MOUNTAIN RETREAT IN ASPEN, COLORADO

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

GETTING THERE

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

WHEN TO GO

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

WHERE TO STAY

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

WHERE TO EAT

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

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

HOTEL REVIEW: SHINOLA HOTEL

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

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

HISTORY

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

THE ROOMS

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

FOOD & BEVERAGE

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

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

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

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO STAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHERE TO EAT

NORTH COUNTY

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

LA JOLLA

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

DOWNTOWN

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

BEACHES

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

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

SAN DIEGO GUIDE: WHAT TO DO

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

ALL ABOUT ANIMALS

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

HISTORY

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

THE ARTS + SPORTS

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

GET OUTDOORS

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

SCOTTSDALE THREE WAYS

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

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

BACHELORETTE PARTY OR GIRLS GETAWAY: THE SAGUARO

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

FAMILY FUN: THE FAIRMONT SCOTTSDALE PRINCESS

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

WELLNESS WEEKEND: SANCTUARY CAMELBACK MOUNTAIN RESORT & SPA

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

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

RINGING IN 2019 IN THE FLORIDA KEYS

The Florida Keys, the Southernmost point of the continental United States, are a string of coral islands tracing south from Miami 160 miles to Key West. The name Key is derived from the Spanish cayo, which means “small island” – a word originally borrowed by Spanish explorers from the native Taino Indians of Hispanola and Cuba.

The famed Overseas Highway follows Route 1 from Miami to Key West on a beautifully scenic drive that is consistently heralded as one of the top US road trips to experience in your lifetime. And for that reason, shortly after Christmas, we flew down to Miami and embarked on a weeklong adventure through the Florida Keys.

IMG_1481

Islamorada 

About halfway between Miami and Key West lies Islamorada. Home to a dozen or so resorts, as well as many great restaurants, Islamorada is a great home base for the first half of your Keys road trip.

Where to Stay

The Keys definitely have a low-key beach vibe and for that reason I wasn’t really looking for 5-star luxury here. I wanted to stay somewhere that truly evoked the spirit of the Keys and we found that in La Siesta Resort & Marina. We splurged a bit for our room which was a 1-bedroom cottage with a living area and kitchenette, opening directly onto the beach – oddly named “Mango Cottage,” despite its purple color. In addition to the beach and pool, we also loved how this hotel offered complimentary bikes, kayaks and paddleboards to all resort guests!

 

Where to Eat

  • Lazy Days – delicious fish, right on the beach
  • Morada Bay Cafe – come early to get a spot beachside in time for sunsetIMG_1315
  • Midway Cafe – great for breakfast and lunch. And don’t miss the original Manny & Isa’s key lime pie!IMG_1323
  • Green Turtle Inn – Dating to 1947, the establishment was originally made famous for serving up sea turtle delicacies.
  • Hungry Tarpon – Located at Robbie’s Marina; casual waterfront dining

Where to Drink

  • Holiday Isle Tiki Bar – Based at The Postcard Inn, a sister hotel to La Siesta, you can ride your bike over to enjoy the original “Rum Runner” cocktail IMG_1302
  • Islamorada Beer Co – a local brewery offering tasting flights IMG_1304
  • Florida Keys Brewing Co – another great local brewer with tasting flights and a backyard “beer garden”IMG_1331IMG_1329

What to Do

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – a great place to snorkel or scuba in Key Largo (unfortunately our scuba trip was cancelled due to high winds!)
  • History of Diving Museum – tons of information and memorabilia on the history of diving and the evolution of gear in the sportIMG_1296
  • Robbie’s Marina – for a few bucks you can buy a bucket of fish and feed the giant tarpon that frequent Robbie’s Marina – just watch out for the pelicans!IMG_2031
  • Kayak & paddleboard – The Keys are all about water sports
  • Ride bikes – a great way to get around without worrying about traffic or parkingIMG_1330

Continuing on to Key West, it’s definitely worth making a few stops along the way to see some local wildlife…

  • The Turtle Hospital – in Marathon, you’ll find a sea turtle rescue hospital that has rehabilitated and re-released thousands of sea turtles since opening in the 80’s. DSC02320IMG_1414
  • National Key Deer Refuge – Many people don’t know there are deer in the Florida Keys, but the Key Deer Refuge is home to the diminutive species of Pine Key Deer. They are elusive, but you may find alligators and other wildlife as you walk through the trails. 

Key West

Continuing to the very end of the archipelago, you’ll arrive at the largest city, Key West – located just 90 miles north from the island of Cuba.

Where to Stay

There are a ton of hotels to choose from in Key West, but given that it was New Year’s and Key West can be a bit of a rowdy town, we chose to stay a bit outside the downtown area on nearby Stock Island. The Perry Hotel Key West opened in 2017 and is set right on a marina with a fabulous pool and lots of great spots to hang, dine and drink. I just love the design focus and chill laid back vibes of this hotel.

 

Where to Eat

  • The Breakfast Club, Too – Great breakfast – no surprise there! I closed out 2018 with some epic chocolate chip pancakes and cinnamon sugar butter – yum.IMG_1436
  • Little Pearl – A little off the main drag, this cute restaurant is perfect for date night. IMG_1477
  • Matt’s Stock Island – Located at The Perry Hotel. Solid brunch and nice shareable plates for a lighter dinner.IMG_1484
  • Salty Oyster – Poolside bar with casual eats at The Perry; happy hour is great deal with 50% off food and drinks.IMG_1341

What to Do

  • Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – Located in Old Town Key West, this historic building was home to Ernest Hemingway from 1931 to 1939. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968, descendants of Ernest Hemingway’s famed six-toed cats still call the property home. I recommend joining one of the regular tours that start every twenty minutes or so. IMG_1450IMG_1444
  • Duval Street – The main drag in Key West, home to lots of dive bars, cafes and shops. Great for people watching.
  • Southernmost Point Buoy – Pretty self explanatory but a popular photo op. IMG_1454
  • Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square – Starting 2 hours before sunset every night, head to Mallory Square to see the sunset and enjoy the sunset celebration featuring street performers, food carts and drinks to go (no open container laws in Key West!) IMG_1468
  • Jet Skiing with Key West Water Tours – Several tour operators offer jet ski trips around the island of Key West. We really enjoyed that this one was guided and included brief stops with history of the locale (in addition to going really freaking fast). This was a blast and I highly recommend it!

In short the Keys are the perfect place for an easy getaway where you can enjoy sunshine, water sports, history, and casual dinners of fresh fish beach side – an ideal equation to unwind and rejuvenate for the new year to come!DSC02306

HOTEL REVIEW: TWIN FARMS

Is anyone else’s favorite Christmas movie, White Christmas? Visiting Twin Farms last week reminded me of the quintessential Vermont resort in that movie. Full of rustic charm and piled high with snow, this Relais Chateaux property is the ideal winter retreat. Secluded among 300 acres of meadow and forest in Barnard, VT, the property allows only its guests to enjoy the extraordinary dining and amenities, offering a truly intimate and private experience. 

DSC02264

THE HISTORY

The original hotel building was the home of Sinclair Lewis and his wife, Dorothy Thompson, who bought the property in 1928. The story goes that Dorothy required Sinclair to purchase two neighboring farms for her as a wedding present, hence the name “Twin Farms.” Restored by a group of owners in the early 1990s, Twin Farms opened its doors to guests in 1993 and has been wowing luxury vacationers ever since.

IMG_1087IMG_1088

THE ROOMS

The hotel boasts 20 unique rooms – 10 suites and 10 cottages. Six suites reside in the original house and lodge, while another 4 suites sit just across the dirt road in a newly developed building, The Farmhouse at Copper Hill. Those suites share a communal hot tub and living area and make the perfect retreat for a larger group or family.  The 10 cottages are spread throughout the property on a 1 mile loop from the main building, each with its own carport, wood-burning fireplace, sitting area, and King-sized bed. Each cottage is decorated with a bespoke theme and offers differing amenities from private hot tubs to floor-to-ceiling windows. The resort has a residence perfect for each visitor and the staff takes care to match potential guests with the room that best matches their preferences. IMG_1097IMG_1099IMG_1101IMG_1115IMG_1112IMG_1109

DINING

Though the rates are steep, they are all inclusive of meals and beverages. And if you’ve visited a Relais Chateaux property before, you’ll know that the cuisine is not to be missed! I was fortunate enough to enjoy a lunch in the on-site dining room and we were treated to an unbelievable three course menu complete with perfectly-selected wines. While there are no set meal times at the hotel, there are meal windows: 7-10 for breakfast, 12:30-1:30 for lunch and 6-8:30 for dinner. Guests can also request meals in their room or cottage. Prior to dinner, cocktails and canapés are served in the living room by the fire and after dinner (or any time really), you can head to the on-site “pub” for a night cap. 

IMG_1129IMG_1137IMG_1093IMG_1117IMG_1121

ACTIVITIES

In the winter, the hotel offers a variety of outdoor activities, including: skiing on its private 6-trail ski hill, sledding, snowshoeing, and ice skating. For those averse to the cold, you can enjoy the state-of-the-art fitness center or book a treatment with the spa. Fitness classes are also offered regularly. In the summertime, guests can kayak, SUP and canoe on the on-site pond, hike along groomed trails, bike, fly-fish, or play tennis. 

IMG_1083

Several times a year, the property also hosts a Murder Mystery Weekend where all guests participate. They even hire professional actors to amp up the fun!

Travel Advisor Perks: By booking this property with ATLAS + VALISE, an affiliate of Travel Edge and member of Virtuoso, guests will be treated to an exclusive welcome amenity, early check-in/late check-out and upgrade on arrival (all subject to availability).

Looking for the quintessential New England getaway this winter? Contact us today to book an escape to Twin Farms.

DSC02272DSC02275

CHASING AUTUMN IN LAKE TAHOE

DSC02063

Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America. Spanning the border between Northern California and Nevada, it’s perimeter is 72 miles and it holds 39 trillion gallons of fresh water. Known for its crystal clear visibility, visitors to the lake can see 70 feet or more into the blue depths.

DSC02083

The Lake Tahoe area was first developed as a summer retreat for wealthy San Franciscans. Today, it maintains its status as a summer weekend destination, but is equally popular in the winter as tourists flock to the many neighboring ski mountains. What many people don’t realize though is that Lake Tahoe is a year-round destination and that fall is an equally beautiful and active time to visit the region. Fondly coined “local summer” and “secret season,” autumn offers up perfect hiking weather without the crowds.

IMG_0951

GETTING THERE

The most convenient airport is Reno-Tahoe International, which is a quick flight on Southwest from San Diego, but not always as easily accessible from other major cities. The drive from Reno to Lake Tahoe is just about 40-60 minutes depending on the area you’re going to. Visitors can also fly into San Francisco International Airport which is about a 3.5 hour drive.

WHERE TO STAY

Ritz Carlton Lake Tahoe is located on the North side of the lake, in the mountain town of Truckee offering slope-side access to Northstar, one of the area’s top ski resorts. With 170 guest rooms suites, as well as several residences, the hotel is ideal for families, offering several onsite restaurants, an outdoor pool and hot tub (both heated year-round), games and an extensive kids club. Couples will also enjoy the resort’s spa and adult-only pool and hot tub. All ages will love the daily “Marshmology” lesson on the history of S’mores, taught fireside by Dr. Graham (complete with samples and home made marshmallows!).

DSC02033DSC02035DSC02036

Virtuoso Perks: As a Virtuoso property, guests that book this hotel through a Virtuoso travel advisor (such as Atlas + Valise) will receive a complimentary daily breakfast credit for two, $100 food & beverage credit, complimentary room upgrade based upon availability (we were upgraded to a suite and it was everything!!), early check-in and late check-out based upon availability, and a welcome amenity (check out all the treats delivered to our suite upon arrival!).

