Nashville may have a reputation for its music history, but any foodie or gourmand knows the restaurant scene is what makes the city truly special.
I have a weakness for Southern food. Give me buttery grits or a biscuit drenched in gravy, and it’s instant #foodporn. Southern food and I go way back; we have history. I grew up outside Atlanta, Georgia, where the Waffle House was my stomping ground as a teen. Raised in a Korean household, I ate ban chan and bulgogi almost every day and have no regrets. My mom was an amazing cook, but when she brought home a bucket of fried chicken, it was a miracle if the chicken bones survived. There was always a bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table at every meal, and it was mine. It would go on everything, especially when my mom cooked meatloaf with green beans or chicken-fried steak with sweet potatoes. It’s not far off the mark to say I learned to love food through Southern dishes. There’s a level of comfort and nostalgia with every meal, no matter where I am in the country, and it truly resonates with iconic chef Anthony Bourdain’s famous quote: “Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.”
Every time I plan a trip to Nashville, I arrange my itinerary around the restaurants I’ll dine at. Nashville may have a reputation for its music history, but any foodie or gourmand knows the restaurant scene is what makes the city truly special. Notable chefs have elevated Southern classics, yet you can still nom on nostalgic comfort food at a simple café. When I’m in town, I’m hashtagging #foodporn to an obsessive level, but it’s all warranted. Nashville offers some of the best Southern food in the country. Restaurants here also have heaps of personality, and foodies are treated with trademark Southern hospitality, which historically has revolved around a great meal. Nashville is also growing faster than any other city in the south, so visitors have more reason to eat their way through the city. Thompson, Westin, and 21c Museum Hotel have recently moved in, and Kimpton and Virgin are on their way. Complementing the expansion of the tourism landscape, the culinary scene (the real heart and soul of Nashville, in my opinion) gets better every year. It has the power to move you, inspire you and, like me, make you fall in love with food. From longstanding institutions to new, buzzing hot spots, the restaurants featured here are taking dining to the next level.
THE MOCKINGBIRD NASHVILLE
Nashville has the power to move you (quite literally), and, if I can’t convince you, Brian Riggenbach and Mikey Corona will. The gay couple from Chicago packed their bags, booked one-way tickets to Nashville in November 2016, and opened a restaurant, The Mockingbird. “We relocated to Nashville after a series of events that emanated from Brian’s debut on the Food Network’s Chopped (spoiler alert: he won!),” says Mikey. “One of the judges on the panel for his episode was a Nashvillian, Maneet Chauhan, who invited us to visit the bustling culinary scene of the South. We made a trip from Chicago to taste what we’ve been hearing about in Nashville, and we fell in love! It was very soon after the visit that we began planning our move to become part of the exciting scene.”
Brian and Mikey, who have been together for 13 years and married for 2.5 years, aren’t strangers to the restaurant industry. Mikey has more than 20 years experience (Brian, 16 years) and they owned/operated a successful catering company Yo Soy Underground Supper for seven years in Chicago. Their new venture, The Mockingbird Nashville, has quickly become a foodie fan favorite even though it’s only been open a couple of months.
In the vibrant Gulch neighborhood, the design of The Mockingbird Nashville is reminiscent of 40’s art deco with emphasis on rich woods, brass and stone, embellished with tons of greenery and flooded with natural light, so it’s already visually impressive. With their eye for art (Brian graduated from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago with a focus on fine arts, and Mikey went to Columbia College Chicago with a focus on digital art), Brian and Mikey made the interiors warm and aesthetically commanding. They also commissioned an artist to fabricate an oversized, 3-D mirror in the shape of a bird’s head that is the focal point of the restaurant. Guests will also feel classic diner vibes, especially in the downstairs seating area (expect booths and banquets). From the upstairs balcony, you can get a (mocking) bird’s-eye view of the busy street below. “We wanted to take the neighborhood diner ‘feel’ and create an updated spin on classic comfort foods with global flavor twists,” says Brian. “The diner platform seemed to be the best to use as a jumping off point to add myriad flavors and give our unique culinary perspective.”
That perspective is the inspiration from their travels to Mexico, Europe, and India merging with their love for Southern food. “Unique” is an understatement when it comes to the imagination of their culinary creations. One of the signature dishes is The Bird is the Word, a fried-chicken dish where the country gravy is infused with homemade Mexican chorizo and brightened with a splash of cider vinegar. The perfect complement to the crunch is the soft mashed potatoes whipped with a housemade, roasted salsa verde. As someone who grew up eating Korean food, it was nice to see authentic Korean flavors merging with Southern flair (mishmashing is a Southern tradition, though I know Korean/Southern mishmash well from my upbringing). The Seoul Purpose takes a flank, bulgogi-style seared steak marinated overnight and served with a potato latke, topped with a fried egg and bulgogi jus. “It was paramount to make our dishes not only taste fantastic, but have a visually pleasing aspect as well. It is edible form and function!” says Brian.
Considering Brian and Mikey are one of very few gay restaurant owners in Nashville, The Mockingbird is destined to become a magnet for the LGBT community. They have already joined the LGBT Chamber of Commerce to get involved locally and make new friends, though that isn’t a problem in Nashville’s welcoming gay scene. “In Chicago we had quite a diverse following,” says Brian. “We hope to replicate that flock here as well!” 121A 12th Avenue. www.mockingbirdnashville.com
For a restaurant to have a strong impact on diners, it must aspire to serve great food that is a significantly memorable experience. This includes service, restaurant design, originality and a certain “wow” factor, and Husk goes the whole nine yards. Opened in 2013, Husk is that definitive Nashville restaurant where most foodies make a reservation before visiting (ideally, since reservations here are hard to come by on short notice). Husk is as glorious as it is important, and it’s credited for truly spearheading Nashville’s contemporary dining scene.
Executive Chef Sean Brock has a background most young chefs dream of having. He worked at AAA Four Dimaond Peninsula Grill in Charleston; AAA Five Diamond/Mobil Five-star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond; and AAA Five Diamond Hermitage Hotel in Nashville. He ran his own organic farm on Wadmalaw Island. He’s a two-time finalist for James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef, three times for Outstanding Chef, he won Best Chef Southeast (2010), and American Cooking (2015). When he opened Husk in 2011 (in Charleston), Bon Appetit magazine named it Best New Restaurant in America, and Esquire included Husk in their Best New Restaurants in America. He worked with Anthony Bourdain for season two of The Mind of a Chef on PBS. His cookbook, Heritage, is a New York Times best seller. Having a meal here isn’t just a dining experience, it’s being part of Sean’s legacy.
One of the most recognized chefs for elevated Southern food, Brock’s restaurant Husk is inside a historic, 1800’s mansion. It almost feels like a museum, but you can’t put a price tag on the Southern charm and precious décor. The design doesn’t take away from the dining experience, it enhances it. You feel transported in time thanks to its contemporary approach to Southern classics. The menu is an ode to Southern food history, and a testament to locally grown, farm-fresh, Low-country ingredients. Think sassafras-glazed pork ribs, perfectly seasoned, tender meat falling off bone, complemented with pickled peaches and Rev Taylor butter beans. A house-cured country ham is juicy and mildly sweet, served with acorn griddle cakes. You can’t not have catfish on a Southern menu, and cornmeal-crusted catfish, caught day of, is outstanding with sweet onion tartar sauce to play with flavor. Even the award-winning Husk cheeseburger with Bear Creek Farm beef and American cheese elevates the classic dish by grounding bacon right into the paddy. The toasted bun (buttermilk and benne seed) is steamed and pleasantly squishy. A special sauce mixes classic condiments (ketchup, mayo, mustard, pickles, and jalapeños), so diners don’t have to fuss with their own addition. There’s so much thought and love and execution put into the burger (only $14), it errs on masterpiece.
Perfectly refined and gorgeously plated, the dishes take comfort food to a level that doesn’t quite exist in Southern fare. It all goes down in an intimate (yet lively) atmosphere in a historic mansion. Now, that’s Southern hospitality, and right on brand at Husk. 37 Rutledge Street, Tel: 615-256-6565. www.husknashville.com
What makes an American city’s culinary scene often shine is the diversity of cuisine offered, particularly global influences. Ethnic food helps foster a destination’s identity, and it proves that cooks in the kitchen have exciting backgrounds from various walks of life. While Southern comfort food is the big draw in Nashville, ethnic food is also done well, thanks to a diverse community from multicultural backgrounds, which certainly has an impact on the food you eat. It’s exciting to see chefs explore international flavors, and even more so when they perfectly execute the cuisine.
Tansuo, which opened in March, is not only a great Chinese restaurant, it’s a bold adventure in East-meets-West cooking. Locals will be quick to say it’s the most authentic and “legit” Chinese restaurant in Nashville, and you can thank chef Maneet Chuahan for the exceptional dining experience. The celebrity chef who regularly appears on cooking shows and is a well-known author of cookbooks (not to mention that his popular dumpling spot, East Wind Snack Shop, in Brooklyn receives much fanfare). He made his Nashville mark with Chauhan Ale & Masala House, an award-winning, Indian inspired restaurant that gets plenty of love from locals who hanker for spice. Tansuo brings another arm of ethnic eats to Nashville. Tansuo(meaning “to explore” in Cantonese) is a lively spot reminiscent of China’s night markets and street food with elevated, contemporary Chinese cuisine, as well as impressionable décor where Chauhan brings his Asian heritage to the forefront. There’s a specific Feng Shui to the restaurant that doesn’t exist anywhere else in Nashville, including a purposeful use of circles (prominent in Feng Shui design), which represents “the circle of life” and breaks up angular structures. The décor feels like one large work of art with earth tones and warmth, and attention to the smallest detail (think: Abacus-structured railings and bamboo boards; artfully arranged stone tiles reminiscent of dragon scales; and handmade silk and bamboo lanterns for the perfect Zen ambience).
The dishes certainly impress, and that’s beyond the popular dim sum. The beef guy Lan, a mainstream American dish, infuses a number of spices, also introducing diners to Chinese broccoli and abalone. The perfectly seasoned crispy spring chicken is brined, hung, dried and stuffed with eel, roasted and bathed in oil, and carved to order. The gravy, a southern nod, adds a nice touch to the Chinese dish. What makes the meals stand out are bold, rich flavors, as you would expect for Chinese cuisine in general, but they’re also made with tons of love, which is apparent here, and a classic trait in Southern food. 121B 12th Avenue, Tel: 615782-6786. www.tansuonashville.com
I understand how cliché it is to say a restaurant is all about the experience, but a visit to Pinewood Social isn’t run-of-themill dining, and you’re not going just for the food. You’ll notice this as soon as you step inside the historic building, a former horse stable brilliantly transformed into a contemporary dining spot that demands your visual attention. The stylish aesthetics are Instagram-worthy (soaring high ceilings, neatly arranged tables surrounding a busy, central bar, low-hanging Edison bulbs for atmosphere). Just beyond the dining room, and part of the “experience,” is a modern bowling alley separated by a floor-to-ceiling window. Outside the left of the restaurant is a sun-drenched oasis of an outdoor garden (a magnet to the coolest cats in
towns), and a place that young parents tote their kids to the outdoor pool over the summer. It’s not unlikely to see Millennials with their laptops sitting in Pinewood Social’s café-style area (in the front), where a separate coffee/pastry bar serves up fresh brews and bites. At night, it’s also not unlikely for locals to saddle up at the bar and order imaginative craft cocktails conceived by award-winning mixologists. Pinewood Social went for the “lifestyle” jugular, and it’s been riding this high since opening in 2013. Locals and visitors alike come to dine, drink, work, and play.
Open all hours of the day (generally 7 A.M. to 1 A.M.), Pinewood Social isn’t just about being social. Chef Andrew Rodriguez expects diners to leave feeling inspired. With a background working at A Voce Madison and A Voce Columbus Circle in NYC, Andrew proves he can work magic with Southern food (also infusing his Italian background into several dishes). Mac & Cheese is actually an entrée here, a creamy creation with short rib, fontina, truffle oil, and breadcrumbs, and large format dishes (encouraging the social aspect) like fried chicken (in a bucket!) and meatloaf are crowd pleasers. The heaping portion of meatloaf, with braised collards and burnt apple, has distinct flavors with fried shallots and celery root purée. Among the highlights on the menu, the pastries are a stand out, like the rum raisin pie with orange whip cream and Bourbon caramel, and even the perfectly baked, double chocolate-chip skillet cookie will exceed the sugar rush you crave. Breakfast here is worth getting up early for. The Graceland is an interesting, sweet/savory dish with waffle, bacon, peanut butter mouse and fresh banana, inspired by the King and bringing all your favorite flavors into a nostalgifying (and delicious) dish.
It’s no surprise Pinewood Social is busy day and night. It’s part of Strategic Hospitality group, which has set a standard for dining in Nashville. Their portfolio of amazing restaurants and bars, like The Patterson House, The Catbird Seat, and Henrietta Red, have all garnered cult followings, without much effort. They’re reliable, affordable and bang out some of the more memorable dining experiences in town. 33 Peabody Street, Tel: 615-7518111. www.pinewoodsocial.com
GRAY AND DUDLEY
Hotel restaurants have come a long way in the hospitality industry, but they have been important to the dining scene in Nashville for decades. 21c Nashville, which opened in April, understands the importance of great dining, and it’s reflected in their restaurants across the hotel chain. While 21c Museum Hotels are known for their signature, world-class contemporary art museums, the restaurants are packed to the bone, serving up noteworthy dining in key locations like Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky. One of the newer hotels to grace Music City, 21c Museum Hotel Nashville, in a historic 1889 Gray & Dudley building, pays tribute with its eponymous Gray & Dudley restaurant.
21c likes to bring people together (there’s plenty to discuss in their museums), and Gray & Dudley encourages social interaction with communal seating. Inspired by the Mediterranean, Executive Chef Levon Wallace takes his West Coast roots and blends it with Southern flare, cooking up dishes by traditional hearth cooking. Like most of the other restaurants, Gray & Dudley has given attention to farm-fresh, seasonal, market-driven menu, and diners will love playful plates like smoked catfish dip with house hot sauce and celery crackers, which is not only rich and flavorful, but who doesn’t love a good catfish dip? Shrimp noodles also reflect the fusion of Mediterranean, Southern and West Coast influence with jalapeño spaghetti, fennel soffits, and garlic-lemon crunch. Rather than fried chicken, Wallace focuses on a half-chicken with grilled bread, lemon, chicories, and pan gravy.It’s an explosion of global influences, which makes you feel like you’re dining at a California restaurant on the Mediterranean Sea under the Nashville sun. 221 2nd AvenueNorth, Tel: 615-6106400. www.21cmuseumhotels.com
This story was originally published inPassport Magazine.
Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills truly — and unabashedly — makes its mark known, towering 12 stories high in a low-rise area. It’s bold, classy and uber-posh, merging timeless Art Deco elegance with 21st-century sensibility, and even the most discerning, affluent of guests will feel impressed here.
Location – 9 / 10
On famed Wilshire Boulevard. The hotel is in the heart of Beverly Hills, in the same lot as iconic Hilton Beverly Hills, though they do not share any amenities and have separate driveways and addresses. Rodeo Drive is half a mile away (seven-minute walk). The hotel provides a Rolls Royce house car for short distances.
Style & character – 9 / 10
The elegance is effortless, though the design is carefully crafted with geometric forms and plenty of glossy cherry wood, 22-carat gold leaf, Italian marble and sparkly Lalique crystal for an upscale approach. The double-height, three-tiered lobby with precious, bespoke art makes a grand entrance. I loved the hidden nooks in the lobby and roof deck, and I’m sure high-profile guests also appreciate the privacy factor.
