LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
December 10, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Manhattan is simply magical during the holidays. What better place to stay in the city than The Peninsula New York, the landmark building ideally located on Fifth Avenue and 55th Street in Midtown? There's a reason this prestigious hotel has received the AAA Five-Diamond award for eight consecutive years, and is listed as one of the top three hotels in New York by Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List. Decadent facilities (like the glass-enclosed pool and sumptuous spa) are complemented by absolutely impeccable service (we wouldn't expect anything less from a Peninsula hotel). Amid the hustle and bustle of hectic holiday preparations, take some time to be pampered in style. The Peninsula New York's restaurants and bars are favorites among the New York business crowd and include the hotel's fine dining restaurant, Fives, and the popular Pen-Top Bar & Terrace with stunning views of New York. Fives is going all out for Christmas with marvelous Prix Fixe menus with holiday favorites like Grilled Beef Tenderloin and Warm Chocolate Soufflé Tart. On Christmas Eve, enjoy festive decorations and live music ($95 per person), and on Christmas Day, the Buffet Brunch features traditional delicacies like Free Range Roast Turkey with Traditional Gravy and Prime Rib with Horseradish Cream. Exciting buffet selections include a seafood raw bar, carved meats, aged cheeses, delicious vegetarian dishes, and desserts ($125 per person, Champagne inclusive. The price is $85 per guest aged 13-20, and $45 for guests 12 years and under.)
Overlooking the St. Lawrence River just 30 minutes from Quebec City, fresh, untracked powder blankets the trails: a real winter wonderland. The NYT sings the praises of this oft-overlooked ski destination: "the mountains of Quebec's suburbs are the hidden jewels of the early ski season." Why choose the crowded slopes of Vermont when you can opt for this magical wilderness setting, combined with a stay in one of North America's oldest and prettiest towns: Old Quebec City? Mont Ste.-Anne is "the biggest of the resorts within a half-hour of Quebec only 10 percent of the annual visitors come from the United States." Plus, a trip to Quebec means a stay at the award-winning Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, the majestic heritage hotel that is itself a landmark in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated high on a bluff in the historic city center. Spend the day on the slopes or out on the town, soaking up the European charm of Quebec City, and then kick back après-ski in your very own castle. Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac has put together a Ski Package which includes accommodations, full buffet breakfast at Le Café de la Terrasse, and one day ski lift ticket at a choice of two mountains: Mont Ste-Anne or Stoneham. Starting from CAD 369 per night, available until April 27, 2008.
Leave it to Dubai-- the world's novelty capital, home to the biggest, baddest, and most outlandish-- to open an ice lounge. There are now 9 ice bars globally and of course Dubai has caught on to the trend. Chillout, the $3 million bar made entirely of ice (40,000 tons of it!), opened in the Times Square Shopping Center this past June. Enjoy nibbles from an Asian-fusion menu served on ice plates, and sip your Shirley Temple in a tumbler made of ice. (Be forewarned: alcoholic drinks are *not* served in this joint.) There are even ice sculptures depicting Dubai's skyline and a 7-foot chandelier carved from ice. Pony up the $17 cover charge and you'll get one drink and a hooded parka, wool gloves and insulated shoes for your time in the bar.
Keep winter blues at bay with a Vegas getaway and get luxury for less at The Venetian. In the center of the action on The Strip, the resort's got plenty of wow factors: authentic gondola rides on the Grand Canal, the Guggenheim Museum, excellent live entertainment, top-quality restaurants, and the Canyon Ranch Spa... Talk about the ultimate winter playground. Skip the holiday frenzy and luxuriate in style at The Venetian, where you can unwind in one of the newly remodeled Luxury Suites for a mere $149 per night with their exclusive holiday rate. Available until January 3, 2008. (Weekend rates are slightly more at $199 per night.)
East Coasters, grab your skis and snowboards. Snow is falling in the Laurel Highlands and winter weather is in the forecast. Mystic Mountain-- 25 acres of fun, short lines, friendly trails and experienced instructors-- will be open to welcome skiers of all levels on Saturday, December 8, 2007. This is Western Pennsylvania's ideal learning environment for first-timers, but there is also plenty of terrain for the pros. There are 10 slopes, ranging from beginner to expert, with a 300 foot vertical drop, three lifts-- 100 percent illuminated for night skiing. Easily accessible and incredibly popular during its 20 year history, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort is your indoor and outdoor winter destination. With winter weather on the horizon, you'll find all sorts of activities at the resort: dog sledding, surrey rides, snow-tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. But if snowsports aren't your thing, head inside and indulge in some special holiday treatments at the world-class Woodlands Spa or fine dining with French flair at the AAA Five-Diamond Lautrec restaurant.
