Where to Stay in...
(I'll keep it to just the highlights in my favorite places that I've been to within the last few years, as I could go on forever about all the places I've been!)
In Napa Valley...
I've stayed at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena several times. Great place, excellent location - walking distance to some great wineries, downtown St. Helena, and the C.I.A. at Greystone (if you think this is an intelligence agency, you're on the wrong website). Hearty country-style breakfast included, beautiful grounds that you can roam freely in your PJs while inhaling the morning dew and sun kissing the vines' fruity beauty. However, the Inn was recently bought by Charlie Palmer and as a result, I noticed that the prices went up a good bit, so I am going to check out another place on my next visit.
Discovered a great inn in Downtown Napa - 1801 First Street Inn. Comfortable, elegant, intimate, and beautifully appointed, this Inn is well worth the visit. It's just a few blocks from downtown Napa, includes a great made-to-order breakfast and a nightly wine happy hour. The room we stayed in was perfect for a romantic retreat and very reasonably priced.
This hotel is right in the middle of the strip, relatively newer, and you can actually get right to the strip right out of one of the doors. It has really nice rooms and getting one with the terrace facing the Bellagio fountains is one of my favorite views on the strip. The spa offers the standard variety of services, but this one is probably my favorite theme/setting (I've used the spa at every hotel I've stayed at in Vegas, which is almost all the majors on the strip). They're all crowded on the weekends, so shoot for a weekday.
The Cosmo's spa has a great wet room with hot steam, cold steam, dry sauna, and whirlpool. The showers are great with high-end products and the primping areas have nice goodies (why is it so fun to use spray deodorant?!? Is it because I've never had such in my home hygiene arsenal? It makes me giggle). The staff is extremely friendly and very quick on clean-up - I don't think I've ever seen towels lying around. I've used this particular spa three times and have had good experiences each time. Usually a good test of whether you caught them on one good/bad day!
Bars/nightlife is good here. Swanky and trendy. The Chandelier Bar is of course awesome because it is enveloped by a giant draping of crystals. You do feel like you're inside of a chandelier. It gets pretty crowded, so it can be tough to get a drink if you one of those people that bartenders don't seem to notice. Rose, Rabbit, Lie is a really cool place in the later hours. I've never gone for dinner, but apparently they have food. Cool, classy crowd, good bartenders, last time there we saw a great cover band. First time it was more like a nightclub. We got donuts at midnight; that was sweet!
When we stayed at the Aria, we stayed like ballers. So if money is not an issue, go here and stay in a Sky Suite. It is a luxurious package that includes limo service to and from the airport, private check-in, a lounge with snacks and drinks, and a ginormous one-bedroom suite with space you wont even use. Also well-positioned on the strip. We didn't get your average room, so I'll just say this was pimptastic.
The spa's noteworthy feature is the long, outdoor whirlpool that provides a beautiful view of the mountains. Best new discovery at the Aria is the new restaurant Herringbone. The atmosphere is a non-pretentious lounge, with casual seating and a soon-to-be-opened patio area. The bar was very comfy for the three-hour experience we had for dinner (and it wasn't even a tasting menu!). The food was excellent, the bartenders were great, and the "wow" factor was the DJ, spinning mixes of the most unexpected song pairings that set the experience to the perfect soundtrack (i.e. inevitable chair-dancing through dinner and drinks). Innovative but not unapproachable menu. Nice wine list and one of the desserts featured a "Not Your Father's Root Beer" float. If you don't know about this "beer," you need to.
Other hotels I like on the strip are the Bellagio and Palazzo (get the Prestige Package).
Notes on spots at other locations: Bellagio has Olives (Todd English restaurant, best dirty Martini in the world) with a great fountain view, Yellowtail with Asian fusion style eats (where I first discovered tuna pizza) is in the Bellagio's casino area. MGM Grand has a great spa where I got the best hot stone massage ever and they had cucumber slices for when you're in the whirlpool!! Mandalay Bay has a club on one of the top floors with an incredible view of what seems like the world. There is so much more to Vegas than I can write about here - contact me and I'll give you some recommendations on where to go, stay, eat, drink, etc..!
Turks and Caicos
The Seven Stars resort was perfect. It captured pure luxury with natural beauty. I don't think you can go wrong staying at any of the resorts on Grace Bay in Providenciales (Provo) in Turks and Caicos. I'll need to go back to make sure! Turks and Caicos is more beautiful than pictures or words can describe. The adventures abound - definitely create your own by asking around and talking to the hotel staff. Excellent dining on site, also go to Hemingway's on the beach a few hotels down at sunset. Get the lobster. You can actually see the stars at night on this beach because the resorts are so non-intrusive and pristine. Soak up the sun (with LOTS of sunscreen), gaze out over the water that is a color we haven't yet named. Take a breath and realize you've experienced heaven on earth.
Atlantis is substantially more expensive than most of the other properties, but I believe it's worth it. Especially for families. It is plainly visible where your money is going - tons of staff, lots of lifeguards so you feel safety for the kids in the pool (they're not just for show, we actually watched a rescue while the lifeguard was appearing to be having a conversation a split second before his dash into the water). The food options with the packages are good - highly recommend Virgil's Barbecue on site.
I also stayed at the Sheraton Nassau which was good, but the food options on site weren't so hot. However, right across the street was the famous "Daq Shack" with fresh fruit and rum daiquiris, which made an excellent breakfast in a pinch!!
I'm reluctant to talk about OBX here, lest it become even more crowded than it has gotten over the last 20 years or so. But in the interest of sharing, it is a great getaway when you want to do nothing. That's the best way I can describe it. It's where I go to have my stresses washed away by the tides. Plenty of places to eat, drink, and rent (beaches houses of all sizes). Please feel free to contact me for info on some of the best less populous places.
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