Category Archives: Hotels & Resorts

Mansions on Fifth Historic Boutique Hotel in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside Sends You Back to Gilded Age

The jaw-dropping grand Mansion on Fifth, in Pittsburgh’s tony Shadyside neighborhood, home to Carnegie, Frick and other celebrated industrialists and bankers, now a boutique hotel where you get to feel as if you were transported back to the Gilded Age © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

I return to Pittsburgh when I come back to do my second Rails-to-Trails Sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage, a fantastic rail-trail that stretches across Western Pennsylvania, from Cumberland, Md. to Pittsburgh, this time a longer trip, 150 miles, that finishes on the Montour Trail (see stories).

I had been dazzled by Pittsburgh on my first visit a year ago, and the same is true this time. It is no wonder that this city, built on steel and coal, rejuvenated, revitalized, has been named one of America’s most liveable cities. What is best about it is how it retained the best of old and new.

This time, as luck would have it, I choose a historic hotel, Mansions on Fifth, that is in the Shadyside neighborhood, a short walk away from the Carnegie Museums and the Cathedral of Learning, so that my all-too-brief time in this glorious city is spent immersed in the city’s leading cultural attractions that I had not been able to visit a year ago.

Mansions on Fifth in Pittsburgh’s tony Shadyside neighborhood is the sort of place that when you pull up, your jaw drops. And for the brief time that you are here, you feel what it must have been like to be part of Pittsburgh’s upper-crust, the society of industrial titans. You know how historic places being “living history” places because of people? That’s what you feel like when you stay and inhabit these rooms, continuing the life and spirit of these structures that seem to have a life of their own and stories to tell. People come and go, after all, but these structures remain, albeit in the care of stewards who take on the responsibility. (Whenever I travel, I first check out Historic Hotels of America’s site, historichotels.org, to see if there is a member property because the experience is always extraordinary; for my last visit, I stayed at the Omni William Penn Hotel, an iconic property right downtown. Mansions on Fifth used to be an HHA member, prior to being acquired in 2016 by Priory Hospitality Group, Pittsburgh’s premier owner, operator and developer of independent hotels and event spaces. Among its other holdings, Priory Hospitality Group owns and operates the Priory Hotel and Grand Hall at the Priory on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.)

Indeed, Mansions on Fifth puts you right back into Pittsburgh’s history and its story:

“The late 1890’s and early 1900’s were in many ways Pittsburgh’s golden age, measured by prosperity and economic might, if not by a clean environment. Pittsburgh was a financial and industrial powerhouse as well as a center of river and rail transportation. In 1900, Pittsburgh produced more than half of the crucible steel in the nation, and by 1910, it was the eighth most populous city in the country.

“It was also a time where giants of the business world traversed Shadyside’s Fifth Avenue – ‘Millionaire’s Row’ – on a daily basis. Names such as Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Westinghouse and Heinz were among the leading citizens of the day.”

This 20,000 sq. ft. mansion was built in the early 1900s by Willis F. McCook, a prosperous attorney and legal counsel to steel and coke magnate Henry Clay Frick for himself, his wife Mary and their 10 children.

The main house of Mansions on Fifth, built in the early 1900s by Willis F. McCook, a prosperous attorney and legal counsel to steel and coke magnate Henry Clay Frick © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

McCook was most famous for having represented Frick, but he was highly accomplished in his own right, the notes show.”A groundbreaker in modern day corporate law, McCook studied law at Columbia University following his graduation from Yale in 1873. He was also a pioneering athlete, serving as captain of Yale’s first football team and playing in the first intercollegiate football game in the nation. Later in life, he served as president and director of the Pittsburgh Steel Company, and was a partner in the law firm McCook & Jarrett. He died in 1923 at the age of 72.”

Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, which was also home to many of the city’s leading industrialists, innovators and bankers of the city, including George Westinghouse, Frick, Andrew Mellon, Andrew Carnegie and the rest of Pittsburgh’s exceptionally wealthy families of the era.

Here among the leafy green trees on a hilltop, it is easy to imagine how clean and cool the air in comparison to the choking atmosphere of the steel mills that shrouded the city below.

The Amberson House, built for McCook’s daughter, Bessie McCook Reed, next door to the main mansion. She lived in the home from the time of her marriage until her passing in 1966. It is now part of the Mansions on Fifth historic hotel © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

As his mansion was being built, McCook’s daughter Bessie became engaged, so he contracted to build a more modest (but still spacious at 8,000 square feet) home adjacent to his own. The smaller mansion (now the Mansions on Fifth Hotel’s Amberson House) was completed first, and the main house (now called the Fifth Avenue House), was finished in 1906.

The two mansions were designed in the Elizabethan Revivalist and Tudor styles by the architectural firm Carpenter & Crocker, of Pittsburgh’s East End. Many of the firm’s other projects, which range from Florida to Washington state, exist today, including the iconic Trinity Cathedral Parish House in downtown Pittsburgh. The contractor on the McCook estate was Thomas Reilly, who also built the massive and magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral just down Fifth Avenue from the estate. Reilly also worked with Carpenter & Crocker on the Parish House at Trinity Cathedral.

“McCook and his designers and builders spared no expense, using some of the finest craftsmen of the era, including master ironworker Cyril Colnik (fixtures and decorative items), Rudy Brothers Art Glass (leaded and stained glass installations), and Rookwood Ceramic Tile (for the decorative tile around the fireplaces in the houses). The stunning carved wood in the Grand Hall of the Fifth Avenue House was produced by Woolaeger Manufacturing of Milwaukee. The total cost of the project was $300,000 in 1906 ($7.6 million in today’s dollars).

Light streams in to a wood-paneled lobby from stained glass windows on the staircase of the Mansion on Fifth to one of the cozy sitting areas in front of a fireplace © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

After McCook died in, 1923, the family continued to live in the main mansion through the 1930’s. But the Great Depression took its toll and the family was unable to keep current with their property taxes. Seized for sheriff’s sale by the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Department, the mansion was purchased in 1949 by Emil Bonavita, Sr. and his wife Margaret for $28,000. The Bonavitas moved into the mansion with their two children, Emil, Jr. and Charles.

As a way to pay for upkeep for the massive building, the Bonavitas rented out rooms on the upper floors to students at nearby Carnegie Mellon University. Students were thoroughly screened, and many of those attracted to the historic property were studying at CMU’s prominent arts and theater schools. According to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette architecture writer Patricia Lowry, tenants included Albert Brooks, Andy Warhol, Shirley Jones and George Peppard. Margaret, who acted as a house mother to the many students who resided at the home over the years, resided in the McCook mansion until her much mourned death in 2003.

Bessie McCook Reed, for whom the Amberson House was built in 1905, lived in the home from the time of her marriage until her passing in 1966. Three years later, Emil Bonavita, Jr. and his wife Marie acquired the Amberson House and moved in to raise their family of four children. Emil and Marie also assisted in the boarding operations at the larger Fifth Avenue House.

In 2004, the Fifth Avenue House, the main mansion, sustained a horrific fire which caused extensive damage to the upper floors. The building became uninhabitable, and its tenure as a home for students ended. Emil and Marie looked to sell the damaged mansion to a purchaser who would restore it.

Pittsburgh preservationists, husband and wife Mary Del Brady and Richard Pearson, acquired both houses of the former McCook estate from the Bonavitas for $1.5 million. Their idea was to redevelop the property into a boutique hotel and event center. Restoration and repair work, which was extensive given the fire damage, began in January 2010. The Fifth Avenue House, the primary mansion, was completed in early 2011 and opened to the public in March of that year with 13 guest rooms and suites, the grand hall event space, a library, the Oak Room pub, and two private dining rooms. The adjacent Amberson House, with 9 guest rooms and suites, opened in November 2012. Total cost of the project exceeded $8,000,000.

The properties were recognized as an historic landmark by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2012.

New Era for Mansions on Fifth

In late September 2016, Pittsburgh-based boutique hotel owner/operator Priory Hospitality Group acquired the operating assets of the Mansions on Fifth Hotel and assumed operations of the Shadyside property. Owned and operated by the Graf family since 1986, the Priory Hospitality Group’s properties include the award winning Priory Hotel (a Tripadvisor Hall of Fame member), Grand Hall at the Priory event facility (Best Wedding Venue – City Paper 2016; Best of the Knot 2006-2016; Pittsburgh Magazine Best Restaurant 2012 & 13), and Priory Fine Pastries commercial and retail bakery (Runner Up – Pittsburgh Magazine Best Bakery 2012 & 13).

Priory Hospitality Group invested considerably to upgrade the properties and amenities.

The Mansions on Fifth today offers 22 elegant guest rooms (each one different; you feel more like a family guest than an out-of-towner) in the two distinct historic buildings – the main 20,000 sq. ft. Fifth Avenue House and the adjacent 8,000 sq. ft. Amberson House. The Fifth Avenue House also has the hotel’s reception desk, dining room, Oak Room pub, chapel, library and wine cellar.

The Front Desk is staffed 24 hours a day to provide help with directions, restaurant recommendations, check in, , while butlers are available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day to assist.

My room is in the Amberson House, which for your all-too-brief stay makes you feel like you are really at home in a mansion. The Amberson House offers its own cozy and comfortable first floor common areas in addition to guest rooms. It would be perfect for a family or group to take over (indeed, during my stay, there is a large wedding party.)

One of the cozy sitting areas in front of a fireplace at Mansions on Fifth, a Gilded Age mansion converted to a boutique hotel © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

You can appreciate the renovations: each of the elegant guest rooms and suites features a spacious bathroom with glass and ceramic shower enclosures, Gilchrist and Soames organic bath and shower amenities, and soft, thick towels woven with bamboo fibers.

Some guest rooms and suites also feature fireplaces and jetted tubs. The spacious Presidential Suite has two separate bedrooms and baths and nearly 1,000 square feet of living space.

My room at Amberson House makes you feel more like a weekend guest of the McCook family rather than an out-of-towner © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In addition, the Mansions on Fifth Hotel offers a wide variety of amenities and services, including:  complimentary continental breakfast (with a more hearty ala carte breakfast available at an additional cost); complimentary newly upgraded Wireless Internet service; complimentary on premise parking (not a small matter in Pittsburgh); guest computer with WiFi access and printer; Fitness Center and The Oak Room pub, open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily, featuring craft cocktails, fine wines, and a variety of microbrew beers.

The Oak Room pub also is the venue for a variety of weekly events, from wine flights, to whiskey tastings, to live music.

Mansions on Fifth is a delightful venue for weddings (there is one that had just finished when I arrive), family reunions and special events. You can basically take over the two mansion homes.

(I am also intrigued to visit the Priory Group’s historic, 42-room boutique hotel that was once a Benedictine monastery, built in 1888, meticulously restored to modern standards and featuring all the amenities of a large downtown property with the intimacy of a small European hotel, located in Deutschtown on the North Shore, a near walk to the Andy Warhol Museum and downtown Pittsburgh. The Priory Group spent $2.7 million to upgrade the property, adding a new, larger front desk and a cozy pub — the Monks’ Bar – in the original building, a Fitness Center and Business Center, as well as state of the art meeting space in a new wing.)

Mansions on Fifth, 5105 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232, 412-381-5105, 800-465-9550, http://mansionsonfifth.com/.

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.comwww.visitpittsburgh.com.

Next:

Mansions on Fifth Historic Hotel is Steps Away from Pittsburgh’s Top Cultural Attractions

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Strip District Exemplifies City’s Past, Future

Two Nights, One Day in Pittsburgh: Historic Omni William Penn Hotel Connects to City’s Proud Heritage

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s BikeTour on Great Allegheny Passage Highlights Benefits of RailTrails

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn Biketour on Great Allegheny Passage Showcases Forgotten Towns

‘World’s Largest’ Glass Sculpture with Trump Connection is Boon for Dunbar, Pennsylvania

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

On the River Inn Meets Challenge of Woodstock, Vermont’s ‘Quintessential New England’ Reputation

Discovery Bicycle Tours group gathers in On the River Inn’s restaurant/lounge after the Saturday ride © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

 

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Imagine the pressure on innkeepers wanting to build new in the historic village universally known as “Quintessential New England” with its amazing array of stunning architecture from the 1800s, including the classic Woodstock Inn that graces the village center just across from the green; with its covered wood bridges, classic New England white steepled churches and homes that proudly display dates from the 1800s.

