Elevate your palate in Elevage, the fine dining restaurant in the new Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, FL. Amy Pezzicara, Pezz Photo/Epicurean

Elevate your palate in Elevage, the fine dining restaurant in the new Epicurean Hotel in Tampa, FL. Amy Pezzicara, Pezz Photo/Epicurean

The weather may be putting much of North America in a deep freeze, but across the globe, hotels opening or in transition are heating up the environment. There are so many hotels changing owners or under construction that it’s difficult for me to keep track of property names, but as folks often check out my blog before doing site visits, booking groups, or even booking their own vacations, here are some of the latest of my discoveries.

HOTELS ARE DEFINITELY HAPPENING!  

Finally, the long-awaited Epicurean Hotel opened in Tampa in December. The 137-room boutique hotel, with a focus on fine foods and fine arts, is located across from the renowned Bern’s Steakhouse. The new hotel’s 80-seat restaurant, Elevage, is joined by Chocolate Pi (a patisserie, or for those who don’t speak French… a bakery), a Bern’s Fine Wines & Spirits shop on the first floor, and the Epicurean Theatre, a culinary classroom I hope to find myself dicing and splicing in very soon in the future. The Grand Awakening Weekend is coming up January 17-19 and stars the hotel’s Chef, Chad Johnson, and celebrity chefs such as Norman Van Aken. Developed by Mainsail Lodging & Development in collaboration with the legendary Bern’s Steak House, Epicurean Hotel is the first newly-constructed property in the United States to join the prestigious Autograph Collection® of Marriott International, Inc.www.EpicureanHotel.com; (855) 829-

Two new Tampa hotels are slated to open this year. What do you call a former Mercantile Bank building when it’s been converted into a 130-room boutique hotel situated along Tampa’s famed Riverwalk? You get Aloft Tampa Downtown. It’ll feature a terrace pool deck overlooking the Hillsborough River, the picturesque University of Tampa minarets, and downtown Tampa. Aloft won’t be the only boutique hotel to emerge from an historic property. Once a 108-year-old Federal Courthouse building,  Le Meridien Hotel gains new life as a 130-room hotel with 4,800 sf of meeting space, including a 2,200-sf ballroom set in the old courtroom with 18-foot ceilings, two breakout rooms, and a board room that seats 12.

There’s a “No Strings Attached” policy being offered by The Langham Huntington Pasadena, located nine miles north of Los Angeles for groups who book before March 31 and arrive through December 31 of 2015. The historic property can accommodate up to 350-person conferences. Lots of indoor and outdoor space, a resort style setting, no resort fees, no attrition and no F&B minimums. Industry specific offers are available for Pharmaceutical, Financial, Insurance, and Associations. www.alhi.com/LanghamHuntington

Omni Hotels & Resorts just bought its 6th property from KSL Capital Partners, LLC, a leading private equity firm. The reflagging of the Montelucia Resort & Spa as theOmni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia extends the Omni’s

The patio of the fine dining restaurant, Prado, in the newly-reflagged Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa

The patio of the fine dining restaurant, Prado, in the newly-reflagged Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa

Resort Collection in the Western United States. The luxurious Montelucia Resort & Spa features 253 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, 38 suites and two presidential suites. It contains the award-winning Moroccan-inspired Joya Spa, three resort pools, and five dining options including the critically acclaimed restaurant, Prado. Montelucia’s distinctive architecture is inspired by the rich history of Spain’s Andalusia region. Montelucia is located in the exclusive enclave of Paradise Valley, and adjacent to the cities of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The other five KSL Capital Partners properties that Omni has acquired since July are: Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, TX; Omni La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA; Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, CA; Omni Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC; and Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, VA.

The Miramonte Resort & Spa wants to assist you planning your meeting in the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains in Southern California. There are discounted group rates, incentives such as one complimentary hour spa treatment for every 25 rooms booked, and one suite upgrade for every 40 rooms used. There is limited availability between January and June, so check it out at www.alhi.com/MiramonteResort

Miramonte Resort & Spa in Southern CA.

Miramonte Resort & Spa in Southern CA.

Good deals await for planners who’d like to take their groups to Spokane, WA for a bit of luxurious R&R. Dubbed the “Playground of the Northwest,” the four-star Coeur d’Alene is 35 minutes from the Spokane International Airport. Book a meeting of 100 total room nights (minimum) before May 31 and receive a complimentary one hour cruise boat rental or hors d’oeuvres reception. Additionally, groups receive a 25% attrition policy, 1 per 40 complimentary rooms, a 10% discount on audio visual, no resort fee, complimentary guestroom internet and no fitness center access fees. www.alhi.com/CoeurdAlene

Steps away from the Empire State Building and Times Square, Langham Place, Fifth Avenue is a 214 apartment-style accommodations (57 suites have full kitchens and private laundry facilities), with bespoke furnishings, premium materials and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. Winter group promotions include double points for every dollar booked, for programs inclusive of accommodations, catering or room rental; one VIP upgrade for every 10 guest rooms; free internet access; and complimentary in-room beverages and Nespresso. www.alhi.com/LanghamPlaceFifthAve

EVENTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART RACE FASTER

Racing fast cars is not on my bucket list. The closest I’ve come to the race track was belly dancing for a team as the Daytona 500 was gearing up. (You think this is funny? You should have seen me in full belly dance attire walking into the pit area, let alone dancing in the middle of a crew who had dreams of winning on their minds.) I know I am in the minority for being timid about speeding cars and roaring noises, so here’s some info I am sure you rabid fans will want to know. This year the Richard Petty Driving Experience (RPDE) and the Exotic Driving Experience (EDE) can put you behind the wheel (or beside a professional driving instructor) of NASCAR stock cars and exotic cars from around the world including Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Aston Martins and Audis. You have to be 14 for a ride-along and 16 to drive on all tracks except those at Walt Disney World Speedway or the Daytona International Speedway. For the latter two, you must be 18 to drive. So, where are all those other tracks? RPDE tracks include Kansas Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Chicagoland Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and the Richmond International Raceway. EDE tracks also include the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Kansas Speedway. www.DrivePetty.com; www.ExoticDriving.com

The final phase of the 2.2-mile Tampa Riverwalk gets completed this year. The Riverwalk contains multiple entertainment, shopping and restaurant venues. Coming in the spring: a new restaurant and brewery called Ulele.

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; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady

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