The Met Hotel in Greece is both an art gallery and upscale hotel.

When I first began writing this column, I was working regularly for a high end travel magazine that catered to the hospitality, meetings & events industries. Over time I have realized that not all travellers visit destinations or plan events because they are part of a corporate or social group. This edition (and likely more in the future) will feature some personal travel options for adults and families.

HOT DEALS!

It’s an art gallery. No, it’s a hotel. No, actually The Met Hotel in the ancient coastal city of Thessaloniki, Greece is both. While the 212-room hotel boasts that its 13 meeting rooms can host up to 1,150 conference attendees, the artsy hotel is also offering deals to individuals, such as 20% off your booking and a free breakfast. Groups can earn as much as 50% off the Bar. The design is stark black and whites. On the piano-black walls, there are bold shots by famous fine-art photographers. Public spaces contain sculptures and video works by some of the world’s most revered contemporary artists. The restaurant, Chan, offers Asian cuisine and there is also a luxury spa.

www.designhotels.com/hotels/greece/thessaloniki/the-met

Pueblo Bonita Pacifica golf course.

Book directly with Pueblo Bonito Golf & Spa Resorts and earn up to $150 spa credit at Armonia Spa at one of the all-inclusive luxury resorts in Mazatlán and Cabo San Lucas! Book your four to five night stays at The Towers at Pacifica, Montecristo Estates Luxury Villas, or Emerald Estates Luxury Villas and get $75 USD spa credit or $150 for six or more nights. Book at Pueblo Bonito Pacifica, Rose, Los Cabos, Sunset Beach, or Emerald Bay, and you receive $50 USD spa credit for four-five night stays or $75 for six or more night bookings. A second promotion is good through June 8 and is geared to families. Book your stay at Mazatlán or Cabo San Lucas with the promo code SUM192KIDS and the price for up to two children is free.

www.pueblobonito.com/new-booking;

1-800-990-9250 (US) | 1-855-478-2811 (CAN) | 01-664-615-0802 (MEX)

COMING SOON TO A CITY (MAYBE) NEAR YOU!

Legoland Pirate Island Hotel

Have your children begin practicing their “Ahoy mateys” and “Arrrghs” because LEGOLAND Florida Resorts will welcome their first guests May 22, 2020 to the first LEGO® Pirate hotel in North America. The third on-site hotel at Legoland has 150 rooms (including four suites), a heated pool with pool deck (with Lego soft bricks to build while in the pool), treasure hunts, and exclusive character experiences. Each hotel room has separate kids and adults sleeping areas. While the pirate décor is pervasive, the kids side has bunk beds, Lego play areas and a separate TV. The five-story hotel will also house a pirate-themed restaurant called Shipwreck Restaurant, a bar titled Smuggler’s Bar for the adult pirates, an entertainment area for kid-friendly nightly programming, and LEGO play pits. Of course, if waiting until next May to plan a Legoland Florida Resort vacation is just too far away, you can still enjoy the new Lego Movie World expansion and the new nine-hole miniature golf course.

www.legoland.com/pirateisland

TOP AMERICAN DESTINATIONS FOR SUMMER TRAVEL

What destinations are you planning to visit this summer? Undecided? WalletHub’s latest survey may help you decide. Comparing 100 metro areas across 40 key indicators of budget- and fun-friendliness, Orlando, FL tops the list of 20, with Los Angeles, CA in the 20th spot. From #2 to #19, here’s how they were ranked: Austin, TX; Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; Dallas, TX; Las Vegas, NV; Cincinnati, OH; Tampa, FL; Nashville, TN; New York, NY; Atlanta, GA; San Antonio, TX; Oklahoma City, OK; Louisville, KY; Raleigh, NC; Columbus, OH; Kansas City, MO; El Paso, TX; and Houston, TX. Here are some other fascinating facts from the survey.  The average flight to a popular summer destination costs $294.07, lasts 3 hours and 46 minutes and has 0.4 connections. The Las Vegas metro area is the most attractive destination on the West Coast and the Washington, D.C. metro area is the most attractive destination on the East Coast. Florida and Texas are home to the most top summer destinations in the U.S., each with at least two metro areas in the top 15. Connecticut has one of the largest numbers of most unpopular summer destinations. The Kansas metro area has the lowest nightly rate for a three-star hotel room, $35, which is five times less expensive than in San Diego, the metro area with the highest rate at $175.

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-summer-travel-destinations/3792/

CHECK OUT THE NEW VENUES

Hilton Bogota Corferias lobby.

Hilton Bogota Corferias, the largest and only full-service branded hotel connected to Bogota’s International Fair and Convention Center, opened recently with 25,000 sf of meeting space and 410 guestrooms and suites. The hotel has an indoor pool, fitness center, and is centrally located to Bogota, Columbia cultural attractions.
www.hiltonhotels.com/es_XM/colombia/hilton-bogota-corferias

Members of Marriott Bonvoy just received a gift (of sorts) from Mainsail Lodging & Development, recently chosen as one of just six property management companies chosen for the launch of Homes & Villas by Marriott International. The new offering provides access to Mainsail rental properties located on Anna Maria Island, FL. “Marriott evaluated the caliber of our operations and quality of homes under our management and recognized that we delivered an elevated travel experience and understand the complex regulatory laws in place,” said Joe Collier, president of Mainsail Lodging & Development. Primarily focused on Anna Maria Island, Mainsail Vacation Rentals portfolio ranges from beautifully appointed condominiums to single family homes with an array of floor plans, luxurious bedrooms and upscale amenities.

www.MainsailHotels.com; www.MainsailVR.com.

Marcus Restaurant dominates the newly-opened Four Seasons Montreal, Canada lobby.

