non-musical Tonys. Writer Stephen Karam took home the award for Best Play, and Reed Birney and Jayne Houdyshell won featured-performer Tonys. Get tickets for the final weeks of the show’s run here.
When Breath Becomes Air By Paul Kalanithi
This poignant autobiography details 36-year-old neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi’s valiant battle with stage IV lung cancer. Kalanithi writes searingly about his illness and offers expert advice on what makes a life worth living. Posthumously published by Random House in January, the book has spent more than 43 weeks on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. To order it, click here.
5Best Restaurant Opening
Nearly a year after it opened, Lilia in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is still one of the hottest restaurants around. Chef Missy Robbins (a favorite of President Obama) and her staff churn out decadent pasta dishes that have gone viral. Foodies' Instagram feeds saw mouthwatering snapshots of the spicy rigatoni diavolo, the luxurious sheep's milk cheese-filled agnolotti made with saffron and honey, and the wavy mafaldini topped with pink peppercorns. To (try and) nab a reservation, click here.
6Best New Hotel
Mandarin Oriental in Marrakech, Morocco
Mandarin Oriental hotels are synonymous with luxury, and the brand’s newest offering in Morocco is no exception. Set amid 50 acres of olive trees, roses and palms, the 54 villas on the property have riad-inspired courtyards with all-white furniture and heated plunge pools. Inside, you’ll find Berber rugs, silver tea sets and steam showers. The nine suites are truly spacious (the smallest clocks in at 1,450 square feet), and they all have breathtaking views of Atlas Mountain. Elsewhere on the property, there’s an organic garden that supplies 94 (yup, 94) varieties of tomatoes and assorted vegetables to three world-class restaurants. To book your stay, click here.
2016 Tesla Model S
Tesla has been a staple of the high-end car market for years, but the 2016 Model S takes luxury to a new level. The car, which starts at $68,000, is designed from the ground up to be the safest, most exhilarating sedan on the road. With super-powered performance delivered through Tesla's unique, all-electric powertrain, Model S accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 2.5 seconds. It also comes with autopilot capabilities designed to make your highway driving safer and less stressful. Learn more about the Model S here.
Soho House Barcelona
Though Soho House Barcelona technically functions as a members-only hotel, it offers much more than just a place to rest your head. The exclusive brand’s first property in Spain opened in October and has become a go-to haunt for luxury travelers. The 57-room property occupies a restored 18th-century building on the Plaça del Duc de Medinaceli in Barca’s Gothic Quarter, and it boasts two restaurants, a rooftop pool, a 30-room movie theater, a game room, a fitness center complete with an indoor pool, and one of the brand's signature Cowshed spas, with amenities provided by the British beauty line. To learn more about Soho House Barcelona, click here.
9Best Tech Gadget
Bang & Olufsen BeoVision Avant 85-Inch 4K TV
You’ll never have to venture to the movies again with this 4K TV that delivers exceptional sound quality—the 3-channel speaker system has three tweeters and two bass drivers—and pivots for your optimal viewing pleasure. BeoVision Avant also constantly adjusts the white balance to deliver incredible visual impact, with colour-saturated, vivid imagery. Get more info here.
Tiffany & Co. CT60® Annual Calendar 40 MM
Tiffany & Co.’s CT60® Annual Calendar watch in 18k white gold features a gray soleil dial with silver poudre numerals. The intricate Swiss-made timepiece rests on a gray hand-stitched alligator strap and boasts a self-winding mechanical movement. And there’s no need to worry about twinning with someone else when you’re wearing this puppy, because Tiffany & Co. only made 60 of these limited-edition watches. Learn more about the entire CT60 collection here.
11Best Pair of Kicks
Air Jordan x OVO 10 Black
In addition to releasing hits like “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance,” Drake has become quite the sneaker connoisseur. The rapper is no stranger to the world of must-have kicks (he first partnered with Jordan Brand in 2013, shortly after Kanye cut ties with Nike), and his collaborations always sell out fast. In 2016, it was all about the Drizzy-designed Air Jordan x OVO 10s. The sneaker features black leather, black faux-stingray details and an outsole with flecks of gold. They've been sold out for months, but you can get your hands on a pair if you know where to look and don’t mind dropping a chunk of change.
12Best Vacation Destination
Described by locals as “where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires” Canouan is a tiny island within St. Vincent and the Grenadines that offers more five-star amenities than you can imagine. Naturally: 12 of the tiny island’s residents are among the wealthiest in the world. The Canouan Estate, its sibling, the Tamarind Beach Hotel & Yacht Club, and affiliate The Pink Sands Club are the places to stay, offering amenities such as $20,000-a-night villas with private chefs and a unique spa featuring two overwater palapas. Those are only accessible by boat and offer amazing underwater views with their special glass-bottom floors. And if ultimate seclusion is what you’re after, charter yacht service is available for day trips to the uninhabited Tobago Cays. To learn more about Canouan and its luxurious accommodations, click here.
Old Pulteney Vintage 1989 Single Malt Scotch Whisky
This single malt was crowned the world’s best in 2016 by the World Whiskies Awards. The 26-year-old spirit was produced by Old Pulteney in the United Kingdom and features a honey, musky floral tone and sweetness that balances well with a chalky oak finish, while nutty oak, butter and lemon drop on the palate. Buy a bottle (or two) here.
14Best Food Craze
Pronounced “poh-kay,” this Hawaiian staple has taken the mainland by storm in recent months. Fresh, healthy and fast, it's a blend of raw fish, veggies, fruits, and spices served in a bowl, or sometimes a wrap. Think of it as a mega-sushi smorgasbord, usually made without rice and the carbs that come with it. Poke eateries are popping up in southern California, New York City, and everywhere in between.
15Best Gaming System
Sony PlayStation 4
The PlayStation 4 is lighter and slimmer than its predecessors, but still comes equipped with a 500GB hard drive. No longer just a gaming system, this entertainment console connects to the internet and allows access to Netflix, Spotify and more. PlayStation Vue is the brand’s own TV service that streams live TV, movies, and sports on a variety of your favorite devices without a cable or satellite subscription. If gaming is more your thing, there are several games exclusive to the PS4, including, inFAMOUS: Second Son, Until Dawn, and The Last Guardian. To purchase a PlayStation 4, click here.