The (Mini) Vacation
Published: April 2011
By Malia Boyd, Stephen Whitlock, Amy Farley, Heidi Sherman Mitchell, Xander Kaplan, Bridget Moriarity, Stirling M. Kelso, Mitchell Owens, Alysha Brown, Shann Fountain, Karen Keller, Candace Walsh
Who says a four-day jaunt can’t be a full-blown winter vacation?
Here are 12 hot spots and cool getaways— from Fez to Whistler, B.C.—that are easy to get to and chockablock with activities. So go ahead, and make it a very long weekend!
An Exotic Escape That’s Closer Than You Think
As tourists and builders flood Marrakesh, travelers with an appetite for Morocco’s multi- cultural richesse are giving Fez, North Africa’s oldest imperial city, a second glance. A direct flight to Casablanca and a 45-minute hop to Fez makes it as easy to get to as Europe. And in Fez el-Bali, the old medina, Europeans and Americans in search of historic houses are snapping up still-affordable dars and riads and transforming them into elaborate bed-and-breakfasts, with extravagant tile work, lacy iron grilles, and courtyard fountains.
WHERE TO STAY The most atmospheric inn to open recently is Dar Seffarine (14 Derb Sbaa Louyate; 212-71/113-528; www.darseffarine.com; doubles from $76), a 16th-century palace restored and operated by Alaa Said, an Iraqi-born architect, and his Norwegian wife, Kate Kvalvik. The venerable La Maison Bleue (2 Place de l’Istiqlal; 212-35/636-052; www.maisonbleue.com; doubles from $220), a 1915 astrologer’s palace with an aristocratic look and a romantic garden, pulls in an old-guard crowd. Riad Fès (5 Derb Ben Slimane; 212-35/947-610; www.riadfes.com; doubles from about $190) has hauntingly beautiful Moorish interiors and Alhambra-like patios.
WHERE TO EAT You’ll have to call a day in advance to order tender mechoui (roast lamb) at the regal Dar Saada (2 Souk el Attarine; 212-35/637-370; dinner for two $51), but the dish is worth the effort. In a low-lit alcove of La Maison Bleue (dinner for two $141), dine on quail pastilla and tagine while musicians serenade you, or head to Restaurant Zagora (5 Boulevard Mohammed V; 212-35/940-686; lunch for two about $35), where French-Moroccan fare is served on rose petal–strewn tables.
WHAT TO DO Visit the Dar Batha Museum (Place de l’Istiqlal; 212-35/634-116) to see its impressive collection of pottery, antique instruments, and Fassi embroidery. Nestled deep into the medina, you’ll find the Belghazi Museum (19 Derb Elgorba), a former 17th-century riad full of carpets, weapons, and wedding chests, some of which are for sale.
WHAT TO BUY Look for traditional cobalt pottery, spices, Berber carpets, and handcrafted leather goods at the cacophonous souk—just be prepared to bargain. A short walk from the Bab Boujeloud (the medina’s western gate), pop into Les Mystères de Fès (53 Derb bin Lemssari; 212-35/636-148), a store brimming with everything from jewelry to furniture.
WHAT TO READ Paul Bowles’s The Spider’s House, a portrait of Fez at the end of French colonial rule in the 1950’s, still resonates today. —Mitchell Owens
INSIDER TIP The best time to tour the city’s ancient tanneries is in the morning, when the mud-brick vats are filled with colorful dyes.
Although it’s known as a boomtown for luxurious beachfront resorts, this stretch of Mexico’s Caribbean coastline has held onto its authentic charm, thanks to the thriving village of Playa del Carmen and the region’s ancient Mayan ruins. Here, you can check into a haute hotel—and still slip outside for a little local flavor.
WHERE TO STAY Hit hard by last year’s Hurricane Wilma, Maroma Resort & Spa (52-998/872-8200; www.maromahotel.com; doubles from $480), has bounced back with nine new Sian Nah (Mayan for "house of heaven") Suites, each with its own massage space, plunge pool, and terrace. Toast the revitalization with a mango-and-cilantro margarita while lounging on a waterfront bed at the new alfresco bar.
