Archive for the ‘ Featured Lodging ’ Category

 

Mountain Ranch Resort

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

The Grand Canyon State of Arizona is an amazing place and its diversity never ceases to amaze me. Like a lot of folks from the Valley of the Sun, I try to escape the summer heat as often as I can. Thankfully, the pilgrimage is only a couple hours north of the Phoenix area via Interstate 17. As a road trip blogger, however, I try never to drive the interstate, but rather the scenic highways and byways—the slower we go, the more we see.

It was mid-July and the humid monsoon was just beginning, so I was itching to get out of town. I began my journey from Wickenburg and headed north via Highway 89 up Yarnell Hill, (Yarnell may sound familiar as it received a lot of national media attention last year due to a devastating wildfire that clamed the lives of 19 hot shot firefighters). It didn’t take long before I had climbed over 2000 feet and began to see and feel the climate and topography change from the desert floor below. As I continued north, I discovered an idyllic area called, Peeples Valley, where I saw plenty of white pipe rail fenced horse property and large ranches. The ascent continued and it wasn’t long before I had climbed an additional 1000 feet in elevation and was now at 5500’ and driving through the first capital of Arizona, Prescott. Continuing north on Highway 89, I drove through an extremely unique geological area scattered with colossal sized granite boulders and towering hoodoos called, the Granite Dells.

I drove another hour or so and climbed yet another 1000+ feet and was soon in the town of Williams…it was so cool and comfortable it felt like I was in another state. Williams is known for being the gateway to the Grand Canyon and borders the historic Route 66 Highway. It’s also just 25 miles or so west of Flagstaff. The rolling hills and tall pine trees were a clear indication that I had indeed escaped the heat of the desert.

Just outside of Williams, and nestled at the base of Beacon Hill, is where I would call home for the next several days…Mountain Ranch Resort. This hotel was built back in the 60s, but has been family owned and operated since 1985. Just recently the hotel has been going through a dramatic transformation…from a place to stay the night while visiting the Grand Canyon, to a destination with a strong emphasis on health and wellness. From myriad activities like tennis, volleyball, hiking and mountain bike riding, to functional fitness classes, a wellness spa (coming soon) and, a restaurant serving only fresh, organic (when possible), healthful menu items, the Mountain Ranch Resort is committed to providing and promoting a sanctuary for guests who want to learn about, or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

As soon as you walk through the beautiful solid wood and iron doors into the lobby, a staff member, who is most likely one of the owners or a family member, warmly greets you. The lobby is so inviting with its oversized leather furniture and large stone fireplace. The old gift shop has been converted into a fashionable boutique where the lady in your life will rejoice. From stylish jeans, hats of all sorts to jewelry and jackets, there are many unique items to choose from.


All the rooms at the Mountain Ranch Resort are being renovated…I stayed in a Superior room that was just completed in May of 2014, which was quite spacious. The Bernhardt furnishings gave the room a hint of Northern Europe, with its sophisticated edge and rustic appeal. The bath area includes a tub-shower combination, granite top vanity area, two luxurious bathrobes, weight scale, hairdryer and a Keurig coffee maker. There is also a 39″ flat-screen television in the room with complimentary Wi-Fi.

An amazing breakfast is also included in your stay. Adhering to the health and wellness theme, breakfast consists of your choice of a made-to-order omelet with your own selection of fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses, or, a whole grain Belgian waffle. There is also fresh cut fruit, berries, oatmeal, homemade granola, and an array of healthfully fresh-baked breads and muffins. You can also have a glass of freshly squeezed juice or cup of organic, locally roasted coffee.

After breakfast, you may want to participate in a functional fitness class that will certainly burn enough calories to keep you in a deficit during your stay (see clips in video above). If you’re looking for something a bit less strenuous, you can take out one of their complimentary mountain bikes and explore the trails of the Kaibab National Forest at the back of the property. If you’re from a lower altitude like I am, be warned that it won’t take long for you to be out of breath like I was. Regardless of the lack of oxygen, I had a blast riding around Beacon Hill. I ended up riding the bike as high as I could go until it was just too steep. I locked the bike up and decided to hike the rest of the way. Once atop Beacon Hill, you have a marvelous 360 degree view.

They also have stables on the property and you can sign up for a couple different horseback rides. If you just want to relax, you can do that too…either by the pool, or, while receiving a spa treatment (coming soon).

In addition to all the on-site activities, there are also a number of nearby things you won’t want to miss. For starters, you can’t overlook seeing the Grand Canyon; it’s just 60 miles due north of the Resort. If you don’t feel like driving, you can head to downtown Williams and hop aboard the train. It departs at 9:30am and allows passengers a few hours to explore before returning to Williams at 5:30pm. If you take the train, there is a little ol’ western surprise on the ride back waitin’ for ya…that’s all I’ll say. Back in town you might want to peruse the streets of downtown, one of which is the historic Route 66. I really got a kick out of taking pics of some of the old buildings, cars and signage. There are, of course, a lot of gift shops and tourist attractions, but there are also some nice restaurants and live music. You can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia walking along Route 66.

Just down the street from the Mountain Ranch Resort is a very cool wildlife experience called, Bearizona. This wildlife exhibit is unique in that the first part is a several mile drive through the animals’ natural habitats (note: you cannot get out of your car and windows must be rolled up). Here, you’ll see bears, buffalo, wolves and other animals. After the driving portion is complete, there is a zoo-like area where guests can walk around to a variety of enclosed habitats. One thing not to miss is the Birds of Prey performance that takes place at three different times each day. Hawks and owls fly right over the heads of those in attendance. It’s really a neat experience (Again, see the video for some footage of this venue).

After a full day of activities, you won’t want to miss a healthful culinary journey at the Ranch Bar & Grill. Chef Darren Kirkpatrick and his team have a wonderful menu that encompasses something for everyone. The best part is that you may feel as though you had an indulgent meal, but without any of the guilt. Everything on the menu has been painstakingly thought through to make it as fresh and nutritional as possible. During my stay I tried just about everything on the menu…here are some of my highlights:

APPETIZERS

  • Crab Cakes with a whole wheat panko, romesco sauce and a jicama slaw.
  • Beet Caprese with roasted golden beets, fresh mozzarella with a basil pesto and black truffle balsamic drizzle.
  • ENTRÉES

    • Pork Tenderloin with peach chutney, baby bok choy and roasted purple fingerling potatoes.
    • Gamberetti Pasta with fresh prawns, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, stuffed pepper with pesto cream sauce over linguini.
    • Chicken Sandwich with avocado feta puree, arugula, Campari tomatoes with a lemon citrus aioli on a wheat telera roll.
    • They even have a full bar with some delicious signature cocktails.

      The Mountain Ranch Resort is one of those places where I think guests will be pleasantly surprised by the overall value and will certainly want to stay more than a single night just en route to the Grand Canyon.

      If you’ve ever stayed at the Mountain Ranch Resort in Williams, Arizona, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you think.

