Tony Capecchi

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Since age 18, Tony Capecchi has been chronicling his worldwide travel and outdoor adventures for national magazines, including In-Fisherman and North American Hunter. He has co-hosted “Live Outdoors” on CBS Radio, produced television for NBC and worked on The History Channel’s hit series “MonsterQuest.”

Posts about Recreation

If I Could Go Back to One Place …

Posted by: Tony Capecchi Updated: December 1, 2014 - 9:21 AM

As a travel journalist, people often ask me: “What’s the best place you’ve ever been?” Or, “If you could go back to one place, where would it be?” In the past half decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit many of the world’s most beautiful vistas and stay at some of the fanciest resorts in picturesque settings such as Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Ireland’s Ring of Kerry and Scotland’s remote highlands. 

So it’s a challenging––and fun––question. Having given it serious thought, I have to say that if I could return to one resort out of all the destinations I travelled in the past couple years, it would be Little Palm Island Resort & Spa off the Florida Keys. 

The private, 5-acre island resort off-shore from the southernmost tip of the United States offers its own unique slice of paradise. Countless factors make Little Palm Island stand out––it was named the No. 1 beach resort in the U.S. by Travel & Leisure––so I’ll do my best to highlight 5 reasons why it tops my list.

1. The Setting

You leave your car and main-land mentality behind at Little Palm’s welcome station near Key West, then take a 15-minute cruise onboard a 1930s-style motor boat to reach the private island. When my wife and I visited in October of 2013, we were immediately greeted at the landing dock by Renda, a blonde from Ohio who fell in love with the island a decade ago and is now a Little Palm Island manager. “Welcome! You must be Tony and Jodie! The staff will take your bags. Come with me, I’ll give you a tour of the island.”

 

We smiled in awe of the path Renda led us down––a West-facing dining room on the edge of the beach; a sequestered pool shaded by giant palm trees next to an outdoor bar; a marina with kayaks, paddle boards and motorboats for us to use whenever we wanted; a rustic library with a take-a-book, leave-a-book policy as well as the only TV on the island; an over-size chess board beside the trail to a plush spa; a Zen garden and a gazebo overlooking the ocean; and, finally, at the far corner of the island, our romance suite: a thatched-roof bungalow on the water complete with our own fire-pit, deck, outdoor Jacuzzi and open-air bamboo shower.

“The reason we’re consistently voted one of the top hotels in the world is because we truly embrace our mantra, ‘Get Lost,’” said Matt Trahan, the regional managing director of Little Palm Island’s parent company, Noble House Hotels & Resorts. “Guests get to disconnect from the real world and re-connect with each other, and the island has a very peaceful vibe in the lap of luxury.”


It’s a vibe similar to that found in the South Pacific or West Indies, and as amazed as I am that such a luxurious, jungle-island paradise exists anywhere on earth, I am almost equally surprised that all I had to do to reach it was jump on a plane to Miami and drive a couple hours. To me, that convenience and low-cost in reaching the resort scores it major points. It also makes it more desirable to return to Little Palm Island, since it’s not exactly easy to devote days to traveling to far-flung corners of the globe.


“Many people think that the serene ambiance of Little Palm can only be found thousands of miles away,” Trahan said. “With only 30 suites on a 5-acre island, privacy and solitude are definite. Of course, there are many activities to do, from deep-sea fishing to sea plane tours.”


2. The Service


Every Noble House Hotels & Resorts property I’ve ever visited has offered truly great service. Not the easy-to-claim “great service” you see plastered on the website of every hotel in the U.S., but the type of dedication by committed individuals, like Renda, who learn your name and your preferences, and who make your stay so much better that you remember them years later. 


At Little Palm’s welcome station on the mainland, a greeter checking us in before the boat ride to the island had asked if there was any special occasion that brought us to Little Palm. Jodie had responded casually: “No, not really, but we’re kind of celebrating our anniversary.”


The next night we had dinner on the beach by the tikki torches. When we opened the menu, we saw a shocking headline at the top of the menu: “Happy 4th Anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Capecchi.” Even the banana split I ordered for dessert was adorned with a chocolate “Happy Anniversary” wish. All because of one comment my wife made. Now that, is truly great service. 