Service & facilities – 9 / 10
There’s a high level of expectation at a Waldorf Astoria property, and pleasant, professional and intuitive staff went above and beyond here. I was offered unpacking services, shoe shine and garment press (all complimentary) right away. The sunny and posh roof deck — with restaurant, al fresco bar, a saltwater pool and large hot tub tucked away in the back — is surrounded by sweeping, 360-degree LA views, contrasted with the dimly lit La Prairie Spa.
Rooms – 9 / 10
I spent little time checking in, so was surprised to find my luggage already waiting in my walk-in closet when I arrived to my room. All 170 rooms and suites have terraces, and my Deluxe Two Queen was enormous for a standard room (the walk-in closet was impressively huge), designed to feel stately with a warm color palette and gold metallic accents. Not one thing was overlooked.
The spacious terrace (separated by sliding glass doors) had a large potted plant and cushioned chairs, while everything in the room (shades, temperature, lights, in-room dining) was iPad-controlled. The sparkly bathroom included a rain shower, separate tub, double vanity and Salvatore Ferragamo toiletries.
Food & drink – 9 / 10
World renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten helms the food and beverage, and it’s his first venture on the west coast. Guests can dine at upscale Jean-Georges Beverly Hills (indoor and outdoor seating), al fresco The Rooftop by JG or poolside. Having a celebrity chef curate a pool menu is unheard of, yet a reality here. Breakfast was exceptional, though very expensive. I ordered the smoked salmon ($25/£19). The bagel was freshly baked, the lox was cured in-house and even the tomatoes were heirloom, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.
Up on the roof, the kale salad ($18/£14) was remarkably fresh, unarguably plucked from a garden that morning, embellished with poached egg and green chili mint dressing. The spring pea guacamole ($16/£12) was an excellent dip with warm tortilla chips.
Value for money – 8 / 10
Double rooms from $800 (£615) in low season; and from $1,005 (£773) in high. Breakfast excluded. Free (very fast) Wi-Fi. Overnight valet parking is expensive ($50/£38).
Access for guests with disabilities?
There are ramps, accessible rooms and accessibility at the pool.
Children receive a gift basket at check-in and babysitting is available, but amenities are very limited.
This review was originally published inThe Telegraph.
Dream is a vibrant nightlife complex touting a smart hotel, seven restaurants, and a number of bars and nightclubs. It epitomises stereotypical Hollywood (velvet ropes, models, sports cars), and is a ‘dream’ hotel for socialites and night owls looking to lap up this revitalised area of LA.
9/10 – Location
Dream Hollywood is in a recently revitalised area one block south of Hollywood Boulevard and one block north of Sunset Boulevard. All Hollywood landmarks and attractions (like the Walk of Fame and Dolby Theatre), bars, restaurants and shopping are short walks, which is a rarity in a driving city. Catch a TMV tour, Uber, bus and even metro stop (three blocks away) in minutes.
8/10 – Style & character
This millennial-magnet of a hotel is urban, visionary and, above all, photogenic for social media, which felt like a priority here. The lobby lounge and bar is drenched with sunlight from a glass NanaWall entrance, and artwork by local street artist Mr. Brainwash adds an edgy flair. Despite the party-centric vibes, it is nevertheless comfortable and relaxed by day.
8/10 – Service & facilities
The staff are young and eager. Dream is so obsessed with attractive people that Lipps modelling agency is located on the second floor (next to the Gunnar Peterson Gym – reminiscent of a CrossFit facility – only for hotel guests), so models will always be lurking somewhere in the building.
The rooftop sanctuary offers breathtaking, 360-degree views that include the famous Hollywood sign, along with a small pool. A highlight is the thriving, reimagined ‘alleyway’ connecting various venues and three retail shops. There is a valet service (no self parking), free Wi-Fi, laundry, room service via iPad but no spa.
7/10 – Rooms
There are 178 rooms, all with floor-to-ceiling windows, comfy beds and rain showers. The standard rooms are small (the vanity is in the entryway) while, at the other end of the scale, the Platinum suites are spacious with separate living rooms. All skimp on style though, compared to the design excellence achieved in public spaces.
The best thing is the sprawling view from the upper bedrooms, especially at night. The noise level may be distracting after midnight on weekends. Even on a high floor you can hear the action below, though the majority of guests here stroll in after 2 am, when nightlife promptly shuts down in LA. For sensitive sleepers, the hotel provides earplugs.
8/10 – Food & drink
Dream is home to Tao Hollywood, flagship Tao Las Vegas is the highest-grossing restaurant in America, Beauty & Essex, a trendy restaurant with seven dining rooms, Luchini Pizzeria, a lobby grab-and-go, The Highline rooftop restaurant and Avenue, an indoor/outdoor nightclub with bottle service.
Breakfast is served on the rooftop with playful twists to California cuisine. Highly recommended are the avocado toast with fresh avocado, poached egg, creamed leaks, radish and chili flakes ($13/£10) and pancakes with bourbon barrel maple syrup ($16/£12). Chef Chris Santos at Beauty & Essex dishes out hearty portions of globally inspired, shareable plates like scallop and pork belly ($34/£26) and Korean chili-dusted tuna ($29/£22).
7/10 – Value for money
Double rooms from $486 (£373) in low season; from $599 (£460) in high season. Breakfast excluded. There is no resort fee, and overnight valet parking ($45/£34) is available. Wi-Fi is fast and complimentary.
Access for guests with disabilities?
There are ramps, 11 adapted rooms and accessibility at the pool.
Dream keeps children in consideration with kids’ robes and set-up for babies, but it’s primarily a playground for adults (children are not allowed at the pool after noon).
6417 Selma Avenue, Hollywood, California 90028, United States.
This story was originally published in The Telegraph.
Was there ever a more apt time for staff to toss out the written rules?
The good in humanity has buffered the blows of Hurricane Harvey. But amid all the destruction and the kindnesses that rose out of it, there have also, sadly, been moments when people prioritized their properties over others’ shelter. For instance, televangelist Joel Osteen was widely criticized after he initially closed the doors to his megachurch, though it had room to shelter thousands. (After the move garnered significant publicity, he opened them).
As well, one Texas hotel got the very bad kind of media attention when it denied access to the dogs of a family who had fled the destruction, leaving them vulnerable during the storm.
According to People, Gillian and Phillip Parker, along with their 16-year-old daughter Allison and 81-year-old grandmother Sylvia, were initially relieved when they reached the Holiday Inn Express and Suites — but then devastated when the hotel told them they’d have to leave their three dogs in the eye of the storm.
It all started when the family received a mandatory evacuation order due to rising floodwaters. They fled and, seeking safety, came across this Holiday Inn Express and Suites in Katy, Texas. Upon check-in, the clerk said their three dogs — Arrow, Wiggum, and Buttercup — could not check-in due to the property’s strict no-pet policy. Even after speaking with management, the staff stayed firm and refused to make an exception. With major road blocks, grim alternative housing options, and no signs of nearby other help, the family stayed in the hotel… but took turns sitting in their car with the dogs at all times, even through the night, beaten down by torrential rainfall as they hauled back and forth.
After the news spread widely, IHG, Holiday Inn Express’ corporate owners, issued a statement to People apologizing to the Parker family, and clarifying that the hotel later began accepting guests’ pets during the storm. An IHG rep also told People that the company would waive the family’s fees and provide them with reward points toward a future stay. (In response, the Parkers told People they’d rather the company make a donation to disaster-relief efforts and the Fort Bend County Animal Services — from where two of their dogs were adopted — instead.)
But many people had already read the Parkers’ story and were horrified by it. I’m among them.
Like Andy Cohen and Lisa Vanderpump — and countless other ordinary, devoted pet parents — I travel with my pup all the time. (That’s Ruby in the pic above.) At the hotels she’s checked into, Ruby’s considered a part of the family, so I can’t imagine a hotel denying her a place to stay — let alone when 50 inches of rain are forcing tens of thousands of humans into shelters.
I understand rules are rules, but sometimes rules are meant to be broken, especially in dire situations.
Shockingly, and in the craziest twist of events, the hotel had even admitted it had made exception for pets in the past — but for smaller dogs. And we can only presume those dogs were not stranded in a deadly disaster unfolding. If they have allowed small dogs, under the table, how could they not make an exception for a family whose pets literally could have died outside their doors? How did they not understand the urgency of this crisis? That’s what you might call a perfect time to bend the rules.
Indeed, as the situation barring their dogs unfolded in real time, it dealt a brutal blow to the family — who still had to worry over their flooded home, belongings, and the safety of their friends and family. As a fellow dog lover, my heart goes out to the Parkers.
And others are outraged too; Yelpers are persecuting the hotel through reviews on its page.
And, while the late apology is a start, this hotel staff blew it bad in a family’s — in a whole state‘s — time of need.
Rules are rules, sure. But rules aside, it’s about being human. It’s about making executive decisions that help protect and serve other human beings. In a time when strangers are helping strangers during one of the worst disasters to hit Texas, volunteers have contributed in remarkable ways, and other travel industry companies stepped up to the plate big time. So it’s definitely possible, and honorable, and appreciated.
When lives are at stake — and even when they’re not — I say this is time for hotel execs all around the country to think about what they can do to put the “hospitality” back in the hospitality industry if indeed their property feels a bit lacking when it comes to that personal connection.
And let’s just say that pet people like the Parkers, and like me, have long memories and deep pockets for places that treat all members of their family like VIPs.
Want to help? Donations to the Fort Bend shelter can be made through Amazon Smile.
UPDATE: A spokesperson for the hotel provided Jet Set the following statement:
“We are very sorry that the Parker family and their pets had this experience. Providing the highest level of hospitality is at the core of everything we do and we simply fell well short of our expectations in this instance. We have been in contact with this hotel to address the situation and to understand why this occurred — given the hotel was accommodating pets during the flooding.
We have also made two separate donations totaling $5,000 to Houston PetSet’s Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund, which is working to raise the critical funds that will be necessary for animal rescue and welfare-related efforts, as well as Rescue Bank Houston, which provides grants to the animal rescue community in the form of donated pet food, delivered through regional affiliates.
As a company comprised of different people — many of whom live and work in the impacted areas — we are highly sensitive to the needs of those impacted during this extremely difficult time and are working diligently to best accommodate guests, and comfort those seeking relief at IHG hotels.”
This story was originally published in Bravo TV.
Whether you’re looking for top-notch training, gorgeous facilities, or the highest manmade rock wall in the world (seriously), these hotel fitness centers have all you could ever dream of—and more.
MOST OF THE time, hotel fitness centers are dismal, bare-bones affairs. And because hotel gym don’t turn over profits—unlike restaurants, meeting spaces, spas, and bars—they’re usually doomed to languish with nothing but a saddleworn treadmill and a few rusting dumbbells.
Fortunately, there are some shining, glorious exceptions to that rule. At some hotels, it’s obvious that the management (and the guests) prize every square inch of fitness space. With next-level amenities, impressive facilities, and training offerings to rival any Equinox, these hotel gyms are fantasy fitness playgrounds that make any trip worth it. In fact, some are so kickass, locals pay a monthly membership to join in. The benefit? Total access to facilities, high-level training, and countless perks: free parking, discounted spa treatments, saunas, and (best of all) no crowds.
So whether you’re checking in as a guest or visiting as a local fitness junkie, check out these seven top-notch hotel gyms that defy expectations and will help push your workouts to the limit.
Story & slideshow published by Men’s Fitness. Feature photo courtesy of Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago.
Inside the illegal discrimination plaguing an already plagued industry.
A few months ago, in a surprising reversal of stereotypes, Middle-Eastern airline Qatar Airways denied me, an American, from boarding. I was booked on a flight from Madrid to New Delhi, but the agent at the check-in counter said I could not board the plane to India because my passport was allegedly in poor condition. I admit, as a travel writer, that my passport was rough around the edges—but it took me to the Cayman Islands and Spain that same week without a hitch. It was intact and scanned perfectly. Even still, the agent said no.
Suddenly stranded, I tried not to panic as I headed to the sales desk to sort this all out. An older man eyed me up and down twice before saying he would email Indian immigration to find out whether I could cross the border. I was told to wait. Seven hours later, without food, taxi fare, or hotel vouchers (a common airline courtesy in situations like these), there was “no answer.”
I asked him to help me get back to Los Angeles. He would not. I angrily suggested that he might be violating my passenger rights. He handed me a form to fill out and mail in. Frustrated and tired, I relented and booked the first flight to the States (to the tune of $2,000). Once I’d left, I realized that the form was just a customer service survey.
I am certainly not the only person who’s felt victimized by an airline lately. Planes seem pretty hellish for everyone these days, but especially for minorities: YouTube star Adam Saleh claims he was kicked off a Delta flight for speaking Arabic (the airline said in a statement he was removed for “provocative behavior”); in February, singer/songwriter Jason Derulo blasted an airline on Instagram for an incident he said was racially provoked; last year Dr. Tamika Cross, an African-American passenger was questioned by flight attendants regarding her credentials when trying to assist a fellow passenger having a health crisis, then passed over for a white, male doctor (the airline has since changed its policy regarding medical identification).
And of course, there’s the biggest recent incident to spark awareness and outrage—and kick-start United’s PR Month From Hell: the viral video of an elderly Asian man being removed from his seat by force and then dragged off the plane for refusing to voluntarily de-board. (The incident is now immortalized as a New Yorkercover starring the only slightly less outrageous cast of Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and James Comey.) Had the passenger been white, would the scenario have played out differently? Whether or not the event was intentionally racially motivated doesn’t seem to matter to the Asian community, who immediately took to the internet to protest with the hashtag #ChineseLivesMatter.
My own situation didn’t feel, as the airline employees insisted, like a problem with my passport—it felt like a problem with me. Perhaps because I am Asian. Or openly gay. Or both.
According to The Washington Post, discrimination complaints against airlines increased by 37 percent in 2016. So far, 2017 isn’t looking much better. In many cases, discrimination like this is flat-out illegal, not to mention an abhorrent corporate practice.
On paper, Qatar Airways agrees. Their response to my official customer service complaint stated: “Qatar Airways condemns any form of discrimination that relates to any race, caste, religion, or gender.” I noticed they didn’t include anything about sexual preferences.
Most U.S.-based airlines mandate diversity training to their employees, and in January—perhaps in response to the increased complaints—the Department of Transportation released a Guidance for Airline Personnel on Non-Discrimination in Air Travel, which encourages all airlines to implement comprehensive anti-bias training. Clearly that hasn’t solved the problem.
Is it just on us, then, to be much savvier customers and to choose our flights more carefully? JetBlue and Virgin America will be getting my business going forward, with just one incident of discrimination reported in the last 10 years for JetBlue and no reports at all that I could find for Virgin America.
And I’ll be prepared if this happens again, to me or someone on my plane. The best course of action: Comply with airline personnel instructions, even if they seem outrageous, and then immediately file a complaint directly with the Department of Transportation. Contact the airline with a written letter to customer service requesting an investigation. You may want to reach out to an attorney to assist you with filing the complaint.
I won’t tell you not to film the harasser (passenger or crew) in question, either. As recent incidents prove, nothing makes a company sweat—and then evolve—like customers holding them accountable. Since the backlash United received in April, the airline’s crew can no longer displace seated passengers. Delta also offered passengers nearly $10,000 if they have to give their seats up on overbooked flights, and American Airlines updated its Conditions of Carriage to state that no passenger will have to involuntarily give up their seat once boarded.
Perhaps companies are finally realizing what they should have (sadly) already known: There’s no place for discrimination in our world anymore—even in the sky.
This story originally appeared on MarieClaire.com.
