Tag - hotels

Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park Great Service and Fantastic Views

    Fairmont Chicago

Fairmont Chicago

Chicago is a fantastic city to visit for a number of reasons, and while there, the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park (www.fairmont.com/chicago, 200 N. Columbus Drive, 866-540-4408) is an excellent base for exploring the city thanks to its location, amenities and the familiar Fairmont level of service.

You can learn more about the many places to visit in Chicago such as the Magnificent Mile, Second City, deep dish pizza and the theatre district, in the “Sweet Home Chicago” episode of the Travel Brigade Radio Show.

From the moment you check in to the Fairmont and get a Tootsie Roll, which was invented in Chicago, you get the unique feel for the Windy City simply by looking out your window. The hotel sits on a block near Michigan Avenue, the Lakefront, Grant Park and Millennium Park, with the latter being home to the Cloudgate sculpture that has become synonymous with Chicago. If you haven’t heard of that name, you may know it as “The Bean,” a huge metallic bean that reflects the surrounding skyline that no traveler can resist taking a picture of.

You can take a stroll of just a few minutes from the hotel through Millennium Park and enjoy the view on the way to the Art Institute of Chicago, an encyclopedic museum complete with a number of iconic paintings that holds one of the world’s great art collections.

Chicago is full of great eateries, but save room for a visit to the Eno Wine Room located right in the Fairmont. Eno takes three items that are great on their own – wine, cheese and chocolate – and brings them together in an irresistible way. You can even take a class at the “Eno-versity” to learn more about them. The hotel also has Aria Restaurant and Aria Bar & Sushi Club, which combines Asian cuisine in the restaurant with a communal sushi bar that also has a noodle menu.

After a long day of taking in all that Chicago has to offer, come back to the hotel and enjoy a massage or other treatment at the 11,000 square foot “mySpa,” which features a full-service fitness studio as well as massages and body wraps. If you’ve spent the day shopping on the Magnificent Mile, you also might want to try the “Sole Salvation” a deluxe foot treatment with a scrub, warm paraffin wrap and foot massage.

The Fairmont brand is noted for its level of service, and one great way to experience from start to finish of your visit is to stay on the Gold Level, which comprises the 15th floor. The Gold Level has its own concierge desk in a large reception area where guests can enjoy complimentary breakfast in the morning and appetizers in the evening.

Chicago is a great place to visit for many reasons, and the Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park will make the trip complete.

All Inclusive Family Fun at West Edmonton Mall

    West Edmonton Mall - Santa Maria

West Edmonton Mall – Santa Maria

When putting together a family vacation, parents will be looking for a fun hotel to stay in, a great pool area, lots of fun activities for the kids and good places to eat. What’s unique about a family trip to the West Edmonton Mall is that all of the above can be found in one place, and it can take days to experience the whole thing. This article will focus on all of the fun things kids will enjoy at the mall, but adults will also enjoy visiting for the shopping and restaurants.

Better yet, the mall sits surrounded by Canada’s Festival City, which hosts over 70 different festivals per year and has plenty of other fun activities for a family. For more information on other places to visit in this fun city, check out the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation. (800-463-4667)

West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall(780-440-5200, 1755, 8882 170 Street) is the largest mall in North America and the fifth largest mall in the world. The 800-plus stores and restaurants alone are amazing, before even getting to all of the attractions such as a water park, theme park, two miniature golf course, sea animal exhibit and more. It’s even got its own hotel on site.

Since there is so much to see and do, a good place to start at the mall is at the Guest Services office on Level 1, Phase II, to look into a “Multi-Play Pass” that will allow a family to pay one fee for access to the many different activities available. It’s also a great time to pick up a “Super Savings Coupon Book” full of great deals throughout the mall.

Fantasyland Hotel

The Fantasyland Hotel (780-444-3000, 17700-87 Avenue, fantasylandhotel.com) sits right in the mall, so it has the advantage that guests simply need to walk out of the elevator and past the front desk to be where everything is.