Family owned and operated, the On the River Inn succeeds in stellar fashion, seamlessly integrating the charm of a traditional Vermont inn with lovely vintage and traditional touches while embracing the best of modern design and amenities – large open floor plan, high ceilings, full-length windows from which natural light streams in.

An open floor plan links the bar/lounge and restaurant at the On the River Inn, Woodstock, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, it was deservedly named by Conde Nast Traveler in 2015 as one of the Top Hotels to Open and “the place to visit”. The inn is conveniently located two miles from the picture book village of Woodstock on six acres fronting the Ottauquechee River, so you have easy access to lovely shops, galleries, restaurants without the bustle.

The Inn on the River is selected as our hub for the Discovery Bicycle Tours weekend biking trip (see story). This caps an exceptionally designed program – I mean, you’re in Vermont – in Woodstock, no less – but that is not enough to make a fantastic bike trip. I really appreciate this as I take note of how they have structured the itinerary – the choice of roads (this is a shared-road,, not a bike trail experience) and routes that has to be within the realm of do-ability, as well as stunningly scenic (what you imagine Vermont to be), with decent road conditions (I am amazed at the roads that are unpaved dirt and gravel. But the choice of accommodations is what really caps off the whole Vermont experience. (800-257-2226. 802-457-3553, discoverybicycletours.com)

The low-rise inn is laid out so that each room has view of expansive lawn that stretches to the Ottauquechee River; a balcony (or patio) with rocking chairs, firepits and gazebo (just waiting for a wedding).

The low-rise inn sprawls out horizontally yet is intimate. It may well be feng shui but there is such a sense of peacefulness when you walk in, which also reflects the very welcoming staff.

The indoor pool at On the River Inn, Woodstock, Vermont is refreshing after a day of cycling © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It offers a stunning lap-size indoor pool with gorgeous blue and white tiles, kept to a perfect temperature for swimming, with adjacent hot tub, and dry sauna and fitness center. There is also an expansive library; games and entertainment lounge and toddler play room.

Quirky antiques and vintage items create a feeling of whimsy feel at On the River Inn, Woodstock, Vermont © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Quirky Vermont antiques and vintage pieces make you smile with their whimsy when you come upon them in the hallways– an old TV, a telephone, Henke ski boots, US Post Office metal mail box door serve as room #s. The hallways are bathed in natural light that streams through full-length windows – a modern touch –  which also contributes to the feeling of well-being.

The restaurant, bar and spacious lounge with fireplace is laid out in an open-floor plan though the room doesn’t feel large because of intimate sitting areas with plush leather chairs and sofas, that make it feel cozy.

The 506 Bistro serves a seasonal menu emphasizing Vermont specialties like Yankee Pot Roast, a organic burger (outstanding) sourced from a nearby farm, fresh strawberry shortcake with Vermont berries. The menu for our group is very varied so there are fish selections (grilled salmon), pasta, meet selections, vegetarian options (ratatouille) and Caesar salad with ahi tuna.

The antique bar and the furnishings of the “kitchen,” where each morning we help ourselves to a buffet breakfast, just add to the pleasant ambiance.

The inn serves a complimentary country breakfast, has coffee/tea out all day (as well as coffee maker, microwave and refrigerator in the room), free WiFi and parking.

Construction is top quality; the furnishings in neutral brown, beige and white. The bedroom is spacious with a king-sized bed, pull out sofa, lounge chair, flat-screen TV; the bathroom is marble with a warming rack.

On the River Inn’s expansive lawn extends to the river © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

On the River Inn, which is very much a four-season retreat (Killington, Pico, Suicide Six are nearby for winter skiing), is one of several inns owned and operated by a couple  with Vermont roots: Aaren Macksoud is originally from Woodstock; his family owns and operates a maple syrup farm and a Vermont country store). They also own hotels in East Africa (where they live now): Palacina Berlin, Palacina Hotel Nairobi, Baraza Resort and Spa Zanzibar, Breezes Beach Club and Spa Zanzibar, The Palms Zanzibar and Zawadi Hotel Zanzibar. They also own and operate Tour Africa Safaris, a tour company that specialized in safaris to East Africa and Palacina Interiors one of East Africa’s most prestigious and internationally recognized Interior Design Studios and Retail Stores specializing in Hospitality and Restaurant Design. (Now I understand where the lovely design comes from.)

“We work with a set of principles which we firmly believe customers recognize and appreciate: Maintain international hotel standards, incorporate a beautiful design which reflects the destination, create a feeling of home and ensure that the clients understand from the moment they arrive that the property is family owned. The attention to detail, the emphasis on creating a home away from home, warm hospitality and personalized service have always been our guiding principles.”

Besides being so near Woodstock, nearby attractions include the Billings Farm and Museum, Killington, the Longtail Brewery, King Arthurs Flour.

(On the River Inn, 1653 Rt4 West Woodstock Rd., Woodstock Vt., 802-457-5000, reservations@ontheriverwoodstock.com, generalmanager@ontheriverwoodstock.com, www.ontheriverwoodstock.com.)

See also:

Discovery Bicycle Tours’ On the River Weekend in Woodstock, Vermont, Shows How Personalized a Group Tour Can Be

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Tenaya Lodge Provides Luxury Lodging Resort Experience at Gateway to Yosemite National Park

Kids wearing neon-glowing necklaces (as much to keep track of them, along with periodic coyote yells) examine a small seed by flashlight on the nightly walking tour in the forest around Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Eric Leiberman & Sarah Falter

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The description of the Tenaya Lodge nightly Flashlight Hike sounded very tame. A mile-loop in the woods surrounding the resort. Indeed, it is designed for families. But shortly after starting out from the Lodge, flashlights in hand, as the dusk turned to darkness and any light that would have come from the lodge faded as we walked deeper into the forest, we realize this is really an adventure!

Amanda, our guide, introduces herself as a wilderness kid – she grew up in Yosemite National Park, literally next door to the Tenaya Lodge (the Yosemite South Gate is just 2 miles down the road), where her parents both worked, and she has guided horseback riding trips and skiing. Her commentary is absolutely fascinating.

“Trees are like people,” Amanda, the Tenaya Lodge guide leading the Flashlight Tour, tells us, adding a warning about “widow-makers.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the start, she introduces us to ”widow makers” (no joke: the branches that can break off these tall trees and kill), with the moral to the lesson, “Be aware of your surroundings.”

We also learn that trees are like people; that the trees in the forest (Tenaya Lodge is nestled between Yosemite and the Sierra National Forest) have a 600-year life expectancy; that the famous giant sequoias can live 1000 years and as large as they are, they come from a seed the size of a splinter inside a golfball-sized cone that only opens once it has been exposed to fire. The wood is mostly fire resistant and insect repellant and lumbering companies would have cut them down but for pioneering conservationist John Muir who convinced President Theodore Roosevelt to protect Yosemite and turn it into the nation’s first national park.

Native peoples used acorns as a source of food, and turned pine needles into a medicinal tea. She shows us a log that has been “damaged” by a bear pulling out insects (it eats 10,000 insects, or about 5 lbs worth).

We shine our flashlights onto a white thorn bush, where, she says, mule deer hide their young to protect from mountain lion; the babies stay until they hear their mother.

Using flashlights to find our way on the trail, over obstacles, through the forest © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By the light of our flashlights, we cross over a plank over a tiny stream, climb over a fallen tree trunk. At one point Amanda points to a pile of dead wood and warns, “Don’t go into it- rattlesnakes like to play there.” Rattlesnakes, I think to myself??? She shows us where trees have been destroyed by Bark beetle – the tree stops making sap, dries out, and has no protection. “These are ‘one match trees’ – very flammable.”

And she tells us something that we find very helpful when we are out on our own hiking, “moss only grows on the north side of tree.” We feel like we are true outdoorspeople.

Examining tree rings by flashlight for clues as to the history of a tree’s life and the environment, © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Towards the end of the hike, we come to a place where the trees, lifting up to the sky, open up, giving us an expansive view of a billion stars. A boy exclaims, “I’ve never seen the sky like this.”

Amanda says that when we see the stars, we are seeing deep into the past – it takes 1000 years for light to come to earth; sunlight is 8 minutes behind. “The Indians felt that sky was blanket over earth, raven poked holes to see sun… Anytime I am feeling bothered,  I just look up.”

This is just one of the activities available at Tenaya Lodge, and I would say it is a must – book in advance because it fills up; in winter, they offer a Snowshoe Flashlight Tour which must be sensational.

A lovely hike from Tenaya Lodge to the waterfall © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Actually, this was our second hike of the day, since arriving in the afternoon at Tenaya Lodge, which is located in Fish Camp, California, a 3 ½ hour drive (200 miles) from San Francisco.

Shortly after our arrival, we quickly drop off our luggage in our room, get directions from the concierge, and set out for a hike that starts from the resort’s entrance, up a logging road, about 2 ½ miles to a waterfall. The hike is perfect to acclimate ourselves to the 5,200 ft. elevation. We immediately fill our lungs with rejuvenating pure air, and recharge with the rhythm of a rushing creek.

Our hike is rewarded with stunning view of the waterfall, full after record winter snows, in the late afternoon light; Tenaya Lodge is promoting “Waterfall Season” this spring © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is so early in the season, there is still snow on sections of the trail, making the rushing creek and waterfall all the more dramatic. We are supposed to turn off at a green building, but actually overshoot (it turns out it isn’t a building, but rather a water management shed with solar panels on it). Retracing our steps, and calculating for the time until dusk, we (bravely) go through a fence, walk past a decaying wood cabin and come to where the trail narrows significantly, following along a canal on one side. There are spots where you can hear and see a rushing stream and distant sound of the waterfall. Following along, we come to a wonderful waterfall. By now, the late afternoon sun is like liquid gold spreading over everything. Magical.

We make our way back to the lodge with minutes to spare before joining the 8 pm Flashlight Hike.

The hike back to Tenaya Lodge from the waterfall © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Four Diamond Luxury Faithful to Rustic Environs

The Tenaya Lodge is a four-diamond luxury resort with every manner of amenity that nonetheless manages to be faithful to its rustic environs. It is named for Chief Tenaya, of the Miwok tribe of Indians who lived mostly along the foothills of the Sierras.

A rustic motif is faithful to its Yosemite National Park surroundings, but Tenaya Lodge offers four-diamond luxury © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Lodge is just two miles from the South Gate of Yosemite National Park, the most popular entrance (it provides year-round access to the park). The lodge makes every accommodation for the guests who will almost certainly find their way into Yosemite for hiking (they even have the moleskin package that is a lifesaver when you are getting a blister); the Deli, that is surprisingly well-stocked.

There is where you can pre-order lunch so you can grab it on your way out the door to hike (really a good idea so you don’t have to find your way to a restaurant in Yosemite).

Tenaya offers a few different dining options, accommodating late-night dining (which helps when you have been hiking in Yosemite all day).

The Sierra Restaurant where we enjoy fuel up on a lavish buffet breakfast before a day of hiking, is a casual restaurant serving breakfast and dinner, with convenient hours to accommodate guests.

Just next door (and providing overflow space at breakfast) is Jackalopes Bar & Grill serving lunch and dinner (conveniently, until very late)

Embers is an upscale, fine dining restaurant which covets a quiet atmosphere (no children), serving a leisurely two to three-hour meal, where they even make salads in front of you.

There is also a pizzeria in the cottages and in season, there is an appropriately named Summerdale restaurant, that is open seasonally off-site, that serves BBQ.

We settle into the cozy leather sofas in the expansive lobby, complete with stone fireplace and mounted deer head, like a true rustic lodge, and order items from Jackolopes for a very relaxing late-night snack. I love the Native American/western décor, and the exquisite photos of Yosemite Park that decorate the walls all through the hotel.

The four-diamond Tenaya Lodge is one of the most luxurious resort properties in proximity to Yosemite, and offers 297 guestrooms, suites and cottages.

Delaware North has spent $5 million renovating and upgrading the Tenaya Lodge since acquiring it in 2001 © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge was originally built 1990; but acquired in 2001 by Delaware North, a vast global hospitality company which, among other things, manages lodgings and concessions in several national parks including the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone national parks and manages Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex. Delaware North invested $5 million in significant renovations which were completed last year.

New Scandinavian-styled rooms at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

Among the innovations are stunning Garden Suites, designed by Piccini Group, SF with a prevailing white Scandinavian modern design, designed to be quiet (so you can understand why adults-only and no pets, though other rooms are pet-friendly).

