May 9th, 2013
Skip the glitz and glam of Rodeo Drive, and hit up some of Los Angeles’ cooler spots.
Located just below the picturesque West Hollywood hills and five minutes from the notorious Chateau Marmont, Andaz Hotel’s rooftop swimming pool and its indie soundtrack will put you in the right mood to feel like a hip Angeleno. 8401 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA, 323-656-1234, www.westhollywood.andaz.hyatt.com
Forget Britney Spears and her bottomless Starbucks, the best coffee in Los Angeles is in Silver Lake. Everyone drinking and working at Intelligentsia look like they belong in some cool band about to make it big. Who knows? Maybe they are. 3922 West Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 323-663-6173, www.intelligentsiacoffee.com
Silver Lakers take their vinyl very seriously. As does Vacation, the neighbourhood’s acclaimed record store. Whether you are looking for original pressings of Smiths albums or the new Kurt Vile record, they’ll likely have it. 3815 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 323-666-2111, http://vacationvinyl.com
From Silver Lake, head over to the equally happening Echo Park, and stop by Mohawk Bend to taste one (or two or three) of their 72 local craft beers. This gorgeously retrofitted 100-year-old Vaudeville theatre also features modern pub fare using the finest local ingredients. 2141 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 213-483-2337, http://mohawk.la
Echo Park is home to writer Dave Eggers, who is also one of the directors of 826LA, a non-profit kids’ writing centre. This adorable place is also home to The Time Travel Mart, where you can pick up the 826LA’s publications like From the Couch to the Kitchen, a cookbook written by high school students, as well as sharp-witted knick-knacks. 1714 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 213-413-3388, http://826la.org
Over on Mid Wilshire, you’ll find the painfully hip Pour Vous. From PYTs to older distinguished types (and we hear Robert Pattinson), this speakeasy features Parisian-inspired cocktails that will quickly go to your head, while you watch trapeze burlesque artists perform to moody Lana Del Rey songs. 5574 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA, 323-871-8699, http://pourvousla.com
May 2nd, 2013
This laidback California beach community combines boho chic and an artsy vibe. Here’s our must-see, must-do itinerary.
The newly refurbished Heisler Park winds up above the beach offering pretty views and great picnic spots. Fill your beach basket at nearby Whole Foods.
Want to dress like the locals? Ultra-soft T-shirts, drawstring pajama pants, Isabel Marant booties and baskets of gorgeous, Turkish hammam towels abound at Laguna Supply. 210 Beach St., Laguna Beach, CA, 949-497-8850, http://pinterest.com/lagunasupply
The Pacific Edge Hotel has just renovated its five beachfront cabanas, which can be rented daily for up to 10 people each. Massages, bottle service, pedicures, and even photography are on offer. Each one has been designed by a different creative group or store, with one resembling a surf shop with Hoby surfboard pictures, another with a fan made from sailboat sails, and another stocked with kids books and a chalkboard table. Each has a private deck with loungers and direct beach access. Rates vary by season/day. VIP cabana Host, 949-281-5720, www.pacificedgehotel.com
A refined surf-shack that is part of the California chainlet, Umami Burger is the go-to spot to refuel after surf and sand. Check out the plank walls, folding chairs and vintage surf posters, and order the Umami Burger with shiitake mushrooms and a parmesan crisp. Umami Burger, 620 Pacific Highway, 949-342-1210, www.umami.com
April 25th, 2013
Beach babes, long boards, and bellini bars - it’s all about Huntington Beach, California.
The Shorebreak Hotel’s front desk features a massive wave, there are surf films projected on the walls of the lobby, cruiser bikes and vintage surfboards in the rooms, all done incredibly stylishly. www.jdvhotels.com
Beach volleyball, all year round! And then, of course, there are the surfers (er, we mean the surfing) in and around the famous pier. It’s not called Surf City USA for nothing.
The Huevos Rancheros (pictured, $9) at Zimzala in the Shorebreak Hotel, with excellent coffee and a bellini bar in a breezy room was our idea of brunch heaven. The name of the restaurant means “peace with sand between your toes.”