However, Fantasyland is also a great option because of the many different themed rooms that kids will love. They can sleep in a luxury igloo, or the bunk beds that are the “County Jail” in the Western-themed rooms, or enjoy the aura of being in the Polynesian or Roman themed rooms.

World Water Park

The world’s largest indoor wave pool is found in in World Water Park, along with 17 different water slides and 24 different activities spread out over a five-acres that are kept at a balmy 82 degrees regardless of the weather outside. The slide options range from the tame to the “Cyclone,” which drops the rider over 50-feet straight down before taking them on a 360-degree loop and back down again.


The world’s largest indoor amusement park sits in the mall at Galaxyland. There are over 24 rides and attractions, including the Mindbender coaster, which is 145 feet-tall.

Other Attractions

While Galaxyland and World Water Park can easily take up two days worth of activities, there’s still so much more in the mall. For those up for a little friendly competition, there is a bowling alley, two miniature golf courses – including one that is glow-in-the-dark and the “Deep Sea Derby” where everyone gets to captain their own bumper boat equipped with a squirting device that lets them try to soak the other drivers.

The adventurous will enjoy the Ropes Quest course which allows guests to walk across ropes high above the ground. The less adventurous will enjoy the fact that they are harnessed to bars all over the course so they won’t fall. The physical activity can continue at the Ice Palace, a glass-domed rink that is open for visitors to skate on but also hosts many events.

Children will be enchanted by the creatures at the Sea Life Caverns, an underground aquarium that is home to over 100 species of fish, turtles, penguins and more. After coming out of the Caverns, guests can go right next door to Sea Lions’ Rock to watch the amazing animals perform in a show.

There are many different things that come together to make for a great family trip. At West Edmonton Mall, those things are already together in one place.   

Top 10 Activities in Quebec City

    Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac / Provided by Quebec City Tourism

Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac / Provided by Quebec City Tourism

With over 400 years of history, Quebec City and its surrounding areas are loaded with things to see and do. We’ve tried to perform the impossible task of narrowing it down to a mere 10. To hear more about these and other activities, listen to our Travel Show on Quebec. Below, in no particular order, (because they’re all so fun) are our favorite top  10 activities.

The Old City

The combination of buildings and streets dating back centuries, a walled city and people speaking French (don’t worry, the locals are mostly bilingual and very nice about speaking English) gives you the feeling of being in Europe. Stop by the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (866-540-4460, 1, rue des Carrieres), an incredible hotel sitting high on a cliff above the St. Lawrence River that has become the symbol of the city. The boardwalk in front of the Chateau offers amazing views of the river below.

The Lower City

This crescent right below the cliff that holds the Old City, has plenty of history and beauty in its own right. A great way to learn the history of the area, and the city as a whole, is to explore it on a bike tour with Cyclo Services Bicycle Tours (877-692-4050, 289, rue Saint-Paul).

The St. Roch District

This area, pronounced “ Saint Rock,” has been revitalized over the past decade to become the city’s hip new neighborhood filled with restaurants, clubs and boutique shopping. Stop by Les Bossus Restaurant (418-522-5501, 620, St.-Joseph Est) for great food and atmosphere, or stay at Hotel Royal William (888-541-0405, 360, boulevard Charest Est) for a location convenient to a variety of areas of the city.

The Citadel

his fort in the Old City has played an important role in the history of the city, and the Citadel (418-694-2815, 1, Cote de la Citadelle) is still an active military facility for the Royal 22e Regiment of the Canadian Forces. A 60-minute tour is both interesting and very valuable for learning the history of the area.

The Plains of Abraham

After taking the Citadel tour and learning about the 1759 Battle of Quebec, walk right over to where it took place on the Plains of Abraham, which is now a huge, beautiful park with its own exhibits, concerts and things to do.

Aquarium du Quebec

Kids will love seeing polar bears, seals, walruses and a variety of other animals is the Aquarium du Quebec (418-659-5264, 1675, avenue des Hotels). Parents may want to call ahead and find out about a program that allows children to assist the animal keepers, and even learn to teach the animals tricks for the shows.

