4 IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL IN THE MOUNTAINS

Living by the beach / ocean, I often find myself craving an escape to the mountains. As a skier, I always try to hit the slopes in the winter, but the mountain towns and resorts in the summertime are SO lovely – plenty of fresh air, open spaces, ample hiking and lots of outdoorsy activities. Here are some ideas for mountain getaways close to home for summer 2020 – all ideal for a socially distant vacation.

1 – COLORADO – Ski towns, like Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride have plenty of resorts to choose from and make for great summer destinations. One of my favorite Colorado mountain towns is Aspen, and I was fortunate enough to visit there last September. The weather was perfect with warm days and cool nights. Plus, aside from the ample hiking and nature, the town of Aspen has a ton to offer, with local shops, parks and great restaurants. My top picks to stay in Aspen are The Little Nell, part of Relais & Chateaux, and Hotel Jerome, part of Auberge Resorts. Both are intimate boutique hotels, well-located in the center of town for easy access to everything. With many of the larger events and conferences that typically happen in Aspen cancelled for 2020, this is a great time to visit sans crowds.

For a more remote vacation, check out Dunton Hot Springs, a Relais & Chateaux resort several hours from Denver, consisting of little cabins in an abandoned mining town. For families, I love Gateway Canyons Resort which has plenty of activities onsite to please the whole crew.

2 – WYOMING – Wyoming is one of my favorite states! I think it perfectly combines the casual atmosphere of the west with the luxury of fine resorts, plus jaw-dropping nature and extreme adventure activities. My husband and I actually got engaged in Jackson Hole and it truly is the place to be in Wyoming; and in my opinion, one of the best towns in the country. There are a number of resorts here due to the ski mountain, but also the proximity to Grand Teton National Park. In Jackson, “Amanjunkies” must stay at Amangani for ultraluxe accommodations and a stellar view. For those who’d rather be right in the center of town, boutique Hotel Jackson is the perfect blend of modern and rustic, with cozy mountain-style yet tech-forward rooms and a jacuzzi on the roof; or try the historic Wort Hotel, dating to 1941.

Over in Teton Village (at the base of the ski mountain), you can opt for a more conventional resort atmosphere at the Four Seasons Jackson Hole, or go for apartment-style accommodations with a stay at newcomer Caldera House – a very small boutique resort with two and four bedroom apartments – perfect for multiple couples or a family. Jackson Hole is a fabulous base for your vacation, but National Park lovers may also opt to start or end with a few days in Grand Teton or even up in Yellowstone on the Wyoming-side. Overall, Wyoming has had very low numbers of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and the national parks and wide open expanses make this an easy place for socially distanced travels.

Newberry Living Room

3 – MONTANA – Montana is perfect for a family or multi-generational ranch-style summer escape. There are several top resorts to choose from, each with slightly different things on offer, but all with plenty of activities and no need to venture far from the property once you arrive. The Resort at Paws Up has a mix of accommodations, from multi-room cabins to glamping tents (this resort invented glamping!),which make this property my #1 pick for a family vacation in Montana! Rates are steep but are all inclusive of meals, accommodations and transfers. Plus their nearby Island Lodge at Salmon Lake is a great complement to the mountain vibe. Horse lovers and fishing enthusiasts will love the true dude ranch feel of Ranch at Rock Creek in Big Sky Country. And couples looking for a kid-free escape should head to Triple Creek Ranch, an adults-only Relais & Chateaux property.

Miscellaneous

If your’e visiting Yellowstone, you should also consider Sage Lodge which is the nicest luxe resort within easy driving distance to the park. All of these hotels have standalone accommodation options meaning you don’t have to worry about elevators or passing other guests in shared hallways.

