The American West Is Wide Open
A road trip through Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana reveals the astounding majesty of the region.
Plus, top-notch stays in British Columbia, Rhode Island, San Francisco, and — of course — New York City.
JUNE IS FOR dreams. It’s a face tilted toward the sun, luxuriating in the promise of summer, long days, balmy nights, and bare arms. I’ve always found the period leading up to something, shoulder season, to be the sweetest. It may be because anticipation knows no limit; it can freewheel into fantasy across the endless landscape of our minds. Our globetrotting team has been soaking up these summer dreams with classic domestic escapes in Rhode Island, Denver, and Washington, D.C. They all sound like bliss. As for me? I’ve been staying extra local, enamored of my home base in New York City. Sometimes staying put is sweeter than any escape. — Sophie Mancini
The Fairmont Empress is the crown jewel of Victoria, Canada’s most temperate city. Pulling up to the harbor-facing hotel completed in 1908 by famed architect Francis Rattenbury feels like a royal affair. (On your own time, do a Google search for Rattenbury’s death — it’s a sordid, fascinating story). Let me get straight to the point about what you should do here: If you’ve just flown into town, head directly to the hotel’s Lobby Lounge for a traditional tea service (and mind the dress code). After seeing endless restaurants and hotels chase the latest trends, it was genuinely refreshing to do something old-fashioned. My server, Marlene Watson, has been working in the tearoom for 54 years, which is likely how she guessed the exact tea I was going to order — that, or I’m predictable. Next, head to the hotel’s Willow Stream Spa for a facial because flying really sucks the life out of your skin. You’ll be cocooned in a warm blanket and given something between a facial and a massage. Confession: The experience was so relaxing that I fell asleep while a stranger touched my face — a thing I never thought could happen. I loved my room, so snag it if you can: They call it the “Loo With a View,” and while the loo’s view of the gorgeous harbor is remarkable, the bedroom’s is more so. Dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Q is not to be missed; the interior is a breathtaking amalgamation of Victorian-era grandeur and bronze-inflected modern luxury, and the locally sourced seafood is certified Ocean Wise. Before you head off to bed, ask the concierge to secure tickets to the stunning Butchart sunken gardens or reserve bikes for the next day at the nearby Pedaler bike rental so you can bike around this quaint coastal city. — Laura Smith
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My husband grew up 40 minutes from the recently renovated and opulent The Vanderbilt in Newport, Rhode Island. And while that might seem like a short distance, Aquidneck Island (where Newport is nestled) is an entirely different world from the rest of the U.S.’ smallest state. Rhode Island locals and visitors from around the globe come here to throw back oysters, explore Gilded Age mansions, and take in the ocean air on the famous Cliff Walk. Morgan Capodilupo, the lead concierge at the hotel, put together a flawless itinerary for our weekend. Upon checking in to our suite, we made the short trek downstairs to The Dining Room at The Vanderbilt, which leans heavily into fresh, comforting seafood dishes. The bartender swung by to deliver my beverage of choice — the Commodore’s Mocktail, a blend of cinnamon, hibiscus, and grapefruit — and to make a vesper martini for my husband tableside. The next morning, we indulged in an excellent room-service breakfast and moved on to massages from The Spa at The Vanderbilt, followed by a private tour of The Breakers, Alice and Cornelius Vanderbilt’s lavish summer mansion, given by the ultimate guide, Raymond Roy. Later, we gushed about the details of the lush mansion over an inventive dinner at nearby Tsk — a recommendation of Morgan’s, of course. — Hailey Andresen
My quest to visit every hotel in New York City — an increasingly impossible task, given how many new properties are opening this year — recently took me to the stylish Kimpton Hotel Eventi, a 23-floor property that occupies an entire city block in Chelsea on Sixth Avenue between 29th and 30th streets. Given that it’s only a few blocks from Madison Square Garden, the High Line, and the Empire State Building, the Eventi is an ideal hotel for visitors looking to be right in the middle of things. Along with spacious rooms with stellar views of the city, the Eventi offers an NYC Unique Experience package that bundles a three-night stay at the hotel with a “Stay Human” adventure of your choice. Activities include everything from rug making and art tours to a trip to the endlessly Instagrammable Summit One Vanderbilt, the observation deck of the recently completed tallest building in Midtown Manhattan. The Eventi also houses three top-notch restaurants — L’Amico, The Vine, and Skirt Steak. The latter, as envisioned by chef Laurent Tourondel, lives up to its name by specializing in (surprise!) skirt steak. In fact, aside from endless fries and salad (and a cauliflower version for the vegetarians), skirt steak is literally the only thing on the menu, but trust me when I tell you — it’s a darn good skirt steak. — T. Cole Rachel
Located in the historic Old Post Office landmark building is the ever-resplendent Waldorf Astoria. As the third-tallest building in notoriously low-rise Washington, D.C., the hotel offers soaring views. (You can visit the top of the clock tower to really gild the lily). The hotel has all the grandeur and elegance you would expect from a Waldorf Astoria, with a nine-story indoor atrium and a most attentive, cheerful staff. Its new José Andrés restaurant, The Bazaar, serves deliciously innovative tapas, such as a caprese salad with liquid mozzarella, a play on the Philly cheesesteak with wagyu beef, and a dragon-fruit ceviche. Don’t leave without witnessing the most theatrical drink ever: a Magic Mojito, which is a cocktail glass filled with cotton candy that begins to billow smoke once the server pours in a jigger of spirits and bubbles. It’s a party and a meal all in one.
— Alex Brodsky
After more than a decade living in the Bay Area, I finally had my first staycation in San Francisco. Upon entering the sleek and modern, greenery-filled lobby, I was welcomed by several dogs at reception. 1 Hotels are known for their pup-friendly accommodations, sustainability, and wellness efforts. The rooms are contemporary and cozy; I had a gorgeous view of the bay and the famous nineteenth-century Ferry Building across the street. The hotel’s Bamford Wellness Spa offers luxurious treatments and an outdoor soaking experience. I enjoyed 50 minutes of undisturbed bliss on the property’s private rooftop terrace in a steamy tub filled with mineral-rich bath salts and essential oils, while dozing to the city sounds beneath me. The in-house eatery, Terrene, serves fresh and organic dishes; ingredients are plucked from the chef’s rooftop garden. Completing the look, tabletop herb pots and raised beds are spread throughout the outdoor dining room. Before checking out, I participated in an outdoor group fitness class with both locals and hotel guests — the perfect end to a much-needed staycation.
— Elissa Polls
The communal element of the cruise led us to a place I truly never expected — friendship with other guests! Yes, actual friends — we exchanged phone numbers.
After eight years, it turns out that I have found my personal antidote to complete and utter parenting exhaustion: Fly 4,000 miles from New York City to Rome, hop aboard Oceania Cruises’ newest ship, the Vista, and explore Malta, Naples, and Corsica for seven days. This was my husband’s and my first cruise, not to mention our first time in Italy, and no one will be surprised to hear how much time we spent wide-eyed on our suite’s balcony taking in the views of the Italian coast. What I had not accounted for was the true restoration that began to sink in midway through our trip. Certainly, this was thanks to the effortless nature of our experience. Reservations were booked on our behalf each night to one of Vista’s nine dining concepts (our favorite being Red Ginger), onshore excursions were curated and authentic (we especially enjoyed our pizza tour of Naples), and our every need was taken care of by the gracious staff. The communal element of the cruise led us to a place I truly never expected — friendship with other guests! Yes, actual friends — we exchanged phone numbers. When we weren’t on the shore exploring new destinations, the onboard amenities felt endless. We read and snoozed by the pool, got massages, sat in the sauna, and played a competitive round of mini-golf. It's also worth noting that I tried all the available mocktails in Vista’s five bar concepts. Never before have we felt more pampered, been more full, or been more connected at the end of a vacation. — Hailey
When a dear friend recently found herself unexpectedly stuck in Denver, Colorado on her birthday with no real plan, I offered her this advice: Go to the Denver Four Seasons. The hotel, my favorite in the city, is situated in the heart of the downtown theater district and puts you within easy striking distance of the city’s Performing Arts Complex and the amazing 16th Street Mall, which I consider the best pedestrian shopping stretch in the entire United States. If you’re trying to get further afield, the hotel also offers complimentary town car service. The other great thing about the Denver Four Seasons (and for that manner, pretty much any Four Seasons) is that you know there’ll be good dining and a reliably luxe spa. I can assure you that the Denver property has both. Edge, the hotel’s on-site restaurant, is an elevated take on a steakhouse created by chefs Craig Dryhurst and Andrew Lauer. Not only is the hotel a convenient launching pad for the city, it also offers incredible mountain views — a nice reminder of exactly why they call it the Mile High City. — Cole
Sophie Mancini is a New York based writer. Under the New York Times’ creative agency, she helped lead the relaunch of Departures Magazine, where she then went on to become the food editor. Her background spans editorial, brand, and books.
Laura Smith is the deputy editor of Departures. Previously, she was the executive editor of California magazine and has written for the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic, and many more. Her nonfiction book, The Art of Vanishing, was published by Viking in 2018.
T. Cole Rachel is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and teacher with over 20 years of experience working in print and digital media. He is currently an editor-at-large at Departures.
In addition to her work with Departures, Alexandra Brodsky is a filmmaker and photographer. Her films have been screened at venues such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the American Film Institute. Recent photography publications and exhibits include Index Magazine, Pearl Press, Humble Arts Foundation, Too Tired Press, and Charcoal Book Club’s Chico Review. She is an alumnus of the Screenwriters’ Colony in Nantucket, the Film Independent’s Screenwriters Lab, and a Fulbright Scholar. She is also a founder of Quality Pictures, with Mary Stuart Masterson and Cassandra Del Viscio, a Hudson Valley–based production company making quality entertainment for social impact.
Elissa Polls is the head of production for Departures. A producer who typically stays behind the scenes, she has worked with creatives from around the world, helping bring their ideas to life. Polls has over 15 years of production experience and lives in Berkeley, California.
Hailey Andresen is the guides editor at Departures. A New York–based writer and editor, she founded the digital lifestyle publication Household Mag and has spent more than a decade in the hospitality industry.
Jess Rotter is a Los Angeles–based illustrator and artist. Rotter’s work has frequently featured in the Washington Post. Her clients range from Natalie Portman to Questlove.
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