FALL IN THE CATSKILLS

I’ve shared this many times before but fall is absolutely my favorite season, and autumn foliage doesn’t get much better than in the Northeast of the US. The Catskills, just two hours from NYC, are a perfect getaway to enjoy this time of year. Think crackling fires, warm apple cider, hikes through the woods and cozy sweaters…

GETTING THERE

From out of state, fly into Newark (to avoid the city), and pick up a rental car to take you North. If you live in NYC, your best bet is still to rent a car and drive up – you’ll want the flexibility to drive around the area, and as its quite remote here, Uber isn’t really an option.

WHERE TO STAY

The Catskills are a broad area and there are many different towns you can visit. On my recent stay we peeked in at the newly opened (Summer 2019!) Farmhouse Catskills, part of the Design Hotels collection. One of the larger hotel options in the area, the property has a pool, fire pits and several different rooming options (including glamp sites for the summertime), along with an onsite restaurant and cafe.

For a more rustic option, check out the properties owned by Foster Supply Hospitality. Their collection includes The North Branch Inn, The DeBruce, Nine River Road and The Arnold House. Each property is small and similar in design, yet they all offer their own unique features: The North Branch Inn has a historic two-lane bowling alley just off the restaurant, while The Arnold House is well known for its spa and tavern; The DeBruce is renowned for its multi-course gourmet dinners on Saturday evenings, while Nine River Road has bikes available for guests to borrow free of charge. Perhaps most importantly, all of these properties offer fresh baked chocolate chip cookies daily!

WHAT TO DO

Take a hike in the woods, bike on country lanes, or simply go for a drive, stopping in quaint towns for local goods, fresh cider, and antiques. If you have kids in tow, visit a local farm or pick-up some treats at the farmer’s market. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, take a fly fishing lesson – a popular past time in the area. On a rainy day, opt for a self-guided brewery tour, sampling some of the local craft beers, or simply curl up with a book by the fire. The Catskills are a perfect place to relax and reconnect with nature.

HOTEL REVIEW: WALDORF ASTORIA LOS CABOS PEDREGAL

This 5-star Virtuoso property is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year (2019), yet the hotel just debuted a new name with a recent acquisition by Waldorf Astoria. Formerly known as The Resort at Pedregal, the property officially became Waldorf Astoria’s first hotel in Mexico when the name change went into effect last week. However, the new management assures that guests will see few other changes to this beloved resort. With impeccable service, incredible amenities and a breathtaking setting, we can see why.

LOCATION

Cabo, on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, is centered around the tourist town of Cabo San Lucas, yet the resort area of Cabo extends far beyond this hub. The Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal is the only 5-star resort located directly in the center of Cabo San Lucas, however, once you drive through the hotel’s man-made tunnel to the other side of the mountain, you’ll feel a world away.

GETTING THERE

Regular flights operate from Los Cabos International Airport (SJD). From there, its about a 45 minute drive down to Pedregal. The hotel can arrange transfers or you can rent a car and make the easy drive on your own.

THE ROOMS

The entry-level room at this hotel has an ocean view, a terrace with a private plunge pool, a gas fireplace, a large soaking tub and separate shower, just to name a few of the amenities… You really cannot go wrong at this resort, which caters to couples and families alike, with the flexibility to reserve 2-3 bedroom suites or casitas. I also loved the design of the rooms which felt very authentically Mexican with warm toned decor, dark wood furniture, and brightly colored pillows.

AMENITIES

Oh my goodness are there amenities here! From the small – a welcome margarita upon arrival and daily guacamole and coronitas (!) – to the large – remember that private plunge pool we mentioned? how about a personal concierge and a complimentary bottle of tequila in every room? (!)

Beyond these small touches and surprises which guests will find at every turn, the resort also boasts 4 separate pools, a swim-up bar, two tennis courts, several dining venues and an award-winning spa centered around the phases of the moon.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

As with many resorts in Cabo, the beach at this hotel is not “swimmable.” However, I really didn’t miss it. In fact, I loved floating in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean waves crashing on the sand below – it was awe-inspiring and beautiful to see the power of the Pacific up close.

For those looking to dip in the ocean, there are several swimmable beaches just a few minutes away. Pedregal has a partnership with SUR Beach House so you can ask your personal concierge to book you some beachfront lounge chairs for a couple of hours (complimentary with purchase of food & drinks).

