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House of Coco is thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Alka Winter, the dynamic VP of Marketing and Communications at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). A trailblazer in the tourism and hospitality sector, Alka has crafted a remarkable career defined by influential moments and strategic innovations.

In this engaging conversation, Alka shares her insights into what makes Ras Al Khaimah a standout destination for women and solo female travelers. She discusses the growing trend of solo travel among women and its positive impact on the tourism industry. Additionally, Alka sheds light on how the UAE is setting new benchmarks for gender equality, with RAKTDA recognised as one of the Best Workplaces for Women in the Middle East.

Join us as we delve into Alka Winter’s inspiring journey, her vision for the future of tourism and the empowering strides being made for women in the UAE. This is a must-read for fearless females around the world looking to explore new horizons and be inspired by leaders in their field…

1. Can you share with us a pivotal moment in your career that significantly shaped your trajectory within the tourism and hospitality sector?

I wouldn’t say that it was a pivotal moment per se, it was more the people in my life who helped shaped my career and gave me advice when I needed it – from when it was time for me to step out of my comfort zone after 15 years in hospitality and giving me the encouragement to explore the tourism eco-system, to where I am today. Those people include Raki Phillips, my CEO at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, whom I’ve known for over a decade, and worked with during my earlier Fairmont and FRHI days – to Philip Barnes, the CEO of Rotana Hotels.

Another great mentor, both professionally and personally is Charlotte Thouvard and Mike Taylor at Accor. I’m blessed to have such amazing advocates with whom I continue to draw on for their advice and expertise as leaders, and industry professionals.

2. What inspired you to pursue a career in marketing and communications specifically within the travel industry?

It really started in the early 2000s. I had obtained a post graduate degree in Public Relations in Ontario, Canada, and was looking to start my career in PR. Art history and museums was a big passion, as it is today, and as such, I interned at the Royal Ontario Museum.  When my internship came to a close, my director Francisco Alvarez put me forward for an entry level PR role at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto – an iconic luxury hotel dating back to 1929 with an incredible history.  From then on, I was hooked, and hospitality became a major part of my life!

Fast forward to a few years later, and I’ve met my husband at the Fairmont Dubai where I used to work. We later married at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, and the brand became an essential part of our lives. There was so much personal happiness and affinity wrapped up in it, which really demonstrates the power of brands. 

I made the jump into tourism four years ago. I was fascinated with Ras Al Khaimah, the northern-most emirate in the UAE as a challenger brand, and having the opportunity to work with a wonderful mentor and colleague, Raki Phillips,the tourism board’s CEO – as well as a wonderful marketing and communications team of 10, who come from nine different nationalities ranging from Emirati to Turkish, Estonian, Syrian, Philippines, Canada (myself), Egyptian, and Pakistan – to name a few.

3. As someone with an impressive track record in the hospitality industry, what strategies do you believe are crucial for elevating a destination’s profile to international audiences?

A multi-faceted approach is essential. One that incorporates everything from planning and growth, such as ourhospitality and attraction developments, to having a robust sustainable strategy and implementing initiatives that benefit local communities. Currently tourism accounts for 5% of the emirate’s GDP – our aim is to grow this to a third, and to become a major economic contributor to the destination.

Separately, sharing compelling storytelling through our communications channels is key, although that is putting itsimply. We try to have an intuitive understanding of where our audiences are and which phase of the dreaming, consideration, and planning phases they are in – and realising that this isn’t a simple linear process. 

Our role is not only as communicators, but as super sleuths – understanding the pulse of travel inspiration and meeting our travellers at the pass, with creative and straightforward content that resonates with them at a visceral level. Brand identity is critical here, and in turn, it encourages tourism and drives economic growth.

4. Ras Al Khaimah is increasingly recognised as a top destination for women and solo travellers. What unique attributes do you think contribute to its appeal for this demographic?

Safety is key attribute for all travellers, especially solo travellers and women. Ras Al Khaimah is the number one country where people feel safe walking alone, according to Gallup, and it’s the first safe city in the world to receive a ‘Safeguard Assurance’ label from Bureau Veritas. It is also the first Emirate to receive the world travel and tourism council (WTTC) safe travels stamp, which recognises the destinations heightened safety standards and training protocol in place across the Emirate. This has positively impacted the appeal among women and the wider solo travellersegment, in addition to Ras Al Khaimah’s unique attractions and warm hospitality.

5. Solo female travel is on the rise globally. How do you think destinations like Ras Al Khaimah can cater to the specific needs and interests of solo female travellers?

Destinations like Ras Al Khaimah exemplify a remarkable blend of tradition and modernity, offering a warm welcometo solo female travellers. Renowned for its progressive outlook and commitment to tolerance, the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah prioritise the safety and comfort of all visitors, regardless of gender. For instance, the UAE has institutionalised the concept of tolerance, establishing a dedicated Ministry of Tolerance in 2016 and a Supreme National Committee for Tolerance in 2018. These initiatives aim to promote respect and appreciation for diverse cultures, forms of expression, and ways of life, both domestically and internationally.

With these measures in place – that aim to create a welcoming and supportive environment, Ras Al Khaimah encourages solo female travellers to explore and enjoy the Emirate, without concerns about safety. We have an abundance of accommodation options from the resorts, to glamping sites, and the vibrant array of cultural experiencesand attractions, giving solo female travellers an opportunity to explore the rich tapestry of Emirati heritage with confidence and ease. 

6. In your experience, how has the surge in solo travel among women positively impacted the overall tourism industry?

The rise of solo female travel has positively impacted the tourism industry and has prompted destinations to prioritise safety – a key factor women, and I myself, would consider when choosing a destination.

It has also naturally expanded the tourism market, creating new opportunities for businesses to cater to solo femaletravellers’ safety needs. It’s driven improvements in accommodation, tours, and activities – as well as the destinations wider infrastructure, including transportation and safety measures which we’ve seen enhanced globally, to help improve the travel experience. I do think the solo travel trend really empowers women to focus on personal growth and independence, while exploring the world.

7. Gender equality is a significant focus for RAKTDA. Can you elaborate on some initiatives or practices the organisation implements to foster gender equality in the workplace?

As a strong advocate for gender equality, I am proud to live and work in the UAE, a leading country in the region. At RAKTDA, we strive to increase women’s representation in leadership roles within the tourism industry by implementing inclusive policies, providing mentorships, and collaborating with stakeholders. Engaging with local communities through awareness campaigns is key to addressing cultural norms and stereotypes and advocating for women’s rights. Through proactive measures, Ras Al Khaimah can contribute to a more inclusive workplace andtourism industry, benefiting women and society.

8. As a leader in the tourism industry, how do you see Ras Al Khaimah contributing to the broader narrative of gender equality and womens empowerment in the Middle East?

It is a privilege to work towards creating more opportunities for women in the corporate and tourism sectors in the Middle East. I am confident Ras Al Khaimah will maintain its commitment to fostering an exceptional workplace environment for women, reshaping the narrative of gender equality and empowerment in the region. By prioritisinginclusive initiatives and promoting equality in education, Ras Al Khaimah can set a positive example. As a leader myself, I believe in showcasing women’s achievements in the industry, and advocating for greater gender diversity and representation – inspiring positive change and inclusivity.

9. What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership roles within the tourism and hospitality sector?

Keep on learning. Just when you think you’ve learnt everything you need to know, go beyond this. As a 49-year-oldwith a career spanning over 20 years, what has kept me invested in what I do and valued as a colleague, is the willingness to keep learning and trying new things. Secondly, believe that you belong. Imposter syndrome affects almost all women, but when it does, the best way that I found out of it, is to master the task or role at hand, and start operating from a position of strength. Lastly, don’t lose your authenticity and what makes you, you. Often, we feel that we need to emulate those in higher positions. I’ve found that appropriating their techniques, which makes them successful, is crucial, however, only you can bring your unique talent, energy and dynamism to a role or task at hand. Don’t feel the need to change or worse, apologise for that. 

