Category Archives: Seasonal Travel

America’s most romantic hotels

From a cozy lodge in Washington to a beachfront hotel in the Florida Keys, Travel + Leisure’s Sarah Spagnolo shares romantic last-minute getaways across the country.

Imagine you and your better half cuddling fireside as the sun dips behind the distant mountains. The only sounds are from the wild; the only sights are canyons and the stark desert. No, you’re not in the Sahara. You’re at Utah’s ultra-romantic Amangiri resort.

With Valentine’s Day looming and no end to winter in sight, who doesn’t dream of stealing away on vacation? But you don’t need to travel to the ends of the earth (or beloved spots like Paris or the Caribbean) to find that spark-kindling setting. From seaside New England to Washington state’s wine country, we’ve uncovered dreamy properties certain to get you in the mood — whatever your idea of romance and your price range.

Related: Read about more romantic hotels

You can take your love to literal new heights at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn, a cliff-top hotel whose treehouses and cottages perch a thousand feet above the Pacific. The policy of no clocks or televisions encourages couples to reconnect, while perks like a gratis convertible inspire drives along scenic Highway 1 with impromptu picnics on any of the breathtaking beaches.

Of course, romance doesn’t require endless water views; cozying up in a country bed-and-breakfast has its own appeal. Hillside Victorian cottages with a white picket fence and fairy-tale-like setting draw couples year round to Landrum, SC, where they check into the affordable Red Horse Inn. Blame its high occupancy rate on the waterfalls, rocking chairs, and in-room candlelit dinners.

Great country inns know just how to take care of their guests, and indeed many of our favorite romantic hotels are a quick jaunt but worlds away from major cities. It’s about a two-hour drive from Phoenix to an enchanting resort of adobe suites with kiva fireplaces set among the red-rock canyons of Sedona, while 2 1/2 hours gets you from Atlanta to a Blue Ridge Mountains retreat.

And sometimes, romance is just a subway ride away. Lovebirds who want to fall in love with their hometown all over again — or flock to a hotel with urban sophistication — can look no further than actor Robert De Niro’s Greenwich Hotel in New York City.

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Destinations that are better in the cold

Courtesy Fairmont Hotels Resorts

Modeled on a Scottish baronial castle, when it was constructed in 1888, the Fairmont Banff Springs offers cold-weather activities ranging from sleigh rides to canyon ice walks.

It’s true that the temptation to hibernate until winter’s end is difficult to resist. And when we’re actually motivated to pack our bags and head out of town, the siren song of warmer weather often wins. Yet we’d argue there’s a sensible approach to winter travel: What if we set out to visit destinations that are actually improved by the chill? Places with snow-covered paths, piping hot chocolate, wood-burning fireplaces and old-timey sleigh rides.

Slideshow: 10 places worth escaping to when the temperature drops 

With this in mind, we found a surprising number of honest-to-goodness winter wonderlands. The best international spa in Prague is tucked inside a Renaissance chapel. Switzerland’s premier chef is just steps away from an ice-skating rink. Ski destinations in Park City, Breckenridge and Deer Valley are heating up their services; those cities also have you covered if you only après-ski. If you are a snowboarder, Japan is where it’s at. If you are a shopper, venture to New York. And adventures can often be had via seasonal transportation. Ride a Sno-Cat in Oregon to reach a memorable meal, or board a train in London.

Whatever you do, don’t let summer have all the fun.

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Escape for a romantic winter getaway

From skiing in Canada to snowmobile-riding in New Mexico, Sarah Sagnolo of Travel + Leisure magazine spotlights affordable winter vacation destinations.


Of the 30-plus countries that Cathy Grey has visited, on every continent save Antarctica, her greatest love affair has been with a Berber village in Morocco.

“Getting to know the locals and riding mules into the mountains is a fantastic way to bond,” reflects the New York–based veterinarian. “The sleeping arrangements at high altitude, the kerosene lamps, fireplace, and burrowing under 10,000 colorful blankets just feels extremely intimate.”

Slideshow: More romantic winter getaways

While everyone defines romance differently, travel is a natural stimulant, and the most romantic getaways woo us with just this kind of intimate, quality time to bond and discover. There’s always some place new to experience together, and our partnerships should embolden us to push our boundaries and travel more exotically. This year, why not skip your usual ski resort in favor of backcountry trails past fumaroles and snow-covered birch trees in northern Japan?

For those who like it hot, there are as many ways to flee winter as to embrace it. You could learn to surf together along Mexico’s Pacific Coast, or slip into a bungalow within Costa Rica’s cloud forest. Like pursuing romance itself, reaching the honeymoon suite at Pacuare River Lodge requires going out on a limb—it’s only accessible via a suspension bridge. Dinner is served by candlelight along the mighty river, one of the best white water rafting systems in Central America.

