Urbanvacations’s Weblog

January 7, 2022

Vancouver British Columbia Canada JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Aerial of Vancouver

Canada Vancouver BC

What do you say we all make a fresh new start in 2022! Sounds nice, doesn’t it! Luckily there are plenty of exciting events planned for all across the city to offer adventure, discovery, and new perspectives.


Dine Out Vancouver Festival: 20 Years of Culinary Celebration

Canada’s largest food and drink festival returns for its 20th delicious season! From January 14 to 31, hundreds of local restaurants, breweries, and winemakers will present the best of the West Coast and international culinary arts with multi-course fixed-price menus starting at only $20. Find your new favourite restaurant, or take part in any number of delectable events such as gelato-making classes, dim sum tours, and more! Menus were unveiled today! Every month there is something new and exciting and we know when and where!

Bonus! Make it a full night out and book with a participating hotel to receive a $50 Mastercard gift card! You deserve a little culinary vacation.

PLUS #FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069
will give every traveler an extra $25.00 discount!


PuSH Festival

Vancouver’s premiere boundary-busting performing arts festival is back this year, January 20 – February 6. Presenting what the Georgia Straight calls “that Berlin feeling,” the PuSH Festival features powerful, edgy, and sometimes controversial performances from brave artists all around the world and right here at home. Check out this year’s line-up!

Celebrating Lunar New Year lion dance


Lunar New Year

This year welcomes the Year of the Tiger with the theme Together, Stronger. Looking forward to a prosperous and “roaring” new year, LunarFest celebrates our diversity as well as our shared experience with cultural events in Vancouver and Richmond in January and February. Keep a watch out for all that’s happening at Lunar Fest.

Inside Vancouver


‘Tis the season for resolutions. Have you made yours! When you need a little nudge, check out our blog for what’s happening around Vancouver this month. Looking to be more socially aware! Read about the new accessibility initiative at the Arts Club and The Cultch. Expand your palate! Here’s where to enjoy fresh takes on bannock in the city. How about taking up a new sport! We’ve compiled a list of easy snowshoe trails for the beginner. Or when you’re simply looking to spend more time with family, check out our kid-friendly ideas for Winter Break that could easily apply to any weekend for the foreseeable future!

#JessKalinowsky JESS@FriendsTravel.com 24|7|365
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa9009 

November 21, 2021

#SonomaCounty #CaliforniaWine JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Even if all #SonomaCountyCA. had to offer were its legendary (and continuously award-winning) wines, you’d have more than enough reason to visit.


The region ranks among #Forbes and Travel + Leisure’s top destinations in 2021 thanks to all kinds of new openings and the longstanding enticements of this prime patch of Northern California: soaring redwoods, rugged coastline, historic settlements and a whole series of foodie pilgrimage sites.


So pick an upcoming weekend—or even better, a full week—and pack your bags. EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky

But the year has been good to more than Sonoma County’s wines. The region also ranks among Forbes Top Destinations for 2021 and #TravelLeisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2021 thanks to all kinds of new openings, in addition to the longstanding enticements of this prime patch of Northern California: soaring redwoods, rugged coastline, historic settlements and a whole series of foodie pilgrimage sites.

And getting here has never been easier, with a growing roster of direct flights into the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (yup, that Charles M. Schulz; we’ll come back to him soon). So pick an upcoming weekend—or even better, a full week—and pack your bags. Here are eight of our favorite things to do upon arrival.

Explore a tale of two trees

Wherever you’d place yourself on the tree-hugger scale, there’s a Sonoma County park for that. At one end of the spectrum, you’ll find the #Healdsburg-area redwoods of Riverfront Park, where the short #Redwood Hill Trail will lead you through a gorgeous grove’s worth of the towering icons.



At the other end, you’ll find Salt Point State Park near #Gualala, where the self-guided #Pygmy Forest Trail meanders through a grove of fully mature but Munchkin-sized redwood, pine and cypress trees. Some of these miniatures are more than a hundred years old, naturally stunted to bonsai-like proportions by the thin, acidic soil and low-lying water table. (While you’re in the park, don’t miss the surreal, honeycomb-like tafoni.) Of course, at the heart of every tree-hugger, no matter which species are around, lies a deep love of the natural world—and an accompanying sense of stewardship. Sonoma County is the kind of place that brings out both, particularly with such initiatives as Leave No Trace.