10. Can you share some of the challenges you’ve faced as a female leader in a predominantly male-dominated industry, and how you’ve overcome them?

The challenges I have faced are those anyone would face, regardless of gender. Thankfully I’ve had mentors and leaders- male and female, who have served as my advocates and sponsors, and helped me navigate through these challenges.  This is the same philosophy I would also apply to my personal life.  

11. Ras Al Khaimah offers diverse experiences from beach to desert adventures. Which experience do you personally find the most captivating, and why?

My team was responsible for the positioning of the destination a few years back as the nature emirate and as a destination that complemented its neighboring emirates. With a unique topography of desert, mountain, and sea, and consequently three distinct tribes of Emirate people based on these natural attributes – it’s difficult to say what’s more captivating. If I had to select an experience, it would be the Hajar mountain and particularly Jebel Jais – the highest mountain peak in the UAE. Hiking across its over 50 km of developed trail is a pure highlight, with nature and serenity just in front of you, alongside activities for the entire family. This includes the alpine inspired Jais Sledder that will takeyou through various mountain terrains, and to the Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, offering courses of varying lengths and putting your survival skills to the test. 

12. The UAE is renowned for its safety standards. How does Ras Al Khaimah ensure a safe and secure environment for travellers, particularly solo female travellers?

Ras Al Khaimah engages several measures for safety, from safe accommodation options available for all of visitors, and especially for solo female travellers, with features such as secure entrances, well-lit parking areas, and 24-hour reception services. The Emirate has reliable transportation including taxis, buses, and ride-sharing services that allows solo female travellers to navigate the destination safely and efficiently. The local community are always so friendly towards travellers and will happily provide guidance, giving them a sense of security while exploring the destination.

13. What role do you believe sustainable tourism plays in shaping Ras Al Khaimah’s appeal as a holiday destination, especially for environmentally conscious travellers?

It plays a fundamental role, and sustainability is at the heart of our strategies. Our ambition is to nurture an industry that is economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable – and we are making significant headway in achieving this. We are on track to becoming a sustainable destination and a regional leader in sustainable tourism by next year.

As the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, we developed a strong Sustainability Implementation Plan with EarthCheck – the world’s leading scientific benchmarking, certification, and advisory group for tourism destinations. We were awarded a Silver Certification for outperforming the region’s average baseline levels across key sustainability indicators, from energy consumption (by 23%), greenhouse gas emissions (by 29%) and waste output (by 61%). With consumers and travellers becoming more savvy, educated, and eco-conscious on the impact their decisionshave on the planet, we are sure it does add to the destinations appeal.

It also not just about recycling and using sustainable materials to build with, or to serve our food and beverages in. There is a huge amount of thought and energy that goes into building and nurturing a sustainable destination responsibly and the positive recognition we get for this filters into the destinations appeal with visitors. 

14. As someone deeply involved in marketing and communications, how do you approach the task of promoting cultural authenticity while catering to international audiences’ preferences?

We work closely with the local community to authentically showcase Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural experiences and traditions. By incorporating local stories and historical narratives, such as the inspiring tale of Suwaidi Pearls’ founderand the grandson of the last pearl diver in Ras Al Khaimah, Abdulla Rashed Al Suwaidi, we connect visitors with the region’s rich heritage. We also consider the preferences of international visitors, carefully selecting commercial offerings such as hotels, restaurants, and shops to reflect local culture while offering a diverse range of international cuisine , providing an inclusive and memorable experience for all.

15. RAKTDA has achieved remarkable recognition as a great workplace. What do you think sets it apart in terms of fostering a positive work environment?

As part of our wider strategy, we are embracing the concept of liveability. This includes engaging with the local community, who form part of the destination’s workforce, staging over 50 events a year such as the RAK Art Festival, the RAK Half Marathon, Ras Al Khaimah Championship, and various other sporting events. We also introduced RAKFAM – a series of initiatives aimed at enriching connectivity, community life and facilities for the tourism sector employees in the Emirate. 

We have a RAKFAM app which allows all of our hospitality employees in Ras Al Khaimah to connect. They can find discounts and rewards, give feedback to their organisations – and the app encourages all employees to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to its focus on employee well-being, we were named one of the 2022 Top 10 Great Places to Work in the Middle East – the highest placed government entity, as well as one of the Best Workplaces for Women, and a Great Place to Work in 2021 – the first and only organisation in Ras Al Khaimah to be awarded this certification.

16. With your extensive experience working with major hotel chains, what trends do you foresee shaping the future of hospitality and tourism marketing?

Overtourism is a trend that we are seeing gaining momentum, and this is putting pressure on destinations and hospitality to ensure they have the infrastructure in place to meet demand – and consciously.

RAKTDA works closely with our hospitality partners to ensure controlled growth, so we avoid over-tourism and haphazard expansion. As the licensing authority, we enforce sustainability guidelines through our ‘Green Hotel Rating’ – an initiative that aims to achieve 100 percent integrated sustainability in all of Ras Al Khaimah’s hotels, and we areactively engaged in both natural and cultural conservation efforts to preserve the destinations innate assets, whilst consciously expanding.

Being more eco-conscious remains a priority for travellers, with 76% of people saying they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months. Destinations need to act now not only to meet travellers’ growing demand, but to address ongoing environmental concerns particularly as Europe is heading towards another unusually warm and dry summer. In Ras Al Khaimah, we have built a robust sustainable strategy in collaboration with EarthCheck that will allow us to reach our objective of becoming a regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025 and develop the destination to the highest sustainability standards. 

We have also seen more interest in off-peak travel for people who are keen to enjoy their favourite destinations for less, while avoiding the crowds. “Shoulder Shoppers” is also on the rise with UK travellers preferring spring trips over Summer, and nearly half wanting to travel between March and May. 

The tourism industry is also continuing to be shaped by the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI), particularlygenerative AI. Online travel agencies have now started to integrate generative AI into mobile applications to make the discovery and booking processes easier, providing customers with personalised recommendations and meeting the needs of the majority (80%) of travellers who want to be able to book their trip entirely online.

Lastly, bleisure travel is still trending. The market projected to reach an impressive $2.97 trillion by 2032, driven by factors such as remote work policies, employee well-being initiatives, and the desire for unique experiences. This is a positive trend, impacting the hospitality industry by increasing hotel occupancy rates, revenue from additional services like spas and customer loyalty towards travel brands.

17. How does RAKTDA leverage digital platforms and technology to enhance the visitor experience and promote Ras Al Khaimah as a top travel destination?

RAKTDA leverages social media, particularly platforms like Meta and TikTok, to produce quick, easily digestible content in both static and short-form video formats to effectively promote the destination. In 2023, we focused on short-from content, uploading over 1500 individual organic content pieces to Meta and TikTok, gaining over 15 million views across Instagram and TikTok. Additionally, RAKTDA launched the ‘All About You’ promotional campaign, utilising a feline cat mascot to symbolise the relaxing and adventurous experiences available in Ras Al Khaimah, attracting new visitors by driving affinity.

18. What are some upcoming projects or initiatives from RAKTDA that travellers can look forward to?

This summer, Sofitel Al Hamra Beach Resort, a unique 5-star destination  perched along the Ras Al Khaimah coastlinewill open its doors, combining French luxury and local cuisine. The Rove Al Marjan Island will also be opening with 441 rooms by the end of the year, alongside Westin Hotel & Hotel Apartments offering 232 rooms and 25 apartments. The Saij, A Mantis Collection Mountain Lodge is another exciting addition, opening on Jebel Jais, promising mindful activities and guided treks, and offering guests a retreat to discover themselves amidst breathtaking natural surroundings.

