Experience the “joie de vivre” of Montreal, Canada’s cultural capital.
Loews Hôtel Vogue
Find comfortable, contemporary style in the 142 recently redesigned guest rooms and 16 suites at Montreal’s Loews Hôtel Vogue. The hotel’s central downtown location near shopping, restaurants, museums, nightlife and more makes it a perfect home base from which to explore the city.
“[The hotel] being a fairly small property allows us to have personalized interactions with our guests,” says concierge Olivier Leprince, who’s worked at the hotel for four years. “Taking the time to understand their needs and interests allows us to better recommend Montreal’s bests.”
Eat: Montreal is a foodie’s dream, and one of the restaurants at the top of Leprince’s list is Europea for upscale French fare. In 2013, the restaurant was invited to join Grand Tables of the World, a 142-member culinary association that celebrates the best gourmet restaurants from 23 countries around the world. Sample Europea’s innovative menus, which include dishes like lobster cream cappuccino with truffle puree and maple-infused foie gras.
“Another suggestion is Da Emma restaurant, a fine dining Italian establishment housed in the building of the first women’s prison of Canada,” Leprince says. Or, combine dinner with dancing at Buonanotte and Globe restaurants: “These two locations are well known as trendy supper clubs, where you can eat and then party the night away on Montreal’s main boulevard.” More spots for cutting a rug include Salsathèque for Latin rhythms and Club Electric Avenue for 1980s and 1990s hits.
Shop: Retail mavens don’t have to travel too far for upscale shopping. Just across the street from the Loews Hôtel Vogue is Ogilvy department store, which offers brands like Hugo Boss, Burberry, Lacoste, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and more. Meanwhile, Canadian luxury department store Holt Renfrew is just two blocks away and carries designer labels like Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Fabergé, Gucci, Hermès, Prada and Tiffany & Co.
For a unique shopping experience, Leprince recommends traveling to Laurier Avenue West for designer clothing boutiques and Saint-Laurent Boulevard for eclectic stores specializing in art pieces and home furnishings.
Play: “Montreal is very special because you can enjoy all sorts of activities all year round,” Leprince says. “If you like music, sports, circuses, arts, dance or nature, you’ll find something to meet your need.”
If live music is what you’re looking for, check out Les FrancoFolies de Montreal (June 13-21), an annual open-air festival that spotlights more than 1,000 French language performers, or the Montreal International Jazz Festival (June 26 – July 6), which is slated to feature performers ranging from Michael Bublé to Ben Harper to Buddy Guy.
Satisfy your need for speed during Formula 1’s Grand Prix weekend (June 6-9) held at Gilles Villeneuve Circuit. Looking to let loose? The Just for Laughs festival (July 12-31) is an ode to all things comedy and attracts top performers like Amy Poehler, Eddie Izzard and Sarah Silverman.
At the other end of the spectrum, Old Montreal should be a stop on everyone’s list. Leprince recommends visiting the centuries-old Notre-Dame Basilica and witnessing the “And Then There Was Light” sound and light show, which uses modern technology to showcase the basilica’s history, culture and architecture. Dating back to the early 1600s, this area of the city is one of the oldest urban areas in North America and is sure to take visitors on a fascinating trip back in time.
Loews Portofino Bay Hotel
Florida’s Universal Studios Orlando brims with exciting activities for guests of all ages. From its theme parks to its restaurants and after-hours fun, there’s always something to see and do in the heart of the Sunshine State. Concierge Megan Labbe helps guests at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel experience all that the resort and Orlando have to offer.
“This hotel is very special to me because growing up, my family and I vacationed here and I recall all of the great family memories and the spectacular service we enjoyed,” she says. “I never imagined I would work here one day, but here I am. I adore coming to work and helping our guests make memories.”
Eat: Great days start with great meals, and Labbe is happy to share some of Universal Orlando’s top dining spots.
At Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, guests can enjoy Bice Ristorante’s gourmet Italian cuisine. The restaurant prepares handmade pastas, fresh salads, fish and meat dishes and, of course, delectable desserts like tiramisu and gelato. Nearby, Labbe adds, “Loews Royal Pacific Resort here at Universal Orlando features Emeril’s Tchoup Chop, which is a unique and exotic dining experience through the Pacific seas.
“Universal CityWalk is home to many restaurants,” she continues. “Emeril’s Orlando is a ‘must-eat.’ ” The restaurant’s high-energy atmosphere and exciting menu choices bring a little New Orleans spice to the City Beautiful.
Shop: Labbe describes the stores at Universal CityWalk as perfect for all-inclusive shopping, and in particular recommends the several outlets that are unique to the area. “Fresh Produce specializes in women’s apparel and accessories that feature vibrant colors from designers such as Vera Bradley, FitFlop and Crocs,” she says. She also recommends Piq, a shop that’s filled with playful gifts, toys and household items.
For more intimate, boutique-style shopping, she sends guests to Park Avenue in Winter Park, a retail nirvana featuring more than 140 boutiques, cafes, museums and leisure hot spots like Mead Botanical Garden and The Winter Park Playhouse.
Play: Both kids and adults can enjoy activities at Universal CityWalk, including a miniature golf course, nightclubs and a movie theater. “Hollywood Drive-In Golf is open until 2 a.m., offering late-night fun for the family,” Labbe says. “Rising Star, which is one of my favorite nightclubs, invites guests to take the stage and perform their favorite songs. It’s famous for its karaoke, backup singers and live bands. Best of all, at the end of the night you can hop on the complimentary water taxi and head back to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel.”
This summer, Universal CityWalk plans to unveil an impressive eight restaurants and venues, and the resort’s existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter park will debut a Diagon Alley-themed attraction, bringing more of the fantastic places and experiences of the beloved book series to life and adding new magic to an area already known for letting imaginations run wild.
Loews Don CeSar Hotel
Originally built in 1928, the Loews Don CeSar Hotel is a landmark property on the white sands of Florida’s coast. The iconic hotel’s prime location makes exploring the history of surrounding St. Petersburg a fun-filled adventure, and concierge Christina Spencer, a member of the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or USA (the U.S. branch of the international organization of professional hotel concierges), looks forward to leading you through a tour of this legendary resort and its host city.
“I’m a resident on the island and live on the beach just north of the hotel,” she says. “I love this axrea and like to share information about it.”
Eat: Fresh seafood is a staple in cities on the Gulf Coast, and St. Pete Beach is no exception. Spencer recommends the hotel’s signature restaurant, the AAA Four Diamond Maritana Grille. “It offers the very best seafood in the area,” she says. The restaurant, which was voted one of the top 10 seafood restaurants in the U.S. by Gayot, features a raw bar, seasonal fish prepared to the diner’s preference and an extensive wine list.
One of the most popular seafood restaurants in St. Pete Beach is Snapper’s Sea Grill, which offers a spread of surf and turf classics. Fifteen minutes away, seafood with a casual twist can be found at Walt’z Fish Shak, where the day’s catch is written on a chalkboard menu.
Shop: You can find an ever-changing selection of specialty items at Shoppes at the Don. According to Spencer, “They have gifts, jewelry, clothing for children, men and women, and an impressive bathing attire shop.”
For boutiques and galleries with a local flavor, stop by St. Pete Beach’s two historic districts, Corey Avenue and Eighth Avenue. “Two blocks south of the hotel is Nancy Markoe [Fine American Crafts] Gallery, which carries the works of 500 American artists and craftsmen,” Spencer says. “Or, head to Gulfport for breakfast and stroll their eclectic shops. On Tuesdays, their outdoor market is in full swing with about 100 vendors selling produce, art, jewelry and prepared foods.”