IMG_0527IMG_0825IMG_0665

Edgewood Tahoe is a newly opened resort just outside the town of South Lake Tahoe. The hotel was completed last year to accompany the famed Edgewood Golf Course which borders the resort. Set a few miles away from the South Lake Tahoe gambling scene, guests enjoy an idyllic setting directly on Lake Tahoe. Aside from the stunning design and state-of-the-art spa, my favorite part of this resort is the lakeside infinity pool and the triple sized hot-tub (also both heated and open year-round). Guests are offered a variety of dining options so there’s no real need to leave the hotel, but if you wish to check out one of the hot spots in town, Edgewood will take you there in a complimentary shuttle.

DSC02194DSC02191DSC02185DSC02170

Advisor Booking Perks: As a premier property, guests that book this hotel through a Travel Edge advisor (such as Atlas + Valise) will receive complimentary daily breakfast credit for two, $75 food & beverage credit, complimentary room upgrade based upon availability, and a welcome amenity (hello free bottle of champagne and birthday cupcakes!)

DSC02182

WHAT TO DO

In the winter, the mountains are king and in the summer, the lake reigns supreme, but in the fall you can get the best of both worlds!

  • Most Beautiful Drive – The perimeter of Lake Tahoe is commonly known as the “Most Beautiful Drive.” With several picturesque locations to stop for photo ops or hikes along the way, you can easily spend a full day meandering around the lake. DSC02083
  • Hiking – There are tons and tons of hiking trails in and around Lake Tahoe. A few of our favorites were:
    • Spur View Trail & Picnic Rock – 3.4 miles roundtrip, on the North side of the lake closer to the Ritz; the top offers a beautiful view of the lake; we even saw a coyote! DSC02039DSC02045
    • Stateline Lookout Trail – A quick up and back, this trail gives you a panoramic view of the lake and a few signs at the top share information on the history of the lake’s development; also on the North side of the lake. DSC02055
    • Castle Rock – 4 miles roundtrip, easily accessed from South Lake Tahoe; a beautiful forest hike with lake views at the turning point. DSC02211
    • Emerald Bay – This was easily my favorite area of Lake Tahoe. Located on the South Western part of the lake, there are tons of hikes throughout this State Park: 
      • Lower Eagle Falls Trail – If you park at the Vikingsholm parking area in Emerald Bay State Park, you can take a 1-mile paved trail down to the shoreline, exploring the area of Vikingsholm, a historic home which dates to 1929. From the house, you can take a quick hike to the Lower Eagle falls. DSC02229DSC02240
      • Rubicon Trail – After lots of trails with panoramic vistas, I really appreciated that this hike followed the shoreline and offered a close-up view of the turquoise waters. The trail is quite long, but it’s easy enough to do just a portion of it. DSC02222DSC02242
    • Cave Rock Hike – Less than a mile, this is an easy hike to tack on to your drive around the lake. 
  • Thunderbird Lodge – Built in the 1930s by a San Francisco millionaire, George Whittell, Jr., Thunderbird Lodge is a real treat! I recommend buying tickets online in advance as our tour was sold out. Tours last about 2 hours and are guided throughout the property by volunteer docents. While the house itself isn’t massive, the unique architecture, underground passageways, boathouse, grotto, and secret doorways are entirely charming and the views of the lake are breathtaking. IMG_0822DSC02142DSC02119
  • Kayaking – While it’s easy enough to rent your own kayak at several beaches around the lake, I recommend a guided tour with Clearly Tahoe. If you’re staying at Edgewood, they’ll pick you up dockside at the resort and take you on a 2 hour cruise of the shoreline in a clear bottom kayak so you can truly experience the clearness of Lake Tahoe’s water!DCIM100GOPROGOPR0012.JPGDCIM100GOPROGOPR0014.JPG
  • Wine Tasting Boat Cruise – Tahoe Tastings offers a twice daily (midday and sunset) wine-tasting cruise through Emerald Bay. The 2 hour cruise accommodates about 10-15 people and guests are treated to tastes of 8 different wines, all local to Northern California. Once you’ve completed your tasting, you can also order wines by the glass. This was a thoroughly enjoyable way to enjoy a day on the lake and I cannot recommend it enough! IMG_0865
  • Mini Golf – To mix things up a little, what’s more fun than a good game of putt-putt? We stopped at Magic Carpet Golf on the way back from our wine tasting cruise and had a ball.
  • Spa – This vacation was all about some R&R and so I hit up the spa at both the Ritz Carlton and Edgewood. Both lived up to expectations with private, serene relaxation areas and top-notch services. IMG_0583

