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14 Travel Gems for Your Next American Road Trip

The Editors | February 18, 2021 | Lifestyle Feature

From coast to coast and from charming villages to tuckedaway towns, Modern Luxury's editors offer a curated guide to the country's most amazing places to add to your bucket list now.

Lake Tahoe HIGH RES
From boat camping in Emerald Bay to hiking the beaches of East Shore, Lake Tahoe holds a unique adventure for all visitors.

Aspen, Colorado

aspen lodge high res
The new Aspen Street Lodge features lots of private outdoor space

WHERE TO DINE >> Oenophiles, take note: The Wine Bar at The Little Nell and The Krug Lounge, launched this year by The Little Nell wine director Chris Dunaway, have raised the bar to show what an elevated wine experience can be. Follow up an early evening of wine with an excursion to new Nakazawa Aspen for an exceptional omakase experience—yes, the same found at the brand’s New York City flagship. Highlights include wagyu katsu sando and yellowtail crudo.

WHERE TO STAY >> Camp Kasbah, a 14,000-square-foot estate on 15 acres, recently debuted on Buttermilk Mountain. Welcoming groups of up to 14, the rusticchic getaway includes seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, two fully stocked bars and a Charles Cunniffe-designed treehouse. Also new: Aspen Street Lodge, with nine lodge rooms and a stunning two-bedroom penthouse suite that’s sure to become Aspen’s most coveted room key. The crown jewel is the expansive rooftop terrace.

WHERE TO SHOP >> Head to the Nick Fouquet boutique to pick up a lid from his 35-piece Aspen collection, with custom sterling silver hat bands adorned with Lone Mountain turquoise, rare fabrics and ski-inspired pins. Chrome Hearts, a Manhattan legend, also opened in town, featuring one-of-a-kind illustrated apparel, a vintage Rolex collection, the latest Baccarat capsule and even a bespoke leather pants service. And for a slice of Montauk, don’t miss Wyld Blue.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island By Cameron
One of the gems of the Great Lakes region, Mackinac Island beckons with historic sites, nature aplenty and views of the Straits of Mackinac

ON THE WAY >> With nearly 150 wineries in the state, Michigan is home to some appealing sips— including at sister vineyards Mawby and Big Little on the Leelanau Peninsula, a perfect pit stop on the way to Mackinac. Make it an overnighter with a tasting at Mawby’s outdoor seating area followed by farm-to-table cuisine and cozy accommodations at the Inn at Black Star Farms.

WHERE TO STAY >> To generations of visitors to northern Michigan, Grand Hotel is Mackinac Island. It’s no wonder: Billed as the world’s largest summer hotel, the majestic property has welcomed families, celebrities and the occasional film crew to its 660-foot front porch (the world’s longest) since 1887. Among its 397 rooms, the most coveted just might be the Masco Cottage, a four-bedroom expanse with kitchen and private hot tub. The resort opens for the season May 7.

WHAT TO SEE >> With no cars allowed on the 3.8-square-mile island, bicycling is de rigueur—but a horse-drawn carriage is the chicest way to go. Schedule a private tour with Mackinac Island Carriage Tours (starting in May) and you’ll ride in style to sites like the Fort Mackinac Avenue of Flags, the dramatic natural limestone foundation Arch Rock and more. Art galleries and gift shops galore line the charming, strollable downtown; venture to the island’s southeast side for the ultimate cap to the evening: a culinary adventure at Chianti at Mission Point Resort, whose five-course tasting menu plates seasonally inspired delectables like lamb carpaccio, olive oil-poached sturgeon and Granny Smith apple pie.

Santa Barbara, California

Montecito Belmond El Encanto
The infinity pool at Belmond El Encanto boasts expansive views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.

WHERE TO STAY >> Of the countless hotels in the area, these two stand out for their luxurious accommodations and offerings—you can stay put for the weekend without stepping foot outside the resort and be perfectly content. The peaceful Belmond El Encanto sits high on a hill with expansive views of the Pacific from the open-air restaurant and infinity-edge pool, while the relatively new oceanside Rosewood Miramar Beach boasts Hamptons-esque charm and wonderful dining and shops, including the recently opened The Webster boutique.

