Where to Celebrate National Wine Day on May 25

Need ideas on where, around the globe, to celebrate National Wine Day on May 25? We have a few thrilling ideas!

Ama Vida Alfresco Dining

Ama Vida Alfresco Dining

AmaWaterways

In celebration of National Wine Day on May 25, AmaWaterways is inviting travelers to toast to the holiday with a special offer available on its wine-themed cruises – showcasing the acclaimed wine regions along Europe’s Danube, Douro, Mosel, Rhine, Rhone and Seine Rivers. Travelers who book an AmaWaterways wine-themed sailing can now save up to $1,500 per stateroom, with dates available throughout 2017, and will have the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the world’s most famed wine regions. AmaWaterways’ wine cruises are hosted by top wine experts and feature complimentary lectures, wine tastings, exquisite cuisine with paired wines and exclusive shore excursions to historic vineyards and wineries, as well as private wine cellar tours. In addition, AmaWaterways’ co-owners – Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst – collaborated with winemaker, Jim Clendenen, to make AmaWaterways’ very-own Concerto Wine. The partnership has resulted in a red Pinot with flavor notes of dark red fruit, wild strawberries, earth, spice and cocoa.

Lodge Seating Area

Lodge Seating Area

Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa / Young Harris, GA

Situated amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains and just two hours outside of Atlanta, Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa is the perfect destination to celebrate National Wine Day.  With North Georgia’s wineries continuing to earn praise from critics and wine-lovers alike, the resort offers ease of access to the regions most acclaimed vineyards and tasting rooms.  Guests may book a stay at this luxurious resort to experience this new wine destination and tantilize their taste buds, while enjoying spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami

Sonesta Coconut Grove Miami / Miami, FL

Recently unveiling its new happy hour menu, Sonesta Coconut Grove’s widely recognized restaurant, Panorama Restaurant & Sky Lounge, provides for the ultimate spot with great deals to celebrate National Wine Day. Guests can relax and unwind with an appealing range of wine options by the glass for $5, as well as light bites ranging from sweet chili glazed wings to roasted garlic hummus and pita chips, while overlooking breathtaking views of beautiful Biscayne Bay.

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach

Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach / Fort Lauderdale, FL

Celebrate National Wine Day at the laid-back, sophisticated Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach, where wine enthusiasts seeking great wine, cuisine and unobstructed views can look no farther. Providing spectacular views and innovative cuisine at the hotel, Bistro Restaurant, is offering half price wine bottles with the purchase of any entrée during National Wine Day only. While there, guests can overlook the sugar-sand beach and taste dishes and appetizers ranging from lamb rack short rib ravioli while sipping on a favorite choice of wine.

How to Find a Hotel That can Cater to Your Technology Demands

8 questions that ensure technology needs are met while at a hotel

You arrive at your hotel and pull out your smartphone. After an incredibly long sign-in process, you connect to the Internet. It works fine in the hallway but not in your room, so you go to the business center to check email and print tickets to tonight’s show. The center is packed, so you head back to your room to wait. Meanwhile, your kids are trying to stream a movie and the Internet connection is slow.

Both business and leisure travelers rely on technology to stay connected and streamline to-do’s. However, poor Wi-Fi and minimal tech-focused amenities leave many travelers disappointed. That’s why before booking a hotel, you should always ask questions to ensure you get as much out of your technology while travelling as you do while at home.

Ask these eight questions to make sure your technology needs are met while staying at any hotel, no matter how many devices you plan to use.

Is the room suited for technology?

Whether new or remodeled, modern hotels should feature room designs that support technology. For example, ask about easy access to outlets and charging stations while you’re in the room to ensure you can plug in your phone, charge your tablet and use your computer all at the same time.

How reliable is the Internet?

Fast, reliable Internet is critical for anyone traveling for business or pleasure. When you stay at IHG hotels, you can feel confident you get superior Internet service. IHG Connect provides advanced Wi-Fi technology with increased bandwidth to meet the demand and volume needs of guests.

What is the login process?

Lengthy login processes are a hassle, especially if you’re connecting multiple devices. Some hotels offer streamlined methods which is a big time-saver. Want to log in just once? IHG Rewards Club members log in and then they’ll be recognized and automatically connected at every IHG Connect-enabled hotel.

How secure is the Wi-Fi network?

Most hotels today offer Wi-Fi to guests, but it might not be a secure network. To ensure private information stays private, only stay at hotels with a private and secure Internet connection for guests.

Is there an extra cost for Wi-Fi?

Some hotels charge extra for fast Internet access. Ask about costs and look into membership perks that wave these fees. For example, IHG Rewards Club members receive free Wi-Fi at all IHG properties.

What is available at the business center?

A good hotel will have a business center available to all guests. Inquire as to what is included at the center to ensure your needs are met. Printers, fax machines, computers and a variety of outlets should be available.

What are the hours of the business center?

Ask about the hours of the business center so you know you’re covered, whether you need to book a last-minute reservation to the city’s hottest attraction or print out that big report for tomorrow’s presentation.

Are meeting spaces available?

For business travelers, impromptu meeting spaces are great for quick meetups or when you want to get out of your room for a change of scenery. For more formal gatherings, ask the hotel about the availability of meeting planners who can assist in organizing the technology needs of large groups of people and corporate events.

Keep your technology moving as fast as you do by asking these questions now. That way your hotel stay will be that much more enjoyable, comfortable and productive. (BPT)

5 Amazing West Mexico Vacation Destinations

Dinner theater al fresco, adrenaline-pumping activities and luxe accommodations to-die-for

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina.

Photography courtesy Hotel Coral and Marina.

For the throngs of people pondering where to go on vacation this year, Mexico may be a strong contender in your cache of options. If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Office, in 2016 approximately 30 million U.S. citizens chose Mexico as their travel destination. And understandably so, given there are innumerable reasons to vacation in the region. The weather is warm, people are friendly, the culture is rich, the immersive culinary scene is phenomenal, the beaches are beautiful, and dreamy destinations abound. In fact, below are five of my tried-and-true personal favorite places and activities on the west side.

Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina an All-Encompassing Escape
A mere 80 miles from San Diego lies the port city of Ensenada, a charming Mexican enclave that runs along 700 miles of Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortéz coastline. The city, which is Mexico’s largest municipality in the area, offers endless possibilities for vacationers. The region is replete with culture, adventure, inspired cuisine, fine wine and gracious hospitality that’s all tempered with a relaxed beach and marine mindset. This certainly holds true for the Hotel Coral & Marina—a luxury Mexican resort that truly has it all for families, couples, groups or any well-heeled traveler seeking an easily accessible, all-encompassing escape south of the border.

A glistening getaway on the shores of Todos Santos Bay, Hotel Coral & Marina boasts the area’s only world-class marina with 353 slips that offer shared access to the property’s impressive array of amenities. But, for those seeking accommodations on land, the property offers a comprehensive set of conveniences and creature comforts that start with the 147 rooms and suites with each featuring flat-screen TVs, high-speed Wi-Fi and a coffee maker. Upgrade to a specialty suite for an added refrigerator, dining area, double bathtub, Jacuzzi, wine cooler or fully equipped kitchen. While standard rooms start at 635 square feet, the luxury suites start at 721 square feet (the “Deluxe” suite in which I stayed at 1,022 square feet) and top out at over three times that with the Presidential Triple Suite, which provides a whopping 2,034 square feet of vacation space. In speaking with Lizette Sanchez, Director of Public Relations at Hotel Coral & Marina, she cited many elevated amenities available with the opulent top-tier suites, such as a wraparound ocean-view balcony, chic bar, modern living area, Jacuzzi, hydro-massage shower, dining table and wine fridge.

However fabulous your room may be, don’t stay in it too long as there’s so much more to do and see at Hotel Coral & Marina. Whether your idea of a good time includes indulging in “Baja-Med” style cuisine at the on-site Bistro & Cava indoor/outdoor restaurant or more casual fare at the Marina Grill indoor/outdoor restaurant; cocktailing at the patio bar; taking a dip in the indoor or outdoor pool or in the large outdoor Jacuzzi; pampering with a service at the fully-equipped “C Spa”; sweating out the stress in the state-of-the-art fitness center; or playing an exhilarating game of tennis, the property offers all of this and more to keep you and your companions duly engaged and entertained. Guests can also enjoy various water activities like water bikes, paddle boarding and kayaking all throughout the marina.  With these enjoyable exploits as well as an on-site playground and professionally staffed Kid’s Club, the Hotel Coral & Marina is decidedly family friendly.

