Saturday, October 31, 2009

The White Stuff is Already Falling

Snowstorms are battering Colorado and Wyoming as residents fight the white stuff--for those of us planning a ski vacation this winter, this is a dream come true. Colorado, home to some of the best skiing resorts in the country, is anticipating quite the impressive season this year, and things are starting off early. Winter wind and snow squalls whipped the states this week in a surprisingly early storm period this year. With the heaviest snowfall that Colorado has seen in a decade, schools closed this week, while business owners struggled to keep stores open in the wicked weather.

Kyle Fredin, a National Weather Service meteorologist, commented that "Big storms like these, they seem to come around every 10 to 12 years." While 44 flights were cancelled in and out of Denver this week, it's a dream come true for those of us who weren't traveling, but simply planning our newest excursion into the Rockies--and thinking about tackling the Rockies as well.

Do you dream of a ski vacation? If you love the idea of zipping through the white stuff, here are just a few favorite places to consider going this year.

Aspen: Aspen is quite the popular place to vacation in North America, and not just because of the skiing. You'll get to experience fantastic accommodations at the resort of your choice, and these particular hotels are quite often extremely close to the slopes. With the moneyed set nearby, shopping and dining options in town are excellent, and the ski lodge lounges aren't half bad, either.

Try: St. Regis Resort recently received a $37 million dollar facelift, and combines outdoor sports with the highest of luxury accommodations.

Killington, Vermont: This fantastic spot for skiing and snowboarding also happens to be extremely enjoyable to travel to--grab a rental car and zip through the mountains between Rutland and Woodstock, Vermont, and then be sure to check out a small local bar for one of Vermont's famous beers or beverages, like a Long Trail ale or a barrel-brewed root beer. With links to many a traditional American family of wealth, this area offers luxury accommodations and treatment for the best of us. Enjoy the spa!

Try: Travel around Vermont, one of the smallest states in the U.S., and visit a few of their ski resorts, stopping at the Stowe Mountain Lodge at the foot of Spruce Peak in Stowe.

Vail, Colorado: Vail has been a classic choice for years when it comes to winter sports, and no wonder: it's a great place to ski and snowboard, and you'll be spoiled for choice when picking exactly where you'd like to have a hot mulled cider in town. Vail happens to be an excellent place to get ski training as well, which means that those in your party without slope skills are more than welcome to come along.

Try: Bridge the gap between North America and Europe by staying at this inspired luxury village in Vail Square.

Jackson Hole: This slightly quieter spot boasts fantastic accommodations and a less frenzied tourist crowd. If you're looking for somewhere you can kick back with a loved one (or go on a romantic second honeymoon), this is a good point to consider. Advanced skiers will love these slopes, and there's always a day at the spa available for you when you can't handle another slew of moguls!

Try: The Four Seasons Resort Jackson Hole is open year-round to guests, and provides a naturally beautiful setting with the luxury services, amenities, and furnishings you've come to expect.

Will you be skiing this season?

Thursday, October 29, 2009


If a road trip is what you're after, here are just a few of the classics that remain steeped in true Americana--take your pick!

US 1: Did you know that the northernmost part of this route originated in 1636, when it look four days to make the trek between Philadelphia and New York? While we can travel at far more comfortable speeds today, taking the US-1 route will now snake through colonial New England down to Key West, including the Everglades in Florida, Maine's old ports, and Alexandria, Virginia--as well as through the oldest city in America, St. Augustine. If you live on the east coast, travel on a part of this route near you for a trip back in time--and stopping off in sunny Florida definitely wouldn't be a bad idea this fall/winter!

Pacific Coast Highway: This west coast trip is considered one of the most scenic in all of the United States. Kicking off just north of the Mexican border, this road runs about 1,500 miles to the Olympic National Park. You'll get to experience a variety of sights as you travel on this particular route, including farmland, oceanside resorts, wine country, and those famous Californian forests that tower over your car as you pass by, positively dwarfed by their ancient presence.

Route 66: This classic road tripping route is stuffed full of classic sights--and diners--and every American needs to take this trip once in his or her life. Relish the '50s vibe of many roadside attractions and eateries, and don't forget about booking a luxury hotel in nearby cities over the course of your trip--otherwise, you'll be bedding down in one of those funky motels night after night! You're going to need a massage after your daily trips out on the road, anyway.

Keep in mind that Route 66 isn't just about what's there, but what's missing--did you know that the area is dotted with ghost towns? From Illinois to New Mexico, there are dust-filled towns dotted along the route that were considered casualties of the creation of the interstate, or even dating back to old mining days. Be sure to make a stop or two.

Great River Road: Live in the south? Take the Great River Road from Venice, Louisiana all the way up to the beginning of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. Pay homage to one of America's greatest rivers, and explore a fascinating section of America.