Order one of the massive longboards from Huntington native Peter Hamborg a firefighter and father of 5 surfing, modelling, lifeguarding boys (why does this sound like a reality TV show in the works)? Cruise The Strand, 10 miles of paved track along the beachfront. www.hamboards.com
Lucky you if you get a sighting of one of the famous surf Woody’s like we did!
February 18th, 2013
Say ta-ta to mediocre massages and bad blowouts.
It’s a new era for hotel spas and the Four Seasons is leading the charge. The Yabu Pushelberg-designed space is certainly stunning, but it’s the attention to detail that floats our boat: Custom made massage tables with memory foam, pressure-sensitive heating and faux fur blankets. If that isn’t enough to wind you down, pollen-free essential oils are pumped through the ventilation system and music is piped-in underwater at the infinity pool.
Facials (from $175) start at 75-minutes so we had plenty of time to snooze while our aesthetician applied a Hungarian moor mud mask. If you really want to feel like a million bucks, book in for a Holistic Gemstone Sapphire treatment incorporating the healing powers of rubies, diamonds and pearls.
Goodbye scrub-and-rub, hello bliss. —Marianne Wisenthal
The Spa at Four Seasons Toronto, 60 Yorkville Ave., Toronto, 416-964-0411, www.fourseasons.com/toronto/spa
January 18th, 2013
Montreal is legendary for its after-dark verve, but what about toting a toddler in the cold light of day? After a family weekend in her old hometown, Toronto Contributor Marianne Wisenthal officially declares this metropole a paradise playground for under-agers. Herewith, her 411 on the 514.
Anyone travelling with kids knows the hotel can make (or break) a trip. The gloriously restored Ritz-Carlton might seem indulgent but think of all the cash you’re saving on cover charges! Tubs are big enough to swim, cribs come decked out in pretty linens and the staff treats tots (and grown-ups) like long lost relatives of Eloise. Ritz-Carlton Montreal, 1228 Sherbrooke Street West, 1-800-363-0366, rooms from $425, www.ritzmontreal.com
A few years ago I might have said the best view in town was from Club 737 over a vodka soda. Now I’m happy gazing at the Ritz-Carlton’s secluded winter garden from a prime spot in the greenhouse. Alas, the resident ducks are in hibernation ‘til spring but Maison Boulud’s ricotta blintz and freshly baked viennoiseries almost make up for it. The other great view? A glowing Maggie Gyllenhaal with baby Gloria tucking into eggs at the next table.
After a big snowfall, little locals take to the hills. No toboggan? No problem. One block from the base of Mont-Royal, Fitz & Follwell rents wooden sleds by the day. Diehards can sign up for a four-hour Winter Mountain Tour of skating, snowshoeing and tubing (from $79 including rentals and lunch at Smith House). Don’t forget your toque and watch out for les enfant terribles barreling down la piste! Fitz & Follwell Co., 115 Avenue du Mont-Royal West, 514-840-0739
Take a stroll along Fairmont Avenue in the city’s hip Mile End ‘hood. After the de rigueur Fairmount Bagel with cream cheese and lox, stop in for divinely handmade molle maison at Kem CoBa - the swirled Lait d’amande and Griotte is truly bananas. Kem CoBa Glaces, 60 Fairmont W., Montreal, www.kemcoba.com
Once the novelty of a hot bagel has worn off, Montreal winters are mean. The Ritz-Carlton’s new salt-water pool is the perfect antidote to cold tootsies and end-of-day tantrums. It may not have a slide but it’s warm (heated with reclaimed energy from the hotel’s kitchen) and the city skyline view is marvelous. Montréal, je t’aime.
— Marianne Wisenthal
January 3rd, 2013
I can’t think of a goal I’d be happier to reach than my resolution to return to Kauai, the Garden Island, this year.
On the sunnier, drier side of the island, the Sheraton Kauai is located on a quiet spot of Poipu Beach. A waterfront room there is a must, not just because of the view but because it’s so close to the surf the waves will lull you to sleep.