There are also on-site eateries. Bistro & Cava is the hotel’s award-winning signature gourmet restaurant featuring a blend of traditional Mexican entrees and locally-sourced Mediterranean cuisine.  But the food isn’t the only notable aspect of the bistro, as it also happens to house the largest local wine cellar in Baja California. From this locale, patrons can enjoy more than 150 labels. Those seeking a more casual atmosphere will enjoy eating at the waterfront Marina Grill restaurant or at the Pool Bar, where I highly recommend ordering the ceviche and a margarita. If this doesn’t put you in a vacation state-of-mind, probably nothing will. The Arrecife Lobby Bar is another communal space offering sports on the flat-screen and a two-for-one drink Happy Hour.

Whether you’re planning a family vacation, a romantic respite or a group getaway, Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina enchants as a one-stop oasis where leisure, recreation and gastronomic pursuits await.

Beyond All-Inclusive Innovation Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort & Spa
The newest property in Grand Velas Resorts’ esteemed portfolio is Grand Velas Los Cabos—an all-inclusive spa resort with stunning ocean views and a wide variety of amenities and activities for guests of all ages. No ordinary destination, Grand Velas Los Cabos has pulled out all the stops in its readily apparent quest to provide an unrivaled luxury vacation experience for guests at every touch point.

Having stayed on-site to see for myself what all of the buzz was about, I can convey with full conviction that this resort proffers what would surely be one of the most impressive and memorable retreats of your life. Not only elevating industry standards for any luxe locale, Grand Velas Los Cabos has certainly raised the bar within the all-inclusive category world-wide. Its level of haute hospitality and impeccable service standards go well above making each guest feel pampered—but also genuinely cared for. Then, of course, the overarching offerings—the grounds, the accommodations, the amenities and more—are each standouts unto themselves.

As with all Grand Velas Resort properties, guests here enjoy spacious and sumptuously-appointed accommodations, numerous gourmet fine dining experiences, 24-hour in-suite service, substantial spa facilitates, fully-equipped and staffed fitness centers, pool decks to-die-for, noteworthy family programs, personal concierge service and much more. The resort features 304 suites, each over 1,180 square feet and every single one with private terraces with cushioned lounge seating and breathtaking ocean views. Some of the suites also have personal plunge pools on the terrace as well. The stylish suites at Grand Velas Los Cabos range in size from 1,180 to a whopping 3,412 square feet. Every one of them features wide open ocean views and a fully furnished private terrace.

The variety of gourmet dining options at Grand Velas Los Cabos is impressive, giving guests the opportunity to delight in dishes from around of the world without ever having to leave the resort. Ever. Choose from several fine-dining restaurants with both indoor and open air seating. This includes Cocina de Autor, the resort’s premier signature restaurant, which shines above all as there’s a two star Michelin chef at the helm. Clearly this resort is making its mark on the gastro-travel front, but its spectacular SE Spa is giving the food and beverage program here a run for its money. The two-level, 35,000-square-foot facility with a multisensory pool “water journey” is a not-to-be-missed experience.

Foodie-Forward Private Villa ‘Victual Vacations’ at Puerto Vallarta’s Casa Dos Cisnes
Whether for adventure travel or more relaxing vacations, travelers are increasingly seeking regionally-authentic itineraries that offer an intimate view of local life. The trend of being “connoisseurs of local culture” so to speak is booming. So indigenous tourism and cultural immersion experiences—especially those with culinary components—are extremely popular right now—and that demand is only growing. Various hospitality sectors have been the beneficiary of the foodie-driven travel movement, and even helping drive it to a certain extent. One of which is the private villa vacation category, specifically. Today’s breed of luxury private villa rentals are becoming an ultimate gourmet indulgence for leisure and business travelers, alike.

One private villa rental exemplifying this experience is named Casa Dos Cisnes, which is a premierprivate oceanfront villa in Puerto Vallarta. This 10,000 square foot, five-bedroom colonial style home has breathtaking views of the Pacific, and really goes over-and-above to ensure each guest’s needs, desires and expectations for an extraordinary, foodie-forward private villa vacation are fulfilled.  This includes custom gourmet meals prepared on-site by a dedicated 5-star private chef specializing in Mexican-contemporary cuisine, served in an elegant separate dining room that seats up to 12. You can either specify what dishes you would like the chef to prepare, or you can give “free reign” and allow the chef to conceive a fully authentic Mexican menu on your behalf. Your choice if you want to go full classic/indigenous or with a more contemporary fare. Here, guests have full culinary control. The ingredients (meat, produce, spices, starches) are usually entirely locavore, meaning very locally sourced, and the recipes, preparation, presentation and such are authentic to the region and culture—all allowing visitors to experience what it’s like to “eat like a local.” You tell the chef what you want to eat that day or you can plan in advance and, either way, the chef shops at the local markets the day of and prepares the meals on-site, which are served in the privacy of your own dining space, either indoors or out. It gives a whole new meaning to a home-cooked meal, for sure.

For some enhanced group or family fun, this private gourmet chef also prepares what this villa calls a “Magical Mexican Fiesta”, which is a lively evening of regional food, cocktails and Mexican musicians entertaining at the property. And all of this is available to guests in addition to three full meals a day plus snack and happy hour service, which can be served in the dining room or the separate dining terraces at both the main and pool levels.

Enchanting Evenings Al Fresco at Puerto Vallarta’s Rhythms of the Night Dinner Show
Rhythms of the Night is an immersive dinner show experience like none other in Puerto Vallarta, transforming your night into an enchanted evening on a mystical land. The experience begins with a relaxing cruise across the Banderas Bay where complimentary snacks and cocktails are served. As the sun sets and dusk sets in as the moon begins to rise, you will be rewarded with a stunning light display along the coastline. This picture-perfect setting is a primer for the experience ahead. As your cruise ship ports at the secluded Las Caletas cove, you will be greeted by a beautiful starry night, a torch–lit pathway, and mysterious islanders coaxing you to your initial destination. As if the journey to this tranquil cove was not enough, your evening will only get exponentially better. The fire-lit path will guide you to an exceptionally romantic outdoor dining area right along the coast. Nature provides the perfect setting for this outdoor dining experience, as a light wind from the Pacific Ocean blows through the decorative palm trees. Light from the torches and a litany of candles scattered about flickers on the water. The sounds of nature are intertwined with table-side serenades from talented musicians wandering through the dining area. The atmosphere alone transforms dinner into a mesmerizing experience.

Guests are then treated to a full-service buffet that includes thoughtfully prepared food selections to accommodate any dietary preference. The buffet includes grilled chicken, fish and steak, along with a delicious display of vegetables, salads, and, of course, tortillas that are hand-made exhibition style. The dessert buffet is equally tantalizing, with pies, rice pudding and brownies among the many offerings. After dinner, you will be beckoned to the outdoor amphitheater where talented local artists perform a spectacular theatrical performance amid the backdrop of a pyramid adorned with candlelight.

Through fire, acrobatics, dance, song, music, comedy and magnificent costuming, the performance proudly reenacts some of the ancient customs that highlights the rich history of this region.  At the conclusion of this perfect enchanted evening, you will receive a final toast as you dance the night away as the cruise ship transports you back to the port with music bumping and cocktails flowing. As with the ride to the cove, the return trip also provides scenic views unique to this part of the world.

Overall, this enthralling evening offers the opportunity to have a relaxing, peaceful and exciting night filled with sights, sounds, smells and tastes you will not soon forget. Whether you are looking for the quintessential romantic dinner experience, a fun-filled family adventure, or are planning a group event, an evening with Rhythms of the Night is a magical journey sure to impress.

Adrenaline-Laced Activities at Canopy River Puerto Vallarta
Relative to activities, Puerto Vallarta certainly has all of its bases covered—in large part thanks to Canopy River adventure tours, which is perfect for pure adrenaline experiences by day. Indeed, if you are an action seeker looking for excitement and a way to see the beauty of Puerto Vallarta up close and personal, Canopy River tours are for you. This company offers everything from a fast-paced zip line boasting no less than 12 heart-pounding sections, to thrilling ATV tours, which include diving and dipping at a gorgeous hidden river and waterfall basin, to exciting expeditions through the rainforest. You can complement any of these adventures by dining at the breathtaking on-site Los Coapinoles Restaurant where guests can also participate in one of the greatest tequila tastings in the area.

