Is Renting On Airbnb Cheaper Than Staying At A Hotel? A Graphic Comparison Of US Cities

Venturist, Flickr

Airbnb has become one of the go to sites for travelers looking for a more authentic experience while traveling. After all, if you are in a city for more than a few days, it’s certainly more comfortable to have your own kitchen and space for chilling out after hours of adventuring.

But it’s not just about having a cool place to stay. Renting from individuals on Airbnb is cost effective as well.

Pricenomics did an official breakdown of hotel vs Airbnb prices. Overall, you will save yourself about 21 percent if you rent an entire Airbnb apartment, and 49 percent for a single room. Of course, there are some places where your wallet will be happier opting for the hotel option than for a full apartment – Las Vegas and Houston, for example.

Often times full Airbnb apartments are around the same price as hotels, but pack them full of a few travel buddies and not only do you have a cheap place to stay but an instant travel party as well.

Check out the full findings and infographic here.

Via: Fast Company

Adventure Guide 2013: Portland, Oregon


“Portlandia” might lead you to believe that Portland is home only to tattooed baristas with the occasional mustache, but it’s also an epicenter for outdoor activity; every Portlander has his or her activity of choice, and with so many outdoor activities easily accessible, it isn’t difficult to get a taste of the attitude that keeps this city alive. Nearby Sauvie Island is popular with cyclists who like long rides through rolling farmland. The hikers and trail runners flock to Forest Park, home to over 70 miles of trail and the 30.2-mile Wildwood Trail. Water enthusiasts head to Hood River and the White Salmon area out in the Columbia Gorge, but there is also plenty of kayaking to be had in and around the city center.

Portland is always abuzz with new activities, new bike tours and an outdoor event to attend. Mount Hood Skibowl recently opened up the ski area’s new 500-foot zipline, and you can even ride it in the winter. Mountain bike enthusiasts will want to check out the new Lumberyard Bike Park, an indoor bike park with plenty of technical riding trails fit for all skill levels. If you’re more into road riding, Velo Cult is the current stomping grounds for cyclists that like a good night out – it’s a bike shop, bar and venue, and there is quite frequently an event of interest being held. And of course if you’re hell-bent on combining one of Portland’s other favorite pastimes – beer drinking – with your adventures, Brewvana offers the occasional “Boards and Beer” tour, which features a day on the mountain followed by a sampling of local brews.

Whatever your activity of choice is, Portland probably has it. Just make sure to do it with an Americano in hand.

Hotels

Inn at Northrup Station: Located in Northwest Portland, you’re within easy reach of the trails of Forest Park. All of the suites feature fully equipped kitchens, which means that even though you’re paying more than you would at some of the city’s budget hotels, it’s easy to prep your own breakfast and lunches to go before you head off for a day outside. From $139. 2025 NW Northrup Street, www.northrupstreetstation.com

Jupiter Hotel: A converted motor inn, the Jupiter Hotel is a funky boutique hotel that caters to those truly looking to take part in the Portland vibe. The adjacent Doug Fir Lounge, where you can get a $8 plate of eggs, hash browns and bacon for breakfast and then move onto the all day cocktail menu, feels like a space age log cabin, and is a popular hangout because it also houses a live music venue that attracts big names. They also have onsite bike rental as well as ZipCars, so you can either spin around town on two wheels or get out for the day to more adventurous spots like the coast or Mount Hood. From $79/night. 800 East Burnside, www.jupiterhotel.com

Oregon State Park Yurts: Yes, it rains in the Pacific Northwest, but that certainly doesn’t stop people in Portland from getting out of town and into the outdoors on weekends. Many of Oregon’s State Parks have yurts available for rent, even pet-friendly ones. If you’re headed to Portland for an extended stay, this is a fun and budget-friendly option that lets you explore Oregon’s outdoor spaces with the comfort of a warm bed. Cabins from $24/night, yurts from $35/night. Oregon State Park Yurst and Rustic Cabins.

Eat and Drink

Food Carts: Here’s the thing about Portland: you don’t have to look far to find a food cart. Local favorites include The Cultured Caveman (think hipsters on paleo diets) and The Honey Pot (sweet and savory hand pies, yes, please!). Note, however, that the Portland food cart scene is constantly changing and a good resource for keeping up on it is Food Carts Portland. If you’re in need of some food cart encouragement, you can also download the Portland food cart board game that the local newspaper, the Oregonian, put together. One word of advice: before you do any food cart scouting check out the detailed map – there are often over 475 food carts in operation at one time, you will want to plan ahead.

Base Camp Brewing: It would only make sense that in a city like Portland, adventure and beer would come together. Opened with the outdoor enthusiast in mind, Base Camp Brewing in Southeast Portland makes beer, as they call it “for the adventure-minded palate.” The interior looks just like the name would have you believe, and you’ll even find a canoe hanging from the ceiling. High-octane beers after a day outside? How Portland of you. 930 SE Oak Street, www.basecampbrewingco.com

Luc Lac: In between a morning of hiking in Forest Park and an afternoon on a Portland bridge tour by bike, hit up Luc Lac for lunch. A Vietnamese phrase that means “in movement,” it’s the perfect lunch or happy hour spot for the traveler that wants a delicious yet budget-friendly meal in a good Portland atmosphere. The vermicelli bowls are an excellent deal because of the amount of food to price ratio, and at happy hour you can sample a variety of $2 small plates. 835 SW 2nd Ave, http://luclackitchen.com/


Get outside

Kayak: Make your way to the Kayak School at Next Adventure Paddle Sports Center, which offers a variety of kayaking trips, as well as introduction, whitewater and sea kayaking classes. If you want a more urban trip, try the Ross Island tour, which will get you a good view of downtown Portland from the water. To escape the sounds of the city, check out the trip to Sauvie Island, an island just north of town and predominantly filled with farmland and wildlife refuge.

Hut Trip: In the summer at nearby Mt. Hood National Forest, Cascade Huts offers self-guided, multi-day mountain biking trips. They maintain a system of huts, which means you bike single-track and arrive at your backcountry abode, fully stocked with supplies. In the winter they do the same for snowshoers and cross-country skiers. For a multi-day trip in the cold of winter, you can’t go wrong with a warm mountain hut. http://www.cascadehuts.com/

Bike: You can’t visit Portland and not get on a bicycle. If you’re visiting in June be sure to check out Pedalpalooza, a three week long extravaganza of bike events, including the popular Naked Bike Ride and lots of organized rides themed around popular Portland pastimes like whiskey drinking. The city is currently working on getting a bike share program up and running, but until that happens there are a handful of good rental options around town. Portland Bike Tours (which can get you on a single speed so you can feel like a real Portlander) and Pedal Bike Tours can set you up as well as recommend preferred routes and tour options, like the Lava Tour, which takes you to Portland’s extinct volcano, Mt. Tabor. The Portland Bureau of Transportation has a collection of helpful maps when it comes to bike routes.

Get Around

If biking isn’t up your alley, the extensive network of public transportation will serve you well. Getting from the airport into Portland is easy thanks to the MAX light rail system, which gets you downtown in about half an hour – a $2.50 ticket is valid for two hours. Buy books of tickets in advance on Trimet’s website or at the Portland Visitor Information Center located in Pioneer Square downtown. Google Transit will help in planning your route (its recommended bike routes are also good) or you can also use the Trimet website or the Trimet smartphone app. ZipCar is also a great option if you want to get out of town for a few hours.

Adventure Tip

Any Portlander will tell you that an active afternoon should always be followed up with a beer. With over 70 brewpubs and microbrews, it would be inexcusable to not drink a locally made craft beer. Recently published “Hop in the Saddle” is an excellent resource for the beer and bike lover, offering up maps to bikeable craft beer routes, well suited to anyone that wants a taste of true Portland culture. Rent a bike and go. http://www.hopinthesaddle.com/


[Photo credit: Flickr user samgrover (top) and p medved]

PackLate.com’s newest idea: sleeping with strangers

I’ve never been skiing and I’ve never heard of PackLate.com. And yet, here I am, hopping from ski shop to ski shop in Austin, Texas of all places. I’m trying to nail down a ski jacket worth the money, but I’ve already assigned more than five hours to this task and I’m beginning to work out the math of my time vs. my money vs. my ski jacket as I pull into the sixth store. I don’t think my orders are especially tall. I think they’re simple. I just want a jacket that’s black and warm. That’s it. I find it unreasonably difficult to match a jacket to my criteria and I’m getting the impression that all of these skier-by-weekend, ski-shop-worker-by-weekday guys think I’m just inexperienced. And they are, of course, correct. I’ve never been skiing before. I’ve never even seen anyone ski before.

“This purple jacket is pretty rad. It’s one of our most popular ladies jackets”, explains the employee of the sixth store, who is, I’m pretty sure, still in high school.

While I have explicitly said I’m looking for a no-frills black jacket, he seems to think I just don’t know what I want. Truth of the matter be told, I lived in New York City for 8 years–black is my default go-to color. What he’s showing me is not a go-to color. It’s fuchsia.

“I just want something I can wear when I’m not skiing, as well”, I say, becoming more hopeless with every exasperated conversation like this I find myself having. “I’m not a skier. I’m trying it for the first time ever this weekend”.

“Oh yeah? Where ya goin’”, he asks while hanging the fuchsia jacket back up on the perforated wall.

“Tahoe”, I say. “I leave tomorrow morning”.

“Tahoe!” he exclaims, suddenly attentive. “Tahoe is sick. Are you just going to ski?”, he asks, seeming genuinely curious now.

“Kind of. I’m also a part of this vacation rental experiment that this website, PackLate.com, is hosting. So I’ll be staying in a big house with a bunch of people I’ve never met before. Lets hope none of them are axe murderers”.

%Gallery-118787%As I watch the landscape unfold before me, 30,000 feet below me, from my window seat on the plane, I realize it’s not axe murderers I’m really worried about. It’s the ordinary button-pushing people I hope to avoid this weekend. I’ve caught glimpses of anonymous personalities through internet comments, ones I often find myself perusing, and I’m a little bit nervous. If I’m stuck sharing a bathroom with someone who represents one or more of my people-fears, birthed largely from the internet, this weekend might not be a good one. And thus, the risk of shacking up with random people from the online sphere.

The topography becomes more rigid, more barbed with slicing mountain tops, and soon after, the plane descends into Sacramento. I proceed to:

1. Rent a car, one with seats that will fold down. I’m staying in Northern California a week longer than my housemates in Tahoe and I don’t yet know where I’m going or when I’m going there. And I don’t think the ability to sleep in my car will be a bad thing.

2. Locate, purchase, and devour In-N-Out Burger. There’s no choice in this move; it’s inarguably necessary.

3. Drive east until I stop at a CVS to purchase: hand and foot warmers.

4. Pull over to take photos of the striking views from the road leading into town, South Lake Tahoe.

5. Arrive at the vacation rental house in Tahoe.

PackLate.com is a website that offers low last-minute prices on vacation rentals to travelers willing to leave town at the drop of a hat. But CEO Steve Barsh has been thinking–something he seems to be very good at doing. While in Park City, Utah recently for none other than the Sundance Festival, Barsh found himself in a unique situation: alone in a big house. Being alone in a towering living space can be disenchanting for most people, but Barsh did something about it: he put out an S.O.S. on the PackLate Facebook page. Here’s how it looked:

“The CEO of PackLate is staying in a huge, gorgeous 3 BR condo in Park City this weekend (1/21-1/23). Inviting any PackLate.com fans to stay for FREE and come enjoy skiing or Sundance Film Festival. LIKE this post if you want to stay and we’ll reach out to you go try to get you in! Room for 2 other couples / 2 pairs of friends. Uploading photos in a moment.”

And then, as promised, the photos were released. Actually, you can still check them out right here. With only five photos up for the viewing, PackLate fans did respond to this outcry and, on their own dime, a few of them flew out to Park City for the weekend of January 21st. Their incentive? The free lodging, naturally. But there were also other appealing elements present for fans who were interested in this weekend: spontaneity, experience, and the prospect of making a new friend. And according to firsthand reports, these thirsts were quenched. The end result was good. Good enough for Barsh to want to do it all over again.

Just three weeks later, Barsh was at it again. The logic was this: if his random mingling of strangers in his Park City condo that January weekend had gone so well, it could go well again. Without much time to put it all together, PackLate soon after announced another opportunity to share a vacation rental with Barsh–in Tahoe. His marketing whiz, Stephen Daimler, would also be on the trip this time around. Photos of a well-to-do vacation rental with half a dozen or so bedrooms were posted on Facebook and fans were asked to leave wall comments explaining why they wanted to spend the weekend in Tahoe. Again, fans would have to pay for plane tickets on their own, but the lodging would be covered–and shared.

Over 100 fans clamored for the weekend getaway this time. The winners were eventually chosen and invited to bring a guest. Rob, an absolutely cool guy from Florida, wound up in Tahoe, but he had first been one of the guests in Park City. Happy with the way things had gone in Park City, he and his son Scott arrived in Tahoe cradling several bottles of von Strasser wine–a little house warming gift they transported from their own vacation home in Napa.

Four other guests eventually poured into the the spacious open kitchen; two couples from San Francisco. The savory wine helped break the ice, but ice-breaking with this crowd was already easy. At my initial detection, I ascertained that there weren’t any axe murderers nor walking manifestations of my other worst fears among us. And so I found myself engaged in truly interesting conversation whilst dismantling an impressive hors d’oeuvre spread laid out by Barsh.

“So Elizabeth. You’ve never been skiing before?”, asked Barsh, without a single presumptuous inflection in his voice.

“Nope! This is my first time. I’m excited”, I said, reminding myself that I was, in fact, excited and not terrified.

“You’re going to have so much fun!”, he responded with a bit of authoritative enthusiasm, as if my fun-having was non-negotiable–a fact of skiing.

There was a tangible excitement in the air of the house the following morning. We were all waking up and dressing for the mountain while the two Steves were making bacon in the oven, scrambling eggs, and arranging cut fruit, juice, and other morning grains on the wide-spanning kitchen bar. Rob used a coffee filter cone to fill my cup with Ritual Coffee, which is, as it turns out, damn good coffee. Daimler offered to drive to Kirkwood Resort–about 45 minutes south of South Lake Tahoe.

I discovered myself feeling something I had felt at other times in my life… during choir camp, volleyball conditioning, freshman orientation: instant camaraderie. I’ve spent much of my adult life living with people who were complete strangers before I lived with them. By and large, the thanks for this goes to Craigslist; a matter-of-fact necessary tool when trying to nail down roommates in New York City. And while things don’t always go swimmingly well with strangers I suddenly find myself camped out with, things usually go acceptably well. Most people, I believe, are not bad. Most strangers, I believe, are not threats. Had I believed anything other than, I wouldn’t have wound up in Tahoe for this social experiment to begin with.

And so we skied.

And so I fell.

And so I got back up, repeatedly, and skied some more.

When we finally left the hills of Kirkwood late that afternoon, we gathered around a large picnic table style booth at a nearby pub and dug into several plates of deep-fried appetizers and we chased the food with well-deserved beverages. Amid our dinner conversation, Barsh requested our thoughts on the concept we were, at that moment, practicing: vacationing alongside perfect strangers.

Unbeknownst to Barsh, our collective voices spoke loudly on this topic. Not only were we all fully supporting the concept at hand, and having fun doing so, but we were suddenly brainstorming. How could PackLate do this again? How could PackLate do this again without PackLate employees present? Would people pay substantially lower rates for a vacation rental they would be sharing with (hopefully) like-minded travelers? Our answer was: yes. Our recurring question was: why not?

The hot tub’s water spilled onto the deck that night with our over-occupancy. But the stars were bright and the cold mountain air had a certain holistic breath to it, one I inhaled slowly and deeply before running (while screaming and laughing) up to the master bedroom’s in-room sauna/steam room.

We went to Heavenly Resort the following day.

And so we skied.

And so I fell.

And so I got back up, repeatedly, and skied some more.

Our respective departures were genuinely a little bit sad and definitely a little bit too soon and PackLate’s vacation-with-strangers concept was still rumbling around in my head when I arrived in San Francisco much later that night. I thought, and still think, they’re really onto something. I mean… why not?

Why not match yourself by way of interests, like skiing, with like-minded people who are also seeking like-minded people?

Why not save a significant amount of money and shack up together in a vacation rental?

Why not have an unexpected adventure?

Why not make some new friends?

PackLate’s idea is still zygotic. They’re still thinking on, polling, and tweaking the concept. But this ‘share a vacation rental’ idea may soon be integrated into the travel services they offer on their site.

And according to Justin, one of the PackLate fans along for the Tahoe trip, this idea is a good one. When I asked him what he thought about the weekend once he’d been settled back into his home in San Francisco for a few weeks, this is what he said:

“Tahoe via Packlate was a really great experience where we were able to enjoy amazing accommodations, ski fantastic slopes, and meet great friends in the process. I would definitely use and or join a group using Packlate again in a heartbeat!”

Barsh had some comments, as well.

“PackLate is experimenting with pairing together people with strong common interests, who don’t know each other, in the same home”, says Barsh when I ask him to describe to this concept. He continues on to describe the current state of the concept, “We’ve gotten tremendous direct feedback and it’s a thrill to experience it with our customers and learn from them. It’s something we’ll continue to test”.

And while PackLate is still testing, my advice is to keep your eyes peeled. Hostels, B&Bs, airbnb.com, couchsurfing.com–these are all accommodations options playing off of the success of introducing strangers with a common bond in travel. If PackLate can narrow those interests down even further, the success, I presume, should be larger. If they wind up generating enough support to offer vacation rentals for music festivals, I’ll see you in Tennessee for Bonnaroo. And I’ll leave my ski jacket at home.

Winter in Alaska: fine dining, finer skiing at the Alyeska Resort & Hotel

In the spirit of journeying during periods less traveled, I’ve embarked to Alaska this winter. Follow the adventures here, and prepare to have your preconceived notions destroyed along the way.

Alyeska

You know you’ve considered it: “What if I went skiing this year… in Alaska? But then, the inevitable list of excuses rolls in: the flight’s further, it’s more expensive, none of my friends would come, I can’t reasonably drive it should I want to, etc. Pish posh. Utah may lay claim to The Greatest Snow on Earth, but Utah hasn’t met Alaska. Girdwood, Alaska — just 45 minutes outside of Anchorage — is home to Alyeska Ski Resort & Hotel, an increasingly luxurious stop for those who’ve grown tired of the challenges found in America’s Mountain Time Zone. What’s most staggering about Mount Alyeska isn’t the near-4,000 foot top elevation, but the 250 foot base elevation. Going from 250 feet to nearly 4,000 is truly a sight to behold — it’s not everyday that you find a ski resort with its base at sea level, you know? Read on to find out a little more about winter gem, and why should most definitely bring an appetite while visiting.

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An overview and peek inside of Hotel Alyeska, plus a ride up the scenic tram


Frankly, Alyeska has a lot of things going for it. For one, it’s located in Girdwood. It’s just a 45 minute haul to ANC, but it feel miles apart. It’s definitely got that “ski town” vibe, much like Whitefish, Montana. Forget about dodging the haughty and uppity here — Alaska wouldn’t be caught dead trying to be Park City. Girdwood’s also served by a Glacier Valley Transit shuttle, which is free to use for Alyeska guests. It’ll take you to a number of locally owned (and infinitely cute) eateries, with The Bake Shop, Chair 5 and Double Musky earning high marks from the locals. You’ll also be able to scoot down to the Tesoro station, home to Coast Pizza, a killer ice cream stop and the Tourist Trap Gift Shop; contrary to its title, the latter is also home to Glacier City Snowmobile Tours, which is a discussion deserving its own attention.

Alyeska

Secondly, there’s Mount Alyeska, which is surrounded by its colleagues in the Chugach mountain range. What else can you say? The scene is just gorgeous. There’s just something about being at sea level and looking up at a peak that’s three-quarters of a mile high that takes your breath away. Those postcards and screensavers you’ve seen of Alaska? Yeah, a good portion of ‘em are right here. The mountain is in impeccable shape, and while the majority of runs cater towards advanced and expert skiers, there’s a sliver of novice courses as well. ‘Course, those who are really looking to get crazy can select from a myriad heliskiing operations in the area. The weekends are bolstered by night skiing, and with one of the longest ski seasons in North America, you won’t have to squeeze your ski trip into the months of January and February (unless you’re keen on it).

Alyeska

Then, there’s the hotel. If you’re coming to Mount Alyeska, you might as well stay at a ski-in / ski-out property, right? Aside from having an GVT shuttle run by the hotel every so often, you’re also able to pick up the Alyeska Tram or just walk right out and catch a lower lift from the rear of the hotel. During my stay here, I couldn’t have been more pleased with the layout. The recent renovations (2007) are immediately noticeable — the lodge and common areas are simply gorgeous, and you’ll find more food options that you’ll know what to do with. I was also a bit taken aback by just how kind the staff was — they aren’t charging 5-star prices here, but you’ll have no issues getting waited on should you need anything. The pool and spa area was also a real boon for weakened, weary bones after a day out on the slopes, and the rooms themselves were both modern and well-equipped. Free bottles of Alaska’s own Glacierblend water at night? Check. A Serta pillowtop mattress (one to die for)? Yep. Free in-room Internet? It’s there, as is free Wi-Fi in the commons areas. It’s hard to put a price on being able to walk right out of the hotel and into the snow, but for those who’ve dealt with de-gearing and making an hour-long trek back to a resort after skiing, you’ll probably have an easier time assessing a value.

Finally, there’s Seven Glaciers. Oh, Seven Glaciers. The whole experience of this place is second to none. First off, you have to grab a ride in the Alyeksa Tram to get to it. It’s a AAA Four Diamond, mountain-top restaurant, which means that you’ll be eating while looking out at the Chugach mountain range. Quite honestly, this along would warrant a visit even if the food were horrific, but I’m happy to report that it’s the polar opposite. Not only is the food beyond outstanding, but Chef Jason Porter does an immaculate job with the presentation. Service is top-notch, the wine list requires a book of its own to peruse, and if you’re terrified of food being “faniced up” just for the sake of charging you an arm and a leg, you’ll be happy to know that your fears are no good here. This really is Alaskan dining at its finest, and even southern legends like Paula Deen have dropped by for a bite. If you’re desperate for a recommendation, I’d say make a reservation (that entitles you to a gratis (and redicuously beautiful) ride on the tram) and grab the scallops or Wagyu beef.

You’ve probably heard mainlanders gripe about how Alaska’s “dark all winter,” but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. I saw daylight from ~8am to ~6:15pm during my stay in late February, and couldn’t have been more thrilled with the weather. If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding (or you’re traveling with someone who fits that description), you’ll find plenty to do nearby: gold panning at Crow Creek Mine, bore tide viewing, dog sledding, snowshowing and hiking / biking. My suggestion? Push aside any hesitations you may have had about trekking to The Last Frontier in the winter — you’ll dodge the crowds, savor the snow and have everyone back in Utah teeming with envy. We kid, we kid… sort of.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

My trip was sponsored by Alaska Travel Industry Association, but I was free to report as I saw fit. The opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

Ireland’s Powerscourt Estate: beauty, luxury, and a Ritz-Carlton just an hour from Dublin

powerscourt

Myself, like many Americans, fantasize about visiting Ireland. We’ve all seen the calendars scattered throughout malls and bookstores — cover to cover spreads of lush, green flora, craggy hills and the occasional Leprechaun. We all think we know what Irish music is thanks to the soundtrack of Boondock Saints. And the seasoned travelers in attendance know that DUB is one of the, if not the, cheapest airport in Europe for Americans to fly into. It’s not like you needed any convincing to head to The Emerald Isle, but if you’re looking for a little direction on where to go once you soar through customs, here’s a word you should absolutely consider: Powerscourt.

The Powerscourt Estate lies but 45 minutes south of Dublin’s Airport — barely further than the east side of downtown when considering traffic. But it’s akin to another world entirely in terms of attitude, altitude and sheer beauty. It’s rare that a fantasized-over location actually lives up to the hype that surrounds it, but believe me when I say that Powerscourt is straight off of a postcard, from the gardens to the River Walk to the monolithic Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt hotel that’s nestled in so succinctly. Read on to hear more about my visit to the south of Dublin, particularly if you’re interested in making your own Irish calendar for 2012.

%Gallery-117264%The Estate is located near the cozy town of Enniskerry, in County Wicklow. It doesn’t take long to feel as if you’ve escaped the hustle of Dublin and moved on to greener pastures — both figuratively and literally. The long, windy drive up to the Estate is soothing in its own right, and moments before reaching the famed House, you’ll spot something equally massive on the left. It’s The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt, a 200 room giant of a hotel that’s situated between Sugar Loaf mountain and miles upon miles of pristine countryside. This palace first opened its doors to guests in the fall of 2007, and it has been fitting in ever since. What struck me was just how well integrated the property is — it may be huge, but it’s the polar opposite of an eyesore. In fact, it’d be hard to imagine the Powerscourt Estate without a hotel like this. After visiting, I could see why people would want to settle down right in the valley to enjoy a few days here, and it’d be a shame to have to scuttle back and forth to Dublin when all you were really after was a getaway.



A look around (and inside) The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt


To paint the picture a bit better, the hotel is just a three minute walk from the Powerscourt House — a castle that was constructed in the 13th century, reshaped in the 1700s, torched, and revived in 1996. Today, it’s a beautiful work of art, and it’s home to an exhibit of its own as well as a few niche shops and eateries. For some, it’d be good enough to just spend a few hours unwinding within the house, but the real magic lies just outside of the backdoor. There, you’ll find the Gardens. One step outside and you’ll appreciate the handful of Euros it took to gain admittance — “manicured” doesn’t even begin to explain just how flawless the place is. I’ve been to to the gardens surrounding North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate, and while I adore my homeland, the gardens here in Ireland are simply a notch above.

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Opposite the gardens is one of the more peaceful golf courses the island nation has to offer, and just a few more minutes walk lands you at The River Walk. Right about here is where you realize that leaving this slice of heaven would probably be to one’s detriment, and it provides a good opportunity to mention that a free pass down is just one of the complimentary extras that The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt provides. Guests at the hotel are treated more like guests of the estate; when you check in, you aren’t really checking into a hotel — you’re checking into a region. You’ll also have access to complimentary cycles, which I can confess are ideal for zipping around the gorgeous River Walk. Certain scenes of Braveheart were shot down by the streams, and it’s pretty exciting to bike around and try to spot certain shots from memories of the film.



A walk through Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow, Ireland


If you’re sold so far on the idea of shaping your vacation around doing nothing more than hitting the links, browsing beautiful gardens and cycling through forests that have been around for longer than you could even fathom, there’s hardly a reason to overlook another staple of the Estate: the hotel. It’s not everyday that you find a place that truly emphasizes the area like this; I’m a documented fan of choosing lodging options that integrate well with the purpose of the trip, and this particular Ritz-Carlton does this impeccably.

I’m not one to gloat about hotels unnecessarily. In the vast majority of cases, even the most esteemed 5-star property feels somewhat like a money grab to the average Joe, but this case is different. Rooms can be booked here for under 200 Euros if you play your cards right, and that includes a multitude of freebies not typically associated with high-end properties: complimentary bicycles, River Walk admission, parking and Wi-Fi. Yeah, Wi-Fi! It’s actually one of the only high-end hotels that I’ve stayed at with this luxury, and it’s greatly appreciated. Frankly, it’s beyond time that every hotel began offering gratis access to the internet. But that’s another story for another day.

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You’ll notice that you’re treated like a king (or queen) at the Powerscourt House and Gardens, and that bleeds over at the hotel. Service and hospitality is clearly top priority here, second only beautifully appointed rooms and an impressive array of (delicious) food options. Although the hotel was completed in 2007, it feels as if it were originally constructed centuries ago — well, aside from the hotel-wide Wi-Fi and indoor plumbing. By and large, Ritz-Carlton properties are both a) located near city centers and b) viewed as out-of-reach for many from a financial perspective. To its credit, this one fits neither of those categories. It’s a luxurious escape to a luxurious place, and the two fit together like peas in a pod. It’s safe to say I’ve never had a hotel experience quite like the one offered at The Ritz-Carlton, Powerscourt, and a lot of that has to do with the warmth of the staff and the screensaver-worthy surroundings. I’ve always heard that it’s all about location when talking real estate, and now I get it.

Obviously, the nearby Gardens are most lively in the summer months, but there’s really no bad time to visit Ireland. Sure, it may rain a bit on you, but you’ll have even greener pastures to show for it. Better still, you can duck back into Dublin if the escapism just becomes too much for your pampered heart to bear, but I get the feeling that said scenario isn’t likely to play itself out.

[Images provided by Dana Jo Photography]

In need of a few day trip ideas when heading to Powerscourt? Gadling’s got you covered.