With personal touches like that, it’s no wonder why guests return to Little Palm Island Resort & Spa as if it’s a religious pilgrimage. One couple was married at Little Palm Island 18 years ago (the island offers a wedding coordinator among its 110-person staff and celebrates 30 weddings a year) and has returned every year since. In 2014, the couple brought their twin daughters to celebrate their birthday with a Sweet Sixteen celebration on the beach.  


3. The Fishing

It’s easy to see why Little Palm Island was once the favored fishing camp for Presidents Truman, Roosevelt and Kennedy. Besides the setting, the service and the food (which I’ll get to next), Little Palm Island is literally surrounded by fish. I caught close to 100 fish a day during my stay, including over half a dozen species that were new to me. Most of my fish came simply while fishing from shore while my wife sunbathed on the beach a few yards away, but my favorite highlight came catching a shark while fishing on a stand-up paddle board.


It was also quite entertaining to feed the fish I caught to Spencer, Little Palm Island’s resident heron. After tossing Spencer a few snappers, I became his new best friend and he took one fish literally out of my hand.


4. The Dining Experience


Dining at Little Palm Island is quite the experience. The Dining Room, created by distinguished executive Chef Luis Pous, was named “Best Hotel Dining Experience” in Florida and third best in the entire U.S. by Zagat Survey. For good reason, it received Zagat’s highest possible scores with an “extraordinary to perfection” distinction. 


Pous’ Cuban heritage and love of the Caribbean have inspired him to create unique dishes such as Foie Gras Cuban sandwiches and Key West lobster with apple, truffle, tarragon and Key Lime risotto. The food is delicious, but the atmosphere is what takes the dining to another level.


I already mentioned the personalized dinner menu for our anniversary, but I failed to describe our table. It was on the beach, mere feet from the ocean. A key deer wandered up to our table, while a live pianist played in the background, and the stars above teamed with tikki torches to provide us with light. Unforgettable. 


 

5. The Adventures

The quantity and quality of activities and adventures awaiting at Little Palm Island are amazing. My wife and I enjoyed a private sailboat ride on the LilyAnna, a sleek 38-foot Admiral-class Catamaran built in South Africa. Our captain brought us to the best snorkeling site we’ve ever enjoyed, plus we trolled along the way and caught barracuda and goliath grouper. 


Other adventure options also include scuba diving, sky diving, deep sea fishing, eco tours and helicopter and sea plane rides to deserted islands. 


Every stay at Little Palm Island also includes complementary usage of stand-up paddleboards, Boston Whaler motor boats, fishing poles and shrimp for bait. The staff provides a helpful map and instructions on fun adventures you can go on yourself with the boats––for example motoring to nearby snorkeling hotspots or visiting one of Little Palm’s nearby vacant islands for birding or beachcombing. 


It’s tempting to spend all day at Little Palm Island on the beach or in the pool with a drink in hand (and you should definitely do that for at least one day), but by the same token you could spend a month at the resort and never get bored with all of the adventurous possibilities.

 
Going Back


Of all the places I’ve traveled to in the past couple years, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is definitely the one place I’d most like to return. Lucky for me, I’ll have a chance to do just that in May of 2015! To say I’m excited would a huge understatement. 

I rarely return anywhere twice because there are so many sites in the world I won’t get a chance to see even once before my one and only life is over, but Little Palm Island is a very, very special place. The more days I spend on that island, the better. And as the website says, it is “so close, yet so far away.”

 
I will be writing a series of articles on my adventures at Little Palm Island this spring, as well as shooting a daily video blog highlighting my life on paradise island. Who knows? Perhaps I’ll hook another big shark on a paddle board, or have a key deer buck walk up to me during dinner on the beach, or catch a giant barracuda while sailing into the sunset.


I do know this: It will be memorable, and I will have many great photos, videos and stories to share. So please wish me well on the adventure, and stay tuned for terrific tales of island adventure next spring.  


The website for Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is www.littlepalmisland.com. To contact the resort, call 800.343.8567 or email getlost@littlepalmisland.com. 

Best of the Best: Top 5 Destinations of 2014

Posted by: Tony Capecchi Updated: November 17, 2014 - 9:39 AM

The Bucket List is entrenched in American culture, but a Crib List is a newer notion––the idea of seeing and doing things before that first baby arrives in a crib and forever changes life as you know it. My wife and I had our first baby this July, so we hit the Crib List hard in 2014. 