Soak up wine country wellness!

Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs and Agua Caliente—collectively known as “the Springs”—were once sacred Native American healing sites. The warm, therapeutic mineral baths began luring Bay Area residents around 1900, when the first hotel and spa opened and “taking the waters” became a thing here.



The 21st-century evolution of The Springs is mostly residential, but you still have your choice of spring-fed pools: The underground hot springs now supply the elegant Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. A day pass (available Mondays through Thursdays) grants you access to the outdoor geothermal mineral pools, an elaborate indoor bathing ritual area, a fireside lounge and much more. If you’re looking for a more traditional public bathhouse, head to Morton’s Warm Springs in Glen Ellen. Relaxed, family-friendly and inexpensive, Morton’s is like your favorite public pool, but with better water. Bring a picnic or even your dog (though not into the pool itself).

Then again, the springs and pools are just the start of Sonoma County’s wellness offerings. Practically everything that’s grown locally finds its way into at least one sublime spa offering, from the lavender and olive oils that make their way into massages to the antioxidant-rich wine grapes and grape seeds that supercharge scrubs, facials and wraps. But arguably the best survey of Sonoma County’s abundance—spa style, at least—is the Nurtured by Nature treatment at the Farmhouse Inn’sWellness Barn, an extravaganza that includes a wild mustard seed mask, an apple blossom scrub, an olive oil balm and—in honor of the redwoods—a woodsy mist.

Hang with notable locals

While you might spy a celeb on your wine country tour, why not go for a sure thing? Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy et al. are easy to find in Santa Rosa and, unlike other A-Listers, this gang is always happy to pose for photos. To delve into the life of their creator (and longtime local resident), head to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, home to a vast archive of original drawings and personal artifacts.


You can catch Girl Power in #Peanuts—a fun look at the comic’s co-ed beginnings and evolution. You have a bit longer—until January 16 2022—to catch Adults by #Schulz, a rare glimpse at all seven strips of a little-known grownup-centered comic series the artist developed in the 1950s. The latest exhibit, which just opened and runs through March 13, 2022, is the most personal: Drawn from Life introduces you to the real-world people, places and events that inspired the names, personalities and exploits of the Peanuts gang.

Get rollin’ on the river
Sonoma County’s 110-mile waterway got its current name—the Russian River—from the first non-native people to settle in the valley: the Russian fur-traders who established Fort Ross in the 1800s. Around the same time, a lumber and mining boom brought in the railroad, and soon the steep, wild valley was dotted with little towns. Factor in the lush forests and lake-fed swimming holes, and the Russian River has been a favorite escape for city folk ever since. Thus the abundance of eco-adventure operators equipped with kayaks, canoes, inner tubes or paddle boards. One good choice? Healdsburg’s Russian River Kayak and Canoe Trips, whose three- to five-hour paddling excursions make for a relaxed intro to the area.


If you’ve got more serious paddling skills, consider starting on the other end of the river, where stronger currents sweep dramatically into the Pacific. Reserve early with WaterTreks Eco-Tours for a self-guided or expert-led adventure through a rich estuary and protected marine sanctuary, where sightings of eagles, osprey, otters, seals and sea lions aren’t at all uncommon. You might even spot a whale in the distance.

Go coastal
The Sonoma County coast is the real-life version of the Northern California dream-scape, where dramatic cliffs and rugged headlands separate innumerable little beaches, whose wind and waves can get impressively wild. To see what we mean, head to Sonoma Coast State Park—17 miles of gorgeous public coastline from Bodega Head to just north of Jenner. While the water is too rough for swimming, the beaches are perfect for combing, hiking and tidepooling. The most dramatic coastal views start around Goat Rock, where a colony of harbor seals is often snoozing on the sand bars.


For killer coastal views with a side of history, head 11 miles north of Jenner to Fort Ross, a Russian-era compound with exhibits on this imperial settlement, as well as on the early California Ranch era and the #indigenous #Kashaya territory.


