Category Archives: Awards

Five New ‘Ethical Destinations’ Recognized

Ethical-Traveler-LogoIn the view of Ethical Traveler, Grenada, Micronesia, Mongolia, Panama and Tuvalu “are making impressive strides to conserve natural resources, support human rights and protect animals.” As such, they are first-time winners of the annual Ethical Destinations Awards, joining destinations recognized in previous years.

Each year, California-based Ethical Traveler researches and publishes a list of what it considers art the 10 most forward-thinking countries in the developing world. In addition to “performance” in the areas of human rights, social welfare, animal welfare and environmental protection, winning countries must be appealing as travel destinations.

The 2016 winners, in alphabetical order (not in order of merit), are:

  • Cabo Verde
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Micronesia (Federated States)
  • Mongolia
  • Panama
  • Samoa
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Uruguay

Ethical Traveler is a project of the Berkeley-based Earth Island Institute. The goal of the Ethical Destinations Awards is to encourage developing nations to do the right thing, and to reward destinations where policies and actions protect human rights and the environment.

Estes Park Named Top Small Town to Visit

Prestigious selects its top 20.

EnjoyEstesParkEstes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is less than an hour from our door. Predictably, we visit frequently — to hike, to snowshoe, to show off to visitors. We love it for lots of reasons, but we take it a bit for granted because it is so close. In assembling its list of “The Best 20 Small Towns to Visit in 2015,” selected Estes Park as its top town. Here’s why:

“Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Estes Park has beckoned visitors since the 1860s, when an inspired Welshman named Griff Evans established a local dude ranch. Today the town serves as base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park, which marks 100 years of existence in 2015. A year of wilderness-themed art exhibits, classes, films and concerts celebrates the park’s highlights—which include some of the tallest mountains in the continental United States and more than 300 miles of hiking trails. The park’s sights and sounds are particularly stunning in the fall, when the leaves blaze with color and bull elks fill the air with haunting mating calls.

“While the town of Estes Park itself is relaxed (elk have been known to wander downtown streets), there are marked touches of class—notably the historic Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s book The Shining. This April, the hotel is adding a giant hedge maze, the result of an international design competition to create one honoring the maze in the film adaptation by Stanley Kubrick, who actually filmed external shots at a lodge in Oregon and used a soundstage for internal shots. (Neither hotel ever had a maze until the Estes Park addition, confusing some horror fans). Visitors can also enjoy several new breweries and a new distillery, or just meander the scenic riverwalk alongside the Big Thompson River—but watch out for the elk.”

Actually, Estes Park is hardly in “the heart of the Rocky Mountains.” It is on the far eastern edge of the northern Colorado portion of the range. But it is still a neat little town. I overlook the tourist kitsch and instead enjoy the summer festivals in Bond Park and elsewhere in town and the great community spirit. If I had written this post, I might have noted that the Stanley Hotel is going to put in a maze on its broad, south-facing lawn

Estes Park was mightily impacted by the September 2013 floods. For a time, with all access routes from the east washed out, the only way into town was via Trail Ridge Road from Grand Lake on the west side of the Continental Divide. Trail Ridge Road that links the two communities is the highest continuous paved road in the world. It is closed in the winter, due to deep snow and fierce winds. Visitors to Estes Park now see few scars from those floods. I would honor the town for its resilience too.


Is the Stanley Colorado’s ‘Coolest Hotel’?

Website tags “coolest hotels” in all 50 states pus DC.

Thrillist-logoWhen I clicked on’s post listing of the coolest hotels in each of the 50 states plus Washington, DC, I expected the Colorado choice to be something like The Crawford atop Denver’s fabulously repurposed Union Station or Aspen’s ultra-hip Sky Hotel.  I was surprised by the site’s pick of the spooky Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. Not that I don’t like the Stanley for a whole bunch of reasons, but the coolest in the state? Here’s what wrote about the Stanley:

The Stanley Hotel

Estes Park, CO
Colorado’s got plenty of luxurious mountain resorts, but there’s only one so awesome it inspired Stephen King to write 200,000 words about it. This spot (named for the same guy who founded Stanley Steamer) is the hotel from The Shining, and while you might not run into a bartender who tells you to kill your family, there are enough rumored ghost stories in this place to make it a bonafide haunted landmark.