Contemporary suites have a native ambiance and new “spa rooms” are lavish.

There are also several stand-alone cottages (that were acquired in 2008) that have up to three bedrooms (refrigerator, no kitchen). The lodge has plans to build two-bedroom cabins.

Relaxation room at Ascent Spa at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge is a true resort with every manner of amenity. Delaware North opened Ascent Spa, 10,000 sq ft, with 12 treatment rooms, a relaxation room (you can order sushi, drinks), a mud bath, group relaxation room, and couples massage room.  (Spring spa specials: Receive a complimentary glass of champagne with any 60 or 90-minute spa treatment; a new spring Parafango Slimming Body Treatment “detoxifies and slims the body.”)

There is also a fitness center with sauna, Olympic-size lap swimming indoor pool, an outdoor pool, archery, rock climbing wall, arcade.

Indoor lap swimming pool at Tenaya Lodge © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

There is a robust schedule of activities like the nighttime Flashlight Hike and Paint & Wine evenings  (Thur. & Sat. 7-9, $55 pp), plus special events and activities, like yoga on the patio overlooking the forest. (A resort fee covers fitness room, sauna, fitness room but everything else is a la carte, though there are package offerings.)

In winter, there is an enchanting 3,000-sq. ft. outdoor covered ice skating pavilion (skate rentals available), which in summer becomes suitable for weddings and events.

There is a fire pit (you can order drinks to come down); s’mores kits; a sledding hill and a kiddie slope.

Winter activities also include kids snowmobiling, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowshoe nature hike, skiing at Badger Pass, California’s original ski resort.

Spring, summer and fall activities include mountain biking, guided hikes, guided rock-climbing excursion, fly-fishing excursion, fishing, Yosemite Valley tours, steam train rides, Summerdale BBQ, gold panning, Bass Lake water sports, golf, horseback riding, white-water rafting. They also offer supervised kids programs, like an adventure camp. (There’s a daily activity schedule.)

Tenaya Lodge lobby lounge is a popular gathering place © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge is really family friendly (ideal for multi-generational getaways, family reunions, weddings and family events). When you check in, there is a special place for children to check in (a short staircase to the reception desk); and they go all out for holidays like Christmas and Easter (when we are there); on Easter Sunday, there was a petting zoo and pony rides.

It’s also delightful for all the seating areas where families can gather.

Extremely popular for weddings and functions, Tenaya Ledge has a ballroom that can accommodate up to 850 and 12 meeting rooms.

For the same reason it is so well suited for family gatherings, Tenaya Lodge is ideal for meetings and corporate outings (there is a whole list of special activities that can be built in for groups, from rock climbing classes and  whitewater rafting excursions, to culinary classes and competitions, guided fly-fishing trips and group geo-challenges).

Notably, Tenaya Lodge won LEED Silver building certification. (I note that there are 8 Tesla charging stations for electric cars outside). 

Nearby Activities 

Tenaya Lodge is right at the South Gate to Yosemite National Park; the lodge offers a mini-bus tour that takes in the highlights © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

There are any number of activities just beyond the Tenaya Lodge door, which the lodge can pre-arrange:

In winter, the lodge offer snowshoeing; in warm weather they offer mountain biking on its own forest trails, while a short drive away,  the Sierra National Forest offers some of the finest single-track riding anywhere, from easy to technical. (The concierge can provide detailed maps.). Half-day and full-day bike rentals available for adults and kids ready to explore the forest trails.

A short distance down the road is Miller’s Landing which has fishing; horseback riding is also nearby.

We came just a little too early in the season to experience the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. a one-hour, narrated excursion through the Sierra  National Forest on historic narrow gauge Shay locomotives over tracks once used for logging trains at the turn of the century.

The ride travels over four miles on the historic Madera Sugar Pine Railroad. There is a brief stopover in the Lewis Creek Canyon to see the locomotive up close, or explore the outdoors before your return trip to the station.  You travel along the historic right-of-way of the Madera Sugar Pine Railroad where mighty lumberjacks felled the timber and flumes carried the lumber to the town of Madera. The conductor tells of the history of the line, the trees, and the wildlife native to the area.

The line operates two historic geared steam locomotives called Shays. Both locomotives were from the Westside Lumber Company in Tuolumne, California. These two locomotives represent the original shays that worked this line from 1874 to 1931. The original Madera Sugar Pine Shay locomotives burned wood for fuel, while our two Westside Shay locomotives burn oil. Shay #10 was built in 1928 and weighs in at 84 tons, while Shay #15 was built in 1913 and weighs 59 tons. They also demonstrate how to pan for gold (you get to keep it!). And you can visit the Thornberry Museum which illustrates logging camp life at the turn of the century.

There is also a three-hour Moonlight Special, which starts with a BBQ dinner before boarding the logger steam train for a ride to the campfire sing-a-long program hosted by the Sugar Pine Singers. At the conclusion of the evening, you will re-board the train for a memorable trip up the mountain in the night.

Daily rides are available all summer. (The schedule varies seasonally and usually alternates with Jenny car rides. Reservations recommended.)

Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, 56001 Hwy 41 Fish Camp, CA 93623, 559 683 7273, Ymsprr.com; (www.tenayalodge.com/things-to-do/resort/steam-train-rides.

We have come to Tenaya Lodge for the express purpose of hiking in Yosemite National Park, but for non-hikers, non-DIYers, Tenaya Lodge offers a Yosemite Tour Package, via mini-bus, that includes lunch and narration, and guarantees waterfalls and wildlife and seeing the most popular sights of Yosemite. (Offered May 1-Nov. 30; from $575 spring, $685 summer, $555 fall; call 888-514-2167 or Tenaya Reservations directly at 559-692-8916).

Other tours are available as well.

We were so fortunate to arrive as the winter snows were melting. Indeed, after almost five years of drought, the waterfalls are fuller than ever this year. Tenaya Lodge is offering special Waterfall Season Hot Dates, now through June 26. (Go to https://www.tenayalodge.com/packages/hot-date-deals for promo code to get the special rate).

Tenaya Lodge is promoting “Waterfall Season” this spring © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tenaya Lodge (like Yosemite) is very much a four-season resort (the South Gate, the most popular entrance to Yosemite, is open year-round), 55 miles north of Fresno Yosemite International Airport, 3 ½ hours drive from San Francisco Bay area and 4 ½ hours from the Greater Lost Angeles Area.

Tenaya Lodge, 1122 Highway 41, Fish Camp, CA 93623, 800-722-8584, tenayalodge.com.

Next:  Yosemite National Park: Best Valley Hikes for First Timers 

See also:

Muir Woods is San Francisco’s Cathedral to Mother Nature

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures.

 

HSMAI Honors Innovation at its 60th Annual Adrian Awards

Bermuda Tourism Authority and agency, TURNER, accept the Best of Show in Public Relations Award at HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis on February 21, 2017 in New York City © Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

They are the CLIO awards of the hospitality and travel industry – a gigantic segment of the US economy and culture which people don’t readily recognize as being so integral to everyday life. But these are the campaigns that excite, engage, inform and ultimately spur millions of us to venture out and experience new places and people. At the same time, travelers bolster local, state and national economies, create an economic underpinning that sustains heritage, culture and the environment.

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) presented the 60th Annual Adrian Awards at the New York Marriott Marquis, recognizing excellence in travel advertising, digital marketing and public relations, and the leaders behind the work.

“It’s always wonderful to be able to celebrate the innovators of our industry. Their outstanding work challenges and inspires the rest of the profession,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of HSMAI. He added, “Tonight was a special milestone—the Adrians have now been recognizing excellence in the hospitality industry for six decades.”

Dating back to 1956, the Adrian Awards applaud marketing achievements in hospitality across multiple segments of the industry. Award winners are selected by senior industry and media experts from more than 1,200 entries, for three main entry divisions: advertising, digital marketing and public relations. Gold Award winners across these three categories were recognized during the Adrian Awards Dinner Reception, which was co-sponsored by HSMAI and Google. Platinum winners were selected from the standout Gold Award winners. Winners were selected from 1000 entrees.

The judges speak of authenticity, engagement, blurring of lines among media, emotionality, innovation and creativity, visual beauty, quality of content, storytelling, and most significantly measureable results in distinguishing the winners.

The stakes are huge: these advertising, marketing and public relations campaigns are a key part of the travel and tourism industry that generates $2.1 trillion in economic output (2.7% of the nation’s GDP) from domestic and international visitors (includes $927.9 billion in direct travel expenditures that spurred an additional $1.2 trillion in other industries through a ripple effect). Travel expenditures support 15 million jobs (8 million directly); account for $221.7 billion in wages, and generate $141.5 billion in tax revenues to federal, state and local governments, levels that increased significantly over the past eight years, helping to lift the nation out of the Great Recession.

For example, Bermuda, which won “Best of Show” in Public Relations, undertook its campaign to reverse a decline in tourism that is such a large part of the country’s economy.

Best of Show Awards, the highest honor of the evening, were bestowed upon a Platinum Award winner from each of the three divisions—advertising, digital marketing, and public relations:

Advertising “Best of Show” – NFL Father’s Day Video – Courtyard by Marriott – IMG and Marriott Content Studio

Digital Marketing “Best of Show” – From Brake Lights to Rested Nights – Red Roof Inn and its agency, 360i

Public Relations “Best of Show” – Bermuda: Finding an Island’s Adventurous Side – Bermuda Tourism Authority and its agency, TURNER

Courtyard by Marriott win Best of Show in Advertising at HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis in New York City © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The following are Platinum Award winners in the advertising, digital marketing, and public relations divisions:

 

Advertising Platinum Winners:

Company; Agency

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism; Target

Brand USA

Visit Seattle; Publicis Seattle

Hilton; Fold 7

VisitGreenvilleSC

Courtyard by Marriott; IMG and Marriott Content Studio

 

Digital Marketing Platinum Winners:

Company; Agency

24 North Hotel; Travel Tripper

Visit Seattle; Publicis Seattle

Marriott International; Facebook & MEC

Aruba Tourism Authority; Concept Farm

Caribbean and Latin America Resorts Cluster; Marriott- Caribbean and Latin America

Best Western Hotels & Resorts; Ideas Collide & 11 Dollar Bill

Red Roof Inn; 360i

Red Roof Inn accepts the Best of Show in Digital Marketing Award at HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Public Relations Platinum Winners:

Company; Agency

South African Tourism; Sparkloft Media
Omni Hotels & Resorts; LDWWgroup

Hampton by Hilton; rbb Communications

Hilton

Cunard; MGA Media Group

Caneel Bay Resort

Marriott International; GREY New York

Aqua-Aston Hospitality; QUINN & Stryker Weiner Yokota

Bermuda Tourism Authority; TURNER

Gold Award winners’ submissions were shown on digital displays at the Adrian Awards Dinner Reception and featured during the Gala stage presentations. “The honorees in this year’s competition displayed innovation, creativity, and demonstrated measurable results and return on investment that were noted by this year’s judges as being exceptional,” said Fran Brasseux, HSMAI Executive Vice President.

Additionally, the distinguished careers of two industry leaders were celebrated with HSMAI Lifetime Achievement awards. Randy Smith, Chairman & Co-Founder, STR, was honored with the 2016 Albert E. Koehl Award and Melanie Brandman, Founder & CEO, The Brandman Agency, was honored with the 2016 Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations.

“It is an honor to be a member of this illustrious group of industry leaders,” said Brandman, at the awards ceremony. “I would like to dedicate this award to my father and my mother, for raising me and my siblings to be global citizens, and instilling in us an unstoppable desire to experience the world and share whatever wisdom we pick up along the way.”

“It is truly an honor to accept this award,” stated Koehl Award recipient Randy Smith, who was unable to accept the award in person. “I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career in the hospitality industry in working with smart and talented people.”

The winner of the seventh annual Leader in Sustainable Tourism Award, presented by HSMAI and National Geographic Traveler, was Amelia Island Convention & Visitors Bureau for “Clean Beaches and Sea Turtles.”

“Presented in conjunction with National Geographic Traveler, the Leader in Sustainable Tourism award recognizes a person, company, or community for demonstrable leadership and innovation in preserving and communicating an authentic sense of place through a wisely managed tourism program. Nominees are judged by how their efforts preserved the environmental, cultural, and historic integrity of a destination, and how the program demonstrated leadership, innovation and accomplished its goals.”

