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Serene mountain views and the rush of a Virgin River at Driftwood Lodge; a HotelChatter Review
When visiting Zion National Park, many choose to experience this majestic slice of the Great Outdoors, well, outdoors. There are three campgrounds to choose from and, during the height of the summer, reservations are typically a must. Even the "off" season can get quite crowded given the right circumstances.
If your idea of roughing it, however, is staying in a budget motel, there are many to choose from in the adjacent town of Springdale, Utah. Dubbed "The Gateway to Zion," the town's main road, which leads straight to the national park, is dotted with name-brand motel chains, independent lodges and quaint inns. Many are located one right after the other. A bit of Internet sleuthing caused us to choose the Driftwood Lodge for a two-night weekend getaway.
Arriving on a Friday evening as the sun set, the Driftwood Lodge made a postcard-worthy first impression. The lodge, actually a collection of newer and older stand-alone buildings, was aglow in the last rays of light as a majestic mountain ridge and endless blue sky towered in the background.
The main building, right on Zion Park Boulevard, serves as the lobby and check-in was effortless. Renovated in 2013, it fit within the lodge theme, however, a very sanitized version. Wood floors, brick walls, brightly colored area rugs were all present but lacked a lived-in rustic appeal. A completely nit-picky observation, we know, and nothing a few throws and some random chotskies couldn't overcome.
A cheerful representative greeted us promptly and quickly imparted the lay of the land (how to get to our room, where to find the passcode for the free WiFi and a reminder to turn in our room keys at the end of the stay or face a $5 per card fee) before sending us on our way. No bell service was offered, but none was needed. It should also be pointed out that the front desk isn't staffed round-the-clock, however, someone is always available via telephone for emergencies.
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If you’re not only a hotel geek but kinda a science geek too, you probably already know that March 14 is Pi Day (because the mathematical constant π, or Pi, which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, is approximately equal to 3.14, but with 1.2 trillion digits after it).
If you didn’t know that, you might want to know this: Some hotels are using this as an excuse to bring out their best pies for the occasion. And who doesn’t like a nice pie?
The Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC is offering a scrumptious-looking Apple Pi Tartlet (that's it above) that’s made with 3 Pi (9.42) Granny Smith apples. The tartlet is topped with decorative apples made of white chocolate—can you stand it?
Fat camp. That's a terrible way to put it, isn't it? Well, it's true. Before Red Mountain Resort in St. George was Red Mountain Resort, it was the National Institute of Fitness, a weight-loss, calorie-controlled establishment where people went specifically to change their lifestyles and trim down. There was no snacking, there was no drinking. It was, from the sound of it, hell on earth in the desert.
But that all changed in 1998, when the 106-room property officially transitioned and rebranded to the Red Mountain Resort. It went through a major "chill out" makeover in the process, and today it stands as one of the most impressive soft-adventure home bases we've come across in a while. A lot of you expressed during our editor faceoff last month that active vacations were something you valued and enjoyed. Allow us to introduce you to your next destination.
One of the best things Red Mountain has going for it that it didn't have to reinvent was its location an hour from Zion at the mouth of Snow Canyon State Park, an epicenter of sandstone mountains and red rock scenery where many movies were filmed, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There is a private trail that runs from the hotel to the gate of the park, which means you're a stone's throw from some epic hiking and biking. The hotel runs at least one free guided hiking excursion a day in the Park, or you can take one of the free bikes and explore on your own. Red Mountain also manages trips for guests to kayak, canyoneer, and visit Zion.
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We've started a series of what’s trending in hotels these days: What’s Out, What’s In. Do we like what we see? Think it's a dud? You be the judge!
What’s Out: Hotel-branded pens and notepads as keepsakes
What’s In: Souvenirs inspired by the history and culture of the hotel
Fess up: The last time you stayed in a hotel, did you take the little pad of paper and pen with the hotel’s name on it? Everyone takes the toiletries, but if you’re a serious hotel geek, that cheap pen disappeared too. We get it. And so do hotels.
If you want a more lasting or glam souvenir though, these hotels have what you need.
The Washington School House hotel in Park City, Utah was a former school built in 1889 that even has its own motto: "Where old school is the new cool". As a playful nod and a wink to their educational roots, guests will find a notebook and pencil set waiting when they check in.
The Hyatt Regency Atlanta Downtown recently completed a $65 million transformation that included the opening of Market – a self-serve, around-the-clock stop for all your snacking needs (including a fancy-dancy touch-screen soda fountain that dispenses 126 different drinks). Food in Georgia trends towards down-home goodness, and the Executive Chef’s homemade BBQ rub, at $5 a pop in Market, lets you experience that Southern comfort all over again.
The sleek Yabu Pushelberg-designed Modern Honolulu likes to serve a little quirk with its chic. The hotel leaves complimentary sarongs and ukuleles in each guest room for you to use during your stay. But if you like them so much you can’t live without them, the sarongs and ukuleles are available for purchase so you can strum away ‘til your heart’s content.
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Now that's what we call a hearty piece of meat!
We've started a series of what’s trending in hotels these days: What’s Out, What’s In. Do we like what we see? Think it's a dud? You be the judge!
What's Out: Grass-fed beef and local poultry
What's In: Local wild game dishes
With the meteoric rise of culinary tourism and the fact that pretty much everyone wants a good meal, hotel restaurants have had to increase their game (we’re so funny...) and look for new ways to impress you gourmands out there.
Sorrel River Ranch near Moab, UT, is wedged between Arches and Canyonlands National Parks on the banks of the Colorado River. The ranch has a – get this -- Garden Manager who tends to two acres of organic produce (fantastic!) which finds its way into the hands of the chef, along with local wild game. The chef’s newest creation? Rabbit and Rattlesnake Sausage with Utah Peach Preserves and Baby Greens.