Montana Luxury Resorts | West Yellowstone Hotels | Sage Lodge

4 – UTAH – Salt Lake City is an airline hub on the west coast, so aside from great nature and resorts to explore, the state of Utah is really easy to get to from most other US cities. For extra ease, fly into SLC and head to nearby Park City, just 40 minutes away. Either enjoy the many resorts in this ski town, including the newly opened Waldorf Astoria Park City, or head outside to Auberge Resort’s The Lodge at Blue Sky. The latter just opened in 2019 and similar to many of the other hotels we’ve discussed so far, offers plenty of activities on-site and great socially distanced accommodation options. The former is taking plenty of safety measures including requiring reservations at the pool – so you’re guaranteed a spot and no waiting required. Driving west to the adventure capital of Moab, you’ll be able to go whitewater rafting, jeeping, canyoneering, and hiking in Arches National Park. Those looking for a true nature escape, should try glamping at Under Canvas Moab, while those looking for a bit more luxurious accommodations, should check out the cabins at Sorrel River Ranch. Although if you have enough time I’d recommend combining the two!

And if you’re really looking to get off the grid and splurge a bit, look no further than Amangiri, near the famed slot canyons of Utah. Their much-hyped Camp Sarika (a brand new tented retreat) opens this week – each canvas-topped pavilion with their very own plunge pool!

2 Bedroom Mesa Pavilion - Camp Sarika Accommodation - Aman

Please contact me if you’d like to brainstorm a US getaway this summer!

9 IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL ALONG THE WEST COAST

1 – OREGON – Oregon is one of those states I think we often forget about. But there’s much to see beyond the eclectic and foodie-centric city of Portland. Just an hour from there, you’ll find the up and coming Willamette Valley made famous in recent years for its Pinot Noirs. Lay your head at the beautiful resort, The Allison Inn & Spa, and spend your days visiting wineries and hiking. If you’re looking for beach, you need only head a few hours Northwest to the famous Cannon Beach with its sprawling sand and iconic basalt rock formations. My pick there would be the Stephanie Inn. For a longer trip, perhaps even pair the two!

Stephanie Inn: Incomparable Oceanfront Getaways - ShareOregon

2. LAKE TAHOE – I’ve visited the Lake Tahoe region in summer, fall and winter and its absolutely beautiful every time. Check out this guide from a recent trip to Lake Tahoe – it has my best picks on where to stay, where to eat and what to do. For a longer trip, I’d recommend splitting your time between the Ritz Carlton on the North coast and Edgewood Tahoe on the south – giving you two distinct home bases to explore all the lake and surrounding region has to offer. Lake Tahoe is easily accessible from the Reno airport and perfect for west coasters looking for a bit of hiking and nature but who also want to swim and enjoy the water.

3. WINE COUNTRY – Napa and Sonoma – it’s a no brainer right?! There are SO many incredible resorts in the California wine region and many of them are set on large tracts of land. Two of my favorites – Meadowood (in Napa) and Farmhouse Inn (in Sonoma) are perfect for social distancing. The former has all freestanding accommodations and a sprawling estate. The latter is a very boutique property with only 25 rooms. Both also have fabulous concierge teams who can assist you in planning private visits to nearby (and off the radar) wineries to minimize interaction with crowds. I visited both just a few months ago – check out my blog post here for more information.

4. YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK – I’m a National Park junkie and one of my great travesties is that I have yet to visit Yosemite! Now that I’m a true Californian, this is really high on my list, especially after watching Free Solo last year. While Yosemite has a lot to offer in the way of rustic accommodations, by far the “top” hotel is The Ahwahnee Hotel (formerly the Majestic), a historic property just a 5 minute drive from the Yosemite Valley Visitor’s Center. For a trendy option, consider Autocamp Yosemite – a collection of vintage airstreams, glamping tents and cozy cabins – modernized with the most instagram-worthy furnishings.

5. BIG SUR – Starting in San Francisco, head south to Half Moon Bay (~45 minutes) for a stay at the cliffside Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. Enjoy a night or two of spectacular sunsets, s’mores and their signature bagpipes, before you resume your drive south to Monterey and Carmel along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1). In Carmel, I recommend a stay at Bernardus Lodge or Carmel Valley Ranch. And as you head further south, you’ll get into the heart of Big Sur with its dramatic coastline and staggering cliffs. Here you can stay at the legendary Post Ranch Inn or opt for a few nights at Ventana Big Sur. You’ll finish your trip in San Simeon where you can visit the Golden Age’s Hearst Castle. If you opt to continue south, take a pause in San Luis Obispo (SLO for locals) or go straight to Santa Barbara (see the next bullet!).

