'Mad Men' Travel Destinations
As seen on TV! We've followed Don Draper for seven seasons as he's crisscrossed the globe, be it via Cadillac or TWA flight. As the final episodes air, we're taking you back to the Golden Age of travel with a 'Mad Men'-inspired vacation guide for retro-style trips to cities Don visited.
The days of boarding a plane in a sharp suit or tailored dress, lighting a cigarette, and promptly being handed a drink by a smiling flight attendant in knee-high boots have gone the way of the buffalo—unless you're watching Mad Men. The stylized parade of free in-air cocktails and classy airport lounges makes it tempting to yearn for a time when people treated the inside of an airplane with as much respect as a church. But as devastatingly chic as the show makes the 1960s look (even the road trips!), there's one thing about the present day that Budget Travelers should be fiercely thankful for: Air travel is much more accessible now than it was in the '60s.
"Commercial air travel was a very exclusive means of transportation that most people couldn't afford," says Michael J. Allen, associate professor of history at Northwestern University, who taught a class called "Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960–1965." "And it really would have been oriented largely around work, as it is in Don's life."
Cheers to no longer needing an ad-man salary to travel—but you can still experience the romance of midcentury getaways. We'll show you how! Like a secretary in the typing pool, we've created your itinerary for these Mad Men vacation destinations before the final seven episodes air starting April 5.
Honolulu, Hawaii: Megan and Don's Honeymoon
Episode: "The Doorway," Season 6: What beach junkie didn't envy Megan Draper as she called "Mahalo" from under a floppy hat while exchanging an empty tropical cocktail for a full one? We'll take the Oahu honeymoon at the Royal Hawaiian, the bronze tan, and the Pucci-style bikini, thanks.
As depicted in the show, in Don's day Hawaii was a military hub for personnel passing through during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam—but with a romantic bent. "Military personnel's wives could fly to Hawaii, oftentimes at reduced prices to visit their loved ones," professor Allen says. "It was a popular destination that many Americans wouldn't have been able to afford to go to otherwise. It was evocative of both Asia and Polynesia, but it was a very Americanized space, so it had the best of both worlds: It was English-speaking, American-dominated, but had certain cultural trappings associated with Asia."
Stay: The Royal Hawaiian—if you want to splurge. Yes, the resort still exists! You'll need a rock-solid savings plan—or a Draper-like wallet—to wedge it into your vacation budget, but the authenticity could be worth it to hardcore fans (from $375). The show was shot at the hotel, dubbed the "Pink Palace of the Pacific"; the newly married Drapers shared the chi-chi King Kamehameha Suite. You might remember the gorgeous ocean view that slowly came into focus as Megan stepped onto the balcony in a billowing caftan. Order an old-fashioned à la Don at the beachside Mai Tai Bar. It's not the koa-wood prop wet bar built for the show and plopped onto the Coconut Lanai, but the Scratch Mai Tai is the hotel's original recipe, concocted with fresh-squeezed orange and pineapple juices. Not eager to dole out cash at a Roger Sterling clip? The Aqua Waikiki Wave offers private lanais, ocean views, and an updated twist on retro orange '60s decor for a third of the price (from $127).
Eat: The tiki trend was huge in midcentury America, and dining at La Mariana Tiki Bar and Restaurant, with its rattan chairs, glass globes, and umbrella-speared cocktails, is the closest you can get to partaking in the fad without a time machine. Opened in 1957, the space displays tchotchkes like tikis and tables from pioneering tiki bars like Don the Beachcomber. Sip a potent zombie and try the ahi poke pupu (entrées from $12).
Do: You could solemnly read Dante's Inferno on Waikiki Beach, but the Royal Hawaiian's 'Aha'aina luau is still a big draw: Each Monday, the hotel puts on a traditional feast complete with seven lavish food stations (including one for pig-carving) and a live show not unlike the one the Drapers watched. Yes, there is hula dancing—and an open bar ($179 per person).
Detroit, Michigan: Playground for GM Execs
Episodes: "For Immediate Release" and "In Care Of" (notably), Season 6: Detroit is much more than the place where Ken Cosgrove gets his eye shot out and Pete Campbell reverses a brand-new Chevy into a towering glass GM sign. Now out of bankruptcy, the city has experienced a nosedive in downtown crime and a foodie renaissance, thanks to restaurants like local-ingredient-driven Selden Standard and Slows Bar B Q. The American public is catching on too: Searches for Detroit hotels were up 29 percent last year, according to Hotels.com. Before you mingle with the new hipster entrepreneurs, appreciate the ghosts who built Motor City.