Travel

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Four Hotels That Are So Much
More than Hotels

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The best hotels feel more like destinations unto themselves—or at the very least, they’re a whole lot more than a bed, an orchid, and four walls. In fact, there are so many hotels that do this so well that it can be tricky to narrow down the list. Tricky, but not impossible. We honed in on the four ultimate destination hotels in the country. Between them, you’ll find naturalist-led immersion on the California coast, a camping experience amid the skyscrapers of Chicago, a Buddhist-inspired spa in Aspen, and an ice-skating rink/bowling alley/nightclub combo in, of course, Miami. Check in to any of the above and we’re pretty sure boredom will never be a problem.

THE MIAMI BEACH
EDITION

  • Edition Hotel at Miami Beach Florida
  • The beautifully redone Miami Beach EDITION (formerly the Seville Hotel, built in 1955) is the place for all things Miami. There’s the fashionable, creative crowd; a palm-fringed lobby; a pair of slick swimming pools; and a Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. But the best part of the entire place might be the Basement, an underground adult playground that includes a nightclub, an ice-skating rink, and a bowling alley. The Art Basel parties here are some of the hottest tickets every December, and DJs travel from all over the world to play. If the setting seems to give off serious ’70s disco vibes, that makes sense: The whole place was the idea of nightlife legend Ian Schrager, who once had another disco you may have heard of, Studio 54.

  • DON’T MISS:

    After all that partying, it’s nice to know that Miami’s culinary renaissance has been accompanied by a (very welcome) group of health-centric openings in the past few years. Now three locations strong, Dirt has a simple but great breakfast menu, with smoothies and shots, plus a seriously good bacon, egg, and cheese, if next-morning recovery is necessary. At Lilikoi, which is primarily known for fresh salads and wraps, there’s a full brunch menu with organic, locally sourced takes on every breakfast classic, including mimosas and the restaurant’s famous Sake Bloody Marys. Los Fuegos, by Chef’s Table star Francis Mallmann, could still be the city’s hottest opening in years. For a more low-key dinner, head over to Mandolin Aegean Bistro in the Design District for great Mediterranean food in a pretty garden setting. If you don’t feel like leaving the hotel, the Matador Room at The Miami Beach EDITION is just what you’d expect from Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who marries Latin American and Caribbean flavors in a gorgeous, dimly lit space overlooking the pool. Don’t miss the spicy tuna tartare and sweet pea guacamole to start; all of the tacos are sure to be crowd-pleasers.

THE RITZ-CARLTON
BACARA, SANTA BARBARA

  • Ritz-Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara California
  • Just north of downtown Santa Barbara, The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara, is the only resort in the area that’s right on the beach, which means the ocean plays an especially big part in life here. So much, in fact, that The Ritz-Carlton has created programming centered entirely around the sea. It’s called the Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, named after the French oceanographer and environmentalist (and son of the famed Jacques Cousteau). The heart of the program is exploration into California’s natural wonders, like kelp forests, intertidal zones, marine animals, and traditional Chumash culture—the Native American people who lived in the region for thousands of years before European settlement. Kids as young as five can participate (though it’s also great for families and adults who are curious about the environment), and activities range from hands-on tide pool visits with marine biologists to naturalists’ lectures on sharks and whales. There are also eco-hikes along coastal trails that shed light on how plants and animals thrive in this arid landscape—and how the Chumash survived on this land for so long.

  • DON’T MISS:

    If you’re not headed to the beach, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up at the Funk Zone. (And if you weren’t planning on it, you’ll want to.) Despite the name, the Funk Zone is actually a lovely, sophisticated place to spend an afternoon. The options for wine-swilling are endless, but we prefer to claim space in one or two spots and sample a few glasses. Les Marchands has long been our go-to in the Funk Zone for the décor and the bites as much as the wine. Built into what was the fish market warehouse in 1920s Santa Barbara, floor-to-ceiling Douglas fir shelves heave with thousands of old- and new-world labels. The custom chandeliers resemble balls of twinkling lights, and the tables are perpetually full of locals tasting master sommelier Brian McClintic’s favorites of the moment. The nearby Santa Barbara Wine Collective is fairly new (open since 2015), and its strength is showcasing the communal talents of the area’s producers. No less than five vintners, including Babcock and Fess Parker, are available to sample, and guests leave with a real taste for the varietals of nearby wine country. Order a few flights and pick up some of the irresistible buttery, flaky goods at Helena’s Bakery next door for an impromptu picnic at the tables outside.

THE GWEN HOTEL,
CHICAGO

  • The Gwen Hotel in Chicago Illinois
  • Hear the word “glamping” (for the uninitiated, that’s a mashup of “glamorous” and “camping”) and chances are your mind immediately conjures those pristine campsites set amid the towering redwoods of Big Sur, the mountainous landscape around Jackson Hole, or Mughal-style canopies in the wilderness of Rajasthan. But the latest trend has nothing to do with nature. We’re talking about urban glamping (glurbing?), and you can try an especially over-the-top version (in the spring, summer, and fall, at least) at The Gwen, a Luxury Collection hotel. The hotel’s Gwen Lux Suite sits atop the landmark sixteen-story McGraw-Hill building and comes with over 1,000 square feet of terrace space that overlooks Michigan Avenue and the famous Tribune Tower and John Hancock Center. This is where you’ll spend the night within a sixteen-foot-long Lotus Belle dome (think of it as the Porsche of tents), which, among other things, features hand-knotted macramé seats, a braided jute rug, and a custom queen-size bed. Of course, you also get access to the actual two-bedroom suite inside. And since it accommodates six guests, it’s a good chance to travel with family and still have some alone time underneath the stars. The best part: The fire pit, for roasting s’mores before turning in (the hotel provides all the necessary ingredients).

  • DON’T MISS:

    Within walking distance of the hotel are two of Chicago’s most significant cultural landmarks. The Art Institute of Chicago is inarguably one of the city’s oldest treasures. The permanent collection is 300,000 pieces strong and includes such classics as Grant Wood’s American Gothic and Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s worth a visit just to see the recently opened, Renzo Piano–designed Modern Wing. Another of the country’s great institutions, the Field Museum encompasses about 65 million years of natural history, give or take. Dinosaurs are almost brought to life with fully reconstructed skeletons, including the most complete T. rex frame in the world, and dozens of animated videos and interactive displays create an engrossing narrative of evolution that’s easy for kids to digest. But grown-ups are just as enthralled. There’s also the Play Lab, an educational space for the youngest visitors to crawl into re-created dinosaur nests, play with toy fossils, and experiment with musical instruments from ancient cultures. The building itself is a neoclassical beauty inspired by the temples of ancient Greece and Rome, and the location—right on Lake Michigan and adjacent to Grant Park—is perfect for outdoor picnics and running around after a visit.

THE ST. REGIS
ASPEN RESORT

  • St. Regis Hotel in Aspen Colorado
  • Spas and ski resorts often go hand in hand. When you’re skiing all day, a luxurious, pampering massage can be regarded as a necessity(ish). The Remède Spa at the St. Regis is widely regarded as one of the chain’s best. There are several Aspen-specific treatments, which include oxygen therapy for those adjusting to the altitude, as well as deep moisturization for parched skin. But the Mala Creation is in a league of its own and goes beyond the physical. Named after traditional Buddhist prayer beads, it’s a partnership between the hotel and local spiritual guide and yogini Alexa Webster. It includes a one-on-one intention-setting consultation, breathwork, and Qigong meditation. With the help of Webster, you’ll also create your own mala bead necklace. The final part of the experience is perhaps the most special: You take a horse-drawn sleigh to the nearby Northstar Preserve (a pristine, 245-acre swath of wilderness bisected by the Roaring Fork River), where the mala beads are blessed. By a fire. Under the moonlight.

  • DON’T MISS:

    For such a small town (population: 7,000-plus), Aspen’s culinary scene is incredibly dynamic. One of our favorite spots is Casa Tua, which resembles a charming ski lodge or mountain home, particularly when it’s lit up at night. The menu is chock-full of satisfying Northern Italian fare—burrata with organic tomatoes, tuna tartare, specialty risottos, grilled branzino, biscotti, and gelato. We’re also fans of Bosq, helmed by chef Barclay Dodge, who brings his love of travel to Aspen. A decidedly globally influenced menu includes dishes like a sweet and sour crispy eggplant, gremolata string fries, and Peking duck. For a nightcap, it’s hard to resist the enduring appeal of J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome, a spot where Hunter S. Thompson, John Wayne, and Gary Cooper would trade stories with locals—now, particularly after a slick renovation and the addition of a new lounge, it’s even more of a hangout than before.

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