Eastern Standard Time
After a three-year lull, hotelier André Balazs is stepping things up a notch. Typically slow with new projects (the Mercer Hotel in Soho was eight years in the making), the man who revitalized Hollywood's Château Marmont and created Shelter Island's Sunset Beach is planning a luxury Caribbean launch on St. Barth -- just a few months after the May opening of his Downtown L.A. Standard (pictured). This coming winter, once Mercer designer Christian Liaigre's "funky" renovations to St. Barth's Sereno Beach Hotel are finished, Balazs plans to reopen the property with a new name, Les Pêcheurs. Next up: In a bold show of faith in downtown real estate, groundbreaking begins early next year in Tribeca, at Balazs's new Broadway Hotel on Grand Street, featuring loft-style spaces and cast-iron architectural accents.
Next month, Leading Hotels of the World will tweak its year-old Website, Luxres.com, by adding LuxRes Exclusives, a last-minute discount service that stands out from other Internet travel-bargain sites by offering 20 to 40 percent off rates at the hotels and resorts you actually want to stay at -- i.e., the ones that belong to the Leading, Relais & Châteaux, and Raffles International luxury categories. Expect discounts to become available two to four weeks in advance. About 30 hotels have already signed on, including the Old Course at St. Andrews, Hôtel Plaza Athénée in New York, and Lausanne Palace Hotel in Switzerland. By year's end, the selection is expected to be closer to 100, and will extend to discounts on luxury cruises and villa rentals as well.
Getting rubbed, soaked, and lathered all day is nice enough, but we prefer matching our spa experiences with something more strenuous, like having that manicure after we've been rock-climbing, or soaking in a warm mud bath after a day skiing the backcountry. That's the idea behind Jackson Hole's Wilderness Adventure Spa at Spring Creek Ranch, which opens at the end of this month. Overlooking the Grand Tetons, the spa utilizes 1,000 acres to offer fitness and spa services like reiki-on-horseback (synergizing the horse's energy with your own), acu-yoga in the midst of a stand of Aspen trees, and meditation classes held around a bonfire. Guests can spend their days playing hard (horseback riding, whitewater rafting, fly-fishing, skiing, dog-sledding), then soothe aching muscles at the spa. The resort will offer rustic rooms with handmade pine furniture, stone fireplaces, and stunning mountain views. (800-443-6139; doubles from $150.)
Deal of the Week
Taos is suddenly the rage, and for travelers wondering why Julia picked this eclectic Southwest town for her wedding, our favorite hideaway, the Fechin Inn, is offering its cozy rooms to New York Magazine readers for 25 percent off during November. Call 800-746-2689 before the end of August, and mention this page; doubles from $109.
- Boston Uncommon Boston welcomes Nine Zero, the city's newest boutique hotel since Fifteen Beacon, with the usual Frette linens and Web-ready TVs (doubles from $199; 866-NINEZERO). And watch for the Ritz-Carlton, Boston, reopening in October after a $45 million redo, and Hotel Commonwealth, debuting in Kenmore Square this winter.
- Speed Thrills This summer, guests at Casa Palmero in Pebble Beach, California, get keys to an Aston Martin. Ask for the speedster when booking your room, then take her for a spin along 17-Mile Drive (800-654-9300; rooms from $625).
- Sea Food The cruise industry is finally going after those elusive food snobs; Cunard Line just signed Todd English to design a restaurant called, simply, Todd English, for its $800 million flagship Queen Mary 2, which debuts in 2004 (800-7-CUNARD).
- Cay Club Musha Cay, the private Bahamian island popular with Oprah, Robin Williams, and Steve Martin, used to have a one-week, $325,000 minimum; now it has generously reduced its rate to $20,000 for three nights for groups of seven or fewer, and $38,750 for 20 to 24 (through November, 877-889-1100).