If you're itching for a road trip, it looks like now's the time to take it, while gas prices seem to be stalled. If they're going to rise again, you should get your fun in now, before it's too late! Now who's up for a road trip?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Inspired Norman Rockwell ?

The Berkshires never go out of style. While extremely popular in fall, thanks to the brilliant foliage around the location come autumn, the developing art scene has been drawing more and more visitors at a rapid pace. Home to American artist Norman Rockwell for 25 years, the Berkshires remain a stunning source of inspiration for artistic talent interested in recording quintessentially American scenes and images: white picket fences, sweet churches, mom and pop grocery stores, and shutter-clad homes are all a part of life here. It's not hard to see where Rockwell's source of inspiration came from when you do some sightseeing, and then combine that with a trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge , which houses over 700 of his paintings and drawings, as well as a reconstructed Rockwell studio space modeled after his home work space. From the Norman Rockwell Museum, you'll get to see both the stunning New England scenery and other locations dedicated to creative masters based in New England.

The Mass MoCa, North Adams, is one such stop you'll need to make while being scenic round the Berkshires. This contemporary art stop lives in a series of 19th-century refurbished buildings and hopes that you'll spend your time looking at the art, not reading about it--note the absence of plaques when you go. Musical performances and contemporary dance productions are featured on the weekend, while you can spend your time during the week taking in exhibitions of a varied nature from noted artists. The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute famously resides in the Berkshires, founded after the Clarks historically decided against a New York City spot to house artwork and provide art reference material for the masses. This art library, open to the public, enriches the campus just as much as their stunning new campus buildings designed by talented architects.

While taking Route 7 through the Berkshires, which links the region's towns--and artistic points of interest--together, try your hand at some amateur photography of the region.

And as far as resorts, Canyon Ranch, Lenox, located in the Berkshires, combines that far-off retreat feel with close proximity to a New England town. The stunning Berkshire mountains provide the perfect background for a weekend of 100% relaxation in the country, an you can walk to the town of Lenox for sightseeing, souvenirs, and a break from the stunning hotel scenery--you will just appreciate it more. The historic inn boasts 126 rooms in a personalized, quaint layout that is perfect for the traveler bent on relaxation, not to mention the Berkshires Health Resort, which offers a great range of cardio class options like spinning, as well as more subdued classes like yoga for your time off during the weekend. Outdoors options include hiking (both leisurely and aerobic) and biking, canoeing , swimming, kayaking, and skiing. When you come in from a long day of getting fit in the perfect New England setting, swing by the restaurant for gourmet cooking without prices tacked all over your menu--just the nutritional information of an array of tasty dishes. Your Canyon Ranch stay includes all your meals, so live it up with an intuitive menu designed to be both healthy and delicious.

Now this is a luxury resort. Not only do you get to tone your body, but you treat your artistic side to a true slice of Americana.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Celebs Paid to Party ?

Do you love going out when you're on vacation? So do these celebrities, but there's one big difference: they go out on the prowl, and get paid for it! From Paris Hilton to her ex-best friend Kim Kardashian , celebrities are raking in the dough for paid appearances all over the country. While we might not be that lucky, we can definitely find out about top night spots around the States to have a dance or two, do some star gazing, and then head back to our luxury hotel. Even though it doesn't seem fair that celebrities get paid so much just to hang out, there is some logic behind it: celebrities on the red carpet equal a crowd of paying customers, say experienced marketing executives. Just this year, Kim Kardashian picked up $50,000 to celebrate her 29th birthday in Vegas, and even Jon Gosselin received $10,000 to hang in Vegas at a pool party. In 2007, Britney Spears took in $350,000 to ring in the New Year, while Ashlee Simpson and Pete Wentz happily accepted $50,000 to celebrate the same in 2007.

Usually called the "host" of the night, the celeb whose duty it is to party merely shows up, smiles, and does their best to have fun. Sounds hard, right? If a club does things properly, they'll get a paying client who returns again and again, making them seem more popular each time the celeb shows up on a Friday or Saturday night. For example, Nicky and Paris Hilton received $500,000 to show up at a club in Vegas and party the night away, but they've been back countless times since then to party it up, Hilton-style. They might've gambled, but the execs behind LAX are smiling now after all that extra publicity! If you are craving a celeb-worthy outing, try these spots in the States:

Los Angeles: Home of Hollywood and all things fun, you'll most likely catch a glimpse of a celeb if you go out on the town or head to popular spots like Robertson Boulevard for some shopping. Get a hotel right in the center of the action to increase the chances of seeing a celebrity right where you're staying, or at least hosting an event by the pool!

Try: If you love to relax after a day of exploring the busy city, you'll love the Four Seasons Hotel at Beverly Hills. Enjoy all the amenities your hotel has to offer, and that great step-out balcony from your room.

