Best of Honolulu 2004 - Entertainment

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Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Tapa Bar serves up the best Mai Tais.

Photo: guy a. sibilla

Best Mai Tai

If you are stalwart enough to weave through the crowd of convention-goers at the Tapa Bar—or if you’re really lucky and come on a quiet night—the Hilton Hawaiian Village serves a real Mai Tai ($6.25). This classic tropical drink is often abused: too sweet, too chemical, too sticky, too touristy. The Hilton Hawaiian Village gets it right, serving a brown and yellow Mai Tai—not pink, please. Pink Mai Tais are what you get in Rochester, New York, when you’re 17 in some bar called Pagoda. The Tapa Bar serves a grown-up drink, more about the rum than the juice. It comes with a wedge of pineapple, and sometimes even an orchid, but not in a novelty glass. Pull up a chair, nibble on the bar-snack bowl of crunchy, salty, spicy nibbles. And maybe, just maybe, surrounded by giddy vacationers, you’ll remember how lucky you are to live here. Hilton Hawaiian Village, 2005 Kalia Road. 949-4321.

Best Art Gallery

There’s more to the Honolulu art scene than whale murals and hula girl photos. We asked local museum curators, including James Jensen of The Contemporary Museum, and University of Hawaii art professors, for their favorite local galleries. The two most common responses are both located in Kaimuki, earning reputations for featuring local artists who take risks with their work.

Bibelot Gallery (1130 Koko Head Ave., Suite 2., 738-0368) opened in 1997 above the Kaimuki post office. Founded by Paul Sakai and Tom Tierney, the gallery does about 10 shows annually, featuring paintings, glassworks, jewelry, textiles, wood and Japanese antiques. "It’s kind of remarkable that we’ve been around seven years, here on the second floor, with no elevator," says Tierney. "We enjoy a good following." This month, bibelot features paintings and drawings by UH instructor Kaning Fong and a following show by woodworker Ed Potter.

Just down the street, you’ll find the artist-run gallery Workspace (3624 Waialae Ave., Suite 201. 732-2300,, owned by Ryan Higa and Cade and Waileia Roster. "We don’t sell your run-of-the-mill commercial art, so you won’t really see Island landscapes or dolphins," says Cade Roster. "I guess you could call it alternative art, where we encourage our local artists to explore their own ideas." This month at workspace: "Monkey Business," a show honoring the Year of the Monkey, runs through March 20. From March 25 to April 11, look for the "Chaos Theory" exhibit. Each participating artist will create a new piece for each day of the showing.

Best Sunset

Best not tell your rental car company that you plan to take in the sunset at Polihale State Park on Kauai. Once you drive Kaumualii Highway to the end of the road to Mana, it’s a rough and rugged five-mile drive on dirt, cane-haul roads. But the colorful sunset at Polihale is worth it. The sandy shoreline stretches 2.25 miles, providing ample western exposure for incomparable sunset-viewing. While you’re waiting for the lights to go down, take in the beach’s other great views: Niihau, sand dunes and the high sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast.

Best Movie Theater

There are plenty of ways to rate movie theaters— by the number of screens, the type of films shown, the quality of the sound and seating, even the kind of food that’s available. So when Signature Theatres Dole Cannery prevailed in every category, we knew it had to be the best. The theater has 18 screens, more than any other local venue, and stadium seating— comfy, high-back chairs with retractable armrests.

Dole Cannery is also the only theater in Hawaii that is THX-certified. Created by Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas, THX is considered the ultimate movie-viewing experience. "People think that THX is just about the sound, but it really has to do with the construction of the theater itself," explains Signature’s Hawaii area manager Ian Anselmo. "THX is involved in designing the of auditoriums—how thick the walls are, the quality of the equipment we use, the screen presentation. They have to do tests to make sure the movie experience is the same from every seat, and we have to get certified every year. We also have Dolby Digital Sound in all auditoriums, so it can’t get any better than this."

Oh, but it does. At the theater’s Critics’ Corner cafe, you can also buy espresso and ice cream from La Gelateria Italian Frozen Desserts.

What else makes Signature Dole Cannery the best? It’s one of the key venues for the Hawaii International Film Festival. There’s lots of parking. And tickets ($8 for adults, $5.50 for seniors and children, $6 for matinees) can be purchased over the phone or at the theater’s Quick Tix machines. 753B Iwilei Road, 526-3456.

Best Kiddie Party

You’ve already thrown more than your share of Magic Island BBQs, rented inflatable castles, painted pottery, stumbled your way across an ice-skating rink and bared it all at the water park—all to make your kids’ birthdays the most memorable ever. What next?

Consolidated Theatres Movie Parties

It’s air-conditioned, it’s affordable and it’s likely to be over in two hours. Consolidated Theatres is a solid choice of venue for budding movie buffs. The theaters’ "Star Package" costs $12.50 per child and includes matinee admission tickets, first choice of seating and a "kid’s tray"—small popcorn, small candy and kid’s drink—for each child. The birthday boy or girl receives a free T-shirt. After the audience sings "Happy Birthday" to your child, he’ll get to signal the projection room to roll the movie. The "Premiere Party" package, at $15.50 per child, also includes a hot dog, a tour of the projection room and a film clip for each kid. Should you want to extend the party, the Mililani theater is the only location with a separate room for rent: $75 flat rate. Call two weeks in advance for reservations. Consolidated Theatres Miliani 14-plex, 627-1577.

American Box Car Racing International

This one is so fun, you might just want to throw your own birthday bash there. "Box car racing is for kids ages 1 to 100," says B.C. Cowling, executive director at ABCRI. "One of our chief activities is to bring families together, so we actually instruct parents to teach their kids to drive, steer and use the handbrake." Box cars are motorless vehicles that run entirely on gravity. Drivers take off from a starting ramp and make their way around the 400-foot long track. Parents can accompany younger children or, if they prefer, jump in a car of their own. The cost of a three-hour private party: $225 for up to 45 people. Call three weeks ahead for reservations. Behind Pearl City Sam’s Club, Acacia Road. 947-3393,

Mad Science Hawaii

Whether the party’s at Kailua Beach, Dave & Busters or Ronnie’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant, Mad Science Hawaii will come to you. For the past 15 years, the nonprofit has both entertained and educated children around the globe—melting Styrofoam, levitating objects, creating oogey gooey slime and so on. Last year, a franchise opened in Hawaii. "People think that these kids will eat our mad scientists alive, but they’re astonished that these preschool-age children are thoroughly engaged," says John "Electron" Epstein, a mad scientist himself. "It’s not necessarily about educating as it is about exciting the children about the learning process. It looks like magic, but we’re able to explain the science behind what we’re doing." Mad Science parties start at about $239. 680-0011, www.madscienceorg/hawaii

Best Place to Make Out

We couldn’t get anyone to ’fess up to "parking," so we consulted the experts on Honolulu’s hormonal hotbeds—the police department. After all, who would know better the preferences of the city’s automotive Don Juans than the ones knocking on fogged-up car windows with a flashlight? According to Police Maj. Michael Tucker, there are two perennial favorites: Manoa Lookout and Waterfront Park. He says frequent patrols don’t seem to deter anyone. "They just kiss and move on to the next spot."

Of course, some would argue that heavy fuzz coverage actually makes these the worst make-out spots. To those people, Tucker has another recommendation: "Go home. Get a room, you know?"

Best of Honolulu 2004