STATES OF PLAY
Step off the plane, and a feast awaits from West Coast to East and beyond
Los Angeles is the first place most Australians see in the United States. And the capital of entertainment won’t disappoint next year. The 2028 Olympics host city is unveiling new hotels including downtown’s 13-storey Proper DTLA (properhotel.com/downtown-la) and Nomad Hotel (sydellgroup.com/ nomad/los-angeles), housed in the beautiful 1923 Giannini Building, with dining by chef Daniel Humm of NY’s Eleven Madison Park (No. 1 on the World’s 50 Best restaurants).
Manhattan Beach, home to Olympic Gold beach volleyball player Kerri Lee Walsh Jennings and tennis pro Maria Sharapova, debuts westdrift (westdrift.com), a 10.5ha boutique hotel with a nine-hole golf course.
Tee reservations in advance for winter dine L.A. (dineLA.com), from January 12-26, to score specially priced lunch and dinner menus at more than 300 restaurants. Our picks: Café Gratitude for vegan with a side of celeb/people watching; and E.P. & L.P., whose Asia- and Fiji-inspired menu with a view of Hollywood Hills makes for a photogenic combination.
In New York, NYC Restaurant Week returns from January 22 to February 9 (nycgo.com/restaurant-week) and NYC Broadway Week, from January 16 to February 4 (tickets on sale January 5; nycgo.com/broadwayweek). New to Broadway: SpongeBob Square Pants (December), Frozen (March), Mean Girls (April) and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (April) – an award-winning show performing to sold-out crowds in the UK since 2016, says Travelmanagers’ Elle Bradley (travelmanagers.com.au).
In Las Vegas, Park MGM, the rebranded Monte Carlo Resort and Casino, a 2700-room luxury resort connected to The Park dining and entertainment district, arrives in the US spring (parkmgm.com).
San Francisco is hosting the Rugby World Cup Sevens at AT & T Park on July 20-22. Book tickets and travel packages via rwcsevens.com. Hotel update: The Presidio Trust opens its second property, Lodge At The Presidio, in Presidio national park overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay (lodgeatthepresidio.com).
Virgin Hotels, the lifestyle brand by Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, unveils a new hotel in February. Hotels, wineries, tasting rooms, restaurants and attractions in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and other Northern California counties are open for business following the October wildfires. Trafalgar’s new 10day Coastal California tour travels from Hollywood to San Francisco, meandering through Malibu and Monterey, before winding down in Napa and Sonoma (trafalgar.com).
Airline update: This year, Fiji Airways added year-round San Francisco service and flights between America and Adelaide.
STATES 49 AND 50
Travel-Managers’ Darren Christensen rates Hawaii as a top destination for 2018. While Waikiki is an all-time favourite, just a scenic 24km drive away is Kailua – “former president Barack Obama’s favourite spot with one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.” Also, the North Shore’s surfer town Haleiwa is a must-see, he says, adding that “famous surf beaches of Waimea Bay, Pipeline, and Sunset Beach are at their biggest around November to February.”
It’s a short flight from Honolulu to the Big Island (Kailua-Kona), loved not only for its natural beauty, an active volcano and black-sand beaches, but aloha hospitality.
Hawaiian Airlines has added three new non-stop daily routes from West Coast US: Portland-Maui; Oakland-Kauai; and Los Angeles-Kona (hawaiianairlines.com).
Alaska’s great outdoor spirit and wildlife lures nature lovers, adventurers and photographers – even seeing bearded seals and polar bears on airport runways is not uncommon! Note: Flying into Alaska has never been easier thanks to more domestic flight links. The best way to see vistas up close though is via Alaskan Railroad whose GoldStar Dome service features an outdoor viewing platform. Christensen suggests taking the Coastal Classic train from Seward to Fairbanks with an overnight stop at Anchorage.
New in coach tours: Topdeck’s Alaskan Adventure for 18-39s, a nineday off-the-beaten-track adventure that starts/ends in Anchorage and winds through Denali National Park and glacial Prince William Sound. There are two departures only: July 7 and August 25, 2018. TRAVELMANAGERS.COM.AU
BIG EASY’S BIG YEAR
No shy violet on the party front, New Orleans is rebuilding its riverfront and planning a rollicking big program of events to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its founding. Along with NYC and Washington DC, New Orleans features in tour operator Collette’s immersive Spotlight program next year (gocollette.com).
Brand new from Trek-America (trekamerica.com) is The Big Easy Music Festival tour, which departs on May 3 for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. And Trafalgar (trafalgar.com) has From the Windy City to the Big Easy: A new Costsaver trip for 11 days jiving to country music, jazz, blues, and rock ’n’ roll.
THEME PARKS UPDATE DISNEY PARKS
Disneyland Resort in California launches the new limited-time Pixar Fest, bringing Pixar stories to life.
In the US summer, Hollywood Studios at Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort introduces Toy Story Land, set in Andy’s back yard. Surrounded by oversized toys, guests feel as if they’ve shrunk to the size of Woody and Buzz (disneyworld.disney.go.com).
UNIVERSAL STUDIOS HOLLYWOOD
The Will & Grace revival means Universal Studios Hollywood’s VIP Experience guests can now step on to the sitcom’s Soundstage 22. FYI: The VIP Experience features unlimited front-of-line privileges and reserved seating at Universal Studios rides and attractions, including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter (universalstudioshollywood.com).
TREKKING NATIONAL PARKS
On the horizon for Insight Vacations are its great American outdoors itineraries. Enchanting Canyonlands explores the grandeur of Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, Monument Valley and Sedona from a private coach (tours include great accommodations too). American Parks Trail stops at Jackson Lake Lodge, in Grand Teton National Park, with a panoramic view of pristine Jackson Lake and majestic Teton Range. And accompanied by a geology lecturer, guests learn about the Grand Canyon on the 22-day America the Beautiful (insightvacations.com) tour that sweeps from Los Angeles to New York. It’s a grand gesture to the all-American pilgrimage: a great crosscountry road trip.
E.P.& L.P Sample some of LA’s best restaurants at Winter dineL. A, including E.P.& L.P’s Asia- and Fiji-inspired menu with Hollywood Hills views; Alaska’s outdoor spirit and wildlife lures nature lovers (below right); and Kailua in Hawaii is renowned for beautiful beaches.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK