Category Archives: Hotels

Hello, Halcyon!

Cherry Creek North hotel a stylish newcomer.

halcyon-logoTwo months ago, I posted news of the high-tech, high-touch features of the Halcyon Hotel that was about to open in Denver’s tony Cherry Creek North.  I get a lot of news about hotel openings, but I post very few that I haven’t seen or experienced. This one, however, interested me because of the location and the features. At the time, I wrote, “No pix yet, because I haven’t been there, and there as yet are no images on the hotel’s website, but I’m intrigued enough to post it now.”

The Colorado Tourism Office hosted a reception at the Halcyon, so I can now confirm that it is delivering on its promise and I also have some photos to post:

Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Sophisticated décor with clean-lined furniture, white bed linens and well-placed lighting in all guest rooms.
Vinyl whimsy.
Vinyl whimsy.
Soaking tub and wubway tile.
Soaking tub and subway tile.
A place for keys and men's wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.
A place for keys and men’s wallets neat to the door is a simple, thoughtful feature.

Continue reading Hello, Halcyon!

Chinese Owner to Privatize the Waldorf

Iconic New York hotel to be condo-ized.

Iwaldorf-new-logon London, the landmark Hotel Savoy underwent a three year, $354 million refit including new crystal chandeliers, gold leaf and polished marble floors, while the city’s exclusive Hotel Connaught has been renewed to the tune of £70 million, including a new wing with an Aman Spa.  In Paris. the splendid public rooms of the Four Seasons George V remain unchanged, while the 245 guest rooms have been brought into the 21st century.

WaldorfEntrance

Meanwhile, in New York, where greed rules, the legendary Waldorf-Astoria is slated to be closed next spring and many/most of its 1,413 rooms turned into pricy condominiums. In a real twist of irony, the owner is Anbang Insurance, located in the Communist-in-name-only People’s Republic of China. Cost to purchase the hotel: $1.9 billion. The plan to condo-ize it is an ultimately capitalist move. New York’s legendary Plaza Hotel underwent such a conversion — good for investors and condo owners but said for the city.

Even though the mother ship will close, the Waldorf’s prestigious name presumably will live on  dozen resort hotels from Florida to Hawaii, two in China, two in Puerto Rico, five in Europe, three in the Middle East and one in Panama. Also the Waldorf Towers, a luxury residential tower,  in New York is slated to remain open. For now, at least.

A Small, Elegant Inn on Lots of Land

Keyah Grande near Pagosa Springs reopening.

KeyahGrande-gateMy son has lived in Durango for 14 years, so I have passed the elegant Keyah Grande gate innumerable times.  Yesterday, we drove through the gate to the end of the drive where the lovely 8-room lodge is located. We were invited to the reopening after being closed for two years.

Greeting visitors at the lodge entrance is a wall sculpture of Dale Chihuly glass.
Greeting visitors at the lodge entrance is a wall sculpture of Dale Chihuly glass.

Originally conceived of as a hunting lodge, it also become a wonderful wedding venue and is being reborn as a luxury resort on 4,000 acres where elk hunting is just one of the activities. Shooting clays, hiking and fishing are offered in summer. Ski touring and snowshoeing are winter options.  The big outdoor hot tub and the indoor game room and fitness center are year-round facilities. Not being a hunter myself, I wondered what happens to the meat. It goes to disadvantaged local families.

The reopening was celebrated with a lovely cocktail reception featuring champagne, wine and gorgeous hors d’oevres and happy locals that the Keyah Grande is back. It will remain open until the end of February, then close for two months for some fine tuning then reopen in early May with a relaunch of the popular restaurant and bar. Here are a few images:

Each guest room is named for a different place. My husband and I stayed in America.
Each guest room is named for a different place. My husband and I stayed in America.
Sunset from our room.
Sunset from our room.
Cheese and charcuterie.
Cheese and charcuterie.
Celebratory champagne -- French, New World and alcohol-free.
Celebratory champagne — French, New World and alcohol-free.
Spicy Cape Cod oysters in their own juice served in shot glasses wereaamong the passed horse d'oevres.
Spicy Cape Cod oysters in their own juice served in shot glasses wereaamong the passed hors d’oevres.

The Stanley & Other Old Haunted Hotels

Historic Hotels of America issues Halloween season list.

HistoricHotels-logoColoradans and visitors to Estes Park alike know the story of the Stanley — its ghosts that inspired The Shining — book, movie, TV movie. It’s one of the places on Historic Hotels of America’s short list of the country’s most haunted hotels. These are not creeky, creepy old places but beautiful, luxurious hotels that happen to have a spirit or two in residence. Time for a fall getaway to a spirited place?