WHERE TO EAT Playa del Carmen, once a quaint fishing village and now the Riviera’s cultural hub, has the largest variety of restaurants in the area. Start the day with freshly roasted granola or cactus empanadas and queso fresco at La Cueva del Chango (Calle 38 near La Quinta; 52-984/873-2137; breakfast for two $15), just off the main thoroughfare. Night is as exciting as day in Playa del Carmen. Restaurante Carnes (Calle 1 between 20th and 25th Aves.; no phone; dinner for two $14) serves tender carne domestica from the nearby ranches around Monterrey. Later, head to Mambocafé (Calle 6 between 10th and La Quinta; 52-984/803-2656), which attracts a serious salsa crowd, and the beachfront Blue Parrot (12th St. on the beach, off La Quinta; 52-984/206-3350), one of the oldest local hangouts.
WHAT TO DO While Tulum is the most well-known of the Mayan ruins, Cobá has fewer tourists and lies hidden in a thick expanse of jungle. Bring binoculars to Playacar’s bird sanctuary, which has 60 different species. —Stirling Kelso
South America’s Next Great City
This South American megalopolis gets more glamorous by the minute—and more accessible. Hop on a nine-hour overnight American flight and escape to summer (literally). Now is when the natives, who famously gripe when the mercury drops below 70 degrees, are at their liveliest.
WHERE TO STAY Singer Caetano Veloso is rumored to have a room reserved year-round at the airy Emiliano (384 Rua Oscar Freire; 55-11/3068-4399; www.emiliano.com.br; doubles from $320). Hotel Fasano (88 Rua Vittorio Fasano; 55-11/3896-4000; www.fasano.com.br; doubles from $506) has a retro-classic feel, and the futuristic Hotel Unique (4700 Avda. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio; 55-11/3055-4710; www.hotelunique.com.br; doubles from $380) has some of the best city views.
WHERE TO EAT At Café de la Musique (1400 Avda. Jucelino Kubitschek; 55-11/3079-5588; dinner for two $120) the menu and décor rotate seasonally. Sushi chefs at the hot spot Nakombi (170 Rua Pequetita; 55-11/3845-9911; dinner for two $65), slice fish inside a VW bus. For lunch, head to Figueira Rubaiyat (1738 Rua Haddock Lobo; 55-11/3063-3888; dinner for two $110), built up around a cyclopean fig tree.
WHAT TO DO Browse cutting-edge clothing at Clube Chocolate (913 Rua Oscar Freire; 55-11/3084-1500), a warm-up for Daslu (131 Avda. Chedid Jafet; 55-11/3841-4000), the city’s gargantuan temple of chic. Spend Saturday afternoon in the Pinheiros neighborhood, flipping through vintage bossa nova LP’s at the Praça Benedito Calixto flea market. In the evening, "urban bossa" and other live music entertains an energetic crowd at Grazie a Dio! (67 Rua Girassol; 55-11/3031-6568) and Brazilian DJ’s spin at Love Club & Lounge (189 Rua Pequetita; 55-11/3044-1613). —Karen Keller
An Affordable Villa Vacation
Everyone’s favorite affordable (and no-fuss) Jamaican resort, the Rockhouse, has upped the ante by adding eight villas, which make it possible to sleep in style—and stay on a budget. But be sure to cut yourself loose from the comforts of your waterfront nest: exploring the island is easier than ever, thanks to a new road linking Montego Bay to the bohemian party town of Negril.
WHERE TO STAY The new villas at the laid-back and understated Rockhouse (West End Rd., Negril; 876/957-4373; www.rockhousehotel.com; villas from $295) have terraces, outdoor showers, and views of Pristine Cove.
WHERE TO EAT Don’t miss the Jamaican Jambalaya, a rich mélange of fresh crayfish, shrimp, and conch, at the Rockhouse Restaurant (dinner for two $90). The Lobster Trapp (Sawyer’s Beach Rd., Hopewell; 876/783-5046; dinner for two $50), a shack just outside Montego Bay, is famous for its fresh-fish menu. Diners must call ahead to place an order with Derby, a local fisherman who catches and cooks the evening’s meal.
