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Monday, October 10, 2016

8 Hotel Trends to Love

Interested in the latest hotel trends? Here'a a piece I just did for Shermans Travel.

 21c Museum Hotels
21c Museum Hotels

Hotel trends come and go, but the good ones set new industry standards. Here are some we hope stand the test of time.

Cool Hotels for the B-List

New hotel brands with a unique beat are focusing their attention on the country’s medium-tier cities. Graduate Hotels’ college-themed properties are popping up in classic university towns like Ann Arbor, Michigan and Charlottesville, Virginia. The art-focused, Kentucky-based 21c Museum Hotels are expanding into mid-tier markets in the South and Midwest, including Louisville and Oklahoma City; each one has a prominent exhibition space showcasing a revolving list of artists.

 Front Desk/Quirk Hotel
Front Desk/Quirk Hotel

Clever Adaptive Reuse

Why tear down an old building when you can repurpose it? That’s the thought behind many recent hotel development projects. The Cork Factory in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was — you guessed it — a 19th century cork factory. The Refinery Hotel in New York City was originally built in 1912 as a high-end millinery factory. And the hats made there were likely sold at J.B. Mosby and Co. department store in Richmond, Virginia (circa 1916), which was recently converted into the mod and chic Quirk Hotel.

 Fenway Park Suite Terrace/Hotel Commonwealth/Kiera Slye Photography
Fenway Park Suite Terrace/Hotel Commonwealth/Kiera Slye Photography

Local Touches

There’s no better way to make a guest feel at home than by adding some personal touches in the hotel room. The Kimpton Taconic in Manchester, Vermont puts locally-made walking sticks in each room to encourage guests to take advantage of the area’s abundant nature trails. At the One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico, turndown service includes a gift of handmade ceramic cacti reflecting species native to the region, with a note explaining their relevance to indigenous communities. Baseball fanatics will embrace the… unique touches at Boston’s Hotel Commonwealth, which overlooks Fenway Park; guests are gifted a bag of dirt from the old ballpark to take home.

 The Living Stage/Hotel RL
The Living Stage/Hotel RL

Room for Performances

The Living Stage is a key component of the new lifestyle brand Hotel RL, developed by Red Lion Hotels. Open to the general public, the stage is located in or adjacent to the lobby and showcases local musicians and occasionally writers. For guests who prefer to embrace their inner couch potato, performances are simulcast live on the hotel’s television system.

24-Hour Check-in/Check-out

Almost every hotel lets you check in any time, but you have to leave by noon — or worse, 11 — the next day. But a few hotels are now giving guests a true 24-hour stay. The Four Points Sheraton LAX, for example, allows a guest to check-in at 5 p.m. on Monday and check out at 5 p.m. Tuesday, making good on the promise to provide a full day’s stay.

 Charmant Hotel
Charmant Hotel

The Rise of the Rust Belt

From Cleveland to Milwaukee to Detroit, the Rust Belt is gaining ground among hotel developers. Chicago-based Aparium Hotels is aiming to be a catalyst in this resurgence. The company ethos is to design properties (usually adaptive reuses) that reflect the heart and soul of the places they inhabit. In Wisconsin, the Charmant Hotel in La Crosse and The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee are prime samples of Aparium’s stock in trade.

 Iron Horse Hotel
Iron Horse Hotel

Free Wheeling                              

When you see an orange bike rolling by, there’s a good chance there’s a Canopy by Hilton in the neighborhood. Hilton’s new entry into the lifestyle brand market exist has all sorts of funky touches, including the orange bikes that are free loaners for guests. Canopy is not alone in pedaling this transportation option. Hotel RL and some Kimpton properties also provide two-wheelers for guests who want an eco-friendly way to explore the environs.

 Skyline Terrace Suite/MGM Grand
Skyline Terrace Suite/MGM Grand

Better Sleep

It may have started with Westin’s Heavenly Bed, but in recent years, hotels everywhere having been trying to design spaces that ensure a good night’s sleep. Delos’ Stay Well Rooms, found at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, feature blackout shades and dawn simulation, which allows for a natural waking process. This is coupled with circadian lighting, engineered to emulate the properties of natural light. If that’s not enough, how about nodding off to the dulcet tones of Deepak Chopra narrating guided meditations?

