Archive for January, 2012

A SOUTH BEACH VALENTINE

Love is in the air in South Beach, Florida. And we’re not just talking about the impending college spring break and its hordes of partying students. South Beach is much more than a mecca for frisky 20 year-olds. Its 12 mile stretch of golden shoreline is a thing of beauty, and with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, and chic oceanfront hotels, South Beach has claimed the title as the hippest spot on the East Coast, drawing its share of beautiful people year round. But along with the hustle and bustle, glitz and glam, South Beach offers a host of romantic retreats and getaways for more discreet romantics.

For quiet cocktails and intimate asides, try any of South Beach’s splendid Hotel Bars. The Setai, for one, on 2001 Collins Avenue, is a meticulously restored art deco landmark, originally built in 1930. Relax with your sweetheart in suede chairs and take in the tranquil, glowing ambience with a glass or two of champagne.

 Or escape to one of South Beach’s world famous spas. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, South Beach (One Lincoln Road) topped Allure magazine’s A-List as the Best Day Spa in Miami. Enjoy an elite menu of La Maison de Beauté Carita treatments alongside extensive European wellness and beauty rituals. Experience a sensuous couple’s massage with chocolate-scented oils, then luxuriate in a frothy bubble bath for two. Top off the session with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne.

After the rigors of the spa, a refreshment pause at The Delano (1685 Collins Avenue) is in order. This famous art deco hotel features chic, sophisticated rooms with exciting skyline or ocean views. The Rose Bar at the Delano Hotel, which gets its name from the rose-colored upholstered walls, is ideal for sparkling conversation. You’ll feel like a vacationing celebrity.

And a must stop for diehard romantics is Baleen, a seafood emporium in Coconut Grove, hailed by Gourmet magazine as Miami’s “most romantic restaurant.” Indeed, the lobster bisque with lobster & crème fraiche may unite your souls in a state of divine bliss. After dinner, a romantic late night stroll along the beach comes gratis.

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ICE SKATING IN NEW YORK CITY

Is there a more essential New York winter experience than ice skating at Rockefeller Center? Perhaps ice skating in Central Park. In any event, if you haven’t enjoyed gliding across the ice with the wind in your hair and the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop you haven’t fully experienced New York.

Since 1936, millions of New Yorkers and visitors have skated at Rockefeller Center in the shadow of the city’s most famous Christmas tree, an iconic rink mythologized in literature and film. A $75 premium pass (includes admission and skates) will quickly get you on the ice through the rink’s newly designed Igloo. Rockefeller Center between 47th and 50th St. & 5th and 7th Avenue. Until April 2012.

Among the great ice skating venues in Manhattan, the brand-new Citi Pond 170′ x 100′ state-of-the-art rink in Bryant Park is a gem. Rockefeller Center may be more famous, but Citi Pond offers a topnotch skating experience, and it’s free. You can enjoy a hot toddy overlooking the rink in the “Canadian Bar” Celsius. Open until February 26, 2012.

The Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers offers ice skating in New York City year-round. The rink welcomes skaters of all stripes for general skating, figure skating, hockey training and league play. Chelsea Piers, Pier 61. Or check out The Standard Hotel, offering a beautiful ice skating rink in the Meatpacking District during winter months. The outdoor Kaffeehaus serves hot drinks. Standard Hotel, 848 Washington Street.

Of course nothing “trumps” skating in Central Park for a quintessential hit of New York. The Trump Wollman Rink, located near the east side of the Park, is steps away from the Central Park Zoo and The Plaza Hotel. The rink offers ice hockey, a skating school, and party facilities. Open until April 2012. The Lasker Pool & Rink in Central Park converts from a swimming pool in the summer to an ice-skating rink during the winter months. Central Park, between 106th and 108th Streets. Open until early April.

So pack up your skates if you’re heading to the Big Apple this winter, or specifically go to experience New York on its wonderful ice skating rinks.

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Valentine’s Day in Beverly Hills

While Los Angeles may be better known for its traffic jams than for romance, the truth is, it can be one of the most romantic places on the planet. Whether you want to splurge or are looking for more budget-friendly options, Los Angeles offers everything from serene beach getaways to mountain retreats; from urban gardens to private sunset flights over the city; from champagne spa baths for two to sexy nightlife.  If you can’t find something romantic to do in Los Angeles, you may not have it in you.