French 75, 28 HongKong Street, Dante, The Dead Rabbit, Employees Only
New Orleans, Louisiana
When award-winning chef Nina Compton isn’t thrilling palates at her restaurant, Compère Lapin, she pops into this New Orleans institution for a classic cocktail
After Top Chef, people had preconceived notions of what I’d be like, and you can’t play that down,” says Season 11 runner-up Nina Compton. “Chefs have to put on a TV personality sometimes because it’s what people expect.” And therein lies the irony. Inside her award-winning restaurant, Compère Lapin in New Orleans, Compton is genuinely warm, sincere and gentle. Her on-air personality was, well, basically identical. Even after landing a James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South finalist spot, being honored as a Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef: 2017, and Compère Lapin garnering The Times-Picayune’s first-ever Restaurant of the Year—coveted accolades most Top Chefalums rarely see—Nina is just Nina, whether cameras roll or not. With her St. Lucian lilt and kind eyes, she’s the same as she was on television, and her first restaurant has similarly defied expectations.
“Caribbean food is something you don’t see often,” she says. “There’s jerk chicken, and that’s pretty much it. I decided I could take Compère Lapin to a different level.” In particular, her goat curry has become her signature dish—such a bestseller they now order up to six goats a week (bumped up from one when they initially opened). It’s heavy on comfort without frills, the way New Orleanians like their food. “Food is trendy, and it shouldn’t be,” she says. “Food should be food. It’s culture, it’s what brings people together, and people here like to eat.”
While she spends most of her time in the kitchen, it’s not unusual to spot her at Arnaud’s French 75, this year’s JBF award winner for Outstanding Bar Program. “You walk in and it’s like you’re in this beautiful time warp. There are these little monkey lamps as fixtures, and it has this cool, eclectic New Orleans feel,” she says. “French 75 is a little nook of great cocktails and great atmosphere. You’re in the French Quarter, but it seems as if you’re tucked away in a little street in Paris.” What does she order there? “I enjoy gin and Scotch, but I tell [head bartender] Chris Hannah to just surprise me. He will ask me what I’m in the mood for. Sometimes I’ll just pop in for the French 75, an amazing drink with Champagne and cognac.”
28 HongKong Street
Hong Kong, China
The groundbreaking lounge has made Singapore a player on the global cocktail scene
It would be easy to miss the unassuming brown-and-white sliding doors, situated on a fairly low-key stretch of Singapore’s Hongkong Street. Yet behind this plain façade you will find one of the most talked-about cocktail bars in Asia: 28 HongKong Street, a.k.a. 28HKS.
Now in its sixth year, 28HKS clinched top spot on the inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Bars list last year, and it did so in part by forgoing the razzmatazz commonly associated with the Lion City—the bar’s décor is wood-and-leather traditional, and the cocktail menu stresses quality over novelty.
“Our drinks don’t scream experimental,” says Czech bartender Zdenek Kastanek, who joined 28HKS as a “spirit evangelist” in 2013 and now maintains a residency there. “We aren’t in-your-face when it comes to flavors and techniques. Instead, we pride ourselves on using top-notch ingredients to create classics with a twist. It’s about creating a harmony of flavors.”
This approach has put 28HKS—and Singapore—on the global cocktail map.
“We definitely helped shape Singapore’s cocktail scene by bringing the whole idea of fine drinking into the country,” Kastanek says. “Five years ago, you wouldn’t find Singapore bars making it to the finals of cocktail competitions, or winning industry awards. It’s now the other way around—there are no awards without Singapore being on the list.”
28HKS has also been a catalyst for change on a more local level. “When we started out, we were the only food and beverage establishment on Hongkong Street,” Kastanek says. “Around us were shops selling dried shrimp, nutmeg and cloves.” And now? “It’s buzzing and fun. We don’t see the other establishments here as competition at all. In fact, the street is an integral part of our identity.”
Indeed, the idea of community is key to the bar’s ethos. “28HKS is like a clubhouse for friends and family,” Kastanek says. “If you’ve been here before and come in again, you’ll almost feel like you’re home. We’re a one-off—we will only ever be located on Hongkong Street.”
New York City
Since 1915 this space has been a haven for artists and writers from Ernest Hemingway and Anaïs Nin to Bob Dylan. Today, the Greenwich Village landmark blends history with superior cocktails, becoming a cozy sanctuary from city life.
The Dead Rabbit
New York City
A 21st-century iteration of a classic pub, this Downtown hotspot serves an award-winning menu of memorable elixirs. The True Blue—Irish whiskey, apple brandy and Guinness—is a popular choice to wash down Scotch eggs or fish and chips.
Miami Beach, FL
Take a hip New York bar, place it in a historic Miami coral house, and you have a recipe for a scene-filled South Beach lounge. This Prohibition-inspired space features savory bites—try the bone marrow poppers—and specialty cocktails.
This story was originally published in American Way Magazine.
How to plan and execute life-altering journeys every time you pack your bags
Furthermore and Cole Haan have partnered to bring you the elements of extraordinary in fitness, travel, nutrition, and mindfulness. We tapped our team of experts and high-performers to learn how to eat well at every meal, truly experience a vacation, and level up your workouts.
While tourists go places, extraordinary travelers roll up their sleeves and fully immerse themselves in exploration. They relish, discover, and allow for inspiration. Because of this, their treks are always epic. These are the elements that elevate a trip to a once-in-a-lifetime journey, according to luxury travel professionals.
(1) Unfamiliar Destinations: “We get the most out of travel when we are out of our comfort zone and routines,” says Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder and CEO of Indagare, a luxury travel company based in New York City. “When we are thrust into an unfamiliar place and stripped of preconceived notions, we are returned to a purer state of being. One just has to be willing to surrender to adventure and to head off to unknown parts.”
(2) A ‘Travel Designer’: If choosing an unfamiliar spot sounds intimidating, don’t hesitate to plan with a travel agent (they’re back in style, after all). The modern travel agent, or “travel designer” as Jim Bendt, owner of Pique Travel Design in Excelsior, Minnesota, calls them, has an encyclopedic knowledge of cool, emerging destinations. “We embrace the creative process to design unique experiences you can’t Google,” says Bendt.
(3) A What’s-Next Mentality: “We’re conditioned to think about one trip at a time,” says Bendt. “By being organized and thoughtful, though, travelers can open up more time in their calendars to visit all the places they want to see in their lifetime.” Plus, when you get back from a trip, you already have something else to look forward to.
(4) Pre-Packing Photography: “I lay out every outfit, with shoes and accessories, and snap a photo with my iPhone before I pack it,” says Haisley Smith, a Virtuoso ambassador and vice president of marketing and development at Brownell Travel located in Birmingham, Alabama. “It saves me from over-packing and serves as a reminder of what I planned to wear when I am groggy from jet lag.”
(5) The Perfect Pack: Good luggage can make the journey easier, allowing you to arrive at your destination in a more calm, grounded state. Rimowa’s multiwheel luggage looks chic and has various compartments and bags to keep you insanely organized. G-Ro’s carry-on bag expands further than any other in its class (for souvenir-loving travelers), plus has a built-in charger for your phone and the top turns into a “table” so you can use it as surface to work on your laptop. If you want to pack lighter, bring a durable weekend bag.
(6) Double-Duty Wardrobe: You’ll never find a smart traveler digging in her suitcase to frantically meet luggage weight restrictions at the airport. They’re also not bringing a second bag full of shoes. Plan ahead and bring items that can multitask (shoes that can be worn on a walking tour and to dinner) so you don’t end up schlepping home a bunch of unworn literal baggage.
(7) Daily Yoga: “Meditation and yoga keep us fresh so that we are able to be at peace during our trips,” says Sandeep Agarwalla, head of yoga at Ananda in the Himalayas, a luxury wellness resort located in the birthplace of yoga. Try this 20-minute yoga routine in your hotel room when you arrive or before starting each new day.
(8) Travel-Specific Breathing: “Simple meditation and breathing practices are great tools to stay focused and not get overwhelmed with the environmental changes around us,” says Agarwalla. To combat stress at the airport or if you have a few minutes between activities, Agarwalla recommends an alternate nostril breathing practice: Take deep inhalations and exhalations rotating out of each nostril (hold your finger over one nostril while you breathe from the other with mouth closed), three or four times. According to yoga sciences, it helps purify the blood and respiratory system with large amounts of oxygen going to the brain, lungs, and heart, he says. You can also try one of these four travel meditations.
(9) Active Participation: It’s easy to keep pushing through in an attempt to see it all while you’re on a trip. But, taking time to pause and reflect throughout the experience will open you up to the potential for self-discovery and to return home truly changed. What’s more: “Just viewing marvelous sights is of value, but the experience is magnified by active participation,” says Biggs Bradley. It could be as simple as taking a ride on the local metro system rather than relying on taxis, or diving into the water versus dipping your toes.
(10) Displays of Gratitude: “When walking into a hotel, always tip [the bellhop and concierge] on arrival,” says Dane Steele Green, owner of luxury travel company Steele Travel in New York City. (What’s customary in luxury hotels: minimum $5 for bellhop, and $5 to $20 for concierge, $3 to $5 per night for housekeeping.) “Your experience is much better when the staff already knows you appreciate them.” Take your recognition a step further: “If a hotel staff member does a great job, send a note or speak to the manager to praise their work,” suggests Bendt. “If you return to the property at a later date, chances are high the employee will remember you and will want to ensure you have a great experience again.”
(11) Befriending Locals: “You don’t go home and tell your friends stories about the thread count of the sheets. You tell stories about the experiences and connections you make with people,” says Smith. You can certainly strike up a conversation with the locals dining at the table next to yours. The one-up version: A luxury travel advisor can arrange experiences like dining in a family’s private home. Or, try building a volunteer or philanthropic day into your agenda as a meaningful way to connect with those who live in the area. “Working side-by-side with new friends lends itself to authentic experiences that unfold naturally,” says Smith.
(12) Three-Phase Photography: “True travel photography tells a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end,” says Mark Edward Harris, an award-winning photographer based in Los Angeles, California. On Instagram, start with an establishing shot to give your followers a general idea of where you’re going and what they can expect to see on your feed in the days to come. For example, if you’re in Zermatt, get to an overview and photograph the Matterhorn towering over the Swiss Alps with the town in the foreground. In the middle, get what Harris calls environmental portraits: people in a scene that relates to them such as a sommelier in a wine cellar with a prized bottle of wine in his hands or a geisha in the Gion district of Kyoto. Finish with a photograph that makes the viewer feel like your story has come to a successful conclusion. “For my book, The Way of the Japanese Bath, which explores hot spring and ryokan culture on the island nation, my last image was of a silhouetted woman drinking tea shot through a shoji screen because tea drinking is a common way to conclude an afternoon of bathing,” says Harris.
(13) Behind-the-Scenes Shots: “Make use of your Instagram story to get people excited about the pictures on your proper account and to give them some context,” says Jeremy Jauncey, owner of Beautiful Destinations, the travel account on Instagram with 9.6 million followers. For example, if you take a beautiful photo out of your hotel window looking out at the pool, record yourself walking through the hotel, going up to your room, and opening the window. The story will show your viewers what lead you to take that amazing shot.
(14) A Camera Upgrade: “A smartphone such as the iPhone 7s is capable of telling quality travel stories,” says Harris. Still, consider investing in a high-quality mirrorless camera, especially if you’re photographing animals on a safari or on some other next-level adventure. The DSLR-alternative is becoming more and more popular because of its demure size, full range of lenses, and powerful results, says Harris.
(15) A Modern-Day Album: Every extraordinary traveler knows their photos must live somewhere outside of social media. They can serve as years of inspiration and memories. “The ideal venue for photos from a trip are personal books published by companies such as Blurb,” says Harris. “You can end up with a product that can be shared with friends and colleagues and be passed down through generations.” Be sure to include an introduction and extended captions, he adds.
This story was originally published in Furthermore by Equinox.
Go foraging for dinner in South Africa and learn how to make kombucha.
Cooking classes have come a long way from simply donning aprons and following the leader. Now, athletes can immerse themselves in experiential culinary workshops with celebrity chefs. Last spring, seven-time James Beard nominee and two-starred Michelin chef Michael Cimarusti hosted cooking classes at his restaurant Cape Seafood in Los Angeles, where he demonstrated his methods for cooking fresh fish. The class had a 100-person wait list, and it’s returning this fall. Similarly, Enrique Olvera, one of Mexico’s most famous chefs, offered an exclusive fishing excursion where guests accompanied him to set sail and cook their catch at his restaurant The Manta in Los Cabos. Across the globe, more chefs are offering an exciting and personal approach to the traditional cooking class, and these five unique experiences are just the beginning.
Foraging for mussels on the Western Cape, South Africa
South Africa is teeming with local markets for tours, but epicureans are finding more adventurous culinary-centric activities in the Western Cape, a province that borders both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. At the luxurious Birkenhead House, an award-winning, eleven-room cliffside hotel, guests can forage for fynbos (local herb and vegetation) with executive chef Ziyaad Browne. In this intimate fall excursion, Browne also shows guests how to scour and pick fresh mussels directly from the rocks below the hotel. Finally, with Browne’s help, guests cook the fare on an open fire while learning about the history of the regional cuisine.
Fermenting kombucha in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Many athletes love kombucha thanks to its high probiotic content and help with improving digestion. At Sunrise Springs Spa Resort, guests can ferment their own this fall during a class called Kombucha to Pickles: A Fermented Feast. The culinary activity is an interactive demonstration on the basics of making fermented kombucha blends, as well as seasonal vegetables grown at the resort’s garden like pickles. “Our class is a ‘tasting tour’ of the fermentation process,” says instructor Brigita Lacovara, noting the class is based off templates, rather than recipes, empowering guests to experiment and tailor to their personal tastes.
Coffee- and chocolate-making in Punta Gorda, Belize
Belcampo Belize is a 16-suite jungle lodge inside a 12,000-acre nature reserve that produces high-end coffee and chocolates with sustainable practices (70 percent of food served at the resort comes from their own farms and gardens). The five-star property offers a variety of culinary-themed classes, including the popular, year-round Bean to Bar chocolate making class. “We find that most travelers today are looking for truly engaging offerings that go beyond the typical museum visit or local walking tour,” says Mary-Ann du Plessis, general manager of Belcampo Belize. As the largest organic cacao and criollo (coffee bean) plantation in Belize, Belcampo provides an inside look at bean-to-bar production. Guests make their own high-quality, organic chocolate with a chocolatier. Similarly, the Bean to Cup Workshop offers the chance to explore the process of transforming raw beans into a cup of joe.
Cooking rustic fall dishes in Oldbridge, New Jersey
Helmed by chef David Viana, who’s worked with world-class chefs like Bobby Flay and in the kitchens of acclaimed restaurants (such as Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Villa Joya in Portugal), Heirloom Kitchen offers an eclectic range of culinary classes. Immersive workshops (which sell out fast) include themes like Mexican brunch, date night tapas, sourdough country loaf, paleo, and more. This fall, Viana will partner with local forager Oliver Gubenko to create rustic, vegetarian dishes using local fall produce like apples and squash varietals such as acorn, delicata, and butternut.
Gourmet dog food-making in Greenough, Montana
Popular for cooking demonstrations and interactive culinary workshops, The Resort at Paws Up is debuting a new series this fall called Cookbook Live, where notable, James Beard Award-winning and finalist chefs will offer cooking classes. “The group setting is much more intimate than a traditional food and wine festival or even a resort cooking class,” says the resort’s owner Larry Lipson. “There’s something about being on the ranch and rubbing elbows with your favorite chefs that you just don’t get by simply dining at one of their restaurants.” As part of the series, Lucy Postins of The Honest Kitchen will helm a pet-friendly cooking class. Guests will whip up delicious dishes like beef, carrot, and kale stew, and baked chicken and kale, which serve both humans and their pets.