 

Admiral Fell Inn (1770) Baltimore, Maryland. The Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore has changed since the time when it was filled with crime-ridden saloons, brothels, and shipyards, but that doesn’t mean the spirits of the time have left. The Admiral Fell Inn is no stranger to ghost stories. Guests have often reported seeing floating sailors and disappearing butlers knocking on their doors. A hotel manager is also said to have heard a loud party after the hotel was evacuated during a hurricane. This comes as no surprise as parts of the eight buildings comprising the hotel date back to the 1770s when it was a theater and boarding house where seamen, immigrants and “ladies of the night” would pass through. To book your fall getaway click here.

 

1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa (1886) Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa is host to a wide variety of spirits, hence the moniker “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” It is said that after the skeleton frame of hotel had been constructed in the 1880s that one of the Irish stone masons plunged to his death in what is now guestroom 218. This room proves to be the most spiritually active room in the hotel and has attracted television film crews for decades because of the quantity and quality of the ghost sightings reported. Throughout the history of the hotel, employees have referred to this entity at “Michael,” a classified poltergeist due to the nature of the unexplained activity. Guests have witnessed hands coming out of the bathroom mirror, cries of a falling man in the ceiling, the door opening then slamming shut, unable to be opened again. The intrigue of this activity had drawn guests to specifically request the historic accommodations of guestroom 218 for the chance of experiencing something.

To book your fall getaway click here.

Continue reading The Stanley & Other Old Haunted Hotels

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?

Vienna’s Changing Hotel Scene

New formats and new concepts spice lodging scene in Austria’s imperial capital

Vienna-logoIf  your image of hotels in Vienna resides with such luxury classics as the Hotel Sacher and the Imperial Hotel, whether you’ve stayed there or not, think again. Visitors to Austria‘s capital can now choose from more than 400 different accommodations, from those bastions of tradition to contemporary design hotels and interesting budget properties. A building and rebuilding spree in 2013-14 is adding interesting new properties on the grand city’s hotel inventory list.

  • I’m not sure how a “lifestyle hotel” is defined, but the Spanish Sol Meliá group is set to open a new four-star example in February in a spectacular 58-story skyscraper on the northern bank of the Danube  — the opposite side of the river from old Vienna. The 253 rooms and suites of the Meliá Vienna occupy floors 4 to 15 of the the DC Tower, at 58 stories, Austria’s tallest building.  When in Vienna, cross the river to visit the restaurant and rooftop bar for stunning views, especially when the sky is clear.
  • The 154-room Ruby Sofie Hotel caters to the “lean luxury” segment of the market due to open in March in the recently restored Sofiensaele in Vienna’s third district. This  four-star hotel is a competitively priced property with  smaller rooms and a clear commitment to design. There’s no restaurant or fitness center, but who needs them in the hotel with Vienna’s abundance of restaurants and opportunities to walk, walk and walk some more?.
  • The 143-room,  five-star Park Hyatt Vienna in the heart of the old city opens later in 2014 in a newly renovated complex of historic buildings near the Goldenes Quartier, Vienna’s new luxury shopping zone  There’s nothing lean about this hotel, Austria’s first Hyatt. It boasts its own spa zone, fully equipped gym, swimming pool, gourmet restaurant, cigar lounge, bar and abundant event space.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, the design hotel chain Motel One is expanding in the Austrian capital. Following the opening Motel One Wien-Westbahnhof in late 2011 and the Motel One-Wien Prater in late 2011, the 400-room Motel One Wien-Staatsoper is expected to open  in a heritage listed building close to the State Opera in the second half of 2014. Plans are also being drawn up for a 530-room Motel One at the new Hauptbahnhof (main railroad station) is scheduled to welcome its first guests in mid-2015. Whenever I travel by train  in Europe, I look for affordable hotels near the railroad station, so Motel One has my name all over it.
  • Opened in October 2013, The Guesthouse Vienna is a contemporary boutique hotel  also in the vicinity of the State Opera. Its 39 generously proportioned rooms and suites adhere to a design concept drawn up by British star designer Sir Terence Conran — a name we don’t hear too much these days, at least on this side of the Atlantic. The elegant hotel’s ground floor brasserie and bakery became a quick hit.
  • The  390-room, four-star Falkensteiner Hotel Wien Margareten, which opened in September, is set behind a distinctive facade by British architect David Chipperfield. The interior was created by the Italian designer Matteo Thun. Two design stars make for an unforgettable property.
  • Fall 2013 also brought three additional locations operated by the unconventional Viennese Urbanauts Street Lofts. The up-and-coming architectural team at Kohlmayr Lutter Knapp continues the concept of the first Street Loft  close to the new Hauptbahnhof  in the fourth district  by converting another batch of shops into hotel rooms.
  • Also on the Vienna Tourist Board’s list of new or expanded hotels is the Palais Hansen Kempinski Vienna, a fabled name in European hospitality. Originally built a for the World Exhibition in Vienna in 1873, this luxury property combines a historic building right on the famous Ringstrasse with modern interior architecture, contemporary luxury and high-tech features.
  • The 25hours Hotel Wien positions itself as a hip hotel in an enduring city. It is located in a creative, slightly bohemian area, likened to New York’s SoHo and artsy districts elsewhere. I don’t know what is or will be new, but I had never heard of it, so it’s all new to me — and perhaps to you.

