Category Archives: Airports

Opening Date Set for Westin at Denver Airport

Hotel to open before Thanksgiving rush.

DIA-logoDenver International Airport — the nation’s 5th busiest and the world’s 15th busiest — has operated for more than two decades without a hotel connected to the terminal. The Westin Denver International Airport, which is set to open on November 19, will change that.

The 14-story hotel with 519 guest rooms will serve both business and leisure travelers and locals when the 82,000- square-foot open-air public plaza is completed. It is expected to  become Denver’s newest venue for entertainment and will create a community connection between the airport and downtown Denver. When airport rail service begins, reaching it will be swift and easy.

The hotel's reception area provides a reflected view of the terminal's signature tented roof.
The hotel’s reception area provides a reflected view of the terminal’s signature tented roof.

A couple of months ago, I took a fascinating hardhat tour of the architecturally inventive hotel. It is designed with walls of towering, shimmering glass offering view of DIA flight paths and both the mountains and the plains. Building upon imagery of flight and aviation, the sleek hotel resembles a bird with its wings extended as it hovers above the public plaza, framing and accenting the signature tents of the Jeppesen Terminal roof.

Sweet Amenities at Brown Palace

BrownPalace-logoIs there anyone who hasn’t liberated a little in-room hotel amenity bottles of shampoo or body lotion from the hotel bathroom? I certainly have — mostly a little bar of fine soap or a bottle of body lotion that I haven’t used up. If I were staying at Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, some of the new Rooftop Honey Amenity Line of facial and bath soap, bath gel, shampoo, conditioner and hand and body lotion would be coming home with me. The products are made with real honey – in fact, with honey produced on the rooftop of the hotel. It’s thought to be the only hotel amenity line in the country to be made with a hotel’s own honey.

Back in 2010, The Brown Palace began to nurture a colony of bees on the rooftop, intending to use the honey at the hotel’s signature Afternoon Tea. The hotel even began producing a specialty craft beer served in the Ship’s Tavern. Now come the beauty and skin products since honey is known to moisturize, work as an anti-aging agent and fight bacteria. The sweet smelling, paraben-free Bee Royalty Honey Amenity Line is created with natural essences and honey harvested from the hotel’s rooftop beehives, and is also used in The Brown Palace Spa.

Guests who fall in love with the line can purchase more exclusively at the hotel’s spa. FoMoInfo: 303-312-8940.

Shuttle Between Bozeman Airport & Yellowstone

Shuttle service eases a winter stay at America’s first national park.

Park entrance sign in winter. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.Yellowstone National Park is a magical but challenging place in winter, so anything that makes it easier to visit is a very good thing. One is Yellowstone National Park Lodges‘ convenient airport shuttle service from Bozeman.

Now in its second season, it runs when the only two winter lodges in the park are open.  The Old Faithful Snow Lodge opens on December 20 and Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel the following day. Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel closes for the season on March 2, 2015, and Old Faithful Snow Lodge closes a day earlier. The historic Old Faithful Inn is among the park lodges that do not operate in winter.

In addition to the challenges of winter driving for some people who do not live in snow country, a rental car is really superfluous. Except for the road between Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana in the northern part of the vast national park, winter travel on park road is limited to snowmobiles and enclosed heated snowcoaches that offer daily transport between a variety of locations.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts also offers half- and full-day snowcoach, ski and snowshoe tours and ski and snowshoe rentals and instruction. Visitors to Yellowstone can catch the shuttle from the Holiday Inn near the airport at 1 p.m. It returns to the airport to pick up arrivals for a 1:45 p.m. departure to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. The shuttle leaves Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel daily at 8:30 a.m. and arrives at the airport at 10:30 a.m. and can drop people staying in at the Holiday Inn. The fare is $53.50, plus taxes and fees, each way. Guests who have booked a winter package receive a special rate on the airport shuttle of $39 plus taxes and fees, each way. FoMoInfo: 307-344-7311 or 866-GEYSERLAND (866-439-7375).

Guide to US Airport WiFi’s roundup of 25 airports.

WiFi-symbolWith the 2014 holiday travel season upon us, and many of us going nowhere without a mobile device of some sort, it’s useful to know where we can connect — especially if we are delayed and want to kill some time. has published “Get Connected: Your Guide to Wi-Fi at 25 US Airports.” It includes info on how and where to get connected simple in some terminals and more complicated in others), and whether there is a charge (typically through Boingo at $4.95 and up) or service is free. It also includes locations of workstations or charging stations.

Iceland Celebrates Its 70th

Today is the North Atlantic island nation’s 4th of July equivalent. 

IcelandFlagsKidsThree months from now, I expect to be in Iceland for the Society of American Travel Writers 2014 Convention. I can hardly wait. I don’t think airports “count” when it comes to checking travel destinations off a life list, or else I could say that I’ve been there a number of times. A lifetime ago, I used to fly New York-Luxembourg on the old Icelandic Airlines. The carrier had a $135 roundtrip off-season youth fare and considered you a youth until you were 30. A mandatory stop at Reykjavik’s Keflavik Airport in the pitch black revealed nothing about the country.