Miami: Miami's a popular celebrity hotspot all year-round, particularly for the New York and L.A. crowd. When celebrities crave some fun in the sun, they head to Miami, where you can be a part of the crowd by simply booking a hotel in South Beach. Pack a bathing suit, get a massage, and don't forget that camera!

Try: The Setai is an oceanfront resort smack-dab in the middle of South Beach. Enjoy three pools, excellent restaurants and bars, and a private spa.

New York: Ultra-sophisticated New York is basically crawling with celebrity figures, so take your pick! Celebs can be spotted in nightclubs as well as top hotel restaurants, so keep your eyes peeled and keep cool. If you are really craving a celeb encounter, there are plenty of celeb-themed tours to take around the city, which will help you find the right spots.

Try: The Hotel Gansevoort is an excellent spot if you're craving a hip scene. Found in the Meatpacking district, this hotel close to stylish restaurants and cool shopping destinations.

Las Vegas: Land of casinos and night spots, Las Vegas is an amazing place to find celebrities hanging out on their weekends off. You'll probably see a celeb on the red carpet entering one of many hosting events in the city, but keep your eyes open for cool events held at rooftops near you. You may be able to attend a pool party hosted by a celeb figure during the day, so you can get your tan and still hang with the A-listers.

Try: Caesars Palace is a great place to visit on your first time to the city, and some of the room offerings are simply palatial. Enjoy!

Are you on the hunt for a celebrity hangout or sighting? It's time to pick your luxury hotel!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Top Spots for Tailgating

Are you a fan of tailgating parties? If so, you'll certainly need to know these Top 10 Tailgating Towns, where meeting, cheering, and cooking up some prime food is just a way of life. Joe Cahn, Commissioner of Tailgating, has traveled far and wide to compare tailgating parties across America. In 1996, he sold his home in New Orleans, bought a motor home, and started hitting the routes zig-zagging across America in search of the best tailgating parties. It hasn't been easy, but he's managed to pare down his list after attending more than 500 tailgate bashes, bringing his "miles totaled" to around 500,000. "Tailgating is the only gathering place of a community of its kind, like walking through thousands of backyards. It's where the happy people are," Cahn says. "Tailgating creates the perfect American neighborhood."

What makes a tailgate party tops? Cahn's actually created a list, complete with the major elements: "Parking space, tradition, and family are three of the top four ingredients," he said. Sports, Cahn commented, are one of the only places where kids can fight with an adult (about sports) and then get away with it--or maybe even win. The fourth might be the sole reason to get traveling to one of these popular spots-- the food! Cahn listed all the tasty things he's tried across the country, remembering place where he got each one. The list is sumptuous and not at all what you'd expect, including old-fashioned Maine lobster, bratwursts, chili, and homemade tomales, for example.

Intrigued about the top tailgating locations? Aim for these popular spots!

Reliant Statium, Houston: Tailgating has been openly encouraged at this spot from the get-go, making it an extremely popular pasttime, and one that simply can't be ignored. Since the lot is very roomy, large vehicles can easily park with some serious grilling equipment and get things fired up. Jalapeno poppers and plenty of beef round out this barbecue fare. Yummy and very Texan, this is an experience not to be missed.

Try: The Four Seasons Hotel Houston gives you luxury after a long day in the trenches.

Buffalo, New York: This city simply has a tailgating culture, and you'll be surprised at just how popular tailgating is when you catch a game. There are varied parking lots around the stadiums designated for just your type of ride: bus tailgating, RV tailgating, car tailgating, and limousine tailgating are just a few of the dedicated lots sprinkled 'round town. The lot opens five hours before the game, and the tailgating, its said, reaches "truly professional levels" once it gets going.

Try: Take a pick from many a luxury hotel in New York, and make traveling the state a priority.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
: It's "Halloween Every Week" in Oakland, where dressed-up characters rival the costumes of Mardi Gras and All Hallow's Eve on a weekly basis. The "Raider Nation" makes up a modern-day group of half-pirates, half-Barbarians who battle it out while stomping and beer-guzzling right on their home turf. It's a sight to be seen, without a doubt, and one you'll enjoy if you love dressing up and cheering teams on.

Try: Stay at the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, which puts you in perfect proximity to everything that San Fran has to offer. Union Square, here we come!

Sound tempting? There's so much more!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The World's Most Well-Liked Countries

Studies show that attitudes are changing around the world about certain countries, including the United States. While Chicago may have been dropped quite quickly from the line-up of Olympic possibles this time around, surveys have shown that the American approval rating has blossomed outside of the States: French approval rating of the U.S. went from 42 percent in 2008 to 75 percent this year, and in Britain, the numbers went from 53 percent to 69 percent. In fact, this is the first time that the United States has taken the place of honor as one of the top five most-liked countries in the world, along with countries like the United Kingdom, Japan, and France.

These top-ranking spots aren't just popular, but are considered tourist hot-spots with a ton to give. If you've looking for somewhere to visit that offers rich history and plenty of tourist watering holes along the way, it's time to see what countries made the cut--you might be surprised! From the adventurous tourist to the business traveler, we all want a little comfort--and some good food, too.

Curious where you should be staying if you're going by popularity ratings? Here are some of the most popular countries in the world, for your consideration:

Switzerland (8)
Anholt, of the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index, stated that Switzerland is seen as "massively desirable" as a tourist location, and surely the sweeping mountain vistas and high quality of living help. Considering how many languages are spoken there, you just might find yourself feeling right at home amongst the Alps. One line of advice: a high-quality camera is crucial for your trip to Switzerland.

Italy remains an extremely popular location for visiting and longer-term vacationing. With its strong culture and heritage, it remains an acquired taste, but an acquired taste by many. If there's one place you should visit at least once in your life, many would argue that it would have to be Italy. High-quality leather goods, spectacles, fashion, and other crafts make this destination great for shoppers.

Japan (5)
Japan's great products, Anholt believes, makes them easily recognized and respected world-round. From cars to gadgets, Japan's the place for tech buffs, and the country also scored extremely high in the way of culture. As the only Asian country in the top 10, they have a lot about which to be proud. (And, just as a note, China jumped size spots closer, from place 28 to 22, in one year.)

France (2)
Sure, the French aren't revered for their hospitality, but they've remained at the second-place hotspot for two years on the Anholt Survey. What makes France so very popular with tourists is their culture and their accessibility--as well as their love of fine cuisine. Interestingly, Anholt also cited French President Sarkozy's marriage to model Carla Bruni as being intriguing to the rest of the world--the stuff of soap operas, he said.

United States (1)
Formerly in seventh place for the world's most well-liked countries, the United States has now been ranked number one! While Obama's "honeymoon" with the American public has been well-publicized, Anholt stated that he believes the U.S. position was artificially lowered last year due to the worldwide approval rating of George W. Bush. It feels good to be on top again, and doesn't that make planning your vacation just a little bit easier?

Where will you be headed on vacation, now that you've seen the rankings?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What's Hot on Broadway?

One of New York's finest attractions is the Broadway scene, and thankfully it has enjoyed a good run through '09 despite recessionary setbacks. If it weren't for Broadway, Big Apple tourism would be very different indeed, and all of the luxury hotels located within close proximity to Gotham's finest stages would be left without a serious hook. If the shows made it through '09, they can make it through anything, say leading members of New York's artistic community. Charlotte St. Martin, Executive Director of The Broadway League, commented about the economic concerns by saying "I can’t say the economy didn’t affect us at all, but Broadway’s just not one of those things that’s totally economy-dependent. We had a record-breaking season and we believe that we have every opportunity to do that again this year."

Shows like "A Steady Rain" and "Hamlet" have already generated a good deal of buzz, but what's even more surprising is the shows knocking it out of the park without even a prominent lead role, commented St. Martin. Besides Jude Law's pull in "Hamlet," Sienna Miller will also be starring in "After Miss Julie" this season--another must-watch. If psychedelic undertones and antics are what you're after, then "Hair" is the right Broadway show for you. Gavin Creel as Claude and Will Swenson as Berger rock the stage, and "Hair" is the perfect compliment to a more serious Broadway production seen during your stay in New York.

With all these shows to consider watching, and another successful Broadway season right around the corner, all you need is the perfect place to stay in New York. Choices can be dizzying, but these are some of the best in New York City.

Four Seasons New York: Designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, the Four Seasons New York is an amazing place to stay for discerning guests. The city's tallest hotel, this gorgeous limestone modernist tower is a great pick for a room with a view. A classic choice never goes out of style.

Hotel Gansevoort: The Hotel Gansevoort is a full-service luxury hotel in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan. Known for its stylish spots in what was originally a gritty part of the city, the Meatpacking District is now home to designer boutiques and studios from some of the world's best designers. The hotel's stunning bright lights and glass, complete with a 14-foot high revolving door.

Intercontinental The Barclay New York: If you're in town for a quick jaunt and you want to go somewhere where you can zip in and zip out, consider this luxury business hotel just minutes away from "the city that never sleeps." You're close enough to the bright lights of Broadway and Central Park to enjoy all the sights that New York has to offer.

Ritz Carlton New York, Battery Park: This luxury hotel is found right amongst some of the most impressive skyscrapers in Lower Manhattan. With its classic layout spilling over with elegant furnishings, the Ritz Carlton New York, Battery Park allows you to enjoy views of Ellis Island and the Manhattan city skyline while still taking advantage of world-class dining and entertainment.

Sofitel New York: This deluxe four diamond hotel is found right on 44th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. This efficient service combines a mixture of contemporary and stylish decor with an advantageous location for the ultimate New York experience. Prepare to enjoy yourself thoroughly at the Sofitel!

