The weather is warming up (in theory anyway), and two Newport hotels are running a couple of events to move things along. The Chanler at Cliff Walk continues its tasting series March 23, one where liquor and wine experts from around the world spend a Sunday afternoon eating, drinking and teaching. The next is a “Taste of Southeastern New England,” from 1-4 p.m. where participants, for $95 each, get eight courses with wine pairings from Southeastern New England wineries and cuisine from The Chanler’s Spiced Pear Executive Chef Thomas Duffy. For reservations and info, visit www.thechanler.com or call 401-847-1300.
Over at Vanderbilt Grace, a 33-room restored mansion, they’re hosting an Easter egg hunt and brunch April 20. The hunt will be in the hotel’s garden, followed by a spring-inspired brunch buffet on the terrace, with items like strawberry ricotta muffins, blueberry-stuffed French toast with maple pecan sauce, and local crab cake with poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Cost is $65 per person. Check if out at www.gracehotels.com/vanderbilt or call 401-846-6200.
In Bermuda, February is the island’s annual “Love Month,” which includes a couples’ golf tournament at Port Royal Golf Course (duos get a 50-percent discount on greens fees); a “Champagne and Strawberries Afternoon Affair” at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art; a “Love Train City Tour;” a “Lover’s Matinees” at Specialty Cinema; a love cruise around Hamilton Harbor; and a “Love Tales Walking Tour” in St. George. Check it all out www.gotobermuda.com
Rosewood Tucker’s Point is running an engagement celebration package that includes an 80-minute couple’s massage; daily breakfast on your balcony; and a private dinner customized by Chef Guido. The package, which offers much more, starts at $3,395 the first night, and $295 a night thereafter. Check it out at www.rosewoodhotels.com/en/tuckers-point-bermuda
More warm-weather offerings include Kamalame Cay in the Bahamas, with its “Lover’s Island Rendezvous,” at 20-percent off, which includes three-, four-, or five-night stay, free bubbly and chocolates, an afternoon on a small, private island, couples’ massage and private beach dinner. Three-night packages start at $2,669. Deal runs Feb. 1-28. Visit www.kamalame.com for details.
Also in the Bahamas, Deep Water Cay has an escape package starting at $5,308 for three nights that includes a stay in a one-bedroom cottage, private beach picnic for two and beachside cooking classes. Visit www.deepwatercay.com for details.
In the British Virgin Islands, you’ll find the “Sweet Surf” and “Sweet Sail” packages available from Jan. 31 through March 3. The surf package, which starts at $2,775 per couple, includes a trip to remote Josiah’s Bay for a private two-hour surf lesson. The sailing deal, starting at $3,425 per couple, includes a romantic, five-hour private boat charter on the Caribbean. Both packages include three-nights lodging in a one-bedroom, ocean-view suite; three-course dinner at Caravela at the resort; a 60-minute couples massage at Ixora Spa with 30-minute peppermint mocha or dark chocolate and coconut scrub; champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries on arrival; and breakfast for two each morning of chocolate pastries, hot items and beverages. Also included are unlimited use of sea kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, Wi-Fi, resort ferry and free airport transfers. Check it out at www.scrubisland.com
Bristol House Bed & Breakfast in Bristol, R.I., has a "Romance for Two" package which runs through February and offers two-nights lodging, daily breakfast, two one-hour massages, $50 dining certificate, flowers and chocolate. Rates start at $558. For info, visit www.bristolhousebnb.com
At Rhode Island's southern end, Ocean House in Watch Hill has its “Romance by the Sea” package, that includes a two-night stay in a deluxe room, welcome bottle of champagne, breakfast for two on Saturday, brunch on Sunday. Rates start at $745 per couple, and for info, visit www.oceanhouseri.com
Up in Kennebunkport, Maine, three hotels offer deals dubbed “Five Shades of Red,” where in addition to a two-night stay, you get a lazy man’s lobster dinner for two at One Dock, bottle of red wine and chocolate-covered strawberries, red velvet whoopee pie and red rose turndown and continental breakfast. Hotels are The Kennebunkport Inn, Grand Hotel and Boathouse Waterfront Hotel. Rates start at $339, $412 and $425, respectively. Package is good through March 31.
At Harbor View Hotel on Martha's Vineyard, they have a Valentine's Day prix fixe dinner deal for $48 per couple, which gets you things like sous-vide local lobster, pork tenderloin, chocolate macaroons and truffles. If you stay, rooms start at $179 a night, which includes dinner. Check it out at www.harbor-view.com.