This story was originally published in Furthermore by Equinox.
In Much Ado About Nothing, William Shakespeare famously wrote: “When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.” The iconic line, written in the late 1500s, has had a lasting impact on young men for centuries. With the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, these inspiring words can truly resonate with gay men who now have the possibility to wed. To bachelor party or not to bachelor party—that is the question.
Marriage is fairly new to the gay couple in a legal capacity, and the accompanying, pre-wedding bachelor party is a pastime to consider when tying the knot. A tradition for the groom, the bachelor party has been celebrated longer than one would believe—thousands of years, to be exact. Records show that ancient Spartans around the fifth century BCE were the first to honor the groom’s last night as an unwed man, usually with a dinner and a toast. Later, “bachelor” appeared in reference to an unmarried man in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. Chaucer, speculated by scholars to have been homosexual, was also one of the first authors to use the term “gay” in possible reference to homosexuality in “The Pardoner’s Tale,” so there’s a vague, unexplored link.
It wasn’t until 1922 when the term “bachelor party” was first published (Chamber’s Journal of Literature, Science, and Arts), describing a “jolly old” party in Scotland. Bachelor party is also referenced with a slang term in different countries (“buck” party in Australia, “stag” party in the UK, etc). While these parties for the groom were first experienced with a certain level of decency, bachelor parties in America have proven to be wild, often drunken affairs. A certain stigma surrounds a bachelor party now, where party buses, strippers, shots, maybe blindfolds, and lots of booze anchor a growing tradition, with typical, low-brow behaviors depicted in classic movies (like Bachelor Party with Tom Hanks in 1984 and The Hangover in 2010). The message: the more you don’t remember, the better your bachelor party was. Stag nights can be low-key and intimate, however, and many groom’s best men are known to take the event to a mature level, helping to honor the gay groom-to-be’s last, unmarried nights with a mild, less-boozy affair shortly before he gets hitched.
Whether they go mellow or gangbusters, the whole point is to celebrate one unforgettable night before the groom begins a long, married life. The bachelor party is a rite of passage, generally planned by the best man, though experienced by all groomsmen and other male friends. Gay grooms should consider and accept a bachelor party the way any groom (gay or straight) would. After all, like marriage, which was initially designated for straight partners, bachelor parties are a tradition that gay men have every right to celebrate.
Some destinations are the ultimate stomping grounds for bachelor parties, garnering decades-long attention around the exciting hotels, restaurants, nightlife, and party atmosphere that make this time-honored tradition truly unforgettable. From Las Vegas to Puerto Vallarta, these North American cities have become legendary for destination bachelor parties, creating a buzz and culture around stag-night celebrations, and providing some serious memories for a soon-to-be groom’s last moments before exchanging vows. Whether an intimate, chilled-out party or a big, gay jolly group taking the festivities to the next level, bachelor parties in our five gay-friendly cities will unarguably be wildly (or mildly) epic.
With its vast gay history, party reputation, and festival fever, New Orleans knows how to throw a shindig, especially with the LGBT community. For instance, take Mardi Gras, the most well-known festival dating back to 1730. Records indicate that a Frenchman who spent time at the first festival was a cross-dressing enthusiast: “I had shaved very closely that evening and had a number of beauty marks on my face, and even on my breasts, which I had plumped up. I was also the one out of all my group who was dressed up the most coquettishly… In fact, unless you looked at me very closely, you could not tell that I was a boy,” (A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies). Needless to say, public partying and being fab have gone hand in hand for centuries!
Gay bachelor (and bachelorette) parties are as common here as the dozens of annual festivals. Bachelors can famously go out with a bang, hiring a jazz band for a traditional second-line parade that dances through the French Quarter, a pastime for celebrations and a magnet for bachelor parties. To be in the middle of all the gay action, congregating at the intersection of St Anne and famed Bourbon Street is a must (you can legally drink on the streets), and bachelor party groups will certainly spend late hours at Corner Pocket. This no-frills gay strip club is rough around the edges, but packed to the bone on weekends where young go-go dancers amp the atmosphere with naked thrills. For a more low-key, yet still lively, atmosphere, head to Golden Lantern, one of the oldest gay bars in New Orleans and the official bar for the ever-popular Southern Decadence event. It’s a campy, dive-y watering hole for locals, where sweet bartenders serve up cheap, stiff cocktails. You never know what to expect (drag performances, live bands, food buffet) on any given night.
Speaking of food, hungry men head for The Country Club one of the most iconic places in New Orleans. In the emerging Bywater District, this country club (formerly an exclusive, gay men-only establishment though now open to everyone) offers scrumptious brunch and an outdoor pool for hot, lazy days. The club recently unveiled a massive renovation to its gorgeous interiors, hired executive chef Chris Barbato (from famed Commander’s Palace), and now serves up elevated dishes. For something more grubby, Port of Call, a burger institution for half a century, has garnered attention for its big, juicy, messy burgers. There are no reservations, and throngs of groups crowd outside during peak hours, so get there a little earlier to grab a big table. If you’re seeking atypical thrills, Jackson Square is set up with a collection of tarot card readers, paying tribute to New Orleans’ famously psychic past. For the real deal, book a reading with Cari Roy, the most famous psychic in the city who regularly appears on news programs as a celebrated intuitive.
For a sleepy city that never sleeps, New Orleans has the perfect balance of taking it easy or going extreme, and a selection of diverse accommodations helps steer you in either direction.
W French Quarter makes the perfect crashpad for guy groups. The central courtyard (with outdoor pool) is a great place to be seen, and afterhours partying is perfect in the suites, equipped with backyard patio and Jacuzzi. For bachelors with finer tastes, Ritz-Carlton New Orleans in a landmark, 1908 beaux arts Maison Blanche building, recently unveiled a $2 million restoration. Conveniently located on the brim of the French Quarter, the five-star hotel offers spacious rooms, elegant furnishings, a beautiful spa with indoor pool, and a club lounge fancier than you would expect (think chandeliers, antiques, and centuries-old paintings).
Among the many bachelor party-friendly beach towns in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta remains a coastal haven for gay travelers. Groups hardly need to lift a finger with the renowned level of service, and getting wild can go as late (or early) as the sunrise here. Puerto Vallarta is the only Mexico beach getaway that’s chock-full of gay bars, lounges, and clubs, concentrated around Old Town, which makes bar crawls a must for gay men. Anchoring the scene is Mr. Flamingo, a relatively new gay bar right on a busy corner. Completely alfresco, the bar is compact, so patrons spill out onto the streets as pop hits blare on the sound system, handsome servers make rounds, and revelers dance in a tequila-fueled frenzy after hours. On the same block is Paco’s Ranch, a racy, loud, crazy dance club that often features drag shows. It’s as fierce as it gets in Puerto Vallarta, and it gives you good reason to knock back a Jell-O shot or two (yes, really, that’s served here). Naturally, all good things must come to an end, but not before a quick stop at Wet Dreams. The name of the club is exactly what you’d expect inside: go-go dancers and strippers, many showering live behind the bar, get extra friendly in an otherwise seedy (yet very tourist-driven) establishment. In fact, Wet Dreams is primarily marketed to tourists, enabling their vices, so don’t be afraid to dance with the gay devil in see-through underwear.
The bachelor party doesn’t necessarily end when the clubs close. In fact, some people go straight from dancing shoes to Speedos considering the gay beach (located at the south end of famed Playa Los Muertos, the main beach on the coast) gets busy first thing in the morning. Here, throngs of eclectic gays parade in front of Blue Chairs Resort, a gayowned hotel next to Mantamar Beach Club where you’ll find a mix of locals, West Hollywood boys, and everything in-between. It will cost you to rent a beach chair (or use the outdoor, infinity pool) for the day, but it’s well worth the spend (approximately $20). You can order breakfast, bloody marys, and even massages without having to leave your spot. The view of both sea and men is perfection.
Eventually, you’ll have to sleep (or maybe not), so shack up at Casa Kimberly. Elizabeth Taylor’s former home, now an intimate boutique hotel on an unassuming cobblestone street. It’s designed to feel timeless with blue-and-white tiled staircases, courtyards and arched doorways, and mostly spacious rooms with breathtaking views of the bay. The elegant restaurant here, Iguana, is divine. It serves innovative, modern Mexican with the perfect hillside, sea breeze to add atmosphere. Casa Kimberly is not a party hotel, but it’s a short, convenient stroll to all the action.
Nothing beats a place you can call home, and gay-owned Casa Septiembre serves as a luxurious hideaway for gay groups. The nine-bedroom villa on a quiet, beautiful beach is a self-contained private oasis with outdoor, heated pool, personal staff (including bartender, villa manager and housekeeping), and a convenient location to Old Town and Blue Chair Resort (15-minute walk along the coast or five-minute taxi ride). All rooms flaunt their own balconies, bathrooms, and precious views, and there’s no request the staff can’t meet. You can opt to have fresh meals cooked right at home, and you get your own set of keys so no one can see you stumble in after an unforgettable night out.
For many travelers, desert is the new beach, and Palm Springs leads the desert-chic movement across the country. This quiet desert retreat two hours from Los Angeles has recently blossomed into a world-class resort town, even if famous gay men like Rock Hudson, have been visiting for close to a century. With the recent, ongoing openings of hip hotels, notable restaurants, trendy bars, and major festivals (like Coachella, Palm Springs Film Festival, Stagecoach) fueling its growth, Palm Springs mostly attracts a slew of millennials that now mix with old-time gay residents who have called it home even before its renaissance. Travelers are obsessed with the desert’s low-key, laid-back, chilled-out vibe, and it’s where most bachelor parties that want to avoid the glitz, glam, stress, and expensive price tags, flock east of LA.
While there are few resorts that haven’t spawned a bachelor party buzz (like Ace Palm Springs, Parker, Colonial Palm, and the new Arrive), Avalon reigns as a gay group homebase. The gay-friendly resort, formerly Viceroy, has inexpensive rooms, as well as larger villas with kitchens and backyards, which is an excellent way to have everyone in your group gather in one private spot for intimate toasts. With two outdoor pools at the resort, there’s no shortage of social activities, and Palm Springs’ most famous chef, Tara Lazar, is spearheading the food scene.
Another option, Sparrows Lodge, is like having your own private pad, as long as you don’t mind sharing it with other hip travelers. The 20-room boutique is intimate, designed to feel more like an al fresco barn than a midcentury modern masterpiece. Think vaulted ceilings and shutters on windows, and most rooms are equipped with their own patios. The rustic appeal is a major draw for the lumber sexual type who like to veg out at the central, saltwater pool. With the resort’s no-children policy, and no staff after hours, it’s as private as an adult would want for late-night soirées.
Eight4Nine is all about the fabulous. This gay-owned restaurant with eclectic menu and colorful interiors right on Palm Canyon Drive is a hit for gay locals and travelers alike. Martinis constantly flow and inventive, California coastal-inspired bites hit the right spot. It’s more about the vibe than the food here, and the buzzing outdoor patio with contemporary art is perfect for pets, if you bring Fido in tow.
Just as casual as Eight4Nine are the gay bars along Arenas Road, where gays in tank tops and flip-flops bar hop from midcentury modern inspired lounges to funky dive bars. Most travelers end up at Hunters Nightclub, known for live DJs, go-go boys, a fun atmosphere, and pretty boys on the prowl. The beats are heavy on techno and gay anthems, but the diverse, shirtless dancers are as unique as they come.
Head to Workshop Kitchen + Bar, a stylish, progressive restaurant with industrial design (it’s in a former cathedral and recently won a James Beard Award for design). Award-winning New American cuisine features stellar bites, from fresh-tossed, wood-fired pizza to honey-lavenderglazed black cod, and no one needs to twist your arm for their perfect, seasonal craft cocktails, including punch bowls perfect for bachelor party groups. If you want to tap into your inner Mad Men, don the suit and head to Melvyn’s, a 1920’s supper club establishment where waiters wear tuxes and the cocktails are reminiscent of a bygone era. With an air of Old Hollywood (and frequent celebrity guests like John Travolta), Melvyn’s is a dashing timewarp where you’ll feel like Frank Sinatra will magically appear to serenade your bachelor party.
The most iconic party city in the world, Las Vegas has been bachelorparty approved since the first casino on the strip opened in 1931 (the building of the Hoover Dam and proximity to Grand Canyon also helped it flourish with tourism). Now, chockfull of luxury resorts, casinos, theater, excellent restaurants, pampering spas, world-class shopping, and unrivaled nightlife, Las Vegas is a fantasy destination for bachelor party groups. Sin City speaks for itself, offering a place where guys can bond during a once-in-a-lifetime weekend. In order to fully live out the unhitched life to the last minute, a groom must not resist the temptations of Vegas but embrace it, the way Vegas was meant to be visited. Before the party, the groom and his friends can also enjoy a leisurely time with casual strolls on the strip, art museums, fine restaurants, and visually engaging performances (like Cirque du Soleil).
Check in at W Las Vegas, the newest resort on the strip. The 289-room party pad (taking over one of the towers of SLS Las Vegas) opened to much fanfare for the gay traveler, and with good reason. It’s stylish (rooms and public spaces are designed by popular firm AvroKO; E-Wow Suites designed by Lenny Kravitz); there’s a concentration of lively, high-end restaurants (Bazaar Meat by Jose Andres, Katsuya, Cleo, Umami Burger); swank cabanas at the buzzing rooftop pool; and even party bus transportation for a wild night out. If you need more room to sprawl and splurge, book a room at The Palazzo. The Palazzo now allows the public to book their most high-end inventory, accommodations that, up until last year, were only reserved for high rollers. Now, these exceptional suites (from Chairmans to Penthouses) are open for anyone to book. Equipped with butler service, private massage rooms, steam rooms, electronic toilets, private theaters, massive outdoor balconies, and multiple bedrooms, these suites (starting at $4,000 a night when available) are highly sought-after accommodations for intimate bachelor party groups.
The night is always young in Vegas, and groups head to Beauty & Essex, Tao Group’s latest offering at Cosmopolitan. Half pawn shop, half restaurant/bar, Beauty & Essex (second location after NYC’s Lower East Side) has a very Vegas vibe with swank interiors, late-night DJs, decorative and intricate cocktails, diners dressed to the nines, and celebrities like Ciara and Madonna dining in.
Even if you’re not obsessed with Britney Spears, the pop icon continues her dramatic, theatrical performances at Planet Hollywood, where everyone ends up having a blast. The performance sets the stage for wild shenanigans later in the night, pumping up gay groups with the infectious high you’ll experience during the show. End the night at Flair, the newest gay nightclub that opened this past New Year’s. While gay venues historically have short lifespans in Vegas, Flair (ten minutes from the Strip) has shown promise with two dance floors, three bars, hot bartenders, a stage, and an expansive outdoor patio. Sure, the name may be cliche, the cocktails steeply priced, and the entrance fee unnecessary, but it’s a gay club in Vegas. Thanks to the intimate dance floors (rather than large spaces, which can make crowds look slim), Flair is already one step ahead, and live DJs prove they can get crowds moving.
If you’re coming from Los Angeles, JetSuite, a private jet company, launched JetsuiteX, a public charter with daily direct flights from Burbank. It feels like you’re taking a private jet (and some resorts pick you up straight from the runway) for a fraction of the private jet price (it starts at $129 one-way on weekdays).
As the southernmost city in the United States, Key West likes being off the radar, yet it’s not completely removed from the world. In fact, here, you would think they perfected life. The low-key pace is perfect during the day, and the nights are as wild as a gay scene gets. With its far-left liberal attitude, Key West doesn’t bat an eye to nudity (there are clothing optional resorts, bars, and even boat charters), embraces gay culture (it’s been thriving here since the 1970s), and beer is comsumed like water (a strong beer culture makes life easy). Every night there’s a party thanks to the iconic sunset party at Mallory Square where hordes of locals and tourists alike congregate and enjoy fun street performances to boot.