What could be better than bringing in the New Year in one of the world's hottest cities? Watch the fireworks from the best spot in town: the luxurious Grand Hotel La Florida, perched high on Mount Tibidabo just 25 minutes from the city center. From the roof, the views are absolutely spectacular-- mountains, sea, and city stretched out before your eyes. Book a New Year's Eve Getaway and enjoy music, festive colors, sparkling champagne, and those priceless views. Priced at EUR 1,390 (in a Deluxe Room), the getaway includes two nights of luxury, buffet breakfast served daily in the restaurant, a welcome Christmas amenity, the spectacular New Year's Eve gala dinner, and free Wireless Internet, shuttle service to the city center, and access to the ZenZone Spa (read: hammam, sauna, caldarium, and fitness center). Valid on December 30 and 31, 2007.
It's a most wonderful time of the year in Lake Placid, ranked one of the best ski experiences in North America by Condé Nast Traveler. The Whiteface Lodge, offering the rustic sophistication of the Adirondack Great Camps, is decked out for the holidays. From piano entertainment in the lounge to gourmet holiday dinners at Steak & Stinger, The Whiteface Lodge is brimming with festive good cheer. Indeed the hotel has even devised a special Couple's Spa Package to ease the yuletide stress. There's been lots of buzz about the luxurious new spa, selected as one of the elite Leading Spas of the World, and the two-night stay with daily breakfast and one couple's massage ($1,100 per couple) offers the perfect pre-holiday escape. There's an array of seasonal activities just outside the front door. The Lodge has its very own ice-skating rink; a year-round heated swimming pool; and nearby cross-country trails. Whiteface Mountain opened November 23, 2007 with excellent conditions for downhill skiers, and pre-season lift ticket rates are in effect through December 15th.
You can't get more festive than this. As befits one of the world's best hotels, The Peninsula Chicago is going all out for the holiday season. Expect decadent multi-course meals, festive décor, Fashion Afternoon Teas, visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a magical New Year's Eve celebration. On Christmas Eve, dine to the music of a Viennese Quartet in The Lobby or enjoy a five-course dinner at AAA-Five-Diamond rated Avenues, prepared by Chef de Cuisine Graham Elliot Bowles. Christmas Day promises to be nothing short of spectacular. The kids will be delighted by a visit from Santa, entertainment by a magician, and other fun activities in the Pen Kids Holiday Activity Room. During the day (10:30 a.m.- 5:30 p.m.), The Lobby will host a delicious buffet accompanied by live music. The five-course Christmas Dinner, featuring seasonal cuisine, will knock your socks off. But the fun doesn't stop there. The festivities continue through New Year's, with a Black Tie Gala including a champagne reception, exquisite dinner menu, music from Eric Remschneider and The Peninsula Big Band, and-- after the Scottish pipers ring in 2008-- dancing til all hours.
A recent article in the Washington Post describes the "destination fatigue-- been there, done that, paid a big bill"-- that affects a growing number of high-end travelers. When you've vacationed in Patagonia, the BVI, and the Greek Islands, and cruised the Nile and Yangtze rivers, what's next? The answer is remote, off-the-map destinations that once only appealed to backpackers. The newest hotspots are places like Bhutan, where Amanresorts has opened a string of luxury lodges that allow travelers to discover this incredible Himalayan kingdom without having to rough it. We'd count China's Yunnan province on the list, as well as luxury safaris in Africa, and hotels in northern India. What's your next luxury travel destination?
We just can't stop talking about the newly-renovated Tides South Beach. And now we just have to spread the word about a special opening promotion at this glamorous Ocean Drive hotspot. In tribute to the high-design, art deco era that created this South Beach landmark, the hotel is offering guests the rate in 1936 when the property first debuted. Book four nights and get the fourth night for $1.50, a cost for a room at The Tides in 1936! But hurry, the "Encore of an Icon" rates will surely sell out fast. Available for stays until January 31, 2008. Sunday- Thursday nights only.