Take an air tour over Los Angeles in a Zeppelin in Airship Ventures’ Eureka and enjoy the amazing views from the large picture windows. The sunset flight defines romantic. And if the budget forbids a Zeppelin flight, a private Sunset Champagne Helicopter Flight is another option. Fly to a romantic dinner.

Disneyland? Why not. Embrace your inner Mickey or Minnie Mouse and romance will bloom at the “happiest place on earth.” The Los Angeles area also boasts an abundance of beautiful public gardens perfect for romantic strolls, from botanical mazes to meditative Japanese gardens. And what’s not to love about 80 miles of Los Angeles coastline for long, soul-sharing walks on the beach. If you’re really adventurous, book a charter complete with skipper, or if you’re a skilled sailor, rent a boat and pack a picnic for a day out on the water, or sail to Catalina for lunch.

For a full dose of romance, try one of Beverly Hills’ classic establishments. Nestled on a lush Malibu hillside, Geoffrey’s Malibu (27400 Pacific Coast Highway), has fantastic views of the Pacific coastline. Voted one of LA’s best proposal spots, you may want to pop the question here. Good for celebrity sighting too. Or be Fred Astaire to her Ginger Rogers when you dine and dance at the Art Deco Sky Room on top of the historic Breakers building in Long Beach (40 S Locust Avenue). From this height, you get a magical view of the LA basin with a snow-capped mountain backdrop.

And check out the California stars at Café at the End of the Universe (2800 East Observatory Road). This Wolfgang Puck café at the Griffith Observatory may have an industrial feel with exposed ceiling pipes and plastic tables and chairs, but the panoramic view from the Hollywood Sign to Downtown LA makes the soul glad. A nice prelude to holding hands later and star-gazing through the Observatory’s Zeiss telescope.

Where would one stay during this romantic getaway? Our hotel experts recommend newly renovated Hotel Bel-Air (breakfast is on us until Dec. 31st, 2012) or the ultra-chic Mr. C Beverly Hills (enjoy a complimentary upgrade).

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South Beach Wine & Food Festival

South Beach Wine and Food Festival

With the New Year under way and winter in full swing, nothing makes me happier than attending the annual star-studded culinary event that is the South Beach Food and Wine Festival. This year will mark the 11th year for the event in South Beach and is quickly becoming one of the largest food and wine festivals in North America with over 50,000 attendees.
The four-day extravaganza of food and wine draws some of the top chefs and Food Network personalities and with over 50 events planned this year it is a daunting task just to know what to attend, here are some of the top events:

On Thursday the whole festival really kicks off with the “Moet and Hennessy’s
The Q” hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri. Now what could be better than BarbeQue and Champagne?

Friday Night has one of the favorite events of the weekend “Fontainebleau Miami Beach presents Wine Spectator’s Best of the Best”. It is a mix of the top new chefs and wine that scored 90 Points from Wine Spectator.

Saturday night’s event to attend is the “Tribute Dinner for Charlie Trotter and Piero Antinori”. The Who’s Who of Chefs will show off dishes that pay tribute to the renowned Chef and master wine maker.

Sunday is the “Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village with Culinary demonstrations and wine and spirits tasting”. Everything leads up to this event and is not to be missed.

For more information click on www.sobefest.com

Christopher Sprague

Our hotel experts recommend The Gansevoort Miami BeachDelano, and The Dream South Beach.

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Five Romantic Five Star Stays

Five Romantic Five Star Says

Treat the most important person in your life to the time of their life with one of our five romantic five star stays.

  1. The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills. The Beverly Hills Hotel Spa by La Prairie, features 6 treatment rooms, separate steam rooms and saunas.
  2. The Plaza Hotel, New York City. The Plaza Hotel is synonymous with pure, over-the-top glamour. The Plaza is one of the most romantic places in New York.
  3. The Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Chicago. The Elysian combines the classic glamour of the 1920’s and 1930’s to create a modern, sophisticated romantic retreat. 
  4. The Mandarin Oriental San Francisco, San Francisco.  Views of the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay Bridges and across the San Francisco Bay make Mandarin Oriental San Francisco one of the city’s most striking romantic experiences. 
  5. ONE Bal Harbour Resort & Spa, Miami South Beach. Being bordered by Baker’s Haulover Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean, makes this luxurious five-acre property a beautiful romantic escape. 

