If you're an adventurous early bird, depart before dawn for a sunrise balloon ride and glowing aerial perspective of Canberra, Australia's capital city. Designed by Chicago landscape architect Walter Burley Griffin and created in 1913 on scratch terrain, Canberra's center hub is Capital Hill, from which streets radiate like spokes on a wheel, some crossing the lake that bears the architect's name. As the circular traffic pattern is awkward for visitors to navigate and the iconic sites are scattered, it's wise to maximize time with taxis, rent a bike or hop on the Canberra Explorer tourist bus that stops at points on a 15-mile circuit with narration along the route.
After breakfast, head to Capital Hill for a guided tour, stopping on the roof terrace for panoramic views of the city and hills beyond. From here, walk over to the National Gallery of Australia for a glance at the permanent collection of Australian and international art. Look for Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles, Monet's Water Lilies and the provocative Aboriginal Dreamtime paintings. Step out to the sculpture garden for a coffee break before checking the shop for souvenirs, a selection of Australia's most beautiful craftsmanship including wood bowls, glassware and wool clothing accessories.
A quick taxi ride up Anzac Parade leads to the Australian War Memorial. Arguably one of the world's best war museums, its artifacts and dioramas provide an unforgettably moving tribute to the courageous spirits who fought during international conflicts since World War I.
Then head to The Deck at Regatta Point for lunch overlooking Lake Burley Griffin and Commonwealth Park. Plan your next move considering the weather. To stay near the lake for outdoor fun, start at the Acton Ferry Terminal: Embark on a boat tour; rent a bike to cycle the scenic lakeside paths; or challenge the waters in a canoe, kayak or sailboat. Alternatively, take a guided tour of the Australian Institute of Sport, the mammoth precinct where athletes train for sports from cricket to gymnastics, hockey and water polo. Or visit the striking newNational Portrait Gallery. The light-filled architectural masterpiece of stone and wood is filled with painted and sculptural images of the characters that reflect Australia's history and culture.
After freshening up, mingle among Canberra's local and international cognoscenti for an Asian fusion feast at The Chairman and Yip, and raise a toast to an awesome day in one of the world's great capital cities.