WHAT TO DO A 15-minute cab ride from the Rockhouse, the Royal Palm Reserve (Springfield Rd.; Sheffield; 876/364-7407; www.royalpalmreserve.com) buzzes with more than 300 types of birds, butterflies, and reptiles. Kayak along the coast to Rick’s Café (West End Rd., Negril; 876/957-0380; drinks for two $12) for a rum punch, a dip in the new pool, and a view of the daily cliff-diving show. A festive crowd mingles at Alfred’s Ocean Palace (Norman Manley Blvd., Negril; 876/957-4669) for live reggae rhythms, then heads to the end of the driveway, where jerk chicken awaits, courtesy of the chef, Blue Dandy. —Xander Kaplan
The Original Hawaii
From cloud forests to lava cliffs, with fewer than 3,000 residents—and not a fast-food joint or stoplight in sight— Lanai offers a glimpse of what the other Hawaiian islands were like more than a half-century ago. Only now, there are two luxurious Four Seasons resorts, each glistening from a $50 million touch-up.
WHERE TO STAY Set in the verdant highlands, more Pacific Northwest than South Pacific, the Lodge at Koele (1 Keomoku Hwy.; 800/321-4666; www.fourseasons.com; doubles from $295) has large rooms, sprawling gardens, and two new fireplaces in the Great Hall—perfect for winter’s cooler evenings. For a more traditional Hawaiian vacation, book a night at Koele’s beachside sister property, Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay (1 Manele Bay Rd.; 808/565-2000; doubles from $395).
WHERE TO EAT Local power-lunchers belly up to the Formica counter at Canoes Lanai (419 Seventh St.; 808/ 565-6537; lunch for two $20), a 60-year-old fixture, for blue-plate specials such as orange chicken and roast pork. From a cushy rattan chair at the Ocean Grill (Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay; 808/565-2094; dinner for two $120), take in the ultimate tropical scene while savoring perfectly grilled opakapaka (snapper), mahimahi, and Kona lobster.
WHAT TO DO December through April marks the seasonal migration of humpbacked whales through the waters off Lanai. Hook up with the naturalists at Trilogy (888/628-4800; www.visitlanai.com), who pilot small groups in a 32-foot inflatable boat. For an inland adventure, hike the five-mile trail along the Koloiki Ridge, which has unparalleled views. —Malia Boyd
Off the Beach and into the City
San Diego’s 70 miles of coastline has always lured visitors, but in the past several years, the urban landscape has started to rival the natural one. Neighborhoods are developing, restaurants are opening, and—a sure sign of a city on the rise—stylish hotels are cropping up all over town.
WHERE TO STAY Built in 1910 by Ulysses S. Grant Jr., the US Grant hotel (326 Broadway; 619/232-3121; www.usgrant.net; doubles from $400) reopens this month after a $52 million enhancement. Its residential-style rooms have a dash of eccentricity, such as headboards painted by French artist Yves Clement. The Keating Hotel (432 F St.; 619/814-5700; www.thekeating.com; doubles from $429) was designed by Pininfarina, the Italian team behind Ferrari and Maserati. You’ll find a few more brand names inside the 35 guest rooms: Bang & Olufsen stereos, Dornbracht bath fixtures, and Lavazza espresso machines. Finally, the $75 million renovation—complete with rooftop pool and four-level nightclub—of the Ivy Hotel (845 Sixth Ave.; 619/814-1000; www.theivyhotel.com) will be unveiled in late December.
WHERE TO EAT Addison (5200 Grand Del Mar Way; 858/314-1900; www.thegranddelmar.com; dinner for two $150) at the Grand Del Mar resort has a Mediterranean menu heavy on local ingredients. Also opening this fall: Bondi (333 Fifth Ave.; 619/342-0212; www.thebondi.com; dinner for two $76), an Australian restaurant and bar, and Jade Theater (701 E. Sixth St.; 619/843-7280; dinner for two $90), a multilevel lounge serving Southeast Asian fare.
