In this issue: Vintage Trains roll on in St. Louis and Napa Valley
Making Moonshine: the new teambuilding event guaranteed to bring smiles
Exotic destinations and discount offers
Exotic getaways that offer discounts or incentives is always exciting, but Design Hotels, has cranked up their summer offerings. Take for instance, the chance to enjoy a three-course set menu dinner in The Dining Room, a trendy new restaurant at Blakes Hotel in London, UK. The South Kensington couture hotel designed by former Bond girl, Anouska Hempel, features individually-styled boutique furnishings in each guestroom. No minimum stay requirements. At the Nakar Hotel in Palma De Mallorca, Spain you will have to book at least three nights, but you get great rates, free breakfast and WiFi, and the chance to be on Avinguda Jaume III, one of the area’s liveliest shopping streets. The 57-room hotel is fashioned from local materials and the onsite restaurant serves authentic “urban Majorquine” cuisine. Of course, if you’re looking for a relaxing, food-driven stay without all the
glamorous décor, check out C-Hotel & Spa in Cassago Brianza, Lake Como, Italy. You can smell the rich chocolate notes of freshly ground coffee the moment you step in to the stone-clad lobby that emanates from the family-owned 18-room hotel’s Italian bar and confectionary shop. Incentives include breakfast and those tantalizing dishes made from locally-sourced products.
Omni Hotels & Resorts knows you work hard and wants to reward your efforts by using your work travel as a vacation opportunity when staying at one of their luxury hotels. Group guests (at participating Omni properties) can extend their stay by two days either before or after the original stay dates at an exclusive rate. Simply apply the promo code EXTENDG for 15 percent* off the best bar rate. Omni will also send a “reminder” email two days after a room reservation to notify the guest that the reservation is eligible for the exclusive rate extension. The offer only applies to reservations that are originally less than six nights. There are other restrictions but you can checkthose out for yourself.
www.omnihotels.com/Meetings; (800) 788-OMNI. @OmniHotels; @OmniMeetings
Book a Hawaiian vacation stay at Disney’s Aulani in Ko Olina, Hawaii by June 27 and receive a $150 resort credit. Book by September 26 and you can save 30% on select stays of five or more consecutive nights from August 21 through December 19. Too long? How about saving 25% off a four-night stay?
www. DisneyAulani.com; (866) 309-2385
Dreaming about an island destination wedding, but worried it will break the bank? The 152-room Wyndham Reef Resort on the unspoiled east end of Grand Cayman may have the solution for which you’ve hoped. The resort now offers four new customizable wedding packages, with prices starting at $1,299. Each package comes with a host of amenities. Additionally, couples can add on photography, videography, live entertainment, a marriage license concierge service, a three-course dinner for two on the beach and more.
Details, contact Wyndham Reef Resort’s wedding professionals: firstname.lastname@example.org; (888) 232-0541.
There is no better place to get in the summer groove than in Jamaica. Relieve your body and mind and let the culture, music and beach of Jamaican paradise move you.
Book Meliá Braco Village in Jamaica by June 30 and save up to 30%, plus receive free airport-to-hotel and hotel-to-airport travel transfers. Travel must be completed by December 22.
Join MeliáRewards and book online at www.melia.com; (888) 956-3542
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES TO AMPLIFY SUMMER FUN
Solo drinker or team building experience. You decide, but making your own moonshine, legally, sounds like a really fun way to a few hours at Sugarlands Distilling Company in Gatlinburg, TN during one of their “Distiller for the Day Workshops.” You can spend a day with Head Distiller Greg Eidam making a batch of the distillery’s award-winning Sugarlands Shine or one of 13 other moonshine flavors they make, such as root beer, peppermint, and Mark and Digger’s Rye Apple Moonshine.
I love walking tours, especially tours with funny and knowledgeable guides, so when I heard about this just launched at MIT it drew my immediate attention. Granted, this one doesn’t focus on food, my absolute fave, but exercise while being educated in a humorous manner should put this exclusive 70-minute walking tour of MIT and the Kendall Square on the radar of corporate groups or just about anyone interested in the tech boom propelling the world forward. Sponsored by Trademark Tours, which also presents the highly-acclaimed The Hahvahd Tour. (Yes, this is the tongue-and-cheek version of Harvard and if you were from Massachusetts, you’d know this is the proper way to drag out the syllables.) The tours run weekends through the end of August at 11:30, 12:30 and 1:30. Led by current MIT students, the tour will take you past MIT’s legendary buildings overlooking the Boston sky and Charles River. You’ll hear about the history and culture of this top-notch Cambridge, MA university, including famous alumni and take in The Stata Center, The Great Done, The Greek Building and much more. Trademark Tours has been providing tours of MIT, Harvard and Boston since 2006. Tours are offered in multiple languages, including Mandarin. Packages for groups can include transportation, accommodations, entertainment and dining options.