Far away deals include one at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, with a “Celebration Retreat” valid for all nights from Jan. 20-Feb. 16 and after that, just on Friday through Sunday nights until the end of the year. Rates start at $651, and include in-room breakfast, welcome bottle of champagne and chocolates, restaurant and spa credits and more. For all details visit www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong Paris is arguably the world’s romantic city and two hotels have deals for lovers. At Le Bristol Paris, where rates start at $1,200, you get one night, a welcome bottle of bubbly, chocolates and a special surprise, continental breakfast and a cocktail for two in Le Bar du Bristol. A “Romance in Paris” spa package is also offered, starting at $1,064 for two, which includes treatments, treats from the pastry chef, champagne and scented limited-edition Diptyque candle to take home. For all info, visit www.lebristolparis.com At the Mandarin Oriental, the “Love in Paris” package available for February includes a seasonal “Exotic Passion” cocktail, dinner, spa treatments and more. Rates are from $1,681, and for information visit www.mandarinoriental.com/paris
The Palais Namaskar in Marrakech, between the Atlas Mountains and Djebilet hills, has a romantic package available year round, that includes two-nights lodging; round-trip airport transfers; romantic in-room amenities; sliced fruits with cream; and a romantic bath with flower petals and candles. It also gets you breakfast in bed, a “Sunrise Retreat” with five hours in a VIP cabin with private hamman and two Namaskar Signature massages; and a “One Thousand and One Nights” dinner in the gardens or private terrace. Packages start at $1,344. For info, visit www.palaisnamaskar.com
Wine lovers may consider the Sonoma Coast Villa in Spa in California, with fully inclusive rates starting at $1,150 for the nights of Feb. 14 and 15, that gets you a room with fireplace, roses and chocolate truffles, private three-course dinner and one couples’ massage. Check it out at www.scvilla.com
If you seek more heart-pumping adventure of the adventurous sort, consider the Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms, South Carolina, where you can get a three-hour Morgan Creek paddle package and get two nights lodging and a three-hour kayaking journey with rates from $219 a night, or the “It Takes Two: Heart-Pumping & Pamper Package,” which gets two nights, massage and pedicure for two and a choice of a full-body conditioning workout or Vinyasa Yoga session. Rates for that start at $339. Visit www.wilddunes.com for info.
Gamble on love and money with “Lights, Limos and Love” at Harrah’s Resort in AtlanticCity, with the package running through Feb. 16 starting at $899 a night, which includes a $100 dining credit and limo ride to a personal light show and bottle of Etoile Rose Brut Champagne. Check it out at www.harrahsresort.com
Executive chefs Nathan Gould from Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard, and Daniel Kenney from Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Falmouth, don?t just share their culinary experience with paying customers. Both returned recently from a trip to the Philippines, not just culling talent for their hotels back home, but also helping out victims of Typhoon Haiyan that slammed the islands in November and killed more than 6,000.
The Philippines has a long tradition of providing top-notch culinary students with a chance of working in the United States, the chefs said, and while there they led culinary demonstrations, educational discussions and got to known hundreds of students who study at culinary and hotel-management universities there. In the process, they said, they came full circle, reuniting with former apprentices of both their hotels, and witnessing their success back home. New recruits from the Philippines will arrive on the Cape and Martha's Vineyard this spring.
As importantly, they said, both visited an orphanage that is home to children victimized by the typhoon, where they donated diapers, formula and food, and ate with the children as well, both calling it the highlight of their trip.
If you want to check out some of Gould's creations, the Harbor View Hotel is hosting a New Year's Eve party, with music by the Sultans of Swing and the Mike Benjamin Band, along with a midnight champagne toast on the hotel's wraparound porch, with fireworks set to explode over Edgartown Harbor. Tickets for the event are $95, and guests must be 21 and older, and semi-formal attire is required (a similar party at Sea Crest is sold out, according to that hotel's website). Harbor View is also offering an overnight package, with rates from $349, that includes the stay and two tickets to the party and if you get carried away, late checkout at 2 p.m. the next day. For information, visit www.harbor-view.com
Looking for something new for New Year's Eve? Here are some ideas a bit outside the usual box.
The Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H., welcomes families from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for “Noon Year's Eve.” On the docket are a magic show, child-friendly food, live music, a scavenger hunt, and ice-carving demos. The grand finale features bubble wrap “fireworks” on the Winter Garden Café floor and a drop of hundreds of balloons (above). Discounted advance purchase tickets are available at www.currier.org. For complete details, see www.currier.org/calendar/noon-years-eve-2013/.
If the approaching New Year puts you in a Cape Cod frame of mind (personally, we can't wait to get back to the beach), join a National Park Service ranger at the Cape Cod National Seashore to explore the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail, a rare and enchanting sphagnum moss-accentuated swamp (right). Meet at the trailhead in the Marconi Station Site parking area in Wellfleet for a 2 p.m. departure. Call the Salt Pond Visitor Center if inclement weather is threatening at 508-255-3421 to find out about potential cancellations or alternate programs.