Your zip line adventure begins with a brief safety training provided by experienced, talented and affable zip line professionals. You will then be safely hooked up to a full-body harness and provided with a security helmet, as you and your tour guides head off for the experience of a lifetime. You will zip through 12 different lines that fly directly above the amazing rainforest located in the Sierra Madre Mountains to heights as high as 709 feet. Each zip line ends on a large platform that gives you the opportunity to stop for a moment, enjoy the surroundings and take memorable photos. Adding to the adventure, at the end of the line, you will travel by mule back up the mountain to the point of origination.

The river expedition is definitely designed for both nature lovers and adrenaline seekers. These expeditions start on the coastline of Rio Cuale and take a six-hour journey through the remarkable rainforest of the Sierra Madre Mountains. Among other notables, you will travel across two bridges that reach heights of up to 88 feet. This journey is only meant for true thrill seekers looking for unforgettable adventure. If you want a fun experience, but may not have the daredevil aptitude for zip lining or a full-blown expedition, an ATV tour can provide an amazing experience. These tours are crafted for those with even little or no ATV experience, so even if you have never ridden an ATV before, this tour is for you. This 60-minute thrill ride will take you on a journey through the Sierra Madre Mountains. You will be given the opportunity to stop at several prime locations to view the ample beauty this area has to offer, from stunning flora to incredible wildlife to mountainous vistas beyond. As mentioned, halfway through the trip, the experienced tour guide will take you to one of the most beautiful hidden treasures in the mountains: Piletas. This location will reward you with the opportunity to see a breathtaking waterfall and even take a swim in the pristine waters beneath the falls before hopping back on your ATV and heading back.

With weather to-die-for, gorgeous waters, robust customs and traditions and diverse terrains, it is no wonder that west Mexico attracts huge tourism dollars. Travelers flock to the area year after year to enjoy the amazing and unique dishes that are specific to the region, tour historical sites, experience thrilling adventure and entertainment, and just spend some time relaxing and taking it all in. And, if you have a penchant for luxury accommodations, fine dining and spa treatments, opportunity is plentiful. As you plan your getaways up ahead this year and beyond, a visit to one or all five of these venues should be at the top of your list. Rest assured the time spent would be vacation experience not soon forgotten.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer trends expert, travel industry voice of authority and TV personality who spotlights noteworthy marketplace change makers, movers and shakers. She scours the marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided and/or sponsored to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Source:  http://travel.trade.gov/view/m-2016-O-001/index.html.

Spring Thaw Travel Deals at Beachfront Florida Resorts

How about a few Spring Thaw Travel Deals!

 

On Florida’s Gulf of Mexico coast, travelers snag 20% savings at the renovated Lido Beach Resort and The Resort at Longboat Key Club, both located on barrier islands off the coast of Sarasota… or 30% savings at Sandpearl Resort and the new Opal Sands Resort, both in Clearwater Beach. On the Atlantic coast, the renovated Stanton South Beach and Jupiter Beach Resort are both offering 20% savings this spring.
Copyright:  Jeff Herron Photography, Inc. 561.902.7797 Marriott Stanton South Beach, Miami Beach, FL Shoot date: 3.2016

Copyright: Jeff Herron Photography, Inc.
Marriott Stanton South Beach, Miami Beach, FL

Marriott Stanton South Beach  | Miami Beach, Fla.  

What’s The Deal? Spring thaw travelers visiting South Beach save 20% when booking a four-night stay at the recently renovated Marriott Stanton South Beach, one of the only hotels along Ocean Drive with direct beach access. The boutique-style hotel features 224 revamped rooms, two pools, a chic sun deck, and a new Mexican restaurant named Lolo’s Surf Cantina by the Chef/Partner Richard Ampudia from Mexico City and known as the “Godfather of Mexican Street Food.” Plus, the hotel offers tip cards listing favorite local hot spots — “Mingle in Miami” cards list top spots for meeting and mingling with new friends (great for solo travelers), while the “Simply Smitten”cards feature romantic places for couples to sneak away to.

How to Book: Booking window is open now through May 31, 2017 for stays through June 30, 2017. Visit www.stantonsobe.com and use promo code D3Q.

Sunset at the Resort at Longboat Key Club

Sunset at the Resort at Longboat Key Club

The Resort at Longboat Key Club | Longboat Key, Fla.

What’s the Deal? Located on a barrier island off the Gulf of Mexico coast of Sarasota, Fla., The Resort at Longboat Key Club is a beachfront slice of paradise offering spring travelers 20% off with the “Spring Bling Savings” deal, plus breakfast for two each morning. The Resort at Longboat Key Club is the only AAA Four-Diamond resort in Sarasota known for 223 oversized rooms and suites featuring private balconies and kitchenettes, plus sports/wellness amenities including 45 holes of PGA-approved championship golf courses, 20 Har-Tru tennis courts, a deep-water marina, and the Mind & Motion Studio with 50+ weekly classes including Sunrise Beach Yoga and Moonlight Meditation. Guests also enjoy the spa, beach, pool, Camp Loggerhead Kids Club, and eight restaurants on property.

How to Book: Visitwww.longboatkeyclub.com for more info and to book. “Spring Bling Savings” booking window is open now through April 30 for travel through May 31. Use code OPALSAVE.

The Pool at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

The Pool at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa  | Jupiter, Fla.

What’s the deal? A tropical oasis located on a stretch of secluded beachfront dotted with natural dunes and mangroves, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa is the ideal getaway for spring-breakers looking to soak up some rays and unwind without breaking the bank. The resort features a private beach and swimming pool, beachfront fire pit, adults-only hammock garden, spacious oceanfront suites, decadent waterfront dining and an indulgent spa.  With the resort’s “Here Comes the Sun” offer, guests can take advantage of the sunshine and special rates and receive 20% off rates and daily breakfast for two.

How to Book: For more information visit www.jupiterbeachresort.com with promo code SUN. Rates starting at $280/night.

Opal Sands Resort - Aerial shot with Pool

Opal Sands Resort – Aerial shot with Pool

Opal Sands Resort| Clearwater Beach, Fla.

What’s the Deal? Save up to 30% on Sunday – Thursday stays through April 27, 2017 when you book at least 14 days prior to arrival. Book early and save when visiting the charming, home-away-from-home town of Clearwater Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. At the newly-opened Opal Sands Resort, you’re guaranteed to enjoy sugar-sand beaches, turquoise waters, vibrant sunsets, and entertainment the entire winter season. The property offers upscale accommodations, beach-chic decor, creative cuisine, luxury spas, zero-entry pools, personalized service, and arguably the best beach views and access.

How to Book: This offer is available online through April 27, 2017 atwww.opalsands.com with rate code ADVPURCH.

7 Ways Grand Velas Los Cabos Resort Ups the Luxe All-Inclusive Ante

By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Velas Resorts.

The newest property in Grand Velas Resorts’ esteemed portfolio is Grand Velas Los Cabos—an all-inclusive spa resort with stunning ocean views and a wide variety of amenities and activities for guests of all ages. No ordinary destination, Grand Velas Los Cabos has pulled out all the stops in its readily apparent quest to provide an unrivaled luxury vacation experience for guests at every touch point.

Having stayed on-site to see for myself what all of the buzz was about, I can convey with full conviction that this resort proffers what would surely be one of the most impressive and memorable retreats of your life. Few, if any, other luxury property experiences I’ve enjoyed have made me declare “Wow” as often as this one, with one impressive interlude after another unfolding with unmitigated abandon throughout my stay.

Not only elevating industry standards for any luxe locale, Grand Velas Los Cabos has certainly raised the bar within the all-inclusive category world-wide. Its level of haute hospitality and impeccable service standards go well above making each guest feel pampered—but also genuinely cared for. Then, of course, the overarching offerings—the grounds, the accommodations, the amenities and more—are each standouts unto themselves.

Here are just seven of the many ways this righteous resort is upping the luxe all-inclusive ante.

1. A Prestigious Heritage
Since opening its doors on December 20, 2016, this $150 million resort is proudly carrying on the tradition of high-end hospitality that all Grand Velas Resorts are revered for. In fact, Velas Resorts in Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Nayarit and Los Cabos combined have incredibly earned more than 43 AAA Diamonds, including the prestigious Five Diamond Award. For its part, Grand Velas Los Cabos is making an indelible mark on its own. Located on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, well off the beaten path as far as typical Cabo visits are concerned (read: nowhere near “Cabo Wabo” and other such tourist attractions), this resort is perched on a pristine stretch of private beach between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo and is just about a 30-minute drive from the Los Cabos International Airport.  The resort can, of course, arrange airport transports as needed.

As with all Grand Velas Resort properties, guests here enjoy spacious and sumptuously-appointed accommodations, numerous gourmet fine dining experiences, 24-hour in-suite service, substantial spa facilitates, fully-equipped and staffed fitness centers, pool decks to-die-for, noteworthy family programs, personal concierge service and much more.