6. SANTA BARBARA – Picture your typical quaint town filled with local boutiques and casual, innovative restaurants – now add the Pacific Ocean at your doorstep, dozens of winery tasting rooms (hello urban wine trail!), and the HQ to a nationally-renowned ice cream brand (McConnells here we come!) – now you have Santa Barbara. My favorite hotels in this town are full of casual elegance, nodding to the area’s past as a hub for Hollywood’s Golden Age. Hotel Californian has been beautifully reimagined with a flair for Moroccan design. It’s location in the heart of the city can’t be beat as you can easily walk everywhere. And don’t forget about the rooftop pool! For a little more privacy, head into the hills for a stay at Belmond El Encanto – overseeing all of Santa Barbara, or San Ysidro Ranch, tucked away among lush gardens.

7. LA BEACH TOWNS – With so many wonderful fabulous resorts to choose from up and down the coast, it’s easy to skip over LA. But the sprawling city is home to several beach towns which have much to offer, in addition to proximity to great restaurants and shopping. In North LA, you’ll find two fabulous spots in Malibu – Nobu’s first hotel – Nobu Ryokan, and the Malibu Beach Inn, a member of Leading Hotels. Both are directly on the beach and perfect if you just want to hideaway and enjoy the ocean. For a more relaxed yet buzzy, head south of LA to Terranea – a large sprawling resort along the picture-perfect cliffs.

8. ORANGE COUNTY – Further south in Orange County, you’ll find plenty more oceanfront resorts ideal for a bit of an escape from everyday life. In Laguna, head to mainstay Montage or Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, or opt for a more boutique chic stay at Laguna Beach House or Hotel Joaquin. Up in Newport Beach, you can’t go wrong with a private casita at Pelican Hill Resort – great for golf lovers as well!

9. SAN DIEGO – As a San Diego resident, I’m a bit partial here, but July and August are truly wonderful summer weather in San Diego. You’ll have plenty of sun, ideal beach days and no humidity in sight. While San Diego offers plenty in the way of accommodations, it can be tricky to find something right on the beach. For the most iconic stay, I’d opt for Hotel Del Coronado and the Beach Village is worth the price tag if you want the most updated accommodations and private beachfront access. L’Auberge del Mar is another nice option in the North county for ocean views. And just a bit inland from there, you’ll find two beautiful spots – Rancho Valencia and the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe. Each property has acres of beautiful gardens and private casita accommodations and is only 15 minutes’ drive to the coast. Plus Rancho Valencia, a member of Relais & Chateaux, is well known for its incredible food, as well as its spa and tennis facilities. If you end up out in San Diego in September, consider the newly remodeled Park Hyatt Aviara, set to reopen that month after an extensive renovation.

Sunset with pool and turret

8 IDEAS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL ALONG THE EAST COAST

This summer may look quite a bit different than originally planned, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get out to explore! With many hotels re-opening this month and next, domestic travel remains a great option for a little break from home this summer. Starting on the east coast, below are some ideas for locations (and hotels!) conveniently located to hubs on the East Coast – perfect for a short hop flight or a road trip!

1 – RHODE ISLAND – Given it’s size it’s easy to overlook Rhode Island, but it’s a perfect New England getaway for the summer. If you’re looking for a livelier atmosphere, I’d suggest Newport – a quaint town with cute local shops, delicious seafood restaurants and the iconic Cliff Walk. Among the fabulous properties in Newport, is the Chanler at Cliff Walk, The Vanderbilt (part of Auberge Resorts) and Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. If you’re looking for a more low key vibe, then I’d suggest heading to the southern shore of Rhode Island, where you’ll find three sister properties, each with easy beach access, boutique accommodations and endless New England charm: Watch Hill Inn, Ocean House, and Weekapaug Inn. Watch Hill Inn is right on the water and boasts just 21 historic rooms. Ocean House & Weekapaug Inn are both Relais & Chateaux properties so you know they have incredible cuisine along with a fresh & luxurious coastal design. These latter two also have access to several cottages which offer extra privacy for larger groups or multi-generation families looking to getaway while still social distancing.