Farther north, Maine Huts & Trails (www.mainehuts.org) will be serving champagne to overnight guests on New Year's Eve at all its huts. It gets even better at Flagstaff Hut and Stratton Brook Hut, which both feature a four-course meal of organic, locally sourced ingredients, along with wine and beer for sale, starting at 6 p.m. Stratton Brook has great views of the Bigelows and Sugarloaf — including the 9 p.m. Sugarloaf fireworks. Flagstaff overlooks the Bigelows and Flagstaff Lake. For information or booking call 207-265-2400 or email email@example.com.
Balloon photo courtesy of Currier Museum of Art, winter trail courtesy of Cape Cod National Seashore.
If you find yourself in Bangkok over New Year's (and really, it's a much warmer choice than icy Boston), the Tower Club at Lebua, one of the city's most luxurious hotels, is offering specialty menus at its restaurants, Mezzaluna, Sirocco, Breeze and Distil, all high up in the skyscraper hotel and carrying pretty sky-high prices.
Available for one night only, the menu features things like Japanese Kyushu beef, Petrossian Imperial caviar, red king crab from the Okhotsk Sea and New Caledonia Pacific Ocean blue shrimp. The experience starts with free champagne at Flute Bar on the 64th floor, with spectacular views of the Chao Phraya River and city skyline. Prices are $980 per person at Mezzaluna, $903 at Breeze, $829 at Sirocco and $678 at Distil
Most of us will likely spend more than we probably want to on other people this holiday season. But there are a bunch of travel deals this time of year where the money you spend will at least be on yourself. And OK, on those you love, if you take someone along.
Down in DC, The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel’s Edgar Bar & Kitchen celebrates its first Thanksgiving with a holiday menu conceptualized by Chef Andrew Morrison, formerly of the Fairmont Pittsburgh, and Maison Blanche and Le Mistral in our nation’s capital. Edgar opened last December, and the Thanksgiving menu features, naturally, turkey, and some more creative things like butternut squash and apple bisque, along with themed drinks such as “Pass the Turkey,” with Wild Turkey 101, cider, cranberry jelly, sage and thyme. Dinner is $45 per person, and the hotel (named after the historically famous ship that led to our nation’s very first thanksgiving), is running a “Stay for Breakfast” package as well for the weekend, rates starting at $139. For info, visit www.RenaissanceMayflower.com, and for info on Edgar check out www.edgarbarandkitchen.com
Up in New Hampshire, travelers can kick off the shopping season with deals at hotels and shopping centers throughout the state, including at the Centennial Hotel in Concord (Black Friday rate of $109 a night and free breakfast); Saco River Motor Lodge in Center Conway, rates from $69; the historic Wentworth by the Sea Hotel and Spa in New Castle, with rates from $209; and a shopping spree contest that will dole out three $500 sprees, including two-night lodging and dining. For all info, check out www.visitnh.gov.
Martha’s Vineyard off season is less crowded – and way cheaper. The historic Harbor View Hotel, sitting atop a picturesque bluff in Edgartown, is running a deal for those booking stays between Nov. 29 and Dec. 2. You can save 20 percent off room rates on one- or two-night stays and 30 percent on three-night stays for travel between Dec. 1 and July 10. The hotel is noted for Water Street, its signature restaurant with smashing water views, and Henry’s Hotel Bar. Visit www.harbor-view.com for information.
The Big Apple has seasonal deals, too, notably The Muse Hotel and 70 Park Avenue, with The Muse’s extended Cyber Monday package for travel throughout January and available for booking Dec. 2-15, offering 20 percent off the best-available room rate; and the “Power Shopper” program at 70 Park Avenue, which offers car service to shops, unlimited coffee from the hotel’s new Silverleaf Coffee and Tea Café, where you also get two wind-down cocktails after all that shopping, and a 30-minute stretching session. The package is available through the end of December and rates run from $629 a night. Visit www.themusehotel.com and www.70parkave.com for details.
New Year's Eve goes Latino over in Boulder, Colo., where the St. Julien Hotel and Spa has a New Year's special starting at $424, available for Dec. 31 (21 and older), and gets you lodging, the local Latin band Quemando in the ballroom, two drinks, Cuban street food stations, champagne toast and ball drop at midnight. Visit www.stjulien.com for info.
If you’re thinking warmer, and this time of year, who isn’t, there are deals to be had in toastier climes including at Abaco Beach Resort and Boat Harbour Marina in the Bahamas, with its exclusive 24-hour offer from midnight Dec. 1 to Dec. 2, which nets you the resort’s new “Turtle Crawl” experience with a minimum four-night stay, a $500 value. The offer is valid for travel through March 31, 2014. For information, check out www.abacobeachresort.com
A deal can be had at Ocean Club Resorts in Turks and Caicos in the Caribbean, where if you book at www.oceanclubresorts.com and use promo code “CYBER,” you get 20 percent off all room categories and a $200 hotel credit for stays of five or more nights from Jan. 3-Feb. 7, or 25 percent off junior, one-, two- and three-bedroom rooms and $200 credit for five or more nights from May 1-Dec. 18. Ocean Club was named among Travel + Leisure’s Top 500 Best Hotels in the World, which also named it the top hotel for Caribbean locations. Ocean Club has two properties in Turks and Caicos, a mile apart from each other on Grace Bay Beach, where guests at one can use the services and amenities of the other as well.