2. Contemporary Mexican Design
The resort features 304 suites, each over 1,180 square feet and every single one with private terraces with cushioned lounge seating and breathtaking ocean views. Some of the suites also have personal plunge pools on the terrace as well. The half-moon design of the hotel is eye-catching and functional, maintaining the ocean vista as the prime focal point, with the three-story high open-air grand entrance having that same effect—drawing your eye right to the royal blue ocean ebbing and flowing in the not-so-far distance. The beachfront property sits over 300 feet above sea level and, with its natural hues and materials used throughout the regionally symbiotic architecture and the décor, alike, the resort exists in harmony with its rugged surroundings—an oasis unto itself.


3. Sophisticated Suites
The stylish suites at Grand Velas Los Cabos range in size from 1,180 to a whopping 3,412 square feet. Every one of them features wide open ocean views and a fully furnished private terrace in close earshot to the rumbling shoreline and jetties on which Pelicans are indelibly perched. Each of the rooms also boasts an extremely large high-definition flat screen TV with digital cable, premium mini bar with snacks and refreshments stocked daily, wine from Ensenada, Nespresso coffee maker, L’Occitane bath amenities and goose down comforters and pillows. Each of the expansive bathrooms include a Jacuzzi tub and steam shower with rain showerhead.

Other available in-suite services include personal concierge and butler service, daily turndown and a pillow menu. Guests in Grand Class Suites, Presidential and Governor Suites, and the Imperial Suite also enjoy their own private terrace plunge pools, offering an unforgettable way to gaze at the moon and stars amid fragrant sea breezes and the melodic surf. There are also six Wellness Suite options that feature an array of fitness amenities including recline bikes, Vitamin C sprinkler, spa concierge, healthy crudité mini bar, in-suite massage and an aromatherapy kit, among other health-minded enhancements.


4. Abundant Epicurean Adventure
The variety of gourmet dining options at Grand Velas Los Cabos is impressive, giving guests the opportunity to delight in dishes from around of the world without ever having to leave the resort. Ever. Choose from several fine-dining restaurants with both indoor and open air seating, including Frida—an authentic Mexican fine dining eatery that celebrates the legacy of the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo and where each dish reflects the rich culinary heritage of the region. There’s also the French restaurant Piaf, an Italian eatery called Lucca, and the Velas 10 steak and seafood house—all highly authentic and with an elevated approach to cuisine.

But it’s Cocina de Autor, the resort’s premier signature restaurant, which shines above all as there’s a two star Michelin chef at the helm. This would be a ground-breaking achievement for any resort, and is nothing short of remarkable within the all-inclusive realm. Ingenuity is fundamental to keeping cuisine “interesting” and this property duly delivers.  For example, Cocina de Autor offers what’s called a “sensorial dining experience.” Here there are no menu choices. Instead, all guests are “taken” on a singular gastro-journey: an 8-12 course tasting menu showcasing the finest fresh produce and local meats from the region, reflecting the culture and life that surrounds, while also exemplifying a tremendous amount of culinary creativity and skill. My own holistic dining experience here was one of the most extraordinary and impressive I’ve ever had—a magnificent mélange of fresh ingredients, technique, texture and visual appeal. It’s epicurean ingenuity at its finest.

Oenophiles also fare well while fine dining at this property with multiple sommeliers, under the guise of Master Sommelier Don Pedro Poncelis Brambila, executed a painstakingly curated wine program boasting varietals from the very best and most prestigious domains from around the globe.

There are other, more casual dinner options on-site as well. For breakfast lunch or dinner you can enjoy an open-air eating experience and panoramic views of the beach at Azul. This is a more casual eatery where local fare can be had, in bottomless buffet form or off the menu, sometimes while listening to mariachis and ogling local artisan wares on display as was the case the evening I dined there. I should also mention that during my visit in the February timeframe, while I was eating breakfast each morning at Azul’s patio with glistening ocean vistas, I could see breaching whales in the distance in all of their glory.  Do bring the binoculars that are provided in each guest suite to breakfast so you don’t miss the action! For a quick pick-me-up any time of day, grab a specialty coffee drink at Amat Café.  Of course, at your preference, you may opt to remain room side and relax with in-suite dining.

When you’re in the mood for a cocktail, there are various venues to suit your mood amid four bars: Sky Bar, Miramar Bar, Koi, and the bar at Cocina de Autor. All bars and restaurants offer stunning views from indoor and outdoor seating. During my own post-dinner visit to Sky Bar for a nightcap, there was an energetic live band playing some great American classics, urging folks to get on the dance floor. Then, to my surprise and delight, a fireworks display commenced just adjacent to the Sky Bar terrace sometime around 10pm. It was a magical end to what was already a perfect evening.


During the daytime, I can’t recommend enough eating some Chocolate Clams poolside. The Cabrilla café on the pool deck has a tank filled with the gorgeous, large-scale living clams known as Baja’s “candy-of-the-sea,” which have a brown shell—hence the name. At this all-inclusive, order as many as you want—sky’s the limit relative to supply, at least. They will fresh shuck the clam and serve the sliced meat in the shell, itself, accompanied by lemons and finely diced tomato, onion, cilantro. Eat them with just these ceviche-esque elements to truly appreciate the sweet flavor of this fabulous clam, or add ponzu or hot/picante sauce to vary the flavor profile. Pair with a side of their addicting spice-dusted tortilla chips, chunky guacamole and a crisp white wine to perfect the meal.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention that Grand Velas Los Cabos’s Mexican eatery, Frida, also debuted a $25K taco for two, which is yet another example of how they’re innovating and breaking barriers in the food space and is not part of the all-inclusive package, of course. It’s the world’s most expensive taco, and this culinary masterpiece for two includes such premium ingredients as langoustine, Kobe beef, Almas Beluga caviar and black truffle brie cheese. An exotic salsa comprised of dried Morita chili peppers, Ley.925 ultra-premium añejo tequila and civet coffee tops the taco which is served on a gold flake-infused corn tortilla. For a beverage to complement, a hand-crafted white gold and pure platinum bottle of Ley.925 Pasión Azteca Ultra Premium Añejo can accompany the tacos for an additional $150K.


5. Astonishing Spa Facilities
Clearly this resort is making its mark on the gastro-travel front, but its spectacular SE Spa is giving the food and beverage program here a run for its money. The two-level, 35,000-square-foot facility is a not-to-be-missed experience. There are 16 treatment rooms–some with water views–in which all guests enjoy creative, authentic treatments that combine products of the earth with the latest technology and methodologies. Following the changing pattern of the seasons, this indigenous culture-driven spa follows a wellness path represented by a unique totem, in honor of ancient Mayan and Aztec traditions.

Signature treatments, like the one I had, make use of Mexico’s native Blue Agave plant and its ancestral healing benefits. All treatments of 50 minutes or more include a fabulous seven-step water journey like none other. This features a eucalyptus-scented steam room, sauna, polar pool, Jacuzzi and, the pièce de résistance, the multi-sensory pool. Here you can recline in the central, temperate climate pool and enjoy its range of massaging faucets for your neck, upper and lower back and even your feet. Once the kinks are worked out, be sure to relax in one of the pool’s whole body bubble beds. After your water journey, you’ll rest on a heated lounger with a warm neck pillow, scented towels, and cucumbers on your eyes to ensure that you are fully relaxed and ready for your treatment.

The spa center features three pools as well as an ocean-overlook Life Fitness Center with exercise programs such as yoga and pilates, meditation and personal trainers. There are also separate and quite impressive kids’ and teens’ club facilities and activities programs. Men, women and children can also all take advantage of haircuts, nails and other salon services as well as in-suite (or terrace) massages.


6. Laudable Leisure
When you stay at Grand Velas Los Cabos, you’ll enjoy leisurely, effortless days spent soaking up the sun, walking on the private beach (where you’re not being approached by vendors selling this and that), or lounging at one of several infinity pools or in a beach bed overlooking the Sea of Cortes. Be sure to take advantage of a foot or head massage while you’re sunning for a greater indulgence.

If you’re traveling with children, they’ll have plenty to do at the Grand Velas Kids’ Club, which provides a fun, safe environment for kids to explore various activities such as treasure hunting, soccer and cooking classes. A kids’ pool and splash pad are other options. The Teens’ Club is designed to entertain older kids ages thirteen and above with a huge variety of games including a pool table, ping pong, air hockey, foosball, an X-Box Kinect, and a karaoke set. There’s a dance floor, several video game “pods” and a bar where kids can sidle up to order smoothies, burgers and any other all-inclusive delights they desire on-demand.