DINING

Breakfast lovers will delight in the large buffet offered at main dining restaurant, Don Manuel’s. From a make-your own smoothie bar, to an omelet & egg station (also serving daily specials of Mexican favorites like Chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros), to a wall of bread, bowls upon bowls of fresh tropical fruit, and an entire honeycomb dripping honey into the dish below, you certainly will start your morning off right. Plus I love that the buffet area is housed in what feels like a traditional Mexican tiled kitchen.

At lunchtime, you can return to Don Manuel’s, or opt for sushi & ceviche at Crudo by the adult pool or tacos & salads at The Beach Club by the family pool. Of course you can enjoy items from the latter two establishments from the comfort of your lounge chair as well.

At 4 pm, you’ll be surprised by a knock on your door to find a Mexican staple – guacamole and salsa, fresh corn tortilla chips and a bucket of Coronitas (quite possibly my favorite hotel amenity ever!). For dinner, you have two options on site. El Farallon, touted as the best restaurant in Cabo is a must for one night and certainly for special occasions. Set completely outdoors, nestled among the rocky cliffs with the ocean waves crashing just below, guests stop first at the champagne terrace where they enjoy a glass of fabulous bubbly. From the terrace, you’ll be asked to select your main dish from a selection of catches of the day, as well as two sides, before being seated overlooking the ocean. The chef then offers up a 4-course prix-fixe menu based on your selection. I really loved the uniqueness of this dining experience!

For a more casual option, return to Don Manuel’s and you won’t be disappointed – the restaurant takes on an entire new personality in the evening – you’ll hardly feel you are in the same place and the food is phenomenal. Both restaurants also offer nightly live music which further adds to the atmosphere.

BOOK YOUR STAY

Now is the perfect time to book your next trip to Cabo with a stay at this incredible resort. ATLAS + VALISE clients receive the following exclusive amenities:

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Breakfast buffet daily in Don Manuel’s, two per bedroom
  • $150 USD equivalent Hotel/Resort credit to be utilized during stay
  • Complimentary VIP airport Lounge Tickets with all Beach Front Suite Bookings
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

Contact us to start planning today!

KEEP PORTLAND WEIRD.

Portland, Oregon’s largest city, is well known for its coffee culture, microbreweries and quite possibly as the birthplace for this latest donut craze. A group of friends and I recently spent a long weekend exploring this rainy city on the Willamette River.

WHERE TO EAT:

Portland is known for its food so if you’re coming here, you better be prepared to eat! There are so many good spots in this city so I’m certainly not covering them all here but I’m including everywhere we went and loved:

  • Tasty n Alder – Share plates – big and small – perfect for a group that likes to try different things.
  • Le Pigeon – One of the hottest spots in town, we happened to snag a table for 8 at the last minute which is unheard of. The Beef Cheek Bourguignon is a staple on their menu.
  • VooDoo Doughnut – Large and over the top, these donuts are delicious and fun. There are several locations around Portland and they are open late – perfect for a post-dinner dessert stop!
  • Blue Star Donuts – A more refined donut experience than the wild and crazy Voodoo, Blue Star donuts are equally delicious and a local favorite.
  • 1927 S’mores Company – Portland is such an outdoorsy town, this s’mores outpost is a perfect complement. Tons of flavors, gourmet marshmallows and homemade graham crackers make this a very tasty treat.
  • Salt & Straw – Portland’s favorite scoop shop. Several locations but be prepared for a potential line!
  • Wiz Bang Bar – Located in the Pine Street Market food hall, this latest venture from Salt & Straw is all about old-time childhood favorites (soft-serve with hard shells, sundaes and concretes) with a modern twist on the flavors.
  • Marukin Ramen – Rainy days in Portland are perfect for ramen and Marukin Ramen (in the Pine Street Market) has two locations – Portland and Tokyo – so you know it’s legit.
  • Irving Street Kitchen – In the Pearl district, you’ll find a plethora of restaurants and bars in old warehouse buildings. Irving Street Kitchen is great for a group as you can share. Go for the fried chicken and you won’t be disappointed.
  • Fried Egg I’m in Love – Gourmet egg sandwiches are the perfect way to start your day in Portland. They have a restaurant location as well as a food truck located downtown.

WHAT TO DO:

There is also a lot to do in Portland and we only had a few days so we didn’t quite fit it all in, but here is everything we enjoyed. Needless to say, we will be coming back!

