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Too hot and humid? Step inside for some fun Boston-based activities

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 31, 2012 08:00 AM

If the weather forecast is right, it's going to be hot, humid and rainy this week in Boston. Not the idea way to spend a summer vacation, but our friends at the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism came up with some great ways to beat the heat and stay dry during those hot summer days.

From enjoying Boston's best tea service to stepping back in time in historical homes, there's plenty of things to do around town to quench your curiosity during drab summer days.

Tea Time: Pour a cup at one of Boston's favorite harbor side hotels, the the Boston Harbor Hotel. The hotel's afternoon tea includes organic tea selections all served with traditional tea-time foods and champagne

Rum Tastings: (For adults only) Bring back the Boston-Caribbean connection from the colonial times by visiting Ryan and Wood Distilleries in Gloucester. Learn about how the spirits are made through a tour of the facility, and try hand-crafted varieties of rum, vodka, gin, and whisky. Tours run Monday through Saturday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Colonist for a Day: Step back in time at three Plymouth Antiquarian Society historic sites. Explore the 1749 Spooner House’s original furnishings, walk the grounds of the 1677 Harlow Old Fort House, which is one of the few remaining 17th Century houses in Plymouth, or admire the Hedge House’s Federal style architecture as you overlook Plymouth Harbor. All open Thursday through Sunday, June through August, from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m.

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Ritz-Carlton ranked top luxury hotel brand in guest satisfaction survey

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 29, 2012 10:31 AM

Ritz_SanFrancisco_00052_vert_x518.jpgPersonalized service? Check. Warm welcome? Check. Increased guest satisfaction overall? Check. The Ritz-Carlton company continues to lead the ranks as the hotel group that shines when it comes to providing the best overall guest experience, according to a the latest hotel guest satisfaction study from J.D. Power and Associates

According to the report, while hotel rates have continued to rise, hotel guest satisfaction has declined 7 index points from 2011, and satisfaction with guest rooms has declined within one point of its lowest level in the past seven years.

However, not all is lost for the hotel industry. The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction within their respective segments:

Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for a third consecutive year)
Upper Upscale: Omni Hotels & Resorts
Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn and SpringHill Suites
Mid-Scale Full Service: Holiday Inn
Mid-Scale Limited Service: Drury Hotels
Economy/Budget: Jameson Inn
Extended Stay: Homewood Suites

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Can't make the games? Try out these Olympic getaways

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 25, 2012 11:58 AM

The 30th Olympic Games start this Friday, July 27, and hotels and resorts are gearing up to make sure guests who can’t make it to the games won't miss a second of the action. Whether you want to compete in tournaments or just sip Olympic-inspired cocktails, here are a few hotels hosting packages that celebrate the games:

Omni Mount Washington, Bretton Woods, NH: Celebrate the Olympiad at this historic New Hampshire resort. A schedule of daily activities kicks of July 27 and goes until Aug. 12, starting with a big screen viewing of the opening ceremony on Friday night. Festivities and games continue with daily Olympic game viewing at The Cave, the resort’s underground speakeasy. Travelers who want to channel their inner Olympian can play XBOX Olympic Games or compete in the pool activities to take home your very own gold medal. Rates start at $259 per night.

omni-resort.jpgOmni Mount Washington in New Hampshire is hosting a variety of games for all ages on site at the hotel.

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Lady Gaga voted least desirable travel partner

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 25, 2012 06:49 AM

The world's most popular star was voted the last person consumers want to travel with, according to Hotels.com.

According to the site's recent survey, Lady Gaga was voted an undesirable travel partner by all age groups. Runners up were Ryan Seacrest and Spider-man (an interesting, but not that surprising choice if you're taking about hotels and bugs. After all, the man is a spider - sort of? - and that's not something you want crawling around a hotel room).

The most ideal travel partner? US First Lady Michelle Obama made the top 5.

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Virgin America gives one lucky loyalty member the gift of space flight

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 23, 2012 11:40 AM

VirginAmericaPlane1.jpeg
Virgin America is giving flyers a reason to believe in loyalty programs again.

The award-winning low-cost airline announced new status benefits to its Elevate® frequent flyer program, including one out-of-this-world (literally) award to its top frequent flyer: the Elevate member who earns the most status points between Aug. 8, 2012 and Aug. 7, 2013, will earn a seat on a sub-orbital space flight on Virgin Galactic (currently fetching about $200,000 per seat).