We have also launched a new summer campaign – See Double. It’s an innovative campaign from RAKTDA and Oman Ministry of Heritage and Tourism, in collaboration with OMRAN Group, which invites travellers to discover both Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and Musandam, Oman, in a single trip filled with twice the experience.  

19. Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list?

I love exploring new countries.  As I write this, I’m embarking on my first trip to Sweden, followed by Norway where I will be meeting with Nordic press.  However, as a treat, my husband surprised me with a trip to the northern most city in Sweden – Kiruna – straight into the Artic Circle in hopes that I will get a chance to see an Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights.  While that may be unlikely in late April, the fact that this is as far north as a I have ever gone is simply awe-inspiring in itself, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the experience.

20. Lastly, what legacy do you hope to leave through your work at RAKTDA, both in terms of tourism development and gender equality advocacy?

I believe that with everything you do, you want to leave the situation, the role, the people in your life and work, in a better place than how you started.  The same holds true for Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority.  I sincerely hope to guide my department to take on larger projects, bigger challenges and reap amazing success in positioning Ras Al Khaimah as a Destination of Future, bringing onside the community in every step of the way.  

While I believe in gender equality, I also believe in gender parity and diversity, more.  The best success I’ve had professionally has been from multinational, multi-cultural male and female colleagues. I’m proud to say that I have one of the most diverse teams in RAKTDA with more than 10 nationalities – and the perspectives they bring to the table alongside exceptional industry expertise makes for a truly enriching work environment.

The Best EVs for Road Trips in 2024

Electric Vehicles – especially battery EVs (BEVs) – have been slowly but surely sloughing off “range anxiety” as battery technology improves and charging stations become more plentiful. However, some families are still concerned about one shared pastime that EV owners might have to go without: the humble road trip. Are EVs up to the task? We look at some of the best EVs for road trips in 2024 – and next year, we might have a list that will blow these models out of the water!

NIO ET7 150 kWh

This model tops the list for range and versatility, coming in a sedan form factor that’s perfect for comfortable family driving. It boasts a 930km range (using the standard Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles test procedure or WLTP) which can get a family from Melbourne to Sydney and another day’s worth exploring the suburbs before needing a charge. It packs two engines and outputs 480kW and does the 0-100km/h dash in a respectable 3.8 seconds.

Lucid Air Dream Edition

Though most of the Lucid Air line has impressive ranges, this sleek four-door coupe has a WLTP range of 836km and a blazing fast acceleration of 0-100km/h in 2.8 seconds. It produces a whopping 1390Nm of torque and a hefty 695kW, meaning you could tow a caravan with it if you wanted. Just make sure there are fast chargers about – anything below a 50kW charger will take you 101 minutes to get from 10% to 80%.

Mercedes Benz EQS 450+

One of the original German marques known for innovation, the Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ does offer an extended range of 780km – though as far as grunt or performance, that seems to be slightly lacking to ensure longevity out on the road. It puts out 245kW and does the 0-100km/h dash in 6.2 seconds, but it really can’t be beaten on luxury – perfect for an extended road trip.

Tesla Model S Long Range

One of the most recognisable BEV brands out on the roads (for ill or good) is Tesla, and the popular Tesla Model S Long Range variant can drive up to 723km without the need for a charge. It does the 0-100km/h sprint in 3.2 seconds and the 0-200km/h in a scorching 10.2 seconds. Of course, it has all the artificial intelligence and safety features that come standard with the Tesla Model S sedan – and even the non-long-range variants can hover around 600+ km of range.

BMW iX xDrive 50

The iX xDrive is an SUV variant and will take you 631km before it needs a charge. Outputting a muscly 765Nm of torque and 385kW of power, it could be the perfect companion for doing a bit of offroading – if you’re so inclined to be out of range of a charger for that long!

When to Buy

If you are looking to buy a new EV, remember to wait until the end of financial year or calendar year for runout deals as dealers turn desperate to dump old stock. You could nab a real bargain, slashing thousands off the sticker price if you stick to your guns and negotiate hard.

With a knack for luxury and a love for the extraordinary, Creative Director Taheed Khan dives into the splendour of Hotel Flora…

In the heart of Belgium’s enchanting landscapes lies a jewel of unparalleled refinement: Hotel Flora, a boutique hotel where luxury knows no bounds and privacy is at the forefront of the entire experience. From the first glimpse of its opulent facade to the exquisite details awaiting within, Hotel Flora beckons the discerning traveler to indulge in a world where lavish comfort and impeccable service reign supreme.

As I embarked on my virtual voyage through Hotel Flora’s website, I was immediately ensnared by its allure, a digital portal to a realm of unparalleled luxury. With a design that exudes sophistication and elegance, navigating the site was akin to embarking on a journey of discovery, each click revealing glimpses of the lavish splendour that awaited.

Upon arrival, I was enveloped in an aura of exclusivity, greeted by a staff whose dedication to impeccable service set the tone for the extraordinary experience that awaited. Every interaction was marked by an air of refinement and attentiveness, leaving me feeling not just welcomed, but truly cherished.

Stepping into my sumptuous abode for the duration of my stay, I was immediately struck by the sheer opulence that surrounded me. The interiors, curated by the renowned interior architect Gert Voorjans, embody a unique blend of color, authenticity and energy. Voorjans’ distinctive style, described as “evanescent, dynamic and playful, yet elegant,” permeates every room, creating an environment that is both luxurious and deeply personal. Each room is a masterpiece, adorned with rich fabrics, exquisite artwork and bespoke touches that create an ambiance of unparalleled grandeur in this boutique hotel.

Voorjans’ commitment to artistry is evident in the carefully chosen color palettes and the deliberate exclusion of meaningless decor. Instead, the hotel is adorned with wonderful works by the contemporary painter Nils Verkaeren, who was challenged to illustrate his artistic presence directly on the walls using Voorjans’ typical palette. Verkaeren locked himself in Hotel Flora for two weeks to bring this vision to life, resulting in a vibrant, living quality in each space​​.

Yet, Hotel Flora offers more than just luxurious accommodations and exquisite dining – it is a destination unto itself, a playground for the discerning traveler seeking to indulge in the finer things in life. Whether lounging in the sun-soaked splendor of its meticulously manicured gardens or simply reveling in the sheer beauty of its surroundings, Hotel Flora offers an experience that transcends the ordinary and transports guests to a world of unparalleled luxury and indulgence.

In conclusion, Hotel Flora is more than just a place to stay; it’s a sanctuary that wraps you in a warm embrace, enveloping you in its opulence like a lover’s touch. Every detail, from the softest linens to the delicate scent of fresh flowers, is like a tender kiss, igniting the senses and leaving an indelible mark on the soul. For those seeking an escape into a world where luxury is not just a concept but a way of life, Hotel Flora beckons, promising an experience that is as intimate as it is indulgent, as personal as it is seductive. Prepare to be seduced by its charms, enraptured by its beauty, and ensnared by its allure—a tryst with Hotel Flora is sure to leave you longing for more.

When it comes to choosing the best 5 star hotels in London you are spoiled for choice. Whether it’s location, location, location that you’re after or a hotel that offers something that will make you feel like a movie star, we’ve rounded up the 10 best 5 star hotels in London to make sure you are living your main character life. 

From 5 star hotels with bags of character to boutique luxury that will make you feel like you’ve stepped inside your own novel, we’re tried and tested all of these luxury hotels to confirm that they are worth the price tag. So get ready to spoil yourself at one of our top 5 star hotels in London…

Shangri-La London 

Best 5 Star Hotels in London

If it’s views you’re after, then the Shangri-La is a no brainer. The Shangri-La London takes luxury to new heights, literally, occupying floors 34-52 of The Shard, Western Europe’s tallest building. On a clear day, the city spreads out beneath you like a dazzling map showcasing iconic landmarks and the winding Thames. 

At night time the magic happens and the city lights turn in to a dazzling wonderland with glittering buildings and twinkling streets stretching as far as the eye can see. Imagine sipping a cocktail as you watch the city come alive below you, or enjoying a gourmet meal with a backdrop of London’s luminous skyline. The panoramic views from your room are mesmerising too, making every moment feel like a scene from a movie. 

Whether you’re relaxing in your luxurious, Asian-inspired room or taking a dip in the sky-high infinity pool, the vistas will leave you breathless and make your stay truly unforgettable.

Highlight : The impressive mocktail list. 

Why stay here : The prime location is unbeatable. 

Rosewood London 

The Rosewood London

The Rosewood London is more than a hotel, it’s a front row seat to London’s luxury. Housed in an Edwardian building on High Holborn, The Rosewood London blends historic charm with modern luxury seamlessly. The transformation of No. 252 High Holborn into Rosewood London is a testament to English Heritage’s commitment to preserving the city’s architectural heritage. The restoration project painstakingly recreated the hotel’s historic features, from the Cuban mahogany doors to the Renaissance-style grand staircase.

From the second you step foot on to the hotels grand courtyard, you’re in for an unforgettable stay. Checking in to the hotel is like returning home and a stay in one of their suites is a must if you want luxury that comes as standard. And let’s not forget the Mirror Room, a jewel-box space that captures the essence of British high tea culture with its understated elegance. The Rosewood London reminds us that we should never settle for ordinary when we can have the extraordinary. 

Highlight : The renaissance style staircase 

Why stay here : Located perfectly for exploring

Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square 

Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square 

It wouldn’t be a list of the top 5 star hotels in London without the Four Seasons making an appearance. The Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square is the kind of hotel that will have you in awe of their towering Corinthian columns and their grand lobby which is as much imposing as it is historical.Yet despite the grand surroundings, the team will make you feel like you’re a repeat visitor even on your first check in. With its rich history, skilful design infuses the public spaces and rooms with a sophisticated meets masculine palette of greys, gold accents and an unexpected blood-red carpet blending Art Deco influences with modern flair. 
Staying at this 5 star hotel in London is like a journey through time, we just wish the walls could talk. 

Highlight :  The Rotunda Bar which pays homage to its nautical heritage, bringing the past to life with every sip.

Why stay here : The spa is a hidden gem unlike anywhere else in London. 

The Hari London 

The Hari London 

Step into The Hari London into a world where luxury meets laid-back charm. Nestled in the heart of Belgravia, this stylish retreat offers more than just a place to stay—it’s a sanctuary for the discerning traveler. Picture this: you’re greeted with personalised chocolates bearing your face (yes, really!), a nod to the hotel’s knack for making every guest feel special. And let’s talk about dining – il Pampero serves up mouthwatering Italian fare in a sleek, modern setting. From traditional dishes to creative cocktails, it’s a feast for the senses.

But what really sets The Hari apart is its vibe. It’s not stuffy or pretentious; it’s like staying at a friend’s stylish pad in the city. With glamorous rooms adorned with impressive art and a lush Garden Terrace perfect for sipping cocktails under the stars, it’s a true game-changer in the boutique hotel scene.

Highlight : Sipping drinks in the Garden Terrace at sunset. 

Why stay here : For the panoramic bath tub.

art’otel Battersea Power Station 

art’otel Battersea Power Station 

This a hotel that isn’t afraid to stand out from the crowd. It’s bold, it’s brilliant and it’s unapologetic. The art’otel Battersea Power Station will spark your creativity from the second you arrive, with artworks adorning the fun lobby right through to the iconic rooftop pool overlooking Battersea Powerstation, a true London landmark that adds an extra layer of magic to your stay.. There is nowhere else in London like it. The hotel’s commitment to sustainability and community engagement shines through in every aspect of its operation. 

From eco-friendly practices to supporting local artists and initiatives, art’otel is as socially conscious as it is visually stunning. Here, every moment is a masterpiece waiting to be discovered, and every guest is an artist in their own right.

Highlight : Dinner at JOIA Rooftop.

Why stay here : For its uniqueness.

Jumeirah Carlton Tower 

Jumeirah Carlton Tower 

Jumeriah Carlton Tower is in a league of its own. Slip into your personalised slippers and get ready for a ride through luxury like no other. From the plush rooms to the tantalising dining adventures awaiting at its top-notch restaurants, every little detail is geared towards making you feel like royalty. With service that’s as smooth as butter and amenities that make you go “wow,” Jumeirah Carlton Tower isn’t just a hotel; it’s your passport to a world of fun and indulgence.  

Their indoor pool, bathed in natural light, is the perfect oasis to disappear from the world after a work out in their Peak Fitness gym which will motivate even the most reluctant gym-goer. The rooms are spacious, airy and oh-so-comfortable, they’re like a warm hug after a day of exploring the vibrant streets of London. With balconies offering stunning views of Cadogan Gardens and the city skyline, you might just find yourself spending more time admiring the scenery than planned. 

Highlight : The state of the art gym

Why stay here? For a morning dip in the pool .

Pan Pacific London

Pan Pacific London

The Pan Pacific is where British elegance meets Asian minimalism in a harmonious blend, its where East meets West in the coolest way possible. Known for its knockout Singaporean cuisine and top-tier hospitality, this hotel also boasts an infinity pool that’s perfect for some people-watching.  Imagine lounging in your swimsuit, feeling like royalty while the city hustles and bustles below. It’s a little taste of the high life, even if it’s just for a weekend.

Nestled near the vibrant Shoreditch area and just steps away from Liverpool Street Station, this landmark offers a tranquil escape from London’s bustling streets. From lush orchids to bonsai trees, every corner is adorned with touches of nature, creating a serene ambiance that welcomes you from the moment you arrive. 

You’re right near the trendy bars of Shoreditch, the eclectic Old Spitalfields Market and the historic Leadenhall Market. Pan Pacific London isn’t just a place to stay; it’s your urban playground for a truly unforgettable experience.

Highlight : Order breakfast to your room and enjoy a luxurious spread that’ll make you feel like you’re in a movie. 

Why stay here? Checkout is 12, so you’ve got plenty of time for a post-breakfast nap.

Nobu Hotel London Portman Square 

Nobu Hotel London Portman Square 

Step into a fusion of Japanese chic and modern glam at Nobu Hotel London Portman Square. The hotel’s design blends minimalist Japanese touches with a splash of contemporary flair. Think traditional tea sets and Yukata robes, all perfectly balancing out the luxe surroundings.  try out Nobu Pilates—a unique twist on your workout routine. The Pilates Reformer session is a revelation, fitting seamlessly into Nobu’s holistic approach to well-being. You’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. And let’s not forget about the nightlife. Nobu Bar is the place to be, especially on Thursdays for their “Drop The Beat” nights. Inspired by the iconic 80s disco and funk era, this event is all about good vibes and great tunes. Nobu is your ticket to a unique blend of relaxation, style, and excitement.

Highlight : The Japanese wagyu beef.

Why stay here : Nobu is always a good idea.

The Royal Lancaster 

The Royal Lancaster London

Ready to feel like royalty? Check into the Royal Lancaster London, where luxury and location come together for an unforgettable stay. This towering 18-storey gem right by Hyde Park offers jaw-dropping views from many of its rooms—think sprawling cityscapes and lush greenery.

As soon as you step inside, the swanky marble lobby sets the tone. With chic, on-trend rooms and two fabulous restaurants, you’re in for a treat. The Nipa Thai restaurant serves up authentic Thai cuisine in a stylish setting, while the Island Grill offers a more laid-back vibe with delicious dishes like miso-marinated black cod and lamb curry.

Location-wise, you couldn’t ask for better. The hotel is just a hop, skip and a jump from Lancaster Gate Tube station, making it super easy to explore Oxford Street, Mayfair, and Notting Hill. Plus, Hyde Park is right on your doorstep for those early morning strolls or a ride from the nearby Hyde Park Stables.

With friendly, attentive staff, eco-conscious amenities and even pet-friendly services, the Royal Lancaster London is the perfect mix of luxury and fun.

Highlight : Sleeping with the blinds open so that you can wake up with panoramic views across the city. 

Why stay here : For the prime location.

Athenaeum London

Athenaeum London

If you’re looking for a swanky stay in London, The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in Mayfair is your go-to spot. Nestled right next to Green Park, this five-star gem blends old-school charm with modern luxury in the most delightful way.

Step inside, and you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. The lobby is bathed in sunlight, showcasing stylish Art Deco details and bespoke furnishings that scream sophistication. It’s a place where history meets contemporary flair, making it both welcoming and uber-chic. 

The rooms are a real treat, offering floor-to-ceiling windows with jaw-dropping views of Green Park. The décor is a soothing mix of neutral tones and greens, perfectly mirroring the park outside. Plus, fun little extras like a cocktail-making kit add a personalised touch that makes your stay even more special.

The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences isn’t just a place to crash; it’s an experience. With its top-notch service, stylish vibe, and unbeatable location, it’s the ultimate London getaway. Whether you’re here for a quick weekend or a longer retreat, The Athenaeum will make your stay unforgettable.

Highlight : The stunning park views from floor-to-ceiling windows in every room.

Why stay here : For a perfect blend of classic charm and modern luxury in the heart of Mayfair.

That’s a Wrap of the Best 5 Star Hotels in London

Whether you want to blow the bank, treat yourself to a luxurious stay or live like a VIP for the night, London’s best 5 star hotels have got you covered. Each of these incredible spots offers something unique, ensuring an unforgettable experience that will leave you feeling pampered and rejuvenated. So go ahead, pick your favourite from our list, and get ready to indulge in the finest luxury that London has to offer. Happy travels!

With the excitement of Season 3 of Netflix’s hit series “Bridgerton” now at its peak, why not indulge in a bit of escapism by immersing yourself in the world of high society romance and drama? From elegant manors to opulent estates, we’ve curated a list of the top 5 Bridgerton-inspired stays around the world that will transport you back to the Regency era.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or simply yearning for a taste of the lavish lifestyle depicted in the show, these enchanting properties are sure to ignite your imagination and leave you feeling like a character straight out of a Julia Quinn novel.

Slip into your finest attire, prepare for scandalous encounters and embark on a journey through some of the most exquisite accommodations fit for a Bridgerton!

Villa Sigurtà- Lake Garda

In a secluded enclave within the renowned Parco Giardino Sigurtà lies Villa Sigurtà, a magnificent 10-bedroom retreat steeped in history and elegance. Once the esteemed residence of European aristocracy, today it opens its doors to guests, offering them a chance to step back into the enchanting era of the Belle Époque.

If these walls could speak, they would regale visitors with tales of illustrious figures, from Emperor Napoleon III to Nobel Prize Laureate Sir Alexander Fleming and even H.M King Charles III. The interiors of this villa boast frescoed ceilings, trompe l’oeil walls and are adorned with sumptuous velvet furnishings and original sculptures by Tony Duquette, the trailblazing American artist whose work graced the halls of the Louvre.

Spanning across three hectares, the villa’s grounds are a picturesque blend of history and natural splendour, featuring Italy’s inaugural pre-romantic English Garden, lauded as one of the country’s most significant green spaces.

Ca’di Lista

Nestled amidst the idyllic Colli Euganei hills near Padua and Venice lies the enchanting 16th Century Venetian Villa, Ca’ di Lista. Originally crafted as a hunting lodge by the esteemed Renaissance architect and painter Dario Variotari, an apprentice of the illustrious Veronese, this villa exudes timeless elegance. Once a favoured haunt for Venetian nobility seeking respite, it has gracefully evolved into a quintessential countryside retreat while retaining its opulent essence.

Steeped in history and adorned with magnificent frescoes and trompe l’oeil masterpieces from the 18th century, Ca’ di Lista stands as a testament to the grandeur of its past. Its allure has not gone unnoticed by the silver screen either, as it graced the backdrop of the cinematic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s iconic work, “The Merchant of Venice,” starring luminaries like Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.

For those yearning to immerse themselves in the splendour of a bygone era, Ca’ di Lista offers an unparalleled experience, inviting guests to indulge in the lifestyle of Venetian nobility. In a world reminiscent of Bridgerton’s regency setting, this Venetian gem promises a retreat filled with romance, intrigue, and timeless charm.

Villa Zambonina

Nestled within the bucolic embrace of a historic farming estate near the romantic city of Verona, Villa Zambonina offers an enchanting escape that feels plucked from the pages of a Bridgerton novel. This 17th-century estate exudes an air of timeless grandeur, where history and luxury seamlessly intertwine.

As you approach the villa, the first thing that captures your imagination is the estate’s majestic facade, adorned with intricate frescoes and mesmerizing trompe l’oeil paintings. Every corner of Villa Zambonina tells a story, with antique furnishings that whisper tales of bygone eras and the genteel elegance of centuries past.

Inside, the grandiose interiors continue to impress. Lavish frescoes grace the walls, their vivid colors and detailed artistry creating an atmosphere of opulence and sophistication. The rooms are furnished with meticulously chosen antiques, each piece adding to the villa’s historical charm. The ambiance is one of refined elegance, making it a perfect retreat for those seeking to immerse themselves in the romance and culture of Italy.

Whether you’re wandering through its picturesque gardens, sipping a glass of exquisite wine, or simply revelling in the luxurious surroundings, you’ll find that Villa Zambonina offers a Bridgerton-inspired retreat that is both magical and unforgettable.

Palacio de Figueras, Asturias

The 500-year-old Palacio de Figueras, a stunning 11-bedroom palace in Asturias, offers a Bridgerton-esque escape steeped in elegance and history. Overlooking the tranquil Eo River, this 16th-century gem took 11 years to restore, earning the Madera family the prestigious gold medal from Oviedo’s Chamber of Commerce.

Palacio de Figueras blends the grandeur of its original structure with modern comfort and style. Inside, original stone walls and timber beams coexist with contemporary furnishings, creating an atmosphere of refined sophistication. High ceilings, grand fireplaces, and antique furnishings transport you to a bygone era, while luxurious bedding and en-suite bathrooms provide every modern comfort.

The verdant landscaped gardens are perfect for leisurely strolls, offering a picturesque backdrop for special occasions, intimate holidays, grand events, and exclusive weddings. The lush greenery enhances the natural beauty of the palace’s surroundings, providing a tranquil oasis for relaxation.

The Francis Hotel

Fans of the hit period drama filmed in the fair city of Bath can truly immerse themselves in the Regency era during a stay at The Francis Hotel. Guests can sip on ‘The Daphne,’ a signature cocktail inspired by Bridgerton’s heroine, and indulge in the hotel’s Regency-style afternoon tea, complete with delectable finger sandwiches and plain and fruited scones.

The city of Bath is home to many iconic spots from the show, including Modiste’s dress shop, Lady Danbury’s townhouse, and Gunter’s tea shop. From the cobbled and picturesque Abbey Green, which stood in for a market square in the series, to The Holburne Museum, which acted as the entry for the opulent ball scenes, guests will recognise many famous sites from Bridgerton. After a day of exploring these filming locations, unwind at The Francis Hotel and relish in the Bridgerton-inspired experiences.

So, what are you waiting for?

Step into the world of Bridgerton and let these magnificent properties transport you to a time of elegance, romance, and undeniable charm. Whether you’re planning a grand event, an intimate holiday, or simply a luxurious escape, these Bridgerton-inspired stays promise an experience like no other.

While London is home to countless dog friendly hotels, the very best dog friendly hotels in London go the extra mile and make our four-legged best friends feel extra special. We checked out The Athenaum, which we think is the best dog friendly hotel in Mayfair.

The Atheneum, which sits in the heart of Mayfair, and quite literally next door to Green Park, does exactly that. This five-star boutique hotel has all the five-star amenities you can expect from any swanky Mayfair property, but with the eclecticism and bespoke personal touch of an independent hotel. We think it is one of the best dog friendly hotels in Mayfair, let TeamCocopup Charlie and doting dog mum Hannah Lynn Tan count the reasons why.

Best dog friendly hotel in Mayfair
Is The Athenaeum Mayfair’s best dog friendly hotel?

While National Pet Month has come and gone, The Athenaeum fully understands that dog parents will dote on their four legged friends all year round. Its dog friendly package goes above and beyond, not just offering dog bowls and treats, but even The Athenaeum branded scarves, bow ties, teddies, dog grooming and walking services. They even offer a deep-filled hypoallergenic hollow fibre mattress, and one complimentary dish from the Mink Bar(k) Menu which includes a choice of either Roast Chicken ‘Bones’ or Steak Tartare. We also liked the little touches throughout the room, which included branded trick and treat cards.

TeamCocopup Charlie was welcomed in (almost) all public spaces, except of course, the spa and the main restaurant. However, the hotel lobby offers plenty of ambiance and pet travellers may simply opt to have dinner here instead of the restaurant if they don’t want to leave their pooches in the room.

Best dog friendly hotel in Mayfair
The dogfriendly rooms in The Athenaeum overlook the lush greenery of Green Park

The rooms themselves were the picture of contemporary cool and feature a calming colour palette of neutrals and greens, reflecting the gorgeous tones of Green Park right outside. Our room, on the seventh floor, also boasted floor-to-ceiling bay windows, maximising the park views. We loved the little touches like the ‘Jolly Resident’ cocktail making kit and recipe card, which was a fun way to enjoy an aperitif from the comfort of your own room.

Downstairs in the basement is the small but very functional spa. As we discovered, The Athenaeum is quite popular for its spa packages and so hotel guests must book in advance to secure a one-hour slot. The spa is complete with a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, everything you need for an indulgent moment of relaxation and calm.

Photo of food on terrace
The 116 Restaurant extends out onto the terrace during warm summer days
Restaurant

The restaurant, 116 at The Athenaeum offers elevated British classics. Led by Executive Chef Ian Howard, the restaurant offers a diverse all day menus complete with a selection of O’Shea’s Butchers UK Prime Beef Dry Aged steaks, served with Himalayan pink salt and Café de Paris butter, alongside other classic such as Risotto, Cornfed Chicken and of course a signature burger.

The starters though, were worth shouting about. We particularly loved the Haymans Gin Cured Salmon, which is served over Pea Hummus and some Gin & Tonic gel as well as the Spring Vegetable Salad with Ricotta and Baby Artichoke. Paired with the hotels’ cleverly crafted botanical cocktails, you’d be hard done to find a better table this side of Green Park.

From the warm dog friendly atmosphere, stylish rooms and of course incredible location, we think this truly is the best dog friendly hotel in Mayfair.

dog on bed
TeamCocopup Charlie absolutely loved his staycation at The Athenaeum

With Green Park just across the street, The Athenaeum is literally the best place for dog owners looking for a home-from-home in Mayfair. Charlie absolutely loved running around the park and even took a gander at Buckingham Palace too. The hotel also offers Royal Parks Picnic packages which are ideal for the summer months, and even better if you have your pooch with you.

The best part about The Athenaeum though, was the truly warm and friendly service of the staff. The lovely doorman was waiting for Charlie after our walk with a bag of treats in his pocket, while Alessia our server also came round with a plate of surprises. From the warm dog friendly atmosphere, stylish rooms and of course incredible location, we think this truly is the best dog friendly hotel in Mayfair.

The Athenaeum Hotel & Residences

The Athenaeum understand that pets are just another furry member of the family and ensures that they are treated accordingly. The hotel is located near Hyde Park and faces Green Park, which allows dogs to explore at their leisure and off-leash. Treat your dog to a VIPUP Package, for just £40 per dog they will be treated to a deep-filled, hypoallergenic mattress, ceramic food and water bowls, a gourmet dish from the Mini Bar(k) Menu and a fetching bow tie, alongside some tasty treats to take home.

Book here https://www.athenaeumhotel.com/dogs-at-the-athenaeum/

Introduction

In California, maintaining a valid Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) certification is important for anyone involved in the serving of alcoholic beverages.  As the three-year mark approaches for many who are certified, this article serves as an important reminder to renew your RBS certification (which is valid for three years).

Why Renew Your RBS Certification?

Renewing your RBS certification is vital for staying compliant with California state laws that require all alcohol servers to be certified. The renewal process will refresh your knowledge on the latest alcohol service laws and techniques that keep you and your customers safe.

The Best Place to Renew Your RBS Certification

When it comes to renewing your RBS certification, we recommend Serving Alcohol’s training courses. Their courses were built by people who work in the industry of serving alcohol. They provide training that respects your time and they respond quickly if you have any issue.

Benefits of Renewing at Serving Alcohol

● Industry-Specific Expertise: Courses are crafted by experts within the alcohol service industry.

● Efficiency and Engagement: Engaging, informative training that prepares you to apply what you’ve learned immediately.

● Excellent Service: The best, most responsive customer support in the industry!

How to Renew Your RBS Certification

The process of renewing your RBS certification involves several important steps that ensure you remain compliant and equipped to serve safely.

1. Check Your Certification Status

Start by checking when your current RBS certification is due to expire. This information will help you time your renewal perfectly to avoid any lapse in certification. Log into the ABC Online Portal to check this.

2. Choose the Right RBS Training Program

It’s important to choose the right RBS training program. Take training that is accredited and recognized by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC). Serving Alcohol offers fast, affordable, state-compliant training that does not waste your time.

3. Complete the RBS Training

Dive into the RBS training with focus and attention. At Serving Alcohol, the training modules are interactive and designed to cover all necessary legal guidelines and practical scenarios you might face as an alcohol server.

4. Pass the Certification Exam

Upon completing your RBS training, you’ll need to pass the certification exam. This exam is designed to ensure that all servers have a consistent understanding of alcohol service laws and safety practices.

Take and pass the RBS Certification Exam through California ABC’s official RBS page. Here, you can also verify the recognition of your RBS training provider by the state.

5. Receive Your RBS Certification

After completing your training and passing the RBS Alcohol Server Certification Exam, your RBS Server dashboard will reflect a status update to “Certified.” Here you can find your Server ID number and current certification status in the “Server Certificate Details” section of your RBS Server dashboard.

