By the time we reach September - every year - we could all use a day off. But this year, after 18 months of COVID, it comes at the perfect time! Soon we'll see the seasons change, and the return of cooler weather and autumn breezes. And we'll see the blossoming of brilliant flora and fauna across landscapes that have, for the most part, baked in the sun for the past four months. The beginning of autumn is a time to recharge our inner-batteries - and our souls. And a time for a great long-weekend getaway with friends or family. Here are my Top 4 places for a Labor Day Getaway:
#4 - THE RESERVE AT HOT SPRINGS, HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS - Sitting on an elegant estate steeped in history, The Reserve at Hot Springs is actually brand-new - it just opened in July. And it's already gaining notice as perhaps the state's first luxury property of its kind. It's a boutique property in a village known for its soothing hot springs bubbling out of the Ouachita Mountains. And The Reserve is, in fact, located at the edge of Hot Springs National Park and its early-Twentieth-Century bath houses. And it offers an interesting contemporary take on traditional Southern hospitality. The main house was once the iconic W.C. Brown House, a private mansion. A National Heritage Landmark sitting on four bucolic acres, it's been lovingly restored to its Gilded Age glory. There are well-appointed accommodations in the main Brown House and adjacent Legacy House and cottage suite. And there's a chef-driven culinary concept winning plaudits for its Southern-meets-French cuisine, with locally-sourced ingredients, often from the property's own gardens and greenhouse Conservatory. Guests enjoy a complimentary made-to-order breakfast each morning, along with a variety of gourmet coffees, teas, and pastries served throughout the day. (You won't leave here hungry!) And in true Southern style, owners Mark and Rhonda are onsite to answer your questions about the hot springs, natural beauty, and charming town in which they're located.
#3 - THE LOFTS AT DOWNTOWN SALEM, SALEM, VIRGINIA - This is an 18-room boutique hotel with a fascinating history. The structure was built in 1924 as the New Central Motor Company. But the Great Depression put the company out of business, and left the building empty for several years. It reopened as the Goodwin Williams Chevrolet dealership in 1935, and later on as the West Salem Body Shop. But in recent years the building sat empty until recently, when the new owners completed a total rehabilitation process. And now this cherished old landmark has 18 loft-style guestrooms with red-brick walls, the original pine floors, high ceilings and funky, industrial-chic furnishings. It also has two restaurants - El Jefe for cool culinary concoctions and sophisticated drinks, and Tuco's Tacqueria Garaje - and a location on the main street of the scenic village of Salem. Hiking, biking, kayaking and canoeing opportunities are abundant, and the scenic Roanoke River Greenway also runs through Salem. And everywhere you turn are the appropriately-named Blue Ridge Mountains. In this unique hotel, you can still see the historic car elevator that once transferred vehicles to different floors, as well as the motors and cables that powered it, and the hallways are lined with historic photos. And Salem is very cool little village, with a Farmer's Market, a variety of antique shops, interesting eateries, several breweries, and even a Minor League baseball team.
#2 - ODONATA ESCAPE, FREDERICKSBURG, TEXAS - Odonata Escape, in the Texas Hill Country, is perfect for a relaxing Labor Day weekend. It's a striking, whimsical spot amidst the green meadows and horse country all around it...because it was actually created out of shipping containers! Odonata has eight suites, with names like Shangri-La and Groovy, each individually-decorated in styles combining traditional, woodsy, moderne, and, well...groovy. Each has a full kitchenette (and glasses to sample the excellent local wines) and private porches to watch the Hill Country sunrises. And many nearby wineries offer tours and tastings. Every unit at Odonata has Wi-Fi. But when nighttime comes, you'll probably want to be outside at the communal firepit, watching the stars; Fredericksburg is a designated Dark Sky Community. And the town itself is a slice of Alpine Europe in Texas. It was settled in the mid-1800's by German immigrants, and its restaurants and bakeries and shops reflect the Old Country gemutlichkeit (cordiality, friendliness). Don't forget to sample the baked goods and the schnitzel and strudel. You'll also see tiny "Sunday Houses" built by outlying early settlers for trips into town for church on Sundays. And stroll the central Marktplatz (plaza), with an historic eight-sided church, statues of early settlers and Native-Americans, a water wheel, and a playground for the kids.
And now, my pick for the Top Labor Day Getaway In America...
#1 - THE BROWN PALACE HOTEL & SPA, DENVER, COLORADO - How about a Labor Day "recharge" getaway in one of America's great hotels...located in one of America's great cities? The Brown Palace is a Forbes Four-Star, AAA Four-Diamond landmark that's been anchoring downtown Denver since 1892. It's played host to every American President but one since Teddy Roosevelt; President Eisenhower stayed here so often he referred to the hotel as "the Western White House." And with good reason. The Brown Palace is a regal lady whose aura only grows with time. But it also boasts all the modern amenities, among them a state-of-the-art spa. The hotel recently reopened the prestigious Palace Arms restaurant - one of six dining options - featuring locally-sourced specialties and memorable Napoleonic décor. Afternoon Tea in the Atrium Lobby is a grand local tradition, and still attracts Denver High Society, politicians and celebrities who want to be seen, and fascinated visitors - and the crumpets and finger sandwiches are delicious. Like many grand Western hotels that have been around for a while, The Brown Palace also has some wonderful stories of ghosts and intrigue. And it has an incredible location, too. Just walk out the door and you're in the middle of a sophisticated, vibrant Western city, with the pedestrian-only 16th Street Mall just outside, world-class museums (the renowned American Museum of Western Art is across the street), wonderful restaurants (and the melt-in-your-mouth chocolates at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory), and eclectic shops. A Labor Day Getaway at the Brown Palace is one you'll long remember.