June 13, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The coolest hotel in Vegas is also home to one of the best hotel pools in the US. At the Hard Rock you'll find a hip party atmosphere, a Nobu restaurant, and a rocking Beach Club swimming pool with swim-up blackjack tables. This is the hang-out in Sin City, where there's always a hopping pool party with plenty of people watching. The seven acres of pools are connected by a lazy river and enhanced by actual sand beaches, palm trees, and a stage with live music. And of course you can play blackjack in your bathing suit. Swim up to the wooden gazebo with its blackjack and craps tables and don't worry about sopping wet bills-- the good folks at the Hard Rock hand out plastic pouches to protect your money.
June 13, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
by Courtney W. May for Bryant Park Hotel, New York City Situated directly across from New York City's storied Bryant Park, and steps away from the media, fashion, retail and transportation centers of Manhattan, the Bryant Park Hotel's midtown address alone renders it prime accommodations for the business or leisure traveler alike. Get the most out of your trip by reserving their Penthouse Suite (pictured). Make sure you do it when something exciting is happening in Bryant Park or when you can devote some time to park and people watching on your balcony. P.S. The Bryant Park bathroom - the actual Park's bathrooms aren't just outhouses - was awarded the title of "best in America" by Citysearch users in 2002 so make sure you check that out too. Penthouse Suite Details Location: The Bryant Park Hotel is 25 stories tall with only 128 guest rooms. The Penthouse Suite occupies the entire 24th floor with surrounding views of the New York City skyline. Size: 1,100 square feet (better then all of Manhattan's apartments) Rooms: The Penthouse features 1 and a half baths, a dinning area for up to 6 people, living room, bedroom and balcony. The Living Room: Notable aspects of the living room include one of the Suite's two 32" High Definition LCD flat screen televisions and a desk equipped with internet access is available for any business needs. Bathroom: A sleek double-headed shower, as well as an oversized bathtub, provides a luxurious bathing experience plus you can hoard Molton Brown products in your suitcase and keep asking the housekeeping staff and front desk to send you more. Balcony: Accessible through the Bedroom, the balcony provides amazing views which include the lawn of Bryant Park and the Manhattan skyline (make sure you bring binoculars). Note Bene: Through floor-to-ceiling windows, you can enjoy the view of the Empire State Building illuminated at night, all the while immersed in a flower-petal-infused bubble bath with your BOSE Wave Music System and a BOSE SoundDock Digital Music System for Apple iPod playing that hip music kids these days are listening to. Too cheap to get the Penthouse Suite? The Bryant Park Hotel does also have 16 suites, 10 park-view terraces, and a rooftop loft space with 360-degree skyline panoramas. They all have a fresh contemporary decor and signature room appointments that include authentic Tibetan rugs, goose-down duvets, and travertine marble bathrooms, even without shelling out the Penthouse nightly rate. Other New York Suites: Plaza Athenee's Penthouse Suite, "Park Avenue Suite at The Regency in New York City", "The Carlyle Hotel in New York City (Re)Opens The Royal Suite", "The Triplex Penthouse at the Time", and "Suite Escapes: the Mandarin Oriental New York Celebrates its Taipan Suite".
June 12, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Could it be the hottest new trend in travel? The new romantic comedy from Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Aniston, The Break Up, introduces the term 'Man'cations (Vince is at it again, in a role where he champions hanging out with the boys), and now Fairmont has put together some neat and unique ways for the guys to get together on 'Man'cations across North America. The Fairmont Chicago partners with wine and spirits producer Brown-Forman to bring the gents the ultimate Chitown 'Man'cation. The package includes a Woodford reserve whiskey tasting led by master distiller, Chris Morris, a three-course steak dinner with wine pairings by Brown-Forman, and a post-dinner cocktail seminar led by Brown Forman's CEO Tim Laird. Starting July 28, priced at $150 for seminars, dinner, alcohol, and overnight accommodations starting at $249 with a special "hair-of-the-dog" turndown amenity. Or get the crew together for some spa pampering at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. The Speed Meets Spa package caters to both the need for speed and the desire for pampering. With this package, guests receive enrollment at the ESPN Russell Racing School's introductory three day driving course at Infineon Raceway, three nights accommodation, dinner for two at the Inn's handsome fine-dining restaurant, two 50-minute spa treatments, tasting for two at the Gloria Ferrer winery and a bottle of Sonoma Sparkling Wine upon arrival. Available until December 30, 2006, rates start at $3,595 for the entire three-night stay, based on double occupancy.
June 8, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
On exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Degas to Picasso: Modern Masters. This survey of European art from 1900 to 1960 is ambitious and fascinating, showcasing 280 paintings, sculptures, drawings, watercolors, prints, and photographs. From the late works of Degas, Gauguin, Munch and Rodin through Giacometti and Picasso, this exhibition explores the major masters in 20th century Europe on an individual artistic basis, while also highlighting the rise of new artistic movements, from late impressionism and symbolism to mid-century modernism. Don't miss this one. Through July 23.
