Sonoma County

Summer is a time for celebration, family bonding, and — most importantly, in our book — travel. But when vacation extravaganzas to far-flung islands and ancient cities don’t fit into the budget, the answer is not to skip vacation: it’s to nearcation! (Yes, we just made a new word. And we think it’s kinda awesome.) Avoid the cost of flights, currency exchange, and pricey destinations for some spectacular cities that are just a short drive from major U.S. cities — we know where you live… So without further adieu, check out five nearcation destinations that won’t break the bank, but will be just the amazing vacation break that you need!

Atlantic City 

Driving Time from New York City: 2 hours, 25 minutes

Atlantic City

When most people think of Atlantic City, they think gambling, and casinos galore. While that’s certainly a major part of the destination, Atlantic City is also an excellent choice for a wallet-friendly summer vacation that doesn’t have to include time spent at the tables. In fact, this sparkling seaside city offers one of the East Coast’s most impressive lineups of comedy shows, concerts, festivals ,and events, and then piles on plenty of outdoor attractions: sandy beaches, a festive boardwalk (don’t miss the saltwater taffy!), New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse, an aquarium, ballet, sport fishing, golf, museums, trolley tours, surfing and a lot, lot more. (Bonus: Check out our non-gamer’s guide to Atlantic City.)

Where to Stay: It’s easy to score a great deal at one of Atlantic City’s casino hotels, but our value pick goes to the Resorts Casino Hotel Atlantic City. Decked out in Roaring Twenties-themed decor and just steps from the boardwalk, this hotel in an extremely affordable option.

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Okay, as hotel experts we love traveling; we really, really love it. But even for us, saying goodbye to our side of the bed, our cups in the kitchen, our own personal brand of snack food stashed in the fridge, and all those other things that make our abode “homey” can be bittersweet. Thankfully, many hotels are stepping up their game when it comes to providing guests with their creature comforts of choice. From in-room kitchens to roaring fireplaces, these hotels come equipped with tons of great amenities to make you feel like you never walked out your front door — and with these amenities come all the fun perks inherent of a vacation. So fear not the unknown, these homey hotels are awaiting your stay with open arms and familiar treats.

1. Villa D’ Citta, Chicago 

villa d citta

The six-room Villa D’ Citta is a cozy, romantic bed-and-breakfast located in the residential neighborhood of Lincoln Park. Its homey features are all charming: an outdoor whirlpool and sun deck, a brick courtyard with a barbecue, and a large communal kitchen. The bright, luxurious rooms have big flat-screen TVs and hardwood floors, and some come complete with fireplaces.

Homiest Feature: The communal kitchen comes fully stocked with all of the snacks you can imagine, and the outdoor patio features a barbecue grill perfect for warm summer nights.  Read More »

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Thanks to our friends at the Captivate Network, you can catch this story in your office elevator this week! And don’t miss Captivate’s Summer Fridays Sweepstakes!

Traveling green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on the quality of your hotel. If eco-friendly lodging makes you think of a tent in the woods, think again — these gorgeous properties are luxurious and LEED-certified.

H2 Hotel, Healdsburg, California

H2 Hotel, Healdsburg, California

H2 Hotel, Healdsburg, California

This 36-room boutique hotel in the heart of Healdsburg in Sonoma County is a good pick for eco-conscious folks looking for something convenient to wineries with a modern, hip, relaxed vibe. With a LEED Gold certification, the H2 features green amenities such as loaner bicycles, lots of open spaces, and a green roof. Read More »

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This romantic boutique in California's Sonoma County is perfect for an intimate — and luxe — exchange of "I dos."

The Kenwood Inn and Spa is an award-winning boutique that’s a popular spot for tying the knot. Located in Sonoma County, the hotel evokes Tuscan charm from every nook and cranny: Lush gardens, European-style courtyards, and exquisite fountains and pools provide gorgeous backdrops for a wedding, and the 29 private and spacious rooms, individually decorated with romantic Mediterranean-inspired decor, are furnished with cozy fireplaces, quality Italian linens, oversized showers, and personal balconies (some with stunning vineyard views). Extensive freebies (such as in-room drinks and gourmet snacks), plush robes, and an ultra-luxurious spa help ensure that guests feel pampered — particularly important for the bride before her big day. The hotel’s restaurant serves local cuisine using ingredients from nearby ranchers, cheesemongers, and farmers, meaning a delicious feast is in store for all of your wedding attendees. Overall, it’s one of the most romantic boutique picks in Sonoma Wine Country.

The hotel is extremely well-equipped to help couples plan their nuptials, offering the ideal setting for everything from intimate gatherings to fairytale-like receptions for up to 100 guests. An on-site wedding coordinator will help design your unique experience at one of four venues: the lovely Centro Court, the large Pool Courtyard, the intimate Wine Bar, or the Tuscany Room. In addition, treatments at the hotel’s award-winning spa can be arranged in advance (the hotel is known for its vinotherapy services) and menu tastings with the hotel’s executive chef, pastry chef, and sommelier will assure every dish tastes delicious. For more wedding-inspired photos of the Kenwood Inn & Spa, click here »
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While there are plenty of luxurious hotels out there, some hotels take luxury to a whole other level (which means prices on a whole new level, too). But when you really need to unwind away from home, there’s no better way to indulge than heading to a luxe hotel with an equally luxe spa for some much-need pampering. Whether they’re offering oils of gold, creams of caviar, or bathtubs of wine, these hotel spas aren’t shy about offering their guests the royal treatment – and charging them royally, too.

Treatment: Evian Bath for $5,000

Spa: Spa V at Hotel Victor, South Beach

Hotel Victor pampers guests with the finest bath water in South Beach

Not many of the treatments at Hotel Victor in South Beach come cheap, but the Evian bath is particularly pricey. The bath, consisting of 1,000 bottles of the French mineral water, is only available to guests of the $10,000 per night penthouse suite, and includes champagne, dessert, and an additional treatment of choice for two.

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Grounds at Vintners Inn in Sonoma

Grounds at Vintners Inn in Sonoma

When the weather gets warm, the daydreaming begins. Lush hideaways. Hidden cottages. Your own secret garden come to life.

These fantasies can very easily become a reality, with an outdoor space and a little elbow grease. We’ve seen a lot of beautiful gardens on our travels, and so we took what we learned to come up these 10 helpful gardening tips.

From sculptures to arbors to lighting, learn about the additions that can transform an ordinary garden into a memorable haven.

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View from the Auberge Du Soleil; Napa Valley, CA

View from the Auberge Du Soleil; Napa Valley, CA

We just got back from beautiful Napa and Sonoma in California Wine Country, where hundreds of wineries dot the rolling hills and temperatures rarely dip below the 60s. The most popular visitor activities are drinking and eating — and for good reason. Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Yountville is a destination unto itself and Healdsburg is home to Cyrus restaurant, with two Michelin stars. Check out some of the hotel highlights from our trip after the jump>>

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Santa may have thought you were nice this year, but there were probably a few things he didn’t see… So enter New Year’s resolutions — the pledges we make for the new year to atone for our sins of the year before. Maybe you told a few white lies, partied a little too hard, or claimed that Justin Bieber was your baby daddy (actually, we think that may have just been her). But that’s all in the past starting in 2012, the year that’s going to be the best ever! Not only have we started working on our own resolutions, but we’ve come up with a few for some hotels and their wild, raucous — and sometimes home-wrecking — guests. Below, check out our resolutions list that’ll set these hotels (and their notorious guests) on the straight and narrow.

AP Photo/Pool/startraksphoto.com

AP Photo/Pool/startraksphoto.com

For Lindsay Lohan at the Chateau Marmont (many, many times): Resist partying it up when you’re on probation.

Lindsay’s had some trouble with the law this year (and the year before that…and the year before that…). In November, she served a four-and-a-half-hour jail stint (better than the 30-day sentence!) for violating her probation. Yet only a couple of weeks later, this party girl was seen making an a.m. dash from the Chateau Marmont in the same outfit she wore the night before! Sources say she can often be spotted late-night at the hotel bar, where witnesses once saw her stumbling to the point of requiring assistance from hotel security. Hopefully she’ll be able to get together for 2012 — we miss the adorable Linds from The Parent Trap.

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