With so many quality New York shows, and so many places to stay, this is the best time to head to the city.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

America's Favorite Cities

Do you have a favorite city to visit in the States? If you do, you're always on the lookout for a new place to stay. If that sounds like you and you're up for another wonderful experience at a luxury hotel, check out these top-ranking choices that always satisfy guests in search of fun, glamour, and relaxation.

This past summer, Travel and Leisure polled their readers to decide the best places to visit in the United States, and compared results to both resident and visitor responses. You also have the opportunity to compare two cities according to a category of your choice, as well as choose your ideal getaway with your selected criteria. Choosy vacationers, this is the perfect option for you!

If you are selective about where you stay, you might want to check out cities that ranked high on the list of the finest hotels. By selecting a city with a great reputation for quality stays, you simply can't go wrong.

Orlando (1)
Orlando, home of Walt Disney World Resort and Seaworld, offers a string of jaw-droppingly luxurious hotels for family and business stays. If you crave a great stay with plenty to do (and lots of built-in perks), Orlando should be one of your top picks.

Portofino Bay Hotel at Universal Orlando: Want to stay in Florida. . .and in Italy? Get the best of both worlds at the Portofino Bay Hotel, which has recreated the streets of Portofino down to the cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes. Complete with superior Loews service, this hotel offers European-style luxuries with three swimming pools and, of course, the vibe of La Dolce Vita.

Waldorf Astoria Orlando: This premiere Orlando hotel is nestled over 482 acres in Bonnet Creek--you'll feel like you've traveled to a luxury hotel hidden off somewhere far away, but don't worry--everything's within your reach.

New Orleans (2)
New Orleans is well-known for its resiliency, rich history, and unique blend of cultures. With stunning hotel restaurants and a revamped historical district, you'll find yourself wining, dining, and sightseeing with the best of them.

Loews New Orleans: The new Loews Hotel New Orleans is located quite close to Harrah's Casino, perfect for those of us who don't mind a game of slots or Black Jack to kick off the night. Located in the central business district, this hotel has a stunning fitness center and a huge pool.

W New Orleans: The W New Orleans, found in the French Quarter, might be a quiet oasis, but you are still located right in the center of the action. Enjoy the views in the courtyard, from the fountain outdoors to the illuminated outdoor pool, and then wander through the streets for a piece of the New Orleans action.

Houston (3)
The largest city in Texas happens to a vibrant international community, a hot climate, and a large arts circuit to explore--not to mention those luxury hotels dotting the city's most popular spots.

Hotel Granduca: This hotel, located in the uptown area of Houston, affords great views of the green spaces around the hotel, as well as the pool nestled in the back of the hotel. Stop by Ristorante Cavour, which features a sophisticated menu for a smart palette.

St. Regis Hotel, Houston: Recognized as one of the finest hotels in not just Texas, but in the United States, the St. Regis Hotel is located just minutes from plenty of tourist attractions like theatres and galleries. With 180 rooms, the St. Regis Hotel offers rooms and suites to exact specifications, complete with luxurious, traditional furnishings.

It's going to be hard to choose between some of Travel and Leisure's favorite locations around North America, but the good news is that you add these to your list and start visiting them over the course of a couple family--or solo--trips!

Friday, October 9, 2009

What's Good is Gold

The price of gold has continued its rise, reports indicate, while the dollar has weakened. While gold rose to $1,062.70 in New York's Mercantile System, it ended up sitting at $1,056.30 at a 1.1% increase. Gold had originally sat at 21.7% from a low of $867.90 in April, but now with the dollar hitting lows this season (and a record low this August), traders everywhere are watching the changes with curiosity. Gold may advance further, confirmed David Beahm, because "The only way this doesn't continue would be a stronger dollar. David said "I can't find anybody out there that is saying that is going to happen."

Why is the dollar dropping, anyway? A combination of government spending to stimulate the economy and record-low interest rates have made some wonder whether or not interest rates will be raised, like what happened recently in Australia. Jeffrey Nichols, the managing director of of American Precious Metals Advisors said that "Gold is an early predictor of inflation, so even though inflation may be a year or two down the road, gold typically begins moving earlier." As investors get enthusiastic about the economy and continue to trade their safe-haven assets for stocks in a less risky environment, gold should continue to rise.

With all the changes in the status of the dollar, a lot of us are looking for new locations to make our money count. Thankfully, WhataHotel! has many strategic partnerships in locations where the dollar is even or equal to local currency. Here are a few suggestions on where to visit for more buying power.


Park Hyatt Beijing: This stunning hotel location is located directly across from China's World Trade Center, and happens to be part of the largest skyscraper on Beijing's Chang'an Avenue. Be sure to dine at the Park Hyatt's restaurant for unparalleled 360-degree views of the city.