For something fun for the whole family—or certainly perfect for couples—do some stargazing. Grand Velas Los Cabos’ Night Sky is a unique astronomy experience that takes place during each month’s new moon. Discover the stars, constellations, and planets amid an oceanfront bonfire and signature cocktails. The three-hour experience includes guided use of the largest telescopes in Los Cabos. If you’re lucky, you might even get to take in a meteor shower, which is common in the Los Cabos sky.  Yet another great way to make lasting memories.


7. Eco-Friendly Practices
This resort is designed to exist in harmony with the surrounding fragile environment and, in many ways, goes above and beyond to sustain the planet’s natural resources. For example, to clear the land for the resort, hundreds of cacti and trees were dug up and, rather than being disposed of, were instead transplanted to protect the region’s native flora and fauna. Part of the potable water the resort uses is repurposed either for general use or to return to the subsoil. The laundry facilities also filter soapy water for rinsing reuse in a dedicated water treatment plant, and the residual water treatment facility processes all of the resort’s H2O so that it can be used to irrigate the exterior gardens, mangroves and jungle.


With the above points as proof, Grand Velas Los Cabos extends a truly unparalleled all-inclusive vacation experience. Dramatic ocean views, next-generation amenities, oversized designer suites, a world-class spa, a three-to-one staff-to-guest ratio and a demonstrated commitment to the environment are just some of the things making this an enviable escape—whether you seek to make memories with your family, a special someone, a girl’s weekend, a guy golf trip, or even for some alone “you time” where you can truly relax and recharge. In any scenario, you’ll be enthusiastically spoiled throughout.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

As the Executive Editor and Producer of “The Luxe List,” Merilee Kern is an internationally-regarded consumer product trends expert and hospitality industry voice of authority—a travel, dining, leisure and lifestyle expert who spotlights noteworthy marketplace innovations, change makers, movers and shakers. She reports on exemplary travel destinations and experiences, extraordinary events and newsworthy products and services across all categories. Reach her online at www.TheLuxeList.com, on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor, on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList and on Instagram at www.Instagram.com/LuxeListReviews.

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above may have been provided or arranged at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

Ultimate V-Day Experiences for Over-The-Top Couples

Sparking romance wouldn’t be too difficult with the one you love complemented by a captivating location. Here are a few of our favorites when there are very few limits.

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

The Ultimate Nature’s Playground for Couples

Destination: La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Where to Stay: Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa

This Valentine’s day, couples can have an off-the-grid getaway at Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa — a tropical paradise spread across 900 acres of lush rainforest near the base of Costa Rica’s Arenal Volcano, with hot springs and cascading waterfalls naturally heated by the volcano’s magma. At Tabacon, couples can soak to the sounds of local wildlife, relax with spa treatments rendered in open-air bungalows tucked away among the trees, and enjoy decadent meals amid layers of bright green vegetation and exotic, tropical flora. To rev up the romance even further, couples can get their adrenaline-pumping with daring outdoor activities such as zip-lining, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. Couples can book the Rainforest Bliss package, which includes three nights of accommodations, a romantic welcome amenity and fresh tropical flowers upon check-in, two buffet breakfasts, one in-room breakfast, 105-minute couples spa treatment complete with traditional love chant in Maleku (indigenous language), choice of adventure tour per person, candle-lit chef’s dinner for two in a private rainforest bungalow, private lunch at the resort’s adults-only Shangri-La Gardens, and unlimited access to the resort’s natural thermal mineral springs. Package rates start at $650/night. To book, call 1-855-TABACON.

The House - Barbados

The House – Barbados

For the Couple Who Spares No Expense

Destination: Barbados

Where to Stay: The House

For couples who can tear themselves away from The House’s stunning west coast views, champagne breakfast and jet-lag revival massage, explore Barbados like the celebs! This Valentine’s Day, the LX by The House package is perfect for couples seeking an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience like private polo lessons at the championship Apes Hill Golf & Polo Club and a Mount Gay Rum tasting and tour. Let us not forget the VIP shopping experience (complete with a personal shopper, of course), luxury airport transfers, a private three-hour sunset catamaran sail and the option to island hop! Fly to the neighboring islands of Mustique or the Grenadines and jet back in time for dinner. Package rates start at $4,500/person. To book visit https://eleganthotels.com/the-house. For an added luxe touch, travelers can arrive by seaplane, luxury car or yacht.

JW Marriott El Convento Cusc - Lobby

JW Marriott El Convento Cusc – Lobby

For the Couple Who Wanders Together

Destination: Cusco, Peru

Where to Stay: JW Marriott El Convento Cusco

Cross a major adventure off your bucket lists when you book the“Feed YourWonder-Lust” package. In addition to experiencing the world-renowned sanctuary of Machu Picchu together, you’ll explore the scenic Sacred Valley of the Inca on horseback and indulge in one of the world’s best destinations for gastronomy…all while lodging at a 16th century convent turned five-star hotel. To book, visit www.jwmarriottcusco.com with promo code ES7. Package starts at $2725 USD for a three-night stay, and includes full day excursion to Machu Picchu (including roundtrip train tickets via Peru Rail Expedition), lunch at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge (and entrance tickets), full day excursion to Maras & Moray (including horseback riding & snacks) and 6-Course Chef’s Tasting Dinner for Two at Pirqa Restaurant.

Barnsley Resort Ruins and Gardens

Barnsley Resort Ruins and Gardens

Couples Who Clay Together

Destination: Adairsville, Georgia

Where to Stay: Barnsley Resort

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains north of Atlanta, Barnsley Resort is a charming, luxury getaway set in an English-inspired pedestrian village. For an remote, romantic and unforgettable Valentine’s Day, book the Ultimate Romance Package, which includes two nights accommodations in a luxurious Arbor Cottage — free-standing for optimum privacy. Other package highlights include a private dinner in your cottage or outdoor location, breakfast for two, romantic turndown service (oh la la), and a $300 activity credit toward outdoor activities such as shooting clays, hunting at SpringBank Plantation, and horseback riding — plus golf, miles of trails for hiking, an intimate spa and gorgeous gardens, all complementing the historic manor house ruins.

Nightly rates start at $1260 per night. To book, visit www.barnsleyresort.com.

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

Under the Mayan Moon Romance in Guatemala

Destination: Peten, Guatemala

Where to Stay:Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

Minutes away from the magnificent ruins of Tikal, Uaxactún and Yaxhá (a major bucket list for many), Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel sits on more than 300 acres of lush, private reserve in the Jungle of Peten. The 19-bungalow suites property is the perfect escape for couples seeking a romantic retreat in the heat of the jungle. With the “Under the Mayan Moon” package, couples looking for a romantic winter escape can enjoy a two night stay, with available upgrade to a master suite, in-room breakfast at Shultún restaurant, a special a la carte dinner for two, a tour to Monkey Island to visit the monkeys, and a Moon & Wine boat ride sailing toward a gorgeous view of the Mayan moon for an enchanting night to remember.Valid through March 1, 2017 (blackout days apply), package starts at $974 USD. Guests can book via email at reservations@laslagunashotel.com or call (502) 7790 – 0300.

Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa

Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa

For Couples Who Like to Wine & Dine

Destination: Barga, Italy

Where to Stay: Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa

Tucked away in the Serchio Valley overlooking the Apuan Alps, about an hour outside of Florence and Pisa,  Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa, provides ideal respite for couples in one of the most undiscovered and authentic areas in Italy. The hotel features 180 luxurious rooms, a fitness center, two restaurants, a spa where couples can enjoy personalized treatments together like a candlelit bath or deep sea mud treatments, and a heated swimming pool offering breathtaking panoramic views of the valley. Within close proximity, lovers can wander through the Tuscan countryside in and out of tiny, medieval Italian Villages, visit a local winery or relax in nearby thermal spas. To create an even more an unforgettable experience, couples can book the resort’s Tuscan Wine & Culinary Experience Package, complete with daily breakfast, wine tasting, and a cooking class where couples will learn to cook a tuscan meal with one of the resort’s chefs and visit a local food market beforehand to hand-pick their ingredients. Rates start at $515 USD a night based on double occupancy. For more information visit, renaissancetuscany.com.