  • Wine Tasting in the Willamette Valley – When I was planning this trip, everyone told me to head out to the Willamette Valley for wine tasting. Located about an hour from the city, the area is renowned for its pinot noirs and beautiful scenery.
    • Dundee Bistro – A perfect lunch spot between tastings. We loved sharing all different pizzas.
    • Durant Family Vineyards – Gorgeous views from the lawn. Guests can lounge in Adirondack chairs during their tasting and take in the scenery.
  • Brewery Hopping – Aside from the wine, Portland is known for its breweries, so be sure you sample a few of the local favorites.
    • Culmination Brewing – This was a brewery we tried over on the East Side of the city. They had so many different types of beer on tap and it was all delish!
  • Portland Saturday Market – Every Saturday & Sunday there is a large outdoor market where local artisans sell crafts and food.
  • Powell’s Books – You can relive the good old days at this massive independently owned bookstore.
  • Portland Japanese Garden – Located in Washington Park in the city center, this is the perfect place to go forest bathing and get your inner zen on. There are many great hikes and outdoorsy locations outside the city, but most require a car to get to so this is a great and convenient option for those staying a shorter time.
  • Serra Dispensary – When in Portland… But seriously this is the fanciest dispensary I’ve seen so if you’re going to check out that scene, then definitely stop in here. At least to see what it’s all about!
  • MadeHere – An eclectic shop with locally made items – perfect for gifts and souvenirs that are high quality and authentically Portland.

WHERE TO STAY:

  • The Nines – The only Virtuoso property in Portland, this Marriott luxury collection hotel is located in a historic building, a former department store adjacent to the main square.
  • The Hoxton Portland – Abutting the Chinatown district, you’ll find the Hoxton hotel, another great boutique option with fabulous design.
  • Heathman Hotel – Also part of the Provenance Hotel collection (same as Woodlark), I am dying to come back and try their Russian afternoon tea.
  • Ace Hotel – Perfect for a more cost effective option or for a younger crowd.
  • The Allison Inn & Spa – If you’re looking to stay a bit longer and get outside the city for a few days, this is the perfect property to enjoy the Willamette Valley and all it has to offer.

Looking for an easy fall getaway? Though Portland can typically be rainy, September and October are the *best* months to visit this city for optimal weather. Contact me today to book your trip!

HOTEL REVIEW: WOODLARK HOTEL

Portland, Oregon’s newest downtown address, Woodlark Hotel, opened in 2018 as the latest venture from the Provenance Hotel Group. Embodying two historic properties – the Cornelius Hotel, which dates to 1908 and was known to locals as “The House of Welcome,” and the Woodlark Building, which dates to 1912 and was home to Woodard, Clarke & Co., the city’s pioneer drug store and wholesale pharmacy. The hotel gives a nod to its roots with its neighborly slogan “Come as You Are” and its neon “House of Welcome” sign out front, while simultaneously bringing a fresh, modern design to the interiors.

THE ROOMS

With five different room types, there’s something for everyone – from a standard King room to a loft style suite complete with spiral staircase. While the entry level rooms are cozy, they are well laid out and make efficient use of the space. The design is sleek and clean with rich velvet fabrics and emerald tones set against crisp white linens imported from Italy. Beyond the standard amenities you’ll find some unique touches, including: accessible USB charging ports, Bluetooth speakers, a locally-inspired honor bar (including pints of ice cream from famed Portland scoop shop, Salt & Straw), and MiN bath products.

AMENITIES

Most hotels charge a daily resort (or city) fee these days but they often don’t explain what this is for or what it brings you. At Woodlark, they are clear about the benefits of the $24 daily fee: from a complimentary drip coffee from Good Coffee’s Woodlark location to a host of wellness-oriented amenities, including MIRROR fitness classes and Peloton bikes in the 24 hour fitness center, a Well + Fit kit that can be delivered to you room and bike and gear rentals. An extensive “pillow menu” also has several options to ensure you receive the optimal night’s rest.

And for those who love to travel with their furry friends, the hotel will provide a dog bed, bowl and tasty treat at check-in.

DINING

There’s no doubt that Portland is a foodie city and you won’t have to travel far from your room to find some great options that cover all the bases right at Woodlark. In the lobby, guests are greeted with fantastic coffee and homemade kolaches at Good Coffee. Bullard, where “Texas meets Oregon,” serves up “Hometown Downtown” fare such as BBQ meats and shrimp & grits. Those craving a craft cocktail before hitting the town will delight in the eclectic Abigail Hall.