2 – VERMONT – Vermont is one of my top favorite states in the whole country. I grew up visiting family in the quaint town of Woodstock, developed by the Rockefeller’s. I love the peaceful white winters, but the green summers are equally as lovely. There is a ton of space and lots to do – from hiking trails to swimming in the lakes, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, etc. The most iconic address in Woodstock is the Woodstock Inn, which I’ve detailed previously on this blog. For a more remote hideaway, look no further than Twin Farms, a Relais & Chateaux property in nearby Barnard, VT. Aside from a handful of rooms in the main house, the accommodations are largely private cottages spread out among the sprawling property. Meals are all inclusive and you’ll find plenty of activities on site. Plus, aside from internet in the homes, you won’t find a good cell signal within 10 miles of the place… perfect for those needing a true off the grid escape. Check out more details on Twin Farms here.

3 – MASSACHUSETTS – Aside from the Hamptons, no place in my opinion evokes that laid back summer vibe more so than Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard. From the historic homes, to the picturesque beaches, summer here is postcard perfect. In both destinations, home rentals are a great option, but there are some wonderful hotels as well. The Chatham Inn is also a Relais & Chateaux property (are you sensing a theme here?) that is family owned and has just 18 rooms. Recently remodeled, the property is open year round (unusual for the Cape), but summer is its time to shine with plenty of activities and great outdoor dining options. And over on the vineyard, check out the Harbor View Hotel – new to Virtuoso, this family-owned property dates to the late 1800s. It was also recently beautifully refurbished to its former glory and ready for guests!

4 – LONG ISLAND – Long Island is where I grew up and what I consider to be home, so it’ll always have a special place in my heart. If you’re not from NY, chances are you haven’t spent much time on Long Island, but it’s absolutely gorgeous and just 1-2 hours from the city, it often feels a world apart. At the very tip of the island, you’ll find Montauk with its iconic lighthouse and plentiful nightlife. Chances are you’ve heard of the original Gurney’s, which is famous there and renowned for its summer beach & pool parties. Over the past year or so, this property also underwent an extensive renovation, and opened up a sister hotel, Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina. A little further west from Montauk, you’ll get into the Hamptons where home rentals reign supreme. But don’t overlook Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton. Part of Small Luxury Hotels, this renovated 19th century mansion is the perfect base for your Hamptons stay. If you’re in the mood for a more wellness focused escape, check out Shou Sugi Ban House – a brand new boutique wellness resort in Watermill with 3+ night immersive wellness experiences. And for a more relaxed vibe, you might head to the rocky north shore of the island, where you can stay at Sound View Greenport. Formerly a roadside motel, the property was recently renovated into a year-round resort with an eye for design. Many people don’t realize that Long Island boasts a booming wine industry and the North Fork is the hub of it all.

This New Japanese-Inspired Resort Lets You Escape The Hamptons ...

5 – UPSTATE NY – Upstate NY is vast and there are many remote areas you can visit. In the lake district of the Adirondacks, you’ll find the former vacation home of the Rockefeller’s, The Point. Known for its nod to the past with formal evenings (even black tie on some nights!), this hideout is about as private as it gets. For a more family friendly option, head over to Lake Placid Lodge where you’ll find plenty of lake-side activities to enjoy for the whole crew. And in the Catskills, you might check out Troutbeck in Amenia. A member of Design hotels, this property feels like the perfect upstate compliment to Brooklyn.

6 – MARYLAND – Maryland is so much more than just Baltimore! And for those that haven’t ventured past the Inner Harbor, you might consider heading over to Annapolis or St. Michael’s. The latter is home to the Inn at Perry Cabin. Privately owned and a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, this colonial era property has 78 rooms, 7 boats (great for sailors!) and an on-site 18-hole golf course.

Inn at Perry Cabin | LinkedIn

7 – CAROLINA COAST – Heading down south, the Carolina Coast is another wonderful option for the summertime. The beaches off of North Carolina in the Outer Banks are miles long and absolutely pristine. Plus you’ll find tons of fresh seafood and local flavor. I love The Sanderling in the OBX hub of Duck. Directly on the beach, this large resort has on-site dining, activities, multiple pools and a great spa. It caters to family and couples alike, with designated areas/pools of the hotel for each demographic. Down in South Carolina, you can enjoy the fantastic lowcountry cuisine and culture in Charleston, or head outside the city to the private Kiawah Island for a stay at grand dame hotel, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The Sanctuary also manages dozens of homes around the island for those looking for a larger and more private space to stay.

