Santa Barbara The only full-service hotel in the heart of downtown, the Canary blends the feel of a casual beach getaway with tony urban sophistication. It first opened as the Hotel Andalucia in 2004. New owners revamped it to match two swank sister properties, Shutters Hotel on the Beach and Casa del Mar in Santa Monica. The Canary is a fun, fashionable retreat that reflects the rich heritage of the Spanish islands and North Africa. Moroccan rugs, African masks, dark wood floors and sea grass color schemes create an exotic mood throughout. Homey touches in the light-filled rooms include walnut four-poster beds, yoga mats, candles–even binoculars to take along while you tour the town. Ride up to The Perch, a sixth-floor guests-only rooftop lounge, for a dip in the pool and the stunning views. The Coast restaurant on the lobby floor serves upscale comfort food centered on fresh local ingredients. Pros: easy stroll to museums, stores, restaurants; friendly, attentive service; adjacent fitness center (fee). Cons: located across from main bus transit center; some rooms feel cramped. 31 West Carrillo St., Santa Barbara, 93101. 805/884-0300 (ph.). 805/884--8153 (fax). www.canarysantabarbara.com. 77 rooms, 20 suites. In-room: safe, refrigerator, DVD, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, bar, pool, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), some pets allowed, no-smoking rooms. Rooms start at $405.-- View more Santa Barbara hotel reviews
Las Vegas Iconic Chicago chef Charlie Trotter has made the jump into Vegas' restaurant scene with this cavernous, high-ceilinged space at the Palazzo. Reserve your table as early as possible for a chance to sample rarefied Trotter creations such as marinated New Zealand snapper with sea urchin, or Icelandic langoustines with cockles in roasted-shallot vinaigrette. Star entrées from the seafood-intensive menu include slow-poached Arctic char with Savoy cabbage in a trout roe-shiso vinaigrette, and fried sea bream with citrus, chile, and cilantro. In the counter-only Bar Charlie, you can opt for an 8- or 14-course sushi-sashimi menu. Palazzo Resort-Hotel-Casino, Las Vegas Blvd. S., Center Strip, 89109. 702/607--6336. www.palazzolasvegas.com/restaurantcharlie.aspx. Reservations essential. Median entrée price: $48.-- View more Las Vegas restaurant reviews
New York Once you stroll into this cavernous space (a former Montgomery Ward building), you're transported to a bustling French brasserie, complete with wicker bistro chairs in the bar, bold art nouveau details along the walls, and detailed tile work on the floors. Chef Christian Delouvrier (formerly of Alain Ducasse in New York City) crafts the menu around one central ingredient: steak. But making a meal from well-executed appetizers, such as duck rillettes served in a jar, endive gratin, or seared calamari with pesto, is far more fun (and economical). Plus, this ensures that you'll have room for classic desserts: the decadent pot de crème, also served in a jar, is not to be missed. 500 W. Superior St., River North. 312/494--1900. www.brasserieruhlmannch.com. Median entrée price: $37.-- View more New York restaurant reviews
Barcelona Murmuri, located in the boutique hotel of the same name, lured Ian Chalermkittichai from his semi-eponymous New York restaurant (Kittichai) to Barcelona, where he is perfecting his unique interpretation of Asian cuisine d'auteur (original recipes). This cosmopolitan master creates dishes with Thai, pan-Asian, and Mediterranean influences. Appetizers include monkfish and sesame wrapped in pandan leaf, or crispy rock shrimp with Japanese aubergine, soy, and tamarind sauce. Main courses range from Vietnamese crispy fish with pickled daikon and chili to clay-pot free-range chicken breast with butternut squash in lemon grass sauce. Rambla de Catalunya 104, Eixample. 93/550--0600. Reservations essential. Closed Mon. No dinner Sun. Median entrée price: €20 (approximately $31 USD).-- View more Barcelona restaurant reviews
Taunovo Bay Resort & Spa
Fiji If you want to have your tropical vacation and all the creature comforts, too, you'll enjoy the opulent four-bedroom villas at this boutique resort, designed by Martin Grounds of Four Seasons Bali fame. Suites include a private "infinity pool" and lavish bathrooms with dual bowl sinks, bath, outdoor hot tub, and indoor and outdoor showers. Beachfront villas, in one- to four-bedroom configurations, feature larger private "infinity pools," living rooms, theater rooms with full entertainment systems, and full kitchens. Guests can have the fridge stocked prior to their arrival and/or hire a personal chef to prepare their meals. There's an upscale restaurant, sushi and tapas bars, a beach café, cocktail lounge, and a full spa. Children under 12 stay for free. Although the beachfront isn't jaw-droppingly beautiful, guests have access to a 3-acre island 25 minutes away by boat, which is leased by the resort. Pros: total privacy; state-of-the-art amenities; central Pacific Harbour location. Cons: have to take a boat ride to get to the good beach. Queens Rd., Km 144, Pacific Harbour. 999--2227. www.taunovobay.com. 10 villas. In-room: kitchen (some), refrigerator (some), DVD, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 3 restaurants, room service, bars, pool, gym, spa, beachfront, water sports, no elevator, laundry service, concierge, airport shuttle. Rooms start at: $700.
The London West Hollywood
Los Angeles What was once the Bel Age hotel, located just off the Sunset Strip, has been reborn as the cosmopolitan and ultra-chic London West Hollywood. The large suites and rooftop pool with city-wide views remain the same, but everything else has been redone and brightened. Glam touches such as ultra-suede covered hallway walls, framed mirrors, and gold lamé leather couches are a visual treat, although some of the custom-made pieces from British designer David Collins, like the marble topped desk and glass-walled showers, are sharp-edged and might prove perilous. Large bathrooms have sunken Roman-style tubs and dazzling tile mosaics. Neighboring rooftops are masked with gardens and topiary. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay runs the restaurant and bar, which is set to open at the end of May 2008. Pros: designer-perfect interiors; hillside and city views from generous-sized suites; steps from the Strip. Cons: too chic for youngsters; lower floors have mundane views. 1020 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, 90069. 310/854--1111 (ph.). 310/854--0926 (fax). www.TheLondonWestHollywood.com. 200 rooms. In-room: safe, refrigerator, Ethernet, Wi-Fi. In-hotel: restaurant, room service, 2 bars , pool, gym, laundry service, concierge, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, parking (fee), some pets allowed, no-smoking rooms. Rooms start at $299.-- View more Los Angeles hotel reviews Contributors: Andrew Collins, Robert Brenner, Cheryl Crabtree, Kate Leahy, Kathy A. McDonald, George Semler