WHY WE LOVE IT

I always feel that a hotel should have a sense of place and be reflective of its locale. Portland is a unique and weird city – full of good coffee, good food and unique design. Woodlark embodies this spirit while simultaneously making you feel at home. It’s the perfect boutique address for a stay in the City of Roses.

MOUNTAIN RETREAT IN ASPEN, COLORADO

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend three full days in beautiful Aspen, Colorado. Breathing the fresh air, hiking the green mountain trails and stargazing on the cool nights was the perfect reset I needed after a busy summer.

GETTING THERE

One of the great things about Aspen is that it has its very own tiny airport with direct flights daily to O’Hare, LAX and Denver, among others. The airport is small and nestled in the mountains, so it can be frequently impacted by weather, especially in the winter time. You can also drive from Denver in about 4 hours.

WHEN TO GO

Aspen isn’t just a winter playground. While, in the colder months it does offer world-class skiing at 4 different mountains: Aspen Mountain, Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass (plus other activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling), in the summer, you’ll be able to hike, bike, fish and whitewater raft. Note that the hotels and restaurants do close for a few weeks between the summer and winter seasons, but otherwise this is a year-round destination!

WHERE TO STAY

  • Hotel Jerome – Part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, this 99 room boutique hotel is located right in the center of town, just a short walk or shuttle ride to the ski lift. The newly renovated residences are perfect for families. Don’t miss J Bar – a 19th century relic once frequented by cowboys and miners alike.
  • Aspen Meadows Resort – Nestled on the grounds of the Aspen Institute about a mile outside of town, the Aspen Meadows Resort is great for larger groups and those that want to be out in the heart of the nature.
  • The Little Nell – An Aspen icon for thirty years, this Relais & Chateaux hotel is the only five-star, five-diamond property in town and the only hotel with ski-in/ski-out access. Plus every single room has a fireplace – perfect for cozy evenings!
  • W Aspen – A newcomer in Aspen, this hotel opened just last month! Located just steps from the slopes with an incredible rooftop bar and pool, this property brings all the flare and fun you expect from the W brand. I love this option for bachelorettes and friends ski weekends.

WHERE TO EAT

There are so many good spots in Aspen! As I was there for an event, we mostly had catered meals, but I always recommend checking out the Eater guide wherever you are headed. You can find the top 15 recommended restaurants for Aspen here.

Let us help you plan your next getaway to this magical mountain retreat. Whether it be a last minute fall trip, a snowy ski adventure, or an outdoorsy vacation for summer 2020, Aspen is the perfect location. Contact us here to start planning!

HOTEL REVIEW: SHINOLA HOTEL

One of the hottest hotel openings of 2019 was the Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit – yes, you read that correctly – Detroit. So when I realized I’d be in the Motor City for a wedding this summer, I knew I had to swing by and see what the buzz was all about.

You may recognize the name Shinola from the iconic (yet now defunct) Detroit-based shoe polish company. In 2011, a newcomer on the Detroit scene took over the brand name and launched their luxury design company. Today, they make high quality products from timepieces to leather goods to bicycles. Their most recent foray into the hospitality industry was made in partnership with Bedrock, a Detroit-based real estate firm.

HISTORY

Detroit was a booming industrial city at the turn of the century. With the dawn of the automotive industry, it was the heart of America. As time went on, the city succumbed to bankruptcy and violent crime and went into disrepair. Yet, in recent years, there’s been a revival of sorts, with local developers refurbishing the historic architecture and new businesses boosting the economy, signaling the second coming of Detroit. The downtown area still features many historic buildings and The Shinola Hotel, which comprises 5 buildings in total, occupies two of them, including the former Singer Building and the T.B. Rayl Co. store (Rayl’s). The hotel’s design pays homage to the history, incorporating old signage, logos and photos of the two classic buildings.

THE ROOMS

With 10 different room types, the property doesn’t lack for options. All rooms are spacious and feature mid-century modern furniture and large windows letting in plenty of natural light. Of course, you’ll find Shinola products throughout the room – from the alpaca throw on the sofa to the large bluetooth speakers on the minibar. I loved the thoughtful design touches: the USB plugs by the bed, the cute and surprising notes inside the drawers. I spent a night in the Cass King room and aside from a divine bed, I was thoroughly impressed by the amount of closet space and the size of the shower – it felt like we had our own little apartment in downtown Detroit.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

With several different dining concepts in the hotel, you hardly need to leave the premises. I tried to eat at all of them in 24 hours so here’s a quick recap:

  • San Morello – the Chef at this Italian restaurant takes inspiration from the coastal towns of Southern Italy and Sicily. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant maintains the design aesthetic of the hotel with both indoor and outdoor seating. Reservations are recommended for dinner, but I loved their take on brunch as well. The breakfast spaghetti was a hit and the Bomboloni (read: cream-filled donuts) are divine.
  • Evening Bar – This cocktail lounge has a speakeasy feel, with one entrance hidden away in the hotel and the other in an alleyway. Go here for an after dinner drink to enjoy the intimate setting and craft cocktails.
  • The Brakeman – An American beer hall with rotating craft brews. Guests purchase beer tokens when they enter and pay for drafts at the bar with their chips. I love the kitsch in this, but for those non-beer fans, they also have a full-service bar serving liquor and wine.
  • Penny Red’s – A to-go spot adjacent to The Brakeman, Penny Red’s serves up buckets of fried chicken and honey-dunked biscuits – perfectly paired with a cold brew!

Beyond the rooms and plentiful dining options, guests will find everything they need at this beautiful new, boutique hotel – from a fitness center (with Peloton bikes), to small green spaces tucked throughout, and a beautiful main area aptly named “The Living Room.” You won’t want to leave!

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO STAY

There are plenty of great hotels to enjoy for a stay in San Diego, but I have a few favorites that I think work best for certain vibes and occasions.

TAKE ME TO THE BEACH: Hotel Del Coronado. This National Historic Landmark and San Diego icon dates to the late 1800s. While this is a perfect option for history lovers, the hotel’s biggest appeal is its proximity to the beach. Somewhat surprisingly, there aren’t too many resorts in San Diego with direct beach access, and the beach at the Del is wide and picture perfect. So if you’re after playtime on the sand and gorgeous sunsets over the Pacific, this is the place to be. The hotel also offers plenty of dining options, family-friendly activities and a spa. Don’t miss the famous Sunday brunch in the Crown room. For those willing to splurge a little, I recommend the “Beach Village at the Del” which sits just adjacent to the historic building and offers more spacious, luxury accommodation and a private pool area, concierge and club room. 

ALL ABOUT THOSE CITY VIBES: Pendry San Diego, the first hotel opened under the Pendry name (operated by the Montage Group) is located in the Gaslamp district of downtown San Diego. The Pendry brand is all about hip, urban chic, and caters to a slightly younger crowd than Montage. Yet you’ll find here the same level of service you’d expect from any Montage. The location downtown means you can easily walk to many restaurants and bars, as well as grab a quick Uber to San Diego’s main attractions like the Zoo or Balboa Park. Yet, this urban hotel still has many features of a resort – several different restaurants, as well as a rooftop pool, fitness center and spa. 

FOR FESTIVE OCCASIONS: While there are plenty of reasons to stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, the old world luxury and elegance of the property makes it perfect for holidays and special celebrations. In the wintertime, the Fairmont features a winter village of sorts, complete with fire pits and s’mores, champagne bars and even sledding for the kids (with snow!). In the summer, they have weekly fireworks shows and BBQs on Fridays.

FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY: The Park Hyatt Aviara located in North County in Carlsbad has something to offer for everyone in the family. Golf enthusiasts can hit the links while wellness gurus can enjoy the award-winning spa and fitness programs. And kids will love the Camp Hyatt Aviara Kids Academy. In the summers, they have fun extras like movie screenings by the pool and wood-fired pizza nights. The location up North also means it’s ideally located near Legoland and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. 

GOLFING THE DAY AWAY: Any serious golfer is familiar with the famous Torrey Pines golf course and so they would naturally want to stay at The Lodge at Torrey Pines. The original property dates to 1961 but an almost complete renovation in the early 2000s brought it to where it is today. The California Craftsman style architecture has a real “lodge” vibe with dark wood paneling, crackling fireplaces and beautiful stained glass panels. While the golf course is public, guests of the hotel get priority access to the best tee times. 

FOR THE GARDEN LOVER: Ok I’m biased because I got married here, but the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in Rancho Santa Fe (just East of Del Mar) is one of the most idyllic settings you’ll find. Smaller than some of the other resorts I’ve mentioned, the property’s 80 rooms are spread out on the grounds in different casita-style buildings. There are 3 different decor themes – from country chic to farmhouse glam. Along the meandering paths you’ll find beautiful aged trees, hidden rose gardens, and flowering jasmine. I also love that you can walk just across the street into the quaint little town of Rancho Santa Fe to pop-out for a coffee or a pastry. 

