More than 19 inches of snow, wind gust of up to 45 miles an hour, and the fifth largest blizzard in Chicago. Feeling done yet? Regain your sanity and some heliotherapy with a trip to sunny Naples, Florida, where even a quick weekend has the power to work wonders. Here are five more reasons to go now.
1. The weather is amazing in February.
Naples is just beginning to show off its best weather with daily temperatures topping out in the glorious high seventies. The region is beyond its rainy season, too, which means the skies stay blue and the sun keeps shining, even if a cold front pushes through.
2. There’s a beautiful new resort.
After an $18-million renovation and a complete rebrand, the transformed Naples Grande Beach Resort (formerly the Waldorf Astoria Naples) revealed a new, more unique luxury resort this past weekend. All 474 guestrooms have been redesigned (each with a big balcony and views of the Gulf of Mexico); three new restaurants now include a modern seafood house and an easy-going beachside café (there are five restaurants total); private cabanas surround the adults-only pool (three pools in all include a family pool with a beach-like entrance and a winding, 100-foot waterslide); and the resort’s public spaces have a modern, big Floridian vibe. Rooms this month are from $389.
Beyond what’s new, the resort is located in a special location along the coast, surrounded by a 200-acre mangrove estuary. To reach the three-mile beach on the Gulf, guests can walk or ride a golf cart a little over half a mile on an elevated boardwalk through this forest. But what at first sounds like a drawback is really a perk. The mangrove is enchanting and walking through it is an easy way to experience one of Florida’s unique tidal zones.
3. The resort has a primo beach experience.
A more luxurious beachfront experience is part of what’s new at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, which is also more secluded thanks to the surrounding mangroves. Chaise lounge chairs are set up on request at no charge; new umbrellas ($25) and queen-size daybeds ($150) can be rented for the day; and stand-up paddleboards and kayaks (from $25) can be rented as well (go in the morning when the water is calm). Take a walk and look for seashells or do nothing but sip a cold beer. At sunset, the west coast views are stunning.
4. You can spend entire, warm days outside.
Do not miss the incredible spa village at the Naples Grande Beach Resort, where chaise lounges, a Vegas-style daybed, and Zen-like water features are part of a private, outdoor lounge space topped by blue skies and palm trees. Naples lays claim to more than 80 golf courses—and more golf holes per capita than any other community in the world. Try the resort’s 18-hole, par 72 course designed by Rees Jones, set against pine hammocks and cypress trees. Pack a picnic and some wine for a sunset ride on the Sweet Liberty catamaran, a laidback cruise with many opportunities to spot dolphins. At night, plan on dinner in Old Naples at the loungey, Parisian Café Lucrat, grabbing a table on the patio and saving room for the buttered-rum-topped brioche desert.
5. Airfare deals are happening now.
Direct, three-hour flights run several times a day to Fort Myer’s Southwest Florida International Airport from both Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway airports. Using Google’s Flight Search tool, we found round-trip fares through mid-March from $198 on Frontier.
Book this Chicago Hotel for Valentine’s Day and You Could Totally Score
Valentine’s Day packages can be found at almost every Chicago hotel at the moment, but the Renaissance Blackstone Chicago stands out. Pay $229 for a king room with views of the Lake, a petal turndown and late night snack, champagne breakfast in bed, and a coupon for 50-percent off your next stay. But here’s where it gets cool: one lucky couple will be upgraded to a decked-out Heaven Suite with 25-foot ceilings, a king bedroom, living room and dining area, plus a tasting dinner for two in Mercat a La Planxa, and a tour of Chicago by Chicago Helicopter Experience. Book now and wait for the winner to be drawn on Wednesday, February 11.
Use this Creepy Google Trick to Find Your Next Flight
Next time you have a flight on your schedule, try Google-ing “flight status” while logged in to a Google account. “A bunch of useful information, including seat, terminal, and gate details; any delay or cancellation information; confirmation number; past flights; and relevant emails will pop up at the top of the search results.” More at Airfare Watchdog.
Three Chicago Hotels Rank in Condé Nast Traveler’s Top 100
Selected by its readers, Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 top 100 Hotels & Resorts includes three Chicago hotels: Thompson Chicago at No. 80, the Waldorf Astoria, Chicago at No. 49, and the Langham Chicago at No. 30. See the full list.
Big Adventure Awaits at the Up200 Sled Dog Race
Among the next best to the Iditarod, the UP200 sled dog race happens this February 12 to 16 in Marquette County, Michigan. Look to Chicago’s UP200 guide to plan your trip.