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort | Charleston Area CVB

8 – SOUTHERN MOUNTAINS – The mountains in the southeastern US are equally as lovely as the Northeast, albeit a bit hotter in the summertime. In Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll love Primland, a Virtuoso property with plenty of activities (from hiking to hunting to biking) as well as several private home/cabin accommodation options. Just over the border in North Carolina, you could venture through the quaint towns of Boone & Valle Cruces, or head a little further West to Asheville, home of the Biltmore Estate. If you’re a National Park junkie, you might consider a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – interestingly, the most visited national park in the United States. You’ll have the option to stay either on the North Carolina or Tennessee side of the park, although I’m partial to the latter because just about 45 minutes from the park entrance you’ll find the iconic Blackberry Farm and it’s new sister wellness retreat, Blackberry Mountain. If you just want to get away and truly spoil yourself, you’ll never want to leave!!

TAHOE SKI TRIP

A few weeks ago, before this COVID-19 pandemic had us all homebound, my husband and I snuck up to Lake Tahoe for a couple days’ skiing at Northstar California ski resort and The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe.

GETTING THERE

If you’re not based in the Bay Area or within driving distance of Tahoe, you’ll want to fly into Reno-Tahoe International. From San Diego, it’s a quick one hour twelve minute flight on Southwest Airlines. From the east coast, it’s a little trickier since Reno is a small airport. Out of NYC’s JFK, JetBlue operates seasonal direct flights a few days a week. Otherwise, you can make an easy connection on American Airlines through Phoenix or on Delta through Salt Lake City.

The Lake Tahoe area is quite large; the coastline of the lake itself has a 72 mile circumference, and there are a variety of ski resorts to choose from, all positioned various distances from the airport. For this trip, we stayed in North Lake Tahoe and skied Northstar, which is just about an hours’ drive west from the airport. If you plan to hop around to various ski resorts, I’d recommend renting a car for the most flexibility. If you’re planning to stay put at Northstar and enjoy the Ritz and the nearby town of Truckee, I’d recommend just getting airport transfers, as the parking prices are quite steep and it works out to be about the same cost (if not cheaper!). We used Reno Tahoe Limousine and they were great!

SKI-IN SKI-OUT

The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is a ski-in, ski-out lodge located mid-mountain at Northstar. I stayed here once before in the autumn and while we loved the mountain setting, at the time we wished it had been a bit closer to the lake (which is the main draw for this area spring through fall). That said, in the wintertime this hotel is the *perfect* location. You are literally on the mountain, they have a ski rental shop on-site, and a slope side ski valet that will store your skis, poles and boots overnight. Once you finish breakfast, it takes about 10 minutes to get dressed, geared up, and ski down to the nearest chairlift. The convenience is just so incredible – it takes all the hassle out of skiing!

NORTHSTAR

As far as ski mountains go in the Tahoe area, Northstar is one of the more family-friendly options. It’s not massive, not insanely steep and has a nice mix of blues and blacks to please any range of ski levels in your group or family. They also have a wonderful ski school and tons of private lessons with pick-up right from the hotel (if you’re staying there). While views of the lake are fairly limited to one peak, you do still have them! And there is a small snow tubing facility on the mountain as well.

Heavenly, on the south side of Lake Tahoe, and Squaw Valley, on the west side of Lake Tahoe, are next up on my Tahoe to do list!!

RITZ CARLTON LAKE TAHOE

The Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is as fabulous as Ritz Carlton’s come. The rooms are well furnished with all the amenities: juliet balconies, gas fireplaces, deep soaking tubs, robes & slippers, oversized King beds and seating areas, as well as plenty of storage space for your bulky ski clothes. I also love the combination of rich wood and warm-toned fabrics that perfectly accent the snowy winter backdrop and give you all the cozy ski lodge vibes.