Gil Langley and Ktimene Axetell of Amelia Island Convention and Visitor Bureau accept HSMAI & National Geographic Traveler Leader in Sustainable Tourism Platinum Award from Fran Brasseux, Executive of HSMAI and Deborah Friedman, VP, Independent and Specialty Travel, National Geographic at HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Pioneer in Visual Storytelling Award, presented by HSMAI and Libris by PhotoShelter, a new award presented for the first time at these Adrian Awards, went to Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism and their agency, Target.

“The Pioneer in Visual Storytelling Award celebrates a brand in the travel and tourism industry that has shown consistent commitment to using visual assets creatively in marketing and communication to tell its story. Nominees are evaluated based on high-quality production value of images and/or video, compelling storytelling across platforms, use of forward-thinking formats, innovative distribution and demonstrated impact on their audiences. Successful entries use visual assets to inspire an emotional response, motivate audiences to take action and help the brand meet strategic objectives.”

Randy Smith. Melanie Brandman Honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association (HSMAI) presented its 2016 HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards to Randy Smith, Chairman & Co-Founder, STR, honored with the 2016 Albert E. Koehl Award. Melanie Brandman, Founder & CEO, The Brandman Agency, received the 2016 Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations.

The HSMAI Lifetime Achievement Awards recognize individuals who have spent a major portion of their careers in the hospitality and travel profession and have contributed to the betterment of the industry in a significant and lasting way, over an extended period of time.

Melanie Brandman, Founder and CEO of The Brandman Agency, receives the 2016 Winthrop W. Grice Award for Lifetime Achievement in Public Relations at HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Melanie Brandman, honored with the Winthrop W. Grice Award for Public Relations, is the founder & CEO of The Brandman Agency. With offices in New York, Los Angeles, London and Sydney, Brandman is recognized as one of the most credible travel and communications experts in the business. She has ensured that The Brandman Agency has remained at the forefront of the industry by being an early adopter in the ever-evolving digital and influencer space. Prior to establishing The Brandman Agency, she served as Vice President, Corporate Affairs for InterContinental Hotels Group based in London. Brandman’s other successful ventures include Travel Curator, an online travel website, content development, and distribution platform targeted to an affluent, forward-thinking audience of global travelers. The site was voted one of the 10 Best Luxury Travel Blogs by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best. This past year, Brandman was named ‘Most Compelling Woman in Travel’ by Premier Traveler magazine.

The Winthrop W. Grice Award was named in honor of Winthrop W. “Bud” Grice, CHME, a long-time senior marketing executive with Marriott, who was the award’s first designate. Other winners include: Howard Feirertag, Mary Gendron, Vivian A. Deuschl, Laura Davidson, Yvonne Middleton, Peggy R. Bendel, René A. Mack, Lou Hammond, Bunny Grossinger, Herbert D. Kelleher, Steve Wynn, Richard Kahn, Gordon Lambourne, and Geoffrey Weill.

Randy Smith, the recipient of the Albert E. Koehl Award, co-founded STR in 1985. STR provides clients from multiple market sectors with premium, global data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights. With just over 300 employees, STR maintains a presence in 16 countries around the world with a corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and an international headquarters in London, England. Prior to starting STR, Smith was Director of Research for Laventhol & Horwath. He has been recognized by Business Travel News, Lodging Hospitality magazine, ALIS, Industry Real Estate Financing Advisory Council, Florida State University College, and the International Society of Hospitality Consultants.

The Albert E. Koehl Award for Lifetime Achievement in Hospitality Marketing recognizes individuals who have spent a major portion of their careers in the hospitality and travel profession and have contributed to the betterment of the industry in a significant and lasting way, over an extended period of time. The award is named in honor of Albert E. Koehl, a pioneer in hotel advertising. Past Koehl award recipients including: David Kong, Roger Dow, Eric A. Danziger, Sol Kerzner, Ian Schrager, Barbara Talbott, Barry S. Sternlicht, Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Horst H. Schulze, John J. Russell, CHME, Michael A. Leven, CHME, Richard Branson, Christopher J. Nassetta, and George Aguel.

Amanda Hite accepts the Albert E. Koehl Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Randy Smith, Chairman & Co-Founder of STR during HSMAI’s 2016 Adrian Awards Gala © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“HSMAI is proud to honor Melanie and Randy for their impressive careers marked by innovative contributions to the global hospitability industry,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president and CEO of HSMAI. 

Top 25 Extraordinary Minds

Selected by a panel of senior industry executives, The HSMAI Top 25: Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization for 2016 were honored by HSMAI in a reception co-hosted by Questex Hospitality + Travel and also recognized on stage during the Gala.

The HSMAI Top 25 Extraordinary Minds for 2016 are:

Justin Barnette: Manager, Marketing & Communications USA, South African Tourism

DC Becker: Principal & Co-Owner, Titan Group of New York

Josh Belkin: VP & General Manager, North America, Hotels.com

Bree Brostko: Managing Director, Kindred Resorts & Hotels

Bonnie Buckhiester: President, Buckhiester Management Limited

Patrick Campbell: Director of Advertising, Best Western Hotels & Resorts

Lisa Checchio, VP, Brand Marketing and Insights, Wyndham Hotel Group

Britton Cordill: Director of Marketing & eCommerce, Marriott International

Santiago Corrada: President/CEO, Visit Tampa Bay

Chris Flatt, EVP of Hotel Sales & Marketing, Wynn Las Vegas

Isaac Gerstenzang, Assistant Vice President, Corporate E-Commerce, Two Roads Hospitality

Jennifer Hill: Regional Director, Revenue & Distribution, Highgate

Daniel Hostettler: President and Group Managing Director, Ocean House Management Collection

Danny Hughes: Senior Vice President & Commercial Director, Hilton Worldwide

Victoria Isley: Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, Bermuda Tourism Authority

Cherry Kam: Director, Marketing Communications/Americas, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

Lynn Kaniper: Owner/President, Dana Communications

Leora Halpern Lanz: Lecturer, Boston University School of Hospitality Administration

Michael Lau: Regional Director of Revenue Management, Accor Hotels

Lisa Ross: President and Partner, rbb Communications

Ed Skapinok: Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Hostmark Hospitality Group

Edgar Tapan: Head of Industry, Travel, Google

Paolo Torchio: VP Digital & E-Commerce, Two Roads Hospitality

Vicki Varela: Managing Director, Utah Office of Tourism, Film & Global Branding

Daniel Wise: Founder & Chief Product Architect, revcaster – a Rainmaker company

“HSMAI is proud to recognize an outstanding group whose impressive achievements define success and inspire their peers in the hospitality industry,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, president & CEO of HSMAI. “Their deep knowledge, nimble response to changing markets, and innovative solutions have driven their success and strengthened our industry.”

The HSMAI Top 25: Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality Sales, Marketing, Revenue Optimization for 2016 © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

For more information about the Adrian Awards visit www.adrianawards.com.

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners, and is the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals and their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as HSMAI ROCET, Adrian Awards, and Revenue Optimization Conference. HSMAI is an individual membership organization comprising more than 7,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at www.hsmai.orgwww.facebook.com/hsmaiwww.twitter.com/hsmai and www.youtube.com/hsmai1.

Heavenly Mountain Resort & Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe: An Epic Combination

The spectacular view of Lake Tahoe from Heavenly Mountain Resort (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

by Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Miranda, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

Set along the south shore of Lake Tahoe straddling the California/Nevada state lines, Heavenly Mountain Resort offers one of the most unique ski experiences anywhere, combining stunning views, epic runs, and purist California vibe with the casino hotels and nightlife of Nevada.

Heavenly, which is one of the Vail Resorts, hosts on-mountain aprés ski parties with DJs, dancers, and “Heavenly Angels”, or you can enjoy the entertainment and gambling of the casino hotels at the base of the mountain. The unparalleled views from Heavenly Mountain to the pure blue glacial lake on the California side, and the sweeping desert on the Nevada side are what most entices us city folk to Heavenly.

The incomparable view skiing down California Trail on Heavenly Mountain (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

We come to Lake Tahoe in December, of course, for the epic skiing. Heavenly straddles the California-Nevada state line and is a mountain for everyone, from hard-core tree skiers to pure vista-lovers which even beginner skiers can enjoy. On a single run, you will marvel at sweeping views of snowy mountains and the majestic Lake Tahoe on the California side, juxtaposed with desert vistas on the Nevada side. Intra-run breaks with beer, brats and sun-tanning at Stein’s at the foot of Powerbowl Express and BBQ at East Peak Lodge round out the experience.

Skiing Heavenly affords the juxtaposition of snowy slopes and Nevada desert (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

For us, the best way to start our day is to drive the seven or so minutes from Hard Rock Hotel, where we are staying, to the California Lodge parking area, stopping for a sumptuous, home-style breakfast at Driftwood Cafe in Heavenly Village. We suit up and secure our rental gear from the base lodge. Heavenly has rentals for the beginner, intermediate, and pro skier, and their staff is incredibly helpful. These days, with airline baggage fees and the hassle of transporting skis and snowboard equipment, renting at the ski destination is often a wonderful opportunity to test out the latest equipment.

Once we have our boots, skis, helmets, and poles, we head right outside to the base of the Gunbarrel and take the Gunbarrel Express lift to head up the mountain.

Dave & Laini at Heavenly. No one can resist stopping for a photo on the California Trail with Lake Tahoe in the background.

In mid-December a few of the slopes and ski-lifts are closed, but we are still able to explore most of the mountain, thanks to some incredible snow dumps early in the season. There is a great mix of blue and black runs at Heavenly, with the easier greens still exhilarating because of the incredible views. Ridge Run on the California side is spectacular for cruising and sightseeing; Skyline Trail, a relatively easy blue starting at 10,040 ft elevation, takes you over to Nevada and is one of our favorite runs for its desert views. We start off with spectacular views of the lake and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. We ski along the ridge of the mountain and suddenly end up with the sweeping panorama of the Nevada desert and big open sky in the distance. It is truly breathtaking to have this expansive view of such opposite terrains within seconds of each other.

Advanced skiers can dip into Milky Way Bowl where — even if you are en route to the experts-only Mott Canyon — it’s hard to not pause to take in the other-worldly environment.

Stopping to take in the other-worldly environment on Milky Way (photo by Dave E. Leiberman/Travel Features Syndicate).

The action continues in Heavenly Village, where we find apres ski cocktails, live music, and incredible pizza. Basecamp Pizza offers inventive and delectable pies, fire pits, craft beer with great happy hour specials, corn hole, and an Americana band tonight. The vibe is great and the place is packed, even the high-tops by the bar. We luck out and snag one just as a family leaves, and we enjoy the multi-sensual experience. The “Base Camp” specialty pie couldn’t more perfectly hit the spot, even for a couple of New York pizza snobs.

Basecamp Pizza (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

Nightlife Abounds at Hard Rock Hotel

We arrive at the Hard Rock Hotel on the Nevada side of south Lake Tahoe after a long and exhilarating day skiing at Heavenly Mountain Resort. On your way to our room, we are greeted by a wall-sized photo of a huge concert audience opposite the elevator, placing us in the role of performer as soon as the doors open.

That is nothing compared to the breathtaking view we have from our room on the 12th floor. From this height we have a 300 degree view of Lake Tahoe and the panorama of mountains behind. In early December it is surprisingly warm enough for us to watch the sunset from our private balcony.

Sunset over Lake Tahoe from our balcony at the Hard Rock Hotel (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The room itself is spacious and newly renovated. The room decor continues to make you feel like you’ve just left a rock concert–swanky, sleek, and edgy. The extremely comfortable king size bed and the big flat screen TV are perfect for unwinding after an active day on the slopes.

Then it’s time to explore. The Hard Rock Hotel is filled with Rock memorabilia, and it is fun to search around for autographed guitars from the Monkeys, the Sex Pistols, and Paul McCartney among others, glass cases with famous outfits from tours and other paraphernalia from popular performers.

It’s fun to discover the rock memorabilia around the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

Our favorite part of the Hard Rock Hotel (besides the room) is The Oyster Bar (the first-ever raw seafood bar of its kind on Tahoe’s South Shore!). We are amused by the fact that, as New Yorkers accustomed to consulting Yelp to find a top restaurant, the Hard Rock’s Oyster Bar is what came up. The Oyster Bar has amazing reviews, and a perfect location on the first floor of Hard Rock Hotel. With only about 20 seats at the horseshoe-shaped bar, there is often a line to get seated. We are lucky both times we visit and are seated right away (yes, we are at Heavenly for two nights and we eat dinner here twice, it is that good).

The Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe gets rave reviews (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The seafood-packed Bouillabaise is insanely flavorful and big enough for two to share. Even coming from spending a month in New Orleans, this is perhaps the best Bouillabaisse we’ve ever had. The New England Style Clam Chowder is perfectly creamy and clammy, the Caesar Salad (also huge) has a hint of lemon and is delicious even without the optional added protein, and the Lump Crab Cocktail with Dijon Aioli is perhaps the most generous portion of fresh crab this Baltimore girl has seen. The food is so good it makes you forget that you’re sitting about 5 feet from slot machines. It should also be mentioned that the prices here are extremely reasonable, or even cheap considering the portions. It is in a casino, after all.

The Oyster Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Lake Tahoe abuts the casino (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate)

The Hard Rock also offers Prime, a modern steakhouse complete with a sophisticated bar, live music, stylish atmosphere and premium dishes. The Park Prime menu was inspired by the Park family, owners of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe and cattle ranchers in northern Nevada, and features local grass-fed, free-range beef, premium seafood, shareable appetizers, an approachable wine list and specialty cocktails in a cozy lounge and bar setting.

The Hard Rock Hotel also has one of Lake Tahoe’s South Lake Tahoe’s newest and hoppingest casinos: 25,000 square feet of  casino floor featuring more than 500 state-of-the-art video gaming machines and table games, including Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Three Card Poker, Pai Gow. The lively casino fills the ground floor with energy any time of night.

It also offers a major entertainment venue with a calendar chock full of events. There is a large heated outdoor pool, which, alas closes at 5pm so we weren’t able to use it ourselves.

The Hard Rock Hotel is well located in South Lake Tahoe, walking distance to Heavenly Village (and most importantly, the central Gondola that whisks you up to Heavenly Mountain with a spectacular view down to Lake Tahoe), and about a 7 minute drive to California Lodge. For us, because we have a car, the California Lodge is the easiest and quickest way to get to the mountain and affords us the convenience of parking our car just a few yards away from the lift.

(Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe, 50 Highway 50, Stateline, NV 89449, 844-588-7625, hardrockcasinolaketahoe.com. Inside secret: the Hard Rock Hotel has a special department that offers discounted ski-and-stay packages, 877-518-7768, but the allotment sells out.)

Zalanta Luxury Condo Opens this Season

After our last day on the slopes, we are lucky to get a sneak peak of Zalanta Resort at the Village, Heavenly’s new luxury ownership condominium development right in the center of town, scheduled to open February 2017, which is also the first lodging in South Lake Tahoe to come under Vail Resorts management. Just across the street from the Heavenly Gondola, Zalanta’s central location and lodge-like architecture feels perfectly integrated into the fabric of Heavenly Village.

On the bottom floor of the property, there is a storefront with about 20,000 square feet of retail space that fits right in with the stores along Lake Tahoe Boulevard, as well as an 8,000 square foot restaurant. Residents and guests enter through the spacious lobby with windowed facades showcasing both the lobby and pool area out back. Also on the first floor is a large yoga and workout room that shares beautiful views to the pool oasis.

The units are incredibly spacious and range in size from pool-view 2-bedroom suites to 4-bedroom suites with wrap-around decks and mountain views. At the time of our tour, there were slated to be 20 two-bedroom units ranging in square footage from 1140 to 1700 sq. ft.; six 3-bedroom units between 1600 to 1800 sq. ft., and two 4-bedroom units around 2290 sq. ft. Every unit has washer/dryer, at least one fireplace, and almost all have a private deck. Most of the units have an open plan kitchen and living room with 18 foot ceilings at the tallest peak and 10-ft ceilings in the kitchen and bedrooms to create a cozier home ambiance.

In keeping with the luxury lifestyle feeling of the development, each unit is complete with high-end finishes. The kitchens each have beautiful hard wood cabinetry, marble backsplash, grey slate countertops, and energy efficient Kitchenaid appliances. Every aspect of the climate and location has been taken into consideration during the planning stages of the condominium. The 2nd floor carpeting, 3rd floor wood flooring, and double-paned glass windows in each unit offer maximum insulation and shield against the noise from the bustling Heavenly Village outside. There are even heated sidewalks throughout the property.

On the opposite side of the building from Heavenly Village, the pool area creates a quiet oasis away from the action of the town. The pool area, open year-round, features 2 wading pools, 2 hot tubs, and of course a large central heated pool. There is also a private lakeside beach just 3 blocks away, to which all owners and guests have access.

Zalanta, which means “spiritual mountain”, embodies the Heavenly experience, at once luxurious and rustic, majestic and cozy, the best of all worlds.

EpicMix Time Expands to Lake Tahoe

Dramatic scenery from the lift on Heavenly Mountain. The EpicMix Time app tells you the wait time at the lifts so you have more time on the slopes (photo by Laini Miranda/Travel Features Syndicate).

This season, Vail Resorts expanded its EpicMix™ Time to Heavenly Resort, Northstar and Kirkwood (also Lake Tahoe), as well as Park City Utah, which let’s you access real-time lift line wait times so you can better navigate the mountain and make the most out of your ski and ride experience. EpicMix Time uses proprietary technology to calculate and display up-to-the-minute chairlift and gondola line wait times. This innovative application of crowd-sourcing technology debuted last year at the Vail Resorts’ four Colorado resorts, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone.

EpicMix is an online and mobile application that allows you to digitally capture your ski and ride experience, and share it with friends and family. This is all possible through radio frequency (RF) technology loaded onto all hard card passes. State-of-the-art RF scanners are installed at all 10 Vail Resorts so you can seamlessly keep track of your vertical feet, days skied, special accomplishments.

Jet Blue from JFK to Reno/Tahoe

It is easier than ever to get to Heavenly from the New York area: JetBlue offers a nonstop direct flight from JFK into Reno-Tahoe Airport (RNO), which is 40 minutes drive away (will be cut down to 20-30 minutes when the high-speed highway is completed); local companies offer shuttle service. The flight departs JFK at 7:30 pm, arriving RNO at 11:01 pm and returns RNO at 11:52 pm, arriving JFK at 7:59 am; the flight is not daily so check jetblue.com for schedule.

For more information, visit www.skiheavenly.com, where links help you plan your trip and pre-arrange LodgingLift Tickets, Lessons and Ski School,, Child Care, Equipment Rentals, and Ground Transportation.( http://www.skiheavenly.com/plan-your-trip/plan-your-trip.aspx)

For more information or to book trips at any of the Vail Resorts mountain destinations, visit snow.com.

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© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

Favorite Places to Spend the Winter Holidays

Mrs. Shapiro talks about preparing for Hanukah at Strawbery Banke, the living history museum in Portsmouth NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mrs. Shapiro talks about preparing for Hanukah at Strawbery Banke, the living history museum in Portsmouth NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Our review of our favorite places for families to spend the winter holidays continues from Favorite Places for Family Winter Holiday Travel).

Portsmouth, NH: Strawbery Banke Museum, in the heart of historic downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is an authentic 10-acre outdoor history museum dedicated to bringing 300+ years of American history in the same waterfront neighborhood to life.

Candlelight Stroll, an annual holiday tradition at Strawbery Banke since 1979 showcases 350 years of seasonal and holiday traditions against the backdrop of the Museum’s furnished historic houses. On these weekend evenings, the Museum grounds glow with hundreds of lighted candle lanterns, the houses are adorned with thousands of hand-made decorations crafted from live greens and dried flowers and herbs collected from the Museum gardens, and the air is filled with the sound of holiday music and scent of woodsmoke from the bonfire. Its authenticity is the foundation for the claim that the Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth holiday celebration, echoed by Travel + Leisure magazine, makes Portsmouth ‘the Christmas capital of North America.’

Visitors stroll from house to historic house, greeted by costumed role players and performers who recreate the traditions of times past, rediscovering the joys of simpler times. Mrs. Shapiro prepares a Hanukah celebration her 1919 Russian Jewish kitchen. Mrs. Goodwin, her family and servants prepare a Victorian Christmas. Father Christmas, the night watchman, “Mayor Frank Jones” and other role-players make their rounds along the dirt lanes; and the Abbotts await news of their soldier fighting in Europe in the Second World War. Carolers, chestnuts and holiday crafts bring all the sounds, scents and moments for family ‘stopfulness’ to this event that is a cherished New Hampshire tradition.  Complimentary refreshments and hot apple cider are offered at the Cider Shed. Traditional hearth-cooking demonstrations, crafts demonstrations, and winter projects for kids provide interactive fun for multiple generations. (December 3, 4, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18; Saturdays, 5-9 pm. Sundays, 4-8 pm. Friday Dec 16, 5-9 pm). Purchase tickets in advance at the Strawbery Banke Visitors Center at 14 Hancock Street and online, www.strawberybanke.org.

There are also Guided Holiday House Tours, weekdays, Dec 26-31 of five decorated historic houses at Strawbery Banke Museum offered on the hour, 10 am to 2 pm. Adults $15, children 5-17 $10, children under 5 free.

For more information on Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth sactivities and participating hotels, visit www.VintageChristmasNH.org.

Wentworth By-the-Sea, a grand historic resort in Portsmouth, NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Wentworth By-the-Sea, a grand historic resort in Portsmouth, NH © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Complete the experience with a stay at Wentworth by the Sea, an AAA Four-Diamond resort and member of Historic Hotels of America, delightfully set on an island just across from historic Portsmouth, NH. Ask just about anyone who grew up in New Hampshire and they wax nostalgic about spending holidays at this grand resort hotel that has graced the shore since 1888. Among its amenities: an 8,500 sq. ft. spa, magnificent indoor pool, Wentworth Dining Room with original hand-painted ceiling mural. Check the website for special packages including Romance, Golf, Dining, and Spa, and holiday programs. Wentworth By the Sea, 588 Wentworth Road, New Castle NH  03854, 603-422-7322, 888-252-6888, info@wentworth.com, www.wentworth.com.

Victorian Cape May Christmas 

Victorian Cape May at Christmas offers six weeks of festive tours and events sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), from Nov. 18 through Jan. 1, 2017.

The wonders of the season are on display at “An Old-Fashioned Christmas Exhibit: Holiday Traditions through the Years,” at the Carroll Gallery located in the Estate Carriage House, 1048 Washington St. Here you can experience an exhibit of holiday traditions complete with a giant Christmas tree, a Dept. 56 Dickens Village, model trains, nostalgic photos from Christmas past, toys and much more! Friday, Nov. 18-Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017. The Gallery is open daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); hours vary. Admission is free and free parking is available.

Take a guided, tour of the 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, decorated in authentic Victorian style for Christmas, during Physick Family Christmas House Tours © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Take a guided, daytime, living history tour of the magnificent 1879 Physick Estate, Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, decorated in authentic Victorian style for Christmas, during Physick Family Christmas House Tours, presented from the viewpoint of a member of the Physick family in the early 1900s. The tour also includes a visit to the Carroll Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate where you can see “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas) through Jan. 1, 2017; hours vary. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8.

During the Historic District Trolley Tour, you’ll get acquainted with Cape May on a trolley tour as knowledgeable guides present entertaining and educational stories about the nation’s oldest seashore resort. $12 for adults and $8 for children (ages 3-12). Offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas); tour times vary.

Enjoy a guided trolley tour of Cape May’s Historic District, followed by a guided tour of Cape May’s only Victorian house museum, the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., decorated in true Victorian style for Christmas and presented through the eyes of a member of the Physick family in the early 1900s, during the Combination Trolley/Physick Family Christmas House Tours. $22 for adults, $14 for children (ages 3-12). Tours are offered daily (except Thanksgiving and Christmas.) Hours vary.

Relive the memories of Christmas past on Lamplighter Christmas Tours, self-guided evening tours of Cape May’s inns or private homes specially decorated for the holidays. Hear a holiday presentation by the owner at each location. The tour also includes a visit to the Carroll Gallery at the Emlen Physick Estate where you can see “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit and enjoy warm beverages and holiday treats. Adults $20; children (3-12) $15. Offered 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Fridays, Dec. 2-23; Saturday, Nov. 26 and Wednesday, Dec. 28, and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 31. 