The Broadmoor is Buying the Seven Falls

Honored resort is adding the Seven Falls to its Colorado Springs portfolio.

Broadmoor-logoThe Broadmoor, Colorado Springs’ greatly honored resort hotel, has a rare timeless quality. On the surface, it never seems to change, but beneath the sense of immutable image, it is constantly adding, upgrading and developing into an ever more wide-ranging property. In the past few years, the resort has developed or is in the process of developing two significant outliers: The Ranch at Emerald Valley (“a unique retreat offering refined luxury with the rustic charm”) reopening this summer after September flood damage. Also, Cloud Camp debuts later this summer at 9,200 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain on the historic site of Broadmoor founder Spencer Penrose’s Cheyenne Lodge, an adobe-style structure with 360-views that was demolished in the 1970s. Click here for a video with details about these developments.

Also in the works, a complete remodel of Broadmoor West, which has splendid views of historic turret-topped Broadmoor Main but in itself was not quite so lovely. In addition to all new guest rooms, Broadmoor West will get its own tower as well as upper-level penthouses. Diners will enjoy three made-over restaurant spaces (La Taverne, Le Jardin and intimate Entre Deux).

The Seven Falls, while a dramatic attraction, are in truth not very photogenic. This old postcard, with each of the individual cascades labeled, is a better depiction.
The Seven Falls, while a dramatic attraction, are in truth not very photogenic. This old postcard, with each of the individual cascades labeled, is a better depiction.

The latest news, as reported by the Colorado Springs Gazette, is that the resort has agreed to purchase the Seven Falls, long a popular local tourist attraction on 1,300 acres in South Cheyenne Canyon and adjacent the Broadmoor’s own vast spread. No closing date or sale price was revealed, but the resort is already looking at a major reclamation project. The attraction, consisting of a daisy chain of seven cascades, was devastated by the floods of 2013 and has been closed ever since.

First developed as a tourist attraction in the 1880s, the falls drop in stages 181 feet into a natural box canyon. Access to the top of the falls has been via a walkway with 224 steps or an elevator within the rock wall. The night-time illumination is a major draw for visitors. The Gazette reported that The Broadmoor will spend $1 million in repairing the flood damage starting with debris cleanup and including replacement of lighting systems, repair of the elevator, strengthening of walls, and rebuilding of parts of the access road and parking lot. If history is a guide, it will all be very well done.

17 Colorado Hotels on Travel Magazine’s Gold List

Two AAA Five Diamond  and Forbes Five Star properties also on Conde-Nast Traveler’s top tier list

CondeNastGold-logoJust recently, I was pleased to join in a celebration of Colorado’s three hotels whose excellence was recognized by the 2014 Five Diamond honors: The Ritz Carlton Denver, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and the Little Nell Hotel in Aspen. And only two of those received Five Stars from Forbes Travel Guides (formerly Mobil Star honors) for 2013: The Broadmoor and the Little Nell. The 2014  list will not be released until February.

Now comes the Conde-Nast Traveler’s 2014 Gold List with 17 Colorado hotels, two of which were also on the AAA and Forbes list:  Lumière Telluride, Westin Riverfront at Beaver Creek Mountain (Avon), Dunton Hot Springs (Dolores), Four Seasons Resort Vail, Beaumont Hotel and Spa (Ouray), Fairmont Heritage Place/Franz Klammer Lodge, (Telluride), The Sebatian (Vail), The Little Nell (Aspen), Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa, The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs), St. Regis Aspen, Hotel Teatro (Denver), Oxford Hotel (Denver), Inn at Lost Creek (Telluride), Viceroy Snowmass, Sonnenalp Resort of Vail and The Arrabelle at Vail Square.