Check in at Casa Marina, a Waldorf Astoria Resort that sits on one of the best beaches along the shore. There’s a variety of room types, but the best ones are the suites with patios facing the beach. The 1920 hotel offers a stylish pool, beach bar, and even massages right on the golden sand. They also rent cruiser bikes to all guests, which is the best way to get your bearings of the bite-size city. If you’re feeling adventurous, round the boys up and rent mopeds at The Moped Hospital, a historic scooter rental company that’s been renting out a variety of wheels (including their famous mopeds) since 1979.
For a stay that won’t burn a hole in your wallet, Hyatt Centric Key West recently unveiled a multi-million renovation with 120 guest rooms that all have patios, with the majority touting ocean views. It’s become a hot spot for celebration trips (like birthdays, wedding parties, etc), and it’s already one step ahead with champagne at checkin. The location is ideal, right in Old Town and two blocks from Duval Street, so it may feel like a bohemian flash back with the centuries-old attractions nearby like Audubon House & Tropical Gardens (a stunning, well preserved 19th-century home and garden of famed naturalist John James Audubon), and Curry Mansion, the home of Florida’s first millionaire, William Curry, which displays exquisite antiques and ornate furnishings (though it’s not uncommon to just awe at the exterior).
When the commanding sun sets, make a beeline to Aqua, a legendary venue for drag performances, including the house girls, the Aquanettes, and perhaps one of the most “modern” bars on the island (no thatch roofs here). They even offer karaoke two nights a week if you want to belt your favorite show tunes, as a full bachelor party group of course. It’s called bachelor “party” for a reason, and not one of the boys should be left off the hook, especially the groom-to-be.
Creating lasting memories and sharing experiences before the big day is the priority, and there’s no better bonding experience like a destination bachelor party.
This story was originally published in PassportMagazine.com.
From off-the-menu dining to incognito nightclubs, these are the best-kept secrets of VIP Vegas.
Believe it or not, money can’t buy everything in Las Vegas. Of course, you can always spend big on ritzy suites, high-reserve games, and Michelin meals, but a few secret amenities are available only to a discerning—and high-rolling—few. From off-the-menu dining and incognito nightclubs to a gaming lounge with a $1 million buy-in, these are the eight most exclusive Vegas experiences reserved for very—very—important persons only.
#1: Book an “Unbookable” Suite
Vegas resorts are notoriously secretive about their top suites, keeping invite-only accommodations exclusively for high rollers. Recently, however, a handful of these “unbookable” suites at properties like the Palazzo and the Nobu Hotel Caesars Palace have became available to any traveler who has the currency to reserve them. Among the most impressive is the Palazzo Presidential, which starts at $8,000 per night and features multiple fireplaces, private pools, a home theater, and sprawling terraces. The $25,000-per-night Nobu Villa is another recent public addition, giving regular Joes the VIP treatment with a Zen garden, a traditional onsen bathtub, and a sky deck with unrivaled views of the Strip.
#2: Drop a Million
Have you ever wondered here the high rollers play? As of last June, they’ve all been throwing the dice at the Cosmopolitan of Vegas’s new Reserve lounge, an exclusive gaming salon where the minimum buy-in is $1 million. Guests must be accepted into the Adam D. Tihany–designed space (email firstname.lastname@example.org to try to get in), which has an art-deco-men’s-club vibe with slick wood paneling and a brass bar. Located on the 71st floor, the lounge also offers complimentary cigars and top-shelf spirits like Macallan M and Louis XIII Black Pearl.
#3: Score Entry into a Secret Nightclub
Of Vegas’s many secrets, few are truly well-kept. The Wynn Las Vegas’s Living Room is the rare VIP experience that you cannot buy your way into. Reserved for members and guests only, the incognito lounge, located within the hotel’s new nightclub Intrigue, is accessed via a secret passageway from its Lakeside restaurant. It also offers a guaranteed what-happens-in-Vegas-stays-in-Vegas experience: Photos and smartphone use are strictly prohibited.
#4: Go Off-Menu
Not long ago, Le Cirque executive chef Wilfried Bergerhausen was “dared” by VIP regulars to create the ultimate off-menu dish, a Surf and Turf extravaganza that has evolved into a singularly indulgent dish using every single high-end ingredient in the Michelin-starred restaurant’s kitchen. The centerpiece of this decadent meal is Japanese wagyu steak covered in perigourdine sauce made from truffles, topped with foie gras, and finished with a layer of shaved truffles. Adding surf to that turf is a 2-pound, butter-poached Maine lobster tail topped with caviar and an edible, 24-carat gold leaf. The dish is completed with a deep-fried potato fondant balanced atop a beef bone containing marrow. Of course, the real challenge is actually finishing the $325 dish.
#5: Rule the Runway
High rollers fly private—and they don’t do airport security. That’s why they fly with JetSuite, one of the few charter services that can arrange a private car transfer to collect passengers right on the runways of Vegas’s General Aviation airports. Luggage goes straight from jet to trunk, and travelers never set foot inside the airport. At the Signature Flight private hangar, arriving travelers also have direct access to conference rooms with their own driveways, ensuring total privacy.
#6: Eat Fresh
To be sure, every haute-cuisine menu in Vegus has langoustine on it—but only one promises the freshest of the fresh. Unlike other restaurants that receive frozen shipments of the palatable prawn from Northern Europe, the Wynn’s Costa di Mare receives the delicacy still alive and kicking, thanks to a meticulous air-travel system that transports the crustaceans in tanks (from a secret location, no less), allowing chef Mark LoRusso to ensure the dish is fresher than anywhere else on the Strip. The effort is worth it: Costa di Mare’s langoustine is by far the best in Vegas.
#7: Get Bubbles on Demand
In the Sky Lobby on the 23rd floor of the Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas, is a reason to celebrate: A vending machine there sells splits of Moët & Chandon Imperial Brut or Rosé. Insert a $25 gold coin (available at reception) and an automated arm retrieves your chilled bubbly.
#8: Puff Away
While indoor cigar lounges connected to fine restaurants are a thing of the past in Vegas, you can fire up your hand-rolled Havanas after an elegant meal at Mr. Chow at Caesars Palace or Aureole at Mandalay Bay. Both have outdoor cigar-friendly havens with garden views, where ashtrays can be found alongside a favorite digestif.
This story was originally published in Robb Report.
From Nantucket to Montauk, this is where Hollywood is staying, dining and playing along the Atlantic.
Tulum, Rio De Janeiro and St. Bart’s are popular seasonal getaways for affluent New Yorkers. Come summer, however, they stay closer to home — when tony beach towns thrive. From Nantucket to Montauk, this is where Hollywood is staying, dining and playing along the Atlantic.
With trademark lighthouses, expensive cottages and nautical charm, this New England beach getaway is a perennial favorite for celebrity vacationers. Ben Stiller, whose parents Jerry Stiller and the late Anne Meara had vacationed at their beach house there since the early 1990s, has regularly been spotted. Jerry Stiller also hosted the screenwriters tribute at the Nantucket Film Festival this year from June 21-26. Last July, Kourtney Kardashian stayed at a $50 million vacation house; the island has since flooded with rumors she returned to buy property. Celebrities are checking into Greydon House, a new 20-room property where New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, John Shea (Agent X) and Alex Moffat (Saturday Night Live) have recently stayed and dined at the hotel’s signature restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Marcus Ware.
In the heart of Nantucket, The Nantucket Hotel + Resort, which comprises one- to four-bedroom suites and cottages, has been visited by A-listers Sharon Stone, Harry Connick Jr., Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and, recently, James Franco, who celebrated the Fourth of July there last year, then returned in August to film “Only In America” (a music video with Riff Raff) on Great Point Beach. The Nantucket Hotel recently hired a new chef, Bill Weiss, for its Breeze Restaurant, and debuted a new Front Porch programming with live entertainment on evenings and Supper Club, a weekly event in July and August featuring live entertainment.
The Club Car, a decades-old institution and piano bar, reopened this month with a new design concept and menu (Californian/Mediterranean) with notable island chef Mayumi Hattori from Straight Wharf. Day drinking is essential at Sandbar at the Jetties, which opened in May; it’s a casual restaurant right on the sand with live music daily, a cocktail/wine menu and family-style clambakes, their specialty. The new spot also offers a retail shop and beach equipment rentals. For nightlife, The Proprietors Bar & Table is a stylish, New York Times-approved hot spot that serves innovative, globally inspired and seasonal cocktails and bites.
An hour flight from LaGuardia Airport in NYC, the charming, artsy haven of Cape Cod was John F. Kennedy’s former stomping ground, and it’s still a hot summer vacation spot for celebrities like Meg Ryan and Samuel L. Jackson. A number of new restaurants have opened for summer, including The Chart Room at Crosby’s in Osterville, the newest location for this Catamet haunt (since 1966). The marina-based seafood restaurant is popular for its baked stuffed lobster. Opening this month, The West End is a swank lounge in Hyannis Port with wall murals by notable local artist Tim Ellis Cole, whose work is ubiquitous in Cape Cod. In 2012, Taylor Swift bought a house in Hyannis Port to be close to her then-boyfriend Conor Kennedy (which she sold after the break-up).
Martha’s Vineyard, a small island chockfull of wild beaches, clay cliffs, anchored yachts and Victorian cottages, is a summer stomping ground for former presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Celebrities like Mia Farrow and James Taylor own homes here, and a slew of A-listers regularly visit (like Jake Gyllenhaal, whose parents owned a home in Chilmark). John Belushi is buried here at Abel’s Hill Cemetery, near his former summer home, and Michael J. Fox named his daughter after the charming town Aquinnah. The Christopher, a French Caribbean-styled boutique hotel in a Victorian building, opened last year in Edgartown with 15 rooms. The more private Sydney Hotel, with eight rooms, is in the heart of town and a short stroll to Lighthouse Beach. While only three years old, 20byNine, a stylish, modern craft beer and whiskey bar, has become essential for late-night drinking. Martha’s Vineyard is a 30-minute ferry from Cape Cod.
A four-hour drive from NYC, Montauk in the Hamptons is a magnet for A-listers, known for its boho-chic vibes merging with highbrow sensibility, where visitors take surf lessons, charter yachts and dine at expensive restaurants at night. Celebs such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Jon Hamm and Michael Jordan check into Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Spa, which offers direct access to a 2,000-foot private beach (it’s also the only resort in the U.S. with an indoor, ocean-fed seawater pool). The 146-room resort recently partnered with Ric Pipino, a stylist to the stars, for salon services and expanded their partnership with Wellth Collective, bringing NYC trainers like Alex Kate Knight and Holly Rillinger to instruct weekend classes. Scarpetta, the resort’s signature restaurant, is introducing a summer menu that includes pork belly with charred corn and Long Island duck with fava beans, radishes and spring onions. Thanks to a new partnership with BLADE, travelers can now hop on a private seaplane from Gurney’s Montauk to Gurney’s newest private-island property, Gurney’s Newport in Newport, R.I.
This story was originally published in The Hollywood Reporter.
Nobu Ryokan Malibu opens next to celebrity-magnet Nobu Malibu.
With Los Angeles’ recent explosive growth (dining renaissance, major expansion at LAX, Hollywood filming here again), it’s crystal clear the City of Angels is experiencing a significant tourism boom (for those who like to crunch numbers, tourism steadily increased from 45.6 million in 2015 to 47.3 million in 2016, courtesy of Discover Los Angeles). The hotel landscape is radically expanding, and almost a dozen hotels will open in 2017. While new hotels have been buzzing as essential staycation spots — Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills and Dream Hollywood — these five recently debuted or soon-to-open hotels will quickly become perennial favorites for the film industry.
Adding to DTLA’s development boom (42 projects of at least 50,000 square feet since 2010), Hotel Figueroa is finally pushing forward for a reopen this summer with a multimillion-dollar investment (initial commencement began November 2015). Renovated to its former glory, the hotel’s well-preserved original Spanish Colonial design is visually commanding for the building dating back to 1926 (originally a women’s YMCA). A member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the 268-room hotel (with 68 suites) will offer two dining venues helmed by James Beard Award nominated Casey Lane and four bars, including Bar Alta, a 28-seat, reservation and hotel-guest only bartender’s table with cocktails designed by Dushan Zaric (from NYC’s Employees Only). Guests can expect an innovative, science-based sleep program and an outdoor, ground-level pool surrounded by cactus, eucalyptus and fig trees in a self-contained oasis. A secret room on the top floor has hosted under-the-radar parties for celebrities like Lady Gaga and Prince. Rooms from $309.
The James Hotel
The James is West Hollywood’s first hotel to be built ground-up in 30 years, and it’s The Denihan Hospitality Group’s first West Coast property. Right on the corner of Sunset and La Cienega, The James West Hollywood will have 286 rooms (split between two towers with a penthouse in each tower designed by L.A. native Lawson Fenning) in a new residence/gallery/shopping mixed-use complex, with higher floors flaunting panoramic views of the Hollywood Hills and L.A. basin. There will be two notable restaurants: Fi’lia (by James Beard Award winning chef Michael Schwartz, who helms Cavatina at Sunset Marquis Hotel) and Farmspoke (a farm-to-table spot by Top Chef fan-favorite Chris Crary). Additionally, guests can expect a buzzing rooftop bar, 10,000 square feet of meeting space and commissioned art like Janet Echelman’s large-scale Dream Catcher flanked by the towers. The hotel is slated to open end of May. Rooms from $399.
Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown
The new direction of IHG’s millennial-centric brand Hotel Indigo is becoming competitive with Starwood’s W. Now open, the 18-story, 350-room urban retreat features Metropole Bar + Kitchen (run by Kevin Harry, who has cooked privately for Jay Z and Beyonce, as well as Queen Elizabeth), a 9,100-square-foot outdoor pool, and 18 Social, a speakeasy-style, top-floor lounge harboring views of the DTLA skyline. Design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (Waldorf Astoria Dubai, St. Regis Atlanta, the spa at Mandarin Oriental New York) taps into Hollywood for inspiration, with paparazzi-themed, floor-to-ceiling wall art and meeting spaces conjuring early 1900s pre-Hollywood galas. The hotel’s design narrative — following early 20th century Hollywood and historic Chinatown — is inspired by Anna May Wong, the first Chinese-American movie star. All guestrooms include Jonathan Adler bathroom amenities. Rooms from $270.
Opening April 28, Nobu Ryokan Malibu, next to celebrity-magnet Nobu Malibu, is the first in Nobu Hospitality’s Ryokan Collection, and it’s a joint venture among Larry Ellison, Robert De Niro, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and former Hollywood producer Meir Teper. Perched above the famed Carbon Beach along the PCH and transformed from a 1950s beach motel, the modern, luxe hideaway features Zen-like design inspired by traditional Japanese inns (“ryokan”) that effortlessly blend with the California coastline. The beachfront property will be intimate with only 16 rooms over two stories, all of which provide hand-crafted teak soaking tubs under skylights, outdoor fireplaces with panoramic views and in-room dining with a selection of Nobu’s signature dishes. In addition to an ocean-facing courtyard, outdoor infinity pool, access to Carbon Beach and access to Malibu Racquet Club, guests receive preferential reservations when booking at Nobu Malibu. Rooms average $2,000 a night with a two-night minimum stay.
This story was originally published in The Hollywood Reporter.
You may have visited Mexico’s easy-to-get-to places like Cancun and Cabo, but trek further in (or down) — via boat, car, flammable hoverboard — and you’ll discover a true paradise of virtually undiscovered, enchanting destinations. Sure, they may take more of an effort to reach, but that’s exactly what makes them worthwhile: being off the beaten path has helped these 10 hidden gems preserve their culture and avoid the Coco Bongo crowd. And the best part, you still have time to experience them before the crowds do. If you hurry.