Courtesy Puyuhuapi Lodge Spa

At the Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa in Patagonia, you can explore southern fjords via catamaran or kayak.

“I personally think that a little whitewater rafting is not unlike the romantic relationship,” observes Grey. “There is the initial fear, the immediate thrill and the afterglow of satisfaction.”

Of course, romance doesn’t always require such strenuous efforts. Sometimes even the most active among us would rather just savor the thrill of having nothing to do and nowhere else to be but nesting together—especially when the setting is your own private treehouse or a fabulous Italian seaside villa. Even getaways to romantic destinations like Paris that seem cliché can prove alluring and fresh when done right.

So whether you tend to paddle or pamper, snowshoe or snuggle, we’ve mapped out getaways that promise to add a little je ne sais quoi to a winter romance with your mate. 

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Las Vegas golf vacations for any budget

Face it, the weather’s getting bad in much of the country. That cuts down on the time and places to play golf.

Not in Las Vegas. With sunny skies 300-plus days a year, teeing it up here tomorrow under bright sunshine is as sure a bet as there may be in this gaming-friendly town.

And in these troubled economic times, there’s no better value to stay-play-and-eat than right here. And if your pockets are deep and you’re looking for that out-of-this-world golf vacation, we can cover that easily as well.

Las Vegas golf offers a great value no matter what your budget is,” says John DeMarco, Director of Travel Tourism Sales for “Even if you are on a tight budget we have a variety of great options. Of course, for the ‘price is no object’ traveler we have some of the finest hotels and golf courses in the world.”

Grab a No. 2 pencil and take notes.

A Las Vegas golf trip on $100 per day

At this price the availability of good golf, lodging and meals will surprise you.

The choices are plentiful and include Primm Valley Golf Club (with packages starting at less than $100 for a room and a round of golf the next day on either of two terrific Tom Fazio golf courses. At this price, stay two nights and play both courses).

A few other courses with green fees that fit this category:

Rhodes Ranch Golf Club, Las Vegas National G.C., Badlands Golf Club, Black Mountain Golf Country Club, Angel Park Golf Club, and many others. One note: Make sure to check tee times and dates for best rates. Obviously you’re going to pay less to play on a Tuesday afternoon rather than a Saturday morning.

Another bargain to look into is food. There are various coupons on Web sites and other fronts, many of them the 2-for-1 variety. One of the best buffet deals around might be found at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino (rooms starting at $31 per night) which sports a $29 per day all-you-can-eat pass to their buffet. That’s all your meals for one low, low price all day (certain limitations apply).

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There are many others, you just need to take the time to scope them out.

A Las Vegas golf trip on $200 per day

At this rate, you’ve got the chance to stay and play at two of Vegas’ finest. This one’s almost too impressive to believe. It’s Rio Secco Golf Club, a spectacular Rees Jones layout, and the Rio All-Suites Hotel. They are offering a two-night, one round of golf special for $168.20.

Slideshow: What’s new in Las Vegas

Throw in a couple of buffets and you’re under $200. And for a course as impressive Rio Secco G.C. (home of the Butch Harmon School of Golf and the Wendy’s Three-Tour Challenge), there may not be a better bargain around. (As with many other deals in Vegas — times and dates are subject to availability so act quickly on this one).

A Las Vegas golf trip on $1,000 per day

Walters Golf is offering a deal called the High Roller Golf Package. It includes two nights at Mandalay Bay Resort and two rounds of golf. The courses include Bali Hai Golf Club and Royal Links Golf Club — two stunners. The cost is $599 during the week and $699 on the weekend. A couple of meals at nearby Mandalay Bay and maybe even one at famed Cili at Bali Hai should still keep you under the $1,000.

Las Vegas golf trip: Unlimited budget

Three Las Vegas golf courses jump out at golfers when price isn’t an option: Cascata, Shadow Creek and Wynn Las Vegas.

Courtesy of Rhodes Ranch Golf Club

Which is the best? That’s up to you to decide as everyone has his or her favorite.

Cascata, linked with Harrah’s properties such as Caesars, Harrah’s, Bally’s and others, sports a price tag of between $350 and $500 depending on season and desired tee times. But there are specials available and this Rees Jones design is a masterpiece and should be on everyone’s play list.

Shadow Creek is one of the world’s hidden wonders. Secluded from view, this Tom Fazio layout is affiliated with MGM properties. It has a $500 price tag, but don’t let that deter you if you’re looking for the ultimate golf experience. Simply stay at any MGM property, take the 20-minute limo ride to the course and prepare to be pampered and amazed.