The Excelsior Hong Kong: Combining history and elegance, the Excelsior stands on Lot No. 1, which was the first plot of land sold when China became a British Colony in 1841. This ideal vacationing spot delivers amazing views and impeccable, world-class service.


Swissotel Sydney: Located above one of the most iconic department stores in Sydney, this centrally located hotel is a hot tourist spot, combining entertainment and shopping districts such as Pitt Street Mall and Queen Victoria Building. If you want to enjoy the evening, have a walk to Cockle Bay Wharf.

Voyages Lizard Island: Lizard Island, or rather the 24 of them, is situated on the Great Barrier Reef to allow for the usual outdoorsy activities in a spectacular surrounding: snorkeling, diving, and more give you more than the perfect chance to snap pictures and enjoy family attractions. All meals are included in the price of your stay.


Pink Sands, Harbour Island: Pink Sands is a 20-acre resort location with plenty of pink beach sand and a fantastic interior design for your art-loving pleasure. Be sure to note their decorations, done by Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki in Moroccan, Balinese, and Indian styles.

Reef Atlantis: With miles of white sand stretching out below your luxury accommodations, you'll feel like you never want to leave the Reef Atlantis. Be sure to check out the full resort, of which you have complete access, and check out pool and water slides as well as exotic aquatic animal feedings.

Have no worries about the falling value of the dollar when you vacation in Australia, the Bahamas, or in China! With a comfortable exchange rate, you won't have to stress about your budget--and you are already saving through

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mona Lisa and Mickey D's

A great temple of culture will now glow with golden arches, thanks to McDonald's angling to hang its shingle a stone's throw from the Louvre. One of Paris's most refined and renowned art museums will end up oh-so-close to Big Macs and pomme frites , and--unsurprisingly--some people are not pleased about the prospect. While a combination of French culture and American convenience doesn't exactly sound like a bad thing, the press has heard a range of complaints about the new prospect of fast food + culture. The new McDonald's will be installed in the food court at the Carrousel du Louvre, which is an underground mall attached to the museum. The Louvre, the world's most visited museum, is one of the most successful in the world, supporters argue, and say that McDonald's isn't just incredibly famous in Paris, but is also viewed as a "French enterprise." If that isn't allowed to hold court by the Mona Lisa, than what is?

According to current reports, the Louvre is not allowed to vote on decisions such as this made by the private company which owns the adjoining mall area. Spokeswoman Aggy Lerolle commented that there can be no veto for the decision, and sites like louvrepourtous .fr have been complaining about the change, leaving commentary like "Rendezvous in December for a Mona Lisa Extra Value Menu." Even though the mall locations represent varied world cuisine, it's clear that the webmasters behind this site designated to help visitors maneuver the Louvre believe that the museum should have found some way to stop the McDonald's intrusion on the nearby collection of eateries. Previously, a group rallied against what has been called the "Disneylandization" of French culture, and they had mentioned Starbucks' interest in setting up shop close to other museums planning on opening worldwide. Interestingly, they had asked "When will McDonald's set up shop?"--which is disconcerting to read with McDonald's soon to be added to the Louvre's offerings.

Let's say that you'll be heading to France, with or without burgers available near the Louvre, and you're looking for a spot to stay that combines famed Parisian glamour with something even more arresting: a central location complete with stunning views to make any tourist (including a McDonald's naysayer) smile.

Hotel de Crillon: This recently-refurbished location is the pinnacle of European glamour, and happens to share its incomparable history with another impressive spot, the Placede la Concorde. With 147 rooms and suites, this stunning spot to stay is just what you need to soak up Paris' special vibe.

Hotel de Paris: Built in 1904, the Hotel de Paris is a cultural landmark in your touring city of choice. If you're a sucker for Art Nouveau in Neo-Gothic style, you'll be pleased to know that the Hotel de Paris retains its refined Art Nouveau interiors in both the guest rooms and the public spaces of the hotel. Pull out that camera!

Hotel du Louvre
: If you will be spending a lot of time at the Louvre, why not stay in an elegant hotel right next door? The Hotel du Louvre is perfect for art peepers as well as those interested in L'Opera Garner, Les Jardins du Palais-Royale, and the Comedie Francaise Theatre. Stop by La Brasserie du Louvre for fresh seafood and traditional French snacks--much nicer than a quick stop at the soon-to-be-opened McD's! You can also pop in for a nightcap at Le Defender bar.

Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris: This classic French hotel has been subtly updated since its opening last century, but it retained all of its elegant charm while getting modern trappings. French and international celebrities have designated this spot their stay of choice, and you'll feel like an a-lister as you explore its special perks and benefits both in your room and in the public hotel zones, from the spa to the contemporary bar.

