United Airlines’ Denver hub is getting a big face-lift.
Not only is the airline adding stunning new gates with Instagram-worthy bathroom areas, but it’s also debuting three new and revamped lounges in the coming months.
It all starts this summer with the opening of a new club in the A-West concourse, between gates A25 and A27. This will become United’s first lounge in Denver’s A concourse. It’ll also be a major upgrade for flyers leaving from this pier since you’ll no longer need to take the train just to use a lounge.
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Then, later this summer, United will reopen the B-East club, which has been closed for the past few months for renovations. Once complete, it’ll become the largest club in the network, spanning a whopping 36,500 square feet.
Once the B-East club opens, United will close the existing B-West club and renovate it in a similar style to its other club in Concourse B, with completion scheduled for 2024. United will then build a Polaris lounge in Denver, but that’s still a couple of years away.
When all is said and done, United will have over 100,000 square feet of club space in Denver, including its novel Club Fly concept. But the improvements aren’t just about a bigger footprint.
Each new club will be designed to reflect the Mile High City and Colorado, and there’s a lot to get excited about. Don’t believe me? Come along for a first-look hard-hat tour of the new A-West club.
United’s A-West club will feature a two-story layout — one of the few lounges in the network to span multiple levels.
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Once you take the escalator up to the reception area, you’ll find touchless entry gates that will let you into the lounge. From there, it’s your choice as to whether you’d like to hang out on the first or second level.
Both will offer fantastic views of the concourse and tarmac, as well as copious amounts of natural light. The lounge’s west-facing window seats are sure to be the most popular during Denver’s dramatic sunsets over the Colorado Rockies.
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The new A-West lounge will measure 24,900 square feet across both levels.
From the moment you step inside, you’ll definitely notice a ton of improvements compared to United’s existing Denver clubs, beginning with the design.
United is going with a Colorado theme for this lounge, and based on the renderings, you’re sure to be impressed. Expect plenty of natural wood, along with gray carpets, blue accents and tan leather finishes.
At the moment, the lounge is still very much under construction, but you can already begin to see the Colorado inspiration. For instance, United installed gabion walls around the perimeter of the entrance hallway in a nod to the rock-filled walls that line Interstate 70 to prevent boulders from falling onto the road.
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This club will also feature two fireplaces — one on each level. A wood-filled wall display will flank the fireplaces under natural oak-lined ceilings. Assuming that the finished product looks anything like the renderings, it’ll likely feel that you’ve entered a cozy ski lodge rather than a busy airport terminal.
In fact, that’s exactly how Alex Dorow, United’s managing director of lounges, premium services and hospitality, conceptualized this new space. “If Ralph Lauren had to build a ski chalet, what would it look like?” he asked the team during the design process.
Amenities for the post-pandemic world
Aside from the finishes, United is purposely designing the space for a post-pandemic world. That means you’ll find more private workstations here than in most other United Clubs, in order to support those who are working from the road.
There will also be a few high-top coworking tables that’ll be perfect for solo flyers.
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Also, the dining area will feature a mix of one-, two- and four-top tables and booths, which will suit those traveling alone or with friends and family.
Speaking of dining areas, United is working to upgrade the lounge catering, said Dorow, and he teased locally inspired options that will rotate seasonally. “When we say local, it’s not just in the look and feel; it’s also in what you taste,” Dorow explained.
The three new Denver lounges will all feature United’s signature hydration walls and personal water bottle refilling stations. According to Dorow, the airline received feedback that more and more travelers want spouts to fill their own water bottles — a request that United is happily addressing in its newest outposts.
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Notably, the new A-West United Club will not offer shower suites, which is a bummer considering that the airline is planning to move its long-haul international flights to the A concourse in the coming years.
You will find gender-specific restroom facilities (featuring private, floor-to-ceiling stalls), an all-gender restroom and a family room on each level.
As with United’s existing lounges, expect fast and free Wi-Fi and convenient access to power outlets and USB ports.
A surprise is coming
While the new lounges seem like they’ll be a major upgrade for United’s Denver hub, Dorow didn’t spill all the beans during the hard-hat tour.
In fact, he teased an all-new amenity that’ll debut in all three of the new Denver clubs. “As we open up these lounges, you’re going to see some new ways that allow customers to also get to know one another,” he said.
He didn’t share specifics, but he kept mentioning “fun artifacts” and “games.” What that means is anyone’s guess, but the good news is that we’re just a few months away from finding out.
Better yet, even if this surprise is a dud, at least the rest of the lounge will bring some much-needed improvements to United’s Denver hub.
For many travelers, trips to large cities had little appeal during the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities like riding public transportation, touring a museum or attending a professional sporting event often took a back seat to less crowded — and less urban — experiences.
In the nation’s 25 largest markets, occupied hotel room nights (a measurement of demand) were down by 32 million in 2022 versus 2019, according to hospitality data and analytics company STR.
Outside the 25 largest markets, though, it was a different story. Hotels saw an increase of 550,000 occupied rooms throughout the rest of the country compared with 2019.
Isaac Collazo, STR’s vice president of analytics, says smaller markets did well during the pandemic while the top 25 markets suffered. He says travelers felt safer in smaller properties at less-crowded destinations.
Now, could it finally be changing?
European and U.S. cities are making a comeback
Mari Hawkins, a travel advisor with New York state-based Gemini Travel, is undoubtedly noticing a shift in her clients’ attitudes when it comes to travel and big cities.
During the pandemic, she was mainly helping clients book villas and vacation homes, where they wouldn’t have to interact with other people.
“We’ve done a complete 180. They’re going back to cities in droves,” she says, citing an increase in bookings to European cities.
“We have hundreds of people heading to Paris, Rome, Florence, Athens this summer,” said travel advisor Lauren Doyle in an email. Her company is called The Travel Mechanic and she’s based in Raleigh, North Carolina.
It’s not just travel to Europe. Collazo said a handful of major U.S. cities saw hotel room sales in the first part of 2023 outpacing pre-pandemic levels, including Houston, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix, Denver, Nashville, Tennessee, and Tampa, Florida.
The ones that benefitted the most had fewer COVID-19 restrictions or lifted the restrictions earliest. But several other major U.S. cities — including the nation’s largest — are still fighting to fully regain 2019 travel volume.
“New York City’s tourism is back in full swing,” says Vijay Dandapani, president and CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City. But he quickly pivots to a caveat: “The operative word is ‘tourism.’ Business travel is nowhere near where it was.”
The lack of business travel is dragging down New York’s overall hotel occupancy rates. During peak spring break in April 2023, occupancy was down by several percentage points compared with the same month in 2019, according to STR data.
Experts are optimistic
Dandapani isn’t worried. His team predicts New York’s travel landscape won’t fully recover until 2024.
Collazo shares his optimism. Pointing to an increase in conferences and business travel this year, he emphasized the “big city” trip isn’t a thing of the past.
“There’s still appeal to go to New York City. There’s still appeal to go to New Orleans, Los Angeles,” he said.
In fact, Hawkins says her clients are so eager to travel that they are willing to spend more money on accommodations. (And they probably won’t have much choice since hotels cost about 15% more than they did before the pandemic.)
“I’m hearing from travelers that they want to go no matter what,” she says. “They’re spending money for nicer properties.”
Ultimately, that has turned out to be a feather in the cap for many New York hotels’ bottom lines, Dandapani pointed out.
“The luxury market just had bang-up numbers,” he says.
Business travelers are returning more slowly
The return of travel has been uneven since the end of the pandemic. Cities eased restrictions at different times and hotel occupancy rates have dragged, mostly due to the slow return of business travelers.
But if the demand for Europe and smaller markets in the U.S. this summer is any indication, city destinations will eventually rebound to be just as popular as they were before the pandemic.
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Indianapolis can be a great place to live for those who value a vibrant downtown, a big small-town atmosphere, and a four-season climate. However, like any city, Indianapolis has its pros and cons that should be considered before making the decision to move there. Some of the pros of living in Indianapolis include a strong sports culture, easy transportation, and proximity to other major cities. On the other hand, some of the cons of living in Indianapolis include challenging winters, traffic, and a flat landscape. Ultimately, the decision to live in Indianapolis will depend on individual preferences. So, whether you’re looking on Redfin to rent an apartment in Indianapolis or purchase a home in the area, keep reading to see if Indianapolis is the right place for you.
