Our Favorite Stays of the Year
Our editors’ picks for the most restful, memorable, and invigorating hotel experiences.
The perfect sweater, an unexpected Vegas getaway, a new pair of slippers — and other things delighting our editors this season.
BY THE TIME you read this, November will essentially have come and gone. As usual, this month felt all too short — an all-too-short blip of fall weather, Thanksgiving gatherings, and the first true snaps of winter chill that remind us that the end of the year is nigh. We’ve officially entered the home stretch of 2022. As we approach the flurry of holiday parties, frenzied gift shopping, and end-of-year celebrations this December, I’m taking a moment to first appreciate the pleasures the last month has given us — beautiful dinners, the return of warm winter clothing, holiday lights — and a much needed breath before heading into what is typically the most jubilant and occasionally chaotic time of the year. — T. Cole Rachel
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I have never really considered myself to be a Vegas person. In fact, in my 40-something years of travel, I never had a single occasion to visit Las Vegas. I chalked this up to my being the earth’s most inept gambler, my aversion to certain types of crowds, and a general dislike for “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” types of behavior. I always assumed that the thing that might eventually get me to Vegas would be a wedding or my brother insisting on a bachelor party weekend. But it turns out the thing that finally drew me there was … Adele. While Vegas has always been known for shows, over the past decade top-tier casinos — Caesars Palace, in particular — have upped the ante by creating entire travel experiences based on the lure of seeing A-list entertainers in a context that one might never otherwise experience. Caesars invigorated this business with the 2003 launch of Celine Dion’s now-legendary “A New Day” residency at the Colosseum (a venue built just for her) and has continued that run with a string of high-profile shows including the likes of Elton John, Cher, Shania Twain, and Mariah Carey. Travelers who might never be wooed by the prospect of loose slots, magic shows, or Wayne Newton (no shade to Wayne) will travel great distances to see cultural icons perform in what is ultimately a pretty intimate setting.
It was with no small amount of fanfare that Ceasars recently launched “Weekends with Adele,” a five-month run of shows that gives fans the chance to see one of the world’s most celebrated and tour-shy artists up close and personal. On the opening night (which was notoriously delayed nearly a year due to production issues), fans who had traveled from all over the world — and a small coterie of A-list celebrities — lost their collective minds at the debut of the British superstar’s sublime show. Staying true to Adele’s refined performance aesthetic (she sings her hits, does no costume changes, employs no backup dancers, and at no point flies around on wires), the experience still gives a requisite jolt of the ol’ Vegas razzle-dazzle (the show features an actual rain shower, a massive backing band and orchestra, and a piano that is slowly engulfed in flames). The show manages to feel both intimate (Adele comes into the audience to chat and sing along with fans) and bombastic (in a much-memed moment, the singer ends the show by magically vanishing in a shower of heart-shaped confetti). It properly feels like the kind of thing one might only see in Las Vegas.