The first half of the year found us traveling at a frenzied pace, from the East Coast (Boston) to the West (Vancouver), from big cities (Chicago and St. Louis) to the middle of nowhere (a puddle jumper to the north end of Vancouver Island, then a float plane to a cabin on a dock attached to the base of a mountain near Alaska).

The heli-hiking, biking, mountain climbing, sailing, paddle boarding, fishing, bear-watching and whale-watching provided incredible moments. And the lodges and resorts we visited were, truly, beyond belief. Five-star destinations with over-the-top amenities, impeccable service and delicious food fit for a king. 

Through it all, these five resorts emerged as the crème-de-la-crème. Here is the Best of the Best, top five destinations of 2014.
 

Hotel Del Coronado
Coronado Island, San Diego

 


As we discovered, it turns out picture-perfect moments are not all that uncommon at The Hotel Del Coronado. The National Historic Landmark, with its distinctive red roofs contrasting the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean, has stood as an icon since 1888.

For more than 125 years, the Del has drawn people from all over the world, including every American president since Lyndon Johnson. It’s easy to see why. It is the largest oceanfront resort on the Pacific Ocean, and it sits on 26 acres of what has often been named the No. 1 beach in America: Coronado Beach.

The attraction is greater than beautiful buildings and breathtaking beaches, however; the Del, with its aged, wooden character and its smiling, devoted staff, exudes an authentic charm you can’t create or capture. Simply put, it’s one of a kind.

After reading about the hotel in the New York Times best-seller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” my wife and I thought we’d add the hotel to our list of “1 Place to See Before You Have Kids.” And so, four months into our first pregnancy, we decided to pack our bags and leave behind a record-breaking cold Minnesota winter in favor of the sparkling beaches of Coronado Island. The Grand Lady by the Sea, as the Hotel Del Coronado is affectionately referred to, did not disappoint us.

Click here to read the full story of our trip to Hotel Del Coronado, which included decadent dining on America’s No. 1 beach, catching a leopard shark, and a picture-perfect ocean sunset.

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort
British Columbia
 
 


Our helicopter mirrors the waterfall, descending down 300 feet parallel to the raging waters. At the base of the falls, we hover above the turbulent pool of blue and white. We are above the clouds, in a separate world of 10,000-year-old glaciers and pristine streams that salmon fill and grizzly bears hunt. In this other-world we have hiked and climbed and fished, but at the moment we simply hover. I feel weightless. 
...

Days before boarding the helicopter, we had seemingly already explored as far into the Great Bear Rainforest as one can push––taking a small plane from Vancouver to the northern tip of Vancouver Island, then crawling into a float plane for a 20-minute flight over fjords and bays until landing on a floating dock at Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort, which clings to the base of Mount Stephens.

The resort, recently featured in the New York Times best-seller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” consists of nine chalets built on stilts on a tidal, fjord-like bay just south of Alaska’s Inside Passage, and is accessible only by helicopter and sea plane. From this pocket of luxury, guests have access to over 50,000 square miles of breathtaking beauty, including 10,000-year old glaciers, mountain tops, old-growth rainforests, remote islands, white sand beaches, hot springs, a 5,000-foot waterfall and over 50 pristine rivers and streams––the majority of which can only be reached by Nimmo Bay helicopters.

Click here to read to read the full story of my adventures at Nimmo Bay, which included stand-up paddle-boarding, hiking through old-growth forests, and the best bear-watching of my life. 

The Commons Hotel
Minneapolis

 

Five years ago I married my best friend. In the half decade since, we have travelled the world and explored the far-flung corners of the globe. But life changed this July. The birth of our first child changed our traveling pace, and reduced our desire to venture far from home.
 
So to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary we sought a memorable getaway close to home. We found it in The Commons Hotel, an award-winning destination in high-energy Minneapolis, in the heart of the University of Minnesota’s campus. The hotel, a member of the distinguished Noble House Hotels & Resorts family, embodies the inner geek in a very chic manner. 

“We want people to explore their inner geek, we want them to be explorers. Travelers today want to explore the area and we encourage them to do that,” said Kelly Commerford, director of marketing at The Commons.  The industrial schoolhouse property embraces diversity through the common desire to discover. My wife and I walked in the doors on a sunny autumn afternoon and immediately felt the hotel’s unique vibe. 

Click here to read the full story of our “staycation” at The Commons, which included fishing from the banks of the Mississippi, dinner at The Beacon Public House and some unusual s’mores.