Whale Watching

If the seals and walruses interest you, go see the biggest animals in the ocean by doing a whale watching trip. Cruises AML (866-856-6668) runs whale watching trips out of Tadoussac, Baie-Sainte-Catherine and other ports that are a bit of a drive out of the city, but well worth the trip for the chance to see a variety of whales, including belugas.

Grosse Ile

A fascinating piece of Canadian history can be found at the island of Grosse Ile (888-773-8888) not far from Quebec City. Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the island was used as a quarantine station for immigrant ships, and today it is a beautiful national park where many of the buildings have been preserved to use in a historical tour. Take a fun boat trip on Croisieres Lachance (1-888-GROSSE ILE, 110, de la Marina, Berthier-sur-Mer) to get there.

A Sauce Like No Other

Visiting L’Entrecote Saint-Jean (418-694-0234, 1080, rue Saint-Jean) is an opportunity to try “Entrecote Sauce,” a delicious combination of curry, mustard and other secret ingredients poured over steak and fries. The restaurant claims to be the only place to find this sauce in North America.

Summer Arts

The arts are in full bloom in the summer. Cirque du Soleil puts on an outdoor show only performed in Quebec City, “The Image Mill” turns the giant grain silos in port into a huge outdoor screen, or try the festival celebrating French heritage or music festival.

For more information on these, check out the tourism offices for both Quebec City (877-783-1608) and the Quebec Province (1-877-BONJOUR).

Quebec City is full of great things to see and do, picking just 10 is hard to do.

Zermatt Resort Near Park City Provides a Luxury Swiss Alps Experience in Utah

Zermatt Resort  Credit: Kathleen Curry

Zermatt Resort Credit: Kathleen Curry

The town of Midway, Utah, was settled by Swiss immigrants who thought the mountains looked like the Alps. The Swiss tradition continues at Zermatt Resort and Spa.

The arrival area for this luxury hotel gives the feeling of being in the town square of a authentic European village in the Swiss Alps. The main feature is a Swiss Chalet-style, five-story tall, luxury hotel, complete with 226 rooms. There are a variety of room sizes including five penthouse suites. The Swiss theme continues in the rooms, with tapestries and carved wood furniture. The hotel, which opened a few years ago, is just one feature of the 18-acre grounds which includes a spa, carousel, state-of-the-art facilities for holding business meetings, a Euro themed restaurant and a bakery.

Zermatt is located in Midway, which is part of what is known as the Heber Valley, an area that has taken advantage of its proximity to Park City to undergo incredible growth during the past 10 years, and now offers an interesting variety of restaurants and other lifestyle amenities.

Skiing, Golf and Outdoor and Water based Recreation in Heber Valley

Midway is just a 15-minute drive from Park City and its world-famous ski resorts, including Deer Valley. Zermatt offers shuttle service to the resorts for skiers and snowboarders. Beyond the slopes, visitors to Zermatt can also easily access Park City’s other attractions, notably its clubs and night-life, particularly during the Sundance Film Festival.

For those who visit in the summer, the Heber Valley offers a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities, and all of them can be easily booked with assistance of the hotel, activities such as horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, boating and water activities, hot-air ballooning and learning to fly-fish on the Provo River, which meanders through the Heber Valley.

If one would prefer lacing up golf shoes to hiking boots, Zermatt sits in Wasatch County, which has five golf courses, and an online program that lets visitors book tee times up to 60 days in advance.

Relax at The Spa at Zermatt

Part of the Zermatt complex includes a 17,000 square-foot Spa stretched out over three-floors within the hotel. There are 11 treatment rooms to go along with a 13-head Swiss Shower, Aromatherapy Steam Grotto and Ruheraum Relaxation Room. The variety of treatments, some of which are geared specifically towards men, including house specials such as the Monte Rosa Full Body Rejuvenation and the Caviar and Pearls Anti-Aging Facial.

Zermatt Resort and Spa

784 W. Resort Drive, Midway, Utah 84049


Whether one wants to visit for the skiing, the outdoor recreation, the golf or the spa, the Heber Valley is a great place to be, and the Zermatt Resort is a good place to stay to be convenient to everything.