Miramonte

Miramonte

For the Couple That Wants to Speed it Up Then Slow it Down

Destination: Indian Wells, CA

Where to stay: Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa

This Valentine’s Day, couples can escape to the height of luxury at Miramonte Indian Wells Resort & Spa: a romantic, desert oasis in the heart of Coachella Valley, which offers both adventure and rejuvenation. Surrounded by picturesque California palms and grandiose desert mountains, Miramonte is the perfect place for couples to embark on an extraordinary journey to experience the San Andreas Fault by Jeep, or jaunt to Joshua Tree National Park to revel in the abundance of its natural wonders. After a day out in the elements, couples can unwind on the balcony of their Presidential Suite with sweeping views of the Santa Rosa Mountains. Then, it’s time to slow it down further and get pampered among the Well Spa’s luxurious amenities including two saltwater pools, eucalyptus-infused steam rooms, and a meditation room. The spa’s Pittura Festa Treatment ($395) invites couples to a paint each other with a palette of colorful, healing muds while sipping champagne before receiving a tailor-made couples massage. Afterward, they can cozy up to sunset cocktails at one of Miramonte’s outdoor fire pits then close the day with a candle-lit, farm-to-table style dinner at the Grove Artisan Kitchen. Rates for Presidential Suites start at $599 a night. For more information, please visit www.Miramonteresort.com.

Suncadia

Suncadia Resort

For The Couple Who Wants to Go Off The Grid

Destination: Cle Elum, Washington

Where to Stay: Suncadia Resort

Tucked away in the storybook town of Cle Elum, Suncadia Resort sets the ideal romantic backdrop for couples that need a luxury Valentine’s Day retreat. Just 80 miles east of Seattle, couples can stay at one of four lodging options including the 1-bedroom penthouse at The Lodge that includes a cozy fireplace and gourmet kitchen or one of the magnificent multi-room rental homes starting at $409 and $549 per night respectively. Suncadia provides couples premier rest and recreation nestled amongst the Cascade Mountains with indoor and outdoor activities like guided snowmobile tours and artisan dining that are sure to spark a little more than romance. This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to the resort’s indulgentChocolate Lovers (Re)treat spa package and enjoy an 80 minute massage featuring organic chocolate massage oil, ended by a decadent cup of hot chocolate and sample of body oil to take home. Package starts at $400 p/couple. Enjoy your weekend of love further and participate in the resort’s unique Sweetheart Saturday’s during the month of February, which include a Vino & Vinyasa yoga session and Latin Nights dancing. For rates and more information go tohttps://www.destinationhotels.com/suncadia-resort.

Wintery Wisconsin: 5 Vacation Destinations That Can Help You Relax

It may sound contrary to the holiday hype, but the winter season following the holidays can be a perfect time for a relaxing, soul-soothing getaway.

Research cited by the American Psychological Association shows stress increases for many in the weeks leading up to the holidays, due to factors like lack of time, commercialism, family issues and the pressures of additional shopping, cooking, cleaning and decorating.

All are good reasons to choose a post-holiday vacation that allows you to get away and completely relax. Studies show people able to completely relax during their vacations remain happy for longer after returning to their regular lives, while other research indicates regular vacations from the routines of daily life can help prevent health issues, including coronary disease.

One area of the U.S. offering a wealth of relaxing vacation options is the Badger State – Wisconsin. Each winter, a multitude of leisure seekers travel to the Midwestern gem to enjoy its rustic beauty and recreational opportunities for all ages. Some examples of local amenities include: 

Destination Kohler: The only Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond resort hotel in the Midwest, this stunning resort offers the best of both worlds – luxury accommodations and a private, rustic setting. This stately resort in Kohler, Wisconsin features a variety of invigorating activities centered around its 500-acre nature preserve, including cross country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing. Following time breathing fresh air in the snowy woods, guests can visit the resort’s spa, enjoy any of 12 on-site dining establishments catering to different tastes or just retreat to their well-appointed rooms.

Sandhill: This 2,000-square-foot backwoods cabin in Mosel, Wisconsin is a quiet, beautifully constructed destination set within 350 acres of wilderness. The retreat can sleep four to six and features a gas fireplace, chef-inspired kitchen, deep-soaking tub and stand-alone sauna hut, in addition to a fully stocked fridge and full access to Destination Kohler’s 12 eating establishments. 

Hunting at River Wildlife: Encompassing 500 acres of the best pheasant- and partridge-hunting land in the Midwest, this beautiful nature preserve along the Sheboygan River invites sportsmen to enjoy the quest for game birds in the authentic English tradition. Guests from all over are drawn by the chance to traverse these snowy woodlands with accompaniment from a trained hunting dog and experienced guide knowledgeable about the area. Afterward, your group can enjoy lunch at a local restaurant lodged in a rustic cabin. 

Yoga on the lake: This holistic yoga studio offers some 30 weekly classes in a comfortable space made picturesque by floor-to-ceiling bay windows overlooking adjacent Wood Lake. Nationally certified instructors gently guide guests of all levels through a mind-body connection in this peaceful atmosphere, helping them reduce stress, improve sleep patterns and relaxation and induce health benefits. 

Kohler Waters Spa: This oasis of calm specializes in hydrotherapy treatments such as the Balancing Moroccan Ritual, a body scrub followed by a Chakra stone application, a traditional Shirodhara hair wash and treatment, a cool stone facial massage, a warm Kohler Custom Vichy shower and a body souffle finish. The best-kept secret of the facility awarded five stars by Forbes? Its rooftop hot tub is framed by twinkling skylights and a 16-foot fireplace.

Ready to relax, unwind and enjoy the winter season to its fullest? Look no further than the heartland of Wisconsin for your next winter vacation. (BPT)

Baby on Board? 8 Tips for Stress-Free Infant Travel

(BPT) – Whether it’s a quick weekend away or a weeklong adventure, family travel is a great way to bond and create lifelong memories. However, if you have an infant, you may be hesitant to pack all those bags and venture to the unknown.

“With their love of a set schedule and the familiar, plus loads of gear, babies are natural homebodies,” says Sandra Gordon, baby safety expert and blogger at www.babyproductsmom.com. “Still, they can be surprisingly adaptable and getting out and about can be loads of fun for everyone. The trick is to be prepared so you can enjoy the journey and the destination.”

Gordon offers eight tips and tricks that make infant travel easy so everyone can have an enjoyable vacation: 

Prepare the diaper bag

The diaper bag is your go-to throughout your trip. Pack everything your baby might need including diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, snacks, toys, a pacifier, feeding supplies, infant formula and lots of Ziploc bags for dirty bottles, clothes, etc. An extra shirt for yourself is a smart addition as well, just in case. 

Pack pre-measured, dry powder baby formula

Whether on the plane or out for the day, pack two to four bottles with pre-measured, dry baby formula that you can mix with bottled water at feeding time. To save up to 50 percent, buy store brand infant formula. All infant formula sold in the United States is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so store brand formula must meet the same FDA standards as the big advertised brands. It’s available wherever infant formula is sold, such as Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and Target. 

Bring a prepared bottle

Bring a prepared bottle for the airport; it can help keep your baby content during the lengthy check-in process. It’s also a must during takeoff to relieve ear pressure. You can take more than 3.4 ounces of infant formula or breast milk through airport security. Tell the transportation security officer that you have medically necessary liquids at the beginning of the checkpoint screening process. Visit the TSA for more info on flying with children. 

Split up your stuff

When packing bags you plan to check at the airport, split up the contents so that each suitcase has everyone’s clothes in it, including your baby’s. That way if a bag gets lost, everyone will have something to wear for the next few days until your bag is found. Essentials such as formula, medicine, etc. should be packed in your carry-on. 

Stick to baby’s schedule

Babies rely on a schedule so there’s no need to disrupt it when on vacation. Try travelling around nap time for domestic flights or at bedtime for international flights. Be sure to bring along her favorite stuffed animal or blanket that she normally sleeps with so there’s something familiar to sooth her. Baby can sleep and you can relax. 

Avoid popular travel times

Avoid crowds and save money by travelling on slower days. The day prior to holidays will always be hectic, so opt to fly two to three days before or after to enjoy a slower airport plus cheaper ticket prices. For non-holiday travel, avoid early-morning flights on weekdays so you and your baby don’t have to compete with harried business travelers. 

Rent gear

If you can’t bring all your gear when travelling, consider renting. Ask your hotel about rental options in the area so you can have everything you need to make baby feel comfortable without having to lug items across the country. It is an extra cost, but it also saves you the cost of having to check bulky items on the plane. 

Eat in or eat out early

Book a hotel with a kitchen so you can make baby-friendly foods in a comfortable space. When you do want to eat out, remember that prime time for eating out with infants, toddlers and preschoolers is Sunday through Wednesday before standard lunch or dinner times (11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m.). Restaurants are less crowded and you’ll get faster service.