Over in Bermuda, travelers get a third, fourth or fifth night free on stays booked through April 25, for stays Dec. 1 through the end of April. Third-night free hotels include Clearview Suites & Villas, Elbow Beach Bermuda, and Rosewood Tuckers Point Resort, among others. You can get a fourth-night free deal at Cambridge Beaches, Pompano Beach Club and The Reefs Resort & Club, and a fifth night at Mazarine by the Sea, Rosedon Hotel Bermuda, The Royal Palms and Coral Beach Club. For all info, visit www.gotobermuda.com
Also in the Bahamas, Nassau Paradise Island hosts the third annual Bahamas Speed Week Revival Dec. 4-8, a unique event showcasing some of the world’s most iconic race cars. This year, racing returns to Nassau for the first time in nearly 50 years with the running of a Formula Junior race, and Austin Healey race, a classic/vintage mini race and an “All-comers” race. In addition to racing other cars, enthusiasts can race the clock in the Fort Charlotte Hill Climb overlooking Nassau Harbor. When booking an air-inclusive minimum four-night stay at any of Nassau Paradise Island’s participating hotels, visitors get $250 in instant savings. Select properties also offer other promotions during speed week. Bookings must be made before Dec. 2. For information on racing stuff, visit www.bahamasspeedweek.com, and for lodging, www.nassauparadiseisland.com
Last year, I spent New Year’s at Panama City Beach in Florida, and joined the Panama City Beach Biggest Loser RunWalk. And I wasn’t alone: About 40,000 folks gathered for the New Year’s Eve Beach Ball Drop alone. This year, the run-walk happens Dec. 29, the ball drop, Dec. 31, and other events will include the 2013 Run for the Redfish Half Marathon and 5K on Dec. 7; the “Optimist Christmas Parade” Dec. 14; and New Year’s Sail Dec. 31 where you relax on a boat offshore watching fireworks. Hotel deals can be had at the Bay Point Wyndham Resort, with 20 percent off regular rates; Edgewater Beach and Golf Resort, with rates running from $79 a night from Dec. 27-Jan. 2; and the Watercrest Resort with rates from $169 a night through Dec. 31. For all info, lodging and deals, visit www.visitpanamacitybeach.com
Wild game is the focus of a Thanksgiving dinner at Water Street, the signature restaurant at Harbor View Hotel on Martha's Vineyard this year. Created by Executive Chef Nathan Gould, the buffet, prices at $59 for adults and $25 for children 12 and under, includes local meats (venison and boar, for example, and of course, turkey), artisan breads and cheeses, salads, soups, seafood and seasonal desserts. The buffet runs from 11:30 a.m. To 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28. For information and to check out the menu, visit www.harbor-view.com
New England, despite the cold and snow, isn’t a bad place to warm up for Valentine’s Day, and here are a couple of deals out there.
Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard has a pair of offers for the romantic day. On Feb. 14, guests can get a free overnight stay when they reserve a spot for the resort’s Water Street’s Valentine’s Day Prix Fixe dinner, designed by Executive Chef Shaun Brian Sells. For $75 per person, you get entrees like the cast-iron seared sous vide filet, sautéed bay scallops and farrotto with roasted root vegetables and confit tomatoes, not to mention desserts like dark chocolate molten cake and profiteroles. The resort is also offering a weekend away, with rates starting at $299, which includes a Saturday night stay at the resort’s main building on Feb. 16, chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne upon arrival. Water Street’s Sunday brunch for two is included. More nights can be booked at $129. Check it out at www.harbor-view.com
Down in Newport, The Chanler at Cliff Walk, the only hotel smack dab on the city by the sea’s fabled cliff walk, has a two-night stay deal, with rates from $345 for weekday nights and $395 on weekends. The stay includes a full breakfast each morning, one dinner at the Spiced Pear restaurant on property (with killer ocean views), a bath butler service on the night of your choice (we did this one night last year and the romance level really ramps up when you come back to your room and find a hot bath drawn with rose petals strewn on the water and candles burning all around the tub for two), a bottle of Spiced Pear sparkling wine and two tickets to visit the Newport mansion of your choice. For more info, visit www.thechanler.com
Also in Newport, the historic Vanderbilt Grace, is running a Gracious Valentine package through Feb. 17, with rates from $575 for a deluxe room and $735 for a junior suite, where couples can take a special chocolate lover's master class, learning how to make hand-crafted goodies, lead by the hotel chef. Other parts of the package include a two-night stay, free glass of champagne upon arrival and free continental champagne breakfast, 15-percent off a couples massage and a three-course set menu for two at the hotel's Muse restaurant. Check it out at www.vanderbiltgrace.com
Providence is getting in on the act, too, a city named one of the top five most-surprising romantic destinations by Yahoo. Hotel Providence in the heart of the city has three packages: The Sweetheart’s Package for $229 a night, getting you a superior room, breakfast for two and valet parking; the Be Mine package for $279 a night that includes a deluxe room, champagne, breakfast for two, rose-petal turndown and valet parking; and the Hopeless Romantic package for $499, which nets you a king suite, breakfast for two, dinner for two (not including liquor however), rose-petal turndown, signature bath items and valet parking. All are available Feb. 14-16, check out www.hotelprovidence.com for information.