WHERE TO EAT

  • Chef’s Counter at Manzanita – If you’re staying at the Ritz, why not treat yourself to the Chef’s Counter at the Ritz’s in-house restaurant Manzanita? The Chef made this experience truly amazing for us. Another perk of the “shoulder season” we were the only couple enjoying this unique dining experience with front row seats to all the kitchen action and one-of-a-kind off-menu dishes created for and presented to us by each of the cooks in the kitchen. Top it off with a wine pairing and this is a win-win. IMG_0548IMG_0552
  • The Bistro at Edgewood—The food was delicious, the setting was beautiful and you don’t have to leave the hotel.
  • Izabella Ristorante – Perfect for a casual night out in South Lake Tahoe. We were craving some good Italian food and this place fit the bill. It’s definitely a local favorite though so come early!
  • Edgewood Restaurant – I always save a fancy dinner for the last night of a trip and Edgewood Restaurant is the perfect way to cap off a vacation in Tahoe. Book for sunset time so you can enjoy the rainbow of colors over the lake as you dine on delicious California cuisine. IMG_0880
  • Social House – Behind a fridge door in this casual deli restaurant is a hidden speakeasy, serving up delectable cocktails for the perfect night cap.
  • Sprouts Cafe – An ideal stop for a quick and healthy lunch between hikes. Great for sandwiches, but don’t miss the nachos!

Interested in booking a trip to Lake Tahoe? Contact us today and we’ll handle the rest!

DSC02250

HOTEL REVIEW: THE GARLAND

Planning a weekend getaway to Hollywood? Whether you’re visiting Universal Studios (as I was) or just looking for an affordable yet chic place to stay in Los Angeles, The Garland is a perfect option.

IMG_0332

Two weeks ago, my fiance and I drove up to LA on a random Thursday to celebrate his birthday at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (yep this is how you celebrate 35!). It’s a bit of a hike from San Diego and so we decided to spend the night up there. Looking for a hotel near the Park, I was immediately disappointed by the plethora of Burbank Airport hotel options. I wanted something cool and unique and worthy of a birthday night away. That’s when I stumbled upon The Garland. Just a 10 minutes’ drive from Universal, this place feels like a world away. Plus they have a complimentary trolley that runs a regular route to/from the park so you can down those Butterbeers without worry!

IMG_0316

Originally built in the 1970s by Hollywood actress Beverly Garland and her husband Fillmore Crank, the hotel was redone in the early 2000s by their son (and now owner) James. I was so impressed with how James and his team were able to modernize the hotel without sacrificing any of the 70’s Retro charm – the orange accents and funky fabrics blend perfectly with modern design touches like unique light fixtures, a hip new restaurant and manicured lawns and parks.

IMG_0327

The Rooms are all well appointed and comfortable – each with a private balcony and your very own paparazzi closet!

IMG_0318IMG_0323IMG_0321

After a long day walking around Universal Studios, we immediately headed to the pool after check-in. We picked up some drinks at The Spritz Hour (a very on-trend happy hour) and relaxed on the chaise lounges poolside before taking a dip in the hot tub.

IMG_0325

We also decided to make it easy on ourselves and eat our meals at the on-site restaurant, The Front Yard. We were certainly not disappointed. The food was innovative and delicious and the service was excellent. Do yourself a favor and save room for dessert – chocolate nutella cake? Yes please.

IMG_0330

I would definitely recommend a stay at The Garland to anyone visiting Hollywood for a trip to Universal Studios. For assistance booking your trip to Universal Studios, please contact us today!

And for those wondering about how magical The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is…

IMG_0309IMG_0304IMG_0298IMG_0294