From the city of over-the-top, comes super-plush, themed suites with a serious wow-factor. The Palms resort recently opened an entire floor of individually themed party suites. Who needs typical Vegas glamour (fresh flowers and champagne, 3,000 thread count sheets, Jacuzzi tubs, *yawn*) when you could stay in the Kingpin Suite, which offers full-sized bowling lanes and oodles of plasma TVs along the walls of the 1,370 sq meter space? K-Fed and his posse will no doubt fantasize about the Crib Suite, with its DJ booth, pool table and video gaming lounge (the sleekest hip-hop bachelor pad you'll ever see). The Erotic Suite boasts a rotating bed and mirrored ceiling, and the fur-trimmed Hot Pink Suite is perfect for a girls get-together for pampering and nights out on the town. Viva Las Vegas.
(Of course extravagance like this comes with a price tag. Expect to shell out thousands per night.)
The majestic mountains of British Columbia offer more than superlative skiing; North America's renowned ski destination is just as enticing in the summertime, with fabulous hiking, gorgeous swimming pools, and world-class golf. The Pan Pacific Whistler Mountainside, the luxury boutique hotel located superbly at the bottom of the gondolas, has put together an excellent family vacation package for some thrilling adventures this summer. The Summer Family Adventure Package (created for a group of two adults and two kids) consists of five nights in a two-bedroom suite with a full kitchen and two bathrooms. The package also includes a five-hour boat trip on Lillooet Lake; a two-and-a-half hour ZipTrek Canopy Tour through the forest treetops; a dog sled tour (without the snow, but thrilling nonetheless); passes to go up Whistler Mountain Peak; and a disposable camera. Starting at $1,739, for family of four. Via Travel and Leisure Hot Deals
Four Seasons Hotel Chicago debuted the Teen Concierge program last year in an effort to cater to older children and teens who have different expectations for a fun vacation. Cynthia Waldmeir, the Teen Concierge, knows Chitown inside and out: the coolest boutiques in Lincoln Park and the trendiest restaurants in the city. Equipped with iPod fix-it kits, lip balm, and popular DVDs, Cynthia's got her list ready for the Top Picks for visiting teens and tweens:
Where to eat:
1. Best Place to Enjoy Sushi: Kamehachi, 240 East Ontario Street
Cynthia says: "They have a really cool underground atmosphere. It's like you are going into this cave where you sit down to enjoy delicious sushi rolls."
2. Best Sweets in City: Sweet Mandy B's, 1208 West Webster Avenue
Cynthia says: "The vintage cafe is so cute and their cupcakes and sweets are to die for."
3. Best Place for Something Different: L'Appetito, 875 North Michigan Avenue.
Cynthia says: "They have great panini-- but leave room for the gelato, an Italian favorite."
4. Best Place for a Chicago hot dog: Downtown Dogs, 804 North Rush Street
Cynthia says: "A trip to Chicago is not complete without a Chicago hot dog. Downtown Dogs has a great menu and is within walking distance for our guests."
5. Best Place for Chicago-style Pizza: Giordano's, 730 North Rush Street
Cynthia says: "At Giordano's you can place your order while you wait for a table-- which is important for young eaters who are low on patience."
Where to Shop:
1. Best Place for Jeans: The Denim Lounge, 940 N. Rush Street
Cynthia says: "They carry all the popular brands as well as fun T-shirts."
2. Best Place for Sunglasses: Active Endeavors, 935 West Armitage Avenue
Cynthia says: "They have a great selection and carry a lot of trendy, hard-to-find styles."
3. Best Place for CD's and DVD's: Virgin Megastore, 540 North Michigan Avenue
Cynthia says: "They have their own deejay and listening stations-- not to mention three floors of the hottest music, latest movies and even those rare titles you can never find."
4. Best Place for Jewelry and Handbags: Francesca's Collections, 2012 North Halsted Street and 1154 Lill Studio, 904 W. Armitage Avenue
Cynthia says: "Francesca's has a wall-to-wall jewelry collection of fun and sophisticated styles. If you can't find it there, it's not going to happen. At 1154 Lill Studio, you can design your own handbag which is something different and a fun activity for teens and their moms."
5. Best Place for Cosmetics: Sephora, Water Tower Place/Shops at Northbridge
Cynthia says: "They have free samples of just about everything so that you and your girlfriends can give one another makeovers."
Where to Play:
1. Best Scenic Beach Spot: Oak Street Beach
Cynthia says: "Right behind you is Chicago's awesome skyline."
2. Best Recreational Beach Spot: North Avenue Beach
Cynthia says: "Here you can join in a volleyball game or rent a bike for a scenic lakefront tour."
3. Best Cultural Spot: The Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Avenue
Cynthia says: "It may not sound like kid-pleaser, but the guys love the Arms and Armor collection and the girls love The Thorne Miniature Rooms. Plus the gift shop has posters of their popular art. Teens will also enjoy the King Tut exhibit at the Field Museum and the U-505 Submarine exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry."
4. Best City Park: Millennium Park, 222 North Columbus Drive
Cynthia says: "Where else can you get soaked by interactive fountains of faces that spew water?"