Other Providence trips could include the Christopher Dodge House Bed & Breakfast’s Romantic Getaway Package for $379, which includes two nights in best available room, flowers, gourmet chocolates and a $100 gift certificate to Mill’s Tavern, Hemenway’s or Cassarino’s. Check www.providence-hotel.com for info. You might not think an airport hotel as romantic, but the Raddison Hotel Providence Airport hotel has a package Feb. 14 starting at $199 a night, that includes a whirlpool bath suite, champagne and chocolates in the room, a $50 gift card to Libations Restaurant, room service breakfast and late checkout. Visit www.radisson.com/warwick-hotel-ri-02886/riproair for information. And the Omni Providence has a Romance Remembered package for $182 a night, that gets you a room, sparkling wine, concierge pre-call to assist with special romantic touches, turndown that includes robes, music and lighting, breakfast in bed for two and late checkout. That can be had from Feb. 1-Dec. 30, and for all the details, visit www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/Providence.aspx.
Get the kids involved at the John Brown House Museum on Feb. 16 is hosting an afternoon tea from 2-3 p.m., which invites kids and accompanying adult to join a tea party, tour of the 18th-century mansion and making a Victorian Valentine’s to bring home. That costs $15 per child and accompanying adult, and for info, visit www.rihs.org
Up in Maine, the White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, is running a deal all month with its Ultimate February is for Lovers package, with rates starting at $1,590 per night for two people (additional nights at $380), that gets you a night at the inn, chocolate dessert class with the hotel's pastry chef, a couples Swedish massage, private champagne tasting in the hotel's wine cellar followed by a candlelit dinner for two, and horse-drawn sleigh ride through Kennebunkport. For info, visit www.whitebarninn.com
The Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce and dozens of the Cape's establishments and attractions are offering a variety of events this holiday season. The chamber also offers a "Christmas on Cape Cod Passport," which encourages local shopping and gives the chance to win cash prizes, up to $9,000 in all. A new feature in this year's Cape holiday party is the Polar Express train ride aboard the Cape Cod Central Railroad, chugging through the Cape's countryside, with hot cocoa and treats, a cast of characters from "The Polar Express" book and movie, and visits from Santa. Check it out at www.capecodpolarexpressride.com
Inns and resorts throughout the Cape are also offering value-added stay packages, including dinner gift certificates, passes to holiday events and seasonal amenities. The passport the chamber offers alows visitors to get theirs stamped at each business they visit, giving them entry into a contest to win gift cards of $500, $250 or $100. With the accumulation of five stamps, the holder is eligible for a grand prize, Christmas in July, a two-night stay at the Cape Codder Resort and Spa in Hyannis.
For information on all of what the Cape is offering this season, visit www.ChristmasonCapeCod.com or call 888-332-2732.
On Dec. 16, the Charles Hotel opens its skating rink, an annual community event open to the public, offering free skating and skate rentals, a visit from Globe Santa, performances by the Harvard Figure Skating Club and The Christmas Revels, and free hot chocolate. Little kids can take a shot at cookie decorating from noon to 3 p.m. This year's event supports Globe Santa, the Boston Globe's annual appeal for needy children in Greater Boston. For information on the hotel, visit www.charleshotel.com
There are a myriad of travel deals this holiday season, from inexpensive to extravagant.
Lake Placid Lodge in New York, an arts-and-crafts-style Relais & Chateaux property and only hotel on the lake is offering Cyber Monday deals, which include $25 for a $50 credit on food and beverages; one night free when booking three, plus a $75 resort credit; 50 percent off best available rate for Owl's Head or any two-bedroom cabin; and a "Check in Sunday and Monday is On Us" deal, from Dec. 1-March 30, except for blackout dates. Reservations for these deals, and others the hotel is offering, are bookable online at www.lakeplacidlodge.com from Nov. 26-30. Regular rates start at $400 a night.
