Culinary Vacations Not ‘Cookie-Cutter’ With Destination Discoveries

cooking classAs we’ve continued to report at Gadling, a new generation of culinary tours is on the rise. Food-loving travelers want more than generic cooking classes that teach how to make pad thai in Thailand or risotto in Tuscany. And a few companies – such as Destination Hotels & Resorts, North America’s fourth largest hotel management company – are complying by offering tours and classes that focus more on culture, locality and experiential elements.

With the launch of Destination Discoveries, hotel guests can tour the on-site apiary at Kirkland, Washington’s, The Woodmark, before taking a honey-themed cooking class with Chef Dylan Giordan. On Maui, personalized farm tours enable participants to harvest ingredients for a private class in their accommodation, as well as visit producers and sample handcrafted foods from the island.

The adventures aren’t just limited to food. There are also art, literature and active themes that reflect a sense of place; fly-fishing lessons in Lake Tahoe; nordic pursuits in Vail; art classes in Santa Fe; or a cultural and historic tour of Walden Pond via the Bedford Glen property in Boston. Here’s to more hotel groups doing away with homogenous travel.

[Photo credit: Destination Hotels & Resorts]

Aspen’s Little Nell Hotel Offers Free Fly-Fishing And Biking Now Through October 15

fly fishingColorado is a big state, and most of it remained unscathed during June’s wildfires. The Aspen region in particular is known for its knockout scenery, which includes the twin peaks of the Maroon Bells, wildflower-festooned meadows, shimmering aspen groves and crystalline rivers.

With fall foliage (if you’ve never witnessed the turning of aspens, it’s worth seeing) just around the corner, The Little Nell is offering complimentary fly-fishing or road/mountain biking, available exclusively for those who stay three nights or longer through October 15, 2012. Both activities are valued at $400.

Aspen’s beloved “Nell” is justifiably famous for its luxe standards and excellent food and wine, as well as its thoroughly unpretentious staff and atmosphere. You can even bring your furry friend on vacation with you (that means your dog, not your hirsute significant other)

The Fly-Fishing Package includes a three-hour guided trip, drinks and snacks from the Nell’s pastry chef, transportation to and from a custom-selected fishing destination, gear and gratuity. Custom add-ons include a streamside picnic lunch with wine, or (ahem) helicopter excursions to secluded fishing grounds. Guests are permitted to keep their catch, and have it prepared by the Nell’s chef.

The “Bike to Nirvana Package” includes two Orbea bike rentals (with Garmin GPS) for one day. Add-ons include guided tours, custom fitting, training and instruction from Aspen’s top athletes – featuring championship cyclist Scott Kasin – and custom lunches served off-road or trail.

Aspen doesn’t shut down in “shoulder season” like many Rocky Mountain resort towns, either. There’s AspenFILM and the farmers market, which runs through mid-October, and excellent dining (and imbibing) options abound. Bonus: Fall guests who stay at the Nell for two nights receive a third night free, based upon availability.

Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has daily non-stop flights from Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver and Chicago.

Make Father’s Day Special With One Of These Packages Offered By Hotels Around The US

Dad’s special day is just around the corner. To help make this Father’s Day memorable, check out the unique packages and manly programming being offered by hotels around the country.

father's day Travaasa Austin
Austin, Texas

This Father’s Day, the Travaasa Austin is celebrating by featuring a full lineup of manly programming at their nature-immersed property. Some activities dads can expect include:

  • Male Bonding: Texas-Style
  • Beer Making 101
  • Grilling and Smoking with the Travaasa Culinary Team
  • Beer Tasting Experience
  • Discover Your Six Pack: Core Fitness
  • Conquer the Prickly Pear Challenge Course

The hotel will also be featuring a new spa menu and line of products, specially designed with men in mind.

Rates for Travaasa Austin begin at $113 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Programming is included in the rate. Click here to book. maui hotel Travaasa Hana
Maui, Hawaii

Like its sister property, the Travaasa Hana is offering a lineup of special programming for dads to help them focus on their physique, palate and pastimes in a local way. Some of the activity options will include:

  • Machete Madness Coconut Husking
  • Throw Net Fishing
  • Private surf lessons
  • Hanging in Hana
  • Martial Arts Conditioning (Lua)
  • Chief’s Archery
  • Master’s of Mixology

The spa will also be featuring special treatments and products created with men in mind.

Rates for Travaasa Hana begin at $175 per person, per night, based on double occupancy. Programming is included in the rate. Click here to book.

st.julien hotel St. Julien Hotel and Spa
Boulder, Colorado

For fathers who want a laid-back and tasty experience, St. Julien Hotel and Spa is offering a beer-themed package for dads. Being home to four of the nation’s top 50 breweries, Colorado is the perfect destination for brew-loving fathers. The package includes a one night stay for two people, an Urban Oasis spa facial or massage designed specifically for men, a beer of choice before the spa treatment and a Father’s Day cookout with beer can chicken, baby back ribs, corn on the cob, mountain-cured charcuterie and, of course, unlimited Fat Tire brews.