WHAT TO DO After dinner, hit the expansive nightclub Stingaree (454 Sixth Ave.; 619/544-9500), the town’s hottest new haunt. —Bridget Moriarity
Visit the Old Town Without the Summer Hordes
Remember the romance of Prague in the early nineties—the faded façades, the atmospheric bars, the thrill of discovering a secret city?During the summer, when you’re elbow-to-elbow with beer-swilling tourists in the Old Town, those halcyon days seem far away. But fairy-tale Prague is there, especially if you visit in winter, when the crowds have dispersed. Stroll down the quiet cobblestoned streets and explore the castle and churches. Spend an afternoon reading Kafka or Kundera in a café, and an evening sampling Czech cuisine (dumplings, cabbage, and Budvar beer), preferably served at a candlelit table on a frosty night.
WHERE TO STAY Book a room in the heart of the Mala Strana, arguably the city’s most charming quarter, in the new Mandarin Oriental (459/1 Nebovidská; 420-2/3308-8888; www.mohg.com; doubles from $269). The 99 guest rooms, designed by London-based architect Khuan Chew (who’s also responsible for the interiors of Dubai’s Burj Al Arab), incorporate modern amenities (high-definition TV’s) with the building’s historic architecture (high ceilings; parquet floors). Don’t miss the spa lobby’s transparent floor, set above the ruins of a medieval church.
WHERE TO EAT At Pravda (17 Parízská; 420-2/2232-6203; lunch for two $100), one of the city’s best restaurants, the space is minimalist, and the dishes are anything but. Try the rich tagliatelle with Parma ham and artichokes. For a cozy atmosphere and Czech classics (pork tenderloin stuffed with plums, rabbit in garlic, and spinach with potato dumplings), head to the antiques-filled U Modre Kachnicky (6 Nebovidská; 420-2/5732-0308; dinner for two $120). Though the dining room has hosted its share of celebrities, the restaurant maintains a low profile, which keeps the place convivial and decidedly local.
WHAT TO DO The often-overlooked Müller Villa (14 Nad Hradním Vodojemem; 42-2/2431-2012; www.mullerovavila.cz) is a must-see for fans of Modernism. Designed by architect Adolf Loos, the perfectly restored home is a window into another era.
WHAT TO BUY If you’re looking for something other than the ubiquitous beer stein, visit Ungelt Courtyard, behind the Tyn Church, where small shops sell wooden toys and marionettes. Better yet: Pick up some Art Nouveau antiques from Antique Ungelt (1 Tyn; 420-2/2489-5454).
WHAT TO READ Prague’s literary history is a long and rich one. First on the reading list: Franz Kafka’s The Trial, which takes its setting from the Old Town. Next is Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, on the descent of the Iron Curtain, followed by Myla Goldberg’s Time’s Magpie: A Walk in Prague, which observes the city’s recent progress. The best place to find these books (and more) is among the 10,000-strong volumes at The Globe (6 Pstrossova; 420-2/2493-4203).
INSIDER TIP Café Slavia (1 Národní Trîda; 420/224-218-493; breakfast for two $15) is a city landmark (built in 1887) and an anachronistic holdout in quickly changing Eastern Europe. Though the café is often packed, if you arrive in the morning you can grab a prime seat overlooking the Vltava River. Another way to avoid the crowds: Bundle up and stroll the Charles Bridge at night for a postcard-perfect glimpse of the city. —Shann Fountain
Whistler, British Columbia
North America’s Best Ski Resort Hits Its Stride
Long known as the land of twisted dreads and cannabis-smoking ski bums, this bucolic village deep in Canada’s Coast Ranges is lately more trendsetting than tree-hugging, and appeals to clientele who come for the scene as much as for the precipitous peaks.
WHERE TO STAY The year-old Adara Hotel (4122 Village Green; 866/502-3272 or 604/905-4009; www.adarahotel.com; doubles from $379) has an updated take on traditional lodge décor, such as the 10 pairs of glowing antlers adorning the lobby’s white walls. The owner-operators of Sundial Boutique Hotel (4340 Sundial Crescent; 800/661-2321; www.sundialhotel.com; doubles from $135) recently poured $8.5 million into their mountainside property, adding a full-service spa.