Original post can be seen here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

 Spa/The American Club Resort
Spa/The American Club Resort
The spa tradition dates to Roman days, back when powerful men dropped toga to go for a spritz. In recent centuries, though, spa-going has been seen as more of a female affair, particularly around North America. But now, in Century XXI, the boys are back. Spas around the world are reporting increases in the percentages of men attending their facilities. As modern men focus more on well-being and appearances, spas are catering to this growing clientele by introducing new services, renaming old ones with more masculine monikers, and making the spa experience more gender-neutral. Out with scents of patchouli and rose petals, and in with cinnamon and pine. Separate waiting and relaxation areas for men are also becoming more common.
You can even find men-only spas — most likely either day spas in large cities like London or New York, or hotel spas throughout the Middle East. The All-Men’s Spa at the Four Seasons Riyadh at Kingdom Centre is considered among the best single-sex spas in the world.
Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre
Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre
While many spa menus are claiming to add ‘men-only’ treatments to the roster, the fact is, most of these are just the standard bill of fare with more macho names. For example, facials may be called a men’s grooming experience, rubdowns are called sports massages instead of Swedish massages, or — even brawnier — Kohler Waters Spa at the American Club in Wisconsin has a Woodsman Massage. The same spa has also designed a gender-specific hydrotherapy treatment called Rain Man. It includes hot stones and full-body exfoliation, along with the drenching.
Treatments focusing on aches and pains — especially those acquired from indulging in sports — are particularly popular. While the dilemma of a male versus a female therapist providing the massage is still an issue for many men, the actual idea of getting sore muscles rubbed out has become a much less threatening option.
Spas at resorts where outdoor recreation and sports are a large part of the focus have been among the leaders in introducing treatments. In appealing to golfers, Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, Illinois calls a massage “Golfer’s Therapy”. Pinehurst in North Carolina calls its golfer-oriented rubdown “The Champion’s Massage”. Several resorts specializing in rugged outdoor sports have spas with a range of athletic massages. For example, Red Mountain in Utah encourages men, after taking part in outdoor excursions like kayaking, canyoneering, and rock climbing, to go for a “Red Rock’s Hiker Massage” in its Sagestone Spa.
Spa/Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
Spa/Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas
Las Vegas is another place where high-end spas tend to focus on male high-rollers. Perhaps the best bet is The Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, which has an extensive male-focused treatment menu including options for exfoliating and purifying. The ‘Tao of Man’ is a targeted therapeutic massage focusing on “releasing tense muscles experienced by active men.” It’s all designed to make guys feel like a million bucks, no matter how much they may lose at the casino.
For the ultimate in male rest and relaxation, the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, California has a two-hour “Distinguished Gents Ritual” including a full-body scrub followed by a hydrating lotion application; an antioxidant-rich Cactus Detox Wrap; and a 50-minute massage. That’s topped off with a Gentlemen’s Facial involving exfoliation, a hydrating mask, and a hot towel treatment. If that doesn’t make the reluctant male a spa convert, nothing will.

Original Article Appeared on ShermansTravel.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Trailing of The Sheep: The Most Wild and Woolly Festival in the West

Ever since I caught wind of its existence, I had been fixated on attending the Trailing of the Sheep Festival. This wild and woolly annual event takes place every October in Sun Valley-adjacent Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho. It celebrates a 150+ year tradition of moving sheep from their summer pastures in the mountains to winter grazing areas. But it’s also a cultural event, filled with craft and cooking demonstrations, multi-cultural entertainment and sheep poetry. The latter roped me in—after all, who could resist a sheep bleating Keats and spinning yarns?

Image Courtesy Trailing of the Sheep
As my obsession grew, I knit together a fantasy about becoming Queen of the Sheep Parade, which takes place the last day of the festival. Nearly 2,000 sheep form a wall of wool as they saunter down Main Street Ketchum on their march toward their winter home. They are joined along the way by musicians and dancers of every stripe. My dream was to show off my good breeding by donning a tiara and walking amongst my little lambs as adoring flocks cheered from the sidelines.

And so, my little lamb chops, with this in mind, off I flew to the Gem State. How to become Queen of the Sheep…I ruminated over this ruminant dilemma and decided the best way to win the title was to start lobbying town elders and festival organizers. But upon arriving and grazing the landscape, I realized shepherding them might be tricky.There were many places around town and at the festival to look. I could hoof it to lamb cooking demonstrations or check out Sheep Tales  and Readings from the Land at the local library. I herd it through the ovine that the big kahunas might flock to the Championship Sheep Dog Trials held over several days or perhaps they might be buying knit hats, gloves and muttons, or learning grooming techniques at the Sheep Folk Life Fair.

Finally, I settled on tracking them down at the Sheepherders Ball Saturday night. After all, a ball seemed fitting for a potential queen. I snagged a ticket. Shofar, so good. Then, as I hunted for a Prince Charming sporting mutton chops, I was told that, as the end of the parade route comes into sight, the sheep sometimes start stampeding to quicken the journey to their winter digs.

Suddenly, I envisioned myself in my own private Pamplona (this being the home of Hemingway, after all), overtaken by a mad mob of sheep goring me with their puffballs of wool. The dodge of ram would leave me with tiara askew and my garb transformed into the world’s largest livery of lint.

Alas, at midnight, my sheep dreams (and nightmares) were punctured after being told the shear truth—the Sunday Sheep Parade had no queen. Shorn of my dream, this piece of news got my goat. Baa humbug, said I. This year, I'm getting out of my rut and shuffling off to the Custer State Park Buffalo Round-Up in South Dakota instead. Watch out my little bubalus. There's nowhere to hide as I search for my crown.