      Mountain Ranch Resort Contact Information:

      Phone: 928-635-2693
      Address: 6701 East Mountain Ranch Road | Williams, Arizona 86046
      Website: MountainRanchResort.com
      Rates: $129-$304 (varies based on accommodation level, dates and amenities)

Blue Agave Bed and Breakfast, the nectar of Tucson

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

As you travel just six or seven miles northwest of downtown Tucson, Arizona, you’ll find yourself in a sparsely populated area in the foothills of the majestic Tucson Mountains—here, is where I discovered the marvelous Blue Agave Bed and Breakfast. The Blue Agave is situated on fifteen acres and is perched atop a bluff, in one direction overlooking the city of Tucson, in the other, peaks of the Tucson Mountains.  As I made my way up the declivitous driveway, I was struck by the sumptuous architecture and landscape…the Blue Agave was grand, with varying lines that indicated a truly unique layout and design.  I later discovered that famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, inspired many of the home’s design elements.

After parking my vehicle, I made my way toward the entrance…the hefty and beautifully designed iron gate opened to a large courtyard that was impressively landscaped with plants indigenous to the Southwest.  Original artwork accents the property throughout, much of which has been created by owner/innkeeper extraordinaire, Dana Smith, who is a highly accomplished artist. The Blue Agave is a fair size at 5500 square feet. However, the home looks much, much larger with all its covered outdoor open space. From the courtyard, you can head in one of three directions; to the right will take you down a breezeway to the four guest quarters, each with a private entrance, and each with its own private patio to take in the extraordinary views. As an early riser, I found myself gravitating toward the patio each morning for a cup of coffee to enjoy the sunrise over the butte in front of the B&B.

As you head toward the opposite direction of the guest rooms, you’ll enter the kitchen, dining and living areas. The living room is quite expansive and handsomely decorated. French doors lead one onto an extensive patio with a large outdoor fireplace and plenty of places to sit, relax and enjoy the views. I imagine during the cooler months, breakfast must be served on the patio, but as it was during my visit, it was already getting quite warm by 8am. As you meander around the exterior of the home from the main patio, there is a barbecue area, and as you continue, you come to the pool area which makes you feel like you’re at a top-notch resort. Not only is the pool beautifully designed with a near negative edge, but the décor includes a number of comfy chaise lounge chairs on which you can relax. Just beyond the pool is a covered area with outdoor furniture to provide a reprieve from the sun.

One of the many impressive aspects of the Blue Agave is how you are immersed in nature. During the construction of the home, many of the enormous Saguaro cacti were left in place and the home designed around them. As a matter of fact, the location of the Blue Agave within Tucson Mountain Park, has probably the highest density of Saguaro Cactus you’ll likely ever see. From the B&B you can walk to miles of hiking trails throughout the park, which allow you to get up close and personal with the Sonoran Desert.

There are also a number of nearby things to do while at the Blue Agave…here are just a few you may want to consider:

  • Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum encompasses 21 acres and fuses a botanical garden, zoo, art gallery, natural history museum, aquarium and restaurants into a wonderful educational excursion.
  • Old Tucson Studios is an old western movie set not far from the Desert Museum. It’s now closed to the general public, but still worth a drive by. Old Tucson is open to tour groups and special events.
  • International Wildlife Museum highlights over 400 species of insects, mammals and birds from around the globe.  Some of the collections are more than 100 years old and all the animals found at the museum were donated by various government agencies, wildlife rehabilitation centers, zoos and individuals.
  • Saguaro National Park is home to the nation’s largest cacti, the giant saguaro, which is the universal symbol of the Southwest. At Saguaro National Park you’ll have a chance to see these enormous cactus up close, and, during the evening, see them silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.
  • Gates Pass – There is a fantastic spot just a few miles from the Blue Agave, near the top of Gates pass, to which you’ll want to take your sweetheart to watch the sunset. Click here for map.

Toward Tucson (east of the above activities) you’ll find an array of art galleries, live music, horseback riding, historic tours to world-class restaurants and many more activities to excite and thrill.

Back at the Blue Agave you can wind down and find solace on your own patio, or in one of the many common areas. Wildlife is abundant, and so too are the changing skies, casting vibrant light that accentuate the rugged, yet beautiful desert landscape that surrounds the property. Each morning you’ll be treated to a hearty breakfast that celebrates the culinary influences of the Southwest. In the evenings, you’ll likely see guests enjoying a glass of wine or a cold cervesa on the patio near the fireplace.

The four guest rooms are only slightly different from one another, the main difference is in color scheme, which takes decorative cues from the vibrant Southwest color palate. The accommodations are relatively modest in size and luxury…in comparison to the rest of the property, but comfortable nonetheless. Standard amenities accompany each room, but what’s nice is each has a mini-refrigerator—which allows guests to pick up snacks and refreshments, limiting the need to venture out as often and simply enjoy the property and stellar surroundings.

The bottom line is that the Blue Agave Bed and Breakfast is a fantastic property I highly recommend. Every aspect of your stay will be a memorable one, including your interaction with the innkeepers, Dana and Peter—both of whom are very personable and attentive, not to mention absolutely fascinating. As I mentioned, Dana is a highly accomplished artist, as well as registered nurse…the compassion from being in the health care industry translates well into accommodating guests. Peter is a well-known planetary scientist and professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, where he played an integral role in the Phoenix Mars Mission. He also plays a mean tambourine, as you’ll hear toward the end of the video above.

If you’ve ever stayed at the Blue Agave Bed and Breakfast in Tucson, Arizona, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

Blue Agave Bed and Breakfast Information:

Address: 455 N. Camino De Oeste – Tucson, AZ 85745
Website: BlueAgaveBB.com
Phone: 520-250-2202
Email: click here
Rates: $220-$245 per night, two night minimum
Accommodations: Four rooms to choose from

Cozy Cactus: Not fancy…just fabulous

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Heading north on Hwy 179 toward Sedona, the landscape is similar to that of the drive from Phoenix.  However, just a few miles after you round a bend in the road, the landscape dramatically changes, revealing the first signs of Sedona’s awe-inspiring red rock formations.  As you enter Oak Creek Village, three monolithic formations immediately captivate your attention; Courthouse, Bell Rock and the Castle Rock. While staying at the Cozy Cactus Bed and Breakfast, these three sandstone monuments delighted us as clouds whisked by the peaks by day, and as night fell, the nearly full moon’s illumination provided a new and magical perspective.

When we arrived at the Cozy Cactus, Mark and Carrie, the owners and innkeepers for the past six years, warmly greeted us.  During our stay we saw just how passionate the couple is about providing their guests an enjoyable and welcoming visit. As a matter of fact, we met a couple from Quebec who’ve been to the Cozy Cactus five times in the past five years. One of the things they shared with us was…while the amazing views attract guests for the first time; it’s the hospitality that Mark and Carrie provide that brings folks back time and again. After staying three nights at the Cozy Cactus, I concur.

Our first night was spent in the Desert Rendezvous room, which was a bit small, but really “cozy.”  [My girlfriend Terri and I kept ourselves laughing throughout our stay with all the, “cozy” cliché remarks we’d come up with]. The leather love-seat and sliding barn doors accented the room nicely. There is a lovely private patio with vibrant flowers, colorful mural and bistro table where we enjoyed our morning coffee.

As evening began to take hold, we noticed some of the guests out on the patio with libations in hand, so we decided to take our own glasses of wine and join them.  There are two fire pit areas to stay warm and “cozy,” with plenty of seating. It’s an enjoyable experience meeting new people at B&Bs, as they are generally well traveled and have a lot in common.  After wine time we walked across the street for dinner at a Thai restaurant that I’d visited before. It was a lovely end to a wonderful first day in Sedona.

The next day we moved to the Cowboy Hideaway, which is quite spacious and can accommodate two couples or a family with its second bath and bedroom. This room actually has two outside doors, one in the front, and one that opens to the most fantastic patio view you’ve ever seen. There is also a mini-kitchen that we utilized for basic food preparation so we didn’t have to venture out all that often. It’s worth noting that there is a gas barbecue on the patio for those who wish to fix lunch or dinner and not leave the B&B. I recall Mark telling me that they are striving to make the Cozy Cactus a “destination,” which I could see. Guests can easily stock up on food, and with all the nearby activities, rarely have to the leave (if they so choose). You can rent bikes across the street, take hikes straight from the back of the B&B, and, they even have a couple of carts that can be used to drive directly to one of two nearby golf courses.

Each morning at 8:30am, a wonderful three-course breakfast is served (except for Tue). Depending on the weather, breakfast may be served inside or out on the lovely patio enjoying the views. Every other day they alternate between a sweet or savory main dish. First course is a freshly baked muffin made by Mark, the self-proclaimed “muffin czar.” I’ll admit I’m not generally a fan of muffins, but these were outstanding and quite different each morning, from orange peel with honey butter, to peach/apricot/cranberry…to the best brand muffins ever. The next course is a fresh fruit plate, which, one morning, was an array of fresh berries with a slightly sweet dessert cheese I’d never had before called, Mascarpone…it was such a great combination of flavors. Entrées during our visit included a quiche, a breakfast burrito and a baked scone-like dish with glazed fruit and a sausage link.

There are a number of other amenities guests are welcome to use during their stay…from the golf carts I mentioned, to ice chests and ponchos. Each room also has some light snacks, coffee/tea/cocoa and many other items that will make your stay that much more enjoyable. Terri and I both had a fantastic time staying at the Cozy Cactus, and we think you will too.

If you’ve ever stayed at the Cozy Cactus before, please leave a comment below and share your favorite things or memories.

Cozy Cactus Bed and Breakfast Contact Info:

Address: 80 Canyon Circle Drive – Sedona, AZ  86351
Phone:
928-284-0082
Email: info@cozycactus.com
Website:
www.CozyCactus.com
Rates: $160-$340 depending on season and room

Best of 2013

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

This is the fourth annual Mike’s Road Trip “Best Of” list. As usual, there were many worthy contenders. While I’m sorry some did not make it, I’m confident I’ve chosen the best-of-the-best. Click on any of the links below to be taken to posts, pictures and/or videos of my experience.

I spent more than eight months on the road in 2013, including an epic coast-to-coast trip that started in southern Arizona and went as far east as Quebec…finally ending up in San Diego for the holidays. I knocked five states off of my list of those I’d never visited before. They included: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee. I now have only four left, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I also visited two Canadian provinces I’d never been to before, Ontario and Quebec. As always, I had some amazing experiences that are fun to relive in a compilation “Best Of” road trip list.

To all the “winners,” congratulations! Your dedication and commitment to excellence have caught the eye of this discerning travel writer and video blogger. If you have not been contacted, please email me for your “Mike’s Road Trip “Best of’” icon to display on your website and social media profiles.

LODGING CATEGORY

  • Best Bed & Breakfast Winner: Ann’s Point Inn in Bass Harbor, Maine – Opulent, luxurious, romantic, amazing breakfast…every single detail of your visit has been thoroughly thought through.
  • Best Inn Winner: Gervasi Vineyard is located in Canton, Ohio, but you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the hills of Tuscany. There are 24 luxurious suites, a wine bar, bistro and piazza overlooking a small lake.
  • Best Resort Winner: Loews Ventana Canyon is a sanctuary for looking into the soul of the Southwest. Located in Tucson, this Arizona resort is known around the world for its majestic location and uncompromising accommodations, amenities and service.
  • Best Urban Hotel Winner: The Chattanoogan Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee is an urban sojourn sanctuary.  You’ll notice the elegant and modern décor throughout the property. With 199 rooms and suites, the Chattanoogan hosts a number of amenities—from its conference center, meeting spaces, day spa, roof-top pool, to three on-site restaurants.
  • Best Business Hotel Winner: Cambria Suites by Choice Hotels – Sophisticated décor, MediaHub for all your technology, large flat screen TV’s, work space, in-room sitting area, free hi-speed internet, fitness center, indoor pool & spa and a barista bar make Cambria Suites a sweet place to do business.
  • Best Eco-Friendly Hotel Winner: Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York has elevated the meaning of “green” in the lodging industry. Every aspect of the hotel’s operation is analyzed on an annual basis to see how the guest experience can be improved, while reducing its environmental impact. The best part…the guest experience has not been compromised in the least—the accommodations are sensational and the lakeside views will beckon you each time you enter your room.
  • Best Value Hotel Winner: Santa Fe Sage Inn – Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of the best small towns in America. For those on a budget who want to be within walking distance to historic sites, great shopping, amazing restaurants and so much more, the Santa Fe Sage Inn is the place to stay. The accommodations are modest, but clean and comfortable. The staff is amazingly friendly with free amenities such as shuttle service to downtown, breakfast, workout facility and more.
  • Best Hotel Suite Winner: Château Cartier in Gatineau, Quebec offers superior comfort and luxury. Stunning hardwood floors in the living room, a gas fireplace, two large flat screen TVs, spacious European contemporary bathroom and ultra comfortable bed with sweeping views makes this suite the best of 2013.
  • Best B&B Breakfast Winner: Cliff Cottage Inn – In addition to the wonderful accommodations is one of the coolest small towns (Eureka Springs, Arkansas) I visited this year, Cliff Cottage Inn offers its guests a breakfast you’ll not soon forget. Breakfast is brought to your cottage each morning and served on your own private porch. The breakfast creations are a work of art, from lemon-orange soufflé, pork medallion with nature grazed chutney, French fennel potatoes and a Eureka Springs bug cake (pastry).  Oh, and it’s served on a formal silver platter with fresh OJ and sparkling wine…makes ya feel a bit like an aristocrat.
  • Best Hotel Gym Winner: Not a category I would normally include, but the gym at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Plattsburgh, NY is the most amazing hotel gym I’ve ever seen, and is worth a mention. At 16,000 s.f., Eclipse Fitness has every possible piece of equipment you could imagine, and, would rival any commercial gym in the country.

DINING CATEGORY

  • Best Restaurant Winner: Les Fougeres is located in the small village of Chelsea in L’Outaouais, Quebec (Canada). The setting is reminiscent of a small French countryside inn, with some of the most artistically creative dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Everything about this gastronomic experience emanated passion, creativity and excellence.
  • Best Fine-Dining Experience Winner: Natalie’s in Camden, Maine. The dining experience at Natalie’s is simply extraordinary. The décor is as bold and refreshing as the culinary concoctions that exit chef Jon Gaboric’s kitchen.  From the white tablecloths to the contrasting bright red accent and roses that adorn each table, the palate pleasures are as flavorful as they are creations of art.
  • Best Casual Dining Experience Winner: White Mountain Cider Co. in the mountains of Jackson, New Hampshire is located in a renovated 1890s farmhouse, which is full of character—from the rough cut wood planks, odd shaped granite tables to the old barn door…the rustic charm is undeniable.  While I tried a several dishes, my entrée left the greatest impression… Grilled Blue Fin Tuna on a bed of Asian jambalaya, which consisted of jasmine rice, Chinese sausage, sugar snap peas, cabbage with chunks of fresh lobster…this was stir-fried with a blue ginger-coconut sauce.
  • Best Hole-N’-The-Wall Winner: Eat ‘n Meet Grill and Larder is a quintessential “hole-n’-the-wall that I was so happy to have discovered…thanks to some passionate local patrons who did not steer me wrong. Located in Saranac Lake, New York, Eat-’n-Meet is as different as it is delicious. Due to its popularity, it’s recommended that you visit their website, look at the daily menu, then call in your order and let them know what time you’d like to pick it up. Each day is a new dining experience based on the seasonally available ingredients.
  • Best Dining Surprise Winner: Niagara Falls Culinary Institute is like a five-star restaurant, offering a fine dining experience in a contemporary, yet intimate setting…with the kitchen and its open hearth oven as the focal point. From the atmosphere, impeccable service to the culinary masterpieces, you will quickly forget you’re at a cooking school.
  • Best Fish & Chips Winner: Point Loma Seafood Company in San Diego, California – Lightly breaded in what I guess is a cornmeal mixture, with thick pieces of the freshest seafood, accompanied with fries and excellent cole slaw. Point Loma Seafood is without question the best fish & chips place this year.
  • Best Bakery Winner: Wildflower Bread Company in Sedona, Arizona. Situated in downtown, overlooking the majestic red rocks, Wildflower serves up some outstanding bakery delights. Two items you can’t miss…the vegetable frittata with rosemary potatoes and the walnut and banana pancakes. All the baked goods are simply amazing too. The setting, atmosphere, food and value make Wildflower worth the stop next time you’re in Sedona.
  • Best Breakfast Winner: Amuse Bouche – This bistro located in Surprise, Arizona offers French panache and gourmet petit déjeuner.  The intimate setting has the feeling of an authentic French bistro, with the aroma of cinnamon, freshly brewed coffee and other breakfast scents filling the air. When you go, don’t miss the Smoked salmon eggs Benedict, or the Belgian Waffle with fresh strawberries, bananas, vanilla whipped cream and brown sugar cinnamon syrup.
  • Best Up-And-Coming Restaurant Concept Winner: True Food Kitchen – Scottsdale, Arizona. If you enjoy eating healthfully, while giving your palate a pleasurable memory it won’t soon forget, you have to check out True Food Kitchen. Seasonally inspired dishes, unique culinary concoctions, great atmosphere and affordable prices makes True Food a winning formula.
  • Best Pub Winner Bistro L’autre Oeil in Gatineau, Quebec is a quintessential neighborhood pub. They stock more than 550 beers…the largest selection of any pub in Canada.  They also serve some pretty tasty pub grub…I tried the Thai pizza which is cooked on a grill.

SCENIC VIEWS CATEGORY

DESTINATIONS CATEGORY

  • Best/Most Eclectic Town Winner: Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a Victorian mountain village nestled in the Ozarks with copious things to see and do.  You can zip-line through the forest, watch big cats feed at a wildlife refuge, view breathtaking vistas and scenic overlooks, fish in clear trout streams, photograph waterfalls or stroll through the colorful gardens.
  • Best/Most Idyllic Town Winner: Hanover, New Hampshire is home to the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College. The campus dates back to 1769 and is the sixth oldest college in the country. Like many college towns, it’s full of energy and has a vibrant culinary scene. The historic charm is undeniable, as is the plethora of activities to enjoy.
  • Best Historic Town Winner: Galena, Illinois epitomizes what I look for on the road…a place off the beaten path, full of history and charm, intrigue and attractions. A place that was once lost to the past, but then rediscovered by those with a vision for what could be. Galena continues to attract visitors for its historical charm, as well as its nature-inspired beauty.
  • Best City Winner: Quebec City, Canada is a captivating place to explore.  Every hill, corner, nook and cranny provides a unique sight, experience or vantage point. The city dates to 1608, so history runs deep in this French province. Amazing architecture, fine food and endless activities make Quebec City a place to add to your bucket list.
  • Best Place to Explore Winner: El Morro National Monument is a wonderful example of why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The area is surrounded by soaring sandstone bluffs that rise more than 200 feet from the valley floor. After reaching the summit of a mesa, you’ll discover a fascinating mixture of both human and natural history, which includes the remnants of a pueblo that housed Native Americans who once inhabited the area.
  • Best National Park (US) Winner: Canyonlands in Moab, Utah consists of spires, plateaus and canyons carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers.  The park offers some extremely challenging four-wheel drive roads as well as great opportunities for hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and many other recreational activities.
  • Best Canadian National Park Winner: La Mauricie in Quebec, Canada is a 536km natural conservation area. Whether you are seeking adventure or an opportunity to recharge, the park’s lakes, streams, waterfall and forests make it the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Best State Park Winner: Valley of Fire, Overton, Nevada – Valley of Fire is a Nevada State park located about 80 minutes northeast of Las Vegas. The park encompasses 44,000 acres of awe-inspiring and diverse landscape that will capture your attention around every bend.
  • Best Aerial Ride Winner: Hot air balloon ride over San Diego. San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the country—with its lush foliage, rolling hills and ocean views. One of the best ways to experience this coastal community has to be in a hot air balloon.
  • Best Botanical Garden Winner: Rock City Gardens, Chattanooga, Tennessee – Rock City Gardens take visitors on an enchanting journey that reveals wonders that only nature can create. The gardens have been enhanced by man, but mother nature has certainly done most of the work. Situated on fourteen acres, with massive rock formations, and over four hundred native plant species along with an awe-inspiring view and a 100′ waterfall, Rock City is a must-see while in the area.
  • Best Small Museum Winner: Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburg, New York. This is an extraordinarily well preserved home/museum with many authentic artifacts…including artwork, furniture, china, medicinal items including an array of jars/containers containing period potions. The location over looking Lake Champlain is pretty special too.
  • Best Museum Winner: Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Outaouais, Quebec and provides amazing views of the nation’s capital across the Ottawa River. In addition to the spectacular architecture, visitors will discover Canada’s culture spanning 1,000 years of history through life-sized reconstructions.
  • Best Historical Site Winner: Fort Niagara in Niagara Falls, New York – Fort Niagara is one of the oldest military installations in the nation, featuring historically significant architecture, live re-enactments and other living history events.

HIKING/CAMPING/OUTDOOR CATEGORY

  • Best Place to Explore Winner: Moab, Utah
  • Best State Park Winner: Valley of Fire, Overton, Nevada
  • Best Developed Camp Site Winner: Dew Drop, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
  • Best Un-Developed Camp Site Winner: Just outside Canyonlands National Park
  • Best Beach Winner: Carlsbad, California
  • Best Secret Beach Winner: Mitchel Cove near Bass Harbor, Maine
  • Best Outdoor Activity Winner: Eco Odyssey in La Pêche, Quebec is a marsh maze in which folks navigate the waterways in a canoe or paddle boat in search of clues that will return them to the starting point. The excursion is very educational, interactive and peaceful.

UN-CATEGORIZED

Note: The aforementioned are my personal “Best of” travels during 2013 and don’t necessarily represent, The best of all time.

Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

At the helm of a 27′ motorhome rented at El Monte RV, I headed into the heart of Sin City en route to a spot that I’d call my home base for the week.

While there’s an abundance of lodging choices when staying in Vegas, there’s only one place for RVers who want to be on the strip…and that’s the Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus. This is not your typical KOA with tent sites and kamping cabins, rather this location caters to RV’ers who want to be in the middle of the action. If, however, you don’t have your own RV, you can rent one of the two Airstreams they have on site.

Of course, there are a ton of activities within walking distance, whether you want to gamble, catch a show, or enjoy some amazing cuisine.  If you’re looking for fun and games, you can head over to the massive fuchsia-colored glass Adventuredome at Circus Circus. There, you’ll find all kinds of amusement games, rides, and, an adrenalin rushing roller coaster.

In addition to being in the heart of the action, RVers will really appreciate the proximity to so many nearby road trip attractions from their home base at the KOA.

  • For starters, just 30 miles to the east is Hoover Dam…this enormous man-made wonder is certainly worth a stop.
  • Hoover Dam created Lake Mead, which is a popular recreational area for boaters and water enthusiasts. Lake Mead is quite large, offering visitors a number of access points.
  • Valley of the Fire State Park its less than 80 minutes northeast of the KOA and is Nevada’s oldest and largest state park. This spectacular geological wonder provides great hiking as well as amazing photo ops. There is also a Lake Mead access point just six miles from one of the park entrances.
  • Grand Canyon West is two and a half hours southeast, where you’ll find the famed, Skywalk, a glass floor bridge cantilevered over the edge of the canyon.
  • Death Valley National Park is just over two hours northwest of the KOA. This inhospitable place below sea level is actually quite full of life and beauty.
  • Believe it or not, just 45 minutes from downtown Las Vegas, you can ascend to 8000 feet up Mount Charleston and escape the head of the desert below. In the winter, you can even go snow skiing.

If you’re looking for something a bit more relaxing to do, you can just hang out with friends, lie by the pool, watch a movie in the on-site rec center…or, even play a game of pool. If you’re traveling with kids, they will certainly appreciate the playground and kiddy rides. If you’re traveling with four-legged friends, they will love the spacious dog park. If you happened to have forgotten anything, the KOA Marketplace is full of snacks, supplies and souvenirs.

Have you ever Kamped out at the Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus? If so, leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best.

Las Vegas KOA at Circus Circus information:

Address: 500 Circus Circus Drive – Las Vegas, NV 89109
Website: Las Vegas KOA
Reservations: 800-562-7270
On-site number: 702-733-9707
Email: Click here

The Trumbull House…A New England hide-a-way

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

One of the fascinating features about staying at a B&B is that there is always a story…whether that of the structure, or, of the innkeeper(s).  I recently discovered the oldest bed and breakfast in Hanover, New Hampshire, which is home to the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College.  Just a few miles from town, along an old county road, nestled among sixteen lush acres is the Trumbull House. This B&B has been greeting guests since the mid-90s, using its country setting as a lure for those wanting to escape the sensory overload of city life.

The Trumbull House was built in 1919 by a gentleman named, Mr. Trumbull. The property was purchased in 1991 by the Pridgen family to raise their large family. A few years later, after a divorce, an entrepreneurial mother of five decided to turn the family home into a business as a B&B. By 1995, half the home had been converted…making way for five distinct guest rooms…with a separate detached structure remodeled into a carriage house. It was apropos to use the name of the man who built the home. I asked Hilary, the owner, what it was like to raise a family, while running a B&B at the same time. She said, “it was actually the best of both worlds…I could be close to my kids, while still being able to provide for them.” Hilary also told me about the strict family rules of the house…there was never any yelling or commotion allowed, and, after 8pm, nothing but a whisper was to be uttered as to not disturb any of the guests.

The kids are all grown now and Hilary is still at the helm of the oldest and one of the nicest B&Bs in town, along with the help of Lloyd, her innkeeper extraordinaire.  In addition to the six lovely guest rooms, there is a swimming pond, basketball court, and, a babbling brook on the property.  Hiking enthusiasts can even access the Appalachian Trail from the back of the property.

During my visit, the oasis in the center of the property (also known as the swimming pond) was calling my name. One morning before breakfast, as steam slowly rose from the surface of the water (an indication that it was a tad chilly outside), I decided I would take a dip. As I got a running start and leapt off the jumping-rock, my teeth clenched tight, bracing for what I thought would be a cold and rude awakening…I broke the stillness of the water with the gracefulness of a cannonball. To my surprise…and, with great jubilation, the pond was actually quite temperate. After assessing the safety, and learning that the pond is 16 feet deep, I decided to have another go of it…this time with a dive. As I penetrated the water like an arrow, I thought it was a decent dive; unfortunately, the French judges were not so forgiving and only awarded me a 6.5 (watch the video and judge for yourself).

If you stay at the Trumbull house, you can expect a relaxed and homey feel with comfortable accommodations that blend well with the country setting. The bathrooms and the technology in the rooms are a bit dated, but the bedding, pillows and towels are uber luxurious.

Breakfast each morning is a bit different than most B&Bs…the word that comes to mind is…flex’icious (yes, I made that up). You pick the time, and, the entrée. Whether you prefer sweet or savory, Lloyd will prepare a delicious meal to get your day started off right. Prior to your entrée you can enjoy a fresh fruit cup and freshly baked muffins with a great cup of coffee.

After breakfast you might enjoy a leisurely stroll around the property. For those interested in something more vigorous, there are a series of trails that can be accessed at the back of the property; one as I mentioned, links to the famed Appalachian Trail. Or, you can do what I did a few times during my stay…sit in one of the Adirondack chairs by the pond, or at the back of the property looking at the pond and house, and enjoy a good read.

There are three towns/communities nearby, each just a few miles from the next, so there are plenty of dining options, museums and other activities to enjoy.

If you’ve stayed at the Trumbull House, please leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what you like best.

Trumbull House contact information:

Address: 40 Etna Road -Hanover, NH, 03755, USA
Website: TrumbullHouse.com
Email: trumbullhouse@gmail.com
Phone: 603-643-2370
Rates: $139 – $315 based on room and season

Snowflake Inn crystallizes homey lodging experience

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Located in the charming mountain town of Jackson, New Hampshire rests a regal structure that offers an at-home feeling for its guests. While the Snowflake Inn dominates the land on which it resides, its stature is minimized by the expansive space surrounding it. Situated on six prime acres in the heart of Jackson, the Snowflake Inn provides guests with a playground to enjoy—whether it’s a snowball fight in the winter, Frisbee in the summer, an autumn wedding, or, a walk along the river, guests will appreciate the open space that surrounds the inn.

Owned and run by veteran innkeepers, Sue and Gary Methot, the Snowflake Inn blurs the line between an inn and a humble hotel. With twenty rooms, including three suites, the inn is large enough to host intimate weddings and other special events. When you enter the Inn for the first time, and smell the scent of freshly backed cookies in the air, you feel as though you’ve arrived at grandma’s house.  The Snowflake has a very homey feel, with pictures of friends, family and guests on display. You’ll also find knick knacks, mementos, board games and artificial floral embellishments on the walls and fireplace mantel…all signs that grandma is present and accounted for.  There is even a grandfather clock with its hourly chimes reminding you of the time. During my stay, I saw a guest in the common area in her bathrobe; an indication of just how “at-home” she must have felt.

The king accommodations at the Snowflake are spacious, with a separate seating area. A hallway leads to the bathroom…then to the bedroom, which features a two-person Jacuzzi tub.  With an emphasis on romance, two red towels are rolled up into the shape of a heart, along with a single red rose.  There is also a gas fireplace and flat screen T.V. The rooms did lack a few amenities that you might find in other inns at this price point, such as a cosmetic mirror, iPod dock, individual coffee maker, and an iron (although that can be requested and brought to your room).

The common area of the inn is open with tall ceilings and large windows letting in lots of light. The focal point of the space is the stone-faced, real-wood-burning fireplace, with thick granite hearth inviting guests to sit down and warm up on a cold winter night. Guests can also warm up in the tropical indoor spa refuge. With cedar walls, candles and waterfall…it’s truly a relaxing area of the inn.  Just outside the spa/pool area is a patio in which guests can toast marshmallows by a fire pit.  Guests can also head up to the loft above the common area to use the full size pool table, or, play a board game.  Soon you’ll be able to warm up with a workout in their new state-of-the-art gym.

Each morning you can head down to the common area for a light continental breakfast, with fresh fruit, homemade granola, along with warm baked goods, juice and coffee. In the evening there is a homemade sweet treat…often, chocolate chip cookies or brownies. If you stay over a Saturday evening, the Inn offers a wine and cheese hour.

The Snowflake Inn makes the perfect hub for an array of nearby activities. During my visit, I went on a tour to the top of Mount Washington via the auto road, which was as informative, as it was awe-inspiring. I also went kayaking down the Saco River and ended up in Maine.  You can rent kayaks, canoes, tubes, etc. from the folks at Saco Bound. The put-in point is just across the street from their office; from there you paddle or float downstream and get out at a number of pre-determined takeout points where a shuttle will take you back to your car.  From hiking, biking, fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, skiing to photography, there are so may cool activities in and around Jackson, that you’ll never get to them all in a single visit. Jackson is just the neatest little town; away from the crowds you’ll find in the larger, nearby town of Conway, N.H.

On-site at the Snowflake you’ll notice a couple of art galleries…one is dedicated to photography, while the other displays fine art and unique creations.  There is also a number of great nearby restaurants. I dined at the following eateries during my visit:

Cider Co.: Located in a renovated 1890s farmhouse, this restaurant is full of character—from the rough cut wood planks, odd shaped granite tables to the old barn door…the rustic charm is undeniable.  While I tried a few dishes, my entrée left the greatest impression… Grilled Blue Fin Tuna on a bed of Asian jambalaya, which consisted of jasmine rice, Chinese sausage, sugar snap peas, cabbage with chunks of fresh lobster…this was stir-fried with a blue ginger-coconut sauce. It was fantastic.

1785 Inn and Restaurant: This establishment is also situated in an old farmhouse and is positioned to take advantage of an amazing view.  On a clear day diners can see Mount Washington. The 1785 is a classic fine-dining experience offering a table-side Caesar salad presentation as the server tells you step-by-step what he is doing. They have an extensive wine menu along with culinary creations that will please just about any palate—from seafood, chicken to more French inspired dishes.  Even the adventurous diner will be enticed by entrees like Antelope sirloin with a cinnamon espresso rub topped with a blackberry/cabernet glaze with Brie and pinenuts.

If you’re into casual comfort food, then you’ll love Shannon Door Restaurant and Irish Pub. This is the place where the locals hang out…as well as a number of celebrities given the vast quantity of autographed photos on the walls. The menu is a bit varied, with a number of non-Irish items included, such as pizza and pasta. I asked the owner, Tommy, about this…he said, “if we only had Irish food on the menu, it would be a pretty small menu.” Shannon Door also provides live music several nights a week. And, the fourth generation of the family that started the restaurant 60 years ago just recently started working there.

Sue, Gary and the entire staff at the Snowflake Inn are very knowledgeable about the area and are more than happy to provide suggestions, directions or whatever you may need to make your stay an enjoyable one.

If you’ve ever stayed at the Snowflake Inn, please leave a comment below and share your experience.

Snowflake Inn Contact Information:

Website: TheSnowflakeInn.com
Email: innkeeper@thesnowflakeinn.com
Address: 95 Main Street, Jackson Village, NH
Phone: 603-383-8259
Rates: $175-$375 depending on accommodation level and time of year.

Camden Harbour Inn: An exquisite lodging and epicurean experience

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Perched atop a bluff overlooking the harbor in Camden, Maine, rests an inn of uncompromising quality and service. Obliging guests for well over a century, the Camden Harbour Inn has been rejuvenated since owners, Raymond Brunyanszki and Oscar Verest, took over the place six years ago. Maintaining the historic charm of the structure, Raymond and Oscar infused the inn with influences from their Dutch heritage and extensive travel and hospitality backgrounds.  The result is a refined contemporary feel that balances perfectly with the classic architecture of this local landmark.

As soon as you arrive at the Inn, you are greeted by a porter who will assist you with your luggage, while guiding you to the check-in desk. With twenty rooms, and a fine-dining restaurant, Camden Harbour Inn blurs the line between a boutique hotel and a luxurious inn. Guests are made to feel like VIPs from the onset, with staff members eager to assist in making your stay one you will not soon forget.

When you enter the Inn, your attention is drawn to the vibrant colors and warm textures.  The focal point of the common area is chic sofas with au courant fireplace. In the opposite direction is the on-site fine dining restaurant, Natalie’s, which is where breakfast is served for guests, as well as dinner for both the public and guests.

Speaking of breakfast, it’s done a bit differently than most inns…more of a restaurant dining experience where you can order just about anything you’d like off the menu.  Whether you prefer sweet or savory, or just fresh fruit, pastries and coffee, Natalie’s can accommodate.

The dinner experience at Natalie’s is simply extraordinary. The décor is as bold and refreshing as the gastronomic concoctions that exit chef Jon Gaboric’s kitchen.  From the white tablecloths to the contrasting bright red accent and roses that adorn each table, the palate pleasures are as flavorful as they are culinary creations of art.

Like most things at Camden Harbour Inn, dining at Natalie’s is also done a bit differently than many restaurants you’ve experienced. Rather than the typical ordering process, at Natalie’s, they have a prix fixe menu—actually three from which to choose. Each menu can also be ordered with its uniquely selected wine pairing.  You can choose from a three-course, seven-course, or all-lobster course meal.  It’s truly a culinary adventure. I have had the opportunity to dine at some of the finest restaurants across the country, Natalie’s, is without question one of the most exciting and pleasurable fine-dining experiences of the year for me.

As you go from one course to the next, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as your server presents a decorative hors d’oeuvre, amuse bouche and palate cleanse prior to the main course.  For my eating pleasure, I selected and enjoyed the following items:

  • Hors d’oeuver: Gruyere cheese beignet with spicy crème fraiche and braised pineapple.
  • Amuse Bouche: Cucumber gazpacho with crème and salmon roe.
  • Appetizer: Pan seared Maine scallops on sweet potato puree with Osetra caviar, sweet potato chips and yuzu cream.
  • Middle Course: Beet tar tar with candy beet puree, sabayon and fennel.
  • Entrée: Butter poached lobster with house made artichoke ravioli, seared oyster mushrooms and a ginger foam.
  • Dessert: Vanilla parfait topped with braised peaches, goat cheese cream, cinnamon and nutmeg crumble and cherry puree.

Ascending the steep staircase to the second and third floors will gain you access to the accommodations area, where you’ll find five room levels to choose from. From the grand suites to the superior rooms, each is uniquely decorated in rich and bold furnishings.  The suites are top-notch through and through, however a few of the other rooms have not quite been 100% renovated. Take my room for example (Deshima), the bathroom is still in the queue for its upgrade. The room is wonderful, but the bathroom is outdated and not at the same quality caliber as the rest of the room…or that of the bathrooms that have been renovated.

Many of the rooms have bay views, which provide quite a sight on those amber lit, sky-filled evenings when the harbor is full of boats. The Inn is just up the hill from the harbor and a very short walk to a plethora of shops, restaurants and activities. The nice thing about the location is that while everything is within a short walk, it’s just far enough away to provide a relatively tranquil setting.

Camden is such a charming and quaint coastal village, where the mountains meet the sea and the stunning harbor provides artists with inspiration for their next masterpiece.  If you visit Camden, Maine and are looking for an unparalleled lodging and culinary experience…have a look at the Camden Harbour Inn and Natalie’s restaurant.

If you’ve ever stayed at the Camden Harbour Inn, or dined at Natalie’s, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.

Camden Harbour Inn contact information:

Address: 83 Bayview Street – Camden, Maine
Email: info@camdenharbourinn.com
Website: CamdenHarbourInn.com
Phone: (207) 236-4200
Rates: $235-$935/night depending on room and season.

Kingsleigh Inn – A stately B&B in the heart of Southwest Harbor

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

As the sun rises, its defused beam is forced through a light layer of fog, enveloping the trees like a spiritual womb. As the dense air dissipates, the nearby fishing vessels moored in Southwest Harbor begin to reveal themselves. The sailboats lie still in the placid harbor as the sun glistens off their masts, while the lobster boats ready themselves for the daily sail out to sea. This is the portrait one sees when waking up, and looking through, the turret of the Penthouse suite at the Kingsleigh Inn.

Southwest Harbor is the more populated village of the “Quietside” of Mount Desert Island in the Acadia National Park area. There are however, no cruise ships or throngs of people from those tourist vessels perusing the streets like in Bar Harbor. Rather, Southwest Harbor is a laid back area full of charm, activities, amenities, and friendly locals.

Located right off Main Street, walking distance to shops, galleries and restaurants is the historic Kingsleigh Inn. It was fortuitous that I happened to be in the area when the Inn had a cancellation (a rare occasion during the peak summer months) of their finest room…the Kingsleigh Penthouse suite. At nearly 800 square feet, there are five separate seating areas, six if you count the private deck providing unobstructed views of Southwest Harbor. With varying roofline shapes dictating the space, the accommodations are unique with a level of elegance that makes one feel a bit like an aristocrat. The seating areas each serve a purpose…one is for playing games, while another is for watching T.V., and yet another is for cozying up to the fireplace. My favorite however…the turret room and adjoining deck. The deck is a spectacular place to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, while gazing out into the harbor.

Built in 1904, the Kingsleigh Inn has been through several incarnations over the years. It was initially constructed for a prominent businessman. The building later become a customs house for foreign ships arriving in the harbor. Many years later it would become the home of the local physician—until finally, in 1984 it was converted into an Inn. The architecture is a bit unique, a cross between a Queen Anne and Victorian, with its steeply pitched roofs, cedar shingles and pebble-embedded stucco siding. The latest renovation took place in 2005, including, individual climate control (A/C and heat) in each guest room—which I have to say is one of the best climate control systems I’ve ever come across…and, it’s extremely quite.

There are eight rooms to choose from at the inn, each with its own style and décor. As with the exterior, the interior is a mixed fusion of contemporary and traditional furnishings, along with fine art and collectibles.

The rooms are spread out over two floors, however the Penthouse has its own flight of stairs taking the occupiers high above the ground below. There is also a wrap-around deck in which guests can enjoy throughout the day while looking out at the water. It’s also where breakfast is served most mornings…and, enjoyed during the early evening wine hour.

Speaking of breakfast, get ready for a gastronomic experience. One thing they do that I’ve not seen at any other inn, is give guests the option of either a sweet or savory breakfast. I really appreciate this because during my travels I feel I consume a few too many carbs. During the prior afternoon, Pamela will post the morning’s menu so guests can choose which style they would prefer. Come morning, your gourmet breakfast will be one you’ll not soon forget. During my stay I was fortunate to be there when Pamela made her signature dish…a baked egg entrée that had fresh lobster, sun dried tomatoes, fresh basil and Fontana cheese. It was superb! Prior to the entrée, we all enjoyed some fresh fruit with yogurt, topped with homemade granola. The entrée was followed by a sorbet fruit cleans. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget the freshly baked mini muffins that went perfectly with my first cup of coffee.

At 5pm, after new guests have checked-in, and, current guests arrive back after a full day of activities; everyone can mingle and get to know each other during the wine hour—while enjoying appetizers, such as salmon pâté on sliced baguette. From my experience, it’s typically the higher-end inns providing a wine gathering. I find the vino hour such a wonderful time to meet new people and get ideas for things to do the following day.

There are also some very spacious common areas of the inn in which guests are encouraged to use. Weather you want to cozy up with a good book from the library, play a board game, or, just enjoy a cup of coffee from the espresso machine, there is plenty of room to do so.

Southwest Harbor, as well as the entire Desert Island that encompasses Acadia National Park, is a very popular place in the summer. The peak months see an influx of 700,000 people per month. Therefore, it’s important to plan and book your vacation as early possible. There are so many memorable things to do, and sights to see…both in, and, around the park. I spent nearly two weeks on the island, so I had a good chance to explore. If you’re an outdoors person like I am, here are a few things you can’t miss.

  • Rent a bike at Southwest Cycles (directly across the street from the inn) and head to the carriage road system. With 51 miles of trails, you’ll have a lot to explore, including some very cool stone bridges.
  • Grab a picnic lunch from Sawyer’s Market, also across the street from the inn and head toward Bass Harbor to Mitchel Cove to get away from the crowds for a romantic picnic. It’s also a great spot for the kids to play and explore.
  • Head over to Echo Lake and hike to the top of the mountain for some great exercise and amazing views. Make sure you enter the trail from the tip of the lake where the public beach is located. You’ll climb up granite boulders; scale rock faces with the help of a series of sturdy steel ladders, and, traverse through the forest on your decent.
  • Rent a kayak or a canoe and explore Southwest Harbor…you see some of the many lobster vessels close up, some classic wooden boats, as well as some great New England style homes along the coastline.

Kingsleigh Inn is conveniently located in the heart of Southwest Harbor and provides its guests with a truly memorable experience. Bryan and Pamela are the consummate hosts…eager to assist you with your area plans…or, simply provide you with plenty of suggestions. Kingsleigh Inn is the third B&B the couple has owned, so they know a thing or two about providing an experience that keep guests coming back. Case in point was the couple I met one morning who’d been to the inn 9 or 10 times in the past eleven years.

If you’ve been to the Kingsleigh Inn before, please leave a comment below and share your experience. If you found this post interesting, and/or helpful, please feel free to share it.

Kingsleigh Inn contact information:

Phone: 207-244-5302
Address: 373 Main Street, Southwest Harbor, Maine 04679
Email: Relax@KingsleighInn.com
Web: KingsleighInn.com
Hosts: Pamela & Bryan
Rates: $145-$315 depending on time of season and accommodation level.

Ann’s Point Inn; Acadia’s secluded treasure

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

As the sun rises over the Atlantic Ocean, an amber glow casts a shadow on the high tide. The stillness of the water shimmers and reflects the tree-lined shore of Bass Harbor.  In an instant, the landscape portrait is muddled by a highflying Tern who dropped from the sky like a rock, causing a splash…followed by a ripple effect on the surface of the water. A moment later, the bird reappeared, taking flight with fish in beak…heading into the radiating sun toward shore for a breakfast feast.

That was the resplendent sight I saw one morning while staying at Ann’s Point Inn on the “Quietside” of Mount Desert Island, near Acadia National Park in the great state of Maine.  The awe-inspiring waterfront view is just one of the many fantastic features at Ann’s Point Inn.  I stayed in Osprey’s Retreat, one of four highly luxurious suites. With its vaulted ceilings, seating area near a fireplace, king-sized bed with layers of linens and plush pillows, large bathroom with modern vessel sink and double-headed tile shower, I in fact felt as though it was a retreat in every sense of the word.

My accommodations were not the only features supporting the “retreat” theme of my suite; so, too, were the common areas.  The living room /atrium is a cozy and perfect spot for guests to mingle and converse about the day’s events. During inclement weather, I assume this might be the spot where wine-hour is held.  I wouldn’t know, because during my visit the weather was glorious and we enjoyed wine and cheese each evening on the patio looking out at the water. At 5:30pm, Alan provides guests with an educational tour of the palate…introducing folks to local wines and exotic cheeses.  On my first evening I became familiarized with mead…a wine made of honey rather than grapes. I had heard of mead before, but never had an opportunity to try it. Alan is quite passionate about his wine-hour and is a wealth of knowledge on the topic.

Another area of the inn that will catch your attention is the large indoor lap pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. This is yet another feature that provides guests with an opportunity to truly unwind.  Note: Alan was telling me that he and Jeannette have plans to remodel this area, replacing the large lap pool with a smaller one… one equipped with a propelling jet so that you can swim laps in place. I mention this for future readers of this post.  I have no doubt that the swimming/exercise/sauna area will be better than ever after the remodel.

There is also a refreshments area where you can select from an array of snacks, bottled water or single cup of coffee to curb the appetite before heading into one of the nearby villages for lunch or dinner. There are several great restaurants within a few minutes drive of the inn, yet the location at the end of a road facing a secluded cove of Bass Harbor provides a quiet sanctuary for guests.  The peacefulness and unique landscape of the inn’s site, yet its close proximity to dining and other activities make Ann’s Point Inn one of the best located lodging establishments in the area.

Come morning, it is time for Alan’s “better half” to shine.  Jeannette is a wonderful cook, whipping up a gourmet three-course breakfast to get the day off on the right foot. Coffee drinkers will appreciate the high-end cappuccino machine and use of quality beans that are locally roasted. Breakfast on one of the mornings I was there consisted of:

  • Wild Maine blueberry-lemon muffins with Fieldstone Farms fruit spread.
  • Homemade granola and assorted yogurts
  • Fresh fruit cup that consisted of pineapple, papaya and mango with a honey-lime coconut balsamic glaze.
  • The main course featured herbed featherbed eggs with Hasselback potatoes and a tomato/basil salad.

Both the outdoor patio and nearby atrium provide the most captivating settings to enjoy breakfast with fellow guests.

The inn is within a short drive to a host of hikes, biking trails, lakes, lighthouses and amazing sights in and around Acadia National Park. However, if you’re an experienced kayaker and want to stick around the inn, there is a single and double kayak available to take out. Just make sure the tide is coming in and not going out…the current is quite powerful and could suck you out to sea if you’re not a strong paddler.

The inn also organizes some interesting annual events that may intrigue gastronomic guests, such as their fall cooking retreat. This three-day event gives foodies and cooks wanting to improve their skills, the chance to join one of the premier local chefs for a cooking and dining extravaganza.

There are so many subtleties here at the Inn that end up coalescing to make a big impression on guests…including this seasoned traveler. For example, in the evening, while you are at dinner, you’ll arrive to some freshly baked cookies in your room. The bathroom not only has plush robes, but you can also don a pair of slippers.  Additional amenities include a couple kinds of handmade soaps, a travel-sized tube of toothpaste, and, a gift from the local artesian olive oil and vinegar shop, Fiore.

I’m an avid lodger of B&B’s and boutique inns…I’ve stayed in so many that I’ve become quite an authority on the subject. Ann’s Point Inn is right there at the top of the list of the best inns I’ve ever stayed.  Alan and Jeannette excel in every single category I evaluate—from the inn’s location, accommodations, amenities, breakfast to the atmosphere, everything at Ann’s Point Inn is stellar. Rarely do I find an inn that is able to excel in each of the nine categories I look at.  Granted, Ann’s Point Inn is not inexpensive, so you would expect amazing offerings at this price point, but you’d be surprised at how few are able to deliver such a complete, well-rounded and wonderful experience. I made an interesting observation a couple years ago as to who makes the better innkeeper…someone with a lot of hospitality experience, or, someone with extensive experience traveling.  Each place I stay, I ask about the innkeepers’ background—each time, I find that the best B&B’s are run by folks with a lot of travel experience, staying in a variety of inns over their year’s of travel.

If you’ve ever stayed at Ann’s Point Inn, please leave a comment below and share your experience with my readers and me.  If you found this post to be helpful, and/or interesting, please feel free to share it by clicking one of the social media icons button.

Ann’s Point Inn Information:

Innkeepers: Alan and Jeannette
Email: info@annspoint.com
Website: AnnsPoint.com
Map: Click here for Google Map
Phone: 207-244-9595
Price: $275-$350 per night (two night minimum)
Open: June 1st – October 31st
Notes: For peak summer months, book early.