Because I’m going and also because Icelandair now has non-stop Denver-Reykjavik service, I’m paying more attention. I just learned that today, June 17, is National Day marking the country’s independence from Denmark in June 1944. That makes the country 70 years old. The 17th became the official day to celebrate because it is the birthday of Jon Sigurdsson, a prominent leader in the Icelandic Independence Movement.

Each year on this date, Icelanders take to the streets of Reykjavik to celebrate with parades, dances, street theater and more from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. The festivities start off with the government’s ceremony at Austurvollur, followed by a parade, family entertainment at Arnaharholl and much more. The Icelandic Circus even makes appearances all over town with engaging characters, workshops and circus shows.

Of course the day wouldn’t be complete without the infamous Fjallkonan, the woman of the mountain, who wears the national costume and recites a poem to the crowd. She represents the spirit and nature of Iceland and is a symbol of Iceland’s push for independence. Following her are many other speeches, musical performances, and activities. After the formal celebrations are over, more informal parties are thrown in almost every town and village across the country.

First Woolley’s Classic Suites Coming to Aurora

Founder of suite hotel concept finally has his name on the sign.

WoolleysAurora does not enjoy the most favorable image as anyone who follows the Denver local news knows. But while shootings, fires and hit-and-run incidents make headlines, good news frequently does not. In truth, Aurora is a sprawling city with all sorts of residential and commercial areas, interlaced with public land — much in proximity to Denver International Airport.

That made it an attractive location for a “four star caliber hotel,” the flagship of Woolley’s Classic Suites, a new hotel brand from the family of Robert E. Woolley, who started it all. In 1969, Woolley converted an apartment complex into the original Granada Royale Hometel, which  grew into a chain of 26 properties. It was bought in 1984 by the Holiday Inn Corporation under the new Embassy Suites name. According to the company website, “From 1965 through the present, Woolley-affiliated companies and partnerships have developed and operated more than 11,000 hotel rooms in nearly 50 hotels and resorts with an aggregate completed value exceeding $1.1 billion. Before being profitably sold to other operators, Woolley’s extensive portfolio of hotel, restaurant, office and residential developments were found throughout Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nevada, Texas and Mexico.”

That’s quite a track record leading to the new hotel in Aurora whose market is clearly the business traveler. Woolley’s Classic Suites, in their words, aims to be “a true hospitality destination, and to transport guests to a welcoming environment where they will be treated to pampering service and luxuriously affordable accommodations. Upon entering, guests are whisked into the property’s inner sanctuary, highlighted by a lush central atrium, complete with year-round ‘outdoor’ patio dining and water feature allowing guests to wander and relax in a setting reminiscent of the European classic hotels where the standards where first established, then refined.”

Model of spacious guest quarters at the first Woolley Classic Suite Hotel soon coming to Aurora.
Model of spacious guest quarters at the first Woolley Classic Suite Hotel soon coming to Aurora.

Again, using their words because the property is not yet open, “Woolley’s Classic Suites features 187 luxuriously appointed, oversized master guestroom suites that range from 525 to 580 square feet in addition to four 1,150-square-foot executive VIP suites. Bathrooms in every guest room feature marble raised bathtubs, floor-to-ceiling glass enclosed showers and double vanities in granite and marble.” There’s also 9,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, a 24-hour complimentary business center, complimentary high-speed internet (wired and wireless), free airport transportation with dedicated shuttles and Colorado’s only Hertz Rent-a-Car self-service kiosk with 24/7 vehicle availability.

Its full-service lunch and dinner restaurant, the Jardin, offers a rotating continental menu developed by chef Daniel Rios, featuring house-made organic homemade cuisine. Additional hotel amenities include “complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast, an indoor saline pool, refrigerators and microwaves in all guest rooms, free parking, complimentary daily manager’s reception, guest laundry facilities and a state-of-the-art fitness center.”

It is located just off I-70 in the Gateway Office Park, 10 miles from DIA and 13 miles from downtown Denver. The address is 16450 East 40th Circle. Aurora, CO 80011;  720-599-3750.

Alaska Railroad Adds March Midweek Train Service

Anchorage-Fairbanks service offered for the first time

AlaskaRailroad-logoAre you as fascinated as I am by the north-country experiences captured by the camera in “Ice Road Truckers” and especially “Railroad Alaska” on cable television? For me, and maybe you, the news that for the first time ever, the Alaska Railroad is offering midweek Aurora Winter Train specials between Fairbanks and Anchorage, is cheering. While travelers don’t have an unlimited choice of travel dates this winter, this inaugural season is a good start.

With northbound trains departing from Anchorage on Tuesday, March 11 and 18, and southbound trains departing from Fairbanks on Wednesday, March 12 and 19, these trains come at a time when Alaska’s two largest communities celebrate the winter season — and celebrate they do. Both residents and visitors the opportunity to ride the budget-friendly rails and experience “the real Alaska” without sharing it with hordes of cruise ship passengers. The days are getting longer (approaching 12 hours of daily sunlight), and with the trip taking roughly 24 hours, there’s plenty of time to sightsee and mingle. I’ve been to Alaska four times during the winter, and take from me: It’s fabulous.

