Winter isn't exactly the most popular time to take a trip to Chicago, affectionately known as the Windy City — actually for its political blowhards, but it could also be for those frigid Winter winds. But if you're willing to bundle your family up, braving the elements can be a ton of fun. Plus, during the colder months, you'll find great deals on hotels with prime locations — we're talking less than $100 for a room right on the Mag Mile, a nickname for Michigan Avenue. If shopping little girls' favorite doll store ever, seeing the stars (and dolphins and the city from 1,353 feet up), and ice skating with a view sounds like a trip your family would love, then Chicago is the place for you. Keep clicking to see Chicago's finest kid-friendly spots.
Hong Kong's newest luxury spa might not be so relaxing if you have a fear of heights. The new ESPA just opened in the city's Ritz-Carlton International Commerce Center, the third tallest building in the world. ESPA sits on the 116th and 118th floors, making it the highest spa on Earth.
Don't worry if you're only slightly acrophobic, though. The architects, HBA, gave the space rounded edges and curved walls to create the illusion of insulation and protection from the world below. And in the relaxation room, the custom-designed lounger pods are curtained to create private, safe-feeling cocoons. The treatment we're coveting most? Their 90-minute Lava Shell Treatment ($191 USD), where heated shells, warmed aromatic oils, and deep-tissue-massage strokes will (hopefully) melt away any stress you may be feeling from the hotel's dizzying height.
Although Lake Tahoe is a major destination for Bay Area denizens, I don't find myself there very often. Nonetheless, I'd been closely following the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands, a luxury hotel in North Lake Tahoe that opened late last year after five long years of planning and development.
I was invited to the lodge to check out the brand-new property, and while there, I had the chance to check out Manzanita, San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins's first signature restaurant outside of San Francisco. The restaurant has been open for less than a year, but it's already set the standard for upscale dining in Lake Tahoe.
Although Manzanita's breathtaking view may be its biggest selling point, its rustic California cuisine is a close contender, too. See what's on the menu there when you keep reading.
I know how much you love a good gadget-pimped hotel, which is why I thought I'd share the news about The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, FL getting a total-teched out section of the hotel called the Vue lounge — Vue standing for (virtual user experience). Not your typical hotel gaming room that often features a console and a TV, nope, the Vue lounge boasts Mac stations, iPod docks, a 63-inch LCD TV with a Blu-ray player, a Bang and Olufsen surround sound system, Guitar Hero, Rock Band, a Nintendo Wii, PlayStation, XBox 360 and more. They even host Wii fitness classes and bowling tournaments, which are all complimentary to resort guests. I guess if you've got kids, or are an avid gamer, or even if you want to take some of these games for a test drive, this hotel may be worth looking at.
Short of strapping bell boys, pricey continental breakfasts, and having your bedding turned down each night, now you can experience the Ritz-Carlton every day in the comfort of your own home. The legendary luxury hotel chain has just launched the Shops at Ritz-Carlton, an online shop selling the lavish amenities we praise it for: spa treats, feather down pillows, 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, plush shawl collar bath robes, and hypoallergenic down comforters, including exclusives like the very mattresses you'll find in their executive suites. Honestly, why leave home? They're making it very easy for me to ditch my favorite homes away from home altogether.
Doucette Duvall is the perfect line for Coterie. It's just high end enough to have it's own off site show at the Ritz Carlton, just under-the-radar enough to be carried at the coolest boutiques in New York and have a small, loyal following. We caught up the Doucette Duvall representatives who told us about the label's recent move away from grunge towards a more ladylike aesthetic. 'Grunge' is so over, they explained, telling us that with Fall 08, for each delivery, there will be a dress with matching overcoat. The fall 08 line is very Jackie Kennedy, the kind of heavy 1960's dresses that make you feel like the President's wife, getting drunk on dry martinis and spraying the pool boy with the garden hose. Whether grunge is over is another argument entirely, but Doucette Duvall certainly hit the nail on the head with their glamorous, upscale vibe for fall 08.
For an extravagant weekend away for your entire (furry) family, visit Le Parker Meridian to spend your days roaming the city streets, and your nights tucked away at a swank hotel. This midtown gem features a Feed the Party Animal–room service menu including steak tartare for the carnivores and a minced meat/fruit concoction for the omnivores, a flexible no size, weight, or breed restriction pet policy . . . and is home to Norma’s, the best breakfast-all-day restaurant for you if your pets aren't in the sharing mood with their own snacks.
Much like their dog-run info, NYC provides a comprehensive list of pet-friendly accommodations to choose from. Other standouts include the Ritz-Carlton with Burberry raincoats on loan for the furry fashionistas to North's fave pet-friendly chain, the W, which should stand for their very welcoming dog programs. If you're feeling forlorn for pets back home, or thinking of adding another one to your traveling brood, check out the also pet-happy SoHo Grand where you can even take a goldfish home with you when you leave.
If you're looking for a nice splurge for your foodie, then send them to the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay — 40 minutes south of San Francisco — for their Inside the Kitchen series. The series brings a top chef from the Bay Area and beyond into an intimate classroom environment. Meet and learn from renowned chefs like Traci Des Jardins, Ryan Scott, and Top Chef Season 3 winner Hung Huynh. All classes are demonstration-style cooking classes that include step-by-step instructions, beverage pairings and a recipe booklet to take home. The best part is that their sous-chefs are in the back creating large amounts for the entire class to taste!
Most of the courses are set up as full menus, and the chance to interact so closely with these chefs is phenomenal. The cost of the class is $90 — a portion of the proceeds goes towards Meals On Wheels of San Francisco — but they also have deluxe overnight packages starting at $529. It's definitely a tall cost to juggle —especially once you consider airfare and travel arrangements — but when else will you be able to work so closely with these phenomenal artists?
Classes begin Jan. 6; be sure to check out the full schedule of classes and instructors. In addition to the class, each chef will step into Navio — the restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton currently helmed by Aaron Zimmer — for a one-night-only chef's tasting menu. So if you're not interested in cooking, you could always sit back and eat instead.