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego Waterfront Hotel

Manchester Hyatt over the San Diego Bay  Credit: Manchester Hyatt

Manchester Hyatt over the San Diego Bay Credit: Manchester Hyatt

The beautiful bay of San Diego is one of California’s popular travel destinations and the Manchester Grand Hyatt is a beautiful waterfront hotel overlooking that bay.

Any trip to Southern California is not complete without a visit to picturesque San Diego. This stunning city, best known for its exceptional climate, is California’s second largest city. The Manchester Grand Hyatt, with its waterfront location and close proximity to local attractions such as Seaport Village and the San Diego Convention Center, makes for an excellent place to stay when visiting the city or taking a cruise out of the port of San Diego.

Manchester Grant Hyatt

The Manchester Grand has two towers that give it an impressive look along the skyline. The location of the hotel puts it a close distance to popular attractions like SeaWorld, the Gaslamp Quarter, U.S.S. Midway Museum or the port of San Diego.

The 1,625 rooms located in the two towers are classic in décor and many have a view of the bay. All have windows that open so guests can enjoys the fresh San Diego weather. Activities on site include a marina, tennis courts, gym, bike rentals and the Kin Spa. The pool deck is a large area that connects the two towers together and offers a great view of the sky line. The pool area includes hot tubs, cabanas and several fire pits that are lit up at night.

Family Friendly Activities and Camp Hyatt

Pool areas are always popular with kids of all ages and guests can enjoy warming up in the evening by making classic s’mores over the fire pits. The Hyatt also offers a seasonal backyard area where one can participate in lawn bowling, giant checkers and family friendly poolside cinema Saturday nights.

Camp Hyatt is also a unique feature where children can participate in half or full day sessions that include activities on and off site. There is also an evening session that includes dinner, so parents can plan an evening alone.

Sally’ Seafood on the Waterfront and Top of the Hyatt

The Hyatt has a several choices for dining and drinks such as Ann Marie’s Coffee Shop, Redfield’s Deli and the pool bar to Sally’s Seafood on the Waterfront. Sally’s offers fresh seafood including signature appetizers such as blue crab cake, and chicken spring rolls. The restaurant also offers local fish and chips and the popular lobster pot pie. It is also a great happy hour location with Mini Burger Mondays and Taco Tuesdays followed by Wasabi Wednesdays, which showcases the restaurant’s specialty sushi. One will enjoy Sally’s while dining on the boardwalk and basking in the sunny San Diego weather.

Those who want a great view of the bay should try the Top of the Hyatt, located 40 floors up. Enjoy a drink while looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows in the tallest waterfront hotel on the West Coast.

Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

One Market Place  San Diego, California 92101

(619) 232 1234

Staying in a hotel that offers waterfront views is nice, but staying in a waterfront hotel like the Manchester Grand Hyatt that offers great views, service, activities, dining and a programs for families is even better.

Luxury Boston Hotel at the Fairmont Copley Plaza

Front Entrance of Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza

Front Entrance of Boston’s Fairmont Copley Plaza

In 2012, the Fairmont Copley Plaza will celebrate its centennial with the completion of a $20 million dollar renovation with a complete schedule of activities and events, including hotel history tours that will lead up to the anniversary on August 19, 2012.

From the moment the guest steps out of their car or taxi in front of the hotel, the Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston staff begins to deliver superior service. One may even be greeted by Catie Copley the “Canine Ambassador” of The Fairmont. It’s a level of service that will last throughout the guest’s entire stay, no matter what the setting.

Boston Historic Hotel

The building, which opened the same year Fenway Park was built, is a 383-room symbol of Boston’s history located within walking distance of Boston Common, the Freedom Trailand Beacon Hill. Right across the street from the hotel one can find the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and Hancock Tower.

Nearly every 20th Century American President stayed at the hotel. As part of the building’s renovation, the Fairmont has added eight themed suites which focus on Boston’s unique history and culture. The rooms are classic with modern conveniences meant to give a residential feel to the stay.