The Grand Del Mar
Del Mar, California
 


In the days of the Wild West, there was only one trail into San Diego. Pioneers seeking new land and new lives traversed the desert through Los Peñasquitos Canyon on oxen-pulled wagons until they hit the Pacific Ocean and could go no further.

Today, San Diego is a booming tourist attraction––for good reason––and the old canyon trail is all but forgotten. My wife and I re-traced the journey during a day’s hike under the blazing sun and discovered the canyon’s rugged beauty has only intensified over the past century of obsolescence. And while it feels as though it’s in the middle of nowhere, the natural beauty of Los Peñasquitos Canyon is tucked away just a few miles from one of the most luxurious resorts in the world: The Grand Del Mar.

With opulent, Mediterranean-style architecture and design, The Grand Del Mar features an exotic mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Moroccan and Venetian design elements. The creation of this modern-day marvel is truly amazing. More than 800 craftspeople spent over a million man-hours in creating the current-day palace.

There were 120 carpenters who worked more than 150,000 hours designing and installing 16 different wood species––including fine walnut, mahogany, olive, alder, sycamore and maple accents––with 35 different finishes. There are more than 25,000 square feet of handcrafted wood floors. There are also more than 50 chandeliers, 500 fabrics and 1,700 pieces of custom-designed furniture and art.

Click here to read the full story of our visit to The Grand Del Mar, which included sailing, whale-watching and hiking San Diego, one of the most bio-diverse regions in the U.S.  
 

The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel
Vancouver

 


In the 2004 Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal,” Hanks’ character gets stuck living at an airport for months on end due to immigration details and a revolution in his native country of Krakozhia. Humor abounds as Hanks endures the misery of living in the confines of an airport, a drudgery only slightly offset by a lovely flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta Jones.

The movie works because viewers appreciate all the inconveniences and stereotypical stuffiness associated with staying at the airport. Sympathy for Hanks’ character would not be found, however, had Hanks been flying through Vancouver and found himself at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, as I did several weeks ago.

The soundproofed hotel, situated within Vancouver’s International Airport (YVR) above the U.S. departures terminal, is anything but your typical airport hotel. The luxury hotel offers 5-star caliber accommodations, breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views of the runway in front of Vancouver’s mountains, diverse dining choices, and an indoor pool, health club and spa. 

Click here to read the full story of my stay at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, which included mountain hiking, the scenic Sea-to-Sky Drive, and the best salmon fishing of my life. 
 

An Uncommon Adventure Near Home

Posted by: Tony Capecchi Updated: October 22, 2014 - 12:07 PM

Five years ago I married my best friend. In the half decade since, we have travelled the world and explored the far-flung corners of the globe. But life changed this July. The birth of our first child changed our traveling pace, and reduced our desire to venture far from home. 

So to celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary we sought a memorable getaway close to home. We found it in The Commons Hotel, an award-winning destination in high-energy Minneapolis, in the heart of the University of Minnesota’s campus. The hotel, a member of the distinguished Noble House Hotels & Resorts family, embodies the inner geek in a very chic manner. 


 

“We want people to explore their inner geek, we want them to be explorers. Travelers today want to explore the area and we encourage them to do that,” said Kelly Commerford, director of marketing at The Commons. “We’re on the edge of Minneapolis and St. Paul, so you can go directly into downtown Minneapolis to explore the nightlife and shopping on Nicollet Mall––a great location.”

The industrial schoolhouse property embraces diversity through the common desire to discover. My wife and I walked in the doors on a sunny autumn afternoon and immediately felt the hotel’s unique vibe. 

The hotel’s Watson filament light bulbs, tin-pressed ceilings, argyle patterns, and molecular design-chandeliers ooze energy, as does it too-cool-for-school library, with antique typewriters, leather loveseats and spectacular fireplace. 


 

“The Commons is the living room of the University of Minnesota,” Commerford said. “We are on campus, so the whole idea it so pay homage to the U of M. And it’s not your typical hotel – we really have fun here. There is no special request that we won’t handle at the hotel. Our staff is trained to ensure they engage with our customers and provide them a very unique experience.”

The hotel hosts weddings, football fans (you can walk to TCF Bank Stadium), weekend staycations like ours, and frequent business meetings

“We’re trying to create a relaxed environment that promotes the sharing of ideas,” says Sean Mullen, Noble House’s chief sales and marketing officer. “When we think of business, we think of shirts and ties, and big business suits. Those times are still here, but the formalities are going away.” 

That’s why when Noble House opened The Commons Hotel last fall, it didn’t just add Wi-Fi and call it a day. It took the best elements of its other properties and expanded on them, taking this new opportunity to spin the hotel’s “geek chic” theme into the meeting spaces. 

After all, curiosity begets creativity. Common areas, called “Think Tanks” are both educational spaces and places for conversation between meetings, where frequent business groups compose ideas on wheeled-in chalkboards or kick back alone in a deep armchair for some quiet time with one of the hundreds of heady titles lining the book shelf. 
 

Meeting attendees are encouraged to participate in spelling bees and games of Jenga; meanwhile, college students and guests of all sorts frequent the hotel’s own Starbucks. 

As for the typical cookie and coffee snack break room, forget about it. Instead, how about an interactive and educational “Mad Scientist Break” where lab-coat donning staff prepares dishes like spiced pumpkin ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen?

“By putting something in a fun atmosphere, something that is unique, it creates a new dynamic where conversation can start outside the meeting room,” said Duane Rohrbaugh, general manager at The Commons. 

There has certainly been plenty of conversation about The Commons during its short existence. The young hotel already boasts a long list of awards, including a 2014 TripAdvisor Award of Excellence and a claim as a 2013 Fodor’s 100 Hotel Award Winner. The pile of awards shows The Commons belongs as part of the Noble House Hotels & Resorts family. The exclusive hotel management company operates some of the top-rated hotels in the world.

In fact, my wife and I visited another Noble House property, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, roughly one year prior to our trip to The Commons. There, we vacationed in a private bungalow on a tropical island off the Florida Keys in what was hands-down the most spectacular stay we’ve ever had in the U.S. 

The Commons, naturally, was a completely different setting––it is, in fact, Noble House’s only Midwest hotel––but the service and hospitality was without question consistent with the excellent standard set by all Noble House hotels. 

My wife and I enjoyed walking The Commons’ grounds and loved hanging out in the hotel’s common areas. We even strolled down to the nearby Mississippi River and did a little fishing from the bank. But we also enjoyed simply hanging out in our room, which offered a great view of the city and had a vibe all of its own. 

“The whole idea behind the guest room concept is we want the guests to feel very comfortable. We have a great workstation in every one of our guestrooms,” Commerford said. “But it’s not your traditional business workspace, it’s more residential. We have a very contemporary design. Subway tile in the bathrooms, very modern, 57-inch TV screens that go beyond TV––you can order room service or you can order books from our book butler.”

Room service sounded good––when you’re out for your first night without the baby, lying in bed and watching TV is a luxury you never knew you missed so much––but we had to check out the hotel’s signature restaurant, The Beacon Public House. The farm-to-fresh, table style restaurant did not disappoint. 

For dinner, we sat outside on the deck sipping several specialty cocktails, such as “The Keys” (key lime, meyers lemon, reposado tequila, patron citronage) and “Age of Innocence” (cranberry shrub, organic vodka, lemon, patron citronage). We munched on popcorn shrimp and Wisconsin cheese curds, as well as delicious soups and salads. 

We paced ourselves, and slowly moved inside for the main course of fillet mignon and fish and chips, surrounded by thick cut fries, asparagus and baby carrots. For dessert, we topped things off with a fun dessert of make-your-own s’mores. 



 

The meal was so wonderful, and the service so good, we decided to return the next morning for brunch. It’s a lively atmosphere––the Minnesota Vikings were playing at home that afternoon, so we saw lots of Purple fans walking the streets as we again dined outside. 

After a long, lazy brunch we packed our bags and checked out feeling refreshed. Our staycation ––which was both our 5-year anniversary and our first getaway post-baby––could not have gone any better, thanks to an uncommon hotel in our own backyard.

The website for The Commons Hotel is www.commonshotel.com. For more information, call 612.379.8888 or email reservations@commonshotel.com.




 

 

In addition to 304 guest rooms and 20,000 square feet of banquet rooms, The Commons also offers guests complimentary passes to the U of M athletic and aquatic center, which features an official NCAA swimming pool. 

The hotel also boasts fun perks and clubs for its members, such as Club Alchemy and various reward and  welcome programs, which includes updates and various amenities of the month (in our case, chocolate!). 

We received a trendy gift bag with various goodies, including a pair of chic, geek glasses we gave to our baby as a souvenir of Mom and Dad’s first night away of his life. As much fun as we had at The Commons, I’m sure Joseph will want to go there someday. 

 


 

The Ultimate Family Getaway ... with Free Deals

Posted by: Tony Capecchi Updated: August 20, 2014 - 11:02 AM

Traveling with children can be wild, wonderful or woefully misguided, depending on the destination and the kids. For the first five years of our marriage, my wife and I took advantage of being dinks (dual-income, no kids) and traveled across the world sans children.

When we became pregnant last fall and realized we had a few months before life as we knew forever changed, we decided to travel somewhere special for the ultimate Valentine’s Day getaway. Our destination? Sunny San Diego.

We enjoyed a spectacular week hiking, sailing, fishing, whale watching, paddle boarding, swimming and relaxing on the beach. In short, it was the perfect destination for our final romantic getaway pre-kids. But we also realized how ideally suited San Diego is for families. All the activities mentioned above––not to mention our day feeding giraffes and rhinos at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park––provide awesome experiences for children and adults alike. 

Not only was San Diego the spot we wanted to visit for our last trip before kids, it is also the first place we want to visit after we have kids old enough to travel. 

I cannot think of a city in America that’s a better place to bring your kids for a family vacation–– a reality that makes the upcoming “Kids Free San Diego” event this October the perfect proposition.
 

During the entire month of October, more than 90 San Diego hotels, restaurants, attractions, museums and transportation companies offer families with children special deals, so you can enjoy San Diego without emptying your wallet.    

Here are some of the best deals: 

Tour & Transportation Deals

  • Amtrak is offering one child, ages 2-12, a free ride with one paid adult rail fare aboard the Pacific Surfliner route, servicing San Luis Obispo to San Diego. Stops en route include the Santa Ynez Valley, Carpinteria, Ventura, Oxnard, Van Nuys, Burbank, Glendale, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Orange, Santa Ana, Irvine, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente and more. 
     
  • Hornblower Cruises & Events and Flagship Cruises & Events are offering kids, ages 12 and under, a free ride on their popular 1- and 2-hour harbor tours along picturesque San Diego Bay. Hornblower's offer is good for two kids per each full-price paid adult admission, while Flagship offers one child per paid adult. 
     
  • One child, age 12 or under, rides free per one paid adult on the entertaining, on- and off-boarding Old Town Trolley Tours of America and the thrilling San Diego SEAL Tours Sea and Land Adventures.
     
  • San Diego Speed Boat Adventures, Incis offering kids a free guided and narrated San Diego Harbor Tour aboard their own mini speedboat, with a paid adult tour.   

Deals at Major Family Attractions 

  • Home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld San Diego, LEGOLAND® California Resort and the historic Belmont Park, San Diego is offering substantial savings this October with free kids' admission to local attractions. 
     
  • All kids, ages 10 and younger, are admitted free into the San Diego Zoo, home to 3,700 rare and endangered birds, mammals and reptiles, and the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is now home to the Tull Family Tiger Tail, featuring a new forested habitat for the Safari Park's Sumatran tigers with up-close views of the critically endangered species. 
     

  •  
  • Click here to read about my trip in February to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park––we got to feed giraffes and rhinos. 

  • SeaWorld San Diego wants families to join in the celebration of their 50th anniversary by offering one child, ages 3 to 9, free admission with one full-paid adult admission. The same offer is valid at Dine with Shamu, and kids, ages 10 to 13, can participate for free in SeaWorld's Dolphin Encounter and Dolphin and Beluga Interaction Programs with one paid adult participation (kids must be at least 48" tall to participate).


     
  • LEGOLAND® California Resort, featuring 128 acres of LEGO-themed fun and more than 50 interactive attractions, and SEA LIFE™ Carlsbad Aquarium,with 36,000 sq. ft. of play zones and marine exhibits including the new Jellyfish Discovery, are offering a free one-day Child Hopper Ticket for one kid, ages 12 and under, with purchase of a full-price one-day Adult Hopper Ticket. 