Travelling with a baby gets easier every time you do it. With these tips you’ll satisfy your wanderlust without worry, plus your little one will have a great time.

Anatomy of a Grand Weekend Getaway at Boulders Resort & Spa Arizona

Turnkey, print-ready 3-night itinerary chock-full of fun and fabulosity

Written By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor

Photography courtesy of Boulders Resort & Spa

Amid my considerably hectic work schedule and family life where there’s nary a moment to spare, let alone full weeks (or more) to take extended trips, I’ve become a master of the “micro-vacation”—those long weekend getaways that strike just the right balance of relaxation, adventure and indulgence to suitably satisfy my persistent wanderlust.  A recent micro-jaunt took me to Phoenix, Arizona—America’s sixth-largest city where cowboys continue to roam and the red rock-laden topography is peppered with the kind of cactus some only see in cartoons. The city’s enduring Southwestern backdrop is not only an indelible draw for me, but also 16 million other leisure visitors who trek to Greater Phoenix each year for some fun in the Sonoran Desert sun.

To ease and expedite the travel scheduling of other micro-vacationers, the good folks at Visit Phoenix—a non-profit that promotes the virtues of Phoenix as a prime travel destination, have devised the sure-fire, tried-and-true long weekend (3-night, 4-day) itinerary below that’s chock-full of fun and fabulosity.

1-main-the-boulders-phoenix-4-courtesy-the-boulders-resort-spa-lo

At the center of this incredible itinerary is the Boulders Resort & Spa, which is located just north of Phoenix in the quaint town of Carefree. The property just completed a multi-million dollar renovation to its Casita accommodations as well as multiple common areas, including its Main Lodge, Discovery Lounge, Latilla Ballroom and multiple of its on-site eateries. According to June Chun, lead designer for DiLeonardo—the firm responsible for the transformation, the rejuvenated relaxed resort environment embraces and respects indigenous inspirations of the Old West, with the scale, pattern and colors from the Native American heritage influencing the architectural detailing, carpet patterns and rich colors utilized throughout. I agree with Chun’s avowal that the result is a rich, organic sense that truly brings the indoors and outdoors together beautifully. For your traveling pleasure, here’s the stupendous schedule.  Just plan it, print it and go live it!

**DAY 1

12:00 p.m.                         

Arrive in Phoenix – secure ground transportation

1:00 p.m.                           

Lunch at Gertrude’s Restaurant housed within Phoenix’s famed Desert Botanical Garden (followed by garden exploration)

Gertrude’s is known for its seasonally inspired cooking that combines American favorites with classic cooking techniques and flavors from around the globe. Under the direction of Executive Chef Matthew Taylor, Gertrude’s seasonal menus celebrate Arizona’s growers and producers while offering a sophisticated culinary experience in a reserved oasis setting. Fresh herbs and vegetables from Gertrude’s patio and the community garden located on property at the Desert Botanical Garden are found in most everything that is served.

A “Phoenix Point of Pride,” the Desert Botanical Garden is one of only a few botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. Desert Botanical Garden offers the world’s finest collection of arid-land plants from deserts around the world in a unique outdoor setting.

4:00 p.m.

Check into the Boulders Resort & SpaOne of the world’s most celebrated hideaways, Boulders Resort & Spa is named for the 12-million-year-old granite boulders that dot the landscape. The resort’s newly renovated guest casitas and villas are shaped into the natural terrain, many bordering the two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Jay Morrish, Arizona’s only Platinum Medal award winner. This special desert hideaway also offers eight tennis courts, six distinctive onsite restaurants and a 33,000 sq. ft. Spa.  The Boulders also offers outdoor adventure activities that begin right on the resort grounds–from rock climbing, the new waterfall rappel, horseback rides, hikes, bicycling and desert fly fishing to hot air balloon rides, private helicopter tours and desert photo tours. NOTE: The newly renovated private Casita accommodations, with their expansive stone-laden bathrooms and a host of creature comforts, also boast dedicated patios wood-burning fireplaces. It’s the only resort in Scottsdale where guests can burn wood in their rooms. The furnished patios overlook breathtaking scenery—all set amidst boulder rock formations estimated to be 12-million-years-old. In fact, the resort encompasses 1,300 acres of pristine, lush land in the high Sonoran desert that’s a true nature lover’s paradise. 7:30 p.m.  

Dinner at the Boulders’ on-site Palo Verde RestaurantResort casual attireGreat pleasure awaits at the newly renovated Palo Verde, the resort’s signature restaurant. Chef Brian Archibald offers a new Contemporary Southwestern Cuisine that respects the integrity of the region and incorporates local Arizona ingredients and freshly foraged products from the resort’s Organic Garden.  Relax and enjoy a sublime dining experience on the outdoor patio with glorious views of the scenic duck pond with grassy knolls where Gambel’s quail and newborn rabbits scamper. NOTE: All six of the Boulders’ on-site restaurants use ingredients from their 5,600 square foot organic garden or local farmers or purveyors, which ensures guests experience the sights, scents and tastes of the region. And here’s a fun fact: In 2016 Chef Archibald competed on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” competition and won! Not surprisingly, the conceptual dishes, expert preparation and gorgeous plating at this restaurant are second to none.

**DAY 2

8:00 a.m.                            

Fitness Center

Get energized with a workout on your own, or sign up to join a group fitness class. NOTE: The spacious fitness center has a wide assortment of newer-model exercise machines, free weights and cardio equipment.

10:00 a.m.   

 Breakfast at the resort’s on-site Spa CafeThere is a special energy and spirit here–a peaceful environment where people interact in easy harmony with nature.  Early mornings are magical when the spectacular desert sunrise casts a warm golden glow on the 12-million-year old boulder formations. The Spa Café menu takes advantage of the ripe bounty from our own Organic Garden offering healthful yet delectable dishes can be enjoyed indoors or the outdoor patio. The cuisine is prepared to ensure peak freshness.

NOTE: Want to eat light post-workout? Try the Spa Eggs Benedict featuring a cast iron seared beefsteak tomato, oven roasted turkey, avocado and yellow pepper “hollandaise,” which you can order “on the side.” A tasty and healthy twist on a resort classic. 11:00 a.m.                         

“Boulder Trek ” Guided WalkThis 50-minute adventure trek includes information about how twelve-million-years-ago a geologic eruption left a series of massive rock formations and also about the fascinating background on the topography, flora, fauna and historical sites with petroglyphs, solstice sightings and more.

NOTE: Guests at the Boulders reportedly see more natural wildlife than at any other resort in Arizona—such as coyote, baby bobcats, quail families, roadrunners, Javalina, owls, and many others darting out into the rough.  There is a Desert Photography Tour offered by the property’s resident nature photographer that takes guests to areas where they can photography all the wildlife.

12:30 p.m. 

Check into the Spa at the BouldersThis 33,000 sq. foot facility is a full service spa where guests find restoration, pampering and renewed energy.  The facility incorporates the elements of feng shui and a Zen-like ambiance while staying true to the natural environs and Native American influences of the region. Its 24 treatment spaces are complemented by such signature elements as a labyrinth (path to tranquility), an authentic Tipi for guided meditation, private Watsu pool, Vichy treatments, Couples Spa Suites and a 5,600 sq. ft. Organic Garden. The spa offers a 2,000 square-foot fitness center, yoga studio, a Spa Café and sweeping views of either the awe-inspiring 12-million-year-old boulder piles or Black Mountain in the distance. Contemplative settings include meditation areas, hydrotherapy, a circular tea room and an interior rock and sand garden.

1:00 p.m. 

“Couples Massage” Spa Service (50/80 minutes)

The Spa at The Boulders pampers couples with private spa suites.  With  800 square-feet and private access, full service amenities include private steam/showers, private patio, vanity area, outdoor shower, outdoor fireplace, internet access, indoor and outdoor massage tables, data port and television) and an outdoor Jacuzzi with cascading waterfall. Internet access, Television, and butler service serviced from the Spa Cafe. The Suites are located in the more tranquil (East) wing.  From the patio, the spas the signature elements (a labyrinth (path to tranquility) and an authentic Tipi for guided meditation) are easily accessible. The suite also offers sweeping views of either the awe-inspiring 12-million-year-old boulder piles or Black Mountain in the distance. 2:30 p.m.        

Signature Prescriptive Facial (50 minutes)

A skilled spa aesthetician will provide a thorough skin evaluation before customizing the perfect facial for the unique needs of your skin.