Fairmont Gold

While the service at the Fairmont Copley Plaza is excellent, visitors have the option of choosing the Fairmont Gold service, which takes the service to an even higher level. Guests have their own reception area on the fourth floor along with access to the lounge, which offers breakfast in the morning, appetizers and cocktails in the early evening, as well as coffee, tea, sodas and an honor bar throughout the day.

Fairmont Gold guests have a concierge at their disposal to provide personal service for them during their stay. If a guest mentions they have tickets to the Red Sox game, the next day they might find an information card in their room giving them information about how to get there, game start time, expected weather and the starting pitchers. The staff at the Fairmont anticipates needs and helps guest enjoy their stay.

New Dining Experience

As part of the hotel’s renovation, the hotel is developing a new restaurant set to debut in the summer of 2012. Local flavors and cuisine are sure to have a place on the menu, as they always have at Copley Plaza, but there will also be a lifestyle menu catering to healthy eating and special diets.

Catie Copley, Canine Ambassador

Perhaps the most famous member of the Fairmont Copley Plaza staff is Catie Copley, the hotel’s official canine ambassador. Catie, a black Labrador, has her own spot in the hotel lobby where guests can stop by to pet and feed her and hopefully feel more at home at the hotel. She also has a small dog house outside one of the doors where guests can greet her. Guests can even schedule an appointment to take Catie for a walk.

Catie has her own business cards and e-mail address and has even published her own children’s book. Copies of the book, complete with Catie’s footprint signature, can be purchased in the hotel’s gift shop.

The Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston

138 St. James Avenue  Boston, Massachusetts  02116

(617) 267-5300

There are many reasons to visit Boston – great food, history and catching a Red Sox game. While there, there are many reasons to enjoy a stay at the Fairmont Copley Plaza.

The False Economy of the Hospitality Industry in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca, Mexico-Cr-tomzap.com

Oaxaca, Mexico-Cr-tomzap.com

Tourism is suffering in the southern Mexico colonial city of Oaxaca, and has been since the civil unrest of 2006.  By 2008 it had begun to pick up, until the swine flue scare, the US economic crisis, and the negative press heaped on by journalists reporting the drug wars, by and large restricted to a couple of port towns and cities near the American border, almost 1,000 miles away.  With tourism the primary industry in Oaxaca, why in 2011 are new car dealerships doing a brisk business, is higher end home construction booming, and is the upper middle class continuing to otherwise spend like crazy?

Hotel and guest house owners complain that revenues are the worst they’ve been since 2007, yet conspicuous consumption continues. Indeed, occupancy in hotels, bed & breakfasts and other lodgings is down, and most restaurants which have traditionally catered to a predominantly tourist following are in a significant economic slump – but of course those with a healthy Oaxacan clientele continue to generate good revenue.

One tenable theory is that old money is driving the economy in the hospitality industry – a false economy.  More often than not the proprietors of hotels and restaurants own the real estate upon which their businesses are situated, outright without encumbrances (i.e. mortgage free).  The other common scenario is for these business owners to be leasing from their families; and in tough economic times rent is deferred or outright forgiven.

It’s the exception rather than the rule to encounter a business in the hospitality industry in Oaxaca making mortgage payments, or paying market rent to a non – relative third party.  Revenues are simply not coming in to service either kind of debt payment.

So with non – existent, forgiven, or deferred debt attached to real estate, all that remains to be paid by those in the hospitality industry are labor costs which remain stagnant, and cost of materials for resale (crafts, clothing and widgets in stores, and perishables and dry goods in restaurants).