     
  • Belmont Park, a turn-of-the-century-style seaside boardwalk and amusement park in Mission Beach, offers kids, ages 12 and under, free rides, meals and treats with adult purchase of the same offering. Kids can play unlimited laser tag or ride for free on the park's 11 ticketed rides, including the National Historic Landmark "Giant Dipper," one of only two remaining beachfront wooden roller coasters on the U.S. west coast. 

Hotel Deals

  • More than 30 hotels across San Diego, ranging from budget to luxury, are rolling out the welcome mat this October for kids. Kids can eat free at many hotels or receive special welcome gifts upon arrival at others. 
     
  • Kids can eat free at a number of family-friendly properties, including the luxurious Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego along San Diego Bay and The Westin San Diego in the historic Gaslamp Quarter.  At the family friendly Paradise Point Resort & Spa on Mission Bay, kids will be able to play for free on land and sea with free bike, kayak and SUP rentals for children. The offer is limited to one rental per room.
     
  • Families staying at the Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa and the Bahia Resort Hotel  along scenic Mission Bay can enjoy free rides for kids, ages 12 and under, aboard the Bahia Belle, an 1860s-era sternwheeler that tours the bay and offers transport between the two resorts. Click here to read about my stay at the Catamaran Resort this February. 
     
  • Kids staying at the Tower23 Hotel,located just off the boardwalk in Pacific Beach, can enjoy a complimentary milk and cookies amenity as well as a free movie rental. The offer is valid for two children per paid adult guest. 

Restaurant Deals

  • After a day around the city, parents can have a taste of San Diego's emerging culinary scene while kids eat free at participating family friendly restaurants. 
     
  • After exploring the historic sites of Old Town San Diego, parents can unwind with a margarita and some traditional Mexican fare at Casa Guadalajara, while kids enjoy a free meal from the kids menu with every paid adult entrée.  Inspired by the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce, Croce's Park Westin Banker's Hill offers parents a classy and cozy atmosphere where they can dine and relax to the sounds of jazz, while kids enjoy a complimentary meal. 
     
  • Kids can munch on a grilled Italian-style sandwich or a flat-bread pizza while parents savor one of many Tuscan-style entrees at Pinzimini in The Westin Gaslamp Quarter, where up to two kids can eat for free per paid adult.

Cool and Unique Deals

  • During October, kids can enjoy a variety of unique free activities, from learning to ride the waves of the Pacific Ocean, to visiting a local farm and harvesting organic veggies to take home. 
     
  • With a purchase of one adult surfing lesson or session, one child, ages 6-12, receives a complimentary surfing session or lesson from the Surf Diva Surf School in La Jolla, the world's first all-woman surf school.
     
  • At H&M Landing, kids can adventure into the ocean and experience the thrill of catching their own fish. Kids fish for free with every paid adult, and reservations are required.  With the purchase of a paid adult public harvesting tour, kids can enjoy a free tour of Suzie's Farm, which is located thirteen miles south of downtown San Diego. During the 90 minute tour, families can learn the history and operations of the 140-acre USDA-certified organic farm and will have the unique opportunity to harvest veggies to take home.
     
  • Kids can embark on a free sailing excursion of the Pacific Ocean and learn about San Diego's wildlife aboard one of Sail San Diego 's three hour tours. Guests can choose to take the wheel or sit back and enjoy the sights of San Diego. One child sails free per adult reservation.  

Our son just turned one month old, and I already find myself thinking about future trips I will take him on. I know San Diego will be a special one, someday. 

Ironically, my wife and I found out the joyous news of our pregnancy in October, so it seems fitting that some October, years from now, we take advantage of the annual deal and bring our son to San Diego––the last destination we ever visited before he was born.  

A complete listing of "Kids Free San Diego" Month participants and their special offers is available at SanDiego.org/KidsFree.

The Terminal with a Twist

Posted by: Tony Capecchi Updated: July 11, 2014 - 10:13 PM

In the 2004 Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal,” Hanks’ character gets stuck living at an airport for months on end due to immigration details and a revolution in his native country of Krakozhia. Humor abounds as Hanks endures the misery of living in the confines of an airport, a drudgery only slightly offset by a lovely flight attendant played by Catherine Zeta Jones.

The movie works because viewers appreciate all the inconveniences and stereotypical stuffiness associated with staying at the airport. Sympathy for Hanks’ character would not be found, however, had Hanks been flying through Vancouver and found himself at The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, as I did several weeks ago.