Pros of living in Indianapolis
1. Vibrant downtown
Downtown Indianapolis is home to a variety of attractions, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The area is known for its vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and music venues that cater to a wide range of tastes. Additionally, downtown Indianapolis is home to a number of major sports and event venues, including Lucas Oil Stadium, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, and Victory Field. The area also boasts a number of popular tourist attractions, such as the Indianapolis Zoo, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and the Indiana State Museum.
2. Sports culture
Indianapolis has a rich sports culture and is known for hosting several major sporting events throughout the year. The city is home to professional sports teams such as the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, the NBA’s Indiana Pacers, the WNBAs Indiana Fever, and minor league baseball team the Indianapolis Indians. In addition to these teams, Indianapolis is also known for hosting the world-famous Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year. The city is also home to the NCAA headquarters and hosts the NCAA basketball tournament each year, drawing thousands of visitors from all over the country. With such a strong presence in the world of sports, Indianapolis is a great place for sports enthusiasts to call home.
3. Easy transportation
Indianapolis has a fairly well-developed public transportation system, with several options for getting around the city. The city has a bus system, known as IndyGo, which covers most major areas of the city and has over thirty different bus routes. Additionally, Indianapolis has a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, known as the IndyGo Red Line, which runs from Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis. With a bike score of 43, Indianapolis has an extensive network of bike lanes and trails throughout the city, making it easy to get around on two wheels. Finally, the city is also easily accessible by car, with several major highways and interstates running through the area.
4. Proximity to other major cities
One of the advantages of living in Indianapolis is its proximity to other major cities in the Midwest. Located in the heart of Indiana, Indianapolis is within easy driving distance of several other major cities, including Chicago, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Chicago is just about a three-hour drive away, Cincinnati is located around two hours south of Indianapolis, and Louisville is around a two hour drive southeast. Being located so close to these other major cities means that Indianapolis residents have easy access to a wide variety of cultural attractions, entertainment venues, and opportunities outside of their own city.
5. Big, small-town vibe
Despite being a major city, Indianapolis maintains a “big, small-town” atmosphere that many residents appreciate. The city is known for its friendly and welcoming community, with a strong sense of Midwestern hospitality. The downtown area is walkable and easy to navigate and many neighborhoods have a cozy, small-town feel. Additionally, the city is known for its tight-knit neighborhoods, with residents often organizing community events and festivals. Some festivals in Indianapolis to check out include the Feast of Lanterns, 500 Festival, and Talbot Street Art Fair.
6. All four seasons
Indianapolis experiences all four seasons, making it an ideal location for those who enjoy a variety of weather conditions throughout the year. In the summer months, temperatures can reach into the 90s F°, with high humidity levels, making it a great time to enjoy water activities. Fall brings cooler temperatures and beautiful foliage, with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows covering the city’s trees. Winter in Indianapolis can be cold and snowy, with temperatures often dipping below freezing and several inches of snowfall each year lend for perfect winter sports. Finally, spring brings milder temperatures with blossoming flowers and greenery returning to the city’s parks and neighborhoods.
Cons of living in Indianapolis
7. Challenging winters
While Indianapolis experiences all four seasons, the winter months can be particularly challenging for residents. Temperatures often dip below freezing, with wind chills making it feel even colder. Snowfall can be significant, with several inches of accumulation common throughout the season, making driving and walking on sidewalks difficult. Despite these challenges, many residents of Indianapolis embrace the winter months and enjoy outdoor activities such as ice skating, sledding, and skiing.
8. Flat landscape
If you enjoy a varied or hilly landscape , Indianapolis may not be for you. The city is largely flat and lacks natural features of other cities, such as mountains or oceans. Additionally, the city’s architecture is largely utilitarian, with a focus on functionality over aesthetics. While there are certainly beautiful neighborhoods and buildings in Indianapolis, some may find the overall landscape to be less visually interesting than other cities.
9. Lack of outdoor recreational opportunities
While Indianapolis offers a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, some may find that the city lacks the expansive natural areas found in other cities. The city’s parks are generally smaller and the surrounding area is largely agricultural, with few opportunities for hiking, camping, or rock climbing. However, the city does have several beautiful trails, including the Monon Trail and the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Additionally, the city is within driving distance of several state and national parks, including the Hoosier National Forest and the Mammoth Cave National Park.
As landlords struggle to get people back into office buildings that emptied during the pandemic, some are turning to entertainment and other enticements such as yoga classes to woo wary workers.
At the Water Garden office complex in Santa Monica, a dance troupe has taken up residence and puts on free performances and classes for kids. Flower arranging classes are packed and the weekly tenants-only comedy show after work is a hot ticket. Musical performances by local artists are a lunchtime draw.
Farmers markets, concerts, art shows and other attractions for office tenants aren’t completely new, but they have taken on urgency as landlords and executives of companies occupying their buildings strive to get workers enthused about showing up.Some property owners are hiring “tenant experience managers.”
In most commercial buildings, only about half the workers show up at their offices on weekdays, key-card swipes reveal. Office leasing is also weak: Space rentals declined again last quarter to bring the overall total of unleased space in Los Angeles County to nearly 20%, well above the 12% rate before the pandemic.
To get workers in the office, “you need to find new ways to engage people,” said Bess Wyrick, head of programming at the Water Garden for property manager CBRE.
With daily office attendance not mandatory at many companies, “It’s no longer about trying to create a work-lifestyle balance,” she said. “It’s about creating a hybrid workplace where people are excited to come.”
Hybrid work patterns have spread widely since the pandemic shutdown of 2020. As companies bring workers back together, many have reduced the number of days their employees are required to be in the office, creating flexible combinations of office days and remote work days.
Cosmetic company L’Oréal Group demands that employees work in the office at least three times a week, on days of their choosing. L’Oréal sweetens the office experience with such comforts as a fitness center, restaurant, juice cafe and a cabana-like bar that serves coffee drinks and, depending on the occasion, alcohol.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger recently announced that employees working from home must return to the office Monday through Thursday starting March 1. Fridays are typically the least populated days for offices, research shows, and while most employees toil at home that day, a few companies are taking them off the business calendar altogether and working 32 hours a week.
Landlords are also keen to make offices appealing so tenants will keep renting space in their buildings.
The campus-like Water Garden was a dreary place after being devoid of occupants during the worst of the pandemic, Wyrick said. While they were gone, nearby businesses and restaurants nearby failed or left for other reasons.
“The area was a ghost town,” she said.
Wyrick’s first move was to arrange live performances by local musicians and dancers in the courtyard. Among the complex’s biggest tenants are retailer Amazon and technology firm Oracle.
One of Wyrick’s goals was to make the Water Garden a place people wanted to visit, including neighbors who could walk over to take in a mid-day concert or see pieces by local artists displayed and for sale in the lobbies of the four office buildings. Getting a buzz of life into the campus could help address a common chicken-and-egg complaint about going back to the office — people don’t want to go there if other people aren’t around.
Paying performers to appear, serving free food to tenants at holiday soirees and other planned events are part of a marketing strategy to get the property occupied, she said.
“We will lose money in the beginning,” she said, “but it drives people to put roots in the space.”
The key measure of success is leasing, and Water Garden has added tenants over the past 12 months. Its 1.4 million square feet of rental space is 86% leased, up from 72% leased a year ago, Wyrick said.
One of her leaps to enliven the place was to agree to an unusually short lease with a well-known dance company for an expansive first-floor space last occupied by a furniture showroom. In exchange, Jacob Jonas The Company agreed to engage with other tenants through free classes, performances and other events.
The nonprofit dance company has performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the Hollywood Bowl, as well as with such musical artists as Rosalia, Sia, Elton John and Britney Spears.
For years, the company was based in the Wallace Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The chance to dance in a working office complex built to the buttoned-down tastes of 1990s business executives holds special appeal to company founder Jacob Jonas, a Santa Monica native who got his start as a street performer on the Venice boardwalk at age 13.
“Our neighbors are some of the leading corporations in our country. There’s something really validating about that and sharing our work,” he said. “When you have people working behind a desk from 9 to 5 and then being able to expose them to creativity and expose them to art in such a unique setting, that crossover is rather beautiful.”
Workers and visitors at the Water Garden can take workshops in floral design, see weekly comedy shows and attend movie nights.
Nearly a fifth of the L.A. County’s office space was unleased at the end of last year, according to CBRE, and more empty space may hit the market soon as tenants hoping to save money try to sublease unwanted space due to concerns of a constricting economy and potential layoffs. Some are reducing their space because their employees are working remotely.
“The general consensus among most economists is we’re heading into a recession,” said Bradford Ortlund, a research manager at CBRE. Many companies are declining to expand their offices or reducing space as they wait for the economic picture to come into focus.
The nature of upmarket offices was already shifting before the pandemic as many landlords toned down the dramatic formality of their entrances originally intended to confer status and trustworthiness on the companies inside. As aloofness fell out of favor, owners set out to make their lobbies and courtyards places to linger and enjoy rather than simply pass through in awe.
Their desire to get people working remotely back into offices makes hotel-like hospitality freshly valuable, said the owners of U.S. Bank Tower, the tallest office building in Los Angeles at 72 stories.
It was built to be an imposing corporate cathedral in 1989, but landlord Silverstein Properties is close to completing a $60-million makeover intended to make it feel more like a laid-back hotel where tenants and visitors are invited to kick back. The lobby will include a cocktail and juice bar, a coffee bar, a grab-and-go market of packaged foods, communal tables, a large lounge with plush seating and cabanas to add a resort flair.
Staff will focus on hospitality, said tenant experience manager Melanie Navas. People’s names and birthdays are to be remembered. The 54th floor is a tenants-only lounge with a coffee bar and weekly breakfast spreads to help inspire a sense of community. There are yoga classes at the gym on the 57th floor with views of the city.
“The goal is to get people to feel like they want to come back to work and come back to the building,” she and, “and having them leave happy.”
Art is a top priority for Brookfield Properties, the largest owner of office space in downtown Los Angeles, which has a longstanding program of engagement with tenants. Permanent and rotating art displays are pleasant — and good for occupancy, said Bert Dezzutti, head of the western region for Brookfield.
“Younger workers are more likely to return to the office if they are around art,” he said, citing a survey Brookfield commissioned in the United Kingdom last year that also found that art and cultural activities improve people’s sense of wellbeing and makes them more productive at the office.
“One positive that has emerged from the tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic is a new focus on what makes a ‘happy’ workplace,” the survey report said. Findings suggest that workers want to work in spaces enriched by art, culture and wellness, which they believe promote creativity and contentment.
“The offices of the future must be more than machines for working in,” the report said, “they must cater to the rich inner life that we all possess.”
One youth-friendly program Brookfield puts on in L.A. is an annual music festival that follows the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Acts from the popular desert concert series appear after work on four August nights at a Brookfield office and retail complex near Crypto.com Arena.
Musicians from the Colburn School perform acoustic sets at another Brookfield property. There are DJ concerts open to all and wellness events for tenants that include skin care classes and meditative sound baths.
“We’re creating opportunities for people to interact,” Dezzutti said. “It’s all about engagement.”
Going on an African safari can be the chance of a lifetime to see some of the world’s most iconic wildlife up close, experience Earth’s extraordinary untouched corners, learn about new cultures and reconnect with nature.
A safari trip can also be the opportunity to make sustainable, responsible choices about how and where you travel, and to maximize the impact your travel spending has on conservation, community and environmental programs in various destinations.
Many travelers decide where to go on safari in Africa based on their schedules and the seasonality in individual regions — both in terms of the weather and the animals they will most likely see. Others focus on sighting specific species, resulting in visits to places like Rwanda or Uganda to trek and see mountain gorillas or trips to destinations like Kenya to observe the endangered pachyderms at a rhino sanctuary.
Sustainability can be another excellent factor in determining where you should go on safari, though. Many of the most reputable safari outfitters and camps put sustainability front and center in their operations, combining environmental practices, conservation commitments and community outreach to create the ultimate holistic travel experience.
Doing a little research on the regions you are considering for a safari and the specific tour operators and lodges in your chosen location can make a huge difference in the effect your tourism dollars have on things like wildlife preservation campaigns, economic development in local villages and minimizing the overall environmental footprint of your individual journey.
Unlike some other forms of travel that let you book certain components — flights, hotels, cruises, etc. — a la carte by yourself, many safari companies require you to book the bulk of your trip (if not all of it) through them or a partner agency or operator. Because of this, you can ask these representatives about their sustainability track records and even specific programs while planning your trip. Any reliable operator should have materials on hand to send you to help you make your decision.
Here are some of the factors you can investigate to determine just how sustainable your safari can be, plus some of the safari companies undertaking meaningful measures in this sphere by weaving principles of environmental consciousness, wildlife protection and community development into their core ethos and operations.
For North American and European travelers, going on an African safari typically necessitates carbon-intensive long-haul flights and sometimes additional bush flights to reach remote regions. In order to limit the rest of your carbon footprint while on safari, look into the eco-credentials of the camps or outfitters you are considering.
Many safari camps, for instance, now run mostly or even entirely on solar power. At both andBeyond Nxabega and andBeyond Xaranna in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, 80% of the camps’ total electricity consumption is supplied by solar photovoltaic plants and Tesla Powerpack battery energy storage systems.
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Nearby, Wilderness’ Chitabe and Mombo camps run on 100% solar (as do 17 of the company’s other camps), and Wilderness has plans to retrofit and invest in further solar power for all new camps and camp refurbishments. Not only is that great for the environment, but it’s also the best means of ensuring an uninterrupted power supply to guests in an area with little other infrastructure.
Cheetah Plains, an exclusive-use safari villa in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, now uses Toyota Land Cruiser electric safari vehicles with Tesla batteries that are charged via solar power to whisk guests across the reserve’s thousands of acres, creating a zero-emission game drive.
In Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park, Usangu Expedition Camp is steering a different path, developing safari vehicles that run on ethanol, which is derived from molasses produced in the southern part of the country, instead of diesel. The staff even calls the vehicles “Gongos,” a type of traditional Tanzanian gin, since the ethanol looks and smells like the spirit.
But alternative power and fuel are just the start. For its part, Chitabe recycled the wood from an old set of raised walkways to create a chic bar and lounge area for its current guests. What’s old is new again … and looking better than ever.
Many recently built and forthcoming safari camps are being constructed using both traditional materials and techniques, such as thatching and weaving completed by local artisans, and up-to-the-minute technologies like 3D printing and innovative recycling methods utilizing salvaged materials to limit their physical footprint.
Time + Tide Chinzombo in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park was designed to be completely dismantled if necessary so as to leave a minimal trace on the landscape, and Wilderness is currently constructing a new tented camp in Botswana’s Mbabe concession called Mokete that can be completely disassembled as if it had never been there.
Simple measures can have a large impact as well. Camps like Wilderness’ DumaTau and sister Little DumaTau in Botswana’s riverine Linyanti region provide guests with Healing Earth’s all-natural, biodegradable bath and body products during their stay to minimize harmful runoff from the camp’s water management system.
For its part, the Elewana Collection of lodges in Kenya and Tanzania launched its “Ban the bottle” initiative in 2018, giving guests reusable water bottles that they can fill up at stations in the camps. The outfitter estimates that doing so in just six of its Kenyan lodges saves around 160,000 plastic bottles from going into landfills each year.
Elewana also dropped plastic straws the following year. Even more fun for Elewana guests is the opportunity to toss out seed balls (little nutrient packs that encase seeds of Indigenous plants) during a walk or game drive somewhere along their journey so they’re doing their little part to help revegetate the wild places they are enjoying.
It seems obvious, but without wildlife, there wouldn’t be safari camps. For that reason, many safari companies actively support and participate in wildlife conservation efforts, some of which are specific to individual regions while others are more widespread.
Guests at andBeyond’s Tengile River Lodge and Kirkman’s Kamp, which are near each other in South Africa’s Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, can certainly get a thrill sighting the area’s thriving lion and leopard populations on game drives. However, guests may not know that their guides are also logging those sightings and providing the information to Panthera, an organization dedicated to tracking and protecting big cat populations around the world.
Various other andBeyond camps, including Phinda Private Game Reserve and Ngala Safari Lodge, help fund rhinoceros anti-poaching units. Guests at Ngala can even observe researchers tagging rhinos’ ears with microchips to help monitor the highly endangered animals. These are individual initiatives, but they are all part of andBeyond’s overarching commitment to conservation and community projects that it supports through its Africa Foundation.
Likewise, Elewana Collection has a charitable arm called The Land & Life Foundation that underwrites various efforts such as the Wildlife Warrior Program, which has clubs in primary schools throughout Kenya and Tanzania. The children who join can take part in activities to learn more about environmental and animal conservation. The club currently counts around 2,200 members and even provides primary and secondary educational scholarships to many of them.
High-end safari company Singita, which has lodges in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Rwanda, established its Singita Conservation Foundation decades ago with a 100-year plan to protect Africa’s wildlife and wilderness for future generations. These days, it partners with other nonprofit trusts and funds on a plethora of projects, including rhino reintroduction and protection in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve in Zimbabwe, land management and anti-poaching efforts in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and combating invasive vegetation as well as helping in the recovery of megafauna like elephants and buffaloes in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
Community improvement projects
Without buy-in from local communities, conservation efforts would go nowhere. Those who live in or near game reserves and national parks need to benefit from the tourism revenue that these natural wonders generate. That’s why many safari companies’ conservation drives include community-based components.
One telltale sign that a safari company is supporting the communities where it operates in a meaningful way is simply through employment. Specifically, whether its camps employ people from the villages or regions that surround them in high proportions. Not only is this a boon for economic stability and growth in places that might otherwise be destitute, but it ensures that tourism dollars stay in the area and benefit the people who live there.
Many safari companies’ commitments to communities go beyond employment, though. Praveen Moman, who grew up in Uganda before his family had to emigrate to the United Kingdom, founded Volcanoes Safaris in 1997, pioneering the high-end safari experience in both Uganda and Rwanda.
While the Volcanoes Safaris’ lodges have become mainstays for both gorilla and chimpanzee trekking, it is perhaps the company’s nonprofit organization, the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust, that will be its most lasting legacy. The trust supports preservation efforts for the great apes of the region, but it also underwrites innovative, community-based programs that guests are encouraged to explore during their stays at the lodges.
“When I set up Volcanoes Safaris in 1997 in southern Uganda and then in 2000 in neighboring Rwanda, the area was just coming out of the Great Lakes conflict,” Moman told TPG via email. “This experience made me realize how important it was to not only focus on the lodges we were building and the gorilla and chimpanzee experience that we wanted our guests to enjoy, but also that local people need to get tangible economic benefits from conservation and ecotourism for them to support the great apes.”
“Therefore,” he continued, “I felt that it was important that the lodges should be connected to the communities around them. In each lodge, we have set up different community projects.”
At Volcanoes Safaris’ Virunga Lodge in Rwanda, for instance, guests can take a guided afternoon walk through several villages near Lake Bulera to see firsthand the impact of projects such as the “One sheep per family” program, which provides one sheep to each family in three nearby villages (more than 500 so far), thereby supplying them with sources of meat and milk along with natural fertilizer for their sustenance crops.
The lodge has also donated 250-plus water tanks to families in these villages, which help in the catchment of the region’s abundant rainfall and ensure that there is a steady supply of water for drinking and crop irrigation during the dry season.
In Livingstone, Zambia, near Victoria Falls, Tongabezi, which is an elegant lodge along the banks of a tranquil stretch of the Zambezi River, has underwritten the Tongabezi Trust School (also known as Tujatane) since 1996, providing education and meals to children who live within walking distance of the academy. There are currently nearly 300 children between the ages of 3 and 17 enrolled, all of whom can take advantage of the classes and curriculum, as well as the music, sports, arts and computer facilities. What’s more, the school provides funding to send some of the children on to secondary schools and even universities, ensuring a new generation of leaders and professionals with a commitment to the local community.
In Botswana, both andBeyond Nxabega and andBeyond Xaranna share several community-based projects, including the drilling of water boreholes for the communities of Gogomaga and Tsutsubega so that their inhabitants have steady sources of usable water; and funding a school in the rural farming village of Sexaxa near Maun (where the area’s main airport is) so children no longer need to walk three hours, some of it through dangerous terrain, to attend the nearest school.
Ongoing outreach and individual community projects aside, several safari companies have established philanthropic organizations or arms with a broader purview of economic development and social services not just in the areas where they operate, but in entire countries or regions.
Micato Safaris is one of the best-known luxury safari operators, partnering with premier lodges from multiple companies in Africa and Asia to create bespoke itineraries for its guests. However, it also underwrites AmericaShare, which was founded by a Micato Safaris employee named Lorna Macleod more than 35 years ago to support both community development and access to education in Mukuru, one the largest informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya.
Today, the philanthropy operates the Harambee Community Centre, which has library and computer facilities as well as recreational grounds, in Mukuru itself. Residents can come for a quiet place to study or work, look for employment and take advantage of other services. AmericaShare also supplies fresh, drinkable water in the area via multiple distribution points.
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Students hard at work at AmericaShare’s Harambee Community Centre. ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY
Guests who go on safari with Micato in Kenya get to visit the community center to learn more about its efforts and meet students who have benefited from AmericaShare’s various educational undertakings during their stay. Those include supplying school uniforms to local children, sponsoring scholarships to primary and secondary schools, and sending some of the most vulnerable children to private boarding schools around Nairobi. In fact, for every safari the company sells, Micato provides the funds to send a child to primary school.
Micato also supports other efforts like Huru International, which supplies sanitary kits and reproductive health education materials to young women (more than 210,000 to date) throughout East Africa who might otherwise have to miss school or work due to the lack of reproductive health services in rural communities. By empowering women to take their health into their own hands, Huru helps them support their families and communities (not to mention cultivating their own careers) in ways that would not otherwise be possible.
For its part, one of the most targeted yet impactful ways Wilderness carries out its conservation mission beyond the day-to-day and lodge-specific measures it takes is through its Children in the Wilderness program, which was founded in 2001.
The program aims to cultivate new generations of homegrown conservation leaders in Africa’s rural communities by hosting student clubs at schools with activities that focus on environmental sustainability and wildlife education. Children in the Wilderness even brings kids to one of its camps on a yearly basis (7,800 to date) so they can learn firsthand about the importance of wildlife conservation. The program provides scholarships to high-achieving students, and some even return to become guides with Wilderness.
On a recent trip to Botswana, my guide at Little DumaTau, Segopotso Oja (See for short), was a former participant of Children in the Wilderness. “I was born and raised in a small village called Eretsha, located in the eastern Okavango Panhandle,” Oja told me later by email when I contacted him after my trip to ask more about his experience with Children in the Wilderness.
“Wilderness works closely with the community in this area, and when I was 10 years old, I was given the opportunity to join a Children in the Wilderness Eco-Camp,” Oja continued. “Here I grew to learn about and love the wild, and recognize the importance of protecting our wilderness, and this experience inspired me to pursue a career as a guide.”
Spending time in the bush helps combat some of the negative portrayals of wild animals that village children are typically taught, Oja told me. “Once they explore the wilderness, this opens their minds and changes their way of thinking to realize the value of conservation and that there are other career opportunities available to them in the conservation and hospitality space.”
That’s the path that Oja himself took. He has since worked as a guide not only at Little DumaTau, but also two other Wilderness camps, Vumbura Plains and Mombo.
Oja also views his continuing role as an ambassador for Children in the Wilderness as crucial to the work he does and the future of conservation. “It gives me a chance to meet with youngsters when we host them in our camps,” Oja said, “and pass over the love of being a conservationist to the younger generation.”
Minimize your footprint and maximize your impact
Aside from picking a safari company with sustainability efforts you want to support, there are a few things you can do as a traveler to make your safari adventure more sustainable.
Long flights produce a lot of carbon, so you could consider a carbon offsetting scheme to reduce the footprint from your journey to your safari destination.
Don’t overpack since bush flights on small planes mean your luggage will be restricted anyway. What’s more, many safari camps provide free daily laundry, so you don’t have to bring too many outfits along. Plus, by limiting your luggage, you’ll reduce the amount of fuel burned on the planes carrying you to your various camps.
Among those clothes, make sure you bring some made from fabric with sun protection factor. That will reduce the amount of plastic-packaged sunblock you need to bring along. Opt for mineral-based sunscreens (look for those labeled as “reef-safe”) rather than conventional ones since the latter have chemicals that might be harmful to the environment as well as your own body chemistry, according to an increasing body of scientific evidence.
You might also want to leave your usual shampoo and conditioner at home since safari camps tend to provide eco-friendly, biodegradable products that are easier to manage waste-wise in the fragile ecosystems where they operate.
Finally, while safaris tend to be expensive, think about whether you can factor in a charitable donation to your budget. After all, if you’ve done your homework and picked a company with sustainability efforts you support, you might want to do just a little bit more good during your trip by making an unrestricted donation to the measures the group has underway.
While on the West Coast, homes in the $20 million range compete in cutting-edge amenities and intricate home design, heading to the Rocky Mountains introduces us to a whole new type of ultra-luxury: the type that comes with massive acreage and tons of history.
That’s the case with Colorado’s iconic Redstone Castle — a 153-acre property known as one of the state’s most storied monuments — which was listed for sale back in 2020 with a $19.75 million price tag and sold in April 2022 for $11,975,000.
Set in the town that inspired its name, Redstone Castle (also known as the Ruby of the Rockies, Cleveholm, or Osgood Castle), the massive estate is 48 miles away from Aspen.
The property includes a carriage house, garages, and horse arena, plus early water rights and the right to build 20,000 square feet of additional cabins or cottages in private, wooded areas on the estate’s grounds.
“Redstone Castle is one of the most regal and oldest mansions in the Colorado Rockies,” said Chris Souki with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, who represented the property when it came to market.
“It’s a true piece of history. The irreplaceability of the castle, combined with the acreage, pristine setting and value created through the mindful stewardship of the current owners, make this property an incredible opportunity.”
Built in 1902, the historic property was brought to modern standards by its former owners, identified by The Denver Post as April and Steven Carver.
With visions of returning the castle to its original glory, they took meticulous care to preserve the 42-room, 24,000 square-foot home, bringing it into the modern era with all-new bathrooms, updated kitchen and infrastructure.
The renovated interiors today reflect the same air of European opulence from a century ago: leather embossed walls, Tiffany-designed chandeliers, aluminum leaf ceilings and frieze, linen-lined walls by Italian artists, and 14 fireplaces with imported marble and tile.
The history of Redstone Castle, Colorado
Perched on the edge of the Crystal River and surrounded by dramatic red cliffs, cascading waterfalls and 100-year-old pine trees, Redstone Castle (also known as Cleveholm or Osgood Castle) has maintained a towering presence in Colorado history — and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The iconic Tudor-style mansion was built by coal magnate John Cleveland Osgood in 1902 and became a beloved hunting and gaming destination for America’s most powerful dignitaries of the day, including Teddy Roosevelt, J.P. Morgan and the Rockefellers.
Osgood, at the time one of the country’s richest men, based the castle’s design on the ancestral home of his wife, Alma, and fitted its lush interiors with antique European furniture and work by Gustav Stickley and Louis Comfort Tiffany.
When John Cleveland Osgood’s prosperity ended, the coal magnate moved away from the area, only to return to Redstone Castle in the late 1920s, to spend his remaining years there.
After Osgood’s passing, his wife tried to convert the house into a resort, but the Great Depression made that economically unviable; however, later owners were able to run it as a hotel into the 1990s.
By 2003, the property ended up in the possession of the state, and the IRS auctioned it off online in March 2005.
Locals feared that a developer might buy the property and demolish the existing structure, but the winning bidder, Ralli Dimitrius, restored it and reopened it for tours, bringing much-needed tourist traffic to Redstone.
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Redstone Castle on the big screen: the house in ‘The Prestige’
Now, if you’ve never even been to Colorado, but the house still seems oddly familiar, there’s a good reason for that.
Redstone Castle has had quite a memorable big screen presence, as the home was used in Christopher Nolan’s 2006 movie, The Prestige.
The $40-million movie about turn-of-the-century rival magicians starred a stellar cast that included the likes of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and David Bowie.
According to the Post Independent, the Colorado scenes were filmed mostly at the Redstone Castle and along the road toward Marble, bringing together a 110-people crew to the area to shoot the scenes on location.
The Colorado castle’s future as a wellness center
In April 2022, Redstone Castle finally found its buyer — after nearly two years on the market.
Stephane De Baets of RC Ownership LLC bought the property for Elevated Returns and announced plans to open a wellness resort at the 25,127-square-foot property, according to The Aspen Times.
The $11.9 million sale ushers in a new chapter for the 120-year-old property, which will live on as a hideaway wellness retreat.
According to Redstone Castle’s new owner, an agreement has been reached with Thailand-based RAKxa Wellness, and the hospitality company will be opening an upscale spa retreat on the property known as the Ruby of the Rockies.
*Note: This article was originally published in September 2020, when the Colorado castle was first listed for sale. It was later updated to reflect the recent sale and to include information on the new owner’s plans for the property.
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One of the most magnificent mansions in all of California, Hearst Castle has a rich history that captivates audiences just as much as its striking architecture.
Built more than a quarter mile above the Pacific Ocean, the California castle that was formerly known as La Cuesta Encantada (Spanish for The Enchanted Hill), is a historic estate in San Simeon, Calif.
Perched on a hill halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles along the Central Coast of California, Hearst Castle was originally built as a private home for publishing tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst, who was one of the wealthiest people alive at the time, is said to have been the inspiration for Orson Welles’ iconic Citizen Kane movie — whose protagonist lived in “the world’s largest private estate,” called Xanadu.
While Welles’ portrayal of Hearst was less than favorable, Xanadu — a name inspired by the ancient city of Xanadu, known for its splendor, and later picked up by Bill Gates as a moniker for his longtime home near Seattle, WA — captured the grandeur of the publishing magnate’s palatial estate.
Now, one century after W.R. Hearst started building his opulent home, Hearst Castle is registered as a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark — and is welcoming visitors who want to revel in its illustrious past.
So we thought we’d delve into the storied history of one of the grandest private homes ever built in the Golden State.
The history of Hearst Castle
Construction of Hearst Castle took nearly thirty years, from 1919 until 1947.
Conceived by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and his trusted architect Julia Morgan, Hearst Castle would become a mansion worthy of one of the wealthiest men alive at the time (named Casa Grande).
The main estate was surrounded by three guesthouses (called Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte and Casa del Sol).
But the property traces its history all the way back to 1865, when William Randolph Hearst’s father George Hearst purchased the original forty thousand acre estate and Camp Hill, the site for the future castle.
In 1919, William Randolph Hearst inherited $11 million and the family’s estates — including the land where his future castle would sit on.
With his fortune, Hearst created a publishing empire of newspapers, magazines and radio stations.
To this day, the Hearst family remains involved in the ownership of Hearst Communications. Some of their common-day magazines include ELLE, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, O, the Oprah Magazine,and Men’s Health, as well as newspapers such as San Francisco Chronicle and The Advocate, and websites such as Delish.com and BestProducts.com.
But, back to the castle.
Due to the popularity of his publishing empire, Hearst was financially able to build his dream house. And with the help of “America’s first truly independent female architect,” Hearst and Julia Morgan began dreaming up Hearst Castle.
Morgan was a pioneer.
The first woman to study architecture at the School of Beaux-Arts in Paris and the first to have her own architectural practice in California, she was also the first female winner of the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal.
For over twenty years, Hearst and Morgan collaborated as close friends and business equals on the grand castle, making it her most well-known creation.
Hearst Castle’s many rooms and endless amenities
The end result was beyond spectacular: when it was finally completed, the Hearst estate had a total of 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, and 19 sitting rooms.
The sprawling grounds of the castle spanned 127 acres, encompassing gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, its own private theater (a rarity back in the day), and an airfield.
The pools alone are so magnificent they’d warrant a visit to the castle just to revel in their beauty.
The Roman Pool — the castle’s indoor pool — was built to mimic an ancient Roman bath.
Featuring shimmery glass mosaic tiles inspired by the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy (created by British muralist Camille Solon, according to Architectural Digest), the pool resembles a mesmerizing sea of blue and gold.
The outdoor Neptune Pool — which has its own Wikipedia page — was built and rebuilt three times, each version a larger size.
In its now final form, the pool is 104 feet long, surrounded by Ancient Roman Revival and Greek Revival style pavilions and colonnades with 17th-century bas-reliefs.
During Hearst’s lifetime, the property was also home to the world’s private zoo.
Even today, visitors who tour the castle are taken aback by its grandeur.
A tour of the grand rooms of the Hearst Castle will have you walking 2 to 3 miles to visit just the essential places, like the Assembly Room, Refectory, Morning Room, Billiard Room and Theater. But the effort would be worth it, as you’d be stepping in the footprints of some the most well-known people of the 20th century.
Who lived (and socialized) at Hearst Castle?
Hearst Castle was originally built as a family home for Hearst, his wife, vaudeville performer Millicent Willson, and their five sons.
But after years of Hearst’s longtime affair with actress Marion Davies, the couple separated.
With Millicent out of the picture, Davies moved into the castle and the couple hosted A-list parties with some of Hollywood’s elite stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Mary Pickford, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Buster Keaton and Clark Gable, to name just a few.
Politicians such as US President Calvin Coolidge and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, as well as other notables including Charles Lindbergh, P. G. Wodehouse, and Bernard Shaw were also guests at the castle.
Typically, guests gathered at Casa Grande for beverages in the Assembly Room and dinner in the Refectory.
During the day, guests were left to fend for themselves and enjoy the elaborate grounds. They played tennis, went horseback riding, and played croquet or golf while enjoying the views.
Of course, everyone packed their swim trunks for a dip in the outdoor pool. And in the evening, guests watched the latest Hollywood films in the private theatre before retiring to the luxurious accommodations provided by the guest houses of Casa del Mar, Casa del Monte, and Casa del Sol.
None other than Charlie Chaplin once commented on the impeccable hospitality he experienced at Hearst Castle.
“Dinners were elaborate, pheasant, wild duck, partridge and venison,” Chaplin reportedly said. “[Yet served] amidst the opulence, we were served paper napkins, it was only when Mrs. Hearst was in residence that the guests were given linen ones.”
During the elaborate social gatherings, Morgan continued to build the castle until its completion in 1947.
Hearst died in 1951 at the age of 88.
What happened to the castle after Hearst’s death?
As they say, all good things must come to an end.
After Hearst’s death, his longtime lover, Marion Davies (who was excluded from his funeral) was forced to move out.
And his trusted architect and close friend, Julia Morgan, closed her San Francisco office after a successful 42-year career and reportedly became a virtual recluse until her death in 1957.
In 1958, the Hearst Corporation donated Hearst Castle — including the gardens and most of its contents — to the state of California.
That same year, Hearst Castle was opened to the public for the first time.
In 1972, Hearst Castle was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1976 it became a United States National Historic Landmark.
Currently, at Hearst Castle…
You’d think Hearst Castle would be a hot location for Hollywood films.
However, commercial filming at the castle is rare. Since 1957, only two big projects have been granted permission to film here.
In 1960, Stanley Kubrick’s film Spartacus used the castle to stand in as Crassus’ villa, and in 2014, Lady Gaga‘s music video for G.U.Y. was filmed at the Neptune and Roman Pools.
Since its opening in 1958, Hearst Castle has become a major California tourist attraction, attracting crowds of close to one million people every year.
Who owns Hearst Castle?
While the Hearst family maintains a connection with the castle, the estate is now a historical landmark owned and operated by the California State Park system.
In 2019, socialite Amanda Hearst, W. R. Hearst’s great-granddaughter, married Norwegian film director Joachim Rønning at the castle (which was closed to the public only for that one day).
But the castle is now a museum open to the public as a California State Park and registered as a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark.
And it’s quite a spectacular spot.
From a north-facing terrace, visitors can look out into the Santa Lucia Mountains and as far as Junipero Serra Peak.
Not to mention the art.
There are four original 16th-century tapestries from the Deeds of Scipio Africanus series hanging on the walls of the Assembly Room, CNN reports.
With most of the original objects on display, Hearst Castle is a magnificent museum not to be missed if you’re in the San Simeon area.
And if you happen to be planning a visit to San Simeon, with the Hearst Castle as the main attraction, here’s a handy map with all your accommodation options nearby:
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There’s never been a better time to visit Atlanta, the culinary, cultural and social heart of the Peach State. The diverse and thriving city is home to friendly faces, a cool nightlife scene and plenty of art and pop culture, not to mention fantastic dining and drinking. Even when it’s not the infamously sticky, sultry summertime season, the vibe and people are warm.
Appropriately enough, considering it’s the hub of Delta Air Lines and home to the world’s busiest airport, Atlanta is also a destination with many top-tier hotels. The very best are extensions of the city’s exciting, youthful energy, with a major dose of ultra-luxury hospitality and sublime service.
With so many options sprinkled throughout the city, which should you consider for your next trip? Here are our top nine hotels in the Hollywood of the South, from swanky properties in the elegant Buckhead neighborhood to historical marvels in ATL’s bustling downtown.
Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead
Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
WALDORF ASTORIA ATLANTA BUCKHEAD/FACEBOOK
Best for: A glossy hideaway just steps from the city’s best designer shopping.
Why stay here: The renovated-in-2022 vibe here exudes luxury in every sense of the word, from the personal concierge to the 15,000-square-foot spa and English gardens.
Best way to book: Book through our partner Skylark to earn Hilton points while enjoying elite-like benefits and on-property credits, or redeem your points by booking directly through Hilton.
Think of this sumptuous Hilton hotel as your dream home away from home, as it looks grand but feels intimate and residential. The 127 guest rooms and suites — including the crown jewel, a 2,340-square-foot presidential suite with a fireside lounge and two private terraces — were recently redesigned by BHDM Design to feature Atlanta-appropriate details such as dogwood-inspired carpet and local contemporary art.
This Waldorf Astoria accomplishes its “city within the forest” vibe partly because of its pervasive natural palette that incorporates rich woods, marble and blooming flora. The Waldorf Astoria Spa, a spectacularly large wellness destination, continues this soothing style in its 13 recently renovated treatment rooms, where guests can enjoy body wraps, baths and massages. There are even a full gym and a 60-foot saline lap pool overlooking an English garden for those who wish to maintain their fitness regimens during their stays.
Though dozens of Buckhead’s best restaurants are close by, the signature all-day restaurant Brassica — opened in 2022 — has already established itself as a hot spot for French brasserie favorites made with a Southern twist. The hotel serves a decadent afternoon tea, too.
For those in town for business, there are a dozen meeting rooms, including a nearly 2,000-square-foot ballroom. Keep in mind, though, that these spaces will be temporarily unavailable while they’re refurbished in late 2023.
Rates at the Waldorf Astoria Atlanta Buckhead start at $416 or 90,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta
Downtown, Atlanta, Georgia
THE RITZ-CARLTON, ATLANTA/FACEBOOK
Best for: True Southern hospitality that’s elevated a few notches.
Why stay here: Choose this Ritz-Carlton property to be in the middle of downtown’s action while gaining access to see-and-be-seen restaurants, a well-equipped gym and all the cushy amenities that come with a club-level accommodation.
Best way to book: Book through our partner Skylark to earn Marriott points while enjoying elite-like benefits and on-property credits, or redeem your points by booking directly through Marriott.
Bourbon lovers, this hotel is for you. At this deluxe bolthole, you’ll find one of the best bourbon selections around, though the property’s appeal goes beyond that specific spirit.
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AG, the hotel’s steakhouse and bar, has a mixology room in addition to some of the best Southern-style meat and locally sourced ingredients around. Also, there’s an outpost of the Athens, Georgia, cafe Jittery Joe’s for those who have morning munchies and crave micro-roasted coffee.
The Atlanta outpost of this beloved Marriott brand is the longest-operating hotel in The Ritz-Carlton portfolio, and it’s had plenty of TLC over the years. Its 444 rooms and suites were last reimagined in 2018 to feature decor inspired by afternoons in Piedmont Park and shades drawn from the city’s skyscrapers.
There’s an entire wellness level, too, for guests who wish to stay in rooms equipped with extra amenities such as Pure air purification systems, light and sound therapy machines, yoga mats, foam rollers and stability balls. These rooms also come with access to a healthy honor bar and complimentary transportation to local gyms, though you can also take advantage of the on-site fitness center.
If you desire an extra dose of luxury, splurge on a room that grants access to The Ritz-Carlton’s club lounge. The space feels like its own miniature boutique hotel, offering a dedicated concierge, as well as free perks like garment pressing, wine and five daily culinary presentations.
Beyond 17,000-plus square feet of meeting and event space, another major draw of this property is, no doubt, its location. It sits minutes away from the Georgia Aquarium, Centennial Olympic Park and Mercedes-Benz Stadium, among other popular Atlanta attractions and venues.
Rates at The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta start at $270 or 41,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton
Downtown, Atlanta, Georgia
CHRISTINE GATTI/THE CANDLER HOTEL/FACEBOOK
Best for: Exceptional service and divine rooms in a glamorous landmark building.
Why stay here: In the few years since it opened, this graceful hotel inside a 1906 landmark built by a Coca-Cola tycoon has become so dependably spectacular that most guests become return visitors.
Best way to book: Book directly through Hilton to earn or redeem Hilton Honors points and enjoy any elite benefits.
Thanks in part to staff that time and time again, go above and beyond for their guests, this relative newcomer to the Atlanta hotel scene — it opened in late 2019 — has won the hearts of many. Consistently impeccable service makes it a shining star, even in a somewhat less obvious location on Peachtree Street.
Occupying a circa-1906 beaux-arts high-rise by magnate Asa Griggs Candler, this Curio Collection is a real stunner on the inside. Prepare to be wowed by the graceful entry experience ensconced in marble, plus the various tasteful, appealing details throughout that masterfully blend the past with the present.
The 265 guest rooms and suites feel decisively current, featuring a user-friendly blend of glamorous — see the spa-like bathrooms and dark floral curtains — and comfortable. The pet-friendly property also has a fitness center and offers room service.
By George is the three-meal restaurant now embodying the building’s former Central Bank and Trust. It’s the perfect extension of the hotel, as it’s also staffed by welcoming, helpful people who make the experience of dining on Southern preparations of seasonal American dishes and well-made cocktails a true pleasure.
Rates at The Candler Hotel Atlanta, Curio Collection by Hilton start at $145 or 47,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta
Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia
DON RIDDLE/FOUR SEASONS
Best for: Immaculately elegant, perfectly pampered escapes from Atlanta’s highly trafficked metropolis.
Why stay here: Details, details, details. Location, location, location. This top-tier hotel does it all (think: child-size bathrobes, a small-batch spirits cocktail bar and warm cookies during turndown service) in an excellent neighborhood.
Best way to book: Book through our partner Skylark to enjoy elite-like benefits and on-property credits, via your favorite credit card travel portal or directly through the property.
Four Seasons fans can safely expect a property that beautifully epitomizes the brand’s values when checking into this midtown Atlanta hotel, ideally positioned near the High Museum of Art and Piedmont Park. The Southern twist is offering even more charming service than you might anticipate, like a house car at the ready.
No matter which of the 244 spacious rooms or suites you choose, you’ll find soothing, elegant decor with pops of vibrant color, plus curated artwork and deep soaking tubs. The recently launched Wellness Immersion program is an especially appealing add-on. It provides extras like in-room exercise equipment (even a Peloton by request), 24-hour access to fitness classes, a next-level bath kit, personalized menus and a sound machine and/or Dyson air purifier.
For additional relaxation outside your room, make your way to the luxurious spa, which has numerous treatments, including a full-body massage that features locally-made products. Or, retreat to the indoor pool to cool off on a hot Atlanta day.
As for dining, you’ll likely be more than satisfied with the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta’s options. Park 75 is the place for an indulgent Sunday brunch, while Bar Margot, the property’s cocktail den, serves soulful food, as well as a plant-based menu with vegan versions of international dishes. Poolside dining and 24-hour room service are also available.
Rates at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta start at $476 per night.
The St. Regis Atlanta
Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
THE ST. REGIS ATLANTA/FACEBOOK
Best for: A splurge-worthy staycation or holiday where you receive a glass of bubbly at check-in, have access to on-call butlers and can enjoy a sun-soaked pool.
Why stay here: This Buckhead hotel is intimate when it comes to room count but features plenty of appealing amenities — including several restaurants, poolside food and drink service, and a pampering spa — so you can stay put and chill.
Best way to book: Book through our partner Skylark to earn Marriott points while enjoying elite-like benefits and on-property credits, or redeem your points by booking directly through Marriott.
Oh, the sublime joys of a St. Regis butler: the unpacking and packing, the shoeshines, the book fetching with a smile at any time, day and night. The luxury of a stay at this revamped hotel in ritzy Buckhead — a designer shopper’s dream — is not only in the service but also in the physical details.
The 151 cream-toned rooms and 31 spacious suites are decked out with white marble bathrooms and plush, high-thread-count beds. Some have Juliet balconies, while others come with larger furnished balconies. Details every modern-day traveler will appreciate include stocked minibars, 65-inch flat-screen TVs and iPads that control everything from room thermostats to curtains to butler requests.
There are five dining venues at the popular wedding destination, including Astor Court, where weekend high tea feels appropriate and contemporary Southern fare is served for breakfast, brunch and lunch. With its fireplace, The St. Regis Bar is the coziest option for small plates and martinis, while Atlas Buckhead is the local farm-inspired dinner gem where beautiful dishes are served in the company of canvases by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse.
The naturally lit fitness facility is generously equipped with state-of-the-art machines. However, for vacations, there’s nowhere like the seasonal Pool Piazza, complete with a poolside bar, a Jacuzzi and a heated outdoor pool surrounded by loungers. The massive spa is another can’t-miss spot, as it has a Vichy shower, a sauna with a Himalayan salt wall and a full menu of treatments ranging from nail services and waxing to results-oriented facials and body scrubs.
Rates at The St. Regis Atlanta start at $577 or 52,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta
Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
INTERCONTINENTAL BUCKHEAD ATLANTA/FACEBOOK
Best for: Well-heeled jet-setters who are ready to be wowed.
Why stay here: Pristine guest rooms, a resort-worthy outdoor saltwater pool, complimentary car service in the vicinity and a mouthwatering brunch complete with a bloody mary cart and live music are a few reasons why this hotel is universally beloved.
Best way to book: Book directly through IHG to earn or redeem IHG One Rewards points and enjoy any elite benefits.
A leafy, lush rotunda lobby with striking rose marble floors and large-scale artworks sets the cosmopolitan chic tone for this large hotel that’s within walking distance of the popular Lenox Square mall. It’s fresh off a reimagining that also covered the 422 guest rooms, which feel incredibly up-to-date and high-tech, not to mention sumptuous thanks to touchy-feely fabrics and Byredo toiletries.
While the standard rooms will more than suffice if you’re sticking to a budget, if you can pay a little more, it’s worth booking one of the custom artwork-studded club rooms on the higher floors. These accommodations come with privileges to the 21st-floor club lounge, where complimentary breakfast and evening cocktails are served daily.
Dark and sexy, The Americano is an authentic Italian steakhouse from James Beard Award-winning chef Scott Conant, who elevates classic plates of pasta and perfectly prepares steaks and seafood. The adjoining bar is a see-and-be-seen kind of spot for specialty cocktails and small bites, while Caffé Americano off the lobby is an indoor-outdoor stop for breakfasts that guarantee to start your day well.
If you’re in need of some pampering, head to the small spa for decadent treatments like lavender mud wraps. There’s a comprehensive fitness center, too, and a heated outdoor saltwater swimming pool and whirlpool await on the second floor. There are also numerous meeting rooms, including two ballrooms, making the hotel a popular place for both business and pleasure functions.
Rates at the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta start at $304 or 52,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Loews Atlanta Hotel
Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia
LOEWS ATLANTA HOTEL/FACEBOOK
Best for: A finely balanced stay where you’ll find in-suite Peloton bikes and locally sourced Southern cuisine.
Why stay here: Sitting pretty in midtown Atlanta, this hotel is one where guests can indulge in decadent self-care, as it not only has next-level wellness offerings but also thoughtful extras such as a running map of nearby Piedmont Park.
Best way to book: Book via your favorite credit card travel portal or directly through the property.
This midtown Atlanta hotel knows the way to its guests’ hearts: a salad bar. You won’t find just any salad bar here, though. The contemporary Southern restaurant Saltwood Charcuterie & Bar has arguably the best one in the South, as it’s full of virtually every topping you could imagine, plus proteins like steak and shrimp.
However, there’s more to this Loews property than its salad bar and ultra-personable servers. Situated within walking distance of the Atlanta BeltLine, Fox Theatre, Piedmont Park and other area attractions, the fabulously located property serves as an excellent jumping-off point for exploring Atlanta.
Should you wish to stay in, the quiet Loews Atlanta Hotel has you covered. All 414 guest rooms exude serenity — the stand-alone bathtubs certainly don’t hurt — and offer floor-to-ceiling windows for plenty of light and views.
Exhale Spa is another attractive amenity of the pet-friendly property, and hotel guests are treated to discounts for its various services. Additionally, there’s a dynamic daily schedule of fitness classes ranging from barre to spinning to yoga.
Rates at the Loews Atlanta Hotel start at $295 per night.
The Whitley, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Atlanta Buckhead
Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
THE WHITLEY, A LUXURY COLLECTION HOTEL, ATLANTA BUCKHEAD/FACEBOOK
Best for: Glitzy, gracious and genuine experiences in the renovated version of the former Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead.
Why stay here: A primo location amid upscale shopping malls lures guests to the 507-room hotel, but the high-end hospitality, luscious breakfast spread and talented spa therapists make it a destination in its own right.
Best way to book: Book directly through Marriott to earn or redeem Marriott Bonvoy points and enjoy any elite benefits.
With 507 spacious and luxurious rooms and suites — some of which provide access to a club lounge with free breakfast, daytime snacks and evening drinks daily — The Whitley is a sizeable hotel that manages to still be intimate enough that the friendly staff may learn your name. The personable service gets high praise from guests, as does the striking heated pool, which is topped with glass for a wonderful outdoor feel.
Beyond enjoying a dip on a hot Atlanta day, guests can break a sweat in the fully equipped fitness center or go for a run on a local route the concierge will happily recommend. The renovated wellness floor also shouldn’t be missed. It’s home to a spa with various treatments, a relaxing lounge and a Himalayan salt room.
Trade Root, the main restaurant, draws both locals and travelers with its promise of elevated Southern fare, fine wine and craft cocktails in a refined, sumptuous setting that comes with a side of eye-catching artwork. There’s also a bar for more casual nibbles, or guests can take advantage of in-room dining on days when they’d rather linger in bed. Complimentary coffee and tea are served in the lobby every morning from 5:30 to 10:30 a.m. as well.
Rates at The Whitley, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Atlanta Buckhead start at $229 or 30,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
Kimpton Shane Hotel
Midtown, Atlanta, Georgia
KIMPTON SHANE HOTEL/FACEBOOK
Best for: IHG loyalists who want a more boutique experience and love a complimentary happy hour.
Why stay here: Yoga mats in the rooms, locally sourced minibar treats, loaner designer bicycles and pet amenities make this newer property a vibrant launching pad for energetic guests to explore the Midtown Atlanta area.
Best way to book: Book directly through IHG to earn or redeem IHG One Rewards points and enjoy any elite benefits.
The Kimpton brand has a knack for cool, but this 2022 addition to midtown Atlanta takes the cool factor up a notch. For one, the location in a mixed-use development can’t be beaten since guests can walk (or cycle on complimentary loaner designer bikes on designated bicycle paths) to shops, restaurants, theaters and museums.
The ambiance is everything when it comes to the energetic lobby and textured, fashionable guest rooms, of which there are 230. All are drenched in natural light and serve as relaxing places for weary travelers — and probably their pets, too — to rest their heads thanks to smoky blue hues, beds dressed in Frette linens, in-room yoga mats, tiled walk-in showers and minibars featuring local gourmet bites.
While there are many reasons why visitors may wish to lounge in their rooms, amenities like morning coffee and tea and the famed Kimpton social hour — this one featuring not only wines but also bourbon — draw guests out of their private spaces. For fitness junkies, the state-of-the-art gym will do the trick, too.
An overwhelming highlight of the hotel is its food and beverage program, which even includes customizable private dining. Hartley Kitchen & Cocktails is the breakfast, lunch and dinner restaurant with menus so delectable (think: fried chicken biscuits and blackened redfish) that it’s hard not to overindulge. Additionally, there’s Aveline, the moody upstairs bar featuring cocktails infused with botanicals and mouthwatering bar bites with Southern flair, such as pimento cheese fritters and crab and shrimp hush puppies.
Rates at the Kimpton Shane Hotel start at $194 or 35,000 IHG One Rewards points per night.
Yet she cautioned the decline in delinquencies is likely short-lived: “We’re still forecasting for an economic slowdown, a mild recession, in the second half of the year,” she said. “That’s been pushed back a bit, but between hospitality and services jobs, we’re still seeing strong results in terms of the jobs market.” She reiterated that … [Read more…]
Known for its rich history, vibrant culture and lush landscapes, Mississippi boasts a number of exceptional college towns.
The best college towns in Mississippi offer students a blend of academic excellence, exciting entertainment options and a true taste of Southern hospitality. From the literary haven of Oxford to the spirited atmosphere of Starkville, Mississippi’s best college towns are as diverse as they are inviting. Join us as we traverse the Magnolia State and uncover the best college towns in Mississippi.
Our journey begins in the charming town of Oxford, home to the prestigious University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss. With its historic campus adorned with stately buildings and ancient oak trees, this university is the epitome of Southern elegance. Oxford has long been a literary hub, attracting writers like William Faulkner, John Grisham and Barry Hannah, whose influences have left a lasting impact on the town’s identity and academic prowess.
As you stroll through the picturesque Downtown Square, you’ll find a variety of independent bookstores, art galleries and specialty shops, all of which contribute to Oxford’s unique vibrancy. Be sure to visit Rowan Oak, William Faulkner’s former home, now a museum dedicated to the life and works of the acclaimed author.
Oxford’s culinary scene is another highlight, featuring an array of diverse eateries that showcase tasty eats from all over. Leading the charge in this restaurant resurgence are the fine folks at City Garage Restaurant Group, the company behind many of the most popular college hangouts in the city. From fine dining establishments to casual barbecue joints, you’ll find no shortage of delicious options in this college town.
With its strong literary roots, unparalleled academic prowess and thriving artistic community, Oxford is undoubtedly a standout among the best college towns in Mississippi.
Next, we travel to Starkville, a lively college town that is home to Mississippi State University. With a strong sense of school spirit and a deep commitment to research and innovation, this bustling town provides students with an engaging and supportive environment in which to pursue their education.
The heart of Starkville is its vibrant downtown area, where you’ll find a variety of locally-owned shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in some authentic Southern barbecue or catch a live performance at one of the town’s many music venues.
Starkville’s enthusiasm for sports is contagious, with the Mississippi State Bulldogs drawing large crowds to their football, basketball and baseball games. This spirited atmosphere extends beyond the campus, fostering a strong sense of community and camaraderie throughout the entire town.
With its energetic vibe, strong academic programs and passion for sports, Starkville is a deserving addition to our list of the best college towns in Mississippi.
Heading south, we arrive in Hattiesburg, a bustling town that is home to the University of Southern Mississippi and William Carey University. With a strong emphasis on the arts and a diverse range of academic programs, Hattiesburg offers students a well-rounded educational experience in a supportive community.
The town’s commitment to the arts is evident in its numerous galleries, theaters and performance spaces, which host events ranging from gallery exhibitions to symphony orchestra concerts. Be sure to visit the Hattiesburg Arts Council Gallery and the historic Saenger Theater for a taste of what makes this cool college town so unique.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the town’s abundance of outdoor recreational opportunities, like the scenic Longleaf Trace, a 44-mile trail perfect for biking, jogging or leisurely strolls. Hattiesburg is also home to the beautiful Hattiesburg Zoo, where visitors can observe a variety of animals and explore the lush botanical gardens.
With its strong focus on the arts, diverse academic offerings and ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, Hattiesburg earns its place among the best college towns in Mississippi.
As we continue our exploration of the best college towns in Mississippi, we arrive in the quaint town of Clinton, home to Mississippi College, the oldest institution of higher education in the state. Founded in 1826, this historic college boasts a picturesque campus with stately buildings and a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal environment for students seeking a close-knit academic community steeped in history.
Clinton’s historic charm is evident in its beautifully preserved downtown area, where brick-lined streets are dotted with an array of local shops, cafes and boutiques. History enthusiasts will enjoy exploring the town’s numerous historic sites, including the Clinton Visitor Center, which showcases the town’s storied past and its path toward a brighter future.
Outdoorsy types will appreciate the town’s numerous parks and trails, like the scenic Natchez Trace Parkway, a historic route that offers ample opportunities for hiking, biking and connecting with nature. With its historic charm, strong academic programs and welcoming atmosphere, Clinton is a delightful addition to our list of the best college towns in Mississippi.
Our journey through Mississippi’s best college towns concludes in Cleveland, a vibrant town that is home to Delta State University. Known for its strong academic programs and commitment to the arts, Cleveland offers students a diverse range of educational and cultural experiences.
Cleveland’s rich musical heritage, particularly its connection to the blues, is a defining aspect of the town’s identity. Be sure to visit the nearby Dockery Farms, considered the birthplace of the Delta Blues, and the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi, which celebrates the enduring legacy of Mississippi’s musical icons.
In addition to its musical roots, Cleveland is also home to a thriving artistic community, with galleries, theaters and performance spaces showcasing the talents of local artists and students. Don’t miss the chance to catch a show at the Bologna Performing Arts Center or explore the works on display at the Fielding Wright Art Center.
With its strong connection to music, diverse academic programs and commitment to the arts, Cleveland rounds out our tour of the best college towns in Mississippi.
Make the move to a Mississippi college town today
From the literary charm of Oxford to the spirited atmosphere of Starkville and the rich musical history of Cleveland, Mississippi’s top college towns offer a diverse range of experiences for students and recent graduates alike. Each town featured above boasts a unique blend of academic excellence, cultural attractions and Southern hospitality that make the Magnolia State an ideal destination for anyone seeking a memorable college experience and an unforgettable adventure.