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We’ve seen our fair share of unique hotel design elements, but the sheer number and grandiosity of on-property hotel aquariums took us by surprise. While some are in locations where you might expect to find elaborate shrines to the local ocean flora and fauna – Hawaii, the Bahamas, the Philippines – mega-aquariums have turned up in some unexpected places, like central Berlin and midtown Manhattan. A pair of Vegas showstoppers, a duo of Florida hideaways, and a monstrous aquatic playground only possible in everything-to-the-extreme Dubai round out our list of the largest and most extravagant. And unlike the tanks you may have encountered during grade school field trips, these 10 hotel aquariums aren’t just for pressing your nose against the glass: Some allow guests to plunge right in through scuba or snorkeling sessions, stingray feedings, or dolphin encounters. So take it from us – it really is better down where it’s wetter, under the (artificial) sea! Check out our Top 10 Hotel Aquariums to get a sneak peek of these watery wonders.
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Celebrated artist and former New Mexico resident Georgia O’Keefe was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and, in later years, moved to a desert enclave north of Sante Fe where she, along with her neighboring community, managed to live contently off the land. A recent long weekend trip to Sante Fe, where I was nestled comfortably at the acclaimed Inn on the Alameda, revealed to me just why this place proved so captivating to O’Keefe: Gracious locals, abundant natural beauty, dedication to the arts, and adherence to the slow food movement embody a way of life here that is oh-so-easy to get used to.
Just a 5-minute walk from bustling Canyon Road, the Inn on the Alameda serves as an ideal launching pad to explore Sante Fe’s diverse neighborhoods and eclectic art galleries, and for foodies – to experience the Sante Fe School of Cooking’s Restaurant Walking Tour, on which a trained chef/guide leads tours to your choice of four of Sante Fe’s best restaurants ($115/person). This earthen, adobe hideaway hotel straddles Old Sante Fe and feels like a second home, complete with enormous fireplaces in many of its 71 rooms (as well as in the lobby) and amenities that include a continental buffet breakfast highlighting locally sourced fruits and baked goods, a computer kiosk with free Internet access, and a bar, open until 10pm nightly, that serves an impressive selection of wines. What’s more, the Inn on the Alameda offers an array of packages especially suited to the interests of its active, worldly clientele. Read more
Let’s say it’s your fourth day in Buenos Aires, and you’ve already dined at steakhouses like Cabaña Las Lilas, El Obrero, and La Brigada (where they carve the “special cut” with a spoon), and now you’re ready to take matters into your own hands. Let’s even say you’ve picked up a few new friends along the way, and you want to invite them to dinner.
Then Fierro Hotel Boutique in Palermo Hollywood might just be your answer. Check into the 535-square-foot eighth-floor Terrace Suite (a steal at just $250/night!), where along with all the basics (king-sized bed, rain shower, 32-inch LCD TV, iPod dock, Nespresso coffee maker, complimentary Wi-Fi and iPad to use during your stay), you get a large red eucalyptus deck, with its own built-in outdoor brick barbecue pit, better known as a parilla in this part of the world. It even has a spit, so you can decide at the last minute to cook an entire Patagonian lamb instead. If you don’t slip into a meat coma, you and your newfound friends can also take advantage of the terrace’s outdoor Jacuzzi, where there’s a view of the leafy skyline…if it occurs to you to look that way.
This spring I found myself in Manila, perhaps an unlikely choice for a city vacation, but the obvious first stop if your ultimate goal is to loll on any of the Philippines’ 7,107 islands, as mine was. Most visitors to Manila spend a layover night at the better-known chain and luxury hotels in the Makati commercial/financial district, but I opted for the city’s grande dame, the Manila Hotel. It sits on Manila Bay across from Intramuros, the 158-acre walled settlement the Spanish built in 1571, and Rizal Park, named for José Rizal, the national hero the Spanish then executed by firing squad in 1896. Overlooking both, the hotel is testament to the end of Spanish occupation two years later, and the start of American influence in this part of the Pacific. It’s also a pretty comfy place. Read more
No matter how many lists I make and how many times I go over the innards of my suitcase in my head, I always gasp 10 minutes in on my cab ride to the airport when I remember the first of usually a few forgotten items. Never fails. But, perhaps Grace Hotels’ new free packing app, aptly named Saving Grace, will be just that. (I intend to put it to the test on my upcoming Italy trip later this month.) I’ve already inserted my destination and trip details, and a to-do list (things to do before you depart) and subsequent packing lists for everything you can’t usually think of and more are awaiting check-off. You can reuse the same lists over again or modify them depending on your next destination. Available on iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. www.gracehotels.com
For more of our favorite apps, see our Top 10 Travel Apps story.
