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Seattle’s Starbucks single-handedly kicked off the Americana coffee craze and has since birthed a very competitive barista culture where a perfect cuppa is comparable to reaching caffeinated Nirvana, another Seattle signature.
Whether it’s the grunge bands or the notorious Microsoft country, a cafe or a string of rainy days, Seattle has several city signatures, many of which have made their way into the city’s top spas. Don’t expect a Bill Gates blowout or a Nirvana neck massage, but rest assured that coffee and rain are prevalent on Seattle’s spa menus.
Mickey’s home turf is set to get a large dose of luxury in the form of a new Four Seasons resort. The upscale brand announced plans to build a 444-room Walt Disney World hotel opening in 2014, with construction beginning in December. Amenities abound for kids and parents alike: While adults will appreciate the 14,000-square-foot spa (complete with 18 treatment rooms), little ones can enjoy three pools and a lazy river. Another crowd pleaser is sure to be the rooftop restaurant with Magic Kingdom views; other offerings include tennis courts, a basketball court, climbing wall, recreation centers for kids and teens, and the existing Tom Fazio-designed Osprey Ridge golf course. The $360 million Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort will be situated in Disney’s Golden Oak community. Though no rates have been announced, expect a hefty price tag: On-property Disney hotels are notoriously expensive as it is, and the Four Seasons experience doesn’t come cheap.
For general trip-planning information, see our Walt Disney World Travel Guide.
Most visitors to Buenos Aires know the Río de la Plata as the widest river in the world, reaching 136 miles across. But by the Dársena Norte in Puerto Madero, it’s only 14 miles – or 75 minutes by Buquebus ferry – to the Uruguayan coast, making it perfect for a day trip or multi-day excursion.
So consider now the ease of visiting the Four Season Resort Carmelo, just two hours by car from the Uruguayan port town of Colonia del Sacramento (you can also condense the trip to less than 25 minutes by flying from Buenos Aires to Carmelo by private plane). Set along the banks of the Río Uruguay in a eucalyptus and pine forest, the 110-acre resort is a haven for weekending Argentinians, who make up three-quarters of its guests. As a result of these particular demographics, you’ll find the lowest rates of any Four Seasons resort in the world, starting at $240 per night, but as low as $180 for three-night stays. Read more
Hard to believe, but the swanky Four Seasons Austin is slashing rates and offering crazy discounts and freebies on the 25th of every month through December in honor of the resort’s 25th birthday and the brand’s 50th anniversary. Lucky guests can snag rates of only $89 a night on April 25 (the original cost of rooms when the hotel opened in 1986), save 60 percent on 50-minute massages, priced at $50, on October 25, sip 50-cent cocktails for a hot 25 minutes on July 25, and, well, you get the idea. Check out the details and mark your calendars to cash in on these once-in-a-quarter-of-a-century travel deals. www.fourseasons.com/austin
For general trip-planning information, see our Austin Travel Guide.
While the rest of the world tiptoes back to financial growth, China is surging full speed ahead, with a government pouring money into stimulus projects and a populace splurging on luxury goods. For proof, one can look to the galloping advance of the luxury hotel sector. “With the incredible growth in affluence among the domestic population, the need for hotels in China is rising dramatically,” says Daniel Ford, a Ritz-Carlton publicist.
The Four Seasons group is planning to open 14 hotels in the country by 2014; a dozen have already launched since 2008. The new Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, billed as the tallest hotel in the world and opening in March, will boost its parent company’s China total to eight, and at least one more is on the way. And taking into account all its brands, Starwood had 50 hotels in the country by 2009 – and is set to open 97 more by 2015.
Plus, these won’t just be any hotels: “Many of the finest luxury hotels in the world will open in China in the next several years,” says Bruce Ford, senior vice president at Lodging Econometrics.
Interestingly enough, many of the high-profile hotels are opening in cities that many Westerners haven’t heard of – yet. Scoot over, Shanghai. Here’s a quick guide to six cities on the rise.
The Four Seasons Resort Vail just opened a new 13-room Spa on December 11, in the nick of time for ski season. The massage menu seems designed for après-ski muscles – top pick: one that uses hot river stones. Hydrating facials cater to skin that’s been (over) exposed to the sun and wind on the slopes, with several product choices, from organic to Obagi, a dermatologist line. Two outsize Spa Suites have fireplaces and tubs, though all resort guests can make use of the year-round heated outdoor pool.
In peak season, a premier resort and spa in one of the country’s top ski destinations doesn’t come cheap (rooms start at about $665). But if you stay four consecutive nights, the Four Seasons offers a complimentary fifth night, and two 50-minute massages. Think of it as a gift that covers your lift tickets. www.fourseasons.com/vail
For general trip-planning information, see our Vail and Beaver Creek Travel Guide.
Two years ago, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis – a 2008 Smart Luxury Award winner – was forced to close after sustaining damage from Hurricane Omar. Now the resort is finally ready to open its doors once again on December 15 after a complete refurbishment.
Renovations included the revamping of all 196 guestrooms with a new design and updated furnishings. The resort also took the closure as an opportunity to add some luxe new offerings, such as a sailing school and the surf-and-turf Coral Grill restaurant. A new director at the spa will see a reshaping of the spa menu, which draws inspiration from natural island ingredients. Lastly, four beachside cabanas (pictured) are now available, each decked out with open-air sundeck, entertainment center, and dedicated concierge service.
After the winter holidays, the resort will offer a fourth night free promotion from January 3 to December 16, 2011. High season rates start at $446/night, with the free night applied. Visit www.fourseasons.com/nevis for details.
Four Seasons Nevis is also gearing up for its 20th anniversary in February – no details have been announced as yet, but there’s bound to be a celebration for the momentous occasion.
Last week, Waldorf Astoria became the latest hotel chain to roll out an iPhone app so guests can browse properties and book a room on the go. This somewhat belatedly follows the launch of apps for fellow Hilton brands Hilton, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hampton, and Hilton Garden Tree last November. Waldorf’s app is fairly simple, providing a brief summary and half a dozen photos for each of their 22 hotels. Users can also call the hotel or book directly through the app.
While Waldorf’s app performs what it sets out to do, it’s a bit basic compared to the new media savvy of the Kimpton app (launched last month), which allows you to find hotels and restaurants by location via Google maps and provides links to each property’s website and Facebook page, as well as the brand’s Twitter account. At the same time, however, you can’t book a stay at a Kimpton hotel directly from the app – you have to call the reservation line. Read more
Goodbye travel agents. Hello iPhone. Booking a luxury vacation has become that much easier, thanks to the new Four Seasons iPhone and iPod Touch application that let’s you book overnights at one of their many hotels worldwide with just the swipe of a finger. Find a room, peruse and book spa treatments available at your chosen property, and tour your hotel before you even arrive with the “virtual vacation” feature, which showcases the Four Season’s various properties via streaming video. Download the app for free at the iTunes App Store.
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