A few examples support the thesis:

  • At the end of 2010, a downtown guest house with several lodging units closed its door after eight years of operation.  The owner had been paying market rent. Her other business interests had been keeping it afloat. All the other proprietors in her accommodations association have remained open for business. But not one other establishment is paying a mortgage or fair market rent to a non – relative third party.
  • A mother and son each owned a restaurant in Oaxaca.  The mother’s was in a high tourist zone, the son’s less so but with a strong local clientele.  The mother’s was rented from a non – related third party, and the son’s was owned outright, inherited from his father.  The mother had to close up shop after 15 years because of rent increases, with insufficient sales to cover costs and take home a bit for herself.  The son’s restaurant remains open.  He continues to enjoy his toys.
  • A Oaxacan operated a hotel and a crafts store.  The former was owned outright, by the family, and the latter was rented in a high traffic downtown area.  As a consequence of the 2006 civil conflict he closed the craft store.  The hotel remains open.
  • An elderly Oaxacan woman of Spanish stock owns three large, well – known Oaxaca hotels, each run by one of her children.  She complains about soft tourism, but the family is doing more than just fine, by any reasonable assessment.
  • A downtown Oaxaca restaurant never did take off, despite several years of trying, including at least one wholesale menu change.  It catered to tourists.  It kept open, nevertheless.  Finally it changed to an Italian restaurant.  Oaxacans seems to gravitate towards good Italian food, more so than international tourists.  The property is owned by the owner’s parents. Had it not been for the nature of the ownership of the real estate, by all reasonable estimations and based on simple economics, the restaurant would have closed a year after opening.

Of course there are exceptions, but each is based on specific, unique circumstances.  Once their individual states of affairs are examined, it becomes clear that operations are not inconsistent with the broad premise. For example, there are a few large hotels on leased premises, which continue to pay market rent and other expenses. It is suggested that there are two main reasons:

  1. They are owned by chains with significant financial backing such that they can easily cover a few soft years.  They’re in it for the long haul; if profits don’t materialize as expected, it can be taken in stride within the context of the broader picture, tax incentives, etc.
  2. Their use of aggressive price point marketing attracts European charter groups and other special interest trips (i.e. Elder Hostel).  They can afford to offer attractively priced packages because of volume and three-star accouterments. At the other end, there appears to be much less negative press outside of Canada and the US, and in any event overseas tour operators do not appear to have the same liability concerns.  Alternatively, profit motive keeps them actively selling.

There are other equally valid explanations for the phenomenon of conspicuous consumption in this false economy, which indeed is evidenced in other sectors of Oaxacan business and entrepreneurialism (i.e. jewellers, fast food chains, accounting and law offices in the private sector, and owners or franchisees of department and specialty stores such as Sears, Sam’s, Fábricas de Francia and Office Depot):

  • Politicians and higher level civil servants appear to earn quite well.
  • Cash is being brought into Oaxaca from elsewhere in the country, and more significantly from
    Canada, the US and further abroad, to purchase and sustain businesses so that traditional borrowing and debt refinancing is not required.
  • There are enterprises which have sources of product and significant sales outside of Oaxaca, but money nevertheless flows into the pockets of their Oaxaca resident owners (i.e. plantations of coffee, cacao and other crops and their derivatives, produced in other Mexican states and in countries throughout Central & South America).

In downtown Oaxaca there is a considerable amount of prime, unoccupied real estate, providing further evidence of the false economy, or in this case an inert economic growth phenomenon.  Property owners of substantial economic means (i.e. the old money families), rather than rent for what the market will bear, either allow their buildings to remain empty and deteriorate, or, squeeze top dollar out of renters, only to take back the premises when these retail visionaries finally realize that they cannot service the debt associated with their leases. They cannot compete with those in distinctly different financial circumstances – such as those in the hospitality industry who have succeeded, for reasons illustrated above, where others have failed.

Notwithstanding government statistics, most believe that inflation continues at about 8 – 10 percent per annum. The cost of goods required to support the hospitality industry will continue to climb, and eventually wages will have to creep up in order for Oaxacan residents to survive. This will put a strain on business owners, and begin depleting their resources – unless tourism improves.  If it doesn’t, and hotel and restaurant owners begin raising their prices in an effort to continue to maintain their lifestyles, tourists will stop visiting Oaxaca altogether.  There are too many other places in the world which offer culturally rich vacations at reasonable, competitive prices – and without the media to make travelers think twice.