In Taiwan, food is serious business. So serious, in fact, that earlier this month CNNGo.com named Taipei Asia’s center of gluttony.
It’s a fitting moniker: The city boasts 18 streets of night markets where food stalls are seemingly as numerous as plant species in the Amazon rainforest. Although food is plentiful there, the Taiwanese still have high standards when it comes to what they’ll eat (though you’d be hard pressed to believe that after sampling stinky tofu, a pungent favorite of Taiwanese cuisine).
So when the five-star hotel Le Meridien Taipei (www.lemeridien-taipei.com) opened its doors in December 2010, it wasn’t surprising that it
s buffet restaurant, Latest Recipe, was a hit. It became so popular with the locals, though that getting a reservation for lunch or dinner became impossible, even for hotel guests. Well, rejoice foodie travelers – the restaurant finally has availability and is taking reservations for seatings after May 8th.
Though much of London’s St. James’s neighborhood can feel a bit testosterone-heavy with its glut of no-girls-allowed gentlemen’s clubs, Dukes London shows the ladies some love with its female-only Duchess Rooms.
Upon arrival, female travelers receive a personal welcome card from General Manager Debrah Dhugga (who, as one of just a handful of female GM’s of a five-star hotel in London, knows a thing or two about old boys’ clubs). A female room attendant leads guests to their rooms, and remains on call for the duration of the stay to take care of any needs or requests.
In the room, guests will find fresh flowers, primping essentials (including a makeup mirror and styling accessories) for looking your best in the boardroom or the Tate, and a pair of comfy slippers for relaxing at day’s end. Solo travelers will also be offered a quiet corner table at the hotel’s restaurant. Rates for the Duchess Rooms start at $361/night. www.dukeshotel.com
For general trip-planning information, see our London Travel Guide.
Sure, snapshots and postcards make great vacation mementos, but for a truly unforgettable souvenir, why not capture your surroundings the old-fashioned way? At these three tropical getaways, guests can create their own paintings or sketches with the help of professional artists. Now that’s something worth hanging on the fridge when you get home!
Sketching Classes at Cotton Tree, Grand Cayman
Among Cotton Tree’s plethora of bespoke activities available on-site, the boutique hotel offers sketching classes with a local artist (see one of his sketches above). Each session goes through instruction for using a variety of media, such as pencils and water brushes, while teaching the basics of drawing everything from small objects to landscapes. (I participated in a class when I visited Cotton Tree last year – no previous artistic skills required!) Classes run from 2-4 hours; cost is $85/person/hour. www.caymancottontree.com
The gourmet food truck fad has taken cities across the country (dumplings and waffles in New York; solar-powered organic fare in Los Angeles; fine BBQ in San Diego) and the latest in the meals-on-wheels trend, the first hotel food truck courtesy of The Setai South Beach. The aptly dubbed Beach Trailer debuted in late December and serves the bathing masses along the South Beach sands. The Setai’s own Chef Werly creates a menu full of light, high-quality lunch items like ceviche, wagyu hot dogs, salmon burgers, and fresh sushi, not to mention a selection of specialty drinks, champagnes, and wines. The truck is parked beachside daily, from 11.30am to 5pm. Menu items range from $14 to $30.
Wynn Las Vegas debuts a new wine bar, La Cave, this week. The cavernous hangout is located next to the casino floor and spans 4,000 square feet between its three rooms. In addition to a broad range of vintages from across the globe, La Cave will also offer artisanal beers on tap, cocktails, and small bites like charcuteries, cheeses, and tapas. The bar’s design seems to be getting most of the buzz – don’t expect the traditionally teeny, cozy wine bar from Wynn. 555 International, also behind Moon Nightclub and N9NE Steakhouse in Vegas, designed the space with striking contemporary features like a bar made of LED-lighted reflective tiles, a dark red burlap wall, and a custom-made steel gate riddled with Latin phrases. La Cave opens to the public this Friday, December 3.
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