Ghosts of Christmas Past Trolley Rides feature a member of the East Lynne Theater Company who will regale you with a Victorian holiday ghost tale as you ride through Cape May’s festively decorated Historic District. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. Tour begins and ends at Washington Street Mall at Ocean Street except for the Nov. 19 tour which leaves from the Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington Street. Offered Fridays, Dec. 2-Dec. 23, Saturdays, Nov. 19-26; Sundays, Nov. 27-Dec. 18; and Monday, Dec. 26-Saturday, Dec. 31). Hours vary. Advance reservation strongly recommended.

Thousands of Christmas lights and holly transform Cape May during the holiday season. Take one of the many Holiday Lights Trolley Rides through Cape May’s Historic District to see cheerfully decorated inns and homes as guides talk about Victorian Christmas traditions, lead sing-alongs, and play Christmas music. Rides last about 30 minutes and admission is $12 Adults; $10 children (ages 3-12). Offered nightly, Nov. 25-Dec. 31. Hours vary. (No tours Dec. 3, 10, 12, 17, 24 25) Trolley rides leave from the Washington Street Mall Information Booth, Washington Street at Ocean (except for Nov. 19 trolley rides, which leave from the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St.)

Revel in the sparkly lights of Cape May’s beautiful Victorian homes decorated for Christmas on a trolley ride through town, then take a guided tour of the first floor rooms of the 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, authentically decorated for a Victorian Christmas during the Evening Yuletide Tour. See how the Physick family would have entertained for the holidays. Afterwards, visit the Carriage House for holiday refreshments and a visit to “An Old-fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Tour begins and ends at the Ocean Street trolley stop. Adults $22; children (3-12) $14. You can also take just the house tour portion, the Evening Physick Estate Tour, a 30-minute guided tour of Cape May’s 1879 Emlen Physick Estate, 1048 Washington St., decorated in authentic style for a Victorian Christmas. Included is a visit the Carriage House for holiday refreshments and a visit to “An Old-Fashioned Christmas” exhibit. Adults $12; children (3-12) $8. Both tours offered every evening, Nov. 25 through Dec. 30, except Dec. 3, 10, 12, 17, 24 and 25. Hours vary.

MAC also offers holiday-themed food and wine tours and events.

For more information. Contact Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), 609-884-5404 or 800-275-4278 or visit www.capemaymac.org.

Chattanooga Choo Choo 

Chattanooga, Tennessee offers a surprising array of extraordinary experiences: walk through a secret underground ice cave  and see Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights, explore a nocturnal fantasyland with more than one million star-bright twinkling lights high atop Lookout Mountain; hop on board a train for a North Pole adventure; sing Christmas carols and dance with Santa on a river cruise; meet coral reef Santa divers; build creative gingerbread houses; watch animals open their own Christmas presents, visit the Children’s Discovery Museum and the Tennessee Aquarium. Get the full scoop on planning a holiday getaway in Chattanooga at www.chattanoogafun.com/winter.

Historic train car turned into an enchanting sleeping room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga, Tennessee © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Historic train car turned into an enchanting sleeping room at the Chattanooga Choo Choo, Chattanooga, Tennessee © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The Chattanooga Choo Choo offers an absolutely magical experience. The historic hotel (and member of Historic Hotels of America) is literally created out of the historic railroad station, where you can stay in one of 48 Victorian train cars converted to the most delightful rooms, wonderfully furnished in period pieces (but with modern amenities like high-speed wireless Internet access).

The train station offers marvelous dining places (including a saloon-style restaurant where the waiters take turns singing), and cute shops. You can climb aboard the historic locomotive, and dine in the dining car as well. The music of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” immediately rings in your ears (it plays fairly constantly).

The original motel, which is still used, offers an indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, gardens. There is even a historic train ride on a trolley. Also, a free electric shuttle from the bus terminal next door takes you downtown.  I don’t know when I have had a more enjoyable and interesting stay. Chattanooga Choo Choo, 400 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402, 800-TRACK-29 (872-2529), www.choochoo.com.

Grand, Glorious & Historic Hotels

You can’t go wrong in choosing a Historic Hotels of America member hotel or resort for personality, character, connection to place, authenticity and overall aura that makes for a unique experience so perfectly fitting for your own family tradition. Here are just a few of our favorites for the holidays:

Mohonk Mountain House, New York © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mohonk Mountain House, New York © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Mohonk Mountain House, located 90 miles north of New York City in the Catskills,- is the very definition of a getaway-from-it-all retreat. From festive décor and favorite traditions to cozy wood-burning fires and a wealth of outdoor recreation, the historic Mohonk Mountain House exemplifies a quintessential holiday getaway.

The atmosphere at Mohonk is exceptional any time of the year, but is absolutely breathtaking for the holidays: spectacular hand-made swags, Victorian decorations, and beautifully decorated Christmas trees on display throughout the House. Families who want to create a festive atmosphere in-room can inquire about holiday decorations, including an ornamented ‘eco-tree’ and stockings hung above their fireplace, filled with goodies. Cozy wood-burning fireplaces can also be found in 124 out of 259 guest rooms –more than any resort in the nation.

The spirit of the season fills Mohonk Mountain House, National Historic Landmark resort, throughout December with many cherished traditions, including the family Yule Log Hunt, a Trim-A-Tree Party, the nightly lighting of the Menorah, holiday craft-making and caroling. Workshops on wreath making, cookie decorating, seasonal tablescapes and more are also offered. Outdoor recreation options abound, including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow tubing (weather permitting), along with ice-skating at the resort’s stunning open-air Pavilion.

Mohonk also offers an award-winning, eco-friendly Spa (it was named the Number One Resort Spa in the United States by CondéNast Traveler). Spa amenities include an outdoor heated mineral pool, an indoor heated swimming pool with underwater sound system, a yoga/motion studio, comprehensive fitness center and solarium. For reservations, call 855.274.4020 or visit Mohonk.com.

Other Historic Hotels of America favorites:

Cranwell Resort & Spa, in the Berkshires – like being on a grand estate – equipped with every luxurious amenity – world class spa, indoor pool, cross-country skiing, and about half-hour up the road, downhilling at Jiminy Peak (www.cranwell.com).

Omni Mount Washington at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire: A grand masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture, conceived by industrialist Joseph Stickney, this National Historic Landmark opened in 1902 and has been attracting generations of families ever since. It’s located literally across the street from Bretton Woods, a marvelous ski resort, and also offers a spa and cross-country skiing. It’s also close by to the outlet shopping town of North Conway, NH (www.omnihotels.com/hotels/bretton-woods-mount-washington)

The Sagamore, Bolton Landing: Situated in the unspoiled Adirondack Mountains on its own island on Lake George, the Sagamore opened in 1883 and was a social center for the wealthy visiting Lake George. It’s a magical place. Nearby, go sledding or cross-country skiing on The Sagamore’s golf course, or hop its shuttle bus to ski at Gore Mountain, about 45 minutes away.

The Jekyll Island Club, Georgia © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Jekyll Island Club, Georgia © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We have scores of favorite Historic Hotels – there are 275 members in just about every state and territory. Those that offer a grand resort experience include The Hotel Hershey, in Hershey, Pennsylvania; Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island, Georgia; Colony Hotel & Cabana Club, Delray Beach, Florida; The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club, and the Don CeSar (www.loewshotels.com/don-cesar), both in St. Petersburg, Florida. Each offers exquisite atmosphere, service, amenities and each has its own personality, character, and special connection with the people and place. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

The Loews Don CeSar, on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Loews Don CeSar, on St. Petersburg Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Hey Dude!

We had an entirely different holiday experience at the Pinegrove dude ranch, an old-fashioned all-inclusive Catskills Mountains family resort with horses and a “Toy Story” cowboy vibe. So festive, warm, friendly and utterly delightful.  It’s a nonstop giggle for children of all ages. Parents will slip back into their own childhoods while making new childhood memories for their own kids. There are activities galore, indoor pool, even laser tag, plus nightly shows and entertainment, three meals daily plus snacks and the holiday atmosphere is so special. They regularly offer specials for Christmas and holiday times. Check the site for specials on February Recess, Mothers Day, Fathers Day and school vacations. Pinegrove Ranch, 30 Cherrytown Road, Kerhonkson N.Y. 12446, Ulster County, Reservations: 800-346-4626, email info@pinegroveranch.com, www.pinegroveranch.com. 

Gift of Travel 

Norwegian Breakaway. Consider giving a gift card or travel certificate. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which operates the Breakaway from New York, lets you purchase a denomination that can be applied to the cruise or to onboard experiences © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Norwegian Breakaway. Consider giving a gift card or travel certificate. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which operates the Breakaway from New York, lets you purchase a denomination that can be applied to the cruise or to onboard experiences © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Consider giving a gift card or gift certificate for a travel or vacation experience. Many cruiselines (for example Norwegian Cruise Line’s gift cards can be used toward the cruise vacation or onboard experiences, like a massage or specialty dining), hotel companies (for example, Catania Hospitality Group which has the Dan’l Webster Inn & Spa in Sandwich on Cape Cod, the Cape Codder Resort & Spa, Cape Codder Water Park, John Carver Inn & Spa in Plymouth, the Hearth ‘n Kettle Restaurants, Grand Cru Wine Bar and WaterFire Tavern, as well as gift shops, not only has gift cards, but offers special bonuses, www.cataniahospitalitygroup.com), even tour operators (for example Globus, www.globusjourneys.com/Gift/, Apple Vacations, www.applevacations.com/gift-certificates/,  and Southwest Vacations, and offer gift cards where you can purchase a denomination that can be applied to the trip or upgrade or some special activity or experience. One of our favorites for gift cards is spafinders.com.  Check the terms and how the cards or certificates can be applied. Best to choose an entity that offers lots of choices.

See also:

Favorite Places for Family Winter Holiday Travel

____________________

© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Planning to Attend 58th Presidential Inauguration? Destination DC Can Help Book Hotels, Plan Itineraries

The Willard InterContinental Hotel, where Lincoln stayed during his inauguration, is how the term “lobbyist” got coined © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Willard InterContinental Hotel, where Lincoln stayed during his inauguration, is how the term “lobbyist” got coined © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

(Washington, DC) – Washington, DC’s hospitality community is united in its preparation for the inauguration of the 45th president on Friday, January 20, 2017. Hotels, restaurants and attractions in neighborhoods across the nation’s capital are creating thematic packages, menus, balls, exhibits and tours for visitors eager to participate in the 58th presidential inauguration. The District’s official destination marketing organization, Destination DC is showcasing this information for visitors coming to the nation’s capital.

Travelers attending inauguration can access Destination DC’s free resources and experts to:

Find comprehensive information on washington.org/inauguration. Content includes a calendar of events; suggestions for experiencing free (and almost free) presidential history; lists of award-winning restaurants and signature DC dishes. An inauguration FAQ will be updated as practical details including street closures are announced.

Book hotel packages designed for family, group and luxury travelers:

o Family-friendly options include Marriott Metro Center downtown; Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Woodley Park; Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavilion in upper Northwest; The Dupont Circle, Beacon Hotel and Courtyard Washington, DC in Dupont Circle; Liaison Capitol Hill and Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill; Hamilton Crowne Plaza downtown; Hyatt Place Washington DC, Melrose Georgetown Hotel, Georgetown Suites and Washington Marriott Georgetown; Harborside Hotel at National Harbor, Md.

o Packages created for corporate group travelers including the JW Marriott’s $2.5 million buy-out that bundles 325 guest rooms, four presidential suites, a rooftop party for 300 overlooking the inaugural parade and $400,000 in food and beverage credit.

o Luxury hotels including Four Seasons Washington, DC in Georgetown; The Fairmont Hotel, Ritz-Carlton Washington, DC, Park Hyatt and Watergate Hotel in Foggy Bottom; The Churchill Hotel near Embassy Row; the “Inauguration’s a Ball” package at 10 DC-area Kimpton properties; Sofitel Washington, DC Lafayette Square; Renaissance Washington, DC Downtown Hotel; the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC in Shaw; Willard InterContinental, W Washington, DC and Sofitel Washington, DC Lafayette Square near the White House.

Speak with visitor services representatives on Destination DC’s toll-free concierge-style information line (800-422-8644), staffed Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm EST.

Engage with experts and user-generated content on Destination DC’s Instagram (@visitwashingtondc) and Facebook (@washingtondc) channels.