And if you find the Sonoma County coast so compelling you don’t want to leave (spoiler alert: you will), settle in at Timber Cove—a place that feels almost like your coolest friend’s cabin, complete with fire pits, ping pong and pool (plus ocean views for days).

Eat like a food editor

From the #RobbReport’s inclusion of Little Saint among the most anticipated restaurant openings of the season to the Food & Wine editor in chief’s recently professed obsession “with the quality of Sonoma County’s local ingredients and its winding terrain of valleys, mountains, forests, and farms,” the nation’s top food editors serve up endless praise for this county, where amazing food trucks and farmers’ markets sit cheek by well-earned jowl with Michelin-starred restaurants.


Apropos of the latter: Among the just-announced Bay Area #Michelin ratings, a new star was born, literally: #Barndiva in #Healdsburg just scored a star, thanks to “prime local produce and sustainability…a tangible deftness in such aromatic flavor combinations as seared dayboat scallops with lemongrass-ginger butter sauce; as well as hamachi with green papaya, fermented mango, and serrano oil.” Meanwhile, the same town’s three-star standout, SingleThread Farms, retained its rating this year with a menu “acutely tuned to each micro-season in Sonoma County,” one prime example being the cold-weather pumpkin tartare with Dungeness crab and miso-makrut lime foam.

As you’re probably starting to suspect, Healdsburg is something of a culinary pilgrimage site, with other hotspots that range from Dry Creek Kitchen, the Charlie Palmer-founded modern American restaurant credited with launching Sonoma County onto the global foodie stage almost two decades ago to Chalkboard, an awardee of Michelin Bib Gourmand status thanks to—among other things—the homemade pastas.
On the other hand, some of the best food in Sonoma County can be found in the unlikeliest of locations, from the tapas-happy Underwood Bar & Bistro in the postage-stamp-sized town of Graton to the breakfast and lunch local favorite Estero Café along Highway 1, to name a few. Don’t overlook the wineries’ food, either: Spectacular, locally-grown and -sourced fare lures foodies to J. Vineyards & Winery, Lynmar Estate and Jordan Winery (where the heirloom tomatoes alone account for more than 20 crop varieties in the resident gardens). And though it’s not a winery per se, the vineyard-surrounded Vintner’s Resort is home to John Ash & Co. a pioneer in the field of seasonal, locally-sourced delicacies—and their ideal Sonoma County wine pairings, of course.

See, swirl, smell, sip

Speaking of wineries, we couldn’t let you get through a whole piece on Sonoma County without spending some time on the legendary local wines. With more than 425 wineries spread across the valley—from venerable, 19th-century pioneers like Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun” to locals) and Buena Vista to creative small producers like Davis Family Vineyards and Preston —Sonoma County’s cup runneth over.
But don’t forget those 2021 Decanter World Wine Award winners we mentioned earlier—wineries that in and of themselves warrant a trip for true oenophiles. Be sure to visit at least one, from Frei Brothers for the Reserve Merlot (platinum) to Rodney Strong Vineyards for the Alexander’s Crown Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (gold) to Alexander Valley Vineyards for the merlot (silver).


Wherever you find yourself tasting the local wines, they’ll not only taste good, but also serve up a feel-good element: Having resolved seven years ago to become the most sustainable wine region on earth, Sonoma County has been working steadily toward that goal, and today, a reported 99% of the county’s vineyard acreage has been certified sustainable. Thus the Sustainably Farmed Sonoma County Grapes label you’ll find on millions of bottles of wine.

Don’t let the other local beverages feel left out
Not to be outdone, the local beer, cider and booze are gaining their own acclaim. In fact, you’ll find a number of hotspots, from Parliament Brewing Company to Young & Yonder Spirits (try the award-winning absinthe) included in the Sonoma County Tasting Pass alongside standout vineyards.