Show aside, for the luxury-minded traveler not particularly interested in gambling, Caesars in particular offers an abundance of transportive experiences. For the high roller, the property offers dazzling private villas that provide bespoke services and exclusive access to casino amenities (to the tune of 30K a night). I opted for a suite at the Nobu Hotel, a chic property contained within Caesars; I essentially treated my Adele trip as a kind of fancy wellness weekend, decamping to the hotel’s Qua Baths & Spa for a massage, a CBD body treatment, and to spend time soaking and steaming in the expansive Roman baths. Otherwise, my partner and I fine-dined at a handful of Caesars’ adjacent restaurants, including signature eateries by Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay. Standout experiences were a showstopping meal at Martha Stewart’s newly opened The Bedford (located at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, the French-infused restaurant is a replica of Stewart’s own 1925 farmhouse) and an omakase dining experience at Nobu, which lasted for nearly two hours and involved some of the most sublime Japanese food I’ve ever tasted. I know a trip to Vegas isn’t typically something one might characterize as restorative, but I came home having been wildly entertained and feeling both well rested and well fed. — T. Cole Rachel
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Bungalows lives in the heart of Scottsdale and creates an artist studio–inspired oasis. From pasta-making classes to its Pantone-colored campus map, this resort offers an artfully designed, midcentury-modern experience. The 23-acre property invites you to meander around the bungalows and enjoy the view of Camelback Mountain. The property gets its unique point of view from its continued working relationship with Cattle Track Arts & Preservation, an art preservation initiative. Only 5 minutes from Andaz, Cattle Track provides opportunities for artists, craftsmen, and students of various mediums to encourage and enhance their art forms. The program coordinator will happily give you a tour of their incredible facility and introduce you to all the amazing artists hosted there, who range in age from 23 to 98. After a visit to Cattle Track, you will begin to see the hidden touches of artistic expressions through the lobby and guest rooms. Chef Dushyant Singh of Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen showcases the simplicity and elegance of Mediterranean food with bold and seasonal touches. Overall, the Andaz Scottsdale’s impeccably designed furniture and general ambiance give you a feeling you might remember from childhood — the sensation of being a kid presented with a crisp white piece of paper and new box of crayons. — JB Maza
When I walked into José Andrés’ new bar at the top of the recently opened Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad, I gasped. Nubeluz has hands down some of the most dazzling views in Manhattan. The place is a gorgeous encapsulation of New York glamour — a glowing quartz bar, velvet couches, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Cocktails are very fun, but the real gems of the menu to me were the Spanish snacks: briny bites of boquerones, a platter of buttery jamón ibérico, and little cones of creamy labneh topped with pearls of caviar. — Sophie Mancini
A journey through my old stomping grounds in Chelsea led me to Poster House, the first museum in the United States dedicated specifically to posters. The museum is home to an ever-expanding permanent collection plus temporary exhibits you won’t want to miss. I was surrounded by the works of artists such as Jacques Villeglé, KAWS, and Vhils. “Masked Vigilantes on Silent Motorbikes” explores the art of manipulating commercial and found imagery to subvert the narrative. Parallel to this rebellious exhibit you’ll find “Air-India’s Maharaja: Advertising Gone Rogue” — a series of travel posters and ephemera featuring the company’s cheeky mascot from India’s golden age of advertising. The Maharaja’s international antics have captured the hearts of the public for decades. It’s no surprise that the striking visuals and sense of humor showcased here have won numerous awards. I left with a renewed sense of purpose, inspired to rethink how poster art has shaped the society we live in today, and why I fell in love with design as a means to tell my own story. — Lisa Lok
Everything about South Florida, from the bright, clear light to the soft curves of the art deco architecture to the preponderance of candy-shaded pastels seems tuned to provide the sense that one has stepped slightly out of time. I always find the feeling mildly dissonant but not entirely unpleasant, and I love the pastels. During a recent stay, I ventured to Palm Beach to visit the newly renovated Colony Palm Beach, where everything is pastel — more precisely, pink — from the doorman’s polos and shorts to the flamingos decorating the wallpaper to the facade of the building itself. I have recently been rewatching “Mad Men,” and stepping into the hotel made me feel I could have wandered through the screen onto a particularly well-designed set. Recently purchased by the grandson of a previous owner, the more than 70-year-old property has undergone a multiyear renovation that has brought it squarely into the Instagram age (photo ops abound everywhere you look) while preserving all the charm and character the hotel has long been known for. The charms don’t stop at the wallpaper either. The staff, both old and new (some have been with the property for 40 years), provide a level of cheerful service, a welcome respite from the gray (both literal and figurative) of a Northeastern winter. — Skye Parrott
Like a lot of people of my generation, I didn’t start to properly care for my skin until it was apparently almost too late. This is how, at middle age, I became a devotee of Valmont, the Swiss beauty brand that is famous for its cellular cosmetics and treatments. Having slowly transformed my own bathroom into a makeshift Valmont spa (stocked with a variety of the brand’s serums, moisturizers, foaming masks, and sublime fragrances), I now enjoy turning others on to my obsession as well. This year, I’m gifting a couple of special people in my life Valmont’s Holidays in Neverland Advent Calendar, which is beautifully packaged and perfectly gifty (it includes travel sizes of 12 of the brand’s most iconic offerings). For the Valmont lover in your life, it’s a great way to replenish their supply of essentials. For the uninitiated, it’s a great entry point into a world of products that will change your skin forever. — T. Cole Rachel
It’s the 125th anniversary of Seattle-born heritage brand Filson, and it’s as good a time as any to take stock of some of the incredible things they make, especially the high-quality gear they stitch and sew right here in the U.S. They’re known for their Waxed Jackets and duffle bags, but I fell in love with their Crewneck Guide Sweater, which is made in America and just about the best wool sweater I’ve ever owned. Typically, wool is scratchy or bulky or just too hot to ever rock anywhere other than the Klondike. But this top is sleek and smooth enough to wear in rugged, cold environments, or just out to a nice dinner on a chilly night. It’s the kind of sweater I hope to keep my whole life. — Alex Frank
I don’t think I owned a pair of slippers until I was an adult. And really, what was I thinking? Now I wear them all winter long. In cold weather, what could be nicer than sliding one’s foot into something warm and cozy? These fuzzy mules are my current go-tos. Made with shearling and sporting a grippy, rubber sole, they are made by OluKai, a Hawaiian footwear company whose sales support a foundation that works to preserve native Hawaiian culture. And when I say they are my current favorites, I mean I wear them all day every day, and will be doing so until the winter weather turns to something more … Hawaiian. — Skye Parrott
The classic Crème de la Mer was always a little too thick for everyday application (for me). But I recently tried La Mer’s New Treatment Lotion and am loving it. Silky and liquidy, somewhere between water and oil, I apply it right after cleansing and it primes me for my moisturizer. It leaves the face with a nice kind of bounce. — Sophie Mancini
The storied French glassmaker Lalique, founded in 1888, unleashed the ultimate fine-art collaboration this season by teaming up with the incredible light artist James Turrell. You probably know him from his epic skyscapes, the architectural art pieces in which a hole is cut into a room’s roof in such a way that the sky becomes an ever-changing canvas on the wall. For Lalique, he’s created beautiful light panels and crystal perfume bottles (with earthy scents inside) in jewel tones. They encapsulate the tranquility and gracefulness of his art pieces in perfect little objects. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to have a Turrell all to yourself. — Alex Frank
As someone who burns a different scent of candle in each room of the house, the kitchen is often the hardest place to find that ideal aroma. No matter how nice a candle smells, sometimes it just doesn’t complement what you are cooking (or, in my case, ordering in). Big Night — a shop that specializes in all things entertaining — has a signature candle called “Dinner Party” that plays well with whatever is on the menu. Smells of fresh arugula, lemongrass, basil, saffron, and amber linger in the background, providing just enough fragrance to keep your guests guessing where you hide all the fresh herbs. — Elissa Polls
I’ll be the first to admit that once the season’s foliage has all but fallen and it’s time to bring out the winter coats, I will do everything in my power to not leave my home. However, I will occasionally abandon my state of hibernation in the spirit of holiday cheer. The Lightscape at Brooklyn Botanic Garden is back this year, and digging out my beanie and gloves was well worth it. Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s stunning transformation after dark into a whimsical trail of illuminated installations is a must-see. Local artists have designed sprawling displays across the garden’s 52-acre landscape, each one interacting and responding to its unique environment. Wandering from piece to piece offers a varied sensory experience based on the combination of music and interactive lights on display, over a million in total. One moment you’re dancing by Masha Tsimring’s “Light Like Water,” the next you’re swirling peacefully beneath ITHACA studio’s aurora borealis. Each artist’s unique take on the spatial medium and thoughtfully staged sets is sure to immerse you in the magic of the season. Be sure to grab a hot chocolate or cider from the cafe carts to sweeten the experience. — Lisa Lok
Beato Chocolates, handcrafted in Ojai, California, by two gallerists are a double whammy — they are charming to look at and heavenly to eat. The chocolate is packaged with delightfully cheeky artwork and inventive flavors like “Bored at a Cocktail Party” (dark chocolate with pretzels and peanuts), “Sometimes You Fancy a Nut” (dark chocolate with coconut and almonds), and “I Shock Myself” (dark chocolate with coffee and cacao nibs). Also available in beautifully sculpted shapes like a moon face, these bite-sized pieces of chocolate art are almost too cute to eat, although I did eat the entire box in one sitting. — Elissa Polls
Fly by Jing’s products are inspired by its founder’s favorite flavors from her hometown of Chengdu, China. From dumplings to pantry staples, each product transports you with its powerful flavors and undeniable heat. The Sichuan Chili Crisp is my new kitchen ally — if I under season anything, I just add a dab of this miracle sauce and bring the dish back to life. This all-natural Sichuan chili sauce is a perfect addition to salmon, chicken, steak, and even ice cream and savory yogurt. It adds the perfect amount of crunch and kick to almost anything, including my own personal favorite — pizza! — Elissa Polls
Another wildly opulent cocktail experience was Shinji’s, from the team behind Michelin-starred omakase spot noda. The drinks here are little masterpieces in a glass. Standouts were the Soba Cha Cha Cha, a soba-infused vodka old-fashioned, served alongside a savory sesame-based cracker; and the Foie Gras Sidecar, a citrus-forward sidecar made with foie gras–washed Hennessy X.O, served with a foie gras tartlet. For a real ball-out experience, the bar-side hand rolls and wagyu sando are delightful complements. — Sophie Mancini
I recently had a Sunday night feast at House of the Red Pearl, the new Chinese-inspired restaurant in Jean-George Vongerichten’s new concept, the Tin Building. Formerly the Fulton Fish Market, the Tin Building is the new culinary hub that just opened within the landmark, housing upscale grocery markets and restaurant concepts within its iconic walls. The speakeasy-style House of the Red Pearl can be found by walking through a mercantile on the building’s second floor. The red, lantern-lit space is a beauty, and home to a stellar bowl of Lobster Efu Noodles, a bouncy, buttery dish that elegantly evokes Maruchan instant ramen swimming in savory sauce-broth alongside sweet lobster. — Sophie Mancini
New brasserie The Noortwyck from two Eleven Madison Park alumni, Cedric Nicaise and Andrew Quinn, just began a brunch service. In this charming space (dignified gray wainscoting and warm ochre banquets), I had a perfect morning with my father. They do loving takes on classic dishes (dad did eggs benedict, I did steak and eggs); we ended with a pastry selection, and their version of the canelé (moist and cakey inside with a chewy, caramelized shell outside) was a little pocket of joy. I tip my hat to their pastry chef, Ileene Cho! — Sophie Mancini
Skye Parrott is the editor-in-chief of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.
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.
Sophie Mancini is an editor at Departures. Born and raised in New York City, she holds a degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University and has a background as a writer in brand and editorial.
Elissa Polls is the senior director of content 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.
Alex Frank is a contributing editor at Departures. Based in Manhattan, Frank previously worked at Vogue.com as deputy culture editor. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, GQ, Pitchfork, New York Magazine, Fantastic Man, and the Village Voice.
Lisa Lok is an art director at Departures. A Brooklyn-based creative, she enjoys collaborating with illustrators and photographers from around the world. Her work can be found in the pages of Airbnb Magazine, NYLON, and Asia Society Magazine, among others.
JB Maza is a producer for Departures Magazine. Her love of caffeine and travel has taken her all over the world in search of the perfect cup of coffee.
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