I am slightly suspicious about the Conde-Nast list. While it is reportedly a readers poll, and it is hard to believe that enough readers have experienced the Dunton Hot Springs, a former ghost town transformed into a luxury hideaway that, when a head rests on every pillow can only accommodate 44 guests, or the historic Beaumont Hotel in Ouray with its even dozen luxury hotels and suite. I’m not saying that such boutique properties are not worth of high honors. I just question that they actually were selected by readers. Thoughts?

Ritz Carlton Denver Again Earns AAA’s Top Honors

Hotel celebrates fourth consecutive year for Five Diamond honors

HotelExteriorThe Ritz Carlton Denver was been honored with AAA’s top Five Diamond Award for the fourth year in a row — pretty good for a hotel that only opened in January of 2008 and managed to institute high standards just as the Recession was kicking into high gear and has maintained them ever since. It is one of only 125 hotels in North America to achieve this stratospheric rating in context of the hospitality industry. If you frequently read this blog, you know that I can be snarky and critical, so believe me when I write that Five Diamonds from AAA, like Five Stars from rival Forbes, is a very big deal.

The coveted award itself on display for the celebratory reception.
The coveted award itself on display for the celebratory reception.

The hotel had a rough start. Its location next to the Greyhound Station could hardly be called prestigious. As the Recession settled in, sales of the pricey condos on the top floors of the tower were discouraging. But still, the hotel set a high bar for itself and succeeded. In my view, the hotel’s numerous honors should also be for triumph over a perfect storm of challenges. Partnering with Elways on the lobby-level restaurant was a bright spot through this time and remains a draw for locals as well as visitors.  I was happy to be invited to celebrate this honor and raise my champagne glass in a toast to AAA for making this award possible and for the Denver team for earning it.

The lavish party included excellent oysters on the half shelf cleverly served in a traditional seafood can.
The lavish party included succulent Kumamoto oysters on pickled cucumber and topped with American caviar, cleverly served in a traditional seafood can.


The state with the most Five Diamond properties is, not surprisingly, California. Colorado has three: The extraordinary Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for the last 37 years and the Little Nell Hotel in at the base of Aspen Mountain. Each of these three has garnered numerous other awards too, but the party was specifically for the AAA honors, and general manager Steve Janicek invited representatives of the other two hotels to join the celebration.

Historic Hotels Annual Awards

Historic Hotels of America honors its own

HistoricHotels-logoEarly next month, I will be spending a night in the wonderful Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve toured the hotel, I’ve dined there, I’ve had drinks there but I’ve never yet stayed overnight. Not that I’m afraid of the paranormal  activities reports of the hotel that suspense-meister Stephen King used as a model for “The Shining,” but it’s an hour from my house, and I don’t customarily pay for an overnight so close to home. The Stanley is hosting a holiday party for the Society of American Travel Writers’ local members, and so I will finally get to stay there at a discounted rate.

The Stanley has just won another honor, this one for social media, one of Historic Hotels of America’s 2013 Annual Awards, which were just announced at Milwaukee”s grand Pfister Hotel,  honor, encourage and recognize the most exemplary historic hotels, hotelier, and leaders.

The Historic Hotels of America Hotel of the Year Award is the highest honor awarded. The Best Historic Hotel awards are given to historic hotels demonstrating the highest contributions to furthering the celebration of history and demonstrating leadership and innovation. I have always owned old house (an 1870s brownstone in Hoboken and now an 189os prairie Victorian in Boulder. Knowing what it takes to maintain an old home, I can not even imagine how the task of restoring and renovating is magnified when it comes to even a modest hotel — and even with a big budget and a staff. Therefore, to me, the “encourage” component is major.