WHERE TO EAT Ultramodern Après (103–4338 Main St.; 604/935-0200; www.apresrestaurant.com; dinner for two $179) fuses French and Italian cuisine in dishes such as Carnaroli risotto with white asparagus and wild mushrooms. Also new is Elements (102B–4359 Main St.; 604/932-5569; www.wildwoodrestaurants.ca; dinner for two $50), a boisterous tapas lounge where diners graze on Dungeness-crab salad with miso dressing. After dinner, head to The Mix by Ric’s (4154 Village Green; 604/932-6499). Here, fresh-fruit martinis have replaced hot chocolate as the drink of choice.
WHAT TO DO Who needs Sundance?From November 30 to December 3, Hollywood sophisticates hit the slopes (and the silver screen) during the sixth annual Whistler Film Festival. For more on the cultural front, check out the unusual collection of rare Inuit sculptures and jewelry at dealer Britt Germann’s new Path Gallery (122–4338 Main St.; 604/932-7570; www.pathgallery.com). —Alysha Brown
Midwinter is far from bleak in the Swedish capital. Yes, the days are short and dark, but the locals know a thing or two about keeping warm. They hang glowing stars in windows, burn torches outside cafés and restaurants, and hit the Old Town’s glogg stalls for steaming cups of mulled wine. And in the bars and clubs around the Stureplan neighborhood, some of Europe’s best nightlife really starts heating up.
WHERE TO STAY At the centrally located 65-room Berns (8 Näckströmsgatan; 46-8/5663-2200; www.berns.se; doubles from $306), the bedrooms are minimalist and the public spaces baroque. What’s more, some of the city’s top mixologists staff the cocktail bar. For a base right next to Stureplan, try the newly redone and highly polished Scandic Anglais (23 Humlegårdsgatan; 46-8/5173-4000; www.scandic-hotels.se; doubles from $264).
WHERE TO EAT A meal among the city’s elite in Café Opera (Opera House; 46-8/676-5807; www.cafeopera.se; dinner for two $150), a gilded and frescoed salon with a rich, seafood-heavy menu, is a must. Then head through to the Opera House to catch a performance of Pippi Longstocking: The Ballet. Performances begin November 25 and continue through January.
WHAT TO DO Start at Riche (4 Birger Jarlsgatan; 46-8/5450-3560), a bistro-bar that attracts an affluent post-work crowd. After 10 p.m., move on to Laroy (21 Biblioteksgatan; 46-8/5450-7650), a decadent bar-club that pulls in a fashionable set. From there, it’s just a few steps to Sturecompagniet (4 Sturegatan; 46-8/5450-3715), which cemented its reputation as Stockholm’s most exclusive club by opening V, a 250-person VIP section. End the night at the White Room (29 Jacobsbergsgatan). Echoing the scene outside, the interior is snow-white and theatrically lit. —Stephen Whitlock
Cold Comfort in the Poconos
Forget the 800-calorie-a-day limits and mandatory hikes at those other spas. The Lodge at Woodloch, the first destination spa to open in the States in a decade, focuses on well-being through community, pleasure, and making good choices, not asceticism.
WHERE TO STAY Set on 75 lakeside acres, the 58-room Lodge at Woodloch (866/953-8500 or 570/685-8500; www.thelodgeatwoodloch.com; doubles from $1,500, including all meals and daily treatments) brings the outdoors in, so guests don’t have to brave the elements: glass walls frame an oak forest, enclosed porches cantilever over a fire circle, and an open-air infinity whirlpool is surrounded by radiant-heat stone floors. Request a room with a balcony overlooking the oak forest. Whatever direction you face, you get Frette linens, flat-screen TV’s, and enough space in your marble bathroom for a cocktail party (which is allowed at this spa).
WHERE TO EAT Chef Lyle Bolyard, formerly of the Phoenician and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, has raised the typical fat regulation on spa cuisine from 20 to 25 percent, which means every miso cod and sweet potato–jalepeño soup has exquisite flavor. An added bonus: pair that bison burger with a glass of reserve Pinot Noir or a buttery Chimay ale.