Will you be looking forward to snagging a hot-n-juicy burger on your way from the Louvre, or will you abstain in search of true Parisian cuisine?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rio Celebrates Olympic Win

Madrid might have had the most international promotion when it came to the 2016 Olympics, but Rio remained the victor in the bid to be the first South American city to host them. In many ways, it makes perfect sense: this well-known city will have an opportunity not only to redeem itself after a years of international promotion, but after the NYT's reports of clashes between the rich and poor in the city's more downtrodden zones. Rio's victory is going to catapult the city to further fame, giving a welcome boost to Brazil's economy. While surely these considerations passed through the minds of Pele and President Lula, backing the bid and weeping upon Rio's selection, Brazilians themselves seemed to care about nothing more than an opportunity to redeem themselves in front of the world. Unsurprisingly, parties were the order of the day after Rio's afternoon victory, with a huge crowd outside the Copacabana partying in bikinis and green and yellow t-shirts amidst balloons of the same color near the beach. Will you be joining the festivities in 2016?

First, Rio de Janeiro's Olympics bid video is a must-watch by anyone considering a trip to South America. One of the most photographed cities in the world and home to one of the new World Wonders (the Cristo statue atop the soaring mountains), it had plenty to show off.

*Christ the Redeemer: This statue, built to celebrate 100 years of Rio's independence, wasn't simply elected one of the New Wonders of the World. Its perfect location makes it accessible for tourists to visit on a hike or tram ride, and the view of the city itself from the Corcovado Mountain is enough to sway you to go up there.

*Sugar Loaf: Another essential spot for viewing the city, Sugar Loaf can be accessed by one of two cable cars running along the mountain's steep slopes. Enjoy the ride as you prepare your camera for the snapping, because this is going to be unforgettable!

*Jardim Botanico: Rio's botanical gardens are a must-visit for anyone interested in the natural flora of a tropical paradise. Spanning acres of land, the gardens were founded in 1808, complete with neoclassical additions and romantic sculptures scattered about its grounds.

*Parque Enrique Lage: This public park in Rio's south Zone is located in the Jardim Botanico neighborhood, at the foot of the Corcovado mountains. Formerly the residence of industrialist Enrique Lage and his wife, a singer, the mansion was remodeled in the 1920s both indoors and out. It became a public park in the 1960s.

Obviously brimming with natural beauty and plenty of tourist sites, Rio happens to be home of some of the most luxurious hotel locations in the world, with rooftop pools, impeccable service, and views of the Lagoa, Corcovado, and Pao de Acucar straight from its location. If you need to know where to stay, here are a few tourist-favored spots with the WhataHotel! seal of approval.

Caesar Park Rio de Janeiro
: Ipanema's certainly a must-see in Rio, so what could be better than enjoying a hotel stay straight from there? While the Girl from Ipanema might not be prowling the oceanside, you can step down to one of Rio's most famous beaches to enjoy a cold coconut water, a bake in the incredibly warm sun, and even a bout of swimsuit purchasing done beachside. Head back into your hotel from some of their top-rated restaurant cuisine and a star-studded guest list.

Copacabana Palace Hotel: One of the grandest hotels in all of South America was right there to witness the 2016 Olympic bash on the beach, and now it's going to quickly fill up with an impressive who's who of A-listers planning to experience Rio the right way. This location, positioned on Copacabana Beach, features hardwood floors, chandeliers galore, and the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant, which is one of the most glamorous in the city.

Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro: The parade of luxury hotels in Rio just doesn't stop, and this is another testament to the popularity of the city's views--and the love affair Rio has with doing things luxe-style. One of the area's popular meeting points for the well-heeled, the Hotel Fasano offers spectacular views for guests and a great fitness center and massage offerings after a long, hard day at...the beach. That's the life!

Why wait till 2016? Visit Rio now !

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Play Where the Uber-Rich Play

While Sales & Marketing representatives of ultra-luxury properties and yachts aimed at the super rich felt a certain pinch when it came to sales this year, it comes as no surprise that billionaires are still choosing top locations for their vacations. Uber-rich moguls are still whiling away the time in oceanside resorts, jetting around on private planes, and soaking up the sun on private yachts. From buying and selling their own properties to going on truly drool-worthy vacations, the very rich among us are continuing on the path of total relaxation, complete with perfect service and amazing locations. Let's follow in their footsteps, shall we?

Even those of us who haven't been as recession-proof as the super rich can enjoy similar vacations, combining marked-down resort stays with value added perks. While celebrities and businesspeople with plenty of cash like to relax in exclusive resorts and in private compounds, the locations where they stay are not much of a secret. Here are a few top celeb hangouts, and where you can to be just like them.

*Ralph Lauren: Ralph's five residences are nothing short of breathtaking, and guess what? He hung onto his mega-properties even during the recession, and took amazing breaks abroad. His properties include Jamaica and Colorado locations.

Where Should I Stay?
Try the Jamaica Inn, one of WhataHotel!'s partners, which is located along a peaceful beach along the Caribbean. Complete with 47 suites along the brilliant blue ocean, the hotel features a terrace for each suite, plus cocktails and dining to anything from jazz to old-style Jamaican calypso. When you relax this well, be prepared to plan a similar vacation year after year.

