Stylish Detroit Hotels

Downtown Detroit is bursting with activity. Its casinos bring gamblers from afar, while its theaters provide entertainment from around the world nightly. Sports fans come downtown for baseball, football, and hockey at nearby Comerica Park, Ford Field, and Joe Louis Arena. All these visitors need a place to stay, and Detroit offers a great variety of hotels.

Here are our choices for the most stylish hotels in Detroit:

MGM Grand Detroit

Whether guests are there to gamble or not, the MGM Grand Detroit treats them like high-rolling winners. The staff receives rave reviews and the hotel offers the finest modern luxury accommodations in Detroit. A full-service spa and health club help keep you fit and healthy. Five restaurants and a coffee shop on site mean that even the pickiest eater will find something to love.

Westin Book Cadillac

The Neo-Classical The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit is the grand dame of Detroit hotels. Its ornate lobby and ballrooms offer guests a classic welcome to the historic property, which was the tallest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924. A recent $200 million renovation provided world-class upgrades to the hotel, making it one of downtown Detroit’s best addresses. Guests rave about the comfortable beds, the attentive staff, and the large showers. Try to book a room with a view of the river or the city.

Inn on Ferry Street

For a different hotel experience, The Inn on Ferry Street offers Victorian style in midtown. The inn consists of 40 rooms in four adjacent mansions and carriage houses near the Detroit Institute of the Arts. The original Victorian detail has undergone preservation and restoration, with modern amenities added to ensure a comfortable experience for guests. There are no elevators, so request a lower floor room if you have trouble with stairs. Lower floor rooms also offer more period detail in the rooms, including high ceilings. Rooms facing the rear of the building may be quieter.

The Athenaeum

Large rooms, an attentive staff, and a location next to the Greektown Casino make this Greek-themed hotel a perennial favorite. All the rooms are suites, with a sunken sleeping area separate from the living area. The marble bathroom’s distinctive glass brick wall and jetted tub let guests relax in style. Choose an upper floor room away from the People Mover station and the casino to minimize noise. Don’t miss the two-story mural featuring figures from Greek mythology in the hotel’s lobby.

Motor City Casino Hotel

A literal bright spot in Detroit’s skyline, the MotorCity Casino Hotel is lit with 4,800 LED lights on the exterior, which change color according to the season and local events. The hotel’s interior is among the city’s most luxurious, offering guests large bathrooms, king beds, stunning city views, and a pillow menu to choose their preferred headrest. A 13,000 square foot spa offers saunas, pools, and various treatments.

Detroit has always had a great sense of style, and its hotels reflect this history, while offering world-class modern amenities for the most discerning traveler.

Friendships Rekindled at Keswick Hall

Friendships Rekindled at Keswick Hall

We first met when our oldest kids were at a cooperative preschool. Many of our early conversations happened on the bench surrounding the sand box, interrupted by little voices calling out urgently with he took my trucks and I need to go to the potty right now!

Since the kids have moved on from preschool, we try to get together for coffee about once a month. But even then, we are interrupted by texts – I forgot my violin – phone calls – This is the school nurse, your child, (insert name), has (insert fever, lice or stomach bug)… – and work responsibilities. So although we had known each other for ten years, it’s quite possible that we had never actually had a complete conversation.

We first broached the idea of a weekend getaway at the end of August. And yes, we all blocked out our calendars three months in advance. The weekend before Thanksgiving proved to be the perfect time—pre-holiday madness, not much in the way of sports, and pretty quiet on the school front. So we set out on a brisk intensely sunny fall day leaving our families and half-finished conversations behind.

The Charlottesville area has become increasingly well-known for their wineries, billing itself as an East Coast Napa Valley. What we came to find out was that in recent years, cideries and breweries have been sprouting up throughout the region. So we decided to explore the emerging cider and beer scenes. And we didn’t have to go far to do it.

keswick arrival

Destination: Quiet country luxury

We chose Keswick Hall because of its location (Charlottesville—2 hours away from home), style (luxury), and spa (no qualifier needed). As soon as we pulled into the driveway and saw Keswick’s old-world façade glowing in the mid-afternoon sun, we knew this was going to be special.

The lobby holds a roaring fireplace and a number of comfortable sitting areas. And check-in was as intimate as its surrounding, with a smiling efficient concierge handing us real keys—no plastic here.

A creepy family portrait overlooks the girls in the sitting room at Keswick Hall

Our suites (numbers 1 and 2) were both large and well-appointed but entirely different in layout and furnishings. They felt like the best rooms in a European country manor and had interesting touches such as antique clocks and armoires, but did not feel cluttered. Each suite had its own large balcony overlooking the golf course.

kelly keswick

We were enchanted with the suites but the bathroom would prove to be the ultimate test. Within minutes, Gioia was luxuriating in the very large jet tub, lathered in Molton Brown toiletries, her soft robe and slippers patiently waiting behind the door. Enough said.