A few other options to consider If craft beer’s your thing: The Barlow, an open-air marketplace in Sebastopol that houses Crooked Goat Brewing, #Woodfour Brewing Company, and #Seismic Brewing Co., for starters; #Henhouse Brewing Company, known for a focus on unusual and “under appreciated” styles; #RussianRiver Brewing Co., where lines form around the block for Pliny the Younger; and the Shady Oak Barrel House, whose award-winning sours and hoppy, artisanal ales on best enjoyed on the creekside patio.



Hard cider, while usually made from apples, can be brewed with almost any fruit, as well as hops. Sample the surprisingly sophisticated results at Sebastopol’s Ace Cider, home to a staggering variety, Horse and Plow, surrounded by organic gardens and orchards—or Golden State Cider, whose tap room serves up such favorites as the hibiscus-infused Jamaica. Windsor’s Tilted Shed Ciderworks is also worth a stop, where you can try smoked or barrel-aged ciders, among other deliciousness.
Taking the farm-to-glass concept to whole new level, small-batch distilleries are blooming in Sonoma County’s fertile soil—some offering tastings and tours. Check out Sebastopol’s Spirit Works (home to famous Sloe Gin); Sonoma’s HelloCello (the limoncello, rivals any you’ll try in Italy) and Petaluma’s Griffo Distillery (don’t miss the cold-brew coffee liqueur). Point being: There are endless—and endlessly delicous—ways to toast to your time in Sonoma County.


Ready to go!!! Start planning your Sonoma County getaway
: EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

November 19, 2021

#Peabody #Memphis TN JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Peabody Memphis
Memphis, TN

This #Memphis #icon, known as the “South’s Grand Hotel,” was originally opened in 1869 and is world-famous for its five resident #ducks who march twice daily to splash in the hotel’s lobby fountain. In addition to the legendary birds, the hotel is known as the place where legend #ElvisPresley, a Memphis man himself, signed his first contract, and the home to Lansky’s, Elvis’ favorite clothing store. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The #Peabody is one of the grandest and most historic hotels in downtown Memphis.

No trip to Memphis TN is complete without a visit to #ElvisPresley’s #Graceland and to visit the #LisaMarieAirplane. 

EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

The “Lisa Marie”, Elvis Presley”s private plane named after his daughter, is on display since August 8, 1998 in Memphis, TN. Elvis Presley died August 16, 1977 and every year people come to Memphis to celebrate his memory. Impersonator contests are held in several places and the contestants come from all over the world. 

#SanAntonio #Riverwalk #Texas JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Hotel Valencia Riverwalk
San Antonio, TX

Nestled in a city rich with history and charm, Hotel Valencia #Riverwalk blends #Spanish #Colonial and Modern #Mediterranean styles with contemporary ideals. The #Spanish #Colonial influence is a nod to San Antonio’s Spanish Colonial heritage dating back to the time the #Missions were built, while Modern #Mediterranean flair reflects the building’s #Tuscan-style architecture. Surrounded by quaint shops, fine dining along the famous River Walk, the historic Alamo, and the enchanting Majestic Theater, Hotel Valencia puts you at the center of it all.

EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

#NashvilleTN #RussellHotel JESS@FriendsTravel.com

The Russell
#Nashville, TN
Separated from downtown by the #Cumberland River, artsy East Nashville is named as “#Nashville’s Coolest Neighborhood” by Vogue, packed with restaurants, bars, and vintage shops. Here nestles what is considered to be the most unique boutique hotel in Nashville, The Russell. Housed in a 115-year-old historic church, this hotel is all about the wow factor. Many of the building’s original elements have been preserved including a series of original stained-glass windows, as well as a complementary transom version by New Hat, which creates a meditative ambiance in the lobby. There are rooms for saints and sinners at this swanky converted church hotel.


EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

#CharlestonSC #VendueHotel JESS@FriendsTravel.com

The Vendue
#Charleston, SC
Nestled in downtown #Charleston’s #FrenchQuarter, The Vendue is an art lover’s dream hotel. The main building, 19 Vendue is housed within five historic warehouses dating back to 1780 that now contains a modern art gallery, coffee shop, a fine dining restaurant, and panoramic rooftop. 26 Vendue is a combination of two warehouses dating back to the 1800s. Over 300 pieces of original art have been installed throughout the building and within the rooms themselves for guests to enjoy. In addition, there are on-site docents ready to guide you around the property and an artist-in-residence whose studio is open to visitors.


EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

November 18, 2021

#CollegeStationTX #DiscountHotelRates JESS@FriendsTravel.com

The George
College Station, TX
Located directly across the street from the #Texas #A&M Campus, The George offers an unparalleled level of comfort that harkens back to College Station’s days as a rail stop prior to the area being synonymous with Texas A&M University.The famous Texas Flag Bookwall in the lobby has some 10,000 books with spines of red, white or blue stacked floor to ceiling to form a Lone Star flag paying homage to Texas authors as well as to the late Barbara Bush, who championed literacy efforts since the 1980s when her husband, George H.W. Bush was vice president. The 162 refined rustic guest rooms feature a custom bed with luxurious Egyptian cotton linens and complimentary wireless high-speed internet access in all guest rooms and public areas. #BestValueHotelRates
#DiscountAirfaresWorldwide First Business Coach


EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky #FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

October 28, 2021

Winter Adventure in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada JESS@FriendsTravel.com

A Winter Adventure in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada—One of the Best Places to See the #Aurora @Borealis!

7 Days ~14 People
From $6295 (+internal air)
+ International Airfare


BOOK WITH #CONFIDENCE!
Learn about our flexible booking policies and our on-trip health and safety protocols.

In the same land that hosts the #beluga #whales of summer and #polar #bears in autumn comes an #amazing #phenomenon that #illumines the dark winter skies. The #northern #lights—also called the #aurora #borealis, meaning “north wind of the dawn”—brighten the night in an ethereal display of color. #Churchill has some of the most intense auroral activity on Earth, making it an ideal destination for a northern lights tour.

Photograph the lights from varied heated vantage points, including a cabin in the boreal forest accessed via private snow coach over a frozen river, and from our custom-built Aurora Pod®, with 360-degree views on the night sky through its glass top and sides. On this exciting Arctic adventure, our days are filled with distinctly northern activities like dog sledding, while nights offer the potential for the best aurora viewing on the planet.


Trip Highlights
• Exclusive Aurora Viewing Locations View the northern lights from our glass Aurora Pod®, heated Aurora Domes, a cabin in the boreal forest, and a tepee warmed by a campfire
• Private Snowcoach #Expedition Aboard our custom snow coach, drive atop a frozen river deep into the North Woods and snowshoe in search of moose, fox, and Arctic hare.
• Authentic #Arctic #Adventures Discover local lifestyles of Northern #indigenous peoples on an array of winter activities, including igloo building and a traditional dog sled ride

Ask about our Women’s Only trips!


• EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
• #ArcticExpeditions #NorthernLightsExpeditions #ChurchhillManitobaCanada #AmazingAdventures!
• #FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

Writing Canada made of dark metal in front of a canadian flag

October 22, 2021

Sonoma County California JESS@FriendsTravel.com

#California here we come!!!!
Even if all #Sonoma County had to offer were its legendary wines, you’d have more than enough reason to visit. Consider that there are literally hundreds of gorgeous local wineries, many of them award-winning—two having just nabbed the coveted platinum and several having taken home the gold at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards.
But the year has been good to more than Sonoma County’s wines. The region also ranks among Forbes Top Destinations for 2021 and Travel + Leisure’s Best Places to Travel in 2021 thanks to all kinds of new openings, in addition to the longstanding enticements of this prime patch of Northern California: soaring redwoods, rugged coastline, historic settlements and a whole series of foodie pilgrimage sites.
And getting here has never been easier, with a growing roster of direct flights into the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (yup, that Charles M. Schulz; we’ll come back to him soon). So pick an upcoming weekend—or even better, a full week—and pack your bags. Here are eight of our favorite things to do upon arrival.


Explore a tale of two trees

Wherever you’d place yourself on the tree-hugger scale, there’s a Sonoma County park for that. At one end of the spectrum, you’ll find the Healdsburg-area redwoods of Riverfront Park, where the short Redwood Hill Trail will lead you through a gorgeous grove’s worth of towering icons.