2013 Honorees

  • New Member of the Year. The Jefferson (1923), Washington, D.C.
  • Historic Hotelier of the Year. Dennis Costello, Historic Hotel Bethlehem (1922),  Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
  • Best Small Historic Inn/Hotel (Under 75 Guest Rooms). The Wort Hotel (1941),  Jackson, Wyoming
  • Best Historic Hotel (75 to 200 Guest Rooms). Gettysburg Hotel (Est. 1797),  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Note: This is particularly appropriate since the awards were announced the same time as the 150th celebration of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. The hotel is one of the stops in a town tour that follows the footsteps of President Abraham Lincoln during his November 1863 visit. Guests may also stand in the room where Lincoln crafted the resounding Gettysburg Address at the David Wills House Museum.
  • Best Historic Hotel (200 to400 Guest Rooms). Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (1923), Ojai, California
  • Best Historic Hotel (Over 400 Guest Rooms). Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (1847),  Point Clear, Alabama
  • Best City Center Historic Hotel. The Willard InterContinental (1850), Washington, D.C.
  •  Best Historic Resort. French Lick Resort (1845), French Lick, Indiana
  •  Hotel Historian of the Year. Bob Tagatz, Grand Hotel (1887), Mackinac Island, Michigan
  •  Legendary Family Historic Hoteliers of the Year. The Morrissey Family, The Saint Paul Hotel (1910),  St. Paul, Minnesota
  •  Best Historic Restaurant in Conjunction with a Historic Hotel.Plume at The Jefferson, (1923), Washington, D.C.
  •  Best Social Media of a Historic Hotel. The Stanley (1909), Estes Park, Colorado
  • Historic Hotels of America Sustainability Champion. Timberline Lodge (1938),  Timberline, Oregon
  • Historic Hotels of America Ambassador of the Year (Quarter Century Service) . George Moore, The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa (1852), Mobile, Alabama
  •  Historic Hotels of America Heritage Award. The Marcus Family, The Pfister Hotel (1893), Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  •  Historic Hotels of America Community Leadership Award. The Lenox (1900). Boston, Massachusetts
  •  Historic Hotels of America Lifetime Achievement Award. Thierry Roch, Former Executive Director, Historic Hotels of America

Vote for the Eighth Wonder of the World

World wonders on the list to become No. 8

8thWonder-logoVirtual Tourist, an online travel site, is taking a reader survey to identify the 8th Wonder of the World. The site has “narrowed it down” to a mere 350 candidates that are a mishmash of natural and man-made wonders, or between technical and aesthetic ones. I actually wonder about some of these wonders. How do you pick between, say, the Galapagos Islands and Blenheim Palace, or the 110-year-old Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth or the Grand’ Place in Brussels? And why is Bubble Gum Alley on the list at all? The 70 foot-long, 20-foot-high alley’s walls are covered in about 1.9 million wads of chewing hum. It is a somewhat yucky curiosity, but a world wonder? I don’t think so. Click here to see the list and to vote. You may do so once a day through September 30.

Mining Exchange Hotel Garners Honors

Downtown Colorado Springs hotel shines with AAA Diamonds

AAA4DiamondThe Mining Exchange, a 117-room boutique hotel in downtown Colorado Springs, has been open for less than a year and has already earned the coveted Four Diamond Rating from AAA, an honor bestowed on fewer than 5 percent of the nearly 31,000 properties approved by AAA. It took four years and three different ownership groups to transform the historic Mining Exchange building and three neighbors (the old Freedom Telegraph, Independence and Municipal Utilities buildings) into a boutique hotel and conference center.

Colorado Springs' Mining Exchange Hotel garnered 4 AAA Diamonds less than a year after it opened.
Colorado Springs’ Mining Exchange Hotel garnered 4 AAA Diamonds less than a year after it opened.

European in inspiration and housed in a beautifully restored building complex, this luxury hotel is a fitting feature in the heart of a downtown district whose boulevard-wide streets and remaining historic structures tell of an elegant and wealthy city. The hotel melds old world charm, modern amenities and exceptional service to create a world-class hotel experience. Part of the prestigious Wyndham Grand Collection, it opened on May 9, 2012 and features a combination of 117 rooms and suites, a full-service award-winning restaurant called Springs Orleans, lobby bar, boardroom, ballrooms and large private courtyard.

The Mining Exchange , A Wyndham Grand Hotel, 8 South Nevada Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903; 719-323-2000.