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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Grateful Traveler: My Favorite Hotels in America

CRL's travel columnist gives you the inside scoop on her favorite places to stay.

With winter school breaks fast approaching, many Capital Region families are preparing for a bit of wintertime fun in the sun with a quick escape to warmer climates. Albany International Airport will soon be welcoming in droves of travelers in shorts and sandals, their recently shed winter coats and scarfs in tow, anxiously awaiting their turn to fly southeast or west.

According to online tour booker TrekkSoft, 95 percent of travelers want to keep themselves and their families entertained and happy while vacationing in 2020, with 85 percent wishing to get the best deals for the most value. Their final wish is to enjoy the outdoors and stay active. Sunny and warm destinations tick all those boxes.

Here’s a list of my favorite properties in sunny climates for all of you temporary snowbirds.

The Betsy

The Betsy Hotel (Miami)

A self‐described destination with purpose, Miami’s Betsy Hotel allows and even encourages its guests to bring the family dogs along. No need to schedule the pet sitter, because your furry friend will rest in luxury while you play on South Beach. The Betsy is undoubtedly a luxury boutique hotel, as well as a gathering place for arts and culture in South Beach. Trendy SoBe is not usually known for curated events, but you can enjoy live jazz and classical music performances in the hotel’s lobby. This family‐owned hotel is simply fantastic and sits directly across the street from the world‐famous beach.

Need‐To‐Know: At the Betsy, you will find luxury furnishings in each room, with gorgeous walnut floors, as well as walls filled with artwork from the owner’s collection and even your very own private library. The restaurant options within the hotel are lovely too, including LT Steak & Seafood.

Suggestion: Book your room with a balcony overlooking the Art Deco district.

The Peregrin roof top bar

The Perry Lane Hotel (Savannah, GA)

Located right in Downtown Savannah, you can easily walk to the city’s most beautiful squares, mansions and restaurants from the hotel. (I have always felt that, perhaps, prowling is a better term in Savannah than walking.) There’s so much to take in Savannah; perfectly preserved and rich in old southern charm, one street in Savannah can hold your attention for the entire day.

Need‐To‐Know: The Perry Lane has elegantly appointed guest rooms and awesome hotel perks. This gem of a hotel has the best rooftop bar—Peregrin—that I have ever seen. Peregrin sits atop the hotel, offering a luxurious 360‐degree backdrop of Savannah. Any given evening can serve up the classiest of high‐altitude vibes or tranquil afternoons lounging in the rooftop pool. Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market on the first floor of the hotel is a local gathering place with an energetic flow. Hotel guests and locals mingle and enjoy authentic southern and eclectic food choices. Wine‐tastings and cooking classes are offered frequently and are great fun. In the hotel’s restaurants and bars, as well as their lobby market, special attention is paid to the one and only Savannah culinary scene.

Suggestion: Pay attention to all the hotel’s special touches, including its story and portraits of the fictious Adelaide Harcourt.

Inspired by turn-of-the-century national park lodges, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge combines rustic charm with a contemporary flair on the shore of Bay Lake at Walt Disney World Resort.

Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort (Orlando)

Ordinarily, I would not be choosing a Disney resort in my top picks, but the Animal Kingdom Lodge has so much more to offer than the other properties in the Disney World. And let’s face it, many readers from the Capital Region will be heading there. In addition to its proximity to the theme park, the resort also has a surprising number of cultural things happening nearby it, including nightly parades through the lobby, showcasing talented dancers and musicians. South African restaurant Jiko ‐ The Cooking Place offers some impressive dishes, and it is managed and manned by a wonderful staff who will help you through the choices.

Need‐To‐Know: The resort property also includes African safari experiences, including the villas of Jambo House, a genuine, full‐scale resort in and of itself, complete with exotic swimming pools, slides, and waterfalls; and Kidani Village, part of the Disney Vacation Club Villas. Both were inspired by the traditional African kraal, a village of fence‐enclosed huts, and their unique curved shape allows visitors views of the resort’s four lush savannas. Only Disney can pull off the design of four African savannas, complete with wandering animals from the continent, in the middle of Florida.

Suggestion: At either location, grab a room with a savanna view to enjoy the sunsets and wake to the astonishing vista complete with roaming animals.

Pool at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa (Paradise Valley, AZ)

In the shadow of Camelback Mountain, the JW Marriott Scottsdale takes my breath away as soon as I enter its courtyard. Hummingbirds buzz by and linger at the fountain by the thousands. There is a saying posted on the building that reads “time stands still,” and it does!

Need‐To‐Know: The resort’s renowned spa is not only beautiful, but also expertly managed and designed. I could live my life in the spa and die very happy. There is no better place to land after a day of hiking or horseback riding on the desert trails of the Sonoran Desert. Garden trails and outdoor living spaces lead to heated swimming pools that surround the guest rooms. The resort’s pueblo‐style, pet‐friendly accommodations feature charming kitchenettes and an array of deluxe amenities.

Suggestion: Spend all the time you can in the spa and bring home some of its amazing lotions.

Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran
Vikki Moran is a travel writer and the founder of the Grateful Traveler.

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