5. Best Snapshot Spot: Outside the Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lakeshore Drive
Cynthia says: "It's a picture-perfect spot with a spectacular view of Chicago's skyline and Lake Michigan."
June 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
What an excuse to get your fix of the best Southern hospitality and charm. The Inn at Palmetto Bluff--South Carolina's picturesque resort and spa-- embodies all the grace and romance of the South. Exquisite accommodations, delightful cuisine, world-class golf, luxurious spa, and impeccable service… The Inn at Palmetto Bluff has it all. Situated amidst flowering gardens along the May River in the Lowcountry, the resort offers an enchanting setting for your next retreat. Enjoy a relaxing summer holiday at one of the finest of the world-renowned Auberge Resorts, and experience fantastic savings. From June 1-August 30, guests who book a two-night stay receive a third night for free, a savings of over $450.
June 5, 2006
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan, General Manager of the Conrad Chicago
The Conrad Chicago, formerly the Le Meridien Chicago, opened in November 2005 and has been continuing to upgrade ever since. Five Star Alliance and The Informed Traveler got in touch with the General Manager, Mr. T Colm O'Callaghan to find out more about his experiences with the new hotel and to learn more about what guests can expect.
Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: My family owns a hotel in Ireland which meant I was born into the business; I also attended hotel school, worked for Hilton for 18years. When this position became available I jumped at the opportunity.
Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Location, location, location.
Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Our customers are both business and leisure with our feeder markets being Los Angeles, New York, the UK, and Germany.
Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel’s location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?
Mr. O'Callaghan: We are located in the heart of The Magnificent Mile surrounded by wonderful shopping, great museums, great dining and within walking distance to city favorites as Millennium Park, and Navy Pier. My favorite thing to do is people watch, great people watching right on Michigan Avenue.
Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?
Mr. O'Callaghan: I can not speak about specific guests. I will say we do have a loyal client base. Our biggest compliment is our repeat guests.
Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?
Mr. O'Callaghan: All of our rooms are fabulous!
Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Perhaps a bit of history? Any special events that have taken place on property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Designed by Chicago architects Frederick J. Thielbar and John Reed Furgard, this 16-story art deco limestone building is a collaboration between one of the city's leading architectural firms and the sculptors Eugene mad Gwen Lux. Gwen Lux is among America's pioneer women sculptresses; her work can be found at the Rockefeller Center complex in New York City and at the General Motors Technical Center in Detroit designed by architect Eero Saarinen. The McGraw-Hill Building served as the Midwestern offices of the McGraw-Hill Publishing Company, among the largest trade paper and book publishers in the country.
Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The location of the hotel, and the warmth and friendliness of its staff.
Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?
Mr. O'Callaghan: The hardest part is the administrative aspect of the job it prevents me from interacting with the guests and staff as much as I would like.
Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?
1. Sheen Falls – Kenmare, Ireland – ideal setting
2. Evans Hideaway Resort – Huahin, Thailand – love private villas, infinity pools and enclosed walls.
3. Conrad Tokyo – New standard for the International Conrad, great urban hotel.
Five Star Alliance:Anything else you would like our readers to know about you’re your property?
Mr. O'Callaghan: Warm friendly staff, second none in Chicago.
Mr. T. Colm O'Callaghan is the General Manager of the Conrad Chicago in Chicago, IL where he came from his position as the Resident Manager at The Peninsula Hotel in Chicago. Prior to that, Mr. O'Callaghan had over 20 years of European and American professional experiences with hotels such as The St. Regis Hotel New York, The New York Palace, Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, and Merv Griffin's Beverly Hilton. He received his B.A., an Honors Degree, from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland and his Graduate Certificate from the General Manager Development Program in Hong Kong.
June 5, 2006
By: Guest Writer
By Nathan Stone
As summer beach season gets underway it's natural to ponder all the amazing creatures that inhabit the oceans. In November 2005, Atlanta opened the doors to the world's largest aquarium, offering a chance to see an amazing array of ocean inhabitants without the scuba gear. Home to over 120,000 aquatic creatures living in over 8 million gallons of water, the massive 200 million dollar aquarium boasts five areas each representing a different ecosystem. The largest exhibit is the Ocean Voyager, which begins with a ride down a curving moving walkway through an acrylic tunnel where stingrays, sharks, and many schools of brightly colored fish appear to fly overhead. The tunnel leads to the main theater, which has a gigantic viewing window.
The aquarium has exceeded all attendance expectations and purchasing time-reserved tickets online is highly recommended. The aquarium is located in Atlanta's Olympic Park near downtown. Both the Four Seasons Atlanta and Ritz Carlton Atlanta are nearby. JavaJive is perhaps the town's hippest brunch spot, offering gingerbread waffles set in an old-style ice cream parlor setting complete with vintage 1950s appliances.
For aquarium lovers, another massive aquarium that will compete in size with Atlanta's is being constructed in The Dubai Mall in Dubai. Other notable aquariums in the U.S. include Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Additional images from my trip can be found in The Informed Traveler Flickr Group.
By: Guest Writer