CLUB LEVEL

For this most recent stay, we opted for King rooms on the Club Level of the hotel, and I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are skiing with a group. First off, the spread they put out five times a day is everything you could ever want. The breakfast buffet is not just a bagel and fruit – they have eggs, sausage, pancakes, and even an omelet station on Sundays. It’s the perfect “ready-to-go yet hearty” breakfast option when you’re looking to get up, fuel up and hit the slopes. At lunchtime, you can escape the crowds and overpriced food on the mountain and cozy up with a bowl of soup, a salad bar, sandwiches and freshly made quiche in the lounge. (Bonus – you can then easily go back to your room to add or shed a layer if needed before heading back out!). Between meals, they offer numerous snacks – popcorn, trail mix, nuts – and a never-ending supply of cookies. In the evening, they set out hors d’oeuvres, and post-dinner, they have your sweet fix waiting for you. To top it off, all day there is an (all inclusive) self-service bar with wine, beer, soft drinks, prosecco, liquors and even cordials in the evening.

So while in the summer or fall, you may be out and about exploring more, for a ski trip, you’re relatively on site, which makes the club lounge incredibly convenient. And honestly, the incremental cost is worth it for the value. I also love that the lounge can serve as a meeting place for a group or family that are staying in multiple rooms.

WHERE TO EAT

We kept things fairly easy on this trip, so aside from all the “free” meals we ate in the Club Lounge, we also enjoyed dinner at:

  • Manzanita – Located in the hotel, modern American cuisine with a steakhouse vibe.
  • The Living Room – Spread out in the main lobby around the large central fireplace; the casual comfort menu is perfect for a more chill evening.
  • Pianeta Ristorante – Quaint and cozy Italian spot in Truckee with delicious homemade pasta. *Tip: If you don’t rent a car, the Ritz has a complimentary shuttle to and from Truckee on the hour.

Now that we’re at home for the foreseeable future and most ski resorts are closed for the season, I am so grateful that we were able to squeeze in this ski trip last month. I highly recommend Northstar and the Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe for a luxurious and stress-free ski trip. Please contact me if you’d like to plan a stay for 2021!

WINDING DOWN IN WINE COUNTRY

Napa and Sonoma are some of the most beautiful areas in California. While known for their excellent wines, this area just north of San Francisco has a plethora of resorts, lovely spas, incredible cuisine, and a variety of other activities to enjoy in between wine tastings. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway.

GETTING THERE

From San Francisco or Oakland airports, it’s just about a 2 hour drive north to wine country, depending on where you’re headed. If you live in San Diego, LA or other close cities, there is a small airport in Santa Rosa that has regular direct flights.

WHEN TO GO

There really isn’t a wrong time to go to California wine country. Peak season is June through November, but keep in mind that the summer (July & August) can often get quite hot (some days will have highs in the 90s) and the fall (especially October) has a risk for fires. For the best value, don’t discount winter (December – March, excluding holidays). You’ll find cooler temperatures and some rainier days at this time of year, but the hotels and wineries are still open and there are far fewer crowds as well as some great deals. For the best weather, May and September are generally pretty spectacular!

NAPA VS. SONOMA

This is an age-old question and there’s really no right answer here… my advice is simply to combine them both!! Sonoma County is massive – larger than the state of Rhode Island – and home to over 1,600 wineries. It is also closer to the coast and so offers a wider diversity of activities (hiking, coastal drives, paddle-boarding). In Sonoma, you’ll also find a lot of family-owned wineries that have been passed through generations. Over in the much smaller Napa Valley, you’ll find a bit more of a social scene with a higher volume of Michelin starred restaurants, and some exclusive wineries.

WHERE TO STAY

On my recent trip, we stayed at two very different but equally fabulous Virtuoso properties.

First was The Farmhouse Inn, a family owned boutique hotel in Sonoma County. With just 25 rooms in small cottages, the property feels intimate and homey. You’ll also find a lovely boutique spa, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a Michelin-starred restaurant on site with farm to table cuisine. There are a variety of room types but I had the opportunity to stay in one of the King Deluxe rooms which have a gorgeous farmhouse luxury style. The rooms are spacious with large walk-in closets, massive jetted bathtubs, heated floors in the bathroom and outdoor patios with indoor/outdoor fireplaces.