ROMANTIC GETAWAY: Another more boutique resort up in Rancho Santa Fe is Rancho Valencia. While the style of resort is similar to the Inn, this Relais & Chateaux property has a more private and romantic feel. For one, the grounds are tucked away in horse country. For two, the 49 rooms are all hacienda-style suites, with large living areas and private patios – perfect for a romantic sojourn. And as part of the Relais & Chateaux brand, you know you’ll find incredible cuisine.

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO EAT

NORTH COUNTY

  • Veladora Coastal Ranch – Located at Rancho Valencia resort, this fine dining restaurant infuses Mediterranean cuisine with California coastal influences.
  • Jake’s Del Mar – There are a few restaurants located directly on the beach, and Jake’s is one of them. Serving up fresh fish with a Hawaiian flare, save room for the Hula Pie for dessert.
  • Viewpoint Brewing Co. – San Diego is well known for its craft beer scene and newcomer Viewpoint Brewing has a great location in Del Mar, right on the San Dieguito lagoon with a huge open air space. When it comes to beer, go for a flight to try different options, but don’t miss the food either – this isn’t your average brewpub fare. Definitely order the mac & cheese and the pork belly bites.

LA JOLLA

  • Herringbone – This Californai coastal restaurant is perfect for groups who want to share a lot of small plates with interesting flavors and fresh ingredients. I also love the decor at their La Jolla outpost which really brings the outside in.
  • Puesto – This taco hotspot has several locations in San Diego now, but La Jolla is the original. The taco options are extensive and are made from scratch daily, as are the guacamole and margaritas.
  • George’s at the Cove – A mainstay in La Jolla for its Pacific Ocean views, George’s has 3 different levels. Level 1 – California Modern – is the fancier and most expensive option, but the food is divine. Book early to get a table by the window and watch the sunset during dinner.
  • A.R. Valentien – Located at the iconic Lodge at Torrey Pines, this French-inspired restaurant focuses heavily on seasonal fare. It’s perfect for special occasions and even offers outdoor seating with views over the famous golf course.
  • Prep Kitchen – The La Jolla location of Prep Kitchen has only a few tables inside, but I much prefer to dine outside in the small courtyard under the heaters. The menu here is very innovative and changes frequently.
  • Wayfarer Bread & Pastry – Located in Bird Rock, this bread & pastry bakery is perfect for a Saturday morning scone or a gourmet sandwich. And on Wednesdays, they have pizza night which is a must-have.
  • Wheat + Water – Another Bird Rock favorite, Wheat + Water features wood-fired pizzas, salads and small plates to share, along with plenty of local brews on tap.

DOWNTOWN

  • Juniper & Ivy – Founded by Top Chef All-Star Richard Blais, Juniper & Ivy is probably my favorite restaurant in all of San Diego. The dishes are all so unique and playful. Juniper & Ivy’s take on the yodel is legend and the flavors change with the seasons. We’ve dined here a few times, but my favorite was when we sat at the dessert counter and watched the pastry chefs prep their creations while we ate.
  • Herb & Wood – Just down the block from Juniper & Ivy is another Little Italy hotspot featuring an indoor/outdoor space, quality cuisine and market fresh ingredients.
  • Crack Shack – Completely different from the above two options yet in the same neighborhood, the Crack Shack is a casual order-at-the-counter establishment serving fried chicken and egg fare. The outdoor space is fun with corn hole and other lawn games available adjacent to the picnic tables.
  • Kettner Exchange – Featuring Progressive American cuisine, this restaurant in Little Italy has a really cool space, fun for date night or a group outing.
  • Ironside Fish & Oyster – A large selection of raw bar options along with small plates and fresh catches of the day.
  • Cowboy Star – Solid steakhouse fare with a Western flare.
  • Mister A’s – Tucked away at the top of a tall office building, this restaurant has the best views of the San Diego skyline. Dine outside under the heat lamps and watch as planes fly over the city lights. Perfect for a romantic date night.
  • Lionfish – Located in The Pendry Hotel in the gaslamp district, this seafood restaurant has gorgeous design details and an interesting dessert menu that shouldn’t be skipped.