Inauguration Day begins with a swearing-in ceremony at noon, continues with a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, and ends with official inaugural balls that will be confirmed by the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies. Throughout the city, special events take place including numerous ticketed unofficial balls that are open to the public. Destination DC will broadcast event details and practical considerations as they are announced.

Washington, DC welcomed a record 21.3 million visitors in 2015, up 5% over 2014. Visitors spent $7.1 billion in 2015. Spending on food and beverage was more than $2 billion (28.8%), second only to lodging (34%). In 2017, DC will host 21 major citywide events and conventions set to generate an estimated $357 million.

In 2017, DC will welcome new hospitality inventory including The Line in Adams Morgan and The Pod Hotel in the Penn Quarter. In October, the first phase of The Wharf, a $2 billion, 24-acre reimaging of the southwest waterfront will debut with new hotels including Canopy by Hilton and Hyatt House and restaurants from the likes of Fabio Trabocchi (Fiola); Nick Stefanelli (Masseria) and Jamie Leeds (Hank’s Oyster Bar). The Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery reopens on the National Mall in October, and the Museum of the Bible is scheduled to open in November.

Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, is a private, non-profit membership organization of 900 businesses committed to marketing the area as a premier global convention, tourism and special events destination with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historic communities. www.washington.org.
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Historic Hotels 2016 Awards of Excellence Winners Announced

The famous duck walk at The Peabody Memphis. Doug Browne of The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee was honored as the 2016 Historic Hotelier of the Year.
The famous duck walk at The Peabody Memphis. Doug Browne of The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee was honored as the 2016 Historic Hotelier of the Year.

Washington, DC –Mission Inn Hotel & Spa of Riverside, California,  the Palace Hotel  and the Inn at the Presidio of of San Francisco and La Fonda on the Plaza of Santa Fe, were among the historic hotels honored with 2016 Awards of Excellence by Historic Hotels of America® and Historic Hotels Worldwide® . The Mayflower Hotel of Washington DC was awarded the best City Center historic hotel, and the Omni Homestead Resort of Hot Springs, Virginia was named best historic resort.

Honors were given in multiple categories ranging from Hotelier of the Year and Hotel Historian of the Year to Best Historic Resort, Historic Hotelier of the Year, Lifetime Achievement, and others, at a ceremony and gala at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday, November 3.

Each year, these Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence honor, encourage, and recognize the most exemplary historic hotels, hoteliers, and leadership practices. The Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence are presented to historic hotels and hoteliers demonstrating innovative leadership, stewardship, and contribution to furthering the recognition, preservation, and celebration of these preeminent historic hotels and their histories.

From more than 200 nominees, the following Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide hotels and hoteliers were honored with these prestigious annual awards for 2016:

Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (Under 75 Guestrooms)
• Inn at the Presidio (1903) San Francisco, California

Best Historic Hotel (76-200 Guestrooms)
• La Fonda on the Plaza™ (1922) Santa Fe, New Mexico
Best Historic Hotel (201-400 Guestrooms)
• Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California

Best Historic Hotel (Over 400 Guestrooms)
• Palace Hotel, A Luxury Collection Hotel (1875) San Francisco, California

Best City Center Historic Hotel
• The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection (1925) Washington, DC

Best Historic Resort
• The Omni Homestead Resort (1766) Hot Springs, Virginia

Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year
• White Stallion Ranch (1900) Tucson, Arizona

Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel
• The Jefferson, Washington, DC (1923) Washington, DC

Historic Hotels of America Sustainability Champion
• The Boar’s Head (1834) Charlottesville, Virginia
2016 Historic Hotels of America Hotel Historian of the Year Award
• Lora Gallagher at the Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort (1955) Honolulu, Hawaii

2016 Historic Hotelier of the Year
• Doug Browne at The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee

 

Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel
• Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion (1886) Charleston, South Carolina

Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year
• The Genzlinger Family at The Settlers Inn at Bingham Park (1927) Hawley, Pennsylvania

Historic Hotels of America Ambassador of the Year (Quarter Century Service)
• Ken Price at the Palmer House®, A Hilton Hotel (1871) Chicago, Illinois

2016 Historian of the Year Award
• Jamie Ford, New York Times Best-Selling Author

 

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Europe
• Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (1845) Lucerne, Switzerland
Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Asia/Pacific
• Hotel New Grand (1927) Yokohama, Japan

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in the Americas
• Hacienda Xcanatún (1789) Merida, Mexico

2016 Lifetime Achievement Award
• Takamasa Osano and Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, LP

“We are proud to congratulate the 2016 Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence winners,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Director of Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “These historic hotels and hoteliers represent the pinnacle in historic hotels and their achievements. Their dedicated stewardship and innovative leadership helps ensure that these legendary historic hotels and their wonderful histories will continued to be enjoyed by future generations of travelers.”

Award recipients are selected from nominees received from historic hotels, historic preservation supporters, prior award recipients, and leadership from Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. As official programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide provide the recognition to travelers, civic leaders, and the global cultural, heritage, and historic travel market that member hotels are among the finest historic hotels across America and around the world. The Historic Hotels Annual Awards of Excellence program recognizes the pinnacle of this distinct group of nominees in a range of categories.

Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with 32 charter members. Today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 295 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, please visit HistoricHotels.org.

Historic Hotels Worldwide is a prestigious collection of historic treasures, including historic hotels, castles, chateaus, palaces, academies, haciendas, villas, monasteries, and other historic lodging spanning more than ten centuries. Historic Hotels Worldwide recognizes authentic cultural treasures that demonstrate historic preservation and their inspired architecture, cultural traditions, and authentic cuisine. Historic Hotels Worldwide is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (United States of America). HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com allows travelers to book their next getaway from more than 3,000 historic and cultural experiences, and view special offers at participating historic hotels from 30 countries. To be nominated and selected to be featured on this supplemental marketing program website, a historic hotel must be at least 75 years old; utilize historic accommodations; serve as the former home or be located on the grounds of the former home of famous persons or significant location for an event in history; be located in or within walking distance to a historic district, historically significant landmark, place of historic event, or a historic city center; be recognized by a local preservation organization or national trust; and display historic memorabilia, artwork, photography, and other examples of its historic significance. To be selected in the United States for inclusion in Historic Hotels Worldwide, a hotel must meet the above criteria plus be a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, please visit HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com.

Click here to see the Historic Hotels of America video. To receive special offers, including the monthly enewsletter, Discover & Explore, which includes hotel specials, offers and historic fun facts, click here. View the Historic Hotels of America 2016 Annual Directory ebook or download the free app on iTunesAmazonGoogle play, and the Windows Store.

See also:

Historic Hotels of America to Select 2016 Awards of Excellence Winners from Among Finalists

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Two Nights, One Day in Pittsburgh: Historic Omni William Penn Hotel Connects to City’s Proud Heritage

The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Palm Court of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

(I have come to Pittsburgh to join the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Sojourn three-day, 120-mile bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage. I only have two nights and one full day in the city, so I focus on what is uniquely Pittsburgh’s heritage. This is fifth in the series.) 

My purpose for this all-too-brief visit to Pittsburgh is to immerse myself in the city’s proud heritage at the epicenter of the nation’s founding, settlement, industrialization and emergence as a world power, but a heritage that came at a terrible cost to its environment. The city has undertaken a fantastic revitalization, emerging from grey to green, and becoming one of America’s most liveable cities.

And so for my two-nights stay, I seek out the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – a member of Historic Hotels of America – which celebrated its centennial in 2016 the same year as the city celebrated its bicentennial, and is so much a part of Pittsburgh’s story.

I love wandering around, immersing myself in the taking in the ambiance, admiring its stunning architectural features and Art Deco-style appointments, and, as if these walls could talk, hearing its stories as if whispered in my ear. There are historic displays, photos, artifacts and artwork in various places that convey the story. Indeed, in its award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916, there is an enormous mural that pays homage to the city’s history depicting “The Taking of Fort Pitt”.

"The Taking of Fort Pitt" mural hangs in The Omni William Penn Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916 © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
“The Taking of Fort Pitt” mural hangs in The Omni William Penn Hotel’s award-winning restaurant, The Terrace Room, that dates from 1916 © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Whenever I travel, I first seek out members of Historic Hotels of America, a collection of properties. Historic hotels are so much more than mere structures. They embody the heritage and history and sense of place, and are also very much creations of their builders. Owners take on the role of steward, with a responsibility of passing it along to the next.

This is true of The William Penn, whose history parallels that of the city and the nation, as I learn from a wonderful pamphlet, “A Grand Dame Named William Penn,” by Marianne Lee.

Stunning decoration in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s interior. Built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, when it was first opened, in 1916, it was hailed as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Stunning decoration in the Omni William Penn Hotel’s interior. Built by industrialist Henry Clay Frick, when it was first opened, in 1916, it was hailed as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation” © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The William Penn Hotel was the last building venture of Henry Clay Frick, one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest industrialists. Frick envisioned the William Penn as Pittsburgh’s showplace, and it was designed by renowned architects Benno Janssen, and Franklin Abbott to rival the great hotels of Europe in Old World style but with what was then the state-of-the-art, sophisticated, 20th century technology. Guests were dazzled by such modern amenities including iced drinking water on top, “certified” lighting, electrically operated clocks, a telephone in every room connected to a master switchboard with 30 operators at the ready, and a private bathroom in an age when most Americans still used outdoor privies and most hotels offered only shared facilities.

Built at a cost of $6 million, when it opened, newspapers proclaimed The William Penn as the “Grandest Hotel in the nation.” Its first night featured the annual Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Gala, the largest gala in city history up to that time, which was hosted by US Secretary of State Philander Knox.

When the hotel was first built, it had 1,000 guestrooms (interesting to contemplate since it only has 597 today), and an elegant two-tier Grand Ballroom on the 17th floor. In 1928, the hotel was acquired by the Eppley Hotel Company and Eugene Eppley, a Horatio Alger rags-to-riches figure, financed a major expansion, the Grant Street Annex. That added 600 more guestrooms as well as the hotel’s crowning jewel, the Urban Room, designed by Joseph Urban, when it was finished in 1929. With this addition, The William Penn became the largest hotel between Pittsburgh and Chicago, and the major convention facility for Pittsburgh.

But Eppley, who was the vanguard of a new breed of professional hotelier who saw his patrons not as customers but as guests, lost control of the hotel in the Great Depression, and new owners brought in the Statler Hotels company to manage it 1940-1951. Eppley briefly regained control, but over the years, this Grand Dame was held by Sheraton, then a group of local investors, then Alcoa, which invested $20 million in a substantial renovation, and finally Omni Hotels & Resorts, in 2001.

A photo of Lawrence Welk recalls the bandleader’s connection to the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – his famous bubble machine was invented by the hotel’s engineer  © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
A photo of Lawrence Welk recalls the bandleader’s connection to the historic Omni William Penn Hotel – his famous bubble machine was invented by the hotel’s engineer © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Throughout its storied past and many owners, The Omni William Penn Hotel has hosted many of the 20th century’s movers, shakers and celebrities.  A young bandleader named Lawrence Welk, who would later gain fame for his television show, performed in the hotel’s ballrooms; the hotel’s  engineers actually devised Welk’s iconic bubble machine – a connection commemorated by naming a ballroom for him, and in large photographic murals.

In 1934, a young vocalist named Dolores DeFina accepted a marriage proposal at The William Penn from the inimitable Bob Hope. The hotel remains celebrated as a wedding venue (including being named to the “Best of Weddings 2009” list by The Knot ).

A popular campaign spot as well as for presidential appearances, The Omni William Penn Hotel has received every president since Theodore Roosevelt (who visited in 1917 to attend a Moose Convention), including John Kennedy and Barack Obama.

The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The gracious lobby of the historic Omni William Penn Hotel in downtown Pittsburgh © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Then, as now, The William Penn combines every modern amenity with timeless elegance: 597 beautifully appointed guestrooms including 38 suites, 52,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, and five dining venues including its fine dining room, The Terrace Room, the Palm Court, a pub-style Tap Room, Starbucks Coffee Café, The Speakeasy (in 1920s tradition tucked beneath the hotel lobby), plus 24-hour room service. The hotel boasts two self-contained conference centers, a 24-hour fitness center, beauty salon, gift shop, and a jewelry store.

There is every amenity, nicety and graciousness, beginning with fresh apples at reception and a concierge available to help with every situation. My room is outfitted with plush robe, refrigerator, bottled water, coffee maker, big screen TV, hair dryer, ironing board/iron, safe, WiFi (free if you enroll in Omni Hotels loyalty program).