WHAT TO EAT>> Besides dining at the hotels—El Encanto has welcomed executive chef Bruno Lopez to lead the reimagined culinary program, and Rosewood boasts several restaurants, including Malibu Farm—delectable dishes abound across the area. Visit the Santa Barbara Public Market for lunch or a snack (Corazon Cocina and Empty Bowl Gourmet Noodle Bar are standouts). For dinner, nearby downtown Montecito’s Lucky’s Steakhouse is always a scene with fantastic food. Steps away, Sushi Bar Montecito’s intimate setting and mindblowing omakase menu from chef Phillip Frankland Lee will be a meal to remember.

WHAT TO SEE >> Start the day hiking to Inspiration Point in the Santa Ynez Mountains before exploring the Funk Zone, a lively area steps from the beach with abundant art galleries, tasting rooms and independent boutiques, including The Blue Door, a uniquely curated vintage hot spot. After wandering around, relax at Montecito’s Butterfly Beach, a peaceful spot popular with locals.

Miami Beach, Florida

renovated pool deck
The pool deck at W South Beach.

WHERE TO STAY >> Fresh off a $30 million renovation that improved every corner of the hotel, W South Beach is the five-star spot to hang your hat. Among the highlights of the refresh are brightly colored rooms with circadian lighting (purported to enhance sleep) and sand-gradient shades to block out the bright Miami sunlight. The redesign also yielded a sanctuary in the form of Away Spa, a pampering refuge with seven treatment rooms and an outdoor terrace to relax before or after rather decadent and reviving treatments.

WHERE TO DINE >> There’s no lack of culinary cachet in these parts. In Miami Beach, Carbone is the first of various eateries from Major Food Group. The Italian American eatery is honest to what The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells once described as a “fancy red-sauce joint as directed by Quentin Tarantino.” In the Design District, another big name has foodies delighted. COTE serves the kind of meatcentric dishes that have earned the venue’s NYC location a Michelin star every year since opening.

WHAT TO SEE >> Culture lovers will not want to miss a visit to the 1-year-old Rubell Museum, a 53,000-square-foot temple of creativity that houses artworks collected by Don and Mera Rubell for the last 50 years. Highlights include masterpieces by contemporary art’s biggest names, and current exhibitions feature the massive Yayoi Kusama: Narcissus Garden, which consists of 700 stainless steel spheres that encourage visitors to indulge vanity just like the show’s titular character did. The eclectic gift shop is not to be overlooked.

The Hamptons

Hamptons beach photo
For oceanfront accommodations, head to Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa.

WHERE TO ROAM >> The cultural landscape in the Hamptons is truly impressive. At Parrish Art Museum, Field of Dreams, the museum’s outdoor sculpture exhibition, features work that engages with Parrish’s architecture and includes installations by Max Ernst, Roy Lichtenstein and Theaster Gates. Over at Guild Hall, Artist Members Exhibition is a deeply rooted showcase of the local artist colony with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner as the show’s original participants.

WHERE TO STAY >> In Amagansett, The Reform Club is the hotel of choice for the cool set, who appreciate its location, low-key luxe vibe and proximity to nearby neighbors like Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul McCartney and Jerry Seinfeld. Plus, recent buzzy activations welcomed classes from Nina Agdal’s The Agdal Method and famed Dr. Barbara Sturm into residency. For oceanfront accommodations, nothing beats the views and service at Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa.

WHERE TO SHOP >> From jawdropping gems at London Jewelers to sartorial offerings at Brunello Cucinelli and Ralph Lauren to design trinkets at Clic and AERIN, East Hampton continues to dominate the shopping experience out East. Be sure to check out Wölffer Estate not only for an award-winning wine selection, but also for its Beach Shack, a mini retail destination that features a line of reworked fashions and branded accessories.

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs high res
A spacious guesthouse at Two Bunch Palms sets the stage for relaxation.

WHERE TO STAY >> Design enthusiasts, take note: Midcentury boutique property Holiday House recently underwent an upgrade courtesy of interiors guru Mark D. Sikes. La Quinta Resort & Club, the area’s longestrunning, knows a thing or two about taking advantage of the landscape, with hiking, biking and excursions galore. For the environmentally conscious, Two Bunch Palms is the buzzy holistic wellness retreat. But if you need a punch of pep, the Jonathan Adler-renovated Parker Palm Springs cannot be beat.

WHERE TO DINE >> Popular breakfast spot Cheeky’s is worth the wait—two words: bacon flight. Head over to L’Horizon Resort & Spa’s all-day restaurant, SO.PA, for elegant Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine in a lush alfresco setting. For dinner, try Counter Reformation at the Parker Palm Springs, a hidden wine bar with incredible small bites, like caviar with creme fraiche and quail eggs or faux gras macaron with truffle salsa. Also excellent is Workshop Kitchen + Bar, a bold farm-to-table gem with artful plating.