Aside from exclusive Virtuoso amenities, there were a couple reasons why I LOVED this resort:

  • No resort fee; free parking! (When you get here, you relax. No nickel and diming!)
  • Lots of little personal touches (complimentary bath bar amenities available in the reception area or delivered to your room, glass of wine (or two!) at check-in, homemade chocolate chip cookies at bedtime, etc. etc.!)
  • Extensive team of 5 concierges and wine partner program: The concierges will help you plan your full Sonoma itinerary, including complimentary tastings and enhanced experiences at 25 hand-selected winery partners. This is a tremendous value!!
  • Complimentary 1 hour wine tasting hour daily

This hotel is perfect for:

  • Couples looking for a romantic retreat
  • Wine lovers looking for unique and boutique wineries to discover
  • Foodies who love a good farm-to-table dining experience
  • Adventure seekers that may want to incorporate some hiking, paddle-boarding and other activities into their wine country itinerary

Farmhouse Inn has a year-round 4th night free promo for Virtuoso clients, which is amazing! So please contact me to plan your stay!

After our stay at Farmhouse, we headed to Meadowood Resort & Spa over in Napa Valley. This “grand dame” of the valley is part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio, just outside of St. Helena. The 85 rooms are nestled in various cottages across a 250 acre estate so it has a much larger and woodsy feel. On-site you’ll find several pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, a brand-new state of the art spa, a 9-hold golf course, croquet, hiking trails and several dining options, including a 3 Michelin star restaurant. While the room types vary widely, it’s hard to go wrong, as every room has a King bed, private terrace and fireplace. Many rooms also have the option to connect to a shared living space, creating little villas – perfect for groups or families. I had the opportunity to stay in a 3-bedroom Hillside Suite and the large family room and kitchen area was perfect for our group. Yet when we wanted to retreat to our rooms for privacy, we couldn’t hear the others at all and enjoyed our own private entrances.

There are a couple reasons as well why I really loved this hotel:

  • The spa treatment rooms are all suites with their own bathroom, locker and changing areas ensuite – no communal locker rooms. 60-minute treatments are booked in 90 minute slots to allow plenty of time to enjoy your suite, and all treatments start with an aromatherapy steam shower.
  • The on-site sommelier can host a variety of tastings, including a sensory evaluation which we did, and a lesson in champagne sabering! Highly recommend both of these.
  • A lot of activities are offered on-site from tennis to golf, croquet to cooking lessons.
  • No resort fee; no parking fees!
  • Wine connoisseurs and collectors can visit the exclusive Promontory Winery
  • Meadowood offers delectable picnic lunches for wine tasting days

This hotel is perfect for:

  • Groups and multi-generational families looking for a communal space to gather, along with the amenities of a 5-star resort
  • Families or couples looking for a wider variety of resort-style amenities offered onsite
  • Foodies looking to dine at the bucket-list-worthy (and nearby) French Laundry or The Restaurant (onsite)

TASTING

We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of different vineyards on our trip. They were all so unique and different!

  • Flowers Vineyard – Flowers wine has been on the map for quite some time and they are well known for their Pinot Noirs, but their tasting space is brand new and should be in an Architectural Digest magazine. In the warmer months, they have incredible outdoor space as well. They offer food pairings with their wine tasting and their chef is an absolute star. Highly highly recommend!
  • Lambert Bridge Winery – The beautiful barrel room or private cellar are the perfect cozy spot on a cooler day, but this winery also has a lovely picnic area out front for warm weather. Their wine cannot be purchased unless you become a club member (or someone in your group does) which makes this a unique opportunity to try some exclusive wines.
  • Promontory Winery – Located in Napa Valley and owned by the Harlan family (who own Meadowood), the scenery when you enter this newly opened tasting room is jaw dropping. The tasting ($200 per person) is a full-on experience with a tour of the wine making facilities and the chance to try some incredible (and very expensive) Cabernet Sauvignons with an unbelievable view over Napa Valley.
  • Gamble Family Vineyard – In stark opposition to Promontory, we visited this lovely family-owned winery with a tasting room located in a historic farmhouse among the vines on the valley floor. A totally different vibe but equally enjoyable and so, so charming.

I’d love to help you plan your next getaway to California wine country. Please contact me to get started!

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!