Omni to launch new luxury brand of hotels

Move over Marriott and Hyatt, Omni wants to share some space. Seems the big-hotel-chain-turned-small-boutique-brand concept is taking off and Omni Hotels is jumping on the bandwagon – Omni’s new luxury hotel brand, Mokara, will open this April in San Antonio.

The Watermark Hotel & Spa is being branded as the first in Omni Hotel & Resorts’ new line of luxury hotels. Watermark is one of San Antonio’s most recognized hotels, and the folks at Omni say the rebranding and new Mokara name will only help drive more guests to San Antonio. We’ll watch and see what happens…

While limited details are available right now, we’ll keep a close eye on Omni’s new concept and how it fares next to Marriott’s Autograph Collection and Hyatt’s Andaz properties.%Gallery-73514%

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NYC tops U.S. list of most expensive cities

It’s not exactly shocking to see that New York City is the most expensive city in the United States. Groceries, gasoline and other items tend to run a tad more than twice the national average. Whether you rent or buy, you’ll spend a fortune in this city, where the average price for a home is $1.1 million and an apartment, on average, will cost $3,400 a month.

So, how can so many bloggers live here? Remember: these are averages. That means someone has to be on the underside of them.

Housing prices were also among the reasons why San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. worked their way into top spots on the list. Average home prices shot past $600,000 in all four of these cities. In Austin, the average home price is a much more modest $226,998, and it’s even more comfortable in Nashville, at $201,020.

The measure used to determine the cost of leaving in each of the cities is based on expenses in six categories: groceries, housing (rent/mortgage), healthcare, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous items. The prices of 57 goods in these categories were used.Six of the most expensive cities in the country are in California, with four of them among the top 10. Texas has four – Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas. Most of the costliest cities are on the two coasts, though Chicago (14), Las Vegas (18), Phoenix (25) and St. Louis (35) made the top 40.

The most surprising appearance on the list of most expensive places to live is Detroit. Even though it’s plagued by unemployment of 16.7 percent, utilities are expensive. Electricity costs an average of $243.56 a month, compared to a mere $141.64 in Atlanta.

The ten most expensive cities on the list are:

  1. New York City
  2. San Francisco
  3. San Jose
  4. Los Angeles
  5. Washington DC
  6. San Diego
  7. Boston
  8. Philadeplhia
  9. Seattle
  10. Baltimore

Check out the full list here.

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[Photo via MigrantBlogger]

Enter to win a trip to San Antonio

San Antonio is celebrating 15 days of holiday giving by giving away 15 great trips to explore San Antonio. The contest started December 1, but there are still 12 more days to win a prize package for a trip to the city.

Each day, a different themed trip will be awarded. Each trip includes a three-night stay at a different San Antonio hotel, plus activities and extras like spa treatments, cooking classes, meals, gift cards, horse-drawn carriage rides, magazine subscriptions and rounds of golf.

For example, December 9th’s prize is a three-night stay at the Omni La Mansion del Rio on the Riverwalk, a $500 VISA gift card, dinner at Biga on the Banks, and a day at Enchanted Springs Ranch and Natural Bridge Caverns.

For every entry, the San Antonio CVB will donate $1 (up to $10,000) to the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio. To win, all you need to do is enter using the online form. Entrants must be 21 years of age or older and be residents of the US. Winners will be notified by email within five days of the prize drawing and will have ten days to claim their prize.

Relax in the heart of Texas – JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa

The pool
Be not deceived by the long name, the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa is going to be a simple and relaxing place where you can rest your hot and weary body.

Opening in February 2010, the resort will feature two PGA TOUR 18 hole Tournament Player’s Club golf courses, a six-acre water park, seven restaurants and lounges (including a multi-media sports bar) and a spa which incorporates local herbs like lavender into their treatments.