BEACHES

  • Breakfast Republic – Now with several locations in San Diego, I frequent the one in Pacific Beach which is located just a block from the beach. Entrees here are massive, and they have some delicious pancake and french toast flavors.
  • Sushi Ota – Located in a shopping mall off a main road just outside of PB, it’s difficult to even get a reservation at this traditional Japanese sushi spot. Chef Ota was born and raised in Japan and takes pride in serving the freshest fish you’ll find in San Diego.
  • Baked Bear – Custom-made ice cream sandwiches. No other explanation needed.
  • The Patio on Lamont – Pet-friendly indoor/outdoor restaurant that serves brunch and happy hours daily.
  • JRDN – Pronounced “jordan,” this restaurant is located just across the boardwalk from the beach, in the Tower 23 hotel. The fresh, modern atmosphere matches the food, which includes contemporary takes on steak and seafood.
  • Crushed – Another great brunch spot! This place is always packed so come early and order a mimosa flight.
  • Hammond’s – Gourmet ice cream from Hawaii. You can get a cup or a cone or even a mini cone flight to try several different flavors.

There are so many amazing restaurants in San Diego! So just as with my “What to Do” Guide this is by no means a comprehensive list, but just a few of my top recs for any visitors. Enjoy!

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHAT TO DO

About a year and a half ago, I moved across the country from the tall buildings and hustle and bustle of Manhattan to the sandy beaches and chill vibe of San Diego. There was definitely an adjustment period, but I have to say it wasn’t a particularly hard one. San Diego is known for its perfect weather, gorgeous coastline and excellent Mexican food. In the next three blog posts I’m going to share with you my best tips on what to do, where to eat and where to stay in “America’s Finest City.” This is in no means a fully comprehensive guide, but just some of my favorite recommendations!

ALL ABOUT ANIMALS

  • San Diego Zoo – The San Diego Zoo is most well-known for its pandas, who unfortunately just returned to China this past Spring. But there is SO much more to see at this zoo, which houses 3,500 animals of 600+ species. The San Diego Zoo was also a pioneer in open-air exhibits and continues to develop new and exciting ways to showcase and educate about diverse animal species around the globe. Similar to other zoos, proceeds from admission tickets also support conservation efforts on the ground.
  • San Diego Zoo Safari Park – I mentioned the San Diego Zoo’s pioneering approach to open-air exhibits, but the Safari Park takes it to the next level. Located North of the city, visiting this 100-acre park will feel like you took an exotic trip to the African savanna without hopping on a plane.
  • Seaworld – Though Seaworld has been under a lot of scrutiny in recent years, it is still one of the major attractions in San Diego. The orca show is focused on how learnings from captive animals have helped scientists’ understanding of these creatures, allowing us to better support them in the wild. Plus, there are a ton of other aquatic animals to see, as well as some rides.
  • Visiting the La Jolla Seals & Sea Lions – My favorite time to visit the resident population of seals and sea lions in la Jolla is during “pupping season” in the spring. It’s so cute to see those little babies sunbathing on the rocks! La Jolla Mom has a really fantastic guide on the best places to visit these amazing animals.
  • Whale watching cruises – San Diego is a great spot for whale watching! With chances to see migratory and resident pods of Gray whales and Blue whales, as well as Humpbacks, Pilot Whales, Fin Whales and even Killer Whales. Whale watching cruises depart year-round from downtown San Diego. One of the best operators is Hornblower Cruises.

HISTORY

  • USS Midway – This aircraft carrier museum is massive and a must-see for any Top Gun fan!
  • Old Town – Though a bit touristy, Old Town is still worth a visit. Dating to 1769, Old Town San Diego was California’s first settlement and still retains a lot of the historic charm with old buildings featuring Spanish-style architecture. Come here to shop for souvenirs, enjoy some hearty Mexican food, and experience living history programs.
  • Gaslamp Quarter – The Gaslamp Quarter is the heart of downtown San Diego. The Victorian architecture speaks to the history of the area, but today the real attraction is the nightlife – with plentiful bars, clubs and restaurants around, as well as many hotels.
  • Cabrillo National Monument – This monument explores the discovery of San Diego by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Visitors can learn all about Cabrillo’s life, as well as the 16th century exploration industry. This is also a great spot to whale watch from land.
  • Hotel Del Coronado – While I’ll mention this hotel again in my “Where to Stay” guide, the history of this property is so rich that it’s worth mentioning here as well. Built in 1888, this National Historic Landmark is the second largest wooden structure in the United States. Made famous in the film, Some Like it Hot, the hotel is an icon in San Diego. Even if you don’t stay at “The Del” (as it’s referred to locally), I’d recommend coming for a cocktail by the sea, or for its famed Sunday brunch.