Cidery

Cidering in Virginia dates back to the 1600s, when colonists took advantage of the bountiful apples to press cider. Today, Virginia has a handful of cideries who are slowly making a name for themselves.

Enjoying cider at Ciderfest VAAs luck would have it, we chose the perfect weekend to sample Virginia’s ciders. Virginia CiderWeek was coming to a close, culminating in CiderFest, a day-long cider festival with music, food, and ciders from a number of Virginia cideries. The festival was held at Castle Hill Cidery, right in Keswick. Charlottesville’s Love Canon brought the wooden barn down with bluegrass covers of 80s songs (check out Axel F!) while we slowly sampled our way through the cideries. The ciders range from sweet to very dry, similar to Prosecco in taste. Our favorites were Old Hill Cidery’s Betwixt Cider on the sweet side and the Old Fashioned Sour by Blue Bee Cider. Though not represented at the festival, we tried Bold Rock’s Vintage Dry the next day at Keswick Hall and decided it was our favorite of the dry ciders.

Brewery

South Street Brewery's beer menuFor dinner, we headed into an eerily empty downtown Charlottesville for dinner at the South Street Brewery. The U. Va. students had all headed home for Thanksgiving – another reason we appreciated the timing of this visit. The pub was bustling, but we found a toasty spot by the fire to try a few of the house brews. There were several brewed-on-site beers and ales to try, and we made a good dent in the menu. The JP Ale was a lovely hoppy but flavorful American ale, while the India Ink brought a welcome bitterness to the dark side.  Since we were feeling the southernness of the city, we tried the shrimp and grits appetizer (no one’s favorite thing), and the largest, fluffiest biscuits we’d ever seen. We felt we had to try the latter if only for the accompaniments: pimiento cheese and tomato jam. The rest of the menu offered good pub fare with a southern twist, and we all enjoyed our meals, almost as much as we enjoyed the beers.

Spa Time

Fact. No girlfriends’ weekend is complete without some kind of pampering. After a sumptuous breakfast, which included local trout and the best of Virginia ham, we headed to the adjacent spa for a couple of hours of pampering (you know, since we were wiped out from the previous day’s cider and beer tastings).

Girlfriend getaway essential: spa robes

After some excellent massages, we took turns enjoying the steam shower and sauna and daring each other to jump into the outdoor infinity pool. Then we did it—gasping as the frigid 23-degree air hit our lungs and jumping into the 80 degree pool. We laughed as we sprinted back to the warm spa for some hot showers before hitting the road.

Collage showing 28 degrees outside, but the girls hop in the 80 degree saltwater pool anyway

When you’re a parent, uninterrupted conversation can be a luxury. We relished that luxury in the cidery barn, on cozy leather sofas in front of the fireplace, sitting in our robes on a giant four-poster bed, and in the spa’s sauna. We relished it so much that we have all marked our calendars for girlfriend getaways near Washington DC the same weekend in years to come.

Cheers to old friends! Girlfriends getaway ends with a toast

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to Keswick Hall for sponsoring our stay and to Visit Charlottesville for their support.

 

 

I left my toxins in San Francisco

I left my toxins in San Francisco

In preparation for our family vacation—three boys, one minivan, one very long car ride to Maine and a week making sure they don’t kill themselves in the great outdoors—my husband John and I decided to spend a romantic long weekend alone in San Francisco.

As we always do when we travel alone, we made a vow to 1) not discuss the boys and 2) do things we couldn’t do with them.  And as always, we were only mildly successful with the first vow but, this time, we outdid ourselves with the second.

We spent two fantastic nights in San Francisco, which included surfing for John and quality time with my sister for me at the beautiful Cavallo Spa and at Unique SF, a warehouse pop-up full of locally-made clothing, jewelry and foods.

But it was on our trip to the Russian River area of Sonoma that we truly embraced our child-free life.

Boon Hotel

This gem of a boutique hotel sits right outside the little river town of Guerneville. Its courtyard has an inviting pool and hot tub surrounded by very white terry-cloth covered lounge chairs topped with bright orange umbrellas. The most striking thing about it for us was the distinct lack of cannonballs.

We spent hours enjoying the silent pool reading books (amazing how dry paper remains when you take out the cannonballs) and chatted with fellow guests.  It was during one of these chats that we found out about the ultimate child-free venture: the enzyme bath.

Osmosis Spa Cedar Enzyme Bath

John is no spa aficionado but even he was intrigued with our fellow guests’ description of the detoxification effects of the treatment. Plus, the Osmosis Spa’s enzyme treatment is the only one of its kind in the U.S.  We made a reservation for the following night.

After a tough day of hiking in the redwoods and a fabulous dinner at Boon, we headed down the Bohemian Highway to Osmosis Spa. We walked in, changed into robes, and enjoyed a Japanese tea ceremony overlooking a tranquil Japanese garden. Our bath attendant then took us into a room which held two large tubs full what looked like light colored mulch. We sat and she covered out bodies with mulch right up to our necks. We stared out the wall to ceiling windows at a view of nature imagining the toxins floating out of our bodies. Occasionally, our attendant would come and wipe our brow with a wet washcloth and give us small sips of water.

And now we’re back, toxin-free, with a little more mojo in our marriage, and ready for our family vacation. CANNONBALL!!!

Iceland with Kids: around the blogs

Iceland with Kids: around the blogs

The very first stop on our round-the-world family adventure will be Iceland.  Land of ice. And steam. And volcanoes. And Björk.

I’ve been doing a bit of research online to get ready, and found some great information from around the blogs. The 2 Travelaholics give a great overview of the country. The folks at the Family Adventure Project have posted some articles about the quirky and optimistic nature of the Icelandic people. And Travel Savvy Mom goes even deeper into the quirky (a penis museum? and unicorns?) aspects of visiting Iceland with kids. Vagabond3 spent some time in Iceland looking for tacos, and taking the world’s coldest boat ride, while our DC neighbor Matt Long from Landlopers harassed some whales. And speaking of whales… Nicole is the New Black ordered a whale burger, but it didn’t go as planned.

It would be hard to write about Iceland without mentioning the Blue Lagoon Spa, a thermal (if not-so-natural) wonder not far from Keflavik airport. Vagabond 3 tell about slathering on silica mud there, while The World is a Book gets into the nitty-gritty detail about visiting the Blue Lagoon Spa with kids. According to everyone, the thermal waters are not so nice for the hair, so go prepared!

An Icelandic native shows us around in the I Heart Reykjavik blog, where I learned about an exhibit at Power Plant Earth that will fit quite nicely into our 7th grade earth science curriculum.

Iceland with Kids

Venture outside of Reykjavik for some stunning natural wonders. The Golden Circle tour takes you by stunning geysers and waterfalls. Lee Abbamonte lists his 5 Best Things to do on a Road Trip in Iceland, and says to be sure to hit the Iceland Travel Market in Reykjavik to book tours on arrival.

guide to iceland

Be sure to check back here in a few months when I’ll have posts from our family’s trip to Iceland.

Sisters United in Travel

Sisters United in Travel

Reprinted from my February 22, 2011 article for Mount Vernon Patch.

The only, and I mean only, good thing about having my sister, Marie, live across the country in San Francisco is the yearly trip we take together to make up for the fact that we live so far apart. For the past twelve years, we fell into the habit of meeting up at least annually for a weekend. These trips have become therapeutic for me and have made our bond even tighter.

Marie has no children and lives in the great neighborhood of Bernal Heights in one of the greatest cities in the world so, for me, just going to visit her at her home is a fantastic getaway. Over the years, we have taken yearly trips to Mexico, New Mexico, and all over California.

We have several criteria when choosing a destination:

1- Good food. Marie is a vegetarian and I just love to eat. We based last year’s trip to Napa around a dinner at Thomas Keller’s incredible Bouchon Bistro in Yountville (www.bouchonbistro.com) and recently had a memorable meal at Santa Fe’s Café Pasqual’s (www.pasquals.com).

2- A new adventure. We try to try something we’ve never done before every time we travel together. This has meant a trapeze class at a circus school in San Francisco (a first for me), whitewater rafting on the Rio Grande (a first for her), and snowshoeing in the Sierra foothills (a first for both of us).

3- A long weekend. Marie has a demanding job and I have a demanding bunch of boys so we limit our trips to three or four days.

4- A spa visit. What would a sisters’ weekend be without a spa day? We have spent a great afternoon at Kabuki Spa in San Francisco (www.kabukisprings.com), a Japanese style spa where I had my first communal bathing experience, and two days at the incredible Ten Thousand Waves in the mountains above the city of Santa Fe (www.tenthousandwaves.com) a small luxury spa resort built like a Japanese onsen. We once followed a hiking map written late-night on a cocktail napkin at a saloon in Jemez Springs, New Mexico, to an idyllic hidden hot springs surrounded by pine trees.

5- Meeting local characters. We love meeting people on our travels and have met some memorable characters, including Tattoo Tammy in Madrid, New Mexico, who creates intricate motorcycle sculptures from desert road kill, like rattlesnakes and coyotes.

My sister and I have only gotten closer as the years go by. I think these trips have a lot to do with it because they give us time to focus on each other and the space to deal with family issues. Of course, I would trade it all in for us to live closer to each other but, in the meantime, we’ll be united in travel.
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