Wynn Las Vegas has sweet suite options (the Salon suite is one of the most impressive around) that will suit any golf traveler. Add in a round of golf at the stunning Wynn Las Vegas and you’re spoiling yourself. It’s not cheap (the golf is $500), but if you’re looking for luxury, you’ve found it. 

In the end, remember to check around. With more than 60 golf courses in the Vegas area and just as many hotel/motel options, the deals are out there.

And after all, even at these great prices, it’s nice to save a little money because you’ve still got to eat and sleep before and after the golf.

Will the real Las Vegas please stand up?

Have you been to Las Vegas lately? According to the numbers, probably not. Thanks to the recession, crumbling real estate values and hundreds of canceled conventions, the city’s visitor volume this year is off 3.9 percent (through October).

In fact, some have suggested the city has all but crapped out. The explosive growth, the multi-billion-dollar projects and the over-the-top, anything-goes mind-set — it was all artifice, a boom destined to go bust and a relic of pre-recessionary excess.

On the other hand, they don’t call Las Vegas “The Capital of Second Chances” for nothing, and if the city has proven anything, it’s that the house always wins in the end.

Cowboys, crooners and kitsch

Las Vegas, it turns out, has a history of promoting itself out of troubled times. In 1934, with Hoover Dam nearing completion, the prospect of empty hotel rooms led to the creation of a cowboy-themed festival called Helldorado Days. “The whole town dressed Western,” says Duane LaDuke, Helldorado’s current executive director. “They had to do something to keep people coming.”

And come they did, staying and playing at a passel of Wild West–inspired resorts like El Rancho Vegas (1941) and the Last Frontier (1942) — at least until the cowboy motif started to go moldy. “As it turns out,” suggests Robert Dorgan, director of the University of Nevada’s Downtown Design Center, “a bunch of scruffy guys who don’t bathe isn’t a particularly catchy brand.”

So local promoters tapped into more modern imagery. Atomic cocktails inspired by the nuclear blasts at the nearby Nevada Test Site. Celebrities and showgirls who epitomized the loosening of the old moral code. For many, the Vegas “brand” reached its apotheosis in the early ‘60s in the swing and swagger of the Rat Pack before becoming a caricature of itself by way of a bling-laden Liberace and an overweight Elvis.

In fact, by the mid-‘70s, it had all gotten a bit stale. “The aura of tuxedos and martinis had given way to beer and $3.99 buffets,” says Billy Vassiliadis, CEO of Las Vegas–based RR Partners (the ad agency behind the “What Happens Here, Stays Here” campaign). “The other trappings were just there to give gamblers another reason to come.”

Vegas gets a wake-up call

And those trappings might have been enough except for one thing: the rise of legalized tribal gaming in the late ‘70s, especially in Las Vegas’ biggest market, California. “If all you wanted to do was play slots,” says Vassiliadis, “why drive four or five hours or fly an hour when you can be at a casino in 20 to 30 minutes? That was a huge wake-up call.”

It was answered in 1989 when Steve Wynn opened the Mirage, the city’s first new resort since 1973 and the first to put high-end, non-gaming attractions front and center. The move not only jumpstarted visitation, but also led to another tweaking of the Vegas brand: Bring the family, catch a show, and when you’re done sightseeing, the slots and tables will be waiting.

The Mirage’s success would also bring a whirlwind of development, with more attractions and ever-bigger resorts, not to mention the growing sense that nothing could stop the Vegas juggernaut. The city had it all, which meant you could, too — no questions asked. Leave your worries, your responsibilities and your inhibitions at home because, hey, what happens here stays here.

Of course, that’s a moot point if people stop coming.

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Post-recession Vegas: the next evolution?

Few places have been harder hit by the recession than Las Vegas, and the city’s current troubles dwarf those of earlier eras. And yet, despite the challenges — stalled projects, declining room revenues, more flight cutbacks — the city is already poised for its next evolution.

In May, the city broke ground on a new performing arts center that will serve as home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre when it opens in 2012. On the Strip, new additions like Encore and CityCenter feature sleek design and sophisticated amenities, rather than ersatz architecture and amusement park rides.

“We’re very successful at reinventing ourselves,” says Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of operations for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “These new projects offer another case study that we’ll look back at 10 years from now and say, ‘Here was another milestone in our evolution.’ ”

Slideshow: Viva Las Vegas!

The irony, perhaps, is that a city that’s built its reputation on allowing visitors to leave their old lives behind and adopt new personas is itself a major shape-shifter. And while the recession has clearly dealt it a lousy hand lately, betting against the place remains a fool’s game.

“The amazing thing about this town,” says Vassiliadis, “is that the folks that make the financial decisions have made huge chunks of investment at exactly the right time to transform the city into what it needs to be to continue being an attraction.”

Rob Lovitt is a frequent contributor to If you’d like to respond to one of his columns or suggest a story idea, drop him an e-mail.

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