Anyone who has spent some time traveling will know the importance of having games to help pass the time. Playing games is a great way to have some fun on a long train journey, waiting for a bus, or relaxing in a hostel. Games are also a great way to meet new people, and often, you will find a deck of cards that will help you make a lot of new friends in a hostel. So, what are some of the best games to play while traveling? Here are a few ideas that could make a big difference to your travel experience.

1. Uno

Uno is a card game that has exploded in popularity in recent years. It is a great game because it is relatively easy to master, so it should not be too challenging to play with someone who has not played before. Essentially, the aim of the game is to get rid of all their cards by matching your cards to a card that has been dealt from the draw pile.

2. 20 Questions

20 Questions is a classic play option that can help pass the time without any cards or other items required. This involves one person thinking of a person or object and then having the other people try to guess who or what it is, with only “yes” or “no” answers being allowed.

3. Online Roulette

Casino games are always thrilling and a fun way to pass the time, and you do not have to visit a casino to be able to play these games. You can play all kinds of fun casino games online, including online roulette. Roulette is a great casino game because it is tense and exciting but also a game that is quick and easy to play. You can find online casinos with impressive casino games to choose from, including live casinos where you play with a real-life dealer and other players from around the world. You also want to make sure you choose a casino with SSL certification, encryption, and a wide range of payment options.

4. Poker

Of course, poker is a good choice if you have a group of people to play with. Poker is the most popular casino game, and for good reason, as it is a real thrill and a game of strategy. You can play many variations of poker with a standard deck of cards, including Texas Hold’em and Seven-Card Stud. If you don’t have a deck of cards or a group of people to play with, you could play this game online, too.

5. Solitaire

Solitaire is a good choice if you are traveling alone as a single-player game. The card game involves sorting the cards into foundation piles by suit and in numerical order. Again, if you don’t have a deck of cards, then this is another game that you can play online.

6. Would You Rather

Would You Rather is another non-card game that has grown in popularity over the years. Essentially, this involves putting “would you rather” dilemmas forward to see what the other person chooses – this can create some interesting conversations and reveal a lot about a person. There are also many excellent and hilarious examples to give you some inspiration!

This post should give you a few ideas for fun games to play while traveling. Games will always be a great way to pass the time, but you should also find that they are a handy way to make new friends—there are even many on this list that you can play even with a language barrier!

If you consider yourself a transplanted New Yorker, there are some staples that will always be on your to-do list when you visit the city. Of course, the city is known for having new and exciting things popping up all the time. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit twice, and here are a few of the Big Apple’s Best (with a few Brooklyn finds for good measure!). 

Written by: Elena Murzello

Best Brunch Chain: Isla & Co

Isla & Co. is Parched Hospitality Group’s popular Aussie all-day cafe and restaurant with locations in Midtown at Hotel Hendricks and in Williamsburg adjacent to the William Vale.  Executive Chef Matt Foley’s brunch menu, which is served daily until 3pm, includes favorites like Brioche French Toast, Isla Benedict, Smashed Avocado Toast and Mushroom Toast. There are new additions to the menu like Kangaroo Tucker, traditional Australian rubbed kangaroo skewered over herbed tahini, marinated cucumbers and pickled onions.  I highly recommend the Kangaroo Tucker! Brunch pairs perfectly with an Aperol Spritz, Bloody Mary or Espresso Martini. 

Best Famed Irish Pub: The Dead Rabbit 

Best Famed Irish Pub: The Dead Rabbit 

The Dead Rabbit, the world’s most awarded pub can be found at 30 Water Street in a the five-story, 19th-century townhouse.  The pub is named after The Dead Rabbit gang who fought to defend their territory in mid 1800’s lower Manhattan. In 2013, The Dead Rabbit opened and has survived a hurricane, a fire, an expansion and a pandemic. Setting new sites on a US expansion, The Dead Rabbit is opening in Austin and DC in the coming year. 

I visited the pub on a snowy day and took refuge in the Taproom for some of the pub’s favorites. The hearty Lamb Stew and the pub’s famed Irish Coffee made from Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, Calendar Coffee, Demerara, Freshly Whipped Cream, Nutmeg hit the spot.

Best Rooftop Bar: Moxy Chelsea’s Fleur Room

Best Rooftop Bar: Moxy Chelsea’s Fleur Room

A nod to the Flower District, you will find the Moxy Chelsea’s Fleur Room at 35 stories high. The new concept by Tao Group Hospitality and Angelo Bianchi, interiors that reference the Flower Market (a chandelier that resembles oversize water droplets; dazzling floral-patterned seating; and a copper-clad bar).

A list of creative cocktails is accompanied by a simple, elegant menu of elevated bar snacks—warm olives with Marcona almonds, king crab club sandwich, truffle grilled cheese toast. The lounge area comes complete with a DJ booth and a massive vintage disco ball—a one-of-a-kind artifact salvaged from the 1980s L.A. nightclub Vertigo. The glass-enclosed rooftop lounge has expansive 360-degree views that stretch from the Statue of Liberty to the Empire State Building. Like magic (and at the touch of a button), a retractable window wall transforms the lounge into an alfresco sky veranda.

Best Cityscape View: Edge NYC  

Best Cityscape View: Edge NYC  

 Looking for that breathtaking 360-degree view of the iconic NYC skyline? Look no further than the Edge. It’s the largest and highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere at 1,131 feet. Situated on the 100th floor of 30 Hudson Yards, (NYC’s newest neighborhood accessible by the Number 7 train) you can lean out over the city on angled glass walls and take some fantastic footage for your next reel (I did!). 

Tickets cost $40 (£33) per adult, $38 (£31) per senior (age 62 and above) and $35 (£29) per child (age 6-12 years), an additional $10 is added to the ticket price for sunset visits. Ticket prices include access to The Glass Floor, Angled Glass Walls, The Skyline Steps, The Eastern Point, and a free digital photo souvenir. Visitors also have the option to purchase a personalized photo book and a glass of champagne upon arrival.

Best New Museum: The Museum of Broadway 

Best New Museum: The Museum of Broadway 

Opened in Fall 2022 in Times Square, is The Museum of Broadway. The museum is founded by entrepreneur and 2-time Tony Award-winning producer, Julie Boardman, and founder of award-winning experiential agency Rubik Marketing, Diane Nicoletti.

Both immersive and interactive, the museum features work of dozens of designers, artists, and theater historians which take on a journey along the timeline of Broadway. The Museum highlights more than 500 individual productions from the 1700s-present. There is a three-floor display of costumes, props, rare photos/videos, interactive sets and plenty of instagrammable moments to share. 

Best New Museum: The Museum of Broadway 

Best Day Spa: Naturopathica 

This day spa has two locations in the city which includes Chelsea and TriBeca, with two other locations in East Hampton and Palm Beach. I visited the Chelsea location for the signature ‘Chill Massage.’ After a red-eye, this  is the perfect way to recover and buy some time if you are waiting to check into your hotel room. Besides the typical Facial and Massage offerings, the spa also offers body treatments and Holistic Healing Therapies as well. You can even become a Naturopathica Spa member to give you exclusive pricing on both treatments and products, and priority access to spa events and experts.

Best Day Spa: Naturopathica 

Best Boutique Hotel: The High Line Hotel

From a 17th century apple orchard to an 18th century cloistered seminary, The High Line Hotel has transformed into Chelsea Square’s architectural masterpiece. The preserved gothic molding and fireplaces are only highlighted by the hand-selected, one-of-a-kind pieces (like vintage typewriters) sourced from antique fairs and vintage markets alike. These fine details can be experienced in the 60 oversized, light-filled rooms. 

This location is the ideal spot to explore Chelsea. Guests are welcome to borrow complimentary Shinola bicycles and a helmet for a ride to Hudson River Park or for use in the local area. Before you leave, say hello to Daisy, the 1957 London double-decker bus that is parked in the front garden. Or grab a coffee to go at Intelligentsia. When you return, switch your coffee for a cocktail at the Lobby Bar.

