I think it’s fair to say that we all deserve a vacation once in a while. Summer is the perfect time to book a trip and get away with family and friends. It’s usually when work slows and the sun shines bright. Traveling doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be pleasurable and carefree if you put the right amount of time and effort into the planning process. The most important step is picking a good location. After that’s done, you can kick back and relax knowing you’ve done your homework and selected the best spots to eat, sleep and spend your time.
There are so many different vacation spots that it can be overwhelming selecting a new place to visit. I’ve researched five destinations you should add to your bucket list this year. I’ll be sharing where to stay, what to eat and drink and a few fun facts about the people and culture.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
San Juan is Puerto Rico's capital, largest city and sits on the island's Atlantic coast. Cobblestoned Old San Juan features colorful Spanish colonial buildings and 16th-century landmarks, massive fortresses with sweeping ocean views and the Paseo de la Princesa bayside promenade. Its widest beach faces the Isla Verde resort strip, known for its bars and casinos.
An exclusive tropical retreat in the heart of the Caribbean, The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel is just one of your many luxury lodging options in San Juan. An ultra-luxury hotel from day one, The Condado Vanderbilt is known for its beauty, magnificence and history. In 1919, Frederick William Vanderbilt, from one of the wealthiest families in America and arguably one of the most influential men in the country, acquired oceanfront land in the exclusive Condado District of San Juan, Puerto Rico. He selected one of the foremost architectural firms of the time to design The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel. The early Spanish Revival style architecture was suggested by Frederick William Vanderbilt himself. Taking great advantage of the property’s breathtaking setting overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the designers created an imposing structure with white walls, red tiles, French windows, lofty ceilings and other design details typical of the style at the time. Inside, the original sweeping staircases and graceful archways remain intact to this very day. Impressive!
Food, Wine & Culture
The festive city of San Juan is the perfect place to experience true Puerto Rican culture. Although Puerto Rican cooking is somewhat similar to Spanish, Cuban and Mexican cuisine, it’s a unique tasty blend of Spanish, African, Taíno and American influences. Locals call their cuisine "cocina criolla." Main dish favorites range from stew, chicken and fish to fried beefsteak with onions. One of the post popular side items are the fried plantains. Yum. Who’s hungry?!
After dinner, some tourists choose to sip on a strong, black, aromatic Puerto Rican coffee, which has been produced in the island's high-altitude interior for more than 300 years. I’m disappointed to say that the island doesn’t produce wine, but have no fear as there are other excellent drink options. Rum is the national drink, and you can buy it in almost any shade. The most popular beer brand in Puerto Rico is Medalla. It’s common for people to order a cold beer before even seeing a menu. If this vacation spot isn’t for you, read on to see what Savannah, GA has to offer.
Savannah is a hidden gem located in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, it’s one of the oldest cities in the state and, let me tell you, it’s definitely worth exploring. There are many choices when it comes to accommodations in this city, anything from bed and breakfasts to vacation rentals and historic hotels. No matter what you choose, you can expect Southern hospitality. Vacation rental spaces range from a one-bed to a home that sleeps 14-plus. Living like a local with your own bedroom, bath, kitchen, patio and swimming pool sounds pretty appealing to us. There are vacation home rentals located in some of the best spots of Savannah, including the Historic District, downtown and homes with ocean views and beach access. Sign me up!
Food, Wine & Culture
Savannah restaurants have earned a reputation as some of the best dining options in the South. Sip a signature cocktail in a luxurious lounge or savor a pint at a local pub. Dining Savannah-style combines a fun, chic ambiance with flavors from every corner of the world, along with fresh seafood. There are options for everyone.
Let’s not forget about happy hour. Savannah has some of the best wine bars around. Winston’s Wine Cellar allows you to enjoy a sophisticated glass of wine right in their lower level cellar that offers an intimate, relaxed and stylish atmosphere. You can sip your wine while ordering from a dynamic menu of imported and local cheeses and tasty small plates. Since we’re on the topic of wine, let’s head to Napa Valley next.
Napa Valley, CA
As most of you probably know, Napa County is a region located north of San Pablo Bay in the northern part of California and it’s fantastic! As far as lodging is concerned, there are amazing hotels, resorts and boutiques to choose from. There are also houses you can rent with your partner or a big group of friends. There are many different car services and transportation options offered in Napa that will get you around from vineyard to vineyard in an efficient and safe manner.
There are many different and unique ways to experience and explore Napa. Some options include:
Private Winery Dinners: Hire a personal chef to cook up an amazing wine country dinner for you and your friends or significant other.
Adventure Tours: Kayak down the Napa River or bicycle on the country roads through the vineyards.
Helicopter Tours: See the beauty of Napa Valley like you never have before; from a helicopter!
Wine Tasting & Tours: There are exclusive wine tastings and wine tours, along with special experiences not available to the general public. Experiencing the vineyards from the seat of a bicycle is undoubtedly one of the most fun things to do in Napa Valley! As you pedal past rows of vineyards, you’ll enjoy an invigorating sensory experience that simply cannot be duplicated inside a car, tour van or limo.
Explore Napa Valley by Rail: The Napa Valley Wine Train is one of the most distinctive Napa restaurants, offering an authentic, memorable experience that echoes the glory days of train travel with fine dining service, Napa Valley scenery and ultimate relaxation aboard magnificently restored vintage railcars.
Food, Wine & Culture
After all of your wine tasting fun, you’re sure to be hungry. Well don’t worry, there’s no shortage of restaurants in Napa Valley. The dining options range from low-key and family-friendly to rustic and intimate. If you’re in the mood for more of an upbeat establishment and gourmet food, you can head to one of the many restaurants that offer live music in the evening.
The Napa Valley area is home to art, music, and architecture on both intimate and grand scales. Revolving art exhibitions at wineries, permanent and special museum exhibitions, art galleries, open studios, historic and contemporary architecture and art festivals all provide a unique and legendary experience like no other. For a self-curated online tour of the Napa Valley's most compelling collections and celebrated venues, check out the Napa Valley Collection.
If you prefer to travel out of the country but still enjoy good food, wine and sunshine, look no further than Coral Coast, Fiji.
Coral Coast, Fiji
Coral Coast is a 50-mile stretch of beaches and bays along the Ocean Road between Nadi and Suva. As a well-established tourist destination, the Coast offers both the full resort experience and a chance to visit the “real Fiji” in the many villages along the way. Golf, beach life and diving are all available on the island, but for travelers who seek a more authentic experience, many villages operate home stays. From a fisherman selling his day’s catch on the roadside, to bargaining with a local at the Sigatoka Market, true island life is here. Pioneer hotelier Bill Clarke was the creator of cultural shows to educate guests about the local lifestyle.
Korolevu, on the Coral Coast, is the birthplace of Fiji tourism. A brilliant stretch of white beach dotted by copious lush vegetation and numerous hotels and resorts still line its beautiful shore. Korolevu is believed to be the first place where individual bungalow-style units (bures) were created (Fiji Travel). There is no shortage of beautiful resorts and hotels available at a wide range of price points in Fiji. Imagine staying in your own private bure right on the beach with breathtaking views of the sea and nearby islands shimmering in the distance. Vacationing in Fiji can be an adventurous and unique experience.
Food, Wine & Culture
The restaurants in Fiji are endless. There is a range from local and international culinary favorites to high end dining. It’s interesting that many resorts have a relationship with nearby villages that allow you to sample traditional Fijian fare during village tours or hikes. Traditionally, Fijian food was very healthy. Taro is a dry starchy root crop and is the most important staple for special occasions. It has a taste similar to that of artichokes. With changes in eating patterns, there has been a shift towards consumption of more energy dense foods and decreased intake of fruits and vegetables. The processed foods are more readily available in shops and are cheaper. Coconut has special place in Fijian diet. It is grown in most coastal areas. Coconut is used not only for food, but it also plays an important role in Fiji's economy.
Fijians have a thing for an interesting drink called kava. They consider it their "national drink" and enjoy it religiously for its mild sedative (some say euphoric) effect. Kava is said to have a pleasant, mind-clearing effect (anyone else find this interesting?). After one cup, you will begin to feel your lips and tongue tingle a bit. Oh my! If this experience isn’t for you, you can opt for wine, beer and spirits. All wine lovers can get on board with the cheap Australian imports flown in from just over the water. If beer is your drink of choice, make sure to try the robust Fiji Bitter Beer which is perfect for enjoying in the hot Fijian sun.
The Windy City is always an exciting spot to visit and there’s so much to do! Chicago, on Lake Michigan in Illinois, is among the largest cities in the U.S. Famed for its bold architecture, it has a stunning skyline lined with skyscrapers such as the iconic John Hancock Center, Willis Tower and Tribune Tower. The city is also renowned for its museums, including the Art Institute. The range of hotel styles and pricing is impressive. You can be fancy and stay downtown or opt for a more casual setting and rent a house or smaller hotel in the neighborhoods just north of the city. There are rooftops and outdoor patios to enjoy at a lot of the establishments. If you do your homework, you can usually get a pretty good deal at your hotel of choice.
Chicago is a fun place to spend a summer vacation. The people are friendly and the activities are endless. Chicago is home to riverboat rides, architectural tours, high end stores, some of the best food in the country and must-see museums. The city has history and is home to some of America’s favorite sports teams, including the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears and Chicago Blackhawks.
Food, Wine & Culture
Did I mention the food?
You may have heard that Chicago is famous for its stuffed pizza. If you’ve never had the pizza in Chicago, you definitely need to add it to your to-do list. Chicago offers some of the best restaurants and fine wine in the world. You will not be disappointed. Located atop the John Hancock Center, The Signature Room at the 95th® offers diners exquisite food, superb service and a dazzling skyline view. The elegant wood designs and art deco interior create an inviting and intimate atmosphere, while the floor-to-ceiling windows exhibit the stunning Chicago skyline and 360-degree views of the entire city. This is a city worth spending some time in.
Hopefully this information is helpful to you as you plan your next summer getaway. Let’s be honest, the best part about vacation is the accommodations, food, drink and company. Focus on these aspects of your trip and you’re sure to be living in paradise! Best of luck to you as you plan your next vacation. Bon voyage!
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