Kimpton's 70 Park Avenue in New York City is offering a "Black Friday Blowout" package, which offers door-to-door service to the city's busiest stores, discounted shipping for purchased gifts and specialty cocktails. The deal also includes two nights at the hotel. Rates for the package, valid through Dec. 2, start at $800 a night. For info and reservations, call 877-707-2752 or visit http://www.kimptonhotels.com/boutique-hotel/70-park-avenue-hotel-new-york/
Down the coast a bit, in Norfolk, Virginia, the Norfolk Plaza Hotel, through Jan. 21, offers a package starting at $99 a night, which includes breakfast for two, free parking and ice-skating tickets for two at MacArthur on Ice. Fun winter stuff in the city includes Santa and The Palace, a 30-foot ice dome with falling snow and prehistoric herd from the "Ice Age" film, through Dec. 24. Check out the hotel deal at www.thenorfolkplaza.com or by calling 757-802-9283. For info on all Norfolk activities, see www.visitnorfolktoday.com
For much warmer weather, the Sands at Grace Bay in Turks & Caicos in the Caribbean has a resort and scuba dive deal now through Dec. 22, offering a fourth-night free program valid on all rooms. Rates are from $169 a night, down from high-season rates of $344. Travelers can also buy a discounted scuba trip priced at $133 a day. Guests also get free use of watersports equipment, bikes, three pools and a weekly happy hour. The resort was recently named one of the "Top 30 Hotels in the Caribbean" by Conde Nast Traveler's readers. For info and booking, visit www.thesandstc.com
Miraval Resorts & Spa in Tucson is offering an all-inclusive three-night stay for two that includes an extra $500 in resort credits. Book from Nov. 26 through Dec. 2, for a stay up to June 15, 2013, and get 20-percent off a double room. Included are all meals, snacks, smoothies and non-alcoholic beverages, unlimited participation in regularly scheduled daily self-discovery activities, access to resort fitness center and Life in Balance Spa, shuttle service from and to the airport, and a welcome gift. Check it out at www.miravalresorts.com or by calling 800.232.3969.
For a holiday getaway with a decided winter feel, The Resort at Paws Up in Montana has "The Last Best Christmas Package at Paws Up" for families, available Dec. 22-29 which includes five nights for a family of four in a luxury home at the resort, located on 37,000 acres of Montana wilderness; all meals, snacks and non-alcoholic beverages; a personal Santa to hand deliver gifts to the kids; special Christmas Eve and Christmas night dinners; a decorated tree in your home (you decorate it or they'll do it for you); horse-drawn sleigh rides; a ginger bread house building contest; and other activities. Rates start at $10,697, including all taxes and tips, airport transfers and on-site transportation. Check it out at www.PawsUp.com or call 800-473-0601.
Put a little speed in your holiday with a two-day only, Orlando-based Exotic Driving Experience at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, featuring supercars by Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche and Audi, on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. The infield course showcases fast straight-aways and sharp turns, which necessitates the precise handling of these cars, which run up to $295,000. The event includes six-lap driving experiences, starting at $169, and two-lap "thrill rides," where you ride shotgun with a pro driver, starting at $99. Reservations are required for all driving experiences, but not thrill rides, those you can buy in advance or at the track. For info, visit www.exoticdriving.com or call 855-822-1049.
The California properties of Montage Hotels & Resorts are offering a Cyber Monday deal starting at midnight when Montage Laguna Beach and Montage Beverly Hills shave 40 percent off reservations for Dec. 1-20, and will kick in a free bottle of champagne besides. For info, check out www.montagehotels.com/cybermonday
Vail Resorts is offering a bunch of deals, available through Nov. 25 at Beaver Creek, Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, Antlers at Vail, The Sebastian Vail and Lion Square Lodge, with savings and discounts. For all of it, visit www.snow.com/fourdaysale
Colorado-based Destination Hotels & Resorts has a Cyber Monday deal offering up to 50 percent off at many of its U.S. holdings, bookable only for 24 hours on Monday. More than 15 properties are taking part, from Wild Dunes Resort near Charleston, S.C., to Miramonte Resort & Spa in Palm Springs Valley, Calif. to Lansdowne Resort on the Potomac River near Washington, D.C. For the deals, visit www.destinationhotels.com/CyberMonday
Faraway and exotic holiday travel could include Thailand. Peresa Resort in Phuket has a few packages for the Christmas season: A five-day, four-night package for $3,636 per person; a seven-day, six-night deal for $5,442 per person; and a 12-day, 11-night package for $9,485 per person. The higher the price, the more you get, but all include airport transfer, massage, breakfast, Thai cooking class and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. The resort is perched on the cliffs of Kamala, comprised of hideaway-style luxury pool villas and suites with views of the Andaman Sea. For info, visit www.paresaresorts.com
More of us are traveling this holiday season, and spending more along the way, according to the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker survey. Some 84 million Americans plan to travel this year, up seven percent from last year, spending some $65 billion, an average of $773 per person - up from $659 last year.
