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!

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!