In the rugged wilderness of West Texas, between Big Bend National Park and the Mexico border, lies a unique destination resort situated on a 25,000-acre private estate. Lajitas is surrounded by the awesome scenery that—as Architectural Digest explains—inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt to sign into law the creation of Big Bend National Park. This exquisite landscape is etched with the history of the infamous characters from the Old West. The lodging? This ain’t tents around the campfire. Along with the resort’s endless array of activities, Lajitas offers luxurious cowboy chic. Of the 92 rooms, no two are alike—each outfitted with plush robes and lavish Agave amenities. (Suites and private haciendas also available.) The resort has designed a host of fun and clever packages. The “Ultimate Golf Package”—with unlimited golf and lunch on the course—is $250 a night. With the optional 19th hole in Mexico, Ambush at Lajitas is the world’s only international course. Unlimited rounds of golf are complemented by unlimited carts, balls, and beverages. My fave is the “So You Wanna Be A Cowboy” package, where guests participate in a slew of activities, starting with a custom-fitting of cowboy boots. Next on the agenda? Learn how to use a gun of the Old West at Greasewood Flats, Lajitas’ very own cowboy action shooting range. After breakfast on Day 2, head out on a trail ride to the Buena Suerte Mine and Ghost Town, then star-gaze by a roaring campfire while enjoying a gourmet feast. Starting at $400 per person.
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Official Site
Lajitas, The Ultimate Hideout, Five Star Alliance
Heading to your favorite Argyle on Sunset? Don’t be dismayed at its apparent disappearing act. The hotel has morphed into the Sunset Tower Hotel, a name-change that I believe goes back to the hotel’s roots 76 years ago. Anyone know for sure?
Sunset Tower Hotel, Official Site
Sunset Tower Hotel, Five Star Alliance
The Four Seasons Toronto has designed a fabulous new package, to pamper its fashion-focused guests afflicted with holiday shopping fever. Starting at CAD $315 a night, guests are treated to luxurious accommodations, late check-out, and an exclusive shopping passport with savings at over 40 shops in the chic Bloor-Yorkville district. On top of that, guests receive a Four Seasons Toronto shopping bag, containing bottled water, power bar, bath salts, Toronto shopping map, and a Goods and Services Tax rebate form. Starting November 21, 2005.
Four Seasons Toronto, Official Site
Four Seasons Toronto, Five Star Alliance
The legendary New Orleans establishment has opened again with a full range of services. The Windsor Court is well-known as one of the world’s finest hotels, with overly-spacious suites, superb service and cuisine, and the finest collection of European art in the South. In its 20 year history, the Windsor Court has remained a fixture at the top of all the World’s Best lists (Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway, you name it…) Post-Katrina, the hotel is not only housing clients associated with the city’s rebuilding, but is also offering a “Returning Home” rate for locals who need a place to stay while overseeing home repairs. The rate of $235 a night includes suite accommodation, breakfast for two in the New Orleans Grill, and parking. Additionally, the hotel can stock your refrigerator with groceries and configure the in-room phone line to accept forwarded calls from your home or business.
The Windsor Court Hotel, Official Site
The Windsor Court Hotel, Five Star Alliance
Opening in Spring 2006, the centrally-located Knoxville hotel will be Intercontinental’s fifth Hotel Indigo. (Other locations include Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas.) The 126-room, seven-storey property will be a conversion from an independent hotel, featuring artwork and furniture that change seasonally. What is the brand Hotel Indigo? It is billed as a brand developed for conversions, to rejuvenate properties that “aren’t reaching their full potential, but are poised for success post conversion.” Hmmm, sounds a little sketchy. But Intercontinental further explains that this “lifestyle boutique hotel defined a new category of hotels targeting the needs of consumers who are ‘trading up’ to affordable luxury and service, but still seek value and style.” The Knoxville Hotel Indigo will feature plush bedding, whitewashed wood furniture, spa-style showers, hardwood floors, wireless internet, personalized service, and fitness studio. Sounds swell. But has anyone actually stayed in a Hotel Indigo—who can provide some insight?
Sea Island Resorts is absolutely brimming with good cheer and merriment this holiday season. They’ve put together a bunch of events sure to delight the whole family. Activities include: ballroom dancing, nightly elf tuck-in for the kiddies, crafts workshops, holiday bingo, and a Stables Christmas Party-- complete with horses parading in their holiday best, games, and a bonfire for roasting s’mores. The best part of the deal is the guaranteed White Christmas, with a special delivery of blown snow at the Beach Club. Take advantage of the 12 Days of Christmas Package, which includes room, breakfast for the family, welcome gift, Reindog parade, Family Holiday Show, elf tuck-ins, and lots more events. Rates: Ocean House Nature View and Deluxe Ocean View - $350. Ocean House Ocean View - $425. Lodge - $525. Two night minimum required, available December 18 through December 30 (excludes NYE).