NOTE: As the Spa at the Boulders incorporates the elements of the Native American influences for the region, another offering that’s particularly unique is the Native American Tipi. Spa guests use the tipi for private meditation, soul readings, or shamanic ceremonies.  Guests may also choose to offer a meditation or “prayer bundle” before or after self-guided time. This is the only spa in Arizona that has an authentic Tipi—the structure stands 18 feet in diameter and 26 feet in height and accommodates up to 10 people, used for guided meditation sessions.

Afternoon at leisure    

Enjoy many other fun and relaxing activities the resort has to offerLounging poolside at your choice of (4) resort pools is always a great option, especially during the hotter months. Or, if you’re hankerin’ to get out on the gorgeous greens, play a round of golf on either of two-championship golf courses. If you prefer to get the blood flowing, hit the tennis or pickleball courts for some friendly competition. NOTE: When poolside, be sure to order the “Bobby Slayer Steak Torta” sandwich, which is what Chef Archibald prepared to take the win over Bobby Flay. It’s loaded with savory skirt steak, Oaxacan chiles, crispy chicken skin, cabbage—all doused with rich avocado crema. Yum!

8:00 p.m.    

Dinner and evening activities at the nearby town of Carefree Cave CreekLocated in the foothills north of Phoenix, Cave Creek and Carefree Arizona are adjacent towns with a unique natural environment in common but contrasting personalities. The air is cooler and cleaner than in the city and the location is ideal for day trips south to Phoenix or north to Sedona, Prescott, Jerome, and Flagstaff. With so much going for them, it’s hardly surprising that these sister communities have been capturing the hearts and imaginations of countless visitors for well over a century.

**DAY 3

8:00 a.m.            

Fitness Center

Get energized with a workout on your own, or sign up to join a group fitness class.

9:30 a.m.                            

Breakfast at the resort’s on-site Bakery CafeGrab your morning coffee, some sweet and savory pastries or a quick breakfast-to-go in this cozy Bakery Café. Inspired by classic pâtisseries, this charming bakery offers freshly baked breads, refreshingly crisp salads and delightful confectionary. Treat yourself to a delicious muffin, silky-smooth espresso or mouthwatering treats.     10:30 a.m.                         

Shopping and horseback riding at the nearby town of Carefree Cave Creek

2:00 p.m.                           

Day trip to Butterfly Wonderland Butterfly Wonderland is Scottsdale’s newest destination attraction and largest glass-enclosed butterfly conservatory in America.  It features a magnificent glass atrium that brings a tropical rainforest environment to the Arizona desert, as well as educational laboratories and interactive exhibits, a 3D movie theater, gift shop, and a café-style dining area.

3:00 p.m.                           

Day trip continues to OdySea AquariumOdySea Aquarium offers an entertaining, educational and interactive experience for guests of all ages by combining theme-park-style amusement with highly engaging presentations of aquatic life like no other in the industry. The facility includes a 3D theater, SeaTREK™ underwater ocean walking and a one-of-a-kind voyage through the “Living Sea Carousel.”  Unparalleled features include massive aquatic orbs suspended from the lobby ceiling and filled with colorful schools of fish, and a giant submerged escalator allowing guests to descend deep into the ocean while surrounded by thousands of seas creatures.  Even the restrooms have viewing windows into the shark habitat so guests won’t miss a thing when they need to take a break.  It is located adjacent to Butterfly Wonderland.

8:00 p.m.            

Dinner at the resort’s on-site Spotted Donkey CantinaResort casual attire Fresh, lively, and energetic, the resort’s Spotted Donkey Cantina embraces Arizona’s southwestern influences with “cantina-style” dishes and western flavors in a relaxing atmosphere. Great pleasure awaits patrons where “Modern Mexican” creative cuisine is a mix of regional flavors, top-notch artisanal ingredients and locally sourced foods. NOTE: Atmosphere here is super lively. My personal favorite dish among the many savored, including the Mexican Shrimp Ceviche appetizer (shrimp, cucumbers, avocado, jicama, cilantro & jalapeño, served in a lime aqua chile sauce), was the Chimayo Chile Filete de Puerco. This oven roasted pork tenderloin is cooked to tender perfection and topped with a rich, perfectly reduced bourbon ancho chili sauce. The sliced medallions are served atop green chili bacon, large noodle “mac and cheese.” Enough said.

**DAY 4

At leisure Breakfast at Palo Verde Restaurant

NOTE: Breakfast here is just as impressive as dinner service. The Short Rib Hash, replete with Yukon potato, rajas and guajillo chile sauce topped with a sunny side up egg and served with 3 flour tortillas—is a memorable way to start the day as your small southwestern sabbatical draws to a close.

By 11:00 a.m.                   

Depart from the Boulders Resort & Spa

Sadly all good things must come to an end. But, given that Phoenix boasts more than 450 hotels with more than 62,000 guest rooms—including over 40 luxury resorts—your next marvelous micro-vacation awaits. For its part, given how much there is to do and see at The Boulders Resort & Spa and the caliber of its hospitality, repeat visits to this relaxing nature-laden retreat are certainly warranted. With this city’s dependably warm temperatures that make outdoor activities a way of life year-round, any time is a great time to visit “The Valley of the Sun.”

~~~

“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.

Merilee Kern

Merilee Kern

***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***

 

Austin Archer Celebrates Grand Opening with a Special Offer

Most Anticipated Texas Hotel of 2016 Welcomes Guests with Sweet Surprises & Celebratory Offer:
ARCHER® Hotel Austin Unveils 20% Off Stays through February 2017

Second Bar + Kitchen, Anticipatory Service, Sophistication & Sensational Texan Touches Throughout in Heart of Domain Northside

ARCHERHotel Austin, a luxury boutique, new-build hotel at Domain Northside, and one of the most anticipated Texas hotel debuts of the year, began greeting guests just over a month ago.  The combination of Archer’s sweet surprises, sophistication and Texan touches throughout have been a hit with guests and locals alike.  In celebration of the hotel’s grand opening festivities, taking place mid-October, Archer Austin is extending a special celebratory offer: 20% off best available rates across its guest rooms and suites for stays throughout February.  Rates start from $229 (from $184 with this promotion) and with this special offer and guests will enjoy the following complimentary perks:

  • Wi-Fi in-room and throughout the hotel
  • Bottled Fiji water and handmade salted caramels from Wyeth Patisserie in-room upon arrival
  • In-room Nespresso coffee experience and Austin-based Zhi Teas
  • A bedtime turndown treat: An eight-item rotation of locally sourced items such as chai dark chocolate crunch bark from Crave Artisan Chocolate, Fat Belly Nutella short bread cookies, white chocolate tart cherry popcorn from Bakery Dulcinea and a number of house-made items from executive pastry chef Michelle Arcilla Hall.
  • “Kid in ARCHER” gift from Toy Joy for the younger set of guests

Lobby with a stunning Grand Staircase

To join ARCHER Austin in the celebration of its opening, guests can reserve a room and take advantage of this offer by booking directly at archerhotel.com via this special link: http://archerhotel.com/austin/book/20-off-best-available-rates or by entering promo code 20offAustin when booking at http://archerhotel.com/austin. This offer is valid on all reservations booked by December 31, 2016 for travel through February 28, 2017, some restrictions apply.

Pool Deck

The 171-room, eight-story property has an abundance of local touches infused within the décor and programming; there is no mistaking that ARCHER has a deep appreciation of Texan roots. The reclaimed leather belts – hailing from all across the country – that are showcased behind the front desk and at the head of beds in select suites are just one example of the nod to Texas.  Surprises abound, ranging from the eight-item turndown ritual to the what-room-will-you-get fun that comes along with six design palettes across the 96 guestrooms and 75 suites.

Second Bar + Kitchen, ARCHER’s signature restaurant from La Corsha Hospitality, under the direction of acclaimed Chef David Bull, has lived up to the rave reviews of its namesake’s downtown location.

Double King Guest Room

Double King Guest Room

Double Queen Guest Room

Double Queen Guest Room

 

Other features of the guest rooms include bathrooms with a walk-in shower, Malin+Goetz bath amenities, Frette bathrobes, his/her slippers, work space, laptop safe, in-room refreshment bar, 49-65” HDTVs and device docking station.  Five-star bedding with plush mattress, 100% cotton linens, down duvet and a selection of down pillows will make for a wonderful night’s sleep while the in-room Nespresso® coffee experience makes mornings more enjoyable.

Grand Salon

Grand Salon

ARCHER Austin is a key component of The Domain’s latest phase, Domain Northside, which has brought a host of new best-in-class retailers and restaurants to the 300-acre upscale mixed-use development.  ARCHER is located directly across from the new Nordstrom store.