Best Hotel Chain: The Moxy

Best Hotel Chain: The Moxy

Wherever you stay in the city, the Moxy properties have you covered. Each with their own distinct flair. There are a total of six in the surrounding boroughs, which includes Moxy Times Square, Chelsea, East Village, Downtown and the latest additions – Lower East Side and Williamsburg.  

I had the pleasure of staying at the 303-room Moxy Lower East Side hotel in early Spring and was able to experience the convenience of their central location first hand. In between Soho and the Lower East Side (and in between Subway stops), I was able to traverse the city with minimal hiccups. This was my favorite part of the Moxy LES, besides the complimentary coffee at The Fix, the lobby cafe. What a great way to start the morning!

In addition to The Fix, there are four other drinking and dining establishments created in collaboration with Tao Group Hospitality. Feast at the modern Japanese Izakaya restaurant ‘Sake No Hana’. Listen to some live tunes at the piano lounge, ‘Silver Lining’.  Dance the night away at the subterranean nightclub, ‘Loosie’s’ or take in the breathtaking NY skyline at the indoor/outdoor rooftop bar, ‘The Highlight Room. ‘ 

The Moxy Williamsburg i

The Moxy Williamsburg is a 216-room boutique hotel overlooking the Williamsburg Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. The bright, airy rooms emphasize natural materials and space-saving design solutions, a large backyard garden provides a spot to unwind alfresco, and flexible co-working and meeting studios serve the needs of Brooklyn’s creative class. Food and beverage options include Mesiba, a festive, Tel Aviv–inspired restaurant serving Levantine cuisine; Bar Bedford, a destination cocktail bar and all-day café; Jolene Sound Room, an energetic lounge with a custom sound system; and finally LilliStar, an indoor/outdoor rooftop bar.

Best in Brooklyn (Eats): Gair

Dumbo’s premier destination for elevated, distinctive cocktails, Gair serves locally-sourced, seasonally-inspired dishes in an unmatched environment. Located on Washington Street, guests can snap their iconic Manhattan Bridge photo before heading to Gair for delicious cocktails and appetizing share plates. My drink pick is the Mezcal based cocktail, Under the Influencer and you will want to order the Fried Chicken Sandwich. Conceptualized and owned by architectural designer and Dumbo local Kevin Cimini, Gair was developed to create an elegant yet approachable destination that serves as an oasis for its community, and an authentic New York experience for visitors.

Best in Brooklyn (Shop): Rue Saint Paul

Best in Brooklyn (Shop): Rue Saint Paul

Rue Saint Paul is Brooklyn’s sustainable closet, offering new, rental, and pre-owned sustainable fashion. The first in Brooklyn. Kelly Wang, founder of Rue Saint Paul, is committed to helping reduce the fashion industry’s environmental footprint, promote ethical manufacturing, and drive responsible and circular consumption. Kelly’s hope is that one day sustainable fashion will just be fashion.

Best in Brooklyn (Shop): Rue Saint Paul

Best in Brooklyn (Stay): Penny Williamsburg

In 2022, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood welcomed Penny. The newest addition to the Sydell portfolio – creators of NoMad, Freehand, and LINE brands – Penny is the portfolio’s younger artist sibling with colorful interiors and a distinctive art collection by local neurodivergent artists. Penny is small in size, at 118 rooms but big at heart.

Best in Brooklyn (Stay): Penny Williamsburg

The namesake is Sydell CEO and Founder, Andrew Zobler’s small chihuahua with a big personality. The rooms at Penny Williamsburg offer homey comfort with hardwood floors, kitchenettes, pour-over coffee systems with complimentary coffee, unlimited free filtered water (my necessity!) The hotel shares a building with beloved NY institution Bard College classrooms and dorms.

For countless people, visiting ‘Lapland’ is a bucket list destination most people are keen to tick off early. However, with this part of the Nordic region sparsely populated, it is hard to know where to start. If you are looking for an authentic nature adventure, look no further than Muonio. With around 2,300 residents and an area of 2,039.97 km², social distancing is never an issue there.

Muonio, Finland

What makes Muonio unique? You can breathe the purest certified air in the world. They have over 200 pristine lakes and over 20 fells, and only in Lapland will you experience eight different seasons.

Where to stay in Muonio?

A great base for your arctic adventures is Harriniva Adventure Resort. They’ve been established since 1973, on the edge of Muonio village. The hotel is synonymous with wilderness adventures. Their five decades of experience have meant they’ve fine-tuned the very best outdoor adventures for their guests. You can enjoy fast-paced action with their snowmobile and husky tours. You can go white-water rafting in Europe’s longest free-flowing river, the Tornion-Muonionjoki. You can go ice-fishing under the midnight sun. They offer multi-day wilderness tours for those who want to spot exotic wildlife. Alternatively, you can just enjoy a relaxing stroll on the frozen river and get inspired by the northern lights and the multitude of stars.

What is great about supporting Harriniva Adventure Resort is that you are supporting a third-generation family business who are passionate about the surroundings. Their restaurant serves up the best of local cuisine including toast Skagen with white fish roe and reindeer served with mushroom sauce. They also have a dedicated vegetarian menu. Their resort is also great for those seeking relaxation with two riverside saunas and outdoor jacuzzis, offering tremendous views of the locality.

Saunas in Muonio

Another place to consider visiting is Jeris Lakeside Resort. It is situated by the mystical lake of Lake Jerisjärvi. It is considered sacred in indigenous Sámi mythology. Snowmobile is a great option here through the snow-covered forest and to the lake. The jewel in their crown is Arctic Sauna World. Sauna is a religion to the Finns and this is the equivalent of a shrine for locals to worship in. 

Their saunas are named after Finnish folklore gods: Tapio, Ukko, Ilmatar and Vellamo. They represent the elements: earth, fire, wind and water. For example, the most traditional smoke sauna belongs to Ukko, which is the fire sauna. They also have a Northern Lights sauna, which includes a two-floor panorama view experience. In the winter, they have ice holes for you to take a dip in before, during and after your sauna experience. It is supposedly ideal for improving blood circulation and the suppleness of your skin.

Hunter experience

If you want to experience activities like ice fishing, you need experienced guides like the teams from Hunter of the North. You’ll be transported to your fishing spot by sleigh or snowmobile. There are numerous lakes in Muonio to choose from. They will provide all the equipment needed whether it is traps and nets or fishing rods. The kind of fish you can expect to catch include whitefish, perch, pike or burbot. They will also show you how to handle and prepare the fish, before savouring a homemade lunch by the campfire.

You can also try the reindeer herder experience. You’ll get to feed reindeer in the wilderness as well as learn invaluable knowledge about this majestic animal.

Animal farm

If you are thinking of tours with huskies, reindeer or horses, then you need to check out Polar Lights Tours. They are a family-run business and have designed these experiences for all seasons. They can be paired with other activities like picking berries or paddling through crystal clear waters. They even own an aurora wilderness cabin, where you will have a chance to observe the northern lights from the comfort of your bed.

Embracing nature

If you want to learn more about local nature and culture, you should pay a visit to the Nature Centre of Kellokas. They provide in-depth information about Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park and nearby is Finland’s oldest hiking trail. The exhibitions focus on how dependent people are on nature and promote respect for Finnish wildlife. The national park is Finland’s most popular national park and was established in 1938 and includes hiking trails of varying difficulty and atmospheric campfire areas.

Whether you are a winter or a summer person, Muonio has so much to offer for outdoor aficionados.

For more information, visit the website