Cloister at Sea Island, Official Site
Cloister at Sea Island, Five Star Alliance
The Lodge at Sea Island, Official Site
The Lodge at Sea Island, Five Star Alliance
From now until February 28, 2006, check out an exclusive exhibit at The Gallery at Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C. Renowned French painter Jean Marc Huss explores themes that span thousands of years; his works of oil on canvas depict Buddha images dating back to the Khmer Empire. How cool. After you check out the exhibition, check into the hotel’s Presidential Suite, voted one of the best in the world by both USA Today and Elite Traveler. After all, the three-bedroom suite is the choice of heads of state when visiting the nation’s capital-- the very height of luxury. Details include: panoramic views from the floor-to-ceiling windows, two balconies, living room with grand piano, chess table and telescope, a kitchenette, exercise area, and a truly spectacular bedroom. Get this: the master bedroom features a TV above a windowed, infinity-edge SOK tub that fills from a ceiling height nozzle. Wow.
Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., Official Site
Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., Five Star Alliance
November 17, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Business meeting in LA? How about taking it poolside at Shutters on the Beach? It’s got one of the most spacious pooldecks of all the luxury hotels in LA, with full restaurant and bar service along with high-speed wireless internet access. (Not to mention the Jacuzzi with spectacular ocean views.) Shutters conjures images of crisp, white linens matched by whitewashed walls-- the sun-filled spaces the epitome of understated elegance. With a recent interior redesign, the spacious rooms are classy, elegant and reminiscent of a private beach cottage. This is beachfront living at its finest, just minutes from all the fine dining, luxury shopping, outdoor adventure and museums on offer in LA’s neighborhoods. Jog along Santa Monica’s 22 mile beachfront trail, then indulge in a custom treatment by Ole Henriksen at the hotel’s ONE spa. At the Getty Center, forget the art; the building itself is an architectural triumph (comprised of blocks of unpolished marble with imbedded fossil specimens), with a killer view to match. Over the weekend, head to the Santa Monica’s Farmers Market before hitting the luxury boutiques on Main Street or Montana Avenue.
Shutters on the Beach, Official Site
Shutters on the Beach, Five Star Alliance
November 16, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The cat’s been out of the bag for sometime about this perfect Mission trattoria, but I still start salivating when someone mentions the menu. Even just a nibble of antipasti will suffice. Especially when it’s prosciutto San Danielle with fuyu persimmons and Parmigiano. And believe it or not, the all-organic menu’s not even the best part. Despite its chic clientele and happening atmosphere, this place remains true to its Mission environs—the staff friendly, tattooed, and down-to-earth.
November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
I admit it; I’ve never done it. But after a few beers the other night with a couple who lead springtime Heli-skiing tours in Alaska, I was well on my way out the door. Who needs the tropics when I could ski snow-capped peaks and glacier-carved mountains all by my lonesome?! (And I’m no ski junkie.) Up in Alaska, the winter season runs from late February until May. Heli-skiing operations like Points North Heli-Adventures (utilizing over 1,000 sq miles of skiable terrain in the Chugach mountains) provide an average of 20-25,000 feet of vertical per day. (Excursions average 6-10 heli runs and $850-900 a day.) I checked out a feature in Outside Traveler’s Winter issue, which was equally as convincing about heli-ski tours in the central Alps. Apparently heli-skiing trips in Switzerland used to be rather boring—a daytrip appended to a traditional lift-skiing vaca at the big resorts. But this season, adrenaline hounds can experience SwisSkiSafari’s Ultimate Journey, as described by the Outside author:
“a four-day, five-night, fine-wine-and-slide luxury tour that zips skiers around the country’s top resorts in privately chartered B3’s and Bell 407’s. You start in Verbier (about 1,000 miles east of Geneva), then fly east to Zermatt and Saas Fee, making backcountry drops in between—wherever the snow is best. Doing 5,000- to 7,000-vertical-foot runs in a single push can hurt, but returning every evening to top-notch digs and massages blunts the pain.”
Bring it on! Can anyone advise me-- additionally-- about good operators in the Rockies?