Four Seasons Hotel Montreal (Montreal, Canada) opened in May. As lovely as a Four Seasons hotel is, what gets me excited to visit this one is that international chef Marcus Samuelsson, who I watched win Top Chef some years ago, has opened the Marcus Restaurant on the third floor lobby area. I know guests will be in for a genuine foodie experience!

https://www.fourseasons.com/montreal/?seo=bing_local_mqu1

Springmaid Pier in Myrtle Beach is rebuilding

What Hurricane Mathew destroyed in 2016, the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Myrtle Beach Oceanfront is rebuilding. When the Springmaid Pier, a 1,068-foot path that extends out to the Atlantic Ocean, is reopened in May 2020, it will be returned to its original glory as one of the longest piers on the east coast of the U.S. To protect the popular local spot from future storm and surge damage, the pier will be reinforced with steel rather than timber and will be raised. The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton, Myrtle Beach Oceanfront rests at the south end of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina’s Ocean Boulevard.

www.myrtlebeachresort.doubletreebyhilton.com; 800-770-6895

FAMILY FUN UNDER THE SUMMER SUN

LEGOLAND summer fun logo

Having visited LEGOLAND Florida Resort with young children in tow, I can personally attest to the allure and engaging fun found at this park. Now comes summer and with it, six special weekends designed to amp up the excitement. The menu of Awe-Summer Events includes Red, White & Boom and Fire Safety weekend as well as The Lego Movie Days, a special theater-to-theme park experience. Red, White & Boom, July 4-6, has one of the biggest fireworks shows of the year. Visitors are encouraged to help create a giant U.S. flag from 1000s of Lego bricks. The Lego Movie Days, running for four consecutive weekends beginning July 13, includes character experiences with “stars” of the Lego movies and specially-themed dining offerings. Fire Safety Weekend, August 10-11, is presented by the National Fire Protection Association and teaches kids about fire safety using a variety of fun activities in the park, from a fire safety-themed scavenger hunt to a unique Lego mosaic build.

https://www.legoland.com/florida/buy-tickets/tickets/.

Bacton Altar Cloth, on loan from the Churchwardens and Parish Council of St Faith’s Church, Bacton,

A rare and historic piece of fabric from a 16th century court dress, one of the few survivals of Elizabethan dress in existence, will be on display beginning October 12 at Elizabeth I’s former home, Hampton Court Palace (in the U.K), alongside the iconic “Rainbow” portrait in which it may once have featured. The Bacton Altar Cloth exhibit concludes a three-year conservation project by Historic Royal Palaces. The richly embroidered textile, named after the church in Bacton, Herefordshire, where it was preserved for centuries, was identified by Historic Royal Palaces’ curator Eleri Lynn in 2016. The altar cloth has long been associated with Blanche Parry, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s most faithful servants and who was often gifted clothing from the Queen. This piece of fabric is thought to have been part of a skirt belonging to the Turdo Queen. Visitors will view the high-status silver chamblet silk, the professional embroidery including real gold and silver thread and the distinct pattern-cutting. Displayed alongside the altar cloth will be the iconic Rainbow Portrait (c.1600-02), on loan from Hatfield House. The portrait depicts the Queen wearing a gown that bears a tantalising resemblance to the altar cloth. The portrait, attributed to Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, was commissioned by Robert Cecil and is filled with symbolism including motifs of eyes and ears. The exhibition will also feature a selection of rare domestic print books that likely inspired many of the embroidered motifs of that era. The Bacton Altar Cloth will be on display from October 12 until February 23, 2020 and will be included in palace admission. Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle and Gardens.

www.groupsandtraveltrade@hrp.org.uk; www.hrp.org.uk

Think how much money you can save this summer if all meals for children under 12 years old were free! That’s the case at the AAA Four Diamond-rated Reunion Resort, (Orlando, FL), where their newly expanded “Kids Eat Free” program means your young ones can now eat all three meals a day for free with the purchase of an adult entrée at The Reunion Clubhouse or Traditions Restaurant. The program runs through September 30 and is available to all resort guests. Reunion Resort features 360 resort-style accommodations ranging from luxury, multi-room villas to private three- to 13-bedroom vacation homes. Reunion is the only location in the world featuring three signature championship golf courses designed by golfing legends Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson. The resort also offers Camp Reunion, a full- or half-day program with crafts, games and other activities for children from 4-12.

www.ReunionResort.com

Florida’s rainy afternoon season doesn’t have to dampen activities for families, especially for guests at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center (Kissimmee, FL) during SummerFest. When it’s too rainy to participate in the Splash Party or the poolside Saturday Movie Night, the children can experience the complimentary Exotic Animal Encounter or register for the Florida Explorers program, an opportunity to learn about the unique plants, animals and historical landmarks within the 4.5 acre atrium.

www.marriott.com/hotel-info/mcogp-gaylord-palms-resort-and-convention-center/entertainment

EAT A DISH. MAKE A WISH!

Chocolate cannoli pancakes at Maggiano’s Restaurants raises money for Make-A-Wish

Maggiano’s Little Italy wants to raise a million dollars by August 7 with their Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish campaign. This is the restaurant company’s 16th year of raising money for Make-A-Wish, which offers life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. Maggiano’s will donate $1 for each select feature dish and pancake as well as $0.50 for each feature beverage ordered. The food selections change from week to week, but one of the brunch items includes Chocolate Cannoli Pancakes. White chocolate cannoli filling sandwiched between fluffy chocolate pancakes, drizzled with hot fudge, and sprinkled with candied pistachios.

www.Maggianos.com

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2019 – 2020 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the second consecutive year. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she 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.