Hotel We Love: Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge, Redding, CA
At the top of the Sacramento Valley in the northernmost part of California, the small city of Redding (population 90,000, give or take) is just a short drive from Sacramento and San Francisco, but it might as well be a world away. Surrounded by no fewer than seven national forests, offering easy access to jaw-dropping lakes, mountains, waterfalls, and redwoods, Redding is the jumping-off point for adventures of all kinds, from kayaking and hiking to olive-oil tasting and winery-hopping. The downtown area has plenty to recommend it, but if you'll be heading north to Lake Shasta Caverns, west to take in the waterfall loop, or putting in time at Turtle Bay Exploration Park, the new Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge is a good choice, offering comfort and convenience at a fair price.
In January 2018, after a decade of planning and construction, the smallest Sheraton property in the country officially opened for business. According to the Record Searchlight, the hotel acquired its parcel of land from Turtle Bay Exploration Park in an effort to help the non-profit generate enough revenue to remain afloat, and so far, the plan seems to be working. The hotel was bustling when I visited, with families, couples, and business travelers traversing the lobby, bellying up to the bar, and enjoying the amenities.
The brand-new accommodations comprise 124 rooms and 6 suites, all of which feature floor-to-ceiling windows, warm wood paneling, and crisp white linens, not to mention walk-in showers or tubs, 48-inch flat-screen TVs, portable work spaces, in-room safes, and mini-fridges. Traditional rooms sleep four, with two queen beds or one king; the deluxe patio rooms are a step up and offer the same bed configurations, plus a private, topiary-screened outdoor sitting area. Book a club room for access to the lounge and its free breakfast, all-day snacks and beverages, and cocktail-hour wine and hors d’oeuvres, or go all out with one of the cushy suites.
From its perch on the northern edge of town, the Sheraton is a five-minute walk from the Sacramento River and, as the name implies, Santiago Calatrava’s stunning Sundial Bridge. With opaque blue glass under foot and a 217-foot cable-stayed pylon creating a de facto sundial overhead, this cantilevered contraption is one of only two Calatrava bridges in America, and it’s well worth a visit. The bridge connects Turtle Bay Exploration Park’s two campuses, which span 300 acres and boast playgrounds, botanical gardens, a forestry and wildlife center, and hands-on educational activities, like the opportunity to feed beplumed birds at the Parrot Playhouse or a North American beaver on a behind-the-scenes tour. By car, the hotel is just off state route 44 and a few minutes from the I-5 on-ramp, so it's easily accessible from the highway and a quick half-hour drive north to Lake Shasta Caverns.
On the premises is Mosaic, a beautiful room that nods to the area's natural splendor, pairing the wood that lines floors, walls, and ceilings with luxe-industrial elements like a granite bar, exposed ductwork, a wood-fired pizza oven, and Edison bulbs galore. Have breakfast here before setting off for Turtle Bay or one of the area’s many state or national parks; try the berries and granola with vanilla yogurt for a light (albeit sweet) start, or an omelet with fennel sausage, caramelized onions, smoked Gouda, and potatoes for something a bit heartier. The pizzas also earn rave reviews. On the way back from Lake Shasta Caverns, stop off at Moseley Family Cellars, a small winery that puts the state’s grapes to good use, and treat yourself to a nice glass of red, then dial it back a notch with a casual dinner. Less than 10 minutes away by car, Guadalajara delivers solid Mexican fare in a kaleidoscopically colorful dining room, where the waitstaff is super-friendly and the portions are huge and reasonably priced. The mole enchiladas, filled with shredded beef and served with rice, refried beans, a smattering of iceberg, and a wedge of tomato alongside a basket of complimentary chips and salsa, taste great after a day on the road—and run just $14.50.
ALL THE REST
In addition to the usual perks—pool, 24-hour fitness center, free WiFi—the Sheraton Redding is dog-friendly, providing beds and other amenities for an extra $45 per night. Mosaic restaurant even offers a special menu for your canine companion, with entrées like The Charlie, a burger patty with rice and diced apple, and the Max, grilled chicken with kale and carrots, if you choose to eat outside on the patio. Parking is $10 a day if you’re handling it yourself and $12 a day to valet. Tours of Turtle Bay that include meet-and-greets with animal ambassadors are available for $75 per person, but if that’s not in the budget, you can chat with a Turtle Bay trainer and one of their creatures for free on Friday and Saturday mornings in the hotel lobby. For your little ones who can’t get enough of the camping thing, Sheraton staff will set up both tent and sleeping bags in the comfort of your own room. A s’mores package is available for purchase, with marshmallows and all the fixins for roasting by the on-site fire pits. You can also rent kids’ fishing poles at the front desk.
RATES & DEETS
Starting at $119.
Sheraton Redding Hotel at the Sundial Bridge
820 Sundial Bridge Drive
Locals Know Best: San Antonio, Texas
Before the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there was San Antonio. Established in 1718 by the Spanish, it celebrates its 300th anniversary this year (2018). And this Texas city, which clocks in as the seventh largest (still true in 2021) in the United States, has a whole lot to celebrate. Institutions along Broadway Cultural Corridor, a two-mile stretch north of downtown, have invested over $500 million in refurbishments and upgrades over the past five years. Among them is the Witte Museum, which encompasses ten acres along the river and focuses equally on nature, science and culture, all with a Texas slant. A multi-million refurbishment that transformed a total of 174,000 square feet was completed in 2017. It’s all happened under the watch of Marise McDermott, the Witte’s president and CEO for 17 years. A culture journalist from New York turned culture executive in the Lone Star State—“Once you marry a Texan, you live in Texas,” she notes—she’s called San Antonio her home since 1986, with a six-year break in the middle. She appreciates its “slower pace” and cherishes the eleven oak trees in her yard. We checked in with her to get the lowdown on the changing landscape of one of America’s oldest cities. A CULTURAL AND CULINARY MELTING POT The McNay Art Museum (Florin Seitan/Dreamstime) So, about those museums. The Broadway Cultural Corridor is a two-mile stretch just north of downtown on that runs along the San Antonio River. It includes the McNay Art Museum, a modern art hub; San Antonio Botanical Gardens; the San Antonio Museum of Art, which focuses on classical art dating back to the ancients; a 50-acre zoo; and the DoSeum, a children’s museum. It's also home to the Witte, which is devoted to telling the state’s history, from prehistoric times to recent decades. Under Marise’s watch, the Witte, which has been around since 1926, has taken great strides in elevating San Antonio’s cultural status on the international stage, bringing exhibits that hit other big cities to its galleries. A 10,000 square foot gallery that was opened as part of the $100 million transformation in 2017 as part of the $100 renovation debuted with “Whales: Giants of the Deep,” a show from New Zealand that featured a 58-foot whale sperm whale skeleton. (As an interesting footnote, Marise notes that there are 21 whale species on the Gulf Coast.) Where museums go, restaurants follow. As the institutions invested money, a culinary renaissance flourished. Longstanding restaurants upped their game and new ones opened. Marise is no stranger to the rustic, casual Smoke Shack, not least because it’s located across from the Witte. Also, their barbecue holds its own in a culture that values its grilled meats. One of the city’s standouts is located a few miles away from the Corridor in the Pearl, a revitalized old brewery that’s now a destination for its creative independent businesses.La Gloria specializes in Oaxacan street food. Its fun décor—a garage door entrance, metal furniture, and other industrial-chic touches—signals its lighthearted vibe. There’s a dog-friendly porch where you might find Marise hanging out with her two greyhounds and indulging in the fish tacos, one of chef-owner Johnnie Hernandez’s signatures. But the highlight isn’t the fillings, it’s the fixings. “The sauces are the most important part. They give you all sorts of different ones and they’re all freshly done with herbs.” And one other important thing: “No matter what time of day it is, get the sangria.” For something a bit more formal, she recommends Bliss, which is about two miles south of downtown. They offer a dependably excellent branzino dish, Marise says, and expertly paired wines. You’ll need a reservation because there aren’t many tables. MISSIONS: ACCOMPLISHED Missions Espada in San Antonio (Amanda McCadams) Back when the Spanish arrived in the 1700s, Franciscan priests built complexes known as missions to establish their rule on the frontier and convert Native Americans. Each mission contained all the necessities of daily life, from chapels to farms and granaries to workshops and acequias, their water distribution system. Today, the missions stand as an example of how craftsmen blended European and local design elements. They’re such a bedrock of regional history that the Mission Reach, which embodies five missions on nearly eight riverside miles, was established as a World Heritage Sites in 2015. Now, as Marise says, “visitors are finally finding them.” A trip to Mission Reach, however, is hardly a stroll through time-tested ruins. Many are still living places with vibrant cultures. Taquerias that have been run by the same family for generations are dotted along the riverfront park, which has seen investments of about $300 million in the past five years for public art, plantings, and chutes for kayaks. The money has also gone to upkeep of the area’s wetland space, so expect to spot all kinds of wildlife. When her teenage grandsons come to town, Marise will rent bikes from Swell Cycle (now called San Antonio Bike Share), the local bike share company, and hit as many missions as they can in a day. Along the way, they stop at roadside vendors for raspa, flavor-infused ice served by the scoop in paper cups, and paletas, Mexican ice pops made with traditional flavors like hibiscus flower or tamarind. TAKE IT OUTSIDE Texas is sprawling, to be sure, but you don’t have to go far for a change of scenery. For a heavy dose of the outdoors, head ten miles outside San Antonio to Government Canyon State Natural Area, which encompasses rugged bike trails, about 40 miles of easier walking trails, and camping sites on 12,244 expansive acres. To Marise, being there “feels like you’re in Hill Country, in the middle of nowhere.” Marise likes to share the story of the time the Witte’s paleontologist uncovered prehistoric footprints of an Acrocanthosaurus there. Museum staff thought there might be 20 tracks, but this one scientist uncovered 300 footprints and molded some of them you can find on display at the museum. Today, when wandering Government Canyon, the only beast you have to look out for is coyotes. SHOP AROUND The Broadway Cultural Corridor is, to hear Marise tell it, a retail corridor as well. "I shop at all the museum stores," she says, noting that she's purchased most of her jewelry at art institutions' shops, especially the McNay, the modern art museum. The San Antonio Museum leans more toward ancient-themed item, and the stores at the Botanical Gardens offer a wide selection of books and gifts for kids as well as unique outdoorsy things like hemp-fiber picnic blankets, suitable for, well, an afternoon at the botanical gardens, or any laid-back sunny spot. But that's not to say you can't get distinctly San Antonio items elsewhere. There are fantastic boutiques in the Pearl District. She calls out Dos Carolinas, a shop known for bespoke guayaberas made with natural fibers. This Caribbean and South American style of men's summer shirts is distinct for its pleated tailoring. "Good ones are hard to come by," she says. Until, that is, you get to San Antonio.For more information on San Antonio visit their website.
Hotel We Love: Thunderbird Lodge, Redding, CA
Just a few hours north of Sacramento and a couple hours south of Oregon, tucked away among protected parkland, volcanoