For South Floridians seeking a Memorial Day Weekend break from the population explosion of late, here are some suggested hotels that are relatively close by... yet feel worlds away.
French Quarter Inn, a Charlestowne Hotels-managed property
I remember when I first left NYC and moved to South Florida. My parents and two younger brothers had already migrated here, and I was the last holdout. But as my biological clock was ticking, my bank account was dwindling, and my relationship was clearly on the fritz, I knew the time had come.
Once I got settled, it was not relief I felt. It was culture shock. What had I done?
But I'll tell you this: Here in "the lightning capital of the world," I adapted lightning-fast to the sunshine, the beach, and the fact that I could conveniently load bags of groceries from Publix into the trunk of my car rather than schlepping them 10 blocks from D'Agostino to my apartment.
South Florida is awesome, and contrary to the old stereotype, it's not just for retirees. For a long time, I felt like it was my little secret. However, slowly but surely, other New Yorkers - those my own age and younger - caught on. And in the past year? Don't even get me started.
Now, it seems like everyone wants in. Gator territory has become the new Northeast. Traffic is horrendous, parking is a shitshow, and dinner reservations are increasingly harder to come by. Not to sound complain-y, but could y'all (just kidding... I don't say "y'all") please stop moving here?
Anyhoo, if you live in South Florida and are thinking about a last-minute Memorial Day Weekend staycation, think again. I checked, and things are pretty much booked solid. But here's good news: I found some lovely places kinda sorta in the vicinity (none more than a 2-hour flight from Palm Beach International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, or Miami International Airports) that not only have availability, but also, offer a welcome change of scenery... and attitude... for South Floridians who, like me, are feeling a tad claustrophobic right now.
THE BRISTOL Bristol, Virginia
The Bristol Hotel is a 65-room boutique hotel housed within one of the city's striking 1925 architectural landmarks. It reflects the city’s distinctly industrial roots and musical soul. Spectacular views can be seen from the city’s only rooftop bar, Lumac, and local flavors enliven the dishes served at the hotel’s family-style restaurant, Vivian’s Table.
fun stuff to do: go fly fishing or whitewater rafting, hike the famed Appalachian trail, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Bristol Caverns
design notes: brick and concrete façade; art deco entry; crisp and tasteful transitional decor in the rooms and on the rooftop
images courtesy of The Bristol Hotel, a Charlestowne Hotels-managed property
For reservations, visit: bristolhotelva.com
Asheville, North Carolina
The Foundry Hotel is set in a historical enclave known as "The Block," a five-minute walk from downtown Asheville's shops and eateries. Once the foundry that forged the steel for the famed Biltmore Estate, the industrial modern building offers a culinary program led by 5x James Beard nominee John Fleer, a cool second-floor lobby bar called "The Workshop," and chauffeured brewery visits via the hotel's Tesla Model X house car.
fun stuff to do: daytrip to The Biltmore Estate, drive along the breathtaking Blue Ridge Parkway, sip "truffle drinking chocolate" at the French Broad Chocolate Lounge
design notes: industrial elements like exposed brick and suspended Edison bulbs; gorgeous hardwood floors; tribal-chic mud cloth upholstered banquette seating
images courtesy of: The Foundry Hotel, a Raines Hospitality hotel
For reservations, visit: foundryasheville.com
FRENCH QUARTER INN
Charleston, South Carolina
Recently named No. 1 Hotel in the U.S. for two consecutive years by TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, and now nominated by Condé Nast Traveler for #1 Hotel in Charleston, this gracious 50-room luxury boutique hotel is located in the heart of Charleston's Historic District. An artisanal in-room breakfast, a ride to the waterfront on the hotel’s vintage bicycles, a complimentary Southern turndown service, and getting lulled to sleep by a sound machine before your head hits your choice of seven options from the "Sound Sleep Pillow Menu" are just a few of the special features to enjoy.
fun stuff to do: explore the city’s historic architecture, browse the boutiques along King Street, visit the Charleston Market for locally-made goods
design notes: traditional French-style carved headboards; scrolled bistro sets on the charming terrace; inlaid marble lobby flooring; elegant winding staircase of rich mahogany and elaborate wrought ironwork
images courtesy of French Quarter Inn, a Charlestowne Hotels-managed property
For reservations, visit: fqicharleston.com
See ya later, alligator. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend, wherever you end up spending it!