By Hillary Latos
As we approach the holiday season, New Yorkers have a tendency to flee the city with vacations on their mind that incorporate the 3 Rs- rest, relaxation, and revelry. Whether you are longing for a sunny beach or golf or just a change of scenery here’s a couple of easy holiday getaways for the family that make it easy to avoid the hassle of holiday travel.
Charleston & Kiawah
For the feeling of a home away from home to celebrate Christmas and New Years, rent a spacious villa from Wyndham Rentals that has over 100,000 properties in over 600 unique destinations worldwide from sun to snow, cities to countryside, that are professionally managed and will spare any of the headaches that comes with holiday travel. They will take care of all of your needs from arrival to departure such as arranging in home spa treatments or hiring a private chef for a decadent holiday dinner or extravagant New Year’s Eve party.
A great place to relax and unwind is at the Charleston’s luxurious seaside barrier island, Kiawah Island, situated on a marine and bird reserve with 10 miles of a calm cool grey beach, a favorite hideaway amongst low key celebs. Rent a mansion on the beach or along the island’s private picturesque golf course. Other romantic activities include horseback riding along the beach, take a dip in your private pool, or take a boat tour from their private marina to catch local crab or watch dolphins while enjoying nature’s serenity.
Considered THE foodie destination in the South, there are plenty of choices to indulge in the area’s famous lowcountry Southern cuisine. Even one of the most famous lowcountry restaurants in the area is named after the ghost of a devoted family pooch, Poogan’s Porch. Housed in a Victorian townhouse on historic Queen Street in the middle of downtown, it a perfect spot to immerse yourself in the Southern way of life over lunch, brunch or dinner with farm to table dishes that use local seafood like fried alligator, shrimp and grits, oysters, and crab cakes. Don’t be fooled by the name, but one of the local’s favorite spots is the Fat Hen on John’s Island that pays homage to the area’s Huguenot culture and combines lowcountry cuisine with a French flair. Serving one of the best she crab soups in the area, other delectable choices include coq au vin, hoppin’ john shrimp and crab, bbq rib in bone short ribs, and pluff mud pie all served in generous portions with no scrimping on the calories.
Explore downtown Charleston by horse drawn carriage as you meander through cobble stone streets passing majestic homes from the antebellum South and hear the tales of the Southern belles as well as stories of the red light district and famous spots that determined the fate of our nation. Shoppers will find lots to see at the Old City Market that sells local handicrafts, Southern pralines, and artisan works, while King Street is lined with fashionable boutiques, jewelry stores, art galleries, and antique stores. Experience life in the ocean at the Charleston Aquarium with its impressive multi story aquarium filled with aquatic life, a turtle rescue and educational center, and also the rare albino alligator.
No trip to the South would be complete without a visit to a Southern plantation. Founded in 1676, Magnolia Plantation and gardens has survived wars and a divided nation, and represents the glorious past of Southern grandeur. One of the prettiest and most romantic gardens in the US, it was a testament of Thomas Drayton’s love for his new wife to convince her to adapt to the South. Relive the romance while walking past sweeping trees, blooming flowers, latticed gazebos, and quiet lakes, and you can see how easy it is to fall in love with the area’s Southern charm.
Aruba – The Happy Island
For those seeking an endless summer, visit the gorgeous and sunny desert island of Aruba that has the highest tourism return rate of any Caribbean island and lies outside of the hurricane belt, and after one visit you will see why. In just a few hours from New York City, you can find yourself sitting on a white powdery beach and swimming in the calm sparkling waters on this slice of paradise while basking in the sun being cooled by the balmy Caribbean tradewinds. A perfect holiday getaway for couples or families there are plenty of outdoor activities on this happy island. As the island is known for its impressive scuba and snorkeling, spend the afternoon taking a Catamaran sail to the dive site where a former WW2 ship was sunk and is now teeming with colorful exotic fish and sea life. Explore the rugged and expansive desert terrain of the uninhabited side of the island in an open air jeep and experience the beautiful and dramatic landscape with cliffside ocean views, climb the Gold Mill ruins, and visit the Akirok Park whose highlight is the natural tide pool that’s like snorkeling in nature’s giant fishbowl. One thing you will notice on the drive along the rocky coast are the millions of individual rock piles along the way that have been created by tourists adhering to an ancient Indian tradition. Stack at least three rocks that represent love, wealth, and health, and when the ocean blows them away your wish will be granted.
To truly enjoy paradise, the Hyatt Regency Aruba is situated on the serene Palm Beach. Surround yourself in landscaped gardens filled with exotic talking parrots, and decide how to spend your day whether lying under a palapa on the beach, enjoying a rejuvenating massage at the Zoi spa, cooling off on the water slide that drops you into one of several picturesque pools, or testing your luck at the casino. All of the newly renovated luxurious rooms feature oversized marble bathrooms and terraces that face the ocean. Unlike other hotels in Aruba, everything from the lobby to the lounges and restaurants is open air to truly enjoy the tropical breezes. Food is also a treat here with contemporary Mexican specialties featuring fresh seafood and meat served at Ruinas del Mar and the casual beachfront Palms restaurant that specializes in fresh island cuisine with an Aruban flair.
For an unforgettable dining experience, try Papiamento, which is named after Aruba’s language. Located in a lush tropical garden surrounding an inviting pool and charming house, this romantic open air candlelit restaurant is a favorite amongst locals and visitors. Representing the flavors of the different cultures that have settled in the island, the Ellis Family has creatively infused different Caribbean spices and ingredients to create unique takes on traditional Aruban dishes that are primarily stews and seafood resulting in an unique fusion of flavors that are only found here.
One of the best things about visiting Aruba for a holiday stay is the convenience of clearing US customs in the Aruba airport saving time on your return to JFK, the only thing is that you won’t want to leave!