At the other end, you’ll find Salt Point State Park near Gualala, where the self-guided Pygmy Forest Trail meanders through a grove of fully mature but Munchkin-sized redwood, pine, and cypress trees. Some of these miniatures are more than a hundred years old, naturally stunted to bonsai-like proportions by the thin, acidic soil and low-lying water table. (While you’re in the park, don’t miss the surreal, honeycomb-like tafoni.) Of course, at the heart of every tree-hugger, no matter which species are around, lies a deep love of the natural world—and an accompanying sense of stewardship. Sonoma County is the kind of place that brings out both, particularly with such initiatives as Leave No Trace.

Soak up wine country wellness
Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs, and Agua Caliente—collectively known as “the Springs”—were once sacred Native American healing sites. The warm, therapeutic mineral baths began luring Bay Area residents around 1900 when the first hotel and spa opened, and “taking the waters” became a thing here.

The 21st-century evolution of The Springs is mostly residential, but you still have your choice of spring-fed pools: The underground hot springs now supply the elegant Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. A day pass (available Mondays through Thursdays) grants you access to the outdoor geothermal mineral pools, an elaborate indoor bathing ritual area, a fireside lounge and much more. If you’re looking for a more traditional public bathhouse, head to Morton’s Warm Springs in Glen Ellen. Relaxed, family-friendly and inexpensive, Morton’s is like your favorite public pool, but with better water. Bring a picnic or even your dog (though not into the pool itself).

Then again, the springs and pools are just the starts of Sonoma County’s wellness offerings. Practically everything that’s grown locally finds its way into at least one sublime spa offering, from the lavender and olive oils that make their way into massages to the antioxidant-rich wine grapes and grape seeds that supercharge scrubs, facials, and wraps. But arguably the best survey of Sonoma County’s abundance—spa style, at least—is the Nurtured by Nature treatment at the Farmhouse Inn’sWellness Barn, an extravaganza that includes a wild mustard seed mask, an apple blossom scrub, an olive oil balm, and—in honor of the redwoods—a woodsy mist.

Hang with notable locals

While you might spy a celeb on your wine country tour, why not go for a sure thing? Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy et al. are easy to find in Santa Rosa and, unlike other A-Listers, this gang is always happy to pose for photos. To delve into the life of their creator (and longtime local resident), head to the Charles M. Schulz Museum, home to a vast archive of original drawings and personal artifacts.
If you arrive by November 8, you can catch Girl Power in Peanuts—a fun look at the comic’s co-ed beginnings and evolution. You have a bit longer—until January 16, 2022—to catch Adults by Schulz, a rare glimpse at all seven strips of a little-known grownup-centered comic series the artist developed in the 1950s. The latest exhibit, which just opened and runs through March 13, 2022, is the most personal: Drawn from Life introduces you to the real-world people, places, and events that inspired the names, personalities, and exploits of the Peanuts gang.

Get rollin’ on the river
Sonoma County’s 110-mile waterway got its current name—the Russian River—from the first non-native people to settle in the valley: the Russian fur traders who established Fort Ross in the 1800s. Around the same time, a lumber and mining boom brought in the railroad, and soon the steep, wild valley was dotted with little towns. Factor in the lush forests and lake-fed swimming holes, and the Russian River has been a favorite escape for city folk ever since. Thus the abundance of eco-adventure operators is equipped with kayaks, canoes, inner tubes, or paddleboards. One good choice? Healdsburg’s Russian River Kayak and Canoe Trips, whose three- to five-hour paddling excursions make for a relaxed intro to the area.
If you’ve got more serious paddling skills, consider starting on the other end of the river, where stronger currents sweep dramatically into the Pacific. Reserve early with WaterTreks Eco-Tours for a self-guided or expert-led adventure through a rich estuary and protected marine sanctuary, where sightings of eagles, osprey, otters, seals, and sea lions aren’t at all uncommon. You might even spot a whale in the distance.