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.

P1050301

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.

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.

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

Yellowstone Region’s Fall News & Views

Yellowstone area’s bargain golf, ski news & national park wonders

It is still summer in the Rockies, but there is a definite hint of autumn in the air as you go higher and farther north. This is the time of year with crisper mornings and shorter days. And as a bonus, summer’s monsoon rain pattern is no more. The greater Yellowstone area, where Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, meet offers a variety of sights and activities that, as the ads always promise, offer “something for everyone. Montana’s Big Sky Resort offers bargain golf packages and has big news for winter guests. Big Sky Resort and Yellowstone National Park are on my radar screen right now, and here’s why:

End-of-Season Golf Value Big Sky, Montana

Lone Peak is the beautiful backdrop for Big Sky Resort. This photo was taken in spring, when the greens were green, and the fairways were too, but snow still lingered on the soaring mountain.
Lone Peak is the beautiful backdrop for Big Sky Resort. This photo was taken in spring, when the greens were green, and the fairways were too, but snow still lingered on the soaring mountain.

I’m not a golfer, but if I were, I’d be looking to take advantage of Big Sky Resort’s current golf package. The price is right, the scenery is sensational and I’m told the golf is great too. It is promoted as the best golf deal in the greater Yellowstone area, and who am I to argue? I get the value, even if I don’t get the sport. A two-night package includes lodging at the Huntley Lodge, Whitewater Inn, Shoshone or Summit hotel, two rounds of golf on an Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole course and a scenic lift ride for two people starting at $87 per person, per night. The lowest price is at the Whitewater Inn. No end date has been announced, but I’m guessing the package will be over when it gets cold and the snow starts falling. Book online or call  800-548-4486.

Big Winter News at Big Sky

I have been to this area once in summer but more often in winter, so I was very interested to learn that Boyne Resorts, the owner of Big Sky,  is partnering with CrossHarbor Capital Partners LLC and Boyne Resorts to acquire the assets of Moonlight Basin, an attractive but financially shaky development whose ski facilities are contiguous to Big Sky’s.  This agreement follows the recent acquisition of the assets of Spanish Peaks, another ambitious but financially shaky luxury resort development by the same partnership. The press release calls it “the next step in the creation of one of the largest and most compelling mountain resort experiences in North America.”

Moonlight Basin’s ski operations are to be combined with those of Big Sky Resort, with seamless operations, which means one ticket/pass good for more than 5,700 acres of skiable terrain, 4,350 vertical feet, the iconic Lone Peak tram, 23 chairlifts and 10 surface lifts, expanding the reality of its “Biggest Skiing in America” slogan. And for golfers. Moonlight Basin has its own  Nicklaus-designed, 18-hole course. Meanwhile, the very lovely and very private Yellowstone Club on the other side of Big Ski Resort doesn’t play well with others. While its exceptionally well-heeled residents and their guests have access to that wide-ranging Big Sky terrain, the riff-raff isn’t permitted at the Yellowstone Club’s runs. The club has undergone its own financial and other scandals, but it seems to be solid now — under the ownership of CrossHarbor.

Autumn at Yellowstone National Park

Bison grazing across from the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins in Yellowstone National Park.
Bison grazing across from the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins in Yellowstone National Park.

I am frankly put off by the steady upscaling of rural Montana with gated communities, mountain mansions and other trappings of tasteful yet conspicuous wealth, and that makes me treasure all the more the public lands that belong to all of us. And in the context of this region, that means Yellowstone National Park. Humans and their high-powered businesses can change the landscape around a conference table, but national parks and other wildl ands continue to live on nature’s timetable. And nature determines that fall is definitely approaching. The park likes mostly in Wyoming, but its western gateway is only about an hour’s drive from Big Sky. It is home to grizzly bears, wolves, and herds of bison and elk, and the park is the core of one of the last, nearly intact, natural ecosystems in the Earth’s temperate zone. It was the world’s first national park, and it merits visiting at an time of year. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates nine lodges within the park. Most close in winter, with late summer and fall wind-down season. All of the park’s entrances are still open, and its lodges have greater room availability and the park in general is less crowded. There are also front-country campgrounds, and while the park is a sensational backpackers’ destination, fall is a time when the wildlife starts preparing for winter, and even wilderness camping enthusiasts often fine it wiser to spend their nights surrounded by four solid walls and a roof over their heads.