Breaking it all down, the survey reveals that 68 percent of those traveling plan to visit family and friends, up from 65 percent last year. And this shouldn't be surprising: 75 percent of travelers report they experience frustration trying to get away during the holidays. And part of that frustration is a 19-percent increase in airfare prices, 13-percent jump in delays and 10-percent hike in baggage fees.
More fun facts: 42-percent of travelers will fly to their destinations, up six percent from last year; 27 percent plan longer vacations, up four percent from last year; and 16 percent traveling to more expensive place, up four percent from last year.
But many are still money conscious: 38 percent still consider budget before destination when making travel plans, down a bit from 40 percent last year.
Affinia Manhattan in New York City is offering a "Miracle on 31st Street" holiday package, Nov. 1 through Feb. 26, with rates starting at $209 per night. The hotel is located at 7th Avenue and 31st Street, and the package includes a VIP ice-skating package for two at Bryant Park; 10-percent off your tab at Celsius Restaurant at Bryant Park; a free bottle of wine; 20 percent off holiday dinner at Niles NYC Restaurant and Bar at the hotel; a Macy's 10-percent off savings pass; two winter "rescue kits" with lip balm, ear warmers, hand sanitizer and hand warmers; and an in-room DVD of the classic film, "Miracle on 34th Street."
Affinia Manhattan recently underwent a $25 million redesign with Rockwell Group, transforming the historic, pre-war property into what hotel officials called an urban retreat. Check it all out at www.affinia.com/miracle, or call 866-246-2203 and mention promotion code 31st.
The Isle of Eriska is a 300-acre private island at the mouth of Loch Creran in Benderloch, West Argyll. It's tethered to the mainland by a tidal causeway and a bridge that rumbles your arrival when crossed. The access road ebbs and flows through a woodland colored by giant rhododendrons, before arriving at the Big House, a magical 19th-century Scottish Baronial mansion that's now a five-star, Relais & Chateaux-member, family-run hotel.
While some exclusive hotels are undeniably stuffy, the Isle of Eriska is warm and welcoming, with a genteel ease that matches the soft patina of age. It's the kind of retreat where well known British actresses can escape, and other guests will pretend not to recognize them; the kind of place where a slew of Wellington boots is available at the door for guests to borrow while walking the island's trails. While staying here admittedly is a splurge (from $536 per room in summer, including breakfast and afternoon tea; check for specials), it's possible to experience the island without booking a room. Many of the hotel's amenities are open to the public, allowing anyone a peek at this magical property, with its expansive views over Loch Linnhe and the Morvern Mountains.
The Big House is everything you'd expect, grand in stature, expansive, and country-house elegant. Wood-burning fireplaces warm the public rooms: cozy nooks and grand salons, a piano room, paneled hall, book-packed library lounge, and glass-in conservatory, and a fine dining restaurant. A former stable has been converted to a spa, with an indoor swimming pool, and a restaurant serving lunch. Another outbuilding houses an indoor putting green, full-size tennis court, three badminton courts, and facilities for other sports. Outside are gardens and woodlands, with nature trails dipsy-doodling around and across the island. Sightings of deer, seals, and even otter aren't uncommon. And everywhere are jaw-dropping views of mountains and sea.
Non-guests may have lunch in the casual Veranda Restaurant, with its dream views; enjoy a spa treatment; or play a round on the recently refurbished nine-hole golf course, on which nearly every hole has a water view. Of note: A special golf academy, Sept. 7-9, will include indoor and outdoor group lessons with a PGA professional, lunches, and mini competitions.
Also open to the public for dinner is the hotel's main dining room, named Hotel Restaurant of the Year in the 2011 Scottish Restaurant Awards. Chef Simon McKenzie's menu emphasizes locally sourced foods and changes daily. A four-course gourmet meal with tea or coffee is $73, and that includes the farmhouse cheese trolley, with about 40 cheeses sourced from Britain and beyond. Afterward dinner, retire to the lounge for the nightly entertainment: A family of badgers arrives at the conservatory door for their 10 p.m. milk and bread.
While you can easily drive to the Isle of Eriska, I recommend the West Highland Line train to Oban, a spectacularly scenic route that edges the River Clyde and Loch Lomand, passes through glens and villages and by castle ruins. It eases you into the Scottish Highlands and sets the stage for arrival at the Isle of Eriska. Passage is included on BritRail passes, but due to the train's popularity, it's wise to reserve a seat.
From one man -- Leon Leonwood Bean -- came an eventual $1.4-billion empire. And now a party to celebrate it all.
In honor of its centennial, L.L. Bean is hosting a 100th Anniversary Hometown Celebration on Main Street in Freeport, Maine, from July 4-7, a four-day event that includes free daily concerts in L.L. Bean's Discovery Park, the 35th Annual L.L. Bean 10K Road Race, family friendly outdoor activities and more. The event ends with a fireworks display.
Fun stuff along the way: Freeport Fourth of July parade, featuring the L.L. Bean Bootmobile; free Outdoor Discovery School demos, including kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding; appearances by Red Sox legendary shortstop Rico Petrocelli, Wally the Green Monster and the Sox World Series trophies; a Muddy Bean Boots ice cream sampling, a flavor created by Gifford's for the anniversary; outdoor games with Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Seth Westcott; music from Chris Isaak and Jo Dee Messina; farmer's market; free concerts by regional artists; and all-day street festivals with local crafts, food and live entertainment.
Bean started his company in 1912, a one-man operation catering to those lovers of the great outdoors, starting with the waterproof "Bean Boot," which remains an iconic symbol of the company. L.L. Bean still makes the boot -- and a lot of other things, outdoorsy and fashionable.
For a complete schedule and more information, visit www.llbean.com
The rest of the summer, the lounge is open to all, and features musical entertainment, barbecue food, chilled plates and signature cocktails like the Viking Green Tea. To check it out on Twitter, use @HotelViking, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hotelviking
The last new New England book I recommended dealt with 50 icons. This time I'd like to call attention to a book devoted to only one. In Search of Motif No. 1: The History of a Fish Shack (L.M. Vincent, The History Press, Charleston, S.C., $21.99) is one man's account of the history and meaning of the frequently painted (and photographed) red shack on Bradley Wharf in the middle of Rockport harbor. Like all good tales it begins with a question and tracks through some pretty interesting turf to get to an answer. When Vincent first saw Motif No. 1 on the advice of a cousin, he found it attractive enough but couldn't see how it had become the subject of paintings by so many artists. As he unravels that tale, he takes the reader through a delicious amount of local art history populated by some pretty colorful characters. The author himself joins the cast as he tries to decipher the ''secret'' formula for the shack's shade of red. More than 200 footnotes notwithstanding, Vincent takes a light tone throughout--and even a mocking one on the subject of his own obsession. It all makes for a quirky, personable read.
Writer and photographer Jonathan Scheff grew up in Brookline but has since traveled in more than 20 countries and lives in New York City. So he brings a worldly eye to his former home turf in Boston Icons: 50 Symbols of Beantown (Globe Pequot Press, 2011, $16.95). Predictably enough, he covers a lot of familiar territory. (After all, how many icons can one city have?) But Scheff's photos often surprise with a different angle or view that might make even long-time Bostonians take a fresh look at such landmarks as Faneuil Hall, the USS Constitution, or the Bunker Hill Monument. He also frees Boston from the grip of history by conferring icon status on the Samuel Adams Brewery and the Zakim Bridge, which became a highlight of the Boston cityscape even before the first car drove under the soaring cables. No book of icons would be complete without a mention of America's game. But Scheff chooses to focus not on Fenway Park or the Red Sox. Instead he gives a call out to the diehards of Red Sox Nation. Scheff is mum on the issue, but I bet he still roots for the home team.
Want to stick close to Boston over the Christmas holiday? The Fairmont Copley Plaza has a few seasonal deals it is offering to keep folks, and their spending dollars, in the Hub.
The Fairmont's "Twelve Days of Christmas Package," which runs Dec. 14-30, includes a night's stay at the hotel, a "Sleigh Ride: A Traditional Holiday" CD from the Boston Pops, and late check-out of 4 p.m., with rates starting at $239 a night.
New Year's Eve revelers can do the Fairmont First Night package, which includes two nights, Dec, 30 and 31, and two First Night Boston buttons that provide access to all activities in the city, with rates starting at $279.
You can ramp it up with the Fairmont's New Year's Eve gala package, with rates starting at $779 that includes a room for the night and a five-course dinner for two in the hotel's famous Oak Room, with live entertainment and dancing later in the Oak Bar.To book or for more information, visit www.fairmont.com/copleyplaza or call 617-267-5300.
Providence’s Benefit Street, a stretch of gorgeous Colonial-era homes on the city’s East Side, is known as the "mile of history" for its 18th- and 19th-century architecture and facts such as the area was where Edgar Allen Poe wooed poetess Sarah Helen Whitman. On Dec. 3, "A Benefit Street Holiday" will be held, sponsored by the Providence Preservation Society, a day-long festival that includes storyteller Len Cabral reading to kids, a holiday pet parade, and gingerbread-house decorating. Self-guided house tours and educational programs will also be held. Tour tickets are $30 each the day of the event ($25 ahead of time), and for more information, visit www.ppsri.org or call 401-831-7440.