Image Courtesy of South Dakota Tourism

The 20th Annual Trailing of the Sheep Festival takes place October 5-9.

Original version here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Deciphering Airport Codes

JFK, SUX. LAX, BRA. DFW, BOO. For those trying to read deep meaning into what seems to be a code,  CHL* out. These three-letter words are merely International Air Transport Association
Orbitz-AirportCodes-v2(IATA) location identifiers, aka airport codes.

Orbitz Blog recently made a delightful info-graphic based on the information below. Here's the link.

Back in the 1930s, when airports started springing up around the world, two-letter codes were assigned to the facilities. But as the jet age boomed, and more airports opened, additional combinations were needed, so an extra letter was attached. Therefore, many early airport codes, like LA, simply got an X added to their handles.

The origins of many airport codes are cousins of Captain Obvious. JFK stands for JFK Airport in New York. DFW is Dallas-Fort Worth. But others seem rather flighty. For example, Chicago’s O’Hare is certainly out of the ORDinary. Why ORD? O’Hare was built on a site that was once Orchard Field. Orlando’s MCO has similar historical roots, as it stands on the former McCoy Air Force field.

OK, let’s head to Canada. Back when the assignments started spawning, local broadcast letters were often incorporated into airport codes. In the U.S., television and radio stations east of the Mississippi were designated with the letter W (minus Pittsburgh’s KDKA). In the West, the opening letter was K. In Canada, it was Y. Y? We don’t know. But regardless, the country’s airports adopted the letter and the majority of its airport codes start with Y. YVR is Vancouver and YUL never believe it, but Montreal is YUL. Canadian rock band Rush named one of its most notable pieces, YYZ, after Toronto’s airport code.

Then there are those codes that are, well, titillating. Take BRA, from Barreiras in Brazil. While waxing Brazilian, let’s also mention Po├žos de Caldas, or POO. Manaus uses MAO, which would be more appropriate for Beijing, which, no peeking, is PEK (for Peking). The code for the airport in St. Petersburg, Russia is also a relic of the past. LED refers to Leningrad, the city’s moniker during the Soviet era.

Meantime, the code for St. Petersburg Clearwater International Airport in Florida is not as easy as PIE, any way you slice it. P--that’s for Pinellas, the county in which the airport is located. I is for International..and that E...no explanation. It does sound yummy, though.

Ranging from the mildly amusing to the politically incorrect to the social media savvy, there’s MAD in Madrid; FAT in Fresno; and DOH, that’s Doha. If this leaves you LOL, then you likely are in Lovelock City, Nevada.

Finally, there is the most famous of all the sobriquets. Sioux City, Iowa-SUX. SIX and SOX, apparently, would not do. For many years, the local population chafed at the code. Finally, however, the city and the airport took a big gulp, and now heartily encourage folks to Fly SUX.

*Challis Airport in Idaho

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Talking Fall Travel and Idaho on #TravelTopics

Swing by #TravelTopics on today at 1 PM Eastern time/11 AM Mountain time to talk about everything from fall and family travel to unexpected places to find prime leaf-peeping and wine harvests. The chat is being sponsored by Visit Idaho, so if you are a Gem State native, be sure to give your homeland some love. Here are the questions.

 1. Where are some of the most unexpected places in the US to see fall colors? #TravelTopics    

 2. What makes a state a perfect place for family travel? #TravelTopics

  3.  What are some of the most unique activities you can do in your state? #TravelTopics

Trailing of the Sheep Parade
Ketchum, Idaho
 4.  What are some unexpected adventures for active thrill-seekers in Idaho? #TravelTopics

Payette Lake
McCall, Idaho
 5. It's almost harvest time. Tell us about under-the-radar wine regions. #TravelTopics 

6.  Idaho’s culinary scene is flourishing. What are some notable Only in Idaho hot spots for one-of-a-kind bites? #TravelTopics

Breakfast at The Kneadery
 Ketchum, Idaho
 7. Winter's coming. Tell us about your secret spots for skiing and snowboarding. #TravelTopics

View of Baldy Mountain
Ketchum, Idaho
8: Families are traveling with grandparents, parents and kids. Suggestions for multi-generational trips in Idaho? #TravelTopics

At the Idaho State Historical Society
Boise, Idaho

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Fall Foliage in the Mid-Atlantic

Looking for fall foliage within an easy drive of Washington, DC? Catch my Labor Day segment on WUSA's Great Day Washington or check out the links below.

Garrett County/Western Maryland/Deep Creek Lake: For adventure, the Autumn Glory Festival and family fun

Charlottesville, Virginia: For history, wine and nature
Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania: From A to Z (architecture to ziplining)
Frederick County, Maryland: For farm festivals, Oktoberfests and craft fairs

And don't forget about the beach. This is the perfect time to venture to Virginia Beach or Ocean City, Maryland. The temperatures of air and water are still warm, while room prices and crowds are cooling down.