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?
November 11, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Live in the Northeast? Don’t worry about flying to Florida this winter when you can take your swimsuit to a water park!, a recent AP article counseled. Hmmm, a lodge in the Poconos vs. Miami Beach. Somehow-- I muse-- it’s not quite the same thing… But read on, loyal reader, the concept is pretty sweet. The park in question just opened in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains (very convenient to the whole Megalopolis of the East Coast), and another one is opening soon in New York’s Adirondacks. Great Wolf Lodge is a 78,000 sq ft indoor water park, with 401 suites (log cabin style), an arcade, spa, restaurants and fitness center. This is a full-service family resort, and the kids go gaga over the water park’s 11 slides, wave pool, winding river, and whirlpools. The price ranges from $189 in the off season to $569 for a luxury suite during the holiday peak.
Though perhaps a bit trite after my last news alert, I can’t resist passing on the news about New York’s Chocolate Show. I missed the fashion show opening on the 10th, but Gridskipper and Luxist provided nice descriptive reviews, and reading about it is half the fun! Hurry over to the Metropolitan Pavilion, to get your chocolate fix, before it closes on the 13th.
This is no Vegas heist. George Clooney has graduated from robbing Vegas casinos on film, to actually developing them. Clooney, along with night-club extraordinaire Rande Gerber, Related Las Vegas and Centra Properties, have partnered to create Las Ramblas—a $3 billion luxury hotel-condo-casino complex. Its namesake, the legendary boulevard in Barcelona, inspired the urban plan of an outdoor pedestrian promenade lined with European cafes and boutiques. (So guests can feel like they’re actually walking through a city! How novel.) The 25-acre development is situated along Harmon Avenue, just west of the Hard Rock. Along with 4,400 hotel and condo units, Las Ramblas will have a 30,000 sq-ft spa, swimming pools, upscale shopping and a 40,000 sq-ft casino. Not to mention the best and chic-est nightlife. After all, these are the guys whose After Midnight Company (evolved from The Whiskey Bar brand) has helped revolutionize and innovate nightlife across the country. Scheduled to open in 2008. Strict dress code, folks.
This holiday season the Ritz-Carlton and Saks have partnered together to bring you a special offer. The Package includes overnight accommodations in a deluxe guest room, Saks Fifth Avenue certificate-- $50 in savings with a purchase of $250 or more, American breakfast for two, and overnight valet parking. Available November 1 through December 31, 2005 at locations throughout the United States. The package is subject to availability, so get on it!!!
I used to think of historic Healdsburg as Napa sin crowds, the little country town where seekers of great wine could avoid the weekend traffic jams that plague the neighboring valley. (Napa’s long corridor usually jammed bumper to bumper just like 5 pm on the Bay Bridge.) Indeed, Healdsburg’s country stores, fantastic deli, and boutiques embody country charm. Surrounded on all sides by vineyards, Healdsburg is the epicenter of three distinctive growing regions: the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley. After a blissful drive to vineyards like Pezzi King, along country roads snaking through spellbinding scenery, you’d find yourself alone with the vintner, enjoying a delicious glass of wine and basking in the warmth of familial hospitality. Healdsburg is now undergoing a chic transformation, as new restaurants and hotels have added a touch of luxury and decadence to Sonoma County’s charming capital. Opened since March, the $3.5 million Les Mars Hotel is a splendid, European-style inn, full of gracious artwork and antiques. Sixteen guestrooms have been created out of what used to be an auto parts store. Room rates range from $425 to $995 (depending on the season and choice of room). The French-inspired Cyrus restaurant, directly off the lobby, has been called “Sonoma’s answer to French Laundry” in Napa’s Yountville. The owners hail from some of SF’s best restaurants: Gary Danko and the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton. Elegant menus are fixed course: three, four or five for $58, $69, and $80, respectively.
November 8, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Barcelo shelled out 31 million dollars for the luxurious La Jolla De Mismaloya, known worldwide as the setting where Ava Gardner and Richard Burton got it on during the filming of The Night of the Iguana. The 303-suite luxury hotel—now dubbed the Barcelo La Jolla de Mismaloya— was built in 1989 on the site of the sets used by John Huston in directing the 1964 film. With this new addition, Barcelo will operate 11 hotels (3,613 rooms) in Mexico, including the Yucatan’s Barcelo Maya Colonial and the Barcelo Maya Tropical, planned for late 2005.
November 5, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
HotelChatter is hilarious. (A guaranteed crack-up if you check this out.) Their latest critique of Zagat’s 2006 Hotel Guide (as also reported by Gadling) is genuinely side-splittingly entertaining. The Zagat lingo sure can grate. And HotelChatter sure gets it right in “Zagat’s 2006 Hotel Guide Gets It Wrong.”
Ahhhhh, the Halekulani Hotel. How best to describe one of the world’s best and most luxurious hotels? (I mean, these digs are truly fit for a king!) For almost 100 years, the Halekulani has proudly sustained its global reputation for gracious hospitality, flawless service, and extraordinary cuisine. The pool alone is a landmark. (Not just for the views overlooking the famous Waikiki Beach. The orchid mosaic on the bottom is made up of 1.2 million pieces of glass tile imported from South Africa. By God—it’s a work of art!) SpaHalekulani has got its own exclusive line of bath and body products, and La Mer restaurant—with its French cuisine created with fresh island ingredients-- is Hawaii’s only Five Diamond restaurant. But the best part of the Halekulani is the Vera Wang suite: arguably the most romantic on earth, and created by none other than the designer herself. Exclusive, stylish, and sophisticated, the 2,135 sq. ft suite is decorated with rare furnishings from Hawaii, the Pacific, and Asia. Each adornment—from the fine-china in the formal dining room to the fragrances and body lotions—were hand-selected by Vera Wang. The expansive deck (642 sq. ft.) overlooks the sea, sand and volcanic landscape of Hawaii. Other details include: private butler service, TOTO deep-soaking tub, master control system (room temperature, lighting, butler and in-room dining), welcome amenity of French champagne and amuses bouche.
Halekulani Hotel, Official Site
Halekulani Hotel, Five Star Alliance
Project CityCenter is the super-creative name for the latest Las Vegas development: a humongous entertainment venue planned by MGM Mirage. Located in the heart of the Strip, Project CityCenter consists of 18 million square feet (a whopping 66! acres) of space for a casino, shops, dining and luxury condos. The multi-billion dollar project is slated to open in phases starting in 2009. Mandarin Oriental just announced plans for its 400-room luxury hotel at the entrance of Project C.C. The 37-storey Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas will feature a Sky Lobby located on the 10th floor, where guests will be greeted with a wall of windows revealing a dramatic panorama of the Las Vegas cityscape. Plans include three Presidential suites of over 3,500 square feet each, seven dining and cocktail venues, 32,000 square foot spa, and 40,000 square feet of meeting and function space. Myriad glass-enclosed sky bridges will connect the hotel with the rest of Project CityCenter.