Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Park Hyatt, Toronto

Sometimes, the best part about traveling is staying in the hotel. Some people wouldn’t want to admit it, but if a hotel is good enough, you don’t want to leave, let alone sightsee. Dining in-room is a pleasure, exploring the spa is a treat, and if there are extra amenities involved? Add them to the list.

I recently stayed in the Park Hyatt Hotel in Toronto, Canada, adding to my roster of luxury hotel visits for comparison purposes (this trip was not comped). As someone who’s lived in the southeastern U.S. for a number of years, the trip was as much for cultural purposes as for business. While I did have an opportunity to explore the city, I have to admit that one of my favorite times was simply sitting back with one of their health-boosting smoothies from room service and enjoying the street view from my hotel room.

Located in a pristine area of Toronto, the Park Hyatt Toronto has both a big-city feel and a hamlet vibe. While the hotel itself is of the urban design variety--large, with a contemporary look--it is found near a boutique-filled shopping area that’s more reminiscent of Europe than anywhere else. Streets are small if you wander off the main path, and you’ll also find some great places to eat that way, too. If you get hungry and don't want to go far, service at the hotel itself is top-notch. (You should stay for a breakfast or two in the bistro-style Annonia restaurant downstairs--it’s delicious.)

As for the rooms? If you travel in winter, the rooms feel particularly cozy, thanks to the lighting setup and the very effective temperature controls (not to be downplayed... if you've ever stayed in a drafty hotel room, you know!). Summertime is best enjoyed from a room positioned high enough that you can see the trees from your perch--a lovely view. Featuring one of the most comfortable beds I’ve been in during my stays, the hotel provides an incredible number of pillows, spreads, throws, and robes, plus a great bathroom amenities pack. The staff was incredibly friendly--more so than in many other hotels I've stayed in--and everything went seamlessly.

If you do manage to pry yourself away from your hotel room, I highly recommend having a stroll around Yorkville. It's attractive and very interesting, but it’s also perfectly suited for the business traveler with just an afternoon off to pick up gifts. On a scale from one to ten, I'd award the Park Hyatt Toronto a perfect score. They certainly earned it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Equestrian-Friendly Getaways

Do you have a horseback-riding enthusiast in the family? When you've discovered an inn with stables and great trails, it gets tougher to book other lodging without risk of subpar guides and trails. These leads should get you booking beyond your comfort zone in no time so one can enjoy the equestrian-type vacation you want.

Twin Farms
This unique getaway of an estate is just perfect for the traveler with a lighthearted take on traveling to ride. Deep in Vermont horse country, you'll have access to riding lessons and riding trails for your exploration pleasure. However, it doesn't end there: Twin Farms has a cozy atmosphere and is located not far from the town of Woodstock, Vermont, a great spot for hiking and gallery-browsing.

Dromoland Castle
Unparalleled hospitality makes Dromoland Castle an exciting destination in Ireland for those who crave wide-open spaces. The open grounds are perfect for trekkers and strollers alike, and equestrians (and hopefuls) will appreciate the stable filled with able mares and stallions. Horseback riding lessons are available for beginning riders, while others can rent horses for the day for more experienced treks.

Sheen Fall Lodge
Sheen Falls Lodge is tucked in a magical wilderness of lush greenery, rolling hills, and even waterfalls. The beginning of this fantastic five-star hotel was in the 1600s, when the summer residence of the Marquis of Lansdowne was built in these forests, stone-by-stone. Today, the same foundations and thick walls are waiting to offer you some of the best accommodations in England. Walk along Sheen River, salmon fish, and then ride horses from the River Valley Riding Stables.

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Nashville
You don't need to stay somewhere in the middle of nowhere to enjoy horse country. Nashville's outlying horse farms are well-known in the United States, and you can still stay in the city, with all its special perks to pamper. The Loews Vanderbilt has a fountain in the front and patio seating, and it has a stunning art gallery to boot.

Chester Grosvenor and Spa
Not a horseback rider? The Chester Grosvenor and Spa is situated close to the racecourse, so you can always enjoy your equestrian moment without actually having to get on a horse. You might not have a “high ho, silver!” scene, but you'll have a chance to dress up and take a walk near the Roman harbor. Don't forget the Chester Zoo and a boat cruise on the River Dee!

Summer Lodge Country House and Spa
If you like equestrian-friendly vacations because you like the peace and quiet of a country estate, then the Summer Lodge Country House and Spa is for you. The Dorset countryside is tranquil and calming, and Harper & Queen magazine listed the Summer Lodge as one of the 100 best places in the world.

If you're a serious horseback rider, these are the hotels for you. Since they don't just cater to horse riders, these countryside lodges, hotels, and inns in England, Tennessee, and Vermont are great for couples and family excursions. Branch out!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning" ...

Are you feeling a little bored, perhaps a tad lazy or simply in need of something new during these long hot days of the sizzling summer. The way to get around that general malaise brought on by the dog days of summer, without too much bother—and with a lot of fun in the mix—is to book a vacation somewhere exciting.