WHAT TO SEE >> For a delightful dose of design and history, book a tour at Sunnylands, the stunning ’60s-era estate once owned by Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Shopping aficionados will love The Shops at 1345, a collection of luxe boutiques housing vintage furniture and decor, handmade ceramics, and small-batch beauty and fashion items. Lastly, art lovers must visit Palm Springs Art Museum, a superbly curated collection that can be seen in under an hour.

Catalina Island, California

Catalina island California
Unique to Catalina Island, the two-hour Bison Expedition will have you climbing aboard an open-air biofuel Hummer to catch a glimpse of roughly 150 American bison that descended from a small herd left on the island by a movie crew in the 1920s.

WHERE TO STAY >> Situated 22 miles off the coast of Los Angeles, Catalina Island is accessible via helicopter, private plane or boat, and via passenger ferries from Newport Beach, Dana Point, Long Beach or San Pedro. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history by staying at Mt Ada, the former retreat of gum magnate William Wrigley Jr. and his wife, Ada. The intimate Forbes Four- Star property boasts six exclusive en suite guest rooms and the chance to sip cocktails in Mr. Wrigley’s former billiards room, which features a bar, a fireplace and views of Avalon Bay.

WHERE TO DINE >> By day, book a Presidential Cabana at Descanso Beach Club, where you’ll kick back on a private sun deck with chaise lounges as your personal butler delivers snacks, smoothies and bottle service, and you take in views of Catalina’s iconic casino. As the island’s only beachside restaurant and bar, it’s also the perfect spot to indulge in a leisurely lunch. By night, order a Wrigley Martini at Avalon Grille and dive into executive chef Roberto Hernandez’s California-cool meat and seafood offerings—think ahi tuna, caprese shrimp salad, panseared scallops and grilled octopus.

WHAT TO SEE >> Seafaring activities are aplenty—from a glassbottom boat tour of Lover’s Cove Marine Preserve to a nighttime flying fish voyage under the stars. Golfers will delight in teeing off at Catalina Island Golf Course, the oldest course west of the Mississippi, and adventure enthusiasts will revel in soaring across Descanso Canyon during the high-flying Zip Line Eco Tour.

Charleston, South Carolina

South Carolina photo

WHERE TO ROAM >> Holy water takes on new meaning in this Southern town. From delighting in the simplicity of fried seafood on Shem Creek and fishing along the Folly and Stono rivers to escaping to the old-school beach town that is Sullivan’s Island and teeing off at Kiawah Island’s The Ocean Course, the deep blue is a way of life here. For the angling enthusiast, charter a day of inshore fishing with Brown Dog Sportfishing, or amp up the luxury with a cruise along the Battery courtesy of 50-foot sailing yacht Fate.

WHERE TO STAY >> There’s no shortage of luxury hotels on the peninsula. Looking for the grande-dame five-star experience? Hotel Bennett is for you. Prefer a retro feel with modern comforts? Check in at The Dewberry, housed in a former—and wonderfully midcentury— federal building. For a taste of local charm, though, 86 Cannon and Zero George reinvent B&B standards. Discreetly tucked in more residential neighborhoods, these intimate boutique properties put guest service at the fore and deliver an experience beyond compare.

WHAT TO SEE >> The ideal Charleston sojourn ticks all the boxes: arts, food, bev, shopping. Morning sees Charleston Renaissance painter Alice Ravenel Huger Smith’s new exhibit (from March 1), jointly shown at Middleton Place and the Edmondston-Alston House. Follow your dose of culture with retail therapy at House of Nomad and Hampden. Then top off the day with wine from the gorgeous curation at Graft Wine Shop and a bite to eat from one of the city’s buzzy restaurants. May we suggest 167 Sushi Bar or Post House for your culinary pleasures.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville skyline
Nashville is the place to visit if you love country music and relish in finding hidden hot spots.

WHERE TO ROAM >> As you get a taste of the town, don’t skip a reservation at 5th & Taylor. Chef Daniel Lindley, who pays homage to the American family meal inspired by his childhood Sunday dinners, is sure to please your culinary cravings. And, before leaving Nashville, shop with a purpose at The Shop at Thistle Farms for candles, body products, jewelry, apparel, household textiles and more— all handcrafted by and benefiting female survivors of trafficking, prostitution and addiction.