I take advantage of the opportunity to order two beverages (at no charge) plus other items at modest cost for the morning ($3 for an English muffin; $3 for a toasted bagel with cream cheese, $2.75 for a muffin, $3.75 for Greek yogurt, etc.), especially when I have to leave at 5:15 am to get to the start of my Rails-to-Trails biking trip on the Great Allegheny Passage. You tell them a 15-minute window when you want it to be delivered, and sure enough, it arrives right on time. So does my car, waiting for me when I depart.

The Omni William Penn Hotel marked its centennial in 2016 the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial. Located downtown, it is walking distance to many of the city’s attractions © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The Omni William Penn Hotel marked its centennial in 2016 the same year as Pittsburgh’s bicentennial. Located downtown, it is walking distance to many of the city’s attractions © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The hotel is smack in the middle of the city, walking distance to all the downtown attractions, restaurants, cultural and financial center. Here’s a recap of my Day in Pittsburgh Walking Tour: Omni William Penn Hotel, Monongahela Incline, Duquesne Incline, Point State Park, Fort Pitt Museum, National Aviary, Andy Warhol Museum, Heinz History Center, Strip District. But one full day in Pittsburgh is simply not enough.

Omni William Penn Pittsburgh, 530 William Penn Place, Pittsburgh PA 15219, 412-281-7100, omnihotels.com/Pittsburgh. 

Historic Hotels of America

Historic Hotels of America is the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating the finest Historic Hotels. Historic Hotels of America was founded in 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with 32 charter members. Today, Historic Hotels of America has more than 290 historic hotels. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org, 800-678-8946. 

Visit Pittsburgh

For all the right reasons, Pittsburgh is a sensational travel destination no matter what season or weather, whether it is business, academia or leisure pursuits that bring you into the city. I can’t wait to come back.

For more information, contact Visit Pittsburgh, 412-281-7711, 800-359-0758, 877-LOVE PGH (568-3744), info@visitpittsburgh.com, www.visitpittsburgh.com.

See also:

One Day, Two Nights in Pittsburgh: From Grey to Green, A Proud City Revitalized

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Point State Park Proves Highlight of Walking Tour

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Andy Warhol Museum is at Center of Revitalized City

36 Hours in Pittsburgh: Strip District Exemplifies City’s Past, Future

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© 2016 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to FamTravLtr@aol.com. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures

 

Historic Hotels of America to Select 2016 Awards of Excellence Winners from Among Finalists

Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), the famous “Pink Lady” of  St. Pete Beach, Florida, is a finalist for Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), the famous “Pink Lady” of St. Pete Beach, Florida, is a finalist for Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Historic Hotels of America® and Historic Hotels Worldwide®  will be announcing winners of the 2016 Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence at a Gala Dinner at The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) in Honolulu, Hawaii on November 3.  These Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence recognize and celebrate the finest historic hotels and hoteliers across the nation and around the world.

Award recipients are selected from nominees received from historic hotels, historic preservation supporters, prior award recipients, and leadership from Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. As official programs of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide provide the recognition to travelers, civic leaders, and the global cultural, heritage, and historic travel market that member hotels are among the finest historic hotels across America and around the world. The Historic Hotels Annual Awards of Excellence program recognizes the pinnacle of this distinct group of nominees in a range of categories.

From over 200 nominations, the awards committee evaluated, and after careful consideration selected the following 2016 award nominee finalists:

Historic Hotels of America New Member of the Year

  • Woodstock Inn & Resort (1793) Woodstock, Vermont
  • The Inn at Diamond Cove (1890) Portland, Maine
  • The Redbury New York (1903) New York, New York
  • XV Beacon (1903) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Hotel Warner (1930) West Chester, Pennsylvania

Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel

  • Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California
  • The Jefferson, Washington, DC (1923) Washington, DC
  • The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort (1927) Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928) St. Pete Beach, Florida
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), St. Pete Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Loews Don CeSar Hotel (1928), St. Pete Beach, Florida © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Sustainability Champion

  • Hanover Inn Dartmouth (1780) Hanover, New Hampshire
  • The Boar’s Head (1834) Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (1847) Point Clear, Alabama
  • The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • Lake Yellowstone Hotel & Cabins (1903) Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
  • Hilton Chicago (1927) Chicago, Illinois

Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (Under 75 Guestrooms)

  • Concord’s Colonial Inn (1716) Concord, Massachusetts
  • Beekman Arms and Delamater Inn (1766) Rhinebeck, New York
  • Inn at the Presidio (1776) San Francisco, California
  • Inn at Leola Village, Est. 1867 (1867) Leola, Pennsylvania
  • The Chanler at Cliff Walk (1873) Newport, Rhode Island
  • The Wort Hotel (1941) Jackson, Wyoming

Best Historic Hotel (75-200 Guestrooms)

  • The Otesaga Hotel and Cooper Inn (1909) Cooperstown, New York
  • The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee
  • Hotel Blackhawk, Autograph Collection (1915) Davenport, Iowa
  • Historic Hotel Bethlehem (1922) Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • La Fonda on the Plaza™ (1922) Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Hawthorne Hotel (1925) Salem, Massachusetts
Hermitage Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee, a historic hotel
The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee, is nominated for Best Historic Hotel (75-200 guestrooms) © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Best Historic Hotel (201-400 Guestrooms)

  • The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California
  • The Plaza (1907) New York, New York
  • Embassy Suites by Hilton Portland Downtown (1912) Portland, Oregon
  • Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center (1927) Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • The Edgewater (1948) Madison, Wisconsin
The lobby of The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC, from which the term “lobbyist” derived © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
The lobby of The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC, from which the term “lobbyist” derived © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Best Historic Hotel (Over 400 Guestrooms)

  • Palace Hotel (1875) San Francisco, California
  • Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort & Spa (1901) Honolulu, Hawaii
  • The Fairmont Hotel San Francisco (1907) San Francisco, California
  • The Drake Hotel (1920) Chicago, Illinois
  • Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza (1931) Cincinnati, Ohio

Best City Center Historic Hotel

  • The Pfister Hotel (1893) Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square (1893) San Francisco, California
  • Le Pavillon Hotel (1907) New Orleans, Louisana
  • The Mayflower Hotel, Autograph Collection (1925) Washington, DC
  • Boston Park Plaza (1927) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Hilton Chicago (1927) Chicago, Illinois

Best Historic Resort

  • The Omni Homestead Resort (1766) Hot Springs, Virginia
  • Keswick Hall (1912) Charlottesville, Virginia
  • The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Spring, Colorado
  • The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin
  • Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (1923) Ojai, California
  • The Hotel Hershey® (1933) Hershey, Pennsylvania

Hotel Historian of the Year

  • Susan Wilson at the Omni Parker House, Boston (1855) Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tom Vickstrom at The Hermitage Hotel (1910) Nashville, Tennessee
  • Tina Malasics at The Gasparilla Inn & Club (1913) Boca Grande, Florida
  • Beth Davis at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Spring, Colorado
  • Teresa Porter at the Benbow Historic Inn (1926) Garberville, California
  • Lora Gallagher at the Hilton Hawaiian Village® Waikiki Beach Resort (1955) Honolulu, Hawaii

Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel

  • Chez Philippe at The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee
  • The Spiced Pear at The Chanler at Cliff Walk (1873) Newport, Rhode Island
  • Circa 1886 at Wentworth Mansion (1886) Charleston, South Carolina
  • Woods Restaurant at Grand Hotel (1887) Mackinac Island, Michigan
  • Penrose Room at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • The Wisconsin Room at The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin

Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year

  • The Widman Family at Wentworth Mansion (1886) in Charleston, South Carolina
  • The Monteleone Family at Hotel Monteleone (1886) New Orleans, Louisiana
  • The Smiley Family at Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York
  • The Kohler Family at The American Club (1918) Kohler, Wisconsin
  • The Melius Family at OHEKA CASTLE (1919) Huntington, New York
  • The Genzlinger Family at The Settlers Inn at Bingham Park (1927) Hawley, Pennsylvania
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York, still owned and managed by the Smiley Family, is a finalist for Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com
Mohonk Mountain House (1869) New Paltz, New York, still owned and managed by the Smiley Family, is a finalist for Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year © 2016 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Ambassador of the Year (Quarter Century Service)

  • Shirley St. Peter at the Hanover Inn Dartmouth (1780) Hanover, New Hampshire
  • Steve Blum at The Willard InterContinental, Washington DC (1847) Washington, DC
  • Doug Weatherford at The Peabody Memphis (1869) Memphis, Tennessee
  • Ken Price at The Palmer House®, A Hilton Hotel (1871) Chicago, Illinois
  • Anna Alba at The Broadmoor (1918) Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Linda Shoe at The Hotel Viking (1926) Newport, Rhode Island

Historic Hotelier of the Year

  • Terry Haney at the Inn at the Presidio (1776) San Francisco, California
  • Doug Browne at The Peabody Memphis (1861) Memphis, Tennessee
  • Randy Howat at the Inns of Distinction, LLC (1867) Pennsylvania
  • Duane and Kelly Roberts at The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa (1876) Riverside, California
  • Kathy Faulk at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington DC (1930) Washington, DC
  • Jim Waldrop at The Wort Hotel (1941) Jackson, Wyoming

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Europe

  • NH Collection Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi (1212) Amalfi, Italy
  • Bernini Palace Hotel (15th Century) Florence, Italy
  • Pulitzer Amsterdam (17th Century) Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • Antica Dimora Suites (1820) Crete, Greece
  • Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (1845) Lucerne, Switzerland
  • Ciragan Palace Kempinski (1867) Istanbul, Turkey

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in Asia/Pacific

  • Fort Seengh Sagar (1670) Rajasthan, India
  • Alsisar Haveli (1892) Jaipur, India
  • Hotel New Grand (1927) Yokohama, Japan
  • Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi (1901) Hanoi, Vietnam
  • The Fullerton Hotel Singapore (1928) Singapore
  • Mansion Hotel (1932) Shanghai, China

Best Historic Hotels Worldwide hotel in the Americas

  • Alfiz Hotel (17th Century) Cartagena, Colombia
  • Hacienda Xcanatún (1789) Merida, Mexico
  • Quinta Real Puebla (1893) Puebla, Mexico
  • Fairmont Le Château Frontenac (1893) Québec City, Canada
  • The Omni King Edward Hotel (1903) Toronto, Canada
  • Alvear Palace Hotel (1932) Buenos Aires, Argentina

 Historic Hotels of America

Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing and celebrating historic hotels, was founded in 1989 with 32 charter members and today has more than 290 historic hotel members. These historic hotels have all faithfully maintained their authenticity, sense of place, and architectural integrity in the United States of America, including 46 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Historic Hotels of America is comprised of mostly independently owned and operated properties. More than 30 of the world’s finest hospitality brands, chains, and collections are represented in Historic Hotels of America. To be nominated and selected for membership into this prestigious program, a hotel must be at least 50 years old; has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark or listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places; and recognized as having historic significance. For more information, visit HistoricHotels.org.

Historic Hotels Worldwide

Historic Hotels Worldwide®, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,  is a prestigious collection of historic treasures, including historic hotels, castles, chateaus, palaces, academies, haciendas, villas, monasteries, and other historic lodging spanning more than ten centuries. Historic Hotels Worldwide recognizes authentic cultural treasures that demonstrate historic preservation and their inspired architecture, cultural traditions, and authentic cuisine. HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com allows travelers to book their next getaway from more than 3,000 historic and cultural experiences, and view special offers at participating historic hotels from 30 countries. To be nominated and selected to be featured on this supplemental marketing program website, historic lodging must be at least 75 years old; utilize historic accommodations; serve as the former home or be located on the grounds of the former home of famous persons or significant location for an event in history; be located in or within walking distance to a historic district, historically significant landmark, place of historic event, or a historic city center; be recognized by a local preservation organization or national trust; and display historic memorabilia, artwork, photography, and other examples of its historic significance. To be selected in the United States for inclusion in Historic Hotels Worldwide, a hotel must meet the above criteria plus be a member of Historic Hotels of America. For more information, visit HistoricHotelsWorldwide.com.

Click here to see the Historic Hotels of America video. To receive special offers, including the monthly enewsletter,Discover & Explore, which includes hotel specials, offers and historic fun facts, click here. View the Historic Hotels of America 2016 Annual Directory ebook or download the free app on iTunesAmazonGoogle play, and the Windows Store.

 

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