Why you need to go: Now that the surfer beach town of Sayulita in Riviera Nayarit is completely overrun with cruise ship passengers, cool locals are chilling out a half-an-hour north in San Pancho, a quiet beach town that primarily draws yogis and New Age wanderers. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Madre Mountains, this underrated, bohemian getaway with little infrastructure is all about immersing yourself in nature and tapping into your inner hippie.
The one must-do thing: Yoga is the big draw, but check into Punta Monterrey, a rustic, all-inclusive gem deep in the jungle; it rocks its own secluded beach and room rates around an unfathomable $80 per person a night. Villas are perched on the hillside, and organic communal meals are made from scratch with ingredients straight from the garden. A short hike through the jungle takes you to yet another secluded beach where guests soak in natural mineral mud.
Why you need to go: The Yucatan state is having a moment where luxury hotels and spas are opening fast, especially in the capital city of Merida. This charming colonial town dates back to the 16th century and is surprisingly unexplored by tourists, even though there are myriad cultural attractions like crazy-old cathedrals and museums aplenty. Merida is exactly the kind of place where Señor Frog’s and Starbucks like to move in… so get there while it’s still authentic.
The one must-do thing: Immerse yourself in the culture. The Plaza de la Independencia hosts free events on the square almost every night of the week including the Friday “pok ta pok” show that recreates Mayan soccer.
Why you need to go: The most important wine region in Mexico (yes, Mexico has wine!) is crawling with roadtrippers and wine enthusiasts. Just a two-hour drive from the San Diego border, Guadalupe Valley in Baja California has luxury design hotels, top Mexican chefs opening trendy restaurants, and, naturally, excellent vineyards in which to frolic. Or, taste wine. It’s one of the most scenic, rural spots in Mexico with valleys unfurling for miles under vast blue sky.
The one must-do thing: While wine tasting is obvious, you’ll absolutely want to try some of the region’s best restaurants.The al fresco Finca Altozano, helmed by popular chef Javier Plascencia, serves up seasonal, traditional Mexican dishes. Laja, touted as the best restaurant in Baja California, dishes out an excellent, farm-fresh tasting menu. And La Villa del Valle, an intimate six-room hotel, features a cool taco truck.
Why you need to go: Isla Mujeres is only eight miles from Cancun via boat, but it feels half-a-world away. The former fishing village is a far cry from Cancun’s high-rise-lined beach and tequila-raging spring breakers, and it’s super old school (locals get around by foot or golf cart) with some of the best beaches in the Yucatan. Feeling completely removed on this hedonistic island has long attracted jet-setting honeymooners, but there’s more to rose petals romancing your beachfront dinner. Unique attractions — like an underwater sculpture museum and archeological sites — make it a solid adventure.
The one must-do thing: Isla Mujeres is one of the few places in the world you can swim with whale sharks. Guests can plunge deep in the ocean and swim neck to neck with these peaceful (and, thankfully, vegetarian) creatures the size of school buses.
Why you need to go: Even more remote than Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox has a tiny footprint and tons of native wildlife. Travelers get excited by the sheer nakedness of the island. Even on a 20-mile-long stretch, there’s virtually nothing here — which is why birders, kite surfers, and beach bums rejoice. The best part? You feel like you have the entire island to yourself.
The one must-do thing: Holbox is located within the country’s largest ecological reserve, Yum Balam, so exploring the island on a water taxi or kayak gets you up close to colorful reefs, lagoons, and even pink dolphins and flamingos.
San Miguel de Allende
Why you need to go: No longer Mexico’s best-kept secret (there are two luxury hotels and a restaurant from Mexico’s most famous chef, Enrique Olvera), San Miguel de Allende is still an off-the-beaten-path destination pandering to art and history lovers. The UNESCO World Heritage city is like a painting itself: it’s chockablock with centuries-old, colorful buildings, historic cobblestone streets, and colonial charm, all of which make nerdy Instagrammers go apeshit.
The one must-do thing: Walk. It’s the only way to truly explore the well-preserved, 500-year-old city. Almost everything centers around the main square, and the labyrinth of streets is a time warp worth the footwork.
Why you need to go: A boon for in-the-know surfers, Todos Santos, an hour drive from Los Cabos up the Baja Peninsula, is a hippie-stamped surfing paradise known for great waves and a swelling artist community. Mexico’s next-generation Frida Kahlos have moved in and opened low-key, creative art galleries, and most of the sprawling beaches here are swimmable (unlike Los Cabos).
The one must-do thing: Break out the board and hit the waves at Cerritos, the most popular surf spot. San Pedrito can hold some big swells too.
Why you need to go: When people travel to Puerto Vallarta, they hardly leave Los Muertos Beach. But better beach-bumming is just down the coast. Hop in a water taxi or private boat for a 45-minute ride to this sliver of crowd-free, retro beach nirvana that hasn’t been touched since the ’60s. In Yelapa, there’s only a handful of thatched-roof restaurants, beach bars serving cheap drinks, and a sprawling white sand beach that has a lounge chair with your name on it.
The one must-do thing: The point of Yelapa is to do nothing at all. Crack open a Pacifico at Angelina’s bar and sway in a hammock under leafy palms.
San Luis Potosi
Why you need to go: While San Luis Potosi is way off radar (about a two-hour drive from San Miguel del Allende), the road trip is worth every drop of gas. The small region is home to some of Mexico’s most intriguing (and relatively unvisited) sites, including Real de Catorce, a trippy ghost town with centuries-old ruined buildings and cobblestone streets that literally lead to nowhere. Sure, it’s more like a dystopian paradise, but outside Real de Catorce, whitewater rafting and incredible waterfalls seduce the outdoor enthusiast.
The one must-do thing: Get your base jump on at the Cave of Swallows… or just admire it from its rim. It’s the largest known cave shaft in the world, so huge that the Chrysler Building fits inside.
Why you need to go: Las Pozas is English artist Edward James’ vision of the Garden of Eden, and it’s trippy as f*ck. The 80-acre, surreal “park” teeming with waterfalls, pools, and unusual, massive concrete sculptures feels like a movie set — or a long-lost abandoned civilization for fairies, elves, and mythical creatures. It’s a dream setting for peyote-slugging backpackers, and the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere (for reference, it’s a four-hour drive from San Luis Potosi) makes it bona-fide Eden.
The one must-do thing: It’s an all-day trip (get it?) so wear comfortable walking shoes.
This article was published on Thrillist. Feature photo of San Miguel De Allende by Kobby Dagan / Shutterstock.com.
From Tribeca to SXSW to Sundance, here are the best outdoor workout options in each host city.
Film festivals can be exhausting considering that in addition to the films themselves, they are crammed with social activities, after-hours nightlife, and a range of conferences, lectures, and presentations. “Everything about film festivals is excess,” says Marti Hines, film producer and co-founder of Wanderluxxe, a luxury travel curator that provides high-end, all-access experiences to major film festivals, with celebrity clients like Jamie King and Jonathan Keltz. “It’s not considered a festival event if there isn’t a full buffet and open bar. Your waistline will pay the price if you don’t find the time to get in a few workouts.” Wanderluxxe clients are naturally fitness-minded and health-conscious, and they constantly request fitness activities, like private yoga instructors and snowboarding excursions. The company will also customize running routes for clients upon request.
But even if you’re traveling on your own, many film festivals conveniently take place in cities known for outdoor activities, where you can get active while exploring the destination’s best highlights (à la Adrien Grenier skiing Park City’s famed slopes). Here are five film festivals where should squeeze time for each city’s most popular outdoor activities.
Run it out at Tribeca Film Festival
April 2017 in New York, New York
Thousands arrive the last week of April for the Tribeca Film Festival which encompasses major events, screenings, and plenty of social soirees. The most practical way to get a workout while exploring the city is by lacing up your running shoes and taking to the streets. From Tribeca, you can run along the West Side Highway’s running path, or make rounds north to Washington Square Park (approximately a two-mile loop) or south to Battery Park (approximately a three-mile loop). Hines also recommends rowing on the Hudson River near Laight street.
Hike the Hollywood Hills at the LA Film Festival
June 2017 in Los Angeles, California
From famed Runyon Canyon (with a three-mile loop) in Hollywood to the 5-mile trail at Malibu Creek State Park, hiking in the City of Angels is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts. A rite of passage for many visitors is the hike on Hollyridge Trail: to the iconic Hollywood sign from Beachwood Canyon (to the summit of Mount Lee behind the sign in Griffith Park, which is a 3.5-mile hike). Discover Los Angeles is a great resource for other popular hiking spots.
Head to the Water at Toronto Film Festival
September 2017 in Toronto, Canada
In the past few years, Toronto had a major growth spurt with a handful of luxury hotels openings (Shangri-La, Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton) and the movie industry exploding (it’s now the third largest movie production city in the world). The result: Toronto Film Festival slid in as one of the most popular film festivals in North America. While Toronto is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Canada, not many people know that there are beautiful, sprawling beaches, many that are just 15 minutes from the city center. Along Lake Ontario, the beaches offer visitors a place to swim (since the festival is held in September, the weather will still be nice). You can also arrange kayaking and windsurfing.
Shred Snow at Sundance Film Festival
January 2018 in Park City, Utah
If you’re heading to Sundance, make sure you schedule in time for the slopes. The world was introduced to Park City’s excellent skiing and snowboarding during the 2002 Winter Olympics, and the slopes haven’t changed since. Deer Valley offers 2,000 acres of skiable terrain (exclusively for skiing), and Park City Mountain Resort is more family-friendly with many ski runs designed and designated for kids. Canyons Resort is the largest ski resort in Utah with 4,000 skiable acres (that are also snowboard-friendly). “You can also hike the underground caves of the hot springs, take advantage of different pop-up fitness studios at the festival, and hop into a free yoga class at The Shop,” says Hines.
Pop a Wheelie at SXSW
March 2018 in Austin, Texas
Known for its left-leaning culture, beer bars, rock bands and cowboy boots, Austin is also an excellent place for outdoor adventures since it’s surrounded by hill country. Visitors can hike mountain summits, paddleboard at several lakes and run the trails around Lady Bird Lake. Austin is extremely bike-friendly, and Social Cycling Austin offers a series of free, weekly social rides for any type of rider. Groups have included up to 500 attendees, and themes include “The Yoga Ride” and all-female “The Bikin’ Betties” to its most popular, “The Thursday Night Social Ride.” It’s BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike) but, luckily, Austin has an extensive bikeshare program and rental shops.
This article was published by Furthermore by Equinox.
From LA to Louisiana, these soon-to-be hot spots are worth traveling to.
A SIGNIFICANT RESTAURANT usually opens with a bang, often with model-type staff, weeks-deep reservations and an absurd amount of hype. But some equally distinguished dining spots sneak through the back door of the culinary world, flying under the radar to avoid fame yet still a magnet to well deserved fanfare. With laid-back atmospheres and simply great food, these 15 restaurants cut the fat on the frills for truly chilled-out—and tasty—dining experiences that locals like to keep on the DL.
West Hollywood, California
There’s no shortage of packed, scenester-approved restaurants on famed Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, but Wolf bares its fangs as the spotlight. The laid-back dining den was opened quietly and without a red-carpet broadcast, which is unusual for a Top Chef alum. Marcel Vigneron avoided the glitz and glam to embrace a neighborhood feel (he lives nearby) and focuses on simplicity in natural decor and seasonal, New American cuisine. The open-concept entrance makes up for the lack of patio that many Melrose restaurants tout, making a sun-drenched brunch the best time to visit. The Golden Eggs with turmeric and Chai french toast are the stand-outs, and Marcel just introduced his (in)famous, 10K burger he created on Top Chef Duels. His soufflé (made with a special technique he learned while working with Joel Robuchon at The Mansion in the MGM Grand Las Vegas) has become a magnet for the sweet-tooth set.
New Orleans, Louisiana
Caribbean Room is a great example of how fine dining can be laid-back—without being stuffy. Inside the recently reopened Pontchartrain Hotel (where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire and other notables like Truman Capote knocked back cocktails), Caribbean Room is old-school meets contemporary cool, complete with Martinique banana-leaf carpeting, white furniture and dapper young waitstaff. It’s a true time warp. Sure, men must wear a dinner jacket, but it’s a way to pay tribute to the restaurant’s storied past as one of New Orleans’ front-running, fine-dining establishments. If you come ill-prepared, it’s all good. You’re provided a stylish Billy Reid jacket to wear while you dine. The dishes, helmed by local chef hero John Besh, honor the restaurant’s almost 100-year-old staples—like shrimp saki, trout veronique and rabbit and dumplings—with modern techniques.
The Barn Kitchen
Palm Springs, California
Sparrows Lodge is a far cry from Palm Springs’ mostly midcentury-modern themed resorts in that it feels like a stylish, rustic barn with a dash of desert-cool sensibilities. It’s likely why famed chef Thomas Keller (who spearheaded a culinary movement with The French Laundry in pastoral Napa Valley) quietly invested in the property. The intimate hideaway recently opened outdoor The Barn Kitchen with family-style, bench seating for casual, al fresco dinners under a trellis. The rustic-inspired menu features many ingredients plucked from the very own garden in which you dine. Chef Gabriel Woo (who has spent time in the kitchens of Ad Hoc and The French Laundry) keeps the vibe intimate, buttoned down and farm-fresh focused.
Las Vegas, Nevada
There’s nary a place on the Vegas Strip where diners feel like they’re at their cool uncle’s fun crash pad with corn hole, board games, foosball and tons of great brew. But Beerhaus is a non-hole-in-the-wall, freestanding (not attached to a resort) establishment that’s as laid back as said uncle, serving up local suds with gourmet nosh like hormone-free meats (spit-road pork sandwich, brats and dogs) and locally sourced produce. Geeks Who Drink trivia nights somehow trumps happy hour, and beer ‘vigilantes” crack open a firkin (cask ale) on Fridays. Beerhaus is in the strip’s first contained “park,” so the pedestrian crowds are at bay.
A bar just isn’t enough, especially in Nashville, a city famous for its crowd-pleasing food scene. The guys behind popular spots like Catbird Seat, Pinewood Social and The Patterson House recently opened uber-casual Bastion—a cocktail bar in the emerging, artsy Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood—but missing was the excellent grub the restaurants are known for. Thankfully, Bastion met the demand of ravenous foodie-barflies by opening a tiny, 24-seat restaurant entered via the bar’s back door. There’s only three tables and 10 counter seats, and the seasonal menu features minimal wording selections (carrot + rye, ham + friends, pork + fruit) to encourage staff/diner dialogue.
Clay Oven Pizza
For some time, Clay Oven Pizza didn’t have a phone number, website or physical address (it’s located just after Mile Marker 31). In Maui’s underdeveloped, retro town of Hana, Clay Oven Pizza (which isn’t really it’s name but more apt than ‘that pizza place in the middle of nowhere’) uses outdoor, clay wood-fire burning ovens to create Hawaii’s best pies by ex-pat hippies, beatniks, and wanderers who work as volunteers in exchange for housing at Hana Farms. On that note, all ingredients are plucked from their farm, so toppings are as fresh as it gets in tropical paradise, in addition to perfectly charred, doughy crust and BYOB happiness. COP is only open on weekends, and diners (mostly locals) spread out in the rain forest on picnic tables for what feels like a pizza version of a luau. The spot is open late, so pizza lovers can get their stargaze fix in the middle of nowhere.