WHERE TO STAY >> Each room at The Hermitage Hotel offers generous living and sleeping areas with all the luxury amenities you could expect. Since opening in 1910, it’s housed many elected officials and star entertainers, but this hotel became a historic treasure when it served as the final battleground for women’s suffrage in 1920. Travel back in time and post a selfie in one of the world’s most instagrammable men’s bathrooms—renovated in 1930, this art deco marvel has been perfectly preserved.

WHAT TO SEE >> Clubs, bars and honky-tonks are still the craze when visiting Music City, but it also offers historical and cultural attractions that complement the music backdrop. Enjoy a visually enticing stroll along a 1 ½-mile woodland sculpture trail or a walk through 12 distinct botanical gardens at historic Cheekwood Estate & Gardens. The Cheek family estate was converted into a museum of art featuring world-renowned exhibitions, including Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth’s portraits of each other.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe ritz Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers high-end amenities and activities year-round, making it an ideal destination whether you’re a regular or a first-timer in the area.

WHERE TO STAY >> The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe is a luxurious destination for those seeking a true Tahoe experience. Nestled in the California mountains, its amenities and offerings are extraordinary and designed to make your stay stress-free. Unwind at the 17,000-square-foot slope-side spa for the day, or visit the chic Lake Club to take advantage of lakefront amenities year-round.

WHAT TO SEE >> A getaway to Lake Tahoe is not complete without at least one outdoor excursion and, thankfully, options abound. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or simply enjoy exploring the great outdoors, there’s an experience for everyone. Consider mountain biking through the gorgeous Flume Trail on the East Shore or parasailing in South Lake Tahoe.

WHERE TO DINE >> There are many impressive eateries in Lake Tahoe, but one not to miss is Lone Eagle Grille on Tahoe’s North Shore. Its menu and service are of the highest caliber. From expertly prepared meat dishes to interesting twists on vegetarian classics, the cuisine will leave you wanting to come back for more. After dinner, stop by the Lone Eagle Lounge for a nightcap set to a backdrop of panoramic lakefront views.

Marfa, Texas

Embrace your inner wanderlust and venture to Marfa. Sweeping views of starry skies, eclectic shops and art galleries abound in this bohemian paradise. PHOTO BY CECILIA ALEJANDRA
Embrace your inner wanderlust and venture to Marfa. Sweeping views of starry skies, eclectic shops and art galleries abound in this bohemian paradise.

WHERE TO ROAM >> Kaleidoscopic views await in Marfa. Embrace true beauty among the sweeping fields of Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation. Another must is the now-iconic Prada Marfa. The site-specific installation has summoned fashion shoots, movie backdrops and Insta-ops from celebs like Beyonce. And don’t forget! No trip is complete without attempting to see the Marfa Mystery Lights.

WHERE TO STAY >> Made up of 55 rooms, newcomer Hotel Saint George is in the heart of town and walkable from almost all of the galleries, shops and eateries. For history buffs and cinephiles, hang your hat at Hotel Paisano, where Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson lodged while filming the 1950s classic Giant. For a true adventure, sleep under a canopy of stars at hotelier Liz Lambert’s utopian paradise, El Cosmico. .

WHERE TO DINE >> As charming as Marfa’s shops and galleries are its myriad scrumptious restaurants—each as creative and enchanting as the next. Looking for a one-stop shop for exotic floral bouquets and bean burritos (after all, isn’t everyone?), Buns N’ Roses is the place. Enjoy cocktails al fresco at Capri Marfa as you take in a beautiful sunset, or opt for a sit-down dining experience at Cochineal.

Palm Beach, Florida

palm beach hotel art
The lobby at the White Elephant.

WHERE TO STAY >> Your chosen hotel in Palm Beach is all a matter of taste. For island pomp and circumstance, nothing beats The Breakers, the gorgeous property that has hosted captains of industry, socialites and European nobility since 1896. The charms here are many, with four pools, two golf courses and multiple dining options (Sunday brunch at The Circle is a can’t-miss). A more boutique experience awaits at the White Elephant, which opened in November with 13 rooms, 19 suites, globally inspired restaurant Lola 41 and more than 100 original artworks throughout its four floors.

