WORLDLY ADVENTURES

luxury tented suites at Mahali Mzuri, which opens in August

luxury tented suites at Mahali Mzuri, which opens in August

You’ll need more than driving gloves, a good sense of direction, or a love for speed to compete in the annual off-road race held in the Kenyan bush or the world’s most challenging wheelbarrow race, held at Hell’s Gate National Park, Naivasha. The 25-year-old Rhino Charge, an off-road motorsport competition sponsored by The Rhino Ark Charitable Trust, has been raising money for conversation of Kenya’s Aberdare Ecosystem since 1989. The event is June 1.  http://www.rhinocharge.co.ke/ The wheelbarrow race, June 7-8, raises funds for a new Kenya Wildlife Service Education Center. http://www.kws.org/info/events/2013/Details/26mayhellgate2013.html

If you haven’t visited Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, CA in the past couple of years for top-notch winter sports, this may be the year to make it a planned vacation. The resort area is investing nearly $8 million in improvements this winter and next. The investment totals more than $46 million in year three of the resorts’ five-year, $70 million renaissance. Money is being poured into new snow cats for smoother, carve-able slopes, a new Wanderlust yoga studio, Spruce, a new home furnishings store, and comprehensive room renovations at The Village at Squaw Valley, as well as new on-mountain and valley signage for increased way-finding and accessibility. In the past two years, the base village was renovated with restaurants, bars and firepits. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows partnered with Snow Park Technologies to create the new SnoVentures™ activity zone with tubing and mini-snowmobiles, and the world’s first ski-in/ski-out Starbucks. Last year a high-speed, six-passenger chairlift and improved High Camp beginner experience were added at Squaw, as was a mile-long terrain park at Alpine Meadows. This season, the resorts are investing over $2 million in state-of-the-art snowmaking guns, new piping and system upgrades. Another $1.4 million will buy five new snow cats, including one additional winch cat, to create smooth, groomed slopes across the mountain. Base camp is also getting a facelift with the new Wanderlust yoga studio, signage, and amphitheatre at the KT Base Bar. If the thought of long days of skiing and snowboarding are wearing you just thinking about it, you’ll be able to easy your fatigued body on the new bedding and mattresses being installed this summer. Squaw Valley spans 3,600 skiable acres, six peaks and 30 chairlifts, and ranges from an expansive mountaintop beginner area to expert steeps, trees and bowls.

downhill skiing at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

downhill skiing at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

Alpine Meadows offers skiers and riders access to more than 100 trails across 2,400 skiable acres serviced by 13 lifts. With its high annual snowfall, the resort boasts one of Tahoe’s longest skiing and boarding seasons. www.squaw.com/the-village/lodging

HOTEL HAPPENINGS

Richard Branson’s new luxury retreat is like something from a movie filmed in an exotic locale. When Mahali Mzuri opens this August, it’ll feature 12 tented suites. Mahali Mzuri, which translates to “beautiful place,” is situated within the Motorogi Conservancy in the Maasai Mara. The resort will exclusively cater to a maximum of 24 guests at one time. Here’s the part where you can get excited. To celebrate Mahalii Mzuri’s opening, if you book four nights in August, you’ll get the last night free. Contact Virgin Limited Edition at enquiriesusa@virginlimitededition.com.

Hotel technology and online strategy company Bookassist is now officially the World’s Leading Booking Technology Provider and EyeForTravel Mobile Innovation winner. They were crowned Best Mobile Solution at the Travel Distribution Summit in London. The award is for Bookassist’s innovative and highly successful mobile webapp solution for hotels (bookassist.org/mobile). From an original entry list of 160 competitors, Bookassist made the final two on the shortlist for the Best Mobile Solution Award, while Bookassist client, ARCOTEL Hotels (arcotelhotels.com) also made the final three shortlisted for Best Mobile Website. The Bookassist webapp platform is fully multilingual, features real-time dynamic content and is tied directly to the hotel’s social media strategy

