Extracurricular activities for the fall fests

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Sure, film festivals are about discovering quality films and toasting the people who make them. But man cannot live on celluloid alone, and we all know the experience is just as much about the hobnobbing between screenings as the films themselves. So when you stumble out of yet another darkened theater, let the handy guide below steer you to the city's choicest destinations to eat, socialize and stay.

New York

New York City has some of the best restaurants on Earth and there are plenty of solid dining options popular with the NYFF crowd. For dependable Mexican food just steps away from Lincoln Center, try Rosa Mexicano. It's large, divertingly decorated and famous for its pomegranate margaritas. Much more intimate is Nick & Toni's Cafe, a spinoff of the East Hampton classic and a favorite for its well-selected wine list and wood burning oven. If the weather's nice, snag a table outdoors.

After a long day of screenings and socializing, there's no better place to retire than the Mandarin Oriental. Spoil yourself with a room at this five-star, five-diamond urban oasis at the top of the Time Warner Center, or at least stop by to enjoy the incredible views and engage in some wheeling and dealing in the 35th-floor Lobby Lounge.

Offering equally amazing views and a stellar bar scene is the Empire Hotel. Its rooftop bar is known for its potent potables and frequent celebrity visitors -- hotel guests get to skip the sometimes-long line to get inside. Those staying at the hotel also get the famed pool deck on the 13th floor all to themselves, but even if you're not staying here, the lobby bar's candlelit hideaway is still a great place to grab a drink. New York Film Festival, Sept. 25-Oct. 11

Telluride

When the Telluride Film Festival is in town, every local hotel, restaurant and watering hole becomes an industry hangout. Still, perennial favorites like the New Sheridan Hotel -- a mere hop, skip and a jump away from the Sheridan Opera House, the heart of TFF -- act as central hubs for most of the festival's action. If you can't score a reservation at the historic hotel, make sure to visit its well-known restaurant, the Chop House, and the New Sheridan Bar anyway; they're two of the best places for socializing during the fest. Plenty of TFF guests stay in nearby Mountain Village, where there are a host of new, high-end hotels from which to choose. Two good options are Lumiere, with its complimentary breakfast in bed, and Capella Telluride, which offers every guest the services of a personal assistant.

Those staying in Mountain Village will also find that waiting for and riding on the free gondola connecting Mountain Village to Telluride is a great chance to mingle with other festival attendees. There's a particularly scenic dinner spot, Allred's, located halfway up the gondola route at St. Sophia station. If you're in the mood for something a little cozier, try 221 South Oak, a charming bit of California wine country in downtown Telluride; its cottage setting and seasonal cuisine make it a TFF standby. And for an unpretentious nightcap, visit Last Dollar Saloon (known as "Da Buck") and mingle with the locals. Telluride Film Festival, Sept. 4-7

Toronto

The city of Toronto goes to great lengths to entertain its festival guests. In fact, Toronto grants special permission to some of the city's most popular bars and restaurants to operate with extended hours during the fest, which means attendees can grab a bite or a cocktail until 4 a.m.

One industry fave is Lobby Lounge and Restaurant, which has hosted plenty of TIFF-related soirees in recent years. One of the city's trendiest spots, Lobby comprises five separate spaces designed to resemble the lobby of a boutique hotel. If you're in the mood for a sit-down dining experience, try the Rosewater Supper Club. The neo-classical Rosewater features a three-story waterfall over its entryway, a slew of private dining rooms, and a retro nightclub complete with live entertainment.

For something a little funkier, consider staying and playing at the Drake Hotel. Upscale in the late 1940s and a notorious flophouse in later years, the reinvented Drake now draws scads of artists and hipsters with its old school lounge and trendy decor. Guests of the hotel get special access to its bars and restaurants -- which is a big plus due to the Drake's immense popularity during festival time.

Of course, the grande dame of TIFF hotels is the Four Seasons -- headquarters of press junkets, parties and paparazzi. Splurge at the hotel's notable restaurant, Truffles -- the only five-diamond award-winning restaurant in Canada. Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 10-19

Venice

Like Telluride, Venice's Lido is wall-to-wall industry insiders during film festival time. Thus, it's hard to go wrong when it comes to choosing a hotel or restaurant; wherever you end up, you're bound to be rubbing shoulders with other attendees. That said, a stay at the renowned Hotel Excelsior Venice is always a safe choice. It boasts incredible Adriatic views and a cabana-lined private beach -- plus, it has been a part of the Venice Film Festival since the fest's inception, and it usually hosts the festival's opening gala.

On the other side of the style spectrum is the popular Hotel Quattro Fontane. Neither palatial nor particularly Italian-looking, this historic gem resembles a chalet or charming country house. During the festival, its lovely courtyard is a frequent site of business dinners, meetings and festival parties.

The Lido's culinary specialty is seafood and La Favorita is the perfect place to sample the Venetian offerings. Other favorite dining options include the Excelsior's Tropicana (reserve a table on the terrace to enjoy the sea views and candlelight) and Liberty Restaurant in Hotel des Bains. The Excelsior's Blue Bar is also a popular watering hole, but those with professional credentials can take advantage of the open bars at the Industry at the Palazzo del Casino or the Industry Club at the Excelsior. Venice International Film Festival, Sept. 2-12.
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