WHERE TO DINE >> All-American classics or French bistro cuisine? In Palm Beach, there are stellar examples of both at two of the area’s newest eateries. Henry’s Palm Beach pays tribute to the town’s founding father, Henry M. Flagler, with selections such as crumb Dover sole, woodgrilled filet mignon and beef Wellington (Fridays and Saturdays only). Lines out the door at La Goulue prove chef Gwenaël Le Pape’s Franco classics have definitely found an audience. On the menu here are iconic dishes such as cheese souffle, onion soup, foie gras terrine, steak frites and tuna tartare.

WHAT TO SEE >> At 80 years old, the Norton Museum of Art in nearby West Palm Beach is certainly worth a visit. After being closed for much of 2020, the institution commemorates its eight decades with various exhibitions that run through May and June. Celebrating the Norton: Eighty Years is made up of artworks that tell the story of the museum and its influence on Palm Beach County’s culture scene. The very timely Art Finds a Way deals with pieces that tackle issues of social injustice. And Waiting for the Night to Bloom is artist María Berrío’s first museum survey, one informed by works that address the resilience of women.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

life house nantucket
Life House is new on the island.

WHERE TO ROAM >> First, rent a Jeep; the 4x4 seats five passengers and comes with a town permit. From there, head to Bartlett’s Farm, which offers farm-to-fork salads, soups and sandwiches—perfect for your spread at Ladies Beach. Swing by Cisco Brewers for a growler topped off with the citrus-leaning Wandering Haze hazy IPA. Cap the day at Straight Wharf Restaurant with Grey Lady oysters and local dayboat scallops.

WHERE TO STAY >> The recently christened 14-room Life House makes a spring or summer visit hard to resist. While the property sits on the quieter northern part of the island, it’s a mere 10-minute stroll to the ferry docks, bars and restaurants. The reimagined space, located in a coastal Federal-style mansion (circa 1830), includes a communal living room, a spacious kitchen and a lush garden lounge with daybeds that beg for sipping cocktails deep into the night.

WHERE TO SHOP >> Don’t miss Dawn, a fabulous new boutique offering everything from womenswear to home goods. The shop features more than 100 brands, including Paper London, Bond-Eye and William Yeoward. Want your feet to make a beautiful statement while visiting Nantucket? We love the creative choices at Respoke, especially the espadrilles, crafted from authenticated designer silk scarves (think Gucci and Hermès) in La Rioja, Spain.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona mountains art
Enchantment Resort sits within Boynton Canyon, a scenic box canyon in the Coconino National Forest, which makes for unbeatable views from the pool deck.

WHERE TO STAY >> Surrounded by 70 acres of natural beauty, Enchantment Resort is the place to check in for a muchneeded respite. Stay in one of the haciendas, complete with an expansive living room—featuring an open-beamed ceiling and beehive fireplace—bedrooms and full bathrooms on either side, a balcony, a private entrance, a full kitchen and more. During the day, choose from one of Enchantment’s 100 weekly activities, including guided hiking and mountain biking treks (the Boynton Canyon Trail is a must), luxury treatments at Mii amo spa or a round of golf at Seven Canyons.

WHAT TO SEE >> Oak Creek Canyon is top of the list while adventuring in Sedona, boasting breathtaking views of scarlet cliffs and rock formations. Spend the afternoon diving into natural swimming holes, pulling off at a secluded lookout for a picnic, or stopping by to support and shop some of the local Native American artists showcasing their work along the many pathways.

WHERE TO INDULGE >> Schedule a full day of pampering at L’Auberge de Sedona’s famed L’Apothecary Spa. Start at the Blending Bar, where you can draw upon the area’s rich bounty of healing botanicals, herbs and flowers—think rosemary, piñon pine and juniper, to name a few— to create custom body products, before using your unique curation during the L’Aromatherapy Essential Massage.



Photography by: FROM TOP: PHOTO BY JEREMY BANKS/UNSPLASH; PHOTO: BY DRAPER WHITE; PHOTO BY CAMERON STEWART/UNSPLASH; PHOTO COURTESY OF BELMOND EL ENCANTO; PHOTO COURTESY OF VENUE; COURTESY OF GURNEY’S RESORTS; PHOTO BY DYLAN JENI; PHOTO COURTESY OF CATALINA ISLAND COMPANY; BY ELIZABETH HARPER; COURTESY OF NASHVILLE CONVENTION & VISITORS CORP.; PHOTO COURTESY OF THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAKE TAHOE; PHOTO BY CECILIA ALEJANDRA; PHOTO COURTESY OF VENUE; COURTESY OF LIFE HOUSE; PHOTO COURTESY OF ENCHANTMENT RESORT