The Breakers, Palm Beach
It's hard to imagine a hotel spending $250 million over the course of ten years in renovations, but that's exactly what The Breakers did. The hotel sits in a prime spot in Palm Beach, as it deserves: it has a rich heritage and has been the temporary home to some great stars and notable personalities. The Breakers' tasty cuisine at on-site restaurants provides you with enough fuel to soak up the sun's rays and the warm breeze on a loungechair. That's the life.

The Lodge at Woodloch
This spa destination is considered Pennsylvania's finest, and The Lodge also offers suggestions to those who want to make their resort stay even more memorable. There are plenty of exercise classes and solo activities to enjoy, and if you just want to hit 18 holes, then the Woodloch Springs Country Club is only minutes away. Exclusive Complimentary Perks add to the deal and make it an even smarter booking.

Skamania Lodge
Haven't heard of Skamania Lodge before? That's okay, you'll get to know it well when you stroll through the hallowed halls of their rustic lodge and check out the number of waterfalls nearby—70, to be exact. Multnomah Falls, located near Skamania Lodge, is actually the fifth highest waterfall in the United States, measuring 620 feet. After you're done taking pictures, head to the dry sauna, play 18-hole golf, and hike on their trails.

Spring Creek Ranch
Love to commune with flora and fauna? You won't get any closer than at Spring Creek Ranch, which is located on a wildlife refuge. With several luxe levels of accommodations, Spring Creek Ranch gives you a taste of cowboy country without forcing you to rough it.

WaterColor Inn and Resort
This popular beach resort has received Diamond AAA ratings and has also received numerous top-notch ratings in travel magazines and more. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, this hotel will soon show you exactly why it's called the WaterColor Inn and Resort: sunsets over the water are a dappled dream. Get an old-fashioned dish in their restaurant for some true relaxation.

These getaways are just the beginning of a late summer/early fall vacation extravaganza. No matter where you choose to go, you'll find that you won't just come back refreshed, but filled with a new light and a lot of optimism about life, sports, and the wilderness.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Four Seasons Maui Rates

Let's set the stage: The Four Seasons Maui is the most cosmopolitan property in Wailea—and perhaps Maui—offering world-class dining, superlative service, techno-savvy guest quarters and a guest list that pegs front-page personalities off the cover of Variety and the Wall Street Journal. It comes as no surprise that Michael Dell of Dell Computers owns this Four Seasons resort.

With the majority of the resort's rooms and suites arranged in a u-shape, you can get beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean from the privacy of a screened lanai. Modern luxury and Hawaiian sophistication get highlighted by the work of highly talented local artists. Which of the following rooms would you pick? It's hard to decide at first pass, and even harder after reading the descriptions of each lodging option.

Maile Suite: This seventeenth-floor suite has floor-to-ceiling windows with six connecting lanais, which afford you so much more space. A master marble bathroom per bedroom, dining room, living room, and bedrooms with one king bed, two queen beds, and two twins beds give you the home-away-from-home experience.

Lokelani Suite: This suite features a large lanai and a living area, plus a large master bath and bedroom. Overlooking a semi-private lawn, the Lokelani Suite allows views of flora and fauna, in addition to the ocean views.

Club Floor Oceanfront Prime Suite: These suites are known for the Four Seasons Maui's top-rated ocean views from a high elevation. The exclusive suites have access by private elevator to the Club Floor, which serves refreshments, afternoon teas and snacks, and meals.

Deluxe Oceanfront Suite: These rooms are designed for perfect views of the beach and of the ocean stretching beyond. The view is so good, in fact, that guests can peer out of binoculars mounted in the living room for a better look. When you get ready to hit the pool, you'll have a reserved poolside cabana set up for you as required.

Now that you've had a peek at your suite options, why not see what the experts have said about the Four Seasons Maui in the past? We've covered the location way back when, so we'll kick this off with our coverage:

WhataHotel.com: "Located on one of Hawaii's most impressive beaches, the Four Seasons Maui at Wailea has plenty of activities available right on resort grounds. If you take the family along, you can sign the kids up for the complimentary 'Kids for All Season' program while taking advantage of outdoor activities like tennis, watersports, and gold courses. Hawaii's only Mobil Five Star Resort has racked up the accolades over the years (including a Conde Nast Traveler designation as the '#1 Tropical Resort in the World.' Sound tempting?"

Conde Nast: "It's impossible to find a mediocre view from this U-shaped 'flower- and art-filled resort.' Staff greet guests with 'champagne, a cold towel, and a lei' at check-in. Rooms, in tones of blue, coral, and gold, have koa furniture and receive 'twice-daily service, with orchids left here and there.' Ferraro's has 'phenomenal Italian cuisine,' and its beach attendants serve complimentary ice water and pineapple. Also free are activities such as outrigger paddling."

Shermans Travel: "You know those ads that feature vacationers lounging by a blue lagoon pool, smiling up at the sky, eyes closed, as if to thank the sun for melting their cares away? That experience is par for the course at the 380-room Four Seasons Resort at Wailea, where impeccable service strives to ensure that every guest leaves absolutely content."

When the experts are gushing, you know you'll enjoy your hotel experience. The Four Seasons Maui at Wailea awaits!