With a sprawling front yard with communal tables and lawn games (corn hole, badminton, etc) as well as an outdoor fire pit, the only thing Josephine House is missing is the picnic blanket. This casual spot (sister restaurant to fine-dining Jeffrey’s) in the low-key Clarksville neighborhood is set inside a charming cottage that has an intimate vibe though all the action is rightfully outside (Niman Ranch steaks are grilled over the outdoor fire pit on Mondays). In the tradition of outdoor grilling, no one leaves hungry. Hearty dishes like the Hot Smoked Niman Ranch Pork Chop with peach mostarda and sautéed sweet corn is a dream for meat lovers, while the Josephine Rice Bowl with poached farm egg, heirloom rice and roasted veggies is the fan-fave filler.
Gallery Bar & Bistro
With the popularity and allure of Barndiva (where celebs like Seth Rogen host private events), the restaurant’s recently opened sister property literally next door has largely flown under the radar though it’s become a magnet for stylish guests who like quiet stimulation. The oversized, barn-like venue is an art gallery, restaurant, lounge and bar all-in-one with vaulted ceilings, modern paintings adorning the walls, art pieces hanging from the ceiling and antiques galore. The farm-fresh French bistro-inspired menu has all the fixings to hit the right spots like Steak Frites with kennebec fries, Wild Alaskan Halibut and the heavyweight Gallery Burger with house-ground filet mignon on toasted brioche, all thanks to executive chef and marathoner Ryan Fancher, who pulled the brakes on fine dining (he cooked with Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and Per Se) to deliver a more casual, yet still elevated, dining experience.
Brooklyn, New York
Among the hipster hotspots teeming in Williamsburg, Lilia takes a highbrow approach to casual dining. The corner restaurant (a former auto body shop) is flooded with natural light during the day with an ambience that feels more Scandinavian cool than Brooklyn grit (thanks to bleached woods, large windows and high ceilings). Executive chef and owner Missy Robbins’ Italian fare features housemade pastas and seafood that are on the lighter side, which seems to match the chilled out, bright-and-airy and uncramped dining space. This perfect date spot just received three stars from the NY Times, so make a reservation now before the rest of the foodie-verse does. lilianewyork.com
Hailed for spearheading the craft cocktail movement in Atlanta, Greg Best teamed up with other notable mixologists to open bi-level Ticonderoga Club at Krog Street Market, an unassuming restaurant/bar tucked far in the back of the building. While the watering hole has an effortless knack for engaging design (the space feels like a Buford Highway honky tonk bar meets a West Village tavern), the creative food menu is the surprise, star attraction thanks to chef David Bies (who worked with famed Linton Hopkins). There’s a variety of international and regional influence in the menu (from Asia to New England), with a dry-aged roasted duck (Peking style) and a 48-ounce chuck wagon that are fit for gourmands. As ambitious as the entrees are, you can also order casual bites like salads, ceviche and sandwiches.
Los Angeles, California
The stomping ground for LA’s creative/artsy/hipster set, Silverlake is more about coffee shops and dingy bars than a notable dining scene. But Sawyer, helmed by executive chef Alex McWilliams who has worked with star chefs like Jose Andres and Tom Colicchio, is the go-to for elevated dining in a clean and stylish space with high ceilings, brick wall and intimate outdoor patio with fireplace. The design seamlessly fits the neighborhood’s low-key, informal vibe (mismatched plating, waitstaff in local designer Buck Mason shirts) with an eclectic menu to boot (from chicken and waffles to soft-shell crab sandwiches). In line with LA’s juice craze, diners pop by the connecting Clover for a cold-press juice they spike for brunch.
Coconut Grove, Florida
From the pop-arty restaurant design to the innovative food served, it’s obvious veteran restaurant owner Matt “Kush” Kuscher put a lot of heart into The Spillover being unique. A vintage bike is the host stand, a chain-link fence ceiling adds to the busy visuals and classic seafood/southern fare is given an atypical, yet refreshing, spin. Staples like BBQ gator ribs, jambalaya with local grouper, gulf shrimp mac and cheese and a lobster reuben come as fresh as they can catch them, all perfectly washed down with the cider and mead bar (the only one of its kind on the east coast). Considering The Spillover is just outside downtown, it’s a chilled-out haven most locals (and foodies on a mission) can casually kick back at without the South Beach crowds.
Byrd & Barrel
St Louis, Missouri
In St. Louis, it’s all about blues, brews, and barbecue, but fried chicken has clucked its way into the city’s dining scene with authority. (Nope, this one isn’t going to help you toward your six-pack goals, but talk about a cheat day meal!) Plenty of new restaurants have created their versions of the southern classic, but no one fires up the skillet like Byrd & Barrel. Here, diners can finger lick innovative menu items like buttermilk-brined nuggets, confit chicken thighs with gnudi, fried chicken po boys and a spicy fried chicken sandwich with hot pepper jelly and red hot riplets. The laid-back, hipster hot spot incidentally occupies the space of a former Popeyes (that still has outdoor bench seating and a drive-thru), proving fried chicken was this restaurant’s destiny.
No D.C. restaurant is as chill as Freddy’s BBQ joint on House of Cards but Slim’s Diner is second best. Owner Paul Ruppert, designer Nick Pimentel and chef Chris Beasley transformed an 1890s building into a welcoming diner space most visitors will find nostagifying (Paul visited more than 40 diners along the east coast to make sure he got the ambience and design just right). The retro-inspired diner—with cherry-red vinyl booths and bar stools and original terrazzo flooring—serves all day breakfast and classic diner dishes at classic diner prices. Expect straightforward breakfast sandwiches, salads, burgers, milkshakes, apple pies and housemade biscuits. Slim’s Diner is in the gentrifying Petworth area— which still has a strong neighborhood feel—and truly embraces the all-American, traditional diner with little embellishments and just good food served 7 am to midnight.
We love a food truck-turned-brick and mortar success story, and Middle Fork Kitchen Bar became a reality for food lovers in Lexington. Executive chef Mark Jensen, who has no training with esteemed chefs or culinary institutes, won over the community (who funded Middle Fork through a Kickstarter campaign) with creative spins on Southern comfort food like curried lentils topped with goetta (a Northern Kentucy breakfast sausage) and beef brisket crudo. The restaurant is inside the new Pepper Campus, a formerly dilapidated area (dormant since the 1950s) that’s transforming into a new arts and entertainment district. Once Pepper Campus is fully complete (it’s still in progress), it’s going to be a major attraction for visitors, and Middle Fork will get even more attention for its innovative plates. Can we expect food truck-turned-brick and mortar-turned-restaurant chain?
This article was first published by Men’s Fitness. Feature photo courtesy of Lilia.
From voluntourism to incredible apps to insider tricks—get ready to book your next adventure for way less than you think.
DEPENDING ON YOUR jetsetter status, traveling can leave variously sized holes in your wallet. After all, those five-star suites and private jet rides worth experiencing—and Instabragging about—can add up. Thankfully, once-in-a-lifetime journeys don’t have to cost an arm, a leg, and your soul. With today’s competitive travel landscape, hotel rates are dropping, scores of flight deals are up for grabs and celebrity chefs are opening fast-casual spots where you can get a decent meal for the price of a bus ticket. Even better? Plenty of amazing travel hacks ensure things get even cheaper from there. Here’s how to have an affordable, unforgettable vacation no matter what your paycheck.
1. Have flexible dates for super cheap flights
Ignore “travel experts” who swear yielding the cheapest fares means flying on a specific day, searching alternate routes, comparing search engines, booking months early, etc. No one has time for this sort of headache, and scouring hundreds of sites is stressful. While general rules do apply (it’s cheaper to fly over a Saturday night), the truth to cheap flights is being flexible. Leaving at 6 a.m. will garner cheaper fares than peak hours. Flying back on a Tuesday will be notably cheaper than Sunday. One of the best places to check fares is Google.com/flights, which posts fares in real time on every day of the month, so you can see every low fare for your route on their monthly calendar (with cheapest fares highlighted). Also, let the cheap fares come to you. Sign up for mailing lists and fare alerts from airlines and websites (like AirfareWatchDog.com), which announces not only the cheapest fares for routes you desire but also last-minute fare sales you’d never find published. Lastly, sign up on Twitter. Travel companies like TravelZoo and ThePointsGuy often Tweet ridiculous, unheard-of fares (like LAX and NYC to Hong Kong from $516 round-trip economy).
2. Use Your Frequent-Flier Miles NOW
With updated frequent-flier programs and airlines merging, miles lose value every year. There’s no sense in stockpiling frequent-flier miles as airlines are only increasing the number of miles it takes to get from Point A to Point B (i.e. American Airlines’ new mileage program update now requires 32,500 one-way miles to fly to Asia, when it was only 25,000 last year; first class went from 62,500 to now 80,000). Don’t have enough miles to get to Asia? Many airlines offer short-haul redemptions. Delta offers 5,000-mile awards on select routes, and American Airlines offers nonstop economy flights on routes less than 500 miles for 7,500 miles. To maximize your miles, it’s always best to earn them with one alliance (Skyteam, OneWorld, Star Alliance).
3. Make Money While You Travel
Vacation rental sites like Airbnb.com and Homeaway.com allow travelers to stay affordably in other people’s homes while they’re away. While it’s a means to travel on the cheap, renting your own home can prove lucrative while you’re on vacation (and can most certainly cover the price of your flight). If you have a car, drop it off at the airport where many services rent it out while you’re away, like Turo and Flightcar. Both offer $1 million insurance coverage for your car if it’s rented, Not only do you save on airport parking, you can rack up to $450 a month depending how long you’re gone. Going on a road trip? Roadie delivery app pays drivers in their own vehicles to courier packages across the United States. You can accumulate cash based on distance and product being delivered, and that cash can fund gas money and souvenirs for your memorable, cross-country road trip.
4. Check into a Hostel (No, Really)
Remember the Let’s Go Europe days when hostels offered dingy bunk beds in shady buildings? Times have thankfully changed for independent, budget travelers. Hostels the world over have been bit by the millennial bug, and they’re feeling more like boutique hotels with better facilities, a wealth of amenities (like swimming pools, bars and farm-to-table restaurants) and, best of all, most have doubled their private room inventories. Generator Hostels leads the European movement, with well appointed properties in trendy neighborhoods among top cities like Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Dublin, and Amsterdam. Private rooms average $100. Another example, The Wayfarer in Santa Barbara, made headlines when it opened last year. The 31-room hostel features fully equipped communal kitchen, outdoor heated swimming pool (yes, heated), on-site laundry, complimentary breakfast, free WIFI, and parking. Private rooms are only $159 a night (or a bunk starts at $60). In Breckenridge, Colorado, guests can stay at The Bivvi, a 10-room eco-hotel with custom-made bunk beds made from Norwegian pine. A stay includes hot breakfasts, menu of craft beers, free wifi, 10-person hot tub, and myriad outdoor adventures for $49 per person a night (private room starts at $189).
5. Staycation Like a Pro
A staycation—a vacation spent on your own turf rather than getting on a plane, train or automobile—has been popular since the great recession of 2008, but it’s now become like a true travel art form. Many cities offer deep discounts for locals and even free activities and incentives to stay wheels down (like Las Vegas residents, who are treated more VIP than tourists when they show their IDs at bars, nightclubs, restaurants and more). Travelers can turn their own cities into an adventure by visiting their local tourism/CVB websites, which offers calendars for free events, discounts to museums and attractions and many more offerings to sweeten the deal—just for being a local. For instance, in Los Angeles, Angelenos often download car-free guides courtesy of LA Tourism to discover art walks, shops, and cool attractions all without spending a penny and seeing LA a way they haven’t before. Best of all? Hotels love when local residents are curious enough to book a room and are often treated with upgrades, free drinks and more just for choosing the local hotel rather than using their money to travel far.
6. Try Voluntourism
The most selfless way to see the world on the cheap is by giving back. Voluntourism (volunteer + tourism) allows travelers to help locals in some far-flung places by teaching English as a second language, building schools, and other altruistic means of community building. In return, many companies like Projects Abroad compensate with free housing, often food and flights. While it’s not for everyone (voluntourim isn’t a vacation, per se, and it requires humility), more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists help around the world and truly immerse in their appointed destination’s culture and lifestyle. Check out some great options here.
7. Let Someone Else Do All the Work for You
Despite the old-school nature of travel agents, they’re not obsolete. In fact, they’re going through a digital revolution where customers can get on-demand travel-agent service for practically free. A good example is Tripscope, a free app where well experienced travel agents curate your entire trip via app based on your preferences. Even if you want to spend $20 a day TOPS on great meals and tours, they can make that happen (travel agents are the magicians of the travel world and, thanks to their relationships, they can also get free hotel upgrades, best tables in a restaurant, steep discounts, free entrances, and more). For every booked trip on Tripscope, you only pay $25, but it can ultimately save you thousands. Another app, Hyper, connects you with real concierge (though not award-winning travel agents), and they curate your entire trip based on what you desire (cheap, yet good, food, inexpensive museums, long hikes, cheapest flight, etc), so you can get the best of your trip on the budget you want. The app services are free.
This article was first published by Men’s Fitness.
These steamy itineraries let you enjoy the heat of Mexico.
From frolicking under the sun to painting the town red, activities and attractions are endless and around-the-clock in Mexico. During the days, various beach towns, including Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos are renowned for near-perfect balmy weather, exciting water sports à go-go and endless resort options. Then when the sun goes down south of the border, these hot spots transform into thriving night destinations with celebrated restaurants and glitzy nightclubs.
From the Yucatan to Baja, here’s where to chillax, party on and enjoy Mexico any time day or night…
Located on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, this tony beach area beckons visitors in search of the good life with top chef-helmed restaurants, highbrow happenings and some of the country’s poshest resorts. Day activities range from yachting and surfing to snorkeling and shopping, while the nightlife buzzes at intimate tequila bars and champagne toasts on colorful patios.
Hover above. Flyboarding — the adventurous hybrid of skiing, jet skiing and snowboarding — has invaded Los Cabos. Snap on wakeboard boots that are attached to a watercraft board equipped with water pressure jets. Then you’ll skim above the azure Pacific waters.
Surf’s up. A 30-minute drive north takes surfers to one of the best spots for waves — Cerritos Beach. Here, the waves are beginner friendly and the beach is sublime, but can be crowded since it’s also one of the only swimmable beaches around.
Sunny cocktails. Nightclub chain Nikki Beach is known for its fashion-forward crowd that parties until the wee hours of morning. The sunkissed twist at Nikki Beach in Cabo is that in lieu of a large, dark club, the party takes place outdoors. From afternoon to dusk, enjoy a sundowner in Nikki Beach’s loungey atmosphere under swaying palms right on Medano Beach.
Dig in. The 10-acre farm-slash-beer-garden-slash-restaurant, Flora Farms, serves highbrow organic fare in multi-course dinners. Fans range from George Clooney to superstar chef Thomas Keller, and reservations should be secured at least a month in advance. The beer garden buzzes with local expats and visiting foodies who partake in late-night bites and drinks.
Drink in the view. The rooftop bar at the new boutique Hotel Ganzo flaunts a sexy, all-glass hot tub, a recording studio that lures indie rockers and music aficionados and a terrific drink menu comprised of local beers and craft cocktails. There’s also a rooftop lounge featuring sushi straight from the sea served alongside live bands or a DJ set under the stars.
In the club. There’s no shortage of nightlife options in San Jose Del Cabo though Privé Club reigns supreme with its swank interiors, bottle service, famous DJs and a robust party atmosphere. Arrive early or be victim to the velvet rope line-up.
Where to stay: All 96 rooms and suites at Capella Pedregal come equipped with a private plunge pool, and it’s the only luxury crash pad that’s near all the nightlife action. Enjoy personalized service, a terrific infinity pool and fresh fish at El Farallon restaurant tucked into the cliffs (room rates start at $990 a night and include personal assistant services, a bottle of specially designed Jose Cuervo Platino and more; capellahotels.com).