Go coastal
The Sonoma County coast is the real-life version of the Northern California dreamscape, where dramatic cliffs and rugged headlands separate innumerable little beaches, whose wind and waves can get impressively wild. To see what we mean, head to Sonoma Coast State Park—17 miles of gorgeous public coastline from Bodega Head to just north of Jenner. While the water is too rough for swimming, the beaches are perfect for combing, hiking, and tide-pooling. The most dramatic coastal views start around Goat Rock, where a colony of harbor seals is often snoozing on the sand bars.
For killer coastal views with a side of history, head 11 miles north of Jenner to Fort Ross, a Russian-era compound with exhibits on this imperial settlement, as well as on the early California Ranch era and the indigenous Kashaya territory.
And if you find the Sonoma County coast so compelling you don’t want to leave (spoiler alert: you will), settle in at Timber Cove—a place that feels almost like your coolest friend’s cabin, complete with fire pits, ping pong, and pool (plus ocean views for days).

Eat like a food editor

From the Robb Report’s inclusion of Little Saint among the most anticipated restaurant openings of the season to the Food & Wine editor in chief’s recently professed obsession “with the quality of Sonoma County’s local ingredients and its winding terrain of valleys, mountains, forests, and farms,” the nation’s top food editors serve up endless praise for this county, where amazing food trucks and farmers’ markets sit cheek by well-earned jowl with Michelin-starred restaurants.
Apropos of the latter: Among the just-announced Bay Area Michelin ratings, a new star was born, literally: Barndiva in Healdsburg just scored a star, thanks to “prime local produce and sustainability…a tangible deftness in such aromatic flavor combinations as seared dayboat scallops with lemongrass-ginger butter sauce; as well as hamachi with green papaya, fermented mango, and serrano oil.” Meanwhile, the same town’s three-star standout, SingleThread Farms, retained its rating this year with a menu “acutely tuned to each micro-season in Sonoma County,” one prime example being the cold-weather pumpkin tartare with Dungeness crab and miso-makrut lime foam.

As you’re probably starting to suspect, Healdsburg is something of a culinary pilgrimage site, with other hotspots that range from Dry Creek Kitchen, the Charlie Palmer-founded modern American restaurant credited with launching Sonoma County onto the global foodie stage almost two decades ago to Chalkboard, an awardee of Michelin Bib Gourmand status thanks to—among other things—the homemade pasta.
On the other hand, some of the best food in Sonoma County can be found in the unlikeliest of locations, from the tapas-happy Underwood Bar & Bistro in the postage-stamp-sized town of Graton to the breakfast and lunch local favorite Estero Café along Highway 1, to name a few. Don’t overlook the wineries’ food, either: Spectacular, locally-grown and -sourced fare lures foodies to J. Vineyards & Winery, Lynmar Estate, and Jordan Winery (where the heirloom tomatoes alone account for more than 20 crop varieties in the resident gardens). And though it’s not a winery per se, the vineyard-surrounded Vintner’s Resort is home to John Ash & Co. a pioneer in the field of seasonal, locally-sourced delicacies—and their ideal Sonoma County wine pairings, of course.

See, swirl, smell, sip

Speaking of wineries, we couldn’t let you get through a whole piece on Sonoma County without spending some time on the legendary local wines. With more than 425 wineries spread across the valley—from venerable, 19th-century pioneers like Gundlach Bundschu (“GunBun” to locals) and Buena Vista to creative small producers like Davis Family Vineyards and Preston —Sonoma County’s cup runneth over.
But don’t forget those 2021 Decanter World Wine Award winners we mentioned earlier—wineries that in and of themselves warrant a trip for true oenophiles. Be sure to visit at least one, from Frei Brothers for the Reserve Merlot (platinum) to Rodney Strong Vineyards for the Alexander’s Crown Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (gold) to Alexander Valley Vineyards for the merlot (silver).
Wherever you find yourself tasting the local wines, they’ll not only taste good, but also serve up a feel-good element: Having resolved seven years ago to become the most sustainable wine region on earth, Sonoma County has been working steadily toward that goal, and today, a reported 99% of the county’s vineyard acreage has been certified sustainable. Thus the Sustainably Farmed Sonoma County Grapes label you’ll find on millions of bottles of wine.

