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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the United States of America.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the United States of America.
Nantucket, the small and perfectly formed island off the coast of Cape Cod, id one of those places that you might only visit once in your life. Sure, you may fall in love with it – and if you did it would be with good reason – and decide to stay there every year; it’s more likely, however, that the island will be somewhere you’ve decided to visit while on a road trip around New England, or indeed of Massachusetts itself.
So if your visit really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, then you need to treat it as such, and by that we mean you should stay at the very best hotel on the island. Which is undoubtedly the White Elephant.
GQ stayed at the White Elephant last summer, at one of its residential cottages, and we felt as though we had been ushered into a world fashioned by Ralph Lauren. Built in the traditional Nantucket style (the island’s nickname is “The Little Grey Lady of The Sea”, and while this refers to the fog that sometimes surrounds the place, it could just as easily refer to the cedar houses are made from), these cottages feel more like home than home often does, with the added advantage of having almost instantaneous room service, gas fireplaces and fully stocked bars.
Some unkind souls say that Nantucket is a little too twee for the modern world, yet the island manages to combine a cobbled traditional feel with a modern, escapist sensibility. And, in the, case of the White Elephant, simply marvellous food.
A word of warning though: men who holiday here regularly are supposed to fit in by wearing lobster-coloured shorts and trouser (which can be bought in many of the shops here). If you do this, then we will simply not allow you to buy this magazine ever again.
Scott Dunn offers four nights at the White Elephant. Nantucket from £1.995 per person. This is based on two people sharing on a B&B basis and includes flights with British Airlines, domestic flights and private transfers.
Europe is a place where people come from,” wrote Henry Morrison Flagler more than 100 years ago. “Nobody should actually go there.” The self-made American developer, railroad magnate, oil baron, and partner of John D. Rockefeller in the creation of Standard Oil, built the magnificent Breakers in 1896, importing master European artisans to create his twin-towered, Medici villa—inspired extravaganza.
Today, the ultra-affluent enclave of Palm Beach has other top-drawer mega-resorts to be sure, but the 140-acre Breakers was the first to envision Florida’s then wild and alligator-infested swamplands as the playground destination of choice for the North’s most socially prominent families.
Rebuilt after a fire in 1926, it is possibly the most remarkable beachfront hotel on the eastern seaboard, having secured its priceless sliver of real estate way back when competition was nonexistent. A heroic $145-million lily-gilding renovation has recently put it back on the map.
Vaulted ceilings, frescoes, Venetian chandeliers, 15th-century Flemish tapestries, and a friendly, snap-to staff of 1,300 combine with a cool Floridian palette of sea foam greens, aqua, and seashell pinks to create the ultimate warm-weather resort. Gorgeously manicured, fountain-splashed grounds are shaded by more than 3,000 regal palms (representing thirty species) and include two 18-hole golf courses (one of which was Florida’s first) and twenty-one Har-Tru tennis courts.
Meandering pathways lead down to a half-mile of private beach, the breezy location of the hotel’s Beach Club and Mediterranean-style 20,000-square foot indoor/outdoor spa.
Still the pacesetter for theme parks around the globe, the brainchild of entertainment giant and genius animator Walt Disney is an ever-expanding universe of make-believe and escapism, celebrating magic, technology, nature, and, of course, Mickey Mouse. In the 30-plus years since it opened its doors, the 30,000-acre former cow pasture has developed into four distinct main theme parks, each of which nurtures its own personality.
The Magic Kingdom (opened in 1971), the lighthearted fantasy world that revolves around Cinderella’s Castle, is home to two of Disney World’s most famous (and very different) attractions: It’s a Small World and Space Mountain. Epcot (1982), the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is an educational theme park where thrills are mostly of the mind, with attractions such as the very popular Spaceship Earth. At Disney-MGM Studios (1989), visitors walk right onto a “Hollywood that never was and always will be” movie set that blends nostalgia with high-tech wonders (don’t miss the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror).
The 500-acre Disney’s Animal Kingdom (1998) is Disney World’s largest and newest theme park, with more than 1,000 animals (from giraffes to lions) roaming in a natural, Serengeti-like setting. Three themed water parks fill out the Worldly options.
There are countless less expensive (and less fantastical) hotel options in the Orlando area, but make the magic last by staying in one of the Disney-owned and-run hotel/resorts. The benefits are numerous, including sheer logistics:They’re close to the principal attractions and are linked by complimentary boats, buses, or monorail.
Of Disney’s luxury options, the re-created gabled vintage of the Victorian-style Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is one of the most elegant and least contemporary in atmosphere, evoking the breezy days of a turn-of-the-century summer resort.
Sometimes called the “Hearst Castle of the East,” the Italian Renaissance-style Villa Vizcaya was completed in 1916 as the extravagant wintertime retreat of Chicago industrialist James Deering, known for his deep pockets and keen European sensibility.
A thousand continental artisans labored for five years to create the estate and its world-famous bay-front gardens in then-undeveloped Miami (whose population at the time was less than 10,000), incorporating a rich collection of antique doors, gates, paneling, ceilings, fireplaces, and decorative arts brought home from Europe by the owner and his architects.
Deerings’ fascination with 15th-through 18th-century art and architecture is obvious in every detail of the lavish mansion, forty-two of whose seventy rooms are open to the public. It’s a remarkable paean to late Renaissance architecture, authentic enough to convince visitors that it’s been standing here overlooking Biscayne Bay for 400 years.
Of Vizcaya’s current 28 acres (all that remains of the original 180), 10 are dedicated to formal gardens planned by Deering’s Florentine-educated landscape artist. Adaptations were made to accommodate South Florida’s brilliant light and subtropical climate, but the stone fountains, grottoes, statuary, and plant life still evoke a Mediterranean grandeur of centuries past and make a favorite spot for wedding photos. The waterfront tea house, with its little footbridge, is a traditional proposal spot.
As Miami continues to nurture its role as an international crossroads, the hot-spot neighborhood of South Beach remains its vibrant, glamorous, multicultural core, open 24/7. Much of the neighborhood’s visual allure derives from palm-lined Ocean Drive, along whose length (from 5th to 21st Streets and east to Alton Road) lies the largest concentration of tropical Art Deco architecture in the world, some 800 pastel treasures from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.
Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this electric concoction of teal, lavender, pink, and peach buildings houses outdoor cafes, shops, nightspots, condominium apartments, chic hotels, and world-class restaurants, but the real artwork here is the parade of people.
If all the world is a stage, Ocean Drive is its casting couch, its sidewalks and eating places fairly choked with alarmingly good-looking people. It’s all best appreciated from Ocean Drive’s Cafe Cardozo (in the Cardozo Hotel at 13th and Ocean Drive), a kind of 24-hour reviewing stand that allows you to step out of the path of the year-round tourist crush and take in the sights.
To really escape the rollerbladers, buffer-then-thou poseurs, and Euro invaders, retreat to the cool oasis of the ultra-hip but classy Tides Hotel, a Deco queen from 1936. All of its oversized seaward-facing rooms are done in a quiet, good-taste style and have telescopes for “beach combing.” The Tides’s small but excellent lobby-level restaurant, 1220 at the Tides (the hotel’s address) is a total scene-and-cuisine experience.
Before SoBe, Joe be, touts Miami Beach’s (and possibly the nation’s) number-one crab institution, referring to its decades of renown prior to the rebirth of its trendy neighborhood, South Beach. Word spread quickly when the family-run place first opened; in 1913, and the line to get in has been long ever since. On the menu, the stone crab: A delicacy of sweet meat that is as much a symbol of Miami as the palm tree or the state seal, and especially delectable because of its limited-season availability (mid-October to mid-May).
At Joe’s, they come in four different sizes (from medium to jumbo) and the standard order is an ; imposing mound of crabs, served with drawn butter or a piquant and creamy mustard sauce, coleslaw, creamed spinach, and cottage-fried sweet potatoes. For dessert, the Key lime pie is the real thing. Freshness and quality are paramount, but if you can’t indulge in person, Joe’s will FedEx you your fix, overnight. That helps explain why they sell about 200 tons during the average crab season, with 1 ton alone served on a good day in the 450-seat indoor restaurant, manned by a formally attired staff. Tender and sweet, Joe’s crabs aren’t cheap, even though they come from local waters—Damon Runyon once said they were sold by the karat. Go anyway and find out what all the hype is about—but be prepared to wait.
The dust has long settled since Miami’s 1990s explosion of designer-hotel openings and renovations, but today the boldly stylish trailblazer of the lot, the Delano, still percolates at the epicenter of Miami’s social scene.
Opened in 1995, the yin-yang collaboration of hotelier Ian Schrager and designer Philippe Starck immediately attracted the style conscious of the world to this spare, all-white, tropical 1947 oceanfront landmark (named after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the patriotic spirit of that postwar time). To see why, enter the movie-set-worthy dark-wood lobby through 30-foot diaphanous white curtains and prepare for your jaw to drop. Designed in a manner even minimalists would consider minimalist, the hotel possesses an elegant simplicity full of surreal twists and turns, all of it both refreshing and confounding to its roster of international fashionables or anyone fed up with the neighborhood’s ubiquitous Art Deco theme.
The style is carried over to the white and light guest rooms, but emphasis is on the public areas—the lobbies, restaurants, and bars. The fantasy swimming pool is the cool-pool of choice in South Beach and one of the hotel world’s most famous, with classical music piped in underwater and cafe chairs and tables set up in the ankle-shallow end. And even now that Madonna is no longer a partner, the casually formal Blue Door restaurant is still a coveted booking.
There’s no sign outside this venerable institution, but that doesn’t stop the lines forming every morning at 10:45. When the lunch bell rings at 11:30, the hungry crowd shuffles inside to fill large communal tables, which soon disappear under the brimming family-style platters and bowls of Georgia’s heartiest all-you-can-eat feast—a rare culinary holdout from an era that Savannahians hold dear. Mrs. Wilkes opened the place in 1943 and presided over it for almost 60 years (she died in the fall of 2002). Today it’s run by three generations of her comfort-food-savvy family, serving old- time traditional favorites that are as unpretentious as the restaurant’s basement setting.
The menu is constantly changing to keep things fresh for the many regular patrons, but fortunate travelers can always expect to find Mrs. Wilkes’s famous fried or baked chicken and cornbread dressing. With luck, they’ll also get to try her okra gumbo, peppery crab stew spiked with sherry, sweet potato soufflé, and the low-country specialty, Savannah red rice. The old “boarding-house reach” is common practice here, and heaping your plate with seconds and thirds is expected—the Wilkes family intends to send you on your way happy. While you’re there, though, be sure to strike up a conversation with the folks at your table—it’s the camaraderie as much as the food that makes the experience unforgettable.
Elizabeth (a.k.a. “Miz Terry’s place”) has been Savannah’s most famous restaurant since it opened in 1981. Housed in an elegant turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts mansion on the periphery of the Historic District, the tastefully decorated restaurant blends in with its Victorian neighbors, as impressive visually as its dining experience is gastronomically. In 1995, executive chef Elizabeth Terry was voted as the best chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation, and in the years since she’s continued to thrill loyalists with her refined interpretation of classic, old-fashioned Southern recipes, favoring fresh seafood from along the coast and herbs from her own garden. She modestly calls her creations “comfort food,” something of an understatement for dishes such as grouper Celeste with a crisp sesame-almond crust served with peanut sauce, and Savannah red rice with local shrimp and clams, spicy sausage, and grilled okra.
If by some error in judgment you don’t make it to Elizabeth’s for dinner, join those who stop by just for the sumptuous and imposing desserts. Savannah cream cake is Elizabeth’s version of trifle—angel food cake, sherry, and cream with berry sauce. There’s also a wonderful peach and blueberry cobbler topped with shortbread. The dessert-and-coffee scene is Savannah’s very own dolce vita. Elizabeth’s husband, Michael Terry (who will also answer to “Mr. Elizabeth”), long ago gave up a challenging legal career to help navigate his wife’s talent and fame, while happily nurturing his own passion for the grape. In 1998, the couple took on brothers Gary and Greg Butch (both longtime employees) as business partners; ask either for an unerring wine recommendation.
Linked in name and image—and in real life, by a bridge—Sanibel and Captiva are part of the hundred littoral islands basking in the sun off the west coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. They share a reputation as one of the world’s best shelling locales, with palm-stenciled sunsets, tarpon fishing that’s unparalleled in North America, and what is left of laid-back Old Florida. This may be the only warm-weather vacation spot where tourists pray for a storm, since a good northwest wind will fill the sandy white beaches with shells from some of the 400 species of marine life that have made these two small islands world-class treasure troves. So eager have the shell-happy been that taking live shells away is now banned. But shell collectors doing the “Sanibel Stoop” or “Captiva Crouch” at low tide are welcome to claim uninhabited shells, such as angel’s wings, jewel boxes, king’s crowns, or lion’s paws, although many choose to leave their finds behind, explaining it’s the memories they enjoy collecting, not the shells themselves. The island’s shell culture culminates with Sanibel’s Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the only museum in the country dedicated solely to shells.
Those bothering to look up will find further confirmation that nature is king at Sanibel’s J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, where foot-and bicycle trails and kayak and canoe routes crisscross the nearly 7,000-acre preserve; this is bird-watching at its finest.
If you’re not feeling detached enough from the mainland and its everyday demands, visit Captiva and Sanibel’s three most interesting neighbors in Pine Island Sound, car-free islands accessible only by boat. Cayo Costa State Park is an uninhabited barefoot Eden with deserted beaches whose shelling is arguably the best around. Cabbage Key, a 100-acre, down-home, real-life Margaritaville, is said to have inspired Jimmy Buffett’s classic “Cheeseburger in Paradise.” And genteel tum-of-the-century- looking Useppa Island is a Gatsbyesque (and privately owned) enclave that was once the refuge of Teddy Roosevelt and his tarpon fishing friends, and today warmly welcomes day-trippers and overnighters for excellent seafood lunches at the Collier Inn. Catch-and-release tarpon fishing originated here, though today the capital of the sport is nearby Boca Grande (on what is sometimes referred to as Gasparilla Island).