You won’t have to travel abroad to enjoy the authentic styling of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine. At least, not if you’re in South Florida where The Bōl, an Authentic Asian Cuisine Experience, has just opened at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, FL. Chinese Executive Chef Albert Yip and Vietnamese Executive Chef Jacky Truong will operate the 51-seat restaurant owned by The Seminole Tribe of Florida. Menu selections will be listed in English, Chinese and Vietnamese. The Bōl utilizes feng shui principles, embodying a modern aesthetic while retaining traditional Asian detailing and symbolism. The restaurant entry is framed by deep red-painted wood boxes. Red signifies happiness and good luck. Surrounding walls create a dramatic gold-colored patterned treatment, supplementing the contemporary maple-colored table tops and the dramatic millwork wood finishes. A feature light fixture strategically placed at the entry resembles chop sticks and the six-person round feature family style table is highlighted with a lantern shaped pendant in a warm wood finish. Music will be a sharp contrast to the environment. The casual ambience will feature progressive lounge music and chic, custom-mixed compilations of popular music from decades past. (954) 327-ROCK; 1 800-937-0010; www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com

PROGRAM PROMOTIONS

It’s not too soon to think about booking The Renaissance Dallas Hotel, especially your meeting will occur between July 1 and December 31 of 2014. The Hotel is undergoing an expansion of its meeting facilities. By June, the hotel will boast 50,000 sf of meeting and event space. The centerpiece is a 16,000-sf Grand Ballroom (1,500 max seated). Directly above the new ballroom, the City View Ballroom and City View Rooftop Terrace will offer groups an additional 10,900 sf of indoor and outdoor space. The City View Ballroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows provide breathtaking views of the Dallas skyline. Book a minimum of $125k by Dec. 31 of 2013 and planners can reap awards such as 5% rebate to master, upgrades to Platinum Elite, and complimentary Welcome Reception with entertainment and champagne for one hour. Call Sherry R. Thomas, Director of Hotel Sales, 214-267-4821; or http://www.DallasRenaissanceGroup.com.

If your feet were made for walking and your body burns for a soothing massage to ease the after-burn, a summertime retreat to New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, VT may be just the solution. In honor of its 35 year anniversary, America’s longest-operating hiking spa is offering vacation specials through Sept. 27. New Life Hiking Spa founder Jimmy LeSage, M.S. is an experienced yoga teacher, chef and hiking enthusiast. In  to start New Life Hiking Spa in Stratton, Vermont.   He moved New Life to Killington in 1990 and the spa has grown to be one of the most recognized destination spas in North America. In 2011, he was recognized as one of the top ten spa directors in the world and one of the top 25 pioneer spas by SpaFinder Wellness. All inclusive packages include a deluxe room, three healthy and freshly prepared meals per day, fruits and vegetables as snacks, one guided hike each day, all fitness and yoga classes, one massage for every three night stay, evening lectures and cooking demos. http://www.newlifehikingspa.com/.

Enjoy a complimentary glass of champagne during Beach Bistro’s happy hour. It’s the latest incentive from the Anna Maria Island dining hotspot, which has partnered with the island’s Mainsail Beach Inn to promote luxurious offerings just in time for June. Until June 30, Beach Inn guests will receive an additional 25 percent discount while dining at Beach Bistro, Sunday through Thursday.  There’s a new room service menu and special “Beaching at the Bistro for Sunset” offerings. Owned by renowned local restaurateur Sean Murphy, the award-winning Beach Bistro uses locally sourced farm products, Prime American beef, domestic lamb and fresh, line-caught seafood.  Located just 40 miles south of Tampa on the charming Old Florida hideaway of Anna Maria Island, the Mainsail Beach Inn features 12 boutique two- and three-bedroom residences with beachfront access, private balconies, and gourmet kitchens. Outdoor amenities include a private pool and sundeck, gazebo with kitchen and grill, covered beach chairs and access to a variety of nearby water sports. Boaters can dock at the Mainsail Marina, a private 50-slip marina, accommodating vessels up to 50-feet in length and available for monthly or daily rentals. (888) 849-2642; amireservations@mainsailhotels.com

Orlando International Airport (MCO) has experienced a 13.7 percent gain in international travel so it’s not a huge surprise that it has been selected as the first airport in the nation to automate the I-94 arrival/departure form used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). “To be named first in the nation to expedite the international arrival process will not only increase efficiency, it will also provide the capacity for more international growth, which is already responsible for over $2.8 billion in annual economic impact to the entire Central Florida region,” says Frank Kruppenbacher, Chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “This continues our role as a leading airport in the world.” The program’s efficiency will save millions of dollars for both CBP and the travel and tourism industry. On average it is anticipated to decrease the wait time by at least 20 seconds per passenger. The records of admission will now be generated using traveler information already transmitted electronically. Travelers wanting a hard copy or evidence of admission will be directed to a CBP website to print a copy of the I-94 document.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com

 

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