Hotels Get Super Creative with Specialty Programming

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Hotels Get Super Creative with Specialty Programming

We've seen luxury, we've seen convenience and we've seen high tech in hotels. But the latest trend seems to suggest that even the busiest and wealthiest travelers still place a high premium on playfulness.  AqualiliesPhoto Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach


Aqualilies


We've seen luxury, we've seen convenience and we've seen high tech in hotels. But the latest trend seems to suggest that even the busiest and wealthiest travelers still place a high premium on playfulness. From Manhattan to Napa, while at African safari lodges and in oceanfront all-inclusive resorts, today's travelers are able to have fun times when they travel; thanks to wonderfully creative extra-curricular programming by hoteliers. For starters, feast your eyes on America's sexiest water ballet troupe, performing monthly at The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach through December.
 Rooftop at the Canary HotelPhoto Courtesy of the Canary Hotel


Rooftop at the Canary Hotel


Ever since the Kimpton hotel family took over the Canary Hotel in downtown Santa Barbara, the property's been trying out all sorts of crowd-friendly activities, from s'more roasts to '80s dance parties to the just-announced sing-along movie nights happening Wednesdays in October. The rooftop is a perfect SoCal setting, and we applaud the Canary for opening up the screenings to the public and even providing complimentary blankets. The first movie is Grease, the last is The Rocky Horror Picture Show; check the website for the rest and YES, there will be costume contests. Of course there will be.
 Calistoga BalloonsPhoto Courtesy of Calistoga Balloons


Calistoga Balloons


A Wine Country sunrise is a beautiful thing, and it's worth dragging yourself out of bed to view it from the sky, via Calistoga Balloons in partnership with boutique hideaway Wydown St. Helena. Soar over Napa Valley as it awakens, then get back to the ground for a Champagne breakfast at Solbar and morning wine tastings at Calistoga's finest wineries. With only 12 lovely rooms and a husband-wife team running the hotel, the Wydown is a throwback to Wine Country before the tour buses came—when your hosts helped plan your days and made sure their friends around the Valley took care of you.
 Post-Divorce Purification at Grand VelasPhoto Courtesy of Velas Resorts


Post-Divorce Purification at Grand Velas


With divorce parties becoming a thing, the luxury all-inclusive Grand Velas resorts of Mexico welcome the newly-split with a customizable package that celebrates second-time singlehood. There are some serious components like the purification ritual (pictured), which is conducted by a Mayan shaman. On the lighter side: complimentary makeovers to make you feel sexy and piñata-bashing, because sometimes it's just very satisfying to beat up an inanimate object as though you were five years old again.
 Phosphorescent Bay Tours with Nick's CovePhoto Credit: Tim King


Phosphorescent Bay Tours with Nick's Cove


Everyone's heard about Point Reyes views and Sonoma Coast wines, but did anyone know that the Northern California Ocean goes glow-in-the-dark once a year with phosphorescent natural organisms, just like the famous bioluminescent bays of Puerto Rico? Perhaps the Bay Area's algae display doesn't draw as many curious folk because the water's much chillier than the Caribbean — but still, if you're an explorer type, a night kayak tour of the electric-blue-frosted Pacific is definitely one for the bucket list. Especially considering the Tomales Bay barbecued oyster feast that host hotel Nick's Cove organizes afterward.
 Marine Biology Camp at Wild DunesPhoto Courtesy of Wild Dunes


Marine Biology Camp at Wild Dunes


Barrier islands are a special Southern vacation experience — not tropical, but lush and not exotic, but still a world of their own. Wild Dunes in South Carolina has created a day excursion that really explores the natural beauty of the barrier islands. Take a pontoon boat to Capers Island, a tiny land speck neighboring Isle of Palms where the resort is. There, guests learn about the creatures in the touch tank, try to spot dolphins offshore, catch tasty blue crabs in season and generally enjoy the unspoiled unique ecosystem all around them.
 Iced Afternoon Tea at BiltmorePhoto Courtesy Arizona Biltmore


Iced Afternoon Tea at Biltmore


What do you do when you're a classic resort known for its traditional high teas, but the temperature is regularly above 100 degrees and nobody wants to drink a boiling hot beverage? You put it on ice, of course! It's no surprise that the desert grand dame Arizona Biltmore is offering an afternoon iced tea service — starting with a chilled cucumber soup palate-cleanser, then continuing with traditional sandwiches and cakes — through October. We're just wondering why nobody in New York thought of this when the East Coast had its record-breaking heat wave earlier in the summer.
Maasai Warrior School with Cottar's Safari ServicePhoto Courtesy of Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp


Maasai Warrior School with Cottar's Safari Service


If you want your kids to have at least one childhood vacation experience they can brag about till the end of time, this is it — but it'll entail a long flight. Take them to Cottar's 1920s Safari Camp in the Maasai Mara and enroll them in Maasai Warrior training. There they'll learn to make fire, shoot arrows, throw spears and do many other useful things in the African bush. They may even get henna tattoos. It all takes place under the supervision/tutelage of a respected Maasai tracker, and parents are welcome to supervise...though most prefer to go on grown-up safaris.
 Hester Nights at EventiPhoto Courtesy of Hester Street Fair


Hester Nights at Eventi


Hester Street Fair is a small but well established weekly Lower East Side street fair known for its artisan purveyors. Hester Nights is an offshoot, taking place every Thursday night through September 26 in the courtyard of the oh-so-centrally located Eventi Plaza. This is the public gathering space behind Eventi, a Kimpton Hotel, and it's enormous by Manhattan standards: large enough to comfortably hold a dozen street food vendors, a film screening and a couple hundred passersby who stumbled onto the action and decided to stick around.
With This Drink, Be Wed – Viceroy Riviera MayaPhoto Courtesy of Viceroy Riviera Maya


With This Drink, Be Wed – Viceroy Riviera Maya


Apparently it's much more fabulous to play bartender at a five-star hotel bar than in the kitchen of your own home. Casa del Mar in Santa Monica lets guests bring their boozy creation home in a mini-barrel, and some U.K. hotels offer master mixology classes. But for the win, it's Viceroy Riviera Maya, where bride-and-groom duos come up with their own branded cocktails to serve their wedding party. Mostly this wins because the basic cocktail themes are pure Hollywood RomCom fodder: i.e. Bridesmaids Revenge, Last Fling and The Pre-Nup. From there, things only get more spirited — depending how inventive the bride and groom want to be.