Las Vegas…with a Baby

As I write this I’m sitting in McCarran airport waiting to go home after a few days in Vegas. I have quite a few trips to Sin City under my belt, but this visit was unique. A friend was visiting the States from Australia, and proposed that we meet in Las Vegas for a few days of gambling, pool time and catching up. We jumped at the chance for a weekend getaway, however, our 6 month old baby would be in tow. I know, who takes a baby to Las Vegas? I was somewhat hesitant to hit the Strip with a child since I don’t remember it to be the most child-friendly town, but after reading other parents’ stories online, I decided to go for it.

Pre-baby, my girlfriends and I would stay somewhere trendy like the Cosmopolitan. Although I had a few ideal hotel preferences, availability and price won out and we ended up at Paris. Its central location made it a great home base to explore the Strip, plus the francophile in me loves the faux-French decor. There’s a nice pool, the service was wonderful and the hotel’s buffet included unlimited mimosas. Can’t complain here!Paris mimosas at The Paris

Yes, it is called ‘Sin City,’ but it wasn’t as crazy as I remember from my younger days. I saw a surprising amount of kids and strollers during the day. Families dined alongside 20-somethings. Most people were accommodating, and we often had doors held open for us. There were a few drawbacks. We learned the hard way that babies are not allowed in casinos, so my husband and I had to gamble in shifts. We also learned that there are few elevators along the Strip, so getting from point A to B took a lot longer than planned.

I’ll have to head back sans baby to see Britney, a Cirque show or hit the clubs, but overall bringing a baby to Sin City can be done. If you’re thinking about taking your little one to Vegas, these kid-friendly hotels top my list of places to stay.Bellagio

Bellagio: We visited this hotel quite a few times during our stay. The hotel would be a great pick for families because of its location and free attractions like the Bellagio Fountains and botanical garden.

Four Seasons: It’s worth heading off the Strip for a Four Seasons. You’ll get all the amenities you would expect, from welcome gifts for children to baby toiletries to complimentary use of cribs and highchairs upon request. There’s also no casino, which makes this property more relaxing than being in the middle of all the action.

Venetian: I stayed at the Venetian a few years back for business and loved it. The best part is that its an all-suite property, along with The Palazzo next door. Each suite comes complete with a separate living area, which means lots of room for kiddos. The upscale Grand Canal Shops are also a great way to spend a few hours.

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New Hotels to Visit This Spring

Can you believe it’s almost March? 2016 is well underway and the new year brought new hotels to get excited about. From Florida to the Middle East, your spring plans should include these recently-opened gems.

The Hall

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Those looking for a spring break getaway can find a casual, vintage Miami vibe at The Hall. This boutique hotel opened late last year in a prime South Beach location, is pet friendly and houses an eatery from Spike Mendelsohn that Top Chef geeks like me will love.

Godfrey Boston

Godfrey Boston

The highly anticipated February opening of this boutique hotel brought a new place to stay near Boston Common. Set in a restored pre-war building, the Godfrey is a sophisticated home base when in Boston for business or pleasure.

Shangri-La Doha

Main Pool

The lux brand is bringing its signature posh accommodations to Qatar’s capital. This recently opened property features guest rooms that offer views of the Persian Gulf, marble bathrooms equipped with soaking tubs, and a beautiful curved pool to cool off from the high desert temps.

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Hotel Review: The Fairmont Pittsburgh

As someone who loves to travel, I appreciate any excuse to do so, even for work. My job recently took me to Pittsburgh, which included a stay at the Fairmont. I’m a longtime fan of the Fairmont brand, having stayed at their hotels in Monte Carlo and Chicago, so I was excited to add one more to the list.

The Property: I immediately liked the clean, open lobby. It was full of modern furniture, with a lounge that made for a convenient spot cocktails. One of the things I loved about the hotel is that there was artwork everywhere you turned. I was told the sculptures and paintings are all from local artists, and there were even a few Warhol prints on hand. The hotel also has a resident canine ambassador named Edie that you can take on walks around the city. How fun is that?
Fairmont Lobby Hotel lobby

Accommodations: The room was what you would expect of a Fairmont – spacious and luxurious, with amenities like comfy robes, high-end bath products and a keurig machine. I was given a room on a higher floor, which offered great views of the downtown skyline and the river. Floor to ceiling windows and binoculars were a nice touch. I was pleasantly surprised with the bed. It was amazingly comfortable and made for a great night’s sleep.

Fairmont Pittsburgh pitt4 Fairmont Pittsburgh Bathroom Fairmont

Location: The downtown location meant lots of restaurants and bars were nearby. We discovered a great dim sum restaurant called Grit and Grace, and Market Square was a convenient 5 minute walk away for breakfast. We also took in a Pittsburgh Pirates game, which was a short jaunt just over the bridge.

PNC ParkThe staff could not have been nicer, and I’d say the hotel is great for business travelers or those visiting for a day to take in a ballgame. I noticed a mix of business travelers, families and even ran into the Atlanta Braves baseball team arriving for a series with the Pirates. Overall a perfect stay, and I would definitely come back if I find myself in Pittsburgh again.

We Have you stayed at a Fairmont? Which location was your favorite?

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Checking Into the Dominican in Brussels

Hotel Dominican

I recently visited Brussels on the tail end of a trip that saw stops in London, Paris and Belgium. I had heard that Brussels was relatively small, and I was looking forward to having a low-key 24 hour visit before heading back home on an early morning flight. With limited time to explore the city, a centrally located hotel was a must. I came across the luxury Dominican through an online search, and its great reviews made it the obvious choice.

The Location

After taking a cab from the the train station, my friend and I were a little confused when our taxi driver dropped us off in an alley. (He explained that the street was closed to cars, and was thus unable to drop us off at the hotel’s entrance). After checking in and getting our bearings, we soon discovered that the property was actually very close to the first place we wanted to see, the Grand Place (or Grote Markt).  A short walk south took us past small streets filled with restaurants and bars, which filled up with lots of people come evening time. The Grand Place was a ten minute walk at most. The streets surrounding the Grand Place is where we ended up spending most of our time in the city, and it was nice to have it within walking distance. Not having to take the metro to get around was a welcome break after exhausting days navigating Paris and London. The convenient location also made it easy to stop back at the hotel for a mid-day break to freshen up before dinner.

Hotel's location

The Property

The hotel’s luxury could definitely be felt in the main lobby. Sleek furniture and elegant touches like mirrors, glass accents and flowers added to the overall glamour. The lobby and the rest of the first level are mostly open, which allows you to see the hotel’s lounges and seating areas. Being pressed for time, we were unfortunately unable to experience any of the dining options. We did notice lots of people having an evening cocktail in the lobby bar, and there was also a beautiful courtyard restaurant that looked like a wonderful place to have drinks or dinner.

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Europe 2015 810 Europe 2015 811The Rooms

We stayed in a Deluxe room, which was cozy but had enough space to fit two people comfortably. The hotel’s underlying religious theme was present in the room, notably from the old church music that came from the TV speakers and within the carpet designs. My favorite part was the bathroom, which was sleek and modern. It had a masculine vibe, with black finishes and contemporary elements like a chrome hair dryer, not to mention an amazing shower.

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The Dominican really was the perfect hotel for a one day stay in the city. The greatest selling points of this property really are its location and lux features. The staff was also very friendly and accommodating. Rooms start at 140 euros a night, and more info can be found on their website.

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A Lovely Stay in London

A friend and I planned a 2 day stay in London during a week long European vacation and were in need of a hotel . This was my second time in the city, but there was still a lot on the agenda. We planned to take in a few tourist attractions, but mostly wanted to get off the tourist track and explore London’s various neighborhoods. On a previous trip, I stayed near the Tower of London. While it was had a tube stop and was near the Thames, it offered few options for dining, shopping or entertainment. This time we chose Kensington for its location and neighborhood amenities. After a lot of online research, we decided to go with the Millennium Gloucester.

Location:

The area surrounding the hotel seemed mostly residential, but had ample restaurants, coffee shops and a few grocery stores. We were easily able to walk to a late dinner or pop into the Tesco across the street to pick up water or snacks. The Gloucester Road tube is less than a block away, and runs on the green and yellow line. This made for easy access to pretty much anywhere in central London. And if you’re like me and can’t resist the lure of a casino, there’s a small one around the corner.

The Room:

We arrived early in the morning from oversees and were lucky enough to have a room ready for us. We were kindly upgraded to a Club Room, which is located on the hotel’s Club Level. The room was the perfect size for two people and luggage, and somewhat large by London standards. 
Treat from the hotel

The Highlights:

One of the perks of our Club Level room was access to the hotel’s breakfast. It was located in a quaint room overlooking a charming South Kensington side street. The breakfast spread was pretty standard, with hot and cold items and fresh juices. An espresso machine made for a nice addition. Europe 2015 371
Complimentary wifi was also a plus (even though I think it should be standard these days!), and the front desk staff could not have been friendlier.

The Millennium Gloucester is located near the intersection of Gloucester and Courtfield Roads in Kensington. More information can be found on their website.

 

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Checking Into Barcelona’s Alexandra Hotel

This winter weather has me reminiscing of warmer days. Thinking back to this past summer takes me back to one of my favorite hotels I’ve stayed at in recent years, the Hotel Alexandra in Barcelona, Spain. Why is it one of my favorites? The hotel had everything one could want – roomy accommodations, modern amenities and a convenient location.

Hotel Alexandra balcony

Bathroom Hotel Alexandra

Location:  I always like to stay in the city center when visiting a big city. Part of the reason we chose this hotel was its location in the Eixample neighborhood. This area’s well connected by the metro, with the Diagonal and Passeig de Gracia stations a mere 5 minutes away. We were able to easily walk to landmarks like La Pedrera and Casa Batllo. The area is also home to busy streets full of cafes, shops and high end shopping.

Accommodations: The hotel’s modern vibe is noticeable when first entering the hotel. The lobby is full of sleek seating and houses a bar in the lounge area. We scored a room on the top floor, which made for nice views of the surrounding neighborhood. The room was pretty big by European standards, with one of the sexiest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. The shower was ah-mazing. The room opened up to a spacious patio that was the perfect place to start the day or unwind after hours of wandering the city. We were able to enjoy the warm night air and check out the lively rooftop bars across the way. And the best part? There was a full size BATHTUB on the terrace! Yes, a bathtub.

Perks: We were immediately greeted by the friendly staff when arriving. They were knowledgeable and extremely helpful, which was much appreciated since we were new to the city.  There was free wifi throughout the hotel and in our room – always valuable. The in-room Nespresso machine didn’t hurt either.

Overall I loved this hotel and would definitely recommend it. Given its location, beautiful accommodations and economical cost at under 200 euros a night, it’s worth a stay to anyone visiting Barcelona.

 

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The Best New Hotels of Fall 2014

A few recent hotel openings (and one soon-to-open spot) recently caught my eye. These hot spots could serve as the perfect home base for a New York city escape or a girls’ getaway in Las Vegas. Here are the new properties that are on my radar for the rest of 2014.

Mondrian London

This London boutique hotel is set to open September 30th and marks the first Mondrian location outside of the States. Its South Bank location will put guests close to the Tate Modern and the London Eye, plus a rooftop will allow for great views of OXO Tower and the Thames.

Mondrian London
Photo courtesy of the Mondrian London

SLS Las Vegas

I’ve always loved the SLS South Beach for Hyde Beach and Jose Andres’ Bazaar restaurant. Now the popular hotel brand has opened a Las Vegas outpost, replacing the old Sahara casino on the north end of the Strip. It’s just the excuse I need to plan a long weekend in Sin City.

SLS
Photo Courtesy of the SLS Hotels

Four Seasons Orlando at Walt Disney World 

This hotel opened late last month. It has everything I love about Four Seasons properties – luxurious rooms, wonderful dining options and world class amenities – and it’s all within the gates of Walt Disney World. I’ll have to check it out when I visit Orlando in December.

The Park Hyatt New York

With its convenient midtown Manhattan location, spacious rooms and extensive spa, this new hotel tops my list of places to stay next time I’m in the city. I also read that check in is done with tablets and all rooms are equipped with iPads. I always love when hotels are on top of technology.

 

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My Stay at the Radisson Blu in Nice, France

Ah, Nice. The sunshine, the sea, the glitz and glam of the Côte d’Azur. This hot spot on the French Riviera is one of the places I was looking forward to visiting the most during my recent trip to France. Our stop in Nice came at the tail end of a week of traveling through Provence and the South of France. The trip thus far had been a whirlwind of trains, cars and different hotels, so I was looking forward to settling down in Nice for a few days. I didn’t know too much about the town to start, but I knew I wanted a beachfront hotel that was near all the action. I had the luxe Hotel Negresco or Le Meridien in mind, but with some of the higher end properties pushing over €500 a night during the height of the summer, we ultimately opted for something a little more economical. The Radisson Blu Nice fit the bill with its seaside location and luxury amenities. Radisson Blu Nice

THE GOOD

We arrived in the afternoon and were able to head right up to our room. Upon entering, one of the first things that I noticed was a unique theme that I can only describe as “Caribbean Chic.” The wall was adorned with a photo of a Caribbean Carnival dancer and chili pepper sculptures decorated the wall. All decor aside, it was comfortable, and while not spacious, it was perfectly big enough for my husband and me. We were located on the highest floor, which made for easy access to the rooftop pool. The rooftop was the highlight of the hotel for me. The views it offered of the Promenade des Anglais and the Mediterranean were priceless. The pool area was clean, relaxing and offered a great cocktail menu. What’s better than lounging by the pool with a cocktail, right? We also gave the rooftop’s restaurant, La Terrasse, a try for lunch one day. The food was good, and were were able to score a overlooking the water, which made the meal memorable. In addition to the views, the staff was friendly and helpful. One of the best perks the hotel offered was the complimentary shuttle bus to Vieux Nice (Old Town), which saved us quite a lot of time and money in cabs. Lastly, never to be under appreciated, was the free wi-fi.

View from our room
view from our room

Room room bathroom

 

THE BAD

It was on our first night in Nice that we realized that the location of the hotel is not as centrally located as I would have desired. After leaving the hotel to walk in search of a restaurant, we soon found that to be much harder than imagined. The Radisson Blu is situated at the western end of the Promenade des Anglais. Much of the action is located about a mile and a half to the east, centered around the famous Hotel Negresco. This meant that the complimentary shuttle or a cab was usually needed to get to the populated part of the Promenade or Messena Square. While it may have been a little farther than we hoped for, we did enjoy some nighttime walks along the Promenade de Anglais back to our hotel.

One of the other things that stands out are the additional costs that seemed to be around every corner. The hotel’s private beach was over €20 a person, which we were told was needed to cover the charge of the beach chairs and towels. Even their rooftop pool set us back over €20 per person, per day. While it seemed crazy to me to be charged for use of the hotel’s pool, apparently these types of charges are the norm for comparable hotels in the area.

pool

 

Want to see more photos of my trip to Nice? Check them out on my Instagram page.

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A Short Stay in Antibes, France

AntibesDuring this month’s Eurotrip, we had the pleasure of visiting Antibes, France. My husband and I were on a week long tour of the south of France, and since we heard good things about Antibes, decided to make it a stop on our trip.

Getting to Antibes: Nestled between Cannes and Nice, Antibes is located on a prime stretch of the Côte d’Azur. Because we were traveling through the smaller towns of Provence in the previous days, we would be arriving by rental car. After a few hours of driving, we made it to the coast in the late afternoon. Traffic slowed the closer we got, with cars backing up as we neared the exits for Cannes. We found our exit and then headed through the town’s many narrow, one way streets en route to our hotel. Thankfully we had our GPS!

Where To Stay: After finding a great deal on the Marriott website, we chose to stay at the AC Hotel Ambassedeur Antibes – Juan les Pins. The first thing I noticed when walking in was the I was the sleek, modern look of the lobby. We were greeted by the friendly and helpful staff, checked in, then ventured up to our room. We were kindly upgraded to one of the hotel’s suites, which could not have been any better. The room included a living area and separate bedroom, along with a huge terrace. Lounging on the terrace’s cafe table was nice, and we could see the ocean at the end of the street. The spacious bathroom offered a separate bathtub and shower, along with double sinks (how often do you see that at a European hotel?). One of the most functional features the suite provided was a very large, open “closet” space that was able to comfortably hold all our luggage and keep it out of the way. It came in handy! We made sure we made use of the hotel’s amenities – mainly the indoor and outdoor pool, plus the sauna.  The location in Juan les Pins was also great. The beach was a ten minute walk from the hotel, with a park, shops and restaurants along the way. Lobby hotel suite living room terrace

pool pool

Where To Eat: We were celebrating our anniversary and wanted to visit a nice restaurant for the occasion. The hotel had great dining options, and their restaurant Fushi looked like one of the best. We arrived for dinner and chose a table outside. The meal started with a glass of local Provençal rosé, which was one of many enjoyed on the trip. We took the server up on his suggested meal, which started with a salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and goat cheese. Next up was the main course of duck. I’ll admit this was my first time trying duck, and I was a little nervous. It actually was very good, as was the accompanying vegetable tart. Dessert was a fresh fruit tart consisting of strawberries, apricots and cream. It was so good that my husband ate it all, which was quite the feat considering that he usually refuses to eat any fruit. The meal went down as one of the best we had our whole trip.

Fushi salad dinner dessertSadly, we were only able to spend less than 24 hours in Antibes, since we planned to get to Nice the next day. We just missed their annual Jazz festival by about a week! Although it was short, I’m glad I got to experience a small part of the town and its beautiful beaches.

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Paris Hotel Review: Royal Magda Etoile

madga entranceThe last time I was in Paris, I wanted to find a quaint, traditionally Parisian boutique hotel for our stay. I had done the large, international brand hotel before (check out my review of the Marriott Champs-Elysses), but was looking for a different experience. After lots of research, I found just what I was looking for in the Royal Magda Etoile.

This small boutique hotel oozes charm, from the Haussmann style facade to the wrought iron balconies. Its location in the 17th arrondissement was a great starting point for exploring the city. The Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees and Charles de Gaulle-Etoile metro station were all within walking distance, and the surrounding streets offered good bars and restaurants. Once inside, we felt instantly welcomed by the friendly staff. The property had a chic Parisian interior, with a winding staircase and vintage elevator. The rooms were clean and on the small side, but on par with what you’d expect in Paris. One of my favorite features was the windows, which opened to a wrought iron balcony. So Parisian! The private courtyard was another highlight. It was the perfect spot for enjoying my morning coffee. The thing that was really made me love this hotel was the staff. They were outstanding! They even offered to mail a postcard for me after I inquired about the location of the nearest post office! They could not have been more helpful. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced boutique hotel with a Parisian feel, this hotel really is a hidden gem! madga street magda courtyars room magda view madga floers madga stairs

 

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Bachelorette Weekend in South Beach

miami streetWhen the time came for my friend’s upcoming nuptials, we knew we had to celebrate her final month as a single woman in style. After mulling over a few destinations, we landed on Miami. What place could be better? It had everything we wanted – the beach, shopping, fun nightlife and luxury hotels. So we decided on a date and booked our flights to South Florida.

I headed down on a Friday morning for the long weekend and met up with the other girls at our hotel, the SLS South Beach. The hotel was fabulous, and had a great location on Collins. After getting settled in, we headed down to dinner at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Jose Andres’ Bazaar. The decor was elegant and the food was innovative. Some of our table’s standouts were the nitrogen caipirinha, smoked oysters, ceviche and deconstructed key lime pie. Bazaar
BazaarA stop at the Setai is always a to-do when I’m in Miami. So after dinner we stopped by this Asian-influenced, luxury hotel for some cocktails. Nothing is better than relaxing with a drink in their serene, water-filled courtyard. My must-have is their lychee martini. It’s not on the menu, but they’ll make it upon request. I also really liked their chili passion martini, which had a unique, spicy twist. After about fifteen $20 martinis later and some very fun conversations with the bartender, us girls were on our way. We headed back to our hotel to check out Hyde Beach. This place was packed. The pool was lit up and the music was good. Since we were all a little tired from our morning of traveling, we stayed for a few hours then headed back to our rooms.

The next morning we got up and made a beeline for the beach to soak up the South Florida sun. After lounging all afternoon, it was back to our hotel to get ready to go out. Saturday night to be our big evening out, since it was our last night in Miami. The plan was to get dressed up, drink some cocktails and go out dancing. This was a bachelorette weekend after all! The first stop was the Fontainebleau, one of the most popular South Beach spots. Dinner was at Hakkasan, located in the hotel. I’ve been to this Asian restaurant many times, and even went to the outpost in London. We had a few cocktails and shared plates of dumplings and their crispy almond prawns. It was now time to start the night. A short walk through the hotel led us to LIV. This super club is exactly what you’d expect – flashing lights, good music and a beautiful crowd. It’s something you must do at least once in Miami, and it was exactly what we needed. After lots of champagne and a night of dancing, we were ready to call it a night.

After waking up on our final day, we were in need of a good brunch. Lemon ricotta pancakes, french toast and a round of bloody marys at Tounge and Cheek did the trick. Some cuban coffee at a nearby stand and we were good to go. The afternoon was spent walking through the Lincoln Road Mall and exploring the shops. After a few hours, the time came to pack up for the airport. The time had come to head home and get back to real life. The weekend was amazing, and as always, Miami was a good time. mimai beach3 miami walk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Where I Stayed in Paris: Marriott Champs-Elysees

When our one year anniversary rolled around, my husband and I had little doubt where we wanted to spend it. There was no better place in my mind to celebrate than one of the most romantic cities in the world. But when the time came to choose a hotel, we were overwhelmed with options. Modern luxury hotel or small boutique location? What arrondissement would be best?

marriot2

Jay Z may talk about staying at “Le Meurice for like 6 days,” and while that wasn’t necessarily in our budget, we did have a fabulous time at the Marriott Champs-Elysees. We chose it after a recommendation from a friend, who actually saw Marriott Chairman Bill Marriott when there. Hey, if it’s good enough for him, it’ll work for me. You can see the Arch de Triumph once you step out of the hotel, and the numerous trains within walking distance make for a great central point to explore the city. The area is pretty touristy (obviously since it’s on the Champs-Elysses), but it wasn’t unbearable. The marble bathrooms (complete with l’occitane goodies!) were the epitome of luxury, and the staff’s complimentary anniversary bottle of champagne was a wonderful touch. Overall we had a wonderful stay, and I’d stay again during my next trip to Paris.

Marriott Lobby

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Checking in at Miami’s Viceroy Hotel

The entrance
The entrance

When I was called to Miami for work and heard we’d be staying at the Viceroy, I was super excited. It was my first time at this hotel, and I’d heard good things. Since I’m usually in Miami for pleasure over work, I often stay in South Beach. I was excited to see a different area of the city, and this Brickell location was the perfect place to do it.

I arrived in the late morning and was unexpectedly greeted by the Easter Island moai that line the entrance. Once inside, I fell in love with the modern lobby and it’s funky accessories. Abstract sculptures, ornate furniture and bright colors keep your attention. The chandeliers are to die for. I want one in my foyer.

I ventured up to my room after check-in. The modern, elegantly decorated room was exactly my style. Did the interior designer know I was coming? There was colorful artwork on the wall, tufted furniture and a beautiful lattice room divider. The marble bathrooms and an in-room espresso machine were a nice touch. (By the way, why can’t all hotel rooms have espresso machines?). The beautiful view of the Miami skyline (especially at night!) was not too shabby either.

Since I was in town for work, I was bummed that I didn’t have time to check out the pool or spa. I was told the spa was designed by Phillipe Stark, which would explain why it looked so amazing. The breakfast at 15th & Vine was tasty and satisfying, with pretty quick service.

Overall, I have no complaints about the Viceroy. This hotel attracted a sophisticated crowd of what looked like both business travelers and tourists, which I take as a good sign. I’ll be trying to make it back again soon, although this time for leisure!

My room
My room
viceroy pool
The rooftop Fifty Miami Ultra Lounge
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