Play: Culture buffs should stop by St. Petersburg’s museums, which cover everything from surrealism to contemporary crafts. “The Dalí [Museum] is most notable, but don’t miss Chihuly [Collection at the Morean Arts Center], the Museum of Fine Arts and the St. Petersburg Museum of History,” Spencer says.
For some fresh air, venture out to Fort De Soto Park, located just minutes from the hotel. “It houses acres of walking trails, picnic areas, a fishing pier, a dog beach and a play area,” Spencer says. “You can rent a kayak or take a ferry out to Egmont Key to see the ruins of Fort Dade, the working lighthouse and the native gopher tortoises.”
St. Petersburg is well known for its annual events like the Firestone Grand Prix (March 28-30), which features not only high-speed races, but also games, exhibits and multiple beer gardens. Beach Goes Pops (April 4-5) stages live concerts on the sand for a weekend of spectacular sounds, and the Mainsail Art Festival (April 19-20) showcases the work of more than 200 local artists along the waterfront. The diverse events, green spaces and attractions make the beach destination a coastal paradise.
Loews Vanderbilt Hotel
For Southern hospitality with a country twang, a visit to Nashville, Tenn., should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Music, history and great food characterize this town in the heart of Dixie. Born and raised in Nashville, VIP & Concierge Manager Emily Sledge has the inside scoop on everything you’ll want to add to your itinerary.
“I’ve been around this building nearly my whole life,” she says about the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. “I really enjoy adding something special to every guest’s stay here.”
Eat: “We have so many fine restaurants,” Sledge says. And that’s an understatement: According to Bon Appétit magazine, Nashville even boasts the No. 3 new restaurant in the country, Rolf and Daughters, which is housed in a 100-year-old factory in Germantown and serves Mediterranean and Northern Italian dishes reimagined with a Southern twist.
Sledge recommends Mason’s, the hotel’s on-site Southern brasserie that’s risen to prominence under the direction of award-winning chef Brandon Frohne. Husk restaurant in the heart of downtown also shouldn’t be missed; the Southern-style eatery is a project of James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Brock, who takes pride in using local and artisanal ingredients.
For lighter fare like appetizers and salads, Sledge suggests the Bluebird Cafe, where country music stars like John Prine, LeAnn Rimes and Garth Brooks have all performed acoustic sets in between bites of smoked pork sandwiches and other regional delicacies. Another local hot spot, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, serves up hearty bar food with a side of continuous live music.
Shop: The Mall at Green Hills is Nashville’s largest retail playground and features anchor stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s as well as designer and specialty shops. For a retro-inspired experience, stop by Hillsboro Village, roughly a mile from the hotel and home to blocks of kitschy boutiques and cafes.
Looking for an authentic Southern accessory? Head no farther than Imogene + Willie for personalized denim or Lucchese for handmade boots. “Blue jeans and cowboy boots are things that people who come here want to go home with,” Sledge says. “[At Lucchese] there are all kinds of top-of-the-line boots, and you can also meet with their designer and create custom cowboy boots.”
Play: Nashville may be famous for its musical heritage, but the city also has a rich Civil War history. “Many people come here because they’re history buffs,” Sledge says. She suggests a trip to nearby Franklin to see the preserved battlefield where the Battle of Franklin was fought in 1864; the historic fight decimated the Army of Tennessee, leaving thousands dead on both sides of the political divide.
Another cultural highlight is the world’s only full-scale reproduction of the Greek Parthenon located in Nashville’s Centennial Park. “It’s one of those things you have to see when you come to Nashville,” Sledge says. “It houses our city’s art museum.”
Of course, Sledge and the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel remain faithful to the music that put the city on the map. One must-see is the Ryman Auditorium, a 2,362-seat venue that dates back to 1892 and originally hosted the Grand Ole Opry. In addition, Sledge says, “We always suggest that people go see the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, since we are, of course, the country music capital of the world.” The museum houses thousands of artifacts and photographs from music history, including a gold Cadillac belonging to the King himself, Elvis Presley. L