Why (or “where the heck is”) Texas Hill Country? The area is a calming landscape of rolling hills and oak trees comfortably close to San Antonio (under 20 minutes from the airport). The Hill Country has more than 20 local wineries, spelunking, hunting, fishing, The Guadalupe River, and peach and olive orchards — not really what most of us picture when we think of Texas, but perhaps what we should!

Even your reading list is taken care of — if you’re visiting the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, you should pick up a copy of “The Unlikely Lavender Queen” by NY writer Jeannie Ralston, which chronicles her “reluctant relocation” to Texas Hill Country from Manhattan — I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it turns out she likes it pretty well. The book is a great tale of unwinding, and is the perfect light read for this vacation.

For more information, and if you are interested in booking, visit jwsanantonio.com.

Chattanooga, Portsmouth among top art destinations in the U.S.

Who thought that Tennessee and New Hampshire would be some of the top towns in the country for art lovers. AmericanStyle magazine just issued the results of its twelfth annual arts destinations poll. Some spots are predictable. Others, like Chattanooga, will just blow your mind.

This is the first year Chattanooga made the list, shooting all the way up to second in the mid-sized city category. If you’ve been there, some of the surprise wears off. I hit Chattanooga back in 1999, and it was turning into a pretty cool small city. The past decade, obviously, has treated the city well. More shocking is the top mid-sized city: Buffalo, NY.

At the top of the small city list, Santa Fe is an utterly predictable #1 – like New York in the big city category. Portsmouth, NH, toward the bottom of the small city list, is a sentimental favorite. I had my first real job in Portsmouth and drank away many a Friday and Saturday (and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday) night on its sidewalks.

See the full lists after the jump.Big Cities (population of 500,000 or more)

  1. New York, NY
  2. Chicago, IL
  3. Washington, DC
  4. San Francisco, CA
  5. Albuquerque, NM
  6. Boston, MA
  7. Seattle, WA
  8. Atlanta, GA
  9. Philadelphia, PA
  10. Los Angeles, CA
  11. Portland, OR
  12. Baltimore, MD
  13. Denver, CO
  14. Phoenix, AZ
  15. Austin, TX
  16. Charlotte, NC
  17. Columbus, OH
  18. Nashville, TN
  19. San Diego, CA
  20. Tucson, AZ
  21. San Antonio, TX
  22. Las Vegas, NV
  23. Milwaukee, WI
  24. Dallas, TX
  25. Houston, TX

Mid-Sized Cities (population of 100,000 to 499,000)

  1. Buffalo, NY
  2. Chattanooga, TN
  3. Pittsburgh, PA
  4. Scottsdale, AZ
  5. New Orleans, LA
  6. Charleston, SC
  7. Savannah, GA
  8. Cleveland, OH
  9. Ann Arbor, MI
  10. Minneapolis, MN
  11. Alexandria, VA
  12. Miami, FL
  13. Tacoma, WA
  14. St. Louis, MO
  15. Athens, GA
  16. Kansas City, MO
  17. Colorado Springs, MO
  18. Providence, RI
  19. Salt Lake City, UT
  20. Honolulu, HI
  21. Rochester, NY
  22. St. Petersburg, FL
  23. Cincinnati, OH
  24. Raleigh, NC
  25. Tampa, FL

Small Cities (population of below 100,000)

  1. Santa Fe, NM
  2. Asheville, NC
  3. Sedona, AZ
  4. Taos, NM
  5. Saugatuck, MI
  6. Key West, FL
  7. Berkeley Springs, WV
  8. Boulder, CO
  9. Carmel, CA
  10. Corning, NY
  11. Sarasota, FL
  12. Beaufort, SC
  13. Chapel Hill, NC
  14. Burlington, VT
  15. Annapolis, MD
  16. Aspen, CO
  17. Laguna Beach, CA
  18. Northampton, MA
  19. Eureka Springs, AR
  20. Brattleboro, VT
  21. New Hope, PA
  22. Naples, FL
  23. Cumberland, MD
  24. Berea, KY
  25. Portsmouth, NH