A passbook, an app and several package enhancements help travelers design and customize their fun in such chart-topping destinations as San Antonio, Texas, Charleston, S.C. and South Walton, Fla.
PASSBOOK TO FREE STAYS
In San Antonio, Texas, the supremely well-situated Hotel Contessa just rolled out its San Antonio Passbook program. Thumb through the 20-page booklet on the hotel’s riverside patio to find suggestions for some of the city’s top attractions, many of them a stroll away.
Rising dramatically from the banks of the San Antonio River on a quiet stretch of the famed River Walk, Hotel Contessa is the only four-diamond all-suite hotel located directly on San Antonio’s most popular attraction. Book an outdoor table at Las Ramblas for dinner and watch the barges float by. Stretch out on a chaise lounge beside the rooftop pool and take in some breathtaking city views.
Head to the Alamo, where you can customize the experience with a guided after-hours, battlefield or VIP tour. Dip into the history of the American West through paintings, sculptures and artifacts (Pancho Villa’s saddle, Santa Anna’s sword) at the Biscoe Museum of Western Art. Take the glass-walled elevator to the top of the 750-foot Tower of the Americas, a legacy of the 1968 World’s Fair, for dinner at the revolving Chart House Restaurant.
Book Hotel Contessa’s “Define Your Destination” package, available through Aug. 30, 2016, and you’ll get accommodations, breakfast for two at Las Ramblas Restaurant (home of the best huevos rancheros you’ll ever eat), valet parking, noon check-out and the passbook, a fun souvenir to tuck into your scrapbook once home.
Get your Passbook stamped at the front desk before embarking on your explorations; part of the fun of this program is tracking sites explored. With each visit to Hotel Contessa, you earn additional stamps. With five stamps, visitors receive 50 percent off their next stay; 10 stamps nets one complimentary overnight.
Of course, the place to be is the River Walk. It unfurls over 15 miles, from the museums north of downtown to the missions south, and is pedestrian-friendly every step of the way. Lushly planted and punctuated with public artworks, including suspended fish and a vaquero (Mexican cowboy) driving Texas Longhorns, its centerpiece is the historic downtown area, lively with hotels, shops and restaurants. Clusters of umbrella-topped patio tables add splashes of color to a river scene that charms with touring barges, arched bridges and bougainvillea.
One way to explore the River Walk is on a foraging expedition with Chef Elizabeth Johnson. Follow the flow and foliage to learn about San Antonio’s unique culinary history. Afterward, join the chef in her restaurant, Pharm Table, where you’ll taste the fruits of your foraging labors while also enjoying healthy and tasty dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients.
“Food is your medicine chest,” says Johnson, noting the restaurant’s name is a synonym for culinary medicine. Menu items, including veggie tacos and quinoa tamales, are inventive and mouth-wateringly flavorful.
CLICK YOUR WAY TO A PERFECT STAY
Click into South Walton, Fla.’s “Find Your Perfect Beach” locator webpage or download the app and you can click or swipe your way to the beach community that most perfectly aligns with your getaway goals. Keeping in mind that this jewel of a town stretching out lazily along the Gulf of Mexico is made up of 16 individual beach communities – each with its own vibe and verve – narrowing “perfect” down can be challenging.
Choose “tranquil,” “shopping and spa” and “foodie favorite” from among 14 choices and two perfect beaches emerge: Sandestin and Seagrove. Plug in “walkable,” “arts and culture” and “architecture” and you’ll find two other beach idylls. With “family,” “water activities” and “ecosploring,” you’ll get five. Continue drilling down to exactly the kind of experience you want with choices relating to accommodations and their activities.
Sandestin-bound foodies who love to shop and seek spa tranquility will find the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa a great match. Customize your stay by choosing one of several themed packages, including golf, wine, bed and breakfast – or a triple indulgence treat at the hotel’s Serenity by the Spa that lets you craft your own spa package.
If strolling along architecturally beautiful streets that look like they belong in a Hollywood movie set while soaking up the area arts and culture, Rosemary Beach is a peerless pick. And The Pearl, a luxury boutique hotel and spa, will put you in the midst of this master and mindfully planned beach community.
With breezy coastal decor and sophisticated styling, The Pearl cossets guests with upscale in-room amenities and spa products, rainfall showerheads, private balconies overlooking a very pretty town or pool, a different turndown treat each night and an interactive iPad-powered platform where you can swipe your way to dinner reservations, room service calls and concierge requests.
Through June 29, The Pearl is offering a Choose Your Savings deal: Stay three nights/get 30 percent off standard rates; stay two nights/get 25 percent off; stay one night/get 20 percent off. This offer includes complimentary beach setups, valet parking and nightly turn-down with freshly baked treats.
When you get away to the harbor-front haven declared by Southern Living as a “Best Place to Stay,” you’ll be able to add the enhancement of your choice to an already fun adventure. The Cottages on Charleston Harbor, located on historic Patriots Point in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., is a choice collection of cottages perched near water’s edge.
The two-bedroom, three bath cottages have private screened-in porches with rocking chairs, full kitchens, designer furnishings, pillow top mattresses, luxury linens and more. Stretch out on the hammock. Curl up with a good book or sip a glass of wine while taking in the views of Charleston’s harbor, downtown and historical Ft. Sumter.
The Cottages on Charleston Harbor have an All-American Vacation package that includes cottage accommodations, tickets to a Riverdogs baseball game, tours of Ft. Sumter and the USS Yorktown – a World War II aircraft carrier – plus All American treats for the family, like sparklers, small American flags and nostalgic candy (taffy, braided lollipops, string licorice, caramel corn).
Depending on your interests, you can design your own adventure, choosing from three different experiences. Tee It Up & Hit the Links includes a round of golf on the Links Course at Patriots Point Links and a Course Survival Kit – a small cooler bag with visor, sunscreen and bottled water.
Add the Harbor-Front Romantic enhancement and enjoy champagne, strawberries and chocolate truffles on arrival, breakfast delivered to your cottage each morning and the use of two plush cottage bathrobes during your stay (robes may be purchased for $75/each). Optional spa treatments, including massage, mani and pedi, are available.
If you’re craving a culinary experience in a town known for its inventive and varied gastronomical scene, you’ll want to add the Foodie’s Delight to your stay. You’ll get a $100 gift card for just $50 that can be used at one of these Charleston faves: Victor’s Social Club, Vincent Chicco’s or Michael’s on the Alley.
Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.CharlestonCVB.com
The Cottages on Charleston Harbor, www.TheCottagesonCharlestonHarbor.com
The Cottages’ Stay Enhancements, www.TheCottagesonCharlestonHarbor.com/stay-enhancement.php
San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.VisitSanAntonio.com
Hotel Contessa, www.TheHotelContessa.com
“Define Your Destination” package, www.theHotelContessa.com/san_antonio_hotel_deals
Pharm Table, www.PharmTable.com
Visit South Walton, www.VisitSouthWalton.com; beach locator webpage: www.VisitSouthWalton.com/Beaches; app: www.VisitSouthWalton.com/visit-south-walton-s-perfect-beach-app
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, www.HiltonSandestinBeach.com
The Pearl, www.ThePearlrb.com