Called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, Waimea Canyon is a stunning spot to have a picnic or go for a hike. And if you continue on to the end of the road you’ll find postcard-worthy views of the Na Pali Coast.
Yes, you could find a $10 ukelele at any souvenir shop in the state, but you won’t find passion for the locally made instrument like you will at The Ukelele Store in Old Koloa Town.
Shave ice is everywhere in Kauai but Jojo’s Shave Ice, a red shack adorned with Bob Marley posters, has flavour combinations you won’t find elsewhere.
Even better than standup paddle boarding on the ocean? Standup paddleboardng on Kauai’s navigable rivers. Outfitters Kauai runs scenic river tours perfect for novices.
November 16th, 2012
So far, our kid-friendly travel itineraries have taken us to New York and Portland; this week, it's a snowy family retreat to Squamish/Whistler. Don't forget the mittens!
The Four Seasons Resort Whistler is incredibly kid-friendly, with plush bears and owls offered upon check-in, free games and movies to borrow for snowy nights, and pint-sized slippers and robes for trips to the hot tubs. Not only do kids under five eat for free in the hotel restaurant, there are also programs in peak season where kids can make S'mores in the fire pits or create pizza with the chefs in the hotel kitchen (offered on-the-house). Did we mention the custom cookies, iced with our kids' names, waiting in the room? Hey, what about us poor adults?
Stop in Squamish on your way up to Whistler...
Eagle-watching in Brackendale, “Winter Home of the Bald Eagle.” These giant birds arrive in December and hang around for a few months to feast on fish. Go to the Brackendale Dyke, off Government Road, for some great spotting and free use of telescopes on weekends. But be careful of salmon road kill, the birds like to drop the remains in unexpected places.Find a map here.
The Polar Express is a train ride departing from the West Coast Railway Station. A 50 minute ride (including a stop for hot chocolate and cookies), followed by a trip to the “North Pole” complete with visits to Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Expect to spend two hours enjoying this magical trip. To buy tickets for December 1-2 or 8-9 ($24-$39) visit http://www.wcra.org
warm up and eat
Howe Sound Brewery has a restaurant that accommodates kids and their beer-connoisseur parents. Try the beer battered fries poutine ($10) and the locally-made Christmas Ale, made from four different malts and a blend of spices ($6.50 a pint). http://www.howesound.com/
—Alexandra Suhner Isenberg
November 2nd, 2012
We'vecreated a series of useful and unique family travel itineraries. Each one is tried, tested and true by a VitaminDaily.com editor (and mom). This week, we're exploring Portland. For our Tots in TriBeCa itinerary, click here.
Portland is my family’s city-away-from-the-city, and we make the five hour drive from Vancouver often. It’s extremely kid-friendly (even at the brewpub!).
We always bunk at the Paramount: Clean, spacious rooms, helpful staff and a stone’s throw to all of our favourite spots in the city (including Nordstroms, just around the corner). Request a room with a balcony on the second floor. 808 SW Taylor St., Portland, www.portlandparamount.com
Director Park is the big-city answer to public space; a spacious, clean piazza with a café (the outdoor bistro tables are lovely), a giant chess set, an unofficial waterpark and tons of spacious, shaded seating. If the weather has forced you indoors, head to old-time toy shop Finnegan’s for some playtime and classic toys (try explaining a slinky to your kid). Finnegan’s, 820 SW Washington St., Portland, www.finneganstoys.com
You could eat six meals a day in Portland and never be disappointed. The food truck scene is famous for a reason: the options are cheap, delicious and fresh, with an abundance of trucks parked in one area for easy access. (For food cart maps, click here.) For a sit-down meal, I love casual and contemporary Southpark: the oysters are fresh and the corn risotto is a tasty take on contemporary food. Southpark, 901 SW Salmon St., http://southparkseafood.com
Portland has one of the most prominent craft brew scenes in the world, and the bustling brewpubs to match. Deschutes is a favourite, expect a fair line for a table on the weekend, but waiting is much easier with a Black Butte in hand (hey, that stroller cup holder comes in handy!). Yes, kids are welcome (last time we were there half the tables had kids, from breastfeeding newborn to an 8-year-old’s birthday party). 210 NW 11th Ave, Portland, www.deschutesbrewery.com
This no-tax haven is the place to splurge on big purchases – this year, I bought almost my entire fall wardrobe in Portland, including a Vince sweater coat with leather trim (pictured) at Nordstroms, LNA tops and 7 for all Mankind Gwenevere jeans from Nordstroms Rack, plus Rachel Comey boots from lovely boutique Frances May, which stocks upscale casual wear lines like ALC, Vena Cava and Suno. Frances May, 1013 SW Washington St., Portland, www.francesmay.com
One of the few cities where independent bookshops thrive, Powell’s is the granddaddy of hardcovers, packed to the risers with books both new and used. You could easily spend an afternoon exploring the different floors and deep collections; we buy my son a classic book on each visit. 1005 W. Burnside St., Portland and 4 other locations, www.powells.com
November 1st, 2012
Just an easy 90-minute train ride from London, the charming, compact and walkable city of Bath – former home to Jane Austen, among others – offers a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.
We adored boutique B&B Villa Magdala, across from lovely Henrietta Park (opened to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee) and just steps from Bath's downtown. You'll want to stay more than one night – or bring a big appetite – to sample the delightful breakfast menu, with fruit, yogurt and pastries plus to-order picks like the full English and our favourite, the lemon-ricotta-pistachio pancakes. www.villamagdala.co.uk
Book ahead and bring a group to sample Tilleys Bistro's tasty tapas menu, complete with clearly labelled veg and gluten-free selections. Our French Farmers Salad, Baked Avocado Tower and Butterbean and Root Ginger Firepot went down so well (accompanied by a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc) that we tragically left no room for dessert. http://www.tilleysbistro.co.uk
Bath is home to the UK's only natural hot springs, put on the map by the Romans, who erected a full bathing complex complete with temple. A visit to the Roman Baths Museum is a must while in town. Wander the site with the audio guide and turn up your imagination to visualize the lives of the people who millennia ago bathed in these same waters. If you have time, pick up a combo ticket to save on a trip to the Fashion Museum, too.
You can't enter the original Roman baths, unfortunately, but there is a consolation prize across the street: Thermae Bath Spa, which taps into those same natural springs. Sample the selection of scented steam rooms, then soak in the rooftop pool and enjoy the views of Bath Abbey and the rest of the city. www.thermaebathspa.com
Photo: visitbath.co.uk Copyright: Bath Tourism Plus / Colin Hawkins
Bath has no shortage of boutiques and other shopping pleasures. Make sure to visit historic Pulteney Bridge, a late-18th-century stone bridge complete with built-in shops. One highlight for us was the Antique Map Shop, with its very giftable collection of printed maps from all over the world.
October 25th, 2012
Houses are painted sherbert yellow, green and blue and the pinkish sand on every beach is as soft as flour. If you’re planning a winter getaway, consider Bermuda, where the sweet floral scents and sounds of the sea will whisk you a million miles away.
With three restaurants, pools, tennis courts and spacious rooms all steps away from one of the island’s best beaches, Elbow Beach is the place to stay. Order a Dark and Stormy and bask on the beach to a soundtrack of crashing waves. Sushi fans will love the fresh-from-the-ocean wahoo rolls at Seabreez. www.mandarinoriental.com/bermuda
Rent a moped and cruise the island at 25 miles-per-hour. Visit the flamingos at the local aquarium, stop and smell the hibiscus at the Botanical Gardens and leap off the cliffs into crystal waters at Horseshoe Bay. If you’re as nosy as we are, you’ll want to ride over to Tucker’s Town where Ross Perot, Michael Bloomberg and Silvio Berlusconi have holiday homes.
The Lobster Pot in town is a Bermudian institution where bibs are a must. Don’t miss out on the Guinea Chicks (Sept-March) and if you’ve never tried Wahoo, this is the place to do it. www.lobsterpot.bm