The Alaska Railroad traveling through the spectacular snowy winter landscape of Alaska. (Photo: Wes Barnett via Pinterest)
The Alaska Railroad traveling through the spectacular snowy winter landscape of Alaska. (Photo: Wes Barnett via Pinterest)

Visitors to Fairbanks can book adventures such as aurora borealis viewing tours (those Northern Lights have reportedly been spectacular t this year), visiting Chena Hot Springs Resort, gazing at the intricate ice carvings at the BP World Ice Art Championships, experiencing the 2014 Arctic Winter Games and much more. Although the Iditarod is scheduled to start in Anchorage on March 1, that month is also a great time to visit Alyeska Resort for skiing and snowboarding, and the Great Land’s biggest city is also its cultural, entertainment and shopping hub.

This new train schedule coincides with University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks and Anchorage School District spring breaks, making travel even more accessible for students and enabling visitors to meet some locals. For $215 roundtrip (students,$178; children,$108), trips taken with March departures and returns by May 10 are ideal for those who wish to linger longer. Tickets may be booked online or by calling 907-265-2494 or 800-544-0552.

10 Major Travel Changes in 2013

The Perrin Post’s game changers for travelers this year

globeWendy Perrin, one of the country’s keenest observer of travel trends, has come up with her “Year in Review: The 10 Travel Changes That Will Matter Most to You.” I’m sharing the headlines with you, but you’ll have to go to The Perrin Post for an explanation and some prognoses as to what comes next. In fact, you might want to subscribe. I do.

  • The birth of the world’s largest airline.
  • The death of loyalty.
  • The ability to stay glued to a screen throughout a flight.
  • Hotel nickel-and-diming hit an all-time high.
  • Travelers substituted vacation rentals for hotel rooms.
  • The peer-to-peer sharing economy saved travelers money and connected them with more locals.
  • U.S. airports got first-class lounges that don’t require a first-class ticket.
  • U.S. airports became places to go to for dinner.
  • U.S. cruise ships drew a more global crowd.
  • Ordinary people became tour guides.

Turkey’s New Intercontinental Tunnel

Rail tunnel links two continents to celebrate a notable anniversary

Marmaray-logoTurkey marked the 90th anniversary as a Republic by connecting the east and west by rail with the new the Marmaray Commuter Rail System, which opened a few weeks ago. The new high-speed train connects Asia and Europe via a railway tunnel under the Istanbul Strait. Intended to ease commuting and commerce, the tunnel might not initially be of touristic interest. Still, it is one of several infrastructure improvements designed to ease congestion on land, air and water.

The 47-mile Marmaray project includes underwater tube tunnels, bored tunnels and cut-and-cover tunnels, plus grade-level structures, three new underground stations, 37  renovated and upgraded stations, operations control center, yards, workshops, maintenance facilities, upgrading of existing tracks including a new third track on ground, completely new electrical and mechanical systems and procurement of modern railway cars.


But there’s more to come in magical Istanbul, including a 30-mil ship canal and a new airport. The 30-mile ship canal will connect the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara to relieve the Bosphorus, which has about 50,000 ships pass through each year. When complete, the canal will transform the European side of Istanbul into a large island. The new canal will handle 85,000 ships a year, up from the 51,000 currently using the Bosphorus each year. The new airport will be one of the world’s largest with six runways. Slated for a first-stage opening in 2017, the airport will be an investment of more than $9 billion dollars and is expected to service 150 million passengers every year.

Bridge Over the Mexican Border Aids Air Travelers

Tijuana International set to become more of a reliever to jammed San Diego

CrossborderBridgeI’ve never flown into or out of San Diego, but the airport has a reputation for scary take-offs and landings since pilots often must thread between skyscrapers. It’s also crowded. I’ve never flown into or out of Tijuana either. In fact, I’ve never even been to Tijuana. But this one-runway airport on the US-Mexican border last year saw an estimated 3.7 million passengers. It is the hub for  Volaris Airlines, is served by Mexican domestic airlines as well as Aeromexico service to the Far East (Shanghai-Pudong, China, and Tokyo-Narita, Japan) Not surprisingly, some travelers from Southern California find it expedient.

Construction is underway for  Project Smart Border 2010, a new bi-national terminal tight across from the U-S-Mexican border fence, on US land with a 500-foot bridge to Tujuana International Airport making it a more practical relief airport for congested San Diego Airport. There will be a fee to use the bridge, but it certainly eliminates the long waits often found at the border, The project includes parking, check-in counters and customs offices. This project has been discussed since the 1990s and is supposed to be completed in 2014. But since Mexico is involved, who knows?

This will not be world’s first “bi-national airport.” France and Switzerland share Basel-Mulhouse Airport and Geneva International Airport.