For more gamey goodness, read on!
When you first pull into Deer Valley, you'll probably notice the funicular cruising up the hillside. Most devices of the sort found in Park City are centered around skiing, but this one doesn't service any bunny slopes or extreme terrain -- it's how guests of The St. Regis Deer Valley access the hotel.
We suppose the grandeur makes sense given that the current rates for the St. Regis start at over $1000 a night (or 25,000 Starpoints) for a Superior room. That's some serious coin!
The hotel consists of 67 condo suites available for rent and 26 others that are privately owned. The residential units are on the top four floors and accessible via private elevator. Who makes their (second) home at the St. Regis? John Schnatter, better known as Papa John of Papa John's Pizza. We're not sure what he paid, but perhaps this investment is a reason why he's pinching his pizza pennies these days.
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It seems cliche, but it happens every year -- people get straight up dumped around the holidays.
And what happens? You grit your teeth through Santa's hearty laughter, thinking about all the fun you should have been having. Soon you're kiss-less at the strike of midnight on New Year's Eve, and when you wake from this misery, Valentine's Day is looming around the corner. Crap.
Well, we feel your pain (seriously, we were tossed recently, too). And so do hotels, so they're offering what we refer to as "Lonely-Hearts Packages" (many dressed up as "Guys Getaways").
Here's a rundown of some ideas to pitch to your good buddies. Remember to play up how much your heart hurts and give them the proper guilt trip to come along and get you back in the game. You would do it for them!
The image above is an accurate representation of what you'd experience in a perfect world during a stay at Utah's The View in Monument Valley. But most travelers know that rarely do circumstances turn out the way we envision them. Part of being a savvy traveler is adapting, and maybe even finding beauty in less-than-perfect conditions.
Last year around this time, we made the trek up to the border of Utah and Arizona, eager to see if The View did indeed live up to its name. We arrived under cloudy skies, the weather soon turning damp and snowy, and the next morning filled with clouds. Looking at our photos, you'll see the weather pattern put on quite a show.
Check out the photo gallery for a taste of the experience. What do you think? Does the weather make the scenery even better?
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Did you know it was Repeal Day? Sadly, we got through this whole entire Hump Day without being none the wiser. A tragedy, to be sure. Not that we haven't been loving autumn cocktails, we're not completely out the loop, ya know.
But, all is not lost. It's dinner time on the East coast, and the West Coast hasn't hit quitting time yet, so there's still time for everyone to take advantage of today's festivities. But, first, we'll clue you in on what Repeal Day is, just in case you didn't know.
To make it short (obviously time is of the essence) back on this day in 1933 Prohibition was ended in America after 13 years of (supposedly) dry living. Americans celebrated the "Repeal" of Prohibition by basically drinking their behind off. It has been celebrated every December 5th, since.
So in recognition of this "holiday", we guide you to some hotel bars that we think are serving some choice spirits.
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If you can resist this pumpkin-pie loaded shake--there's something wrong with you. Period.
Yes, some parts of the country have experienced their first bouts of snowfall, it’s still considered autumn per the calendar, and many hotel restaurant bars have a host of seasonal drinks created just for this time of year.
And damn, with all that's happened in the last few weeks (natural disasters, elections, secrets, lies, and...Donald Trump causing a stir) don’t you feel like--well, you could USE a drink? And a good, creative one at that?
We want to pay homage to the mixologists, or whatever the like to call themselves these days that have put in work to present some serious dranks (yep, we said it right, fact checkers) for the fall season. Thanksgiving is next week (AY!), today starts the unofficial weekend...let's toast it up !
Holsteins Shakes and Buns at the Cosmpolitan Las Vegas: This throwback restaurant gets major props for its Pumpkin Pie Bamboozled Shake, an alcohol-infused treat made with Sapling liquor, pumpkin pie filling, graham crumble, cinnamon syrup and pepita brittle. You can handle the Thanksgiving trip sipping a few of these.
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Recent snowfall in Colorado and Utah have kicked off an early ski season sparking a storm of deals and packages from resorts across the country. It's not uncommon to see early-bird discounts this time of year, but it appears there's an extra bit of excitement after last year's flop of a season.
It seems every mountain resort imaginable is offering some sort of bargain, whether it's ski and stay discounts, kids ski free, or complimentary hotel nights, so check around before checking in.
Here’s a sampling of some of the best deals from major areas in the US and a few from afar:
Winter Park, Colorado: This local favorite owned by the city of Denver rewards guests who book a five-night stay ($169/night) at the Vintage Hotel before December 12th with a free season pass. The resort puts icing on the cake with a snow guarantee - previously booked nights can be rescheduled if snow conditions are not up to your liking.
Wish you were here. No really. Wishing is about as close as you can get to Amangiri.
Here's the thing about Amangiri: you need to book well in advance for a room here, and we mean way head like The Book of Mormon-style when that Broadway show was at its peak run.
This 34-suite, 600-acre hideaway in Canyon Point, Utah (basically, the middle of nowhere) has been at almost full-capacity for nearly two years now. Even getting in off-season (November-March) has been damn near impossible, thanks to Amangiri's "adventure and rejuvenation" package, where all meals are included in the nightly rate (the food here isn’t cheap, people), so the resort seems even more attractive when the regular season rates without meals begin at $1,100 per night for a desert view suite and climb to $3,600 for the Amangiri Suite.
Amangiri is a fave for celebs like Brangelina, all of whom (like every guest) will have to check in at the security gate miles from the actual resort. We’re talking serious security control.