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CIRQUE DU SOLEIL OVO: SANTA MONICA

This January Santa Monica welcomes back Cirque de Soleil. The critically acclaimed and family-friendly production of OVO opens at the Santa Monica Pier on January 20, 2012 for a limited engagement under Cirque de Soleil’s trademark blue-and-yellow Grand Chapiteau. Since its 2009 world premiere in Montreal, OVO has delighted over 2 million spectators in North America. Santa Monica will be the only Southern California stop for a Grand Chapiteau production in 2012.

Better known for its beaches and designer boutiques, Santa Monica has become something of a cultural mecca in recent years, boasting over 75 museums and art galleries, a dazzling array of public art and street sculpture, and a spirit uniquely suited to Cirque de Soleil’s carnivalesque and sunny brand of entertainment.

Written, directed and choreographed by Deborah Colker, OVO has been described as “non-stop riot of energy and movement.” What else would you except from an insect-themed show set to Brazilian vibes? Signature Cirque elements—acrobatics, dexterity, grace—are revisited in this whimsical tale about dancing fleas and scarabs. Blending elements of samba, Rio funk, samba-reggae, and other Brazilian rhythms, the bouncy tribal score weaves in the buzz and chirr of real insects. The resulting mix whips OVO’s airy characters into joyful anarchy. Small children will cheer the antics of Flippo the Foreigner and the Ladybug, two of Cirque de Soleil’s more charming creations.

The venue itself couldn’t be better. In addition to plenty of California sunshine and sea air, the world-famous Santa Monica Pier offers shopping, restaurants, and a variety of entertainments such as Pacific Park amusement park, Heal The Bay Aquarium, an historic 1922 Merry-Go-Round, and an old-fashioned soda fountain.

For more information about Cirque du Soleil, visit www.cirquedusoleil.com.

Our hotel experts recommend Shutters on the Beach, Hotel Oceana, and the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

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The Armory Show New York

March 8-11, 2012

Manhattan Piers 92 & 94

New York City in March? Is it ever a bad time to visit New York? In the city that never sleeps March means, among other things, Art. And not just masterpieces hung on walls and perplexing postmodern installations, but the buzz and flash of a spring festival, and a celebration not only of art but of life, New York style. Not a bad way to shake off any lingering winter blahs.

In what has become an essential yearly rite, art-lovers, artists, collectors, critics and curators from all over the world descend on the Big Apple for Armory Arts Week. Anchoring this cultural jamboree is The Armory Show, called the “most dynamic contemporary art fair in New York.” Founded in 1994 as The Gramercy International Art Fair, a modest, hotel-based event, The Armory Show has evolved into a keystone New York cultural event and a world-renowned contemporary art fair.

The 2012 edition boasts an international roster of leading galleries, the acclaimed Armory Show VIP program, an opening night bash at MoMA, and, for the intrepid, the Open Forum program with major art-world figures. In addition, Armory Film presents a series of cutting-edge video and experimental films. Other highlights include architectural firm Bade Stageberg Cox’s luxurious redesign of The Armory Show, and its “spatially contextualized” lounges and café areas. The 2012 Commissioned Artist for the fair, provocative Theaster Gates spices up the proceedings with a piquant dash of his visual jazz.

Located at Pier 92 and 94 on Manhattan’s west side (Twelfth Avenue at 55th Street in the Passenger Ship Terminal complex) and easily reachable by car or public transit, The Armory Show is a March must if you’re in town or passing through.

Pier 92 & 94

Twelfth Avenue at 55th Street

New York City

Thursday, March 8 – Saturday, March 10 Noon to 8 p.m.

Sunday, March 11 Noon to 7 p.m.

Our hotel experts recommend The Trump International Hotel, The New York Palace, and The London NYC

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