Take a moment to digest that.

Virgin America made the announcement today at the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Convention in Boston.

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Dramatic Designs: Viceroy Miami outdoor pool deck

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 23, 2012 05:50 AM

viceroy-outdoor-lounge580.jpg

Miami is always stylish, sexy and sauve. For every white-washed beach-front hard-bodied and bikini-clad hotel that lines South Beach and Miami's Art Deco district, there are those hidden hotels that exude the pristine luxury that Miami was founded on. One of those hotels is the Viceroy Miami, located in Brickell - the business elite's place du jour.

Viceroy Hotels are known for their stunning designs and East Asian accents, but at the Viceroy Miami, it's the hotels artwork and furniture that make a stunning statement.

In addition to the hotel's 148 guestrooms, 28,000-square-foot spa and fitness center, 300-foot infinity pool and Club 50 - one of Miami's most exclusive lounges - Viceroy Miami is home to some of the best outdoor real estate this side of South Beach.

Today's Dramatic Design is straight from the hotel's private pool deck, where you'll find fireplaces, cabanas and a life-size chess set. Only in Miami will you find gold and white sofas accented by silver chairs and flanked by a fire.

Readers: Your thoughts?

See more of the best rooftop bars in the US

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg
Bulgari Hotel London's glass mosaic pool
3D art at Four Seasons Baltimore

Family travel tips: Best travel apps for kids

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 17, 2012 05:42 AM

Summer travel is in full swing! As you pack up the kids for the mapped-out road trip, or get them geared up for long security lines at the airport, make sure you've got enough on hand to keep them occupied and entertained. Nothing grates on the nerves quite like the repetitive "Are we there yet?!" and "I'm bored!" announcements from the backseat.

To help keep kids entertained while traveling, I went straight to the experts to round-up the best iPhone, iPad and Android apps: the parents. I asked Twitter and Facebook fans and followers, as well as travel-savvy moms and dads, for their favorite apps and collected the top 10 based on recommendations.

Jen Leo, co-founder of BestKidsApps.com and mother of a 3-year-old girl, offers a plethora of app reviews on her website, and gave me a few tips for travelers before setting off on vacation:

"I make sure to load our iPad with a few new apps and TV shows/movies before a long flight or road trip. It's important to load them at home because if you leave it to do once you get to the hotel, WiFi can be weaker and take much longer to download. Also, if you load your apps at home a few days before your trip, you'll find out if you have any memory obstacles. It's a waste of time to be sitting on hotel WiFi deleting apps to make room for more when you could be out and about discovering a new town."

For that time in between home and vacation destination, here are the top 10 travel apps for kids that moms and dads suggested when I asked for their favorites:

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Dramatic Designs: 3D art at Four Seasons Baltimore

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 16, 2012 05:47 AM

When the Four Seasons opened its doors on the Baltimore's harbor last November, all eyes turned inquisitively to city. Baltimore has historically been a destination for conferences and events, political pow-wows and corporate retreats, thanks in most part to its affordable prices and easy access to Washington, DC. On occasion in the summer, fans will flock to Camden Yards for a ballgame but for the most part, Baltimore was lacking the leisure traveler. Then the Four Seasons set up shop and suddenly, Baltimore became the hot topic in the travel world.

When a luxury group bets on a location - hotel, retail, restaurant or otherwise - it's a location worth watching.

The Four Seasons Baltimore opened big with 250 guest rooms (many of them with private balconies), a rooftop infinity pool, full-service spa, two restaurants by celebrity chef Michael Mina, and a coffee shop that's frequented more by locals than the hotel's own guests. Guest rooms offer views of either the harbor or the marina, and most of them are large enough to sleep a family of four without having to rent an adjoining room or suite. Bathrooms have separate tubs and showers, and a mirror TV. Room rates are some of the highest in the city - averaging around $300 a night - but its location is worth every cent.

Walk outside the doors of this hotel and you're steps from the harbor, boat docks, shopping, tourist attractions like the aquarium and Pier Five, trendy neighborhoods like Fells Point, and the free Charm City Circulator, which takes tourists and locals to the main attractions in and around Baltimore for free. (Watch this space next week for a Weekend Escapes: Baltimore feature, in which I'll give some tips on where to go and what to see while you're here.)