Don’t let the other local beverages feel left out
Not to be outdone, the local beer, cider, and booze are gaining their own acclaim. In fact, you’ll find a number of hotspots, from Parliament Brewing Company to Young & Yonder Spirits (try the award-winning absinthe) included in the Sonoma County Tasting Pass alongside standout vineyards.
A few other options to consider If craft beer’s your thing: The Barlow, an open-air marketplace in Sebastopol that houses Crooked Goat Brewing, Woodfour Brewing Company, and Seismic Brewing Co., for starters; Henhouse Brewing Company, known for a focus on unusual and “underappreciated” styles; Russian River Brewing Co., where lines form around the block for Pliny the Younger; and the Shady Oak Barrel House, whose award-winning sours and hoppy, artisanal ales on best enjoyed on the creekside patio.

Hard cider, while usually made from apples, can be brewed with almost any fruit, as well as hops. Sample the surprisingly sophisticated results at Sebastopol’s Ace Cider, home to a staggering variety, Horse and Plow, surrounded by organic gardens and orchards—or Golden State Cider, whose taproom serves up such favorites as the hibiscus-infused Jamaica. Windsor’s Tilted Shed Ciderworks is also worth a stop, where you can try smoked or barrel-aged ciders, among other deliciousness.
Taking the farm-to-glass concept to a whole new level, small-batch distilleries are blooming in Sonoma County’s fertile soil—some offering tastings and tours. Check out Sebastopol’s Spirit Works (home to famous Sloe Gin); Sonoma’s HelloCello (the limoncello, rivals any you’ll try in Italy), and Petaluma’s Griffo Distillery (don’t miss the cold-brew coffee liqueur). Point being: There are endless—and endlessly delicious—ways to toast to your time in Sonoma County.
Ready to go? Start planning your Sonoma County getaway with a free visitors guide.

EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky #FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

October 12, 2021

Stunning NYC Hotel Upper West Side Manhattan JESS@FriendsTravel.com

Hotel New York City

When New York is the city that never sleeps, then the Upper West Side is a hand-carved four-poster king with fine linens. In this residential neighborhood, where worldly refinement emanates from every corner, the inviting Hotel celebrates creativity and community. Even if you’ve never been to New York, arriving at Arthouse feels familiar—like you’re being warmly welcomed back home.



Why You’ll Love It Here…

The Vibe: Originally opened as the hip NYLO hotel, the property was reborn again in 2019 aiming to celebrate the history and arts-and-culture traditions of the Upper West Side. You will find these elements when you step into the lobby where an original fireplace, custom contemporary artwork and a 1920s-era French elevator system make you instantly feel like you are in someone’s cozy #Manhattan apartment.

The Taste: The Bar, which also functions as a library, jazz club, and piano lounge, are intimate and artful, with dark, tufted velvet sectionals and industrial accents. A priceless permanent art collection further characterizes the space. The hotel’s two on-site eateries, the Upper West Side outpost of beloved Italian restaurant Serafina, and Redfarm, a modern Cantonese spot dishing out tasty farm-to-table dim sum, draws both tasteful travelers and locals alike.

The Sleep: 291 luminous and spacious guest rooms, including 40 suites, are furnished with natural oak bed frames, plush midnight blue curtains, and exposed brick, evocative of your most well-travel led friend’s timelessly stylish loft. On the top three floors, suites with balconies, as well as two wrap-around terraces on the 14th and 16th floors open to all guests, offer Hudson River views and a sweeping panorama of the West Side.

Special COVID-19 Notes: New York is currently open. For more information about their health and safety protocols. Just ask!







NYC Studio With Terrace

The NYC Studio with Terrace measures approximately 300 square feet and features a private outdoor balcony and a sit-out. These rooms are located on the 14th and 15th floors offering breathtaking views of the Hudson River or Upper West Side. Other amenities include Pure bathroom products, 100% combed cotton luxury sheets, and wood-style flooring.

EMAIL: JESS@FriendsTravel.com #JessKalinowsky
#BestValueNYCvacations #FriendsTravelWestHollywoodCa90069

Don’t forget to ask for your $25.00 per person discount on Airfare and Hotel packages. 

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