Southwest Swing

The profession of travel writing affords many benefits. None more special than seeing the world and interviewing noteworthy subjects. My latest trip to the Southwest would satisfy both. My first stop was to Las Vegas and Palms Place, the newest luxury addition to the Palms Casino Resort. There, I’d have the opportunity to meet and speak with George Maloof, Jr., owner of The Palms, and a man who I had already gotten to know through—of all mediums—TV. Yes, I’d be breaking bread with the guy who partied with Hugh Hefner and, who, famously is seen in the shot of Pamela Anderson running up to The Hef in his eponymous sky villa at The Palms, dressed in nothing more than her birthday suit on the E! Network reality series, "Girls Next Door." Maloof had the foresight to combine his hotel venture with pop culture. It’s paid off in dividends.

Sadly, my anticipated tête-à-tête was never to materialize due to a logistical snafu. Not to worry, that’s why Bell created the phone. Regardless, I still stayed a night at one of the hottest resorts in Las Vegas. The Palms really gets it right: the perfect mix of nightlife, food and accommodations. Of course, entertainment is its calling card with the likes of Ghostbar, Moon, Rain and The Playboy Club all catering to a variety of tastes and people. Now, Maloof has added Palms Place, which is a more upscale sibling to The Palms Casino Resort, offering sleek chic accommodations with amenities to match. All studios, one-bedroom suites and penthouses have something you won’t find at most Vegas hotels: hardwood floors and balconies.

Moon at The Palms

Moon at The Palms

I’d be remiss if I didn’t recount my visits to two of the cooler suites at The Palms—the Hardwood Suite and Hugh Hefner Sky Villa. I am a huge basketball fan, and the Hardwood Suite is a basketball fan’s dream come true. Sure, it’s $25,000 per night, but where else are you going to find a room with a hardwood basketball court? Other cool touches include beds that are fit for those over 6-feet tall (yes, Shaquille O’Neal has stayed a night) and an actual locker room, albeit luxurious, unlike the one you used in high school.

Next, I checked out the granddaddy of them all: the Hugh Hefner Sky Villa. It was like walking onto hallowed ground. Ah, if these walls could talk. Well, at least we have the E! Network to give us a glimpse at what goes on in a suite that commands $40,000 per night. The cantilevered hot tub overlooking The Strip is particularly incredible.

All good things must come to an end. Luckily, my trip had just begun. Next up, Encantado, an Auberge Resort, in Santa Fe, NM. You don’t meet too many people who have visited New Mexico (or maybe I just don’t), but the feeling is something different, especially for someone living in New York—that’d be me. The hour-long drive from Albuquerque is a lovely primer—Santa Fe is 7,000 feet above sea level, so it feels that you are almost parallel with the clouds.

The resort itself would be tough to find if not for a sign. It sits back in the foothills of the Jemez and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. To say the view is otherwordly does not give it justice. The resort is as elegant as its surroundings with 65 casitas featuring outdoor patio areas and kiva fireplaces inside. Each casita has unsurpassed amenities and cool touches like heated bathroom floors.

Dining and spa take center stage. The Terra restaurant under the direction of Chef Charles Dale serves up regional fare: on the opening night, I ate a steak about the size of my head. The Spa at Encantado is a slice of heaven with 15 treatment rooms and suites, along with special areas for both men and women. Nothing is more invigorating than taking a plunge in the outdoor hot tub, then making a dash into the eucalyptus infused steam room. The property has only been open for a little more than two months and Robert Redford has stayed twice. Need I say more?

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