Package rates start at $619, based on two adults.
Click here to book.

Resort at Squaw Creek
hotel Lake Tahoe, California

For outdoorsy dads, Resort at Squaw Creek is offering a “Father’s Day Getaway” package this holiday. Participating guests will receive two nights accommodation in a deluxe room, a 3-hour fly-fishing tour on the resort’s private ponds led by Matt Heron and a gourmet trout dinner for two at the Six Peaks Grille. To compliment the package, the property is also offering a buy-one-get-one-half-off special on rounds of golf. And after the game, players will receive a voucher to receive one meal of equal or lesser value free with the purchase of any meal at Sandy’s Pub.

Package rates begin at $389 per room, per night, based on double occupancy. Offer valid June 15 to June 17. Click here to book.

hotel terraHotel Terra
Jackson Hole, Wyoming

During the entire month of June, Hotel Terra is helping dads celebrate their special day with a “Dad’s Days Off” package. Participating guests will receive three nights of accommodation in an eco-friendly boutique room, 18 holes of golf at JH Golf and Tennis including cart and driving range for two and a full-day fly-fishing trip for two.

Package rates start at $529 per night, based on double occupancy. Click here to book.

pinehurst hotel Pinehurst Resort
Pinehurst, North Carolina

During Father’s Day weekend, June 15 to 18, the Pinehurst Resort will be offering a special package revolving around the U.S. Open. The deal includes:

  • Three nights of accommodation
  • Two rounds of golf
  • A night of golf stories and legends presented by Jim Dodson, bestselling author of “Final Rounds and Faithful Travelers,” and Sidney Matthew, author of “Life and Times of Bobby Jones”
  • Breakfast and dinner each day
  • The chance to watch the U.S. Open on a big screen television in a dedicated room

Package rates start at $795 per person. Click here to book.

sanctuary hotel The Sanctuary Hotel
New York, NY

For those looking to spend Father’s Day in the Big Apple, The Sanctuary Hotel is offering a special package from June 14 to 18. Dads will receive a $100 gift certificate to Lure Fish Bar in SoHo, a day of spa pampering at John Allan’s, which includes a scalp massaging shampoo, a conditioning treatment, hot towel, haircut, shoeshine, manicure and beverages and two $30 gift cards to The Golf Club at Chelsea Piers.

Package rates start at $479 per night, based on double occupancy. Click here to book.

scottsdale Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Scottsdale, Arizona

This Father’s Day, the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is hosting a “Barbecue Basics” class on Saturday, June 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Dads can learn the secrets of sauces, rubs and grilling, while enjoying cold beers and specialty hand-rolled cigars and learning golf tips from experts. Moreover, Executive Chef Mel Mecinas and Executive Sous Chef Jesse Hansen will lead cooking demos. This will be followed by a delicious BBQ meal, complemented by homemade ice cream and whiskey floats. And to help you remember what you learned, participants receive a recipe book, sample sauces and rubs and a cigar.

Class is $75 per person and reservations are required. Participants who stay overnight will get a free room upgrade and complimentary parking by mentioning promo code “DADBBQ.” Click here to book.

rhode island The Ocean House
Watch Hill, Rhode Island

For dads who love a bit of adventure, The Ocean House is offering a fishing safari weekend from June 15 to 17. Fathers can learn the fundamentals of fly-fishing during a time when the environment is perfect for catching fish. Participating visitors will receive accommodations in a water-view room, a cocktail reception, a seminar on fly-tying and equipment primer at table stations with lunch provided, an afternoon fly-fishing excursion at the Ocean House East Beach, dinner in Seasons Restaurant featuring participants’ catch of the day and a jazz brunch.

Package rates start at $1,200, based on double occupancy. Click here to book.

hotel Cambria Suites
Traverse City, Michigan

The comfortable and affordable Cambria Suites will be offering a “Father’s Day Weekend” package from June 15 to 17, to help dads celebrate their special day. Package includes two nights accommodation in a King Suite, a $50 gift card to Boones’ Long Lake Inn, two $25 gift certificates for a Micro Brew Tour and 18 holes of golf with cart for two on one of five championship golf courses.

Packages are $559 including all taxes. Reservations must be made by June 12. Click here to book.

Summer adventures in Aspen, Colorado

Apsen, Colorado is still a great adventure destination in the summer!Everyone knows that Aspen, Colorado is one of the top skiing and snowboarding destinations in all of North America, if not the world. With an average of about 300 inches of powder falling on an annual basis, the place is a veritable winter wonderland for anyone looking to spend some time on the slopes. Add in an interesting mix of culture, cuisine, and shopping, and you truly have a world-class ski town that will keep you entertained whether you’re on the slopes or off.

The opportunities for adventure don’t disappear with the snow however, and Aspen has plenty to offer visitors in the warmer months as well. The town is an epicenter for outdoor activities serving up fantastic options for climbing, rafting, fly fishing, mountain biking, and more. I recently got a taste of this first hand when I visited the Colorado town to attend Outside in Aspen, an annual event sponsored by Outside magazine that celebrates the outdoor and adventure lifestyle.

Residents of Colorado are proud of their famously rugged mountains, and with 53 peaks rising above 14,000 feet in height, they have good reason to be. Six of those “14ers”, as they are known locally, lie within a short distance of Aspen, offering a variety of climbing challenges depending on skill levels and the time of the year. The tallest of these is Castle Peak, a 14,265-foot mountain that is a challenging, although non-technical, climb, which features an exposed knife-edge ridge on the final approach to the summit. It is an excellent introduction to mountaineering, and a great place for would-be climbers to notch their first 14er.This past winter brought record snowfalls to the Rocky Mountains, and the spring melt-off has resulted in some epic kayaking and rafting opportunities. The Upper Roaring Fork River is just minutes away from Aspen, and offers fantastic paddling in any year, although 2011 is proving to be even more exceptional that usual. Traditionally, this leg of the river provides Class III rapids, but this spring they’ve been running a little higher and wilder than usual.

Even in the summer they're thinking about snow in Aspen, ColoradoFurther downstream, that same river has been designated a Gold Medal fishery as well, making it the perfect location for beginner and experienced fly fishermen alike. After a bit of instruction and practice, nearly anyone can wade out into the Roaring Fork and start reeling in large trout. But unfortunately, the same spring thaws that have made the rafting in Aspen so good this year, have also made it difficult for those looking to fish the river. Prospective anglers will want to call ahead to check the conditions, as the Roaring Fork was closed for fishing while I was in town.

Of course, a visit to Aspen isn’t just about the outdoor adventure activities, although they are a large part of what gives the city its identity. Because of its status as a world-class ski destination, Aspen is home to a number of fantastic hotels and restaurants as well, which ensures that no matter which season you visit, you’ll find excellent dining and entertainment. For a night out on the town, I recommend dropping by Casa Tua or Pacifica to dinner, then stopping by the Belly-Up for drinks and live music. With the likes of B.B. King, Lyle Lovett, and Slash all having played their in the past, you just never know who might show up.

As for where to stay, you’ll find that Aspen has no shortage of luxury hotels and condos available to serve as your personal base camp. I was lucky enough to spend my weekend in town at The Little Nell, a five star resort that has been a fixture in the Aspen community for more than two decades. The hotel is the only ski-in/ski-out lodge in town, which makes it a perfect place for skiers to maximize their time on the mountains in the winter. During the summer, the hotel features an on-staff adventure concierge who is always standing by to help you plan everything form Jeep tours and hot air ballooning to stand-up paddling and mountain biking. And when you’re done playing outside all day, you can return to a comfortable, spacious room that doesn’t skimp on the amenities. My suite featured a flat screen HDTV, a gas-log fireplace, and a massive bathroom that couples are sure to appreciate. This travel writer appreciated the included WiFi Internet access even more.

My recent trip to Aspen also happened to be my first visit to the iconic mountain town, but after spending a few days there, it isn’t likely to be my last. Even during my brief stay there, it was clear that it was a great destination for adventure travelers year-round. Obviously, it is much busier and more crowded in the winter, when the ski season is in full swing, but the summer has its own charms and opens up the possibilities for many more activities. No matter which time you decide to go, you won’t be disappointed however, as Aspen just happens to be one of those magical places where there always seems to be more to see and do than you can possibly fit in.

Contest offers ‘maybe the best trip ever’!

A new contest sponsored by Black Star Beer promises to give the winner one heck of a prize, sending them off on a jet setting vacation that will offer everything from outdoor adventure to an unforgettable taste of luxury.

The contest is dubbed “Maybe the Best Trip Ever“, and that seems a pretty apt description actually. The winner, and five of their closest friends, will get things started by heading to Whitefish, Montana, where they’ll not only tour the Great Northern Brewery, but also mix in some outdoor adventure as well. This stage of the trip will include hiking and camping in Glacier National Park, whitewater rafting on the Flathead River, and fly fishing with a master angler. And when they’re finished with their adventurous escape to the Montana backcountry, the group will board a private jet for Las Vegas, where they’ll relax and party poolside, while getting the VIP treatment at the Palms Casino and Resort.

The winner will also have the opportunity to practice with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. (The press release promises a professional basketball team, but we’ll have to settle for the Kings) They’ll receive a sweet HD video camera to document the entire experience, along with plenty of other swag to outfit the entire group. If all of that wasn’t enough, Black Star is throwing in another six round trip tickets to destinations of your choosing, just in case you need a vacation from your vacation.

To enter the contest, simply go to the Black Star Facebook Page and click on the banner. Who knows, maybe you’ll be sent off on the best trip ever!