Cancun has become iconic for its terrific beaches, myriad water activities and luxury shopping. The diversity of visitors ranges wildly from multigenerational families to jetsetting couples that thrive on Cancun’s wealth of amenities. A.M. activities include partying, day-tripping and beach-hopping, while the nightlife offers traditional public fiestas and a dynamic bar scene.
Island adventure. The tiny, picturesque island of Isla Mujeres just eight miles from Cancun offers the perfect sanctuary for a day trip. Not only is snorkeling here a popular attraction thanks to the underwater sculpture museum, but the famed El Garrafon beach is considerably less crowded than those on the mainland.
Swim with sharks. Get up-close and personal with the gentle whale sharks that migrate to the regions from May to September. The vegetarian mammals can grow as large as 60 feet — or about the size of a school bus. Never fear: Those who don’t want to get in the water have the option of staying in the boat and Instagramming from deck.
Afternoon delight. The hip ME Cancun, known for stylish digs and a social atmosphere, is home to the oceanfront Beach Club, which is equipped with several palapas and oversized chairs to accommodate margarita lovers for an afternoon party with a DJ at the decks.
Mix it up. Not necessarily a club, the Xoximilco Cancun is more of a nightlife happening that merges dance with local culture. Guests board a mariachi band-equipped trajinera (canoe) that weaves through an intricate canal system, then arrive at a festive dance party that serves up fresh margaritas.
Haute eats. Unarguably the hottest table in town is at Tempo at the Paradisus Resort. Opened last year by Martin Berasategui — the Spanish chef who’s racked up seven Michelin stars in his home country — the eatery delivers memorable and inventive dishes (like a Basque-style tomato stuffed with baby squid and pork tenderloin).
Where to stay: The 274-room Nizuc Resort & Spa is intimately positioned on a private peninsula that straddles sea and jungle. Nizuc is visually commanding, with tons of glass and sliding walls, minimalist linear design and breezy corridors. There’s a sublime infinity pool overlooking a private beach, six gourmet restaurants, an adults-only infinity pool tucked away in the mangroves and a decadent, Mayan-inspired Espa (room rates start at $475 a night and include butler service; nizuc.com).
On the Pacific coast, the resort town of Puerto Vallarta merges modern-day beach vibes with old-world charm, catering to all types of travelers with miles of oceanfront resorts, authentic eats, charming boutique hotels and cobblestone streets. Spas, beaches and water sports activities are enjoyed during the day while the night rages with parties and taco crawls.
Find your balance. At the Spa at Terra Noble, a hilltop spa tucked into the rainforest of Puerto Vallarta, the treatments are spiritual journeys for those wanting to tap into and balance their chakras. A mainstay of pampering for more than 20 years, it also boasts sprawling, commanding views of picturesque Banderas Bay.
Tour the town. The Zona Romantica in the Old Town district is chockfull of authentic restaurants, local vendors and sidewalk cafés on cobblestone streets. Well preserved, Zona Romantica feels like a centuries-old village that highlights the original flavors of the city. Bring your swimsuit, as ZR is also the location of Puerto Vallarta’s best beach, Playa Los Muertos.
Hit the beach. While the sands of Puerto Vallarta are brimming with visitors year-round, all the cool kids head to Sayulita in Riviera Nayarit. The beach-town hideaway, just 40 minutes north of downtown, has an old-school Mexican vibe with a small church, little central plaza and family-owned shops. Endless taco and margarita shacks line the sand.
Taco night. Visitors in search of authentic eats hop on an evening excursion with Vallarta Food Tours Taco Adventure. The three-hour culinary tour of street food stops at multiple outposts that are safe for travelers and feature some of the city’s best off-the-beaten-path dining options.
Party on. Among the young and hip Vallartans and ex-pats, De Santos is considered the best nightlife option for chill nights. The restaurant transforms into a swank and crowded lounge after hours, and the rooftop bar offers oversized beds for some serious stargazing and kicked-back imbibing.
Where to stay: The 10-room Hacienda San Angel in the heart of downtown Puerto Vallarta is the city’s best-kept secret. Housed within an 18th-century building on a residential, cobblestone street, the hotel encompasses a rustic courtyard embellished with stone fountains and lush gardens. Rooms are stylish and romantic, with centuries-old paintings and antiques. Many offer prime city views (room rates start at $225 a night; haciendasanangel.com).
Mother-daughter travel is among the biggest trends in the family travel niche, according to a 2017 report from Virtuoso, the world’s leading travel agency network specializing in luxury and experiential travel. “Mother-daughter trips tie into the trend of girlfriend getaways—women traveling together,” says Cece Drummond, managing director of designations and experiences at Virtuoso. “It’s likely on the rise because today, women have the money to travel and the social acceptance to do so that wasn’t present decades ago.”
The benefits of traveling with your mother (or daughter) include the obvious—planning and taking a trip together is bonding and enriching for you both—but there’s more: Traveling with your mom could be good for your wellbeing. “Having a strong female role model helps both men and women to have a healthier sense of self and a purpose,” says Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D., a New York City-based clinical psychologist. “Your mother is the perfect person to take time away with so you can get to know who she is as a female who navigates in the world.”
Here, four diverse trip ideas to consider depending on how active the mother-daughter pair happens to be.
A Healing Respite
Sedona, Arizona has been long considered a place for healing (Native Americans pilgrimaged here for ceremonies and spiritual quests), and it’s an ideal getaway for mother-daughter pairs. Among holistic and hedonist adventures (including hikes among the Red Rocks, known to be sacred with strong energy points called vortexes), there are excellent restaurants, boutique shops, and luxury resorts. Stay at Mii Amo, a luxurious, 16-room destination spa with Native American-inspired treatments including pinon body scrubs (featuring the pinon nut for exfoliation) and energy clearing.
Alternatively, venture further east to Kyoto, Japan. Just a couple hours outside of Tokyo by train, the Airbnb survey says it’s one of the hottest cities for 2017. Mothers and daughters can explore the 2,000 temples and shrines including Golden Pavillion (made entirely out of gold leaf) and stay at the new Four Seasons Kyoto, which opened last year.
A Bonding Road Trip
In addition to giving you more freedom to make pit stops or alter your plans, being in a car with your travel companion can foster intimacy. “Many people are more comfortable sitting and talking rather than being out and about,” says Lachmann. In Texas, the famed Austin to Marfa road trip is a favorite of road trippers. Starting in Austin, Texas, known for its great bar and food scene, travelers can head two hours to Fredericksburg, a small town with family-run shops, then hike together at Enchanted Rock, a former spiritual holy ground. Next, arrive at Marfa, famous for its bohemian community and exciting art scene. Stars like Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, and Rock Hudson have stayed at the historic El Paisano Hotel and, one of the main incentives to drive here, travelers can search for the mysterious lights that appear in the sky. The drive is approximately 8 hours.
An Endorphin-Raising Adventure
Getting adventurous with your mom can give you both an endorphin rush which, research shows, increases bonding. “Head farther afield to two of the top adventure destinations,” Drummond recommends. “A safari in South Africa is an unforgettable experience,” she says of the first. The family-owned Lion Sands Private Game Reserve offers four different luxurious lodges with their own unique style and experience. You can even spend a night in a treehouse on the property. Hoping to spot the Big Five, guests participate in twice-daily game drives with expert field guides and trackers, and can also take a walking safari.
The other top destination, Costa Rica, also provides excellent active opportunities for mother-daughter pairs. Monteverde or Arenal are great locations for exhilarating, scenic canopy tours. Other activities include white water rafting, surfing, scuba diving, and hiking. “Nayara Resort, Spa & Gardens, in the shadow of the majestic Arenal Volcano, offers roomy private casitas set within a tropical rainforest,” says Drummond. One note of warning: “Truly take in to consideration what each person’s threshold is so you don’t become overly ambitious,” says Lachmann.
A Mother-Daughter Retreat
“Organized trips take the stress out having to plan every dinner and activity so the two of you can instead focus on bonding,” says Lachmann. “It’s a great idea for people who want support in creating a more comfortable, low-key getaway.” Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, a Mediterranean-style wellness resort two hours from Los Angeles, is a great option, known for its themed mother-daughter programs. They’re hosted by a celebrity and her mom (Shailene Woodley, for instance, has hosted) and are designed to encourage multigenerational bonding through shared experiences, including workouts and hikes, gourmet cuisine and cooking classes, spa treatments, and fireside chats on health topics unique to women. The next event takes place June 11-18, 2017.
This article was first published by Furthermore by Equinox.
Recently debuted properties are engaging in an arms race to attract the likes of Jennifer Lawrence with ultra luxe amenities such as Hotel Indigo Lower East Side’s unobstructed 360-degree views (courtesy of purchased air rights), just in time Hollywood to check in for the Tribeca Film Festival.
The Whitby Hotel (Midtown)
Rooms from $695, presidential suite is $12,000
18 West 56th Street; 212-586-5656; firmdalehotels.com
On Feb. 28, U.K.-based Firmdale Hotels quietly opened The Whitby Hotel in upper midtown, steps from Central Park, Rockefeller Center and MoMA. The eccentric yet intimate property features 86 individually designed rooms with high ceilings, fabric-lined walls and floor-to-ceiling windows; many suites are equipped with rare-in-midtown private terraces. The entire top floor is dedicated to the 12,000-square-foot, two-bedroom presidential suite with two furnished terraces, private elevator and private butler. Co-owner and design director Kit Kemp merged contemporary English decor with engaging modern art by notable visual artists, like Hermione Skye’s rainbow-hued loom woven above the lobby reception desk and Maarten Baas’ “Real Time” grandfather clock. Power meetings take place in the stylish restaurant bar that moonlights as a drawing room with fireplace, and a state-of-the-art, 130-seat screening room utilizes advanced Dolby Atmos technology for premium sound and projection. Wilson, starring Laura Dern and Woody Harrelson, who stayed at the hotel as did Morgan Freeman, recently screened. The Whitby is Firmdale’s second N.Y. location after Crosby Street Hotel in Soho, a sanctuary for such celebrity guests as Kevin Spacey, Ryan Gosling, Heidi Klum and Oliver Stone.
Four Seasons Downtown New York (Tribeca)
Rooms from $599
27 Barclay Street; 646-880-1999; fourseasons.com/newyorkdowntown
Sixteen years in the making, Four Seasons Downtown New York opened last September just steps from the World Trade Center. The Robert A.M. Stern-designed property is set inside the first 24 floors of an 84-story building, and includes 189 contemporary rooms, with 28 suites designed by Yabu Pushelberg. The highlight is the spa with its 75-foot indoor heated lap pool, the largest luxury hotel pool in Manhattan, and a treatment menu featuring high-end Dr. Burgener Switzerland skincare products making their U.S. debut and green-caviar facials starting at $340. Karolina Kurkova, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio have all dined at Cut, Wolfgang Puck’s first Manhattan restaurant.
The Beekman (Financial District)
Rooms from $619
123 Nassau Street; 212-233-2300; thebeekman.com
The Beekman by Thompson Hotels — opened in August in an 1881 landmark building — conjures Gotham’s Gilded Age. The hotel’s nine-story Victorian atrium with pyramidal skylight is an architectural masterpiece, and the 287 rooms with original molding, period chandeliers, bespoke furnishings and Carrara marble-tiled bathrooms were designed by Swedish designer Martin Brudnizki. Its two restaurants helmed by respective luminaries have been well-reviewed: Tom Colicchio’s Fowler & Wells — featuring turn-of-the-century, NYC cuisine like oysters Rockefeller and lobster salad — and Keith McNally’s French brasserie Augustine. Since opening, Daniel Craig and Girls‘ Alex Karpovsky have visited, and the atrium served as the runway for Valentino’s Pre-Fall 2017 show.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge (Brooklyn)
Suites facing the Statue of Liberty from $498
60 Furman Street; 347-696-2500; 1hotels.com
After it’s successful Central Park opening in August 2015, 1 Hotel debuted its Brooklyn location in February. Right on the East River, 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge features unique, Lower Manhattan skyline and Brooklyn Bridge views from all suites, and a 50-seat screening room with full HD-digital projection. The 4,000-square-foot, 10th-floor rooftop pool will open this summer, and the hotel, known for a highbrow commitment to the environment, offers Tesla premium electric vehicles, valet parking for bikes and eco-conscious design. Ethan Hawke, who lives in nearby Boerum Hill, has been spotted taking meetings.
Indigo LES (Lower East Side)
Penthouse from $2,200
171 Ludlow St.; 212-237-1776; hotelindigolowereastside.com
Flanked between Sean MacPherson’s The Ludlow and Sixty LES, Hotel Indigo Lower East Side — the flagship for Intercontinental’s millennial-centric brand — bought the air rights at its prime location on Ludlow and Houston, so it’s the only property with unobstructed, 360-degree views. The 26-story property has become a fixture for young Hollywood luminaries like Zoe Kravitz, Dakota Fanning and Emile Hirsch, who unwind at the indoor-outdoor rooftop bar, Mr. Purple, run by the Gerber Group. It’s also become a magnet for film events, like the official afterparty for T2: Trainspotting with director Danny Boyle, Ewan McGregor, Helena Christensen, Michael Shannon and Rosario Dawson. The duplex penthouse suite crowning the hotel features all floor-to-ceiling windows and three terraces with views of downtown, uptown and the Williamsburg Bridge.
AKA Wall Street
One-bedroom suite starts at $369/night based on a weekly stay
84 William Street; 212-252-9090; stayaka.com
AKA Wall Street, a luxury hotel residence that specializes in long stays, is close to the Tribeca Film Fest action. In a neoclassical building that opened in late June 2016, the property features a rooftop space with outdoor cinema, Technogym fitness center, curated art and Blue Ribbon Federal Grill (by Blue Ribbon Sushi’s Bromberg brothers). Accommodations range from spacious studio suites to penthouses, 132 in all, equipped with custom bedding by Frette, full kitchens and living rooms. Bold-faced names that frequently stay — given the privacy and residential feel — include Jennifer Lawrence, director Lee Daniels and Richard Gere, who screened his 2014 vehicle Time Out of Mind at AKA in Philadelphia and Beverly Hills.
The Williamsburg Hotel (Brooklyn)
Studio rooms from $595; Skyline suite from $795
96 Wythe Ave.; 718-362-8100; thewilliamsburghotel.com
Brooklyn’s luxury hotel boom lures A-listers across the river. Opened in January, the Williamsburg Hotel is an industrial gem designed by Michaelis Boyd Studio, which also helped create Soho House West Hollywood. All 150 rooms are encased in brick, glass and steel with double-height ceilings and suites with outdoor terraces. Ovadia and Sons, a lauded Brooklyn-based design team, designed the staff uniforms. Since opening, Grey’s Anatomy’s Kevin McKidd and iconic Russian punk band Pussy Riot — whose anti-Trump music video went viral last fall — have checked in.
The William Vale (Brooklyn)
Rooms from $349, Garden Vale Residence Penthouse from $6,000
111 N. 12th St.; 718-631-8400; thewilliamvale.com
The William Vale, which opened in September steps from McCarren Park, features 183 suites, all equipped with private balconies, with access to a 60-foot pool, the Andrew Carmellini restaurant Leuca and rooftop bar with skyline views. ABC’s The Bachelor filmed here and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody actor Dylan Sprouse signed a lease in the retail space for his new brewery concept All Wise. The bilevel penthouse includes a private deck with outdoor hot tub facing the Manhattan skyline.
This story was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter on April 17, 2017.
Featured image of The Whitby Hotel (photo courtesy of The Whitby Hotel).