June 7, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
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
June 2, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Situated in the heart of sunny Newport Beach on 15 bayfront acres, the Balboa Bay Club and Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel on California's renowned gold coast. The AAA four-diamond winner offers 136 luxurious guestrooms, each with patio, marble bathrooms with sunken tubs, and feather-top beds. Since 1948, the "Host of the Coast" has welcomed Hollywood legends, honeymooners, and business executives to its luxurious establishment. The "First Cabin" restaurant offers al fresco dining (California cuisine) overlooking the harbor, and Dukes Place features live jazz nightly on the waterfront. The Balboa Bay Club also boasts a heated swimming pool with hydro spa and onsite spa with fitness complex. And from now until December 31, 2006, Preferred Hotels and Resorts is offering "Resort Escapes"-- with your stay at participating hotels, indulge in a $100 resort credit. When you book a two-night stay at Preferred Hotels such as the Balboa Bay Club, receive an added credit of $100 for "mood enhancers" such a warm mud bath or dinner for two. Valid until December 31, 2006.
June 1, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Congratulations to Darlene, from Cincinnati, Ohio, who was selected at random as the winner of our Giveaway Contest!
Of course it's still possible to sign up for our montly upscale newsletter, here.
The Informed Traveler, in conjunction with our esteemed partner The Hay-Adams Hotel, is thrilled to announce our first Luxury Hotel Giveaway. One lucky winner will score a two-night stay at this fabulous five-star hotel in Washington DC. The choice of Presidents, international dignitaries, and savvy clientele looking to be pampered, the historic Hay-Adams offers guests the most prestigious Washington address with views overlooking the White House, Lafayette Square, and St. John's Church, the "Church of Presidents." The hotel is just minutes from the Smithsonian, Washington Monument, Capitol Building and mall, and excellent shopping and fine dining. The classic landmark has long been a favorite gathering place in the nation's capital. Like a distinguished private residence on Lafayette Square, The Hay-Adams boasts personalized service, culinary excellence and one-of-a-kind amenities.
One lucky entrant will win a two-night stay in a Junior Suite, a lavish and oversized guest room with distinctive views of the nation's capital. The Junior Suites at the Hay Adams have maintained touches of their original history-- intricately carved decorative ceilings, ornamental fireplaces, and balconies-- while also showcasing modern amenities and a superb attention to detail in their design. The decor is sumptuous, and guests are spoiled with luxurious Frette linens, goose down duvets and pillows, plush bathrobes, and exclusive Etro toiletries in the marble bathrooms.
To enter to win this prize (estimated value: $2,400), simply sign up for our free, monthly upscale newsletter. On to the entry form!
May 31, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The award-winning Marquesa Hotel-- Key West's finest small hotel, a luxurious gem with lush gardens just steps from Duvall Street in Old Town--is home to one of the best dining experiences on the island. The 50-seat restaurant offers Contemporary American Cuisine, with specialties including Seared Brioche Dusted Yellowfin Tuna, Goat Cheese and Pistachio Crusted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Marinated Key West Shrimp, along with fresh baked breads and desserts. Awards include the AAA four-diamond and the DiRona Award. And Zagat has distinguished the restaurant as one of the best hotel restaurants in the country, identifying its "sophisticated" Key West style, "beautiful" presentations, and "relaxing ambiance" as what "makes her a queen."
Discover this boutique gem in the heart of historic Santa Barbara. With only 23 luxurious guest rooms and suites, the Inn of the Spanish Garden is an intimate and romantic hotel that epitomizes the history and tradition of Spanish Colonial Santa Barbara. Constructed in 2001, the two-storey hotel is of Spanish-Mediterranean inspired architecture, with white adobe walls, red tile roofs, ornate ironwork, courtyard fountains, vaulted ceilings and arches. All rooms are luxuriously appointed with quality, modern amenities including gas fireplace, Internet access, cordless phone with voicemail, deep soaking tub, and French press coffee maker. In addition, each room features a private balcony or garden patio. The Inn has an open-air fitness room overlooking the heated swimming pool and sundeck, and offers in-room spa services. Complimentary deluxe continental breakfast with espresso drinks and newspaper, and evening wine bar.
If Wynn's signature restaurant is identified by a first name, the chef must be pretty darn good. Indeed, Zagat describes Alex Stratta as one of the "very best chefs" in Las Vegas, having learned his cosmopolitan gastronomic savvy while working under Alain Ducasse. The luxurious four-course prix fixe menu ($120) is a hedonistic delight-- perhaps the dining experience of a lifetime. His artistic French cuisine combines the freshest seasonal ingredients and includes dishes such as foie gras ravioli in truffle bouillon with duck confit salad. The entrance is dramatic-- descending a grand, hourglass-shaped staircase to arrive in the elegant and romantic dining room, designed in a European style with inlaid wood and crystal chandeliers. Zagat raves:
the staff "goes out of its way to ensure a wonderful evening", and "perfect touches" like "the seat-side purse ottoman" for a clientele "who actually remembers to dress" guarantee a reprieve from "the shorts-and–flip-flops" "Vegas culture."
But don't bring the kiddies (children under five are banned from the premises).
Wynn Las Vegas, Five Star Alliance
May 25, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
With airfares to Europe skyrocketing, this promotion is almost too good to be true. Maxjet Airways-- all business class and low airfares too-- flies luxurious transatlantic service between London Stansted and New York and Washington. The service is sensational: gorgeous pre-departure lounges, signature gourmet meals, on-demand entertainment, and deep-recline, all-leather seats onboard. From now until June 2, you can fly the luxury airline with discounted fares of just $1,000 roundtrip. Now that's a steal.