*Donald Trump: Following the sale of of one of his Palm Beach places, Donald Trump still calls Palm Beach his home, but at the exclusive Mar-a-Largo location. When Trump puts his seal of approval on property, you know it's going to be amazing!

Where Should I Stay?
Try the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, which can be booked as either a family vacation or a romantic couple's getaway. The "Kids for All Seasons" program will keep the kids suitably occupied and safe as you take some time for yourself to lounge by the ocean and hit up the spa. Everyone's happy with the addition of members-only golf course access and a great tennis court on site.

*Michael Bloomberg: The NYC mayor spends time in Vail, Colorado, where he dines at Vail Mountain's exclusive Game Greek club. You might not be able to enjoy his identical tastes in dining, because this particular location has an exclusive initiation fee of $50K, but you can hit the slopes just like our Big Apple mayor.

That's not the only place Bloomberg like to stay, either. When he is not in Vail, he also spends time in Bermuda, where he happens to live amongst neighbors like Ross Perot who stay in a tiny spot called Tucker's Town, with a private entrance, strict privacy rules, and--of course--the "millionaire's row." (Or shall we say "billionaire's row?")

Where Should I Stay? Heading to Vail? The Vail Cascade Resort and Spa allows you to enjoy a luxe getaway nestled right in the mountains, but without that stereotypical "ski lodge" feel. You'll be transported to European slopes with a stream running through the property, a fantastic spa location right there, and a private chairlift straight to Vail Mountain. You are looking at the only ski-in, ski-out four-diamond luxury property at the foot of Vail Mountain--what's not to love?

The good news is that even if these locations don't strike your fancy, any luxury hotel will provide the comfort of a celeb's summer or winter haunt, for less. Choose a luxury property with exclusive perks through WhataHotel!, and you'll be living the high life in any destination of your choosing.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Miami's Approval Rating Skyrockets

How much do you love your hometown? Here in Miami, we apparently love it! Miamians are more attached to their city than ever before, recent studies show. A Gallup survey conducted in 2009 demonstrates that Miamians are more attached to their communities than people in other large cities like Philadelphia and Detroit. 400 locals were interviewed in the program, and Dennis Scholl, the Miami Program director, admits that "I would have thought that people, because they were unhappy with their economic circumstance, would be unhappy with their community." Why the surprising results? Theories are that, with less cash to splash around town, Miamians are spending time in their community--and at home. "What's interesting this year in Miami is the perception of residents caring about each other is also significantly higher," Katherine Loflin said, who is a Gallup consultant.

Miami's approval rating, a 3.62 mean scale in comparison to last year's 3.42, also has a lot to do with Miami's quality cultural offerings--something that's significantly more difficult to attain in a city like Detroit, for example. If you're planning on a warm stay somewhere that's both attractive and packed with points of interest for the average tourist, Miami's the place to go. While there's the beach and the boardwalk, you've got a lot more places to visit, including Parrot Jungle, the Metrozoo, Vizcaya, the Metro-Dade Cultural Center, and the Holocaust Memorial. Not only are these locations stunning spots for pictures and ultimate locations for families to check out on a quiet day away from their luxury hotel, but even driving to the locations can be a blast. Have your travel agent reserve a car for you, and then hit the road en route to the spots of your choice. Drive down A1A, which runs straight up the beach on your way north--and perhaps you can slow just long enough to pick up an ice cream and make a pit stop for an ocean dip on your way back!

If Miami's fair weather and historical offerings suit you, your next step is choosing where you're going to stay. Miami offers an amazing assortment of luxury hotels geared toward a variety of travelers, from the businessperson to the singleton on the prowl. These are two noted spots that never cease to get great reviews--and repeat visitors.

The Acqualina: This beachside resort location combines the relaxing vibe of being by the ocean with the perks of having a city's rich resources at your fingertips. Nestled in between Miami Beach and Broward County along Florida's A1A in Sunny Isles, you're at a prime spot for traveling to tourist spots of your choice--and the beach, of course. When you're not lounging on Miami's pristine beaches, be sure to dine in one of Acqualina's oceanside resorts, or visit their award-winning spa. This is also a great place to take your family, because this luxury hotel happens to have noted children's programs that combine educational activities with lots of fun!

Four Seasons Miami: Located just a block away from Biscayne Bay and a stone's throw away from Miami Beach, the Four Seasons continues to boast impressive offerings for the Miami visitor. Geared toward the sophisticated single guest or business traveler, this hotel offers sweeping views of the city as well as luxuriously decorated suites. Brickell Avenue is conveniently located close to popular after-work watering holes, and has one of their own right on site--Bahia is a popular location for 9-5'ers on Friday night.

Time to start packing, or at least start dreaming about it!