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Spot Whales and Stomp Grapes in Monterey’s Secret Summer

Also this week: Three new Chicagoland hotels, 10 great apps for air travel, and motorcycle rentals in Vegas.

It’s always summer somewhere.   Photo: Stan Russell/Courtesy of Blue Ocean Whale Watch

Locals from the Monterey Peninsula will tell you that the best time to visit the beautiful spot in central California is during its “secret summer” in September and October. This unofficial season brings clearer skies, warmer temperatures than those in summer (the area’s daytime highs peak in September at 70 degrees), smaller crowds, and a coastal scene alive with migrating wildlife—imagine monarchs taking off from eucalyptus groves and humpback whales breaching right off the shore.

If you go right now, you’ll also witness the finale of grape crush season, happening in nearby Carmel Valley, home to some of California’s best pinot noir. This weekend, on Saturday, October 26, Bernardus Winery throws its annual Grape Crush & Oyster Shuck ($95), complete with grape stomping, barrel wine tasting, a shuck-your-own-oyster bar, and a family-style vineyard lunch.

Around Halloween, Monterey oozes with ghost stories due to the fact that several old buildings around town are supposedly haunted. Take the paranormal tour that starts at Point Sur Lightstation, where you’ll find outstanding panoramic views and possibly bump into the ghosts of former lighthouse keepers. At night, stay in downtown Monterey at the Victorian-style, 50-room Monterey Hotel, where you can book the most haunted accommodation—suite 217.

Ghost hunters should also make reservations for dinner at 1833, a beautiful two-story restaurant opened by the team behind the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. Named for the year the foundation was first poured on the original adobe house, 1833 is said to be haunted by several former residents, including fabulous party thrower Hattie Gragg. Order from the absinthe cart, stop at illuminated apothecary-themed bars, and ask your server about the vetting process (waiters must spend time alone at the restaurant to prove their mettle before they’re hired). On Halloween, 1833 will offer a special four-course prix fixe dinner followed by cocktails on tap, live music, and costumes ($40).

Get tips on what to do first and where in Chicago magazine’s “Five Summer Trips for Adventure Seekers in Chicago.”
 

Chicago’s Hotel Boom May Be Even Bigger Than We Thought

In the last couple weeks, three substantial hotels have been announced for locations beyond Chicago’s Loop and usual tourist track, suggesting that the emerging hotel explosion will be bigger—and wider— than expected. In the West Loop’s Restaurant Row, a new Nobu hotel and restaurant will open in 2014, reports Eater Chicago; Wicker Park’s 14-story Coyote Building and adjoining Hollander warehouse will be converted into a boutique hotel, according to Curbed Chicago; and, even farther afield, a new Hotel Indigo will open on Naperville’s riverwalk in 2015, says Hotel News Resource.
 

10 Flight Tracker Apps to Ease Travel Stress

Don’t let crowded flights and delays get you down during the holiday season when flight tracker apps can make things easier. Condé Nast Traveler rounds up the 10 best, including FlightTrack with its robust offline capabilities (including real-time updates on gates and cancellations) and the free iFly Airport Guide, which collects essential information on more than 700 airports, including restaurant reviews and where to find Wi-Fi.
 

Rent a Two-Wheeler the Next Time You’re in Sin City

Dream of cruising the Strip on a shiny chrome hog? Make it happen with relative ease thanks to Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which announced last week that it will be the first major car-rental agency to offer motorcycles in the U.S., starting with one outpost in Las Vegas. Read more at USA Today.
 

The Latest Roman & Williams Project Is the Talk of the Town

The verdict is in: New York loves the Viceroy, a new 29-story brick hotel that opened earlier this month at 120 West 57th Street. Architectural Digest says it “channels an older, more strident Manhattan, with savvy references to trains and ocean liners.” And the New York Times writes that the hotel is “filled with its signature touches, like shiny black fluted Italian glass block, crown molding, ultra-veined marble and a strategic use of brass.” Why should Chicagoans care? The Viceroy New York is the latest hotel designed by Roman & Williams, the firm hired to turn the Chicago Athletic Association into a hotel, due open in late 2014.

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