WHAT TO DO This retreat, two hours west of New York City, is heaven for active types. Tai chi, power yoga, Pilates, ice-skating, and morning walks are on the schedule every day. When it’s offered, don’t miss watercolor painting with Judy or an hour in the demo kitchen with Chef Lyle. Should you require a little retail therapy with your radiance facial, the Woodbury Commons outlet mall—with Hugo Boss and Chanel boutiques—is an hour east, en route to Manhattan. —Heidi Mitchell
The Southwest, Under Snow
If you think summer is the only time to visit the Southwest, think again. Winter in Santa Fe means adobe walls frosted with snow and air scented with fragrant piñon smoke. There’s also plenty to see, from SITE Santa Fe’s acclaimed biennial, which runs through January 7, to the art spaces that line Canyon Road. And just beyond the city, the ski slopes of Taos beckon.
WHERE TO STAY Check into the Inn of the Five Graces (150 E. DeVargas St.; 505/992-0957; www.fivegraces.com; doubles from $295), where the 24 rooms are a textured blend of the East (tile mosaics, kilim rugs) and the Southwest (kiva fireplaces).
WHERE TO EAT The intimate bar at Ristra (548 Agua Fria; 505/982-8608; dinner for two $90) is a jewel box of contemporary design, with an exacting menu to match. Nobody’s told chef Rham Fama of Fuego (330 E. Palace Ave.; 505/986-0000; dinner for two $130), that the restaurant is not deep in the French countryside and every guest a potential Michelin rater, so the food and service shimmer accordingly. Craving some local fare?Sidle into Castro’s (3904 Rodeo Rd.; 505/438-0146; dinner for two $30) for platters of tamales and chiles rellenos, and finish with honey-drizzled sopaipillas.
WHAT TO DO The challenging runs at Taos Ski Valley (www.skitaos.org) are just an hour-and-a-quarter-drive away, but Santa Fe Ski Basin (www.skisantafe.com) and Sipapu Ski Resort (www.sipapunm.com) are right outside the city. Save time for an afternoon in one of the Japanese-style outdoor wooden hot tubs at the Ten Thousand Waves spa (505/992-5025; www.tenthousandwaves.com). —Candace Walsh
Beaver Creek, Colorado
The Quintessential Winter Village
Though it can’t compete with the beau-monde glamour of Aspen or the vast scale of Vail, the trim little town of Beaver Creek is Colorado’s most well-rounded resort. Known for its downhill slopes, the town also has snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice-skating, and plenty of après-ski appeal.
WHERE TO STAY For a seat at the base of the mountain, the polished, 190-room Park Hyatt Beaver Creek (970/949-1234; www.parkhyatt.com; doubles from $550) can’t be beat. Plus, the hotel’s Allegria Spa just doubled in size after a $12 million renovation. The lofty Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch (970/748-6200; www.ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $625), which is accessible both by ski and a 15-minute shuttle from Beaver Creek, is the apotheosis of luxe-lodge style with its private chairlift, a cosseting spa, and an underground hot-tub grotto. Even if you don’t book a room, do pop in for an afternoon drink and a taste of Aspen-style high life at the bar; on a nice day you can sit outside and watch the skiers come down the mountain.
WHERE TO EAT Beano’s Cabin (970/949-9090; dinner for two $198) ferries diners up the mountain on a sleigh before serving them a decadent prix-fixe dinner. For sushi, head to Foxnut (122 The Plaza; 970/845-0700; dinner for two $110), in the town center.
WHAT TO DO Good news for expert skiers: a set of steep gladed runs, the Stone Creek Chutes, is set to open this year. Not so keen on the expert-only—or even beginner—terrain?Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are making a comeback, and Beaver Creek’s McCoy Park, an enormous Nordic playground with 20 miles of winding trails, is leading the charge. —Amy Farley
The local intelligentsia frequent Filial (254 Rua Fidalga; 55-11/38139226), where schoppe (draft beer) flows into the wee hours.
Alight for the evening in a thatched-roof tree house at Tensing Pen (West End Rd., Negril; 876/957-0387; www.tensingpen.com; doubles from $283) Or, for a splurge, book a suite at The Caves, a charming Cliffside resort just down the road. (West End Rd., 800/688-7678; doubles from 765, all inclusive)
For an active break from the ocean, ask your concierge to book you a session at the Lanai Pine Sporting Clays & Archery Range (lessons from $75); shooting classes are held on a 14-station course that stretches across the islands inland gulches and pampas.