THE ARTS + SPORTS

  • La Jolla Playhouse – One of the things I thought I’d miss most about NYC was the world-class theatre right at my doorstep. However, the Playhouse is a breeding ground for Broadway and features about a half a dozen shows a year (a mix of plays and musicals) with enormous talent. Tip: Don’t miss the chocolate chip cookies at the concession stand!
  • Padres Game – No explanation needed here, but I do love the fact that the stadium is right in the heart of the city.
  • Del Mar Racetrack – Del Mar, in North County, is horse country and going to the race track is a San Diego tradition. The racing season in Del Mar runs from mid-July through Labor Day and then again from early November to early December.

GET OUTDOORS

  • Hike Torrey Pines – This State Reserve is famous for its rugged coastline and Pacific views. There are plenty of hiking trails to choose from and you can even walk down to the beach.
  • Go Surfing – Surfing is California’s favorite pastime and you will find no shortage of enthusiasts in San Diego. There are plenty of surf shops offering classes and lessons but if you’d rather just spectate, head to any ocean pier and you can watch locals take on the waves.
  • Mission Bay Boating – Mission Bay is a man-made saltwater lagoon just south of Pacific Beach. The area is massive and with calm waters, its the perfect playground for water sport rentals – from paddleboarding, to jetskis, pontoons and speedboats – you can find almost everything here!
  • Beaches – This is an obvious one, but the top beaches central to San Diego are: Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla Shores and Coronado.
  • Biking – While everyone is scootering around these days, I’m still partial to my old fashioned beach cruiser. The boardwalks by the beach are perfect for biking!

SCOTTSDALE THREE WAYS

Scottsdale, Arizona is an ideal destination for many types of occasions. For one, it’s very easy to get to; most US hubs offer direct flights into Phoenix airport, just a 20 minute drive from Scottsdale. Secondly, it has great weather pretty much year-round. The city averages 299 sunny days a year and while, yes, it is cooler in the winter and can be hot, hot, hot in the summer, the climate is very dry and there is almost no humidity. And lastly, there is an abundance of things to do in Scottsdale – from golf to spa, hiking to jeep tours, and even museums and gardens – there is truly something for everyone!

But with dozens of hotels in the Scottsdale area, the tricky part is choosing where to stay! Having visited Scottsdale twice in the past 4 months, I have some suggestions on the best resorts for three totally separate vacations:

BACHELORETTE PARTY OR GIRLS GETAWAY: THE SAGUARO

While airbnbs are often popular for large group trips like a bachelorette, a fun boutique hotel is a great alternative for those that don’t want to worry about grocery shopping or spending all weekend coordinating Ubers for a big group. The Saguaro Hotel Scottsdale is ideally located in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, with easy access to tons of restaurants, bars, shops and coffee houses. The vibe of the hotel is also perfect for a girl party – everything is neon and Instagram-worthy! I recommend rooms that open up onto the main pool and a suite for the bride – you’ll feel like you’re in a house with a large living area to hang out in and easy access to a pool, but you’ll have guac and margs at your fingertips!

FAMILY FUN: THE FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS

There is something for everyone at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This is a larger resort with 6 pools (one with its own beach!), 4 different restaurants, a golf course (plus access to hundreds more in Scottsdale!), and a killer spa with dozens of fitness classes offered weekly. The Trailblazers Family Adventure Center has daily programming for kids and pre-teens aged 5-12. For a more intimate experience, I recommend staying in the Fairmont Gold area of the resort. Gold guests have access to a private lounge that offers daily breakfast, evening appetizers and cocktails, and a private check-in and concierge desk, as well as unlimited use of the spa facilities.

WELLNESS WEEKEND: SANCTUARY CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA

If you’re looking for a more peaceful hideaway with a focus on wellbeing, look no further than Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa. This intimate property has just 109 casitas and suites, nestled across its 53 acres in bungalow-style accommodation. Guests enjoy farm-fresh healthy food and Asian-inspired treatments at the spa. The resort offers beautiful views of the famed Camelback Mountain as well as across the Scottsdale valley and the sunsets here are a nightly show. Scottsdale has optimal weather for indoor/outdoor living, so I recommend a Spa Suite for the private outdoor soaking tub or a Terrace Casita for a private outdoor rain shower.

Contact us to start booking your next getaway to Scottsdale, or check-out our new self-booking tool to reserve on your own with exclusive amenities.