You still have time to catch a flight to Colorado for five days of pure pampering at boutique hotel, Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa in Canyon Country. Retreats Unlimited in partnership with Wild Wellness Travel presents a retreat led by Renee Diamond, a Yogi and creator of the DiamondFit program. I don’t usually promote fitness retreats, but spending time inside Unaweep Canyon, one of the most unique red rock canyons in the world and where the resort is located, seems perfect for a spiritually rejuvenating getaway. The retreat is June 22 – 26.
Do you prefer less mountainous for your retreat? How about a yoga immersion retreat at the Four Seasons Resort Hualālai, Hawaii? The 243-room resort is Hawaii Island’s only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel. are actually several to choose from this summer, all sponsored by Retreats Unlimited and Wild Wellness Travel. July 10 – 14 is Hawaii Island Boot Camp with Zack Schares, famous for his “No Excuses” philosophy. July 24 – 28, an Intense Yoga Immersion retreat is led by Sean Phelps, a dedicated Ashtanga practitioner. August 21 – 25 is Total Wellness Made Sexy with Fern Langham and Nikki Sharp, which will delve into how to have a good relationship between body and food.
The glamorous era of train travel has returned to St. Louis Union Station in St. Louis, MO. Corporate and social group excursions for nine to 40 passengers on nine historic rail cars will leave from the National Historic Landmark train station. Originally opened in 1894, Union Station has recently undergone a $140 million renovation and restoration. Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM) took over the property in 2012 and has thus far invested another $40 million, including upgrading the 539 room hotel, which has been rebranded as the St. Louis Union Station Hotel – a DoubleTree by Hilton. The train restorations are just part of the planned improvements. Here are just some of the possibilities for a group reception, meeting or dinner. The beautiful Southern Hospitality seats 40, but can be configured for a reception of up to 60 people. The Silver Chalet seats 34, but can hold 50 reception-style. The Silver Express seats 12 people, or a reception for 50. Silver Shore seats 12 and has reception space for 30. The Silver Lodge also can be added to an excursion as a sleeper car with 16 beds. Each car has AV capabilities and F&B options.
www.myretreatsunlimited.com/; www.wildwellnesstravel.com; www.fourseasons.com/hualalai
If you read my comments earlier this blog, you know food tours are my favorite type of tour to take. “The Ultimate New Orleans Cuisine Experience” combines two private, interactive cooking classes in creole and Cajun cuisine at the respected New Orleans School of Cooking with a stay in the luxurious Maison Dupuy in the heart of the French Quarter. Tour dates include June 26-30, July 10-14, August 21-25, September 11-15 and November 27-December 1. The tour includes the 38-acre Houmas House Plantation and Gardens, with a stop at the Turtle Bar where the bartender will make a classic Southern cocktail for everyone and a creole-inspired lunch, and a private dinner with New Orleans’ food critic Tom Fitzmorris. Each morning yoga class and breakfast in the Maison Dupuy’s courtyard are options.
www.RetreatsUnlimited.com; (312) 961-3280.
If you or your group of executives ever dreamed about being a cowboy without having to sleep on the back of a horse, this five-day retreat may be just the solution. The Red Reﬂet Ranch in Ten Sleep, WY inaugurates it “Roping and Ranch Skills” retreat September 23-28. Attendees will spend five days learning roping fundamentals, cattle work techniques, and western horsemanship from expert horse trainers, wranglers and riding instructors. Wine tastings, ranch-to-table haute cuisine, and other exciting ranch activities round-out this authentic ranch getaway. The “Roping and Ranch Skills” retreat includes access to indoor and outdoor riding arenas, a complete gym, heated pool, movie theatre, lighted tennis court, basketball court, rifle range, adult and youth climbing walls, beach volleyball, skeet and pistol shooting, ATVs, dirt bikes, mountain bikes, a zip-line, and 27,000 acres to explore. While the Ranch House can accommodate 14, there are also chalets from 1,400-1,850 sf. Organic, free-range chickens and eggs are served, along with ranch-raised beef and produce raised onsite.
www.red-reflet-ranch.net; (307) 366-2340
Meeting and Event Planners: Start your preparations for the 35th World Championships of horse racing. The Breeders’ Cup has given Churchill Downs in Louisville, KY those hosting honors for the 9th time in 2018, on November 2-3. The events will be televised by NBC Sports Group. More than $67 million has been spent to upgrade Churchill downs’ Clubhouse, Winner’s Circle Suites, Grandstand Terrace & Rooftop Garden, The Mansion and the installation of the world’s largest 4,000 Ultra High Definition Video Board. The races are expected to have an economic impact of more than $65 million, attracting 100,000 spectators with more than 60% from outside of Louisville. The Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau says 5000 downtown hotel rooms will be available.
www.churchilldowns.com; www.breederscup.com; (888) 568-4784).
I’ve enjoyed the luxurious pleasure of sipping wine in the coolness of The Estate Cave, poolside and amid the vineyards at The Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa, CA so it takes no effort to imagine how grand it would be to participate in their 2016 Masters Winemaker Dinner Series events. When dinners and wines rarely available to the public from Opus One, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Silver Oak are on the menu for the remainder of 2016, I am admittedly envious. “These dinners are an opportunity for top Napa Valley wineries to showcase their wines in a unique way in their own backyards,” said Frederic Najem, director of food and beverage for The Meritage Resort. “Wineries often have these types of dinners at restaurants throughout the country and overseas, but rarely in the Napa Valley or Northern California. This is their opportunity to work directly with our culinary team to create a menu that pairs perfectly with their wines from the first sip to the last bite.” The Meritage Resort also offers packages, such as the
“Tale of Two Valleys” to experience both Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries, including exclusive experiences at Foley Johnson and Sebastiani wineries.
• June 17 – Master Sommelier Dinner: Old World vs New World (Siena at The Meritage Resort)
• July 1 – Masters Winemaker Dinner with Opus One
• July 17 – Masters Tequila Dinner with Don Julio (Siena at The Meritage Resort)
• August 5 – Masters Winemaker Dinner with Pride Winery
• September 2 – Masters Winemaker Dinner with Arkenstone
• October 7 – Masters Winemaker Dinner with Robert Mondavi Winery, 50th Anniversary
• November 18 – Masters Winemaker Dinner Series with Silver Oak and Twomey Cellars
What could be better than FREE? How about free events the whole family can enjoy? If this sounds like a fantastic way to spend a bit of vacation time when staying at one of the Gaylord Hotels during their Summer Fest season, then pay attention.
Gaylord Opryland (Nashville, TN): SoBe Splash Party, with DJ, pool bar, contests, lawn games like Giant Jenga, Connect Four and Cornhole, from 2 – 6 pm Friday – Sunday at the Cascades Outdoor Pool. There are nightly water shows at the Delta Fountain, closeups of the terrarium inside the giant learning log, strolling entertainment and live music throughout the property. Junior golfers 15 and under get one free round for each full-paying adult, daily after 1 pm.
Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center (National Harbor, MD): Swashbuckler’s Storytime Adventures in the lower atrium at 8:15 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and on holiday dates. There’s a First Mates Treasure Hunt and a Pirate Pool Invasion party, or just hang out in the Atrium and interact with pirates as they perform. Each evening at 9 is a laser light show.
Gaylord Texan Resort & Conference Center (Grapevine, TX): Celebrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with a Queen of Hearts Light Up the Night Party and a Breaking Through the Looking Glass 3D Visual Light show. There are also photo ops to catch those Wonderland-inspired backdrops, a Queen of Arts Tour of the gardens, and the chance to play on the giant Glow Checkerboard.
Gaylord Palms Resort & Conference Center (Kissimmee, FL): Search for Princess Priscilla’s crown in the Blackheart’s Treasure Hunt, join in the Pirate Invasion Parade each day at 5 pm, or watch your favorite morning cartoons between 9 and 10 am in the Cypress Springs Family Waterpark. There are movies Thursday-Sunday at 8:15 pm at the Cypress Springs Pool, and giant Y’ARRRd Games on the Coquina Lawn Thursday – Friday from 1-5 pm.
(Disclaimer: there are also many exciting pay to play events at all the properties.) www.marriott.com
Disney’s new Alice In Wonderland themed meeting event capitalizes on the entertainment company’s release of “Alice Through the Looking Glass”. Group attendees won’t have to fall through the rabbit’s hole to have an imaginative time. They can navigate the hedge maze adorned with whimsical flowers, enter an elegant English Garden with tables and chairs fit for a royal tea party, or enjoy perfectly themed bites and cocktails, like the bleeding heart sangria. Décor will include zany teapots, cups and saucers, and lanterns strung overhead. Centerpieces decorated with fanciful flowers line the table. Add-ons can include having Alice and The Mad Hatter stop by to join in the fun, or having the magical door and talking doorknob character insist guests answer nonsensical questions to obtain entry into the event. What makes this themed event even more special is that meeting and event planners can adjust and arrange elements to fit their location, timeline and budget.
Every night in Montréal, Canada, the city comes to life on walls, in alleys, on the grounds and in the trees with their innovative Cité Mémoire, the world’s largest video-project installation. I’ve seen some of Montréal’s video projections and have never seen anything similarly dazzling. You can download a free mobile app to enhance the viewing and entertainment.
Food, wine from four renowned winemakers, and a return to the elegance of train travel aboard a vintage train. It’s all part of the offering by The Napa Valley Wine Train for its new Quattro Vino, a four-stop journey on the tracks for food and wine lovers alike. The trip includes a six-hour rail tour of Napa Valley, wine tastings at Robert Mondavi, Charles Krug, Merryvale, and V. Sattui, as well as a three-course tasting of regionally-cultivated epicurean food along the way.
http://winetrain.com/package/quattro-vino/; (800) 427-4124).
OPENINGS & REDOS
In Las Vegas, NV anytime during July 2 – 4 and looking for something else to do? How about checking out the public celebration of the opening of the Pool at the Plaza Hotel & Casino? After a multimillion dollar renovation adding brand new resort-style furnishings, a wet deck, hot tub, refurbished outdoor recreation space and its own food truck, the 70,000 sf rooftop Pool at the Plaza will celebrate its grand opening festivities with non-stop events. On July 2, has a weekend-long barbeque, with a John Cash tribute band playing that evening. The pool area includes refurbished adjacent tennis and basketball courts and they added dedicated Pickleball courts, making the Plaza the only hotel/casino in Las Vegas with dedicated courts for this fast growing sport. (I am one of those new and dedicated players, along with my husband.) Unfamiliar with pickleball? Check out the exhibition and round robin tournament that weekend with players from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).
New name and more than a new coat of paint. The first round of renovations for the 30-acre Springmaid Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach, SC is finished. All 452 waterfront guest rooms and the Springmaid Pier restaurant, renamed the Southern Tide Bar & Grille, have been fully renovated and redesigned as part of a comprehensive transformation project. The property has been rebranded as the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Myrtle Beach Oceanfront. Southern Tide Bar & Grille has a new menu to accompany its redesign of driftwood finishes, sand and surf hues and a wall of windows overlooking the historic pier and beautiful Atlantic. Adjacent to Myrtle Beach State Park, the resort’s beach is one of the area’s best for surfing and is minutes away from more than 100 golf courses. By summer’s end, other finished renovations will include an all new Main Building, the Ocean Blue Restaurant & Lounge with waterfront outdoor seating and private dining room, lobby bar, The Market grab & go snack area, Ocean Terrace an outdoor entertainment deck and Ocean Boardroom. The central pool area will offer private cabanas and a pool bar. The resort’s 35,000 sf of flexible event space and largest ocean-view conference center in Myrtle Beach is also receiving an upgrade.
www.SpringmaidBeach.com; (866) 764-8501
It takes creativity, skill and imagination to design for Silicon Valley companies looking to host meetings at a hotel ballroom. Design firm Forrest Perkins took up the challenge for the Santa Clara Marriott. “A key component of the renovation was the ability to incorporate both functionality and security. Tech companies require their meeting venues to maintain a high-level of privacy as well as the ability to provide lightning fast Wi-Fi speeds,” said Ted Herrmann, General Manager for the 759-room property in the center of Silicon Valley. The hotel has over 27,000 sf of flexible meeting and event space and 25 meeting rooms. Some of the redo’s highlights include:
• Creative art installations which celebrate the old and the new and the best of what Silicon Valley has to offer.
• New ballroom carpeting featuring a print circuit board design in homage to the computers which were first designed in this area.
• One-of-a-kind signature chandeliers of brushed stainless steel highlighting the Silicon Valley influence in the design.
• Complete upgrade of the ballroom sound system, lighting, electronic reader boards, and audio/visual capabilities.
• Renovation of four breakout meeting rooms (Monterey, Ponderosa, Sequoia, and Sierra) each featuring natural light and walk-out patios.
• The hotel is among the first properties in the Marriott Hotels brand to utilize “Mobile Key” which enables guests to unlock their room from the Marriott app on their phone.
www.SantaClaraMarriott.com; (408) 988-1500.
Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2015 – 2016 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. email@example.com; www.ThePsychicLady.com; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.