The soundproofed hotel, situated within Vancouver’s International Airport (YVR) above the U.S. departures terminal, is anything but your typical airport hotel. The luxury hotel offers 5-star caliber accommodations, breathtaking floor-to-ceiling views of the runway in front of Vancouver’s mountains, diverse dining choices, and an indoor pool, health club and spa

In 2014, the Fairmont was named the No. 1 airport hotel in North America by Skytrax World Airport Awards, and boasts a litany of elite awards including mention in coveted “2014 World’s Best Hotels” lists for both Expedia and Travel + Leisure. 

I had seen the photo galleries on the website and knew I was in for a treat, but didn’t fully appreciate what I was in for until I made the two-minute stroll from the luggage carousels to the hotel’s entrance via a grand, spiral staircase. I was immediately welcomed to the hotel by a courteous staff member, then went up to the top level where I was greeted again by two concierges specifically assigned to the top floor. They led me to my room, where I was greeted with this spectacular view, and––as a delicious surprise––a spread of chocolate-covered strawberries.

“We take pride in delighting our guests,” said Nancie Hall, Regional Director at the Fairmont. “Our goal is to exceed guests’ expectations and we do everything possible to make each visit to our hotel special.” 

On the top floor, the Farimont also offers a club lounge with complimentary desserts and appetizers in the evening. It was a relaxing place to watch the planes come in. 

The Fairmont was also my base camp for several outstanding outdoor adventures. My first day at the hotel I took the famous Sea-to-Sky Highway drive, which is a wonderful one-day roundtrip from the hotel. Start early and plan on returning at dark––there are more than a dozen parks, hiking trails, waterfalls and scenic lookouts along the way. 

From the Fairmont, you can cut through Vancouver––stopping at Stanley Park if you so choose––and then head north on Route 99. The views along the 160-mile round trip drive are stunning, and surprisingly diverse. The massive Western Red Cedars around Vancouver gradually give way to hardy mountain evergreen trees near Lillooet, which receives roughly a quarter of the rainfall the coastal rainforest receives. The elevation changes dramatically as well.

“As you travel north along the Sea-to-Sky Highway, you’ll gradually climb from sea level to over 2,200 feet of elevation by the time you reach Whistler,” said Marsha Walden, CEO of Destination British Columbia. “As you begin your journey north, you’ll have sweeping views of Howe Sound on one side of your car and the towering Coast Mountains on the other side.  Keep an eye out for Arbutus trees which stretch at wild angles towards the water. The highway also winds through lush forests and alongside raging rivers as you continue north.”

Walden offered me some prophetic advice prior to my trip. “You’ll have a hard time keeping your eyes on the road!” she cautioned. “The Sea-to-Sky Highway is one of the world’s best drives.” 

As someone who has sought out the world’s most scenic drives––from Ireland’s Ring of Kerry to Italy’s Amalfi Coast to Kauai’s NaPali Coast––I wholeheartedly agree with Walden. Trust me, my photos don’t do it justice, but I couldn’t help myself from clicking away. The scale of the mountains and the trees and the vastness of it all is impossible to capture, but nonetheless, below are a few photos from the day.

During another day at the hotel, I made the 20-minute drive to nearby Granville Island for some salmon fishing. I met up with Bon Chovy Fishing Charters and enjoyed the best salmon fishing of my life.

We caught many king salmon, weighing up to 20 pounds, and even played around in the afternoon fishing for ling cod. 

I was impressed when I returned to The Fairmont after a couple days away, the concierge remembered I had mentioned my plans to do the Sea-to-Sky drive, and immediately asked me how I enjoyed it. That quality service certainly carried over to The Globe at YVR, the hotel’s signature restaurant.

“Many of our staff at The Fairmont have been with the hotel for years and years, and that makes a huge difference,” Hall said. “We don’t just hang our hat on the views and the top-notch accommodations we can offer. We work hard at providing personal service and making sure each guest has a wonderful stay.”  

By the time my visit was done, I found myself wishing I had another few days at The Fairmont. It was strange, but true: I wish I spent more time at the airport. 

The website for The Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel is Fairmont.com/vancouver-airport-richmond. For more information, call 1-800-257-7544. 

The airport hotel is one location within the larger Fairmont family of hotels. To see the full listing of Fairmont Hotels, click here

For information on other area attractions, visit HelloBC.com. 

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