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Ikea opens airport pop-up shop

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 14, 2012 03:04 PM

Love Ikea? Need a new bedroom set? Flying through Paris? You might get some home decorating ideas from somewhere other than the Musee d'Orsay next time you're in the City of Light. Or you just might cure jetlag thanks to a comfortable place to cat-nap before your next flight.

Ikea just set up a pop-up shop in Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport - and it's for more than just shopping.

If you can't get down to Stoughton to tour to store - or just can't fathom the insane crowds that converge there on weekends for Swedish meatballs - take a tour through terminal 3 if you're flying through Paris this summer and check out what's new from the Swedish home design shop.

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Where are the world's best hotels?

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 13, 2012 09:02 AM

bangkok_terrace_rim_naam_sm.jpgThe Terrace at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, ranked one of the world's best hotels.

When wanderlust calls, where does one go? If you're looking for the most unique, luxurious, and top-of-line lodging, Travel + Leisure has some options for you.

The magazine's World's Best Awards, which were just announced and are part of the August 2012 issue, are a collection of the properties that go above and beyond in categories including rooms, location, service, food, and value.

While the properties change year after year, one thing remains the same: the results are always sure to entice you to travel. Lest you think you have to travel far to reap the benefits of the world's best hotels think again: almost 20 percent of this year's winners are located in the U.S.

The decadent digs that continue to make the top 10 are the exotic safari lodges, which year over year continue to sway travelers to experience the extraordinary. However, this year also shows the entrance of more city hotels - still in exotic locations, and nonetheless unforgettable.

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The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" now a Liverpool hotel

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 12, 2012 03:11 PM

yellow-sub.jpgYou know the lyrics, you remember the album cover, you might even have a model version of the famous submarine at home. While we haven't been able to live in one, thanks to the crafty workmanship of a Liverpool businessman, now you can stay in one.

The UK's Daily Mail reports that a floating hotel - painted to look just like The Beatles famous yellow submarine - is welcoming guests England's Albert Dock in Liverpool.

Reports from ClickLiverpool say Alfie Bubbles, who claims he's not a Beatles fan, purchased the boat from Paramount (which used it in the film "The Hunt For Red October") and turned it into an 80-foot hotel. The submarine can accommodate up to eight people, and has a psychedelic lounge complete with the original scooter from the film "Quadrophenia." Of course, in keeping with modern times, the 2012 version of the yellow submarine has 3D TVs and WiFi.

Rates for the hotel are approximately $230 (£149) per night Monday through Thursday, $462 (£299) on Friday and $541 (£350) on Saturday.

Photo: Courtesy of Mercury Press & Media Ltd

Readers: Would you stay here?

Classic island estate re-opens as The Nantucket Hotel and Resort

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 11, 2012 06:30 AM

nantucket-hotel.jpgAerial view of Brant Point and Nantucket Hotel and Resort. Photo credit: Courtesy Nantucket Hotel and Resort.

There's something poetic about a New England summer. Touch football, sunset sailings, barbecues on the beach, flip-flops, clam bakes and bike rides transcend generations to foster family togetherness during a traditional summer getaway. But some vacations are so steeped in history, it's hard to know where one summer left off and the next one begins.

Nantucket continues to reign as the quintessential summer spot for New Englanders, but the island hasn't been without its changes. What once was a sleepy little town is now a hot-spot for celebrity hideouts. Flip-flops are traded in for Oxfords and peep-toe pumps, and in some places dress codes have replaced the come-as-you-are comradery. But it's still Nantucket, and if you're lucky enough to spend your summers here you know the depths of the island's beauty - past and present. So when a piece of the island's past emerges as a fixture for the future, it's hard not to take notice.

Just in time for new summer vacations, the old Point Breeze Hotel - a Nantucket staple since 1891 - reopens on July 12 as the Nantucket Hotel and Resort. The hotel, which is owned by Mark and Gwenn Snider (also the owners of the Winnetu Oceanside Resort on Martha's Vineyard) put years of renovation and restoration int the architectural focal point on the island.

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Hotel replacing guest phones with iPhones

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 10, 2012 06:28 AM

Still not sure whether you're ready to make the leap from Droid to iPhone? Does the thought of Siri scare you? Are you constantly wondering what new apps can make your life a little easier? Check into the Opus hotel in Vancouver and give their guest room phones a try for a little test run.

USA Today's Hotel Check-In reports the trendy boutique hotel will be replacing the traditional hotel phone with iPhones. The reason? More guests just know how to use them.

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Dramatic Designs: Bulgari Hotel London's glass mosaic pool

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 9, 2012 06:32 AM

When luxury beckons and nothing but the best in excessive decadence will do, Bulgari answers. So when the Bulgari Hotel finally opened its doors in London last month, can you can be certain is drew more than just a few nods from passersby.

Located in the heart of Knightsbridge near Harrods and Hyde Park - arguably London's most prestigious neighborhood - Bulgari Hotel London exudes everything you'd expect from the brand: perfection, precision, and endless elegance. And then there's the pool.

Bulgari-London-pool.jpgPhoto courtesy: Bulgari Hotels

Part of the two-level spa, the swimming pool was crafted from sandblasted Vicenza stone, and is lined with green and gold leaf glass mosaic tiles. It's surrounded by tall columns and comfortable cabanas, perfect for indulging in a day of doing nothing. On the hotel's website, you'll find plenty of information about the spa and its amenities, including the Vitality Pool, which is lined gold leaf glass tiles, and has air and water massage jets, and a waterfall.

Readers: Your thoughts?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg

New UNESCO World Heritage Sites added to list of tourism hot spots

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 3, 2012 06:37 AM

opera-house.jpgThe Margravial Opera House Bayreuth in Germany was named to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Photo credit: © Bavarian Department for State-owned Palaces, Gardens and Lakes (BSV)

The birthplace of Jesus, a ninth-century mosque, and the site of Xanadu are part of the latest tourism hot spots, thanks to a new list out from UNESCO that highlights 26 far away, nostalgic, somewhat magical and very endangered around the world.

These locations are the latest entrants on the UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites. The World Heritage designation today protects nearly 1,000 of the world's most stunning cultural and natural sites. The addition of these 26 will hopefully lead to better funding, and thus better preservation, of these sites. Of course, all this is done through the help of tourism, so UNESCO is highlighting these places at "hot spots" for travelers, and why not? What better way to really see the world than by traveling far and away to some of the most remote places on Earth all in the name of history and fascination.

Plan your pilgrimage to one of these new UNESCO sites and you'll find yourself among a Baroque theater in Germany, a piece of land that divided two countries in the 13th century, and rock islands that house hundreds of wildlife species.

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Dramatic Designs: Conrad New York's artistic atrium

Posted by Melanie Nayer July 2, 2012 06:36 AM

The Conrad New York made headlines when it opened late last year: not only was it making an investment in the revival of New York's financial district, it was re-establishing the lost world of abstract art in lower Manhattan.

Conrad New York has an extensive collection of modern and contemporary works spanning various mediums including paintings, lithography, silkscreens and heliographs, throughout its public spaces and 463 guest rooms and suites. Artists featured include Sol LeWitt, Pat Steir, Elizabeth Peyton, Sara Sasnowy, Mary Heilmann and more. But it's the hotel's atrium artwork that inspires today's Dramatic Design.

photo (5).JPGThe hotel’s dramatic atrium is anchored by Loopy Doopy Blue and Purple 1999, an abstract work of color, twists, and turns by conceptualist painter Sol LeWitt. This dramatic piece of artwork stands 13 stories high and was painted by 50 individuals, required more than 100 gallons of paint and took 3,000 hours to complete.

After you've admired the towering structure, take note of other artwork in the atrium including Yellow Flag and Mennige (Polygon) by Imi Knoebel, Tourist by Julian Opie, George Herold’s Salute, and the stunning views of the Statue of Liberty from the various public spaces and the hotel's Loopy Doopy rooftop bar.

Readers: Your thoughts?

Past Dramatic Designs:
B2Hotel's Lobby Lounge and Wine Bar
Gramercy Park Hotel's Drawing Room
Mandarin Oriental New York's elliptical lobby
Ritz-Carlton Wolfsburg's 'floating' swimming pool
Ireland's Lismore Castle
Frescos at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze
Cave Bar at Mövenpick Hotel Hamburg

About the author

Melanie Nayer is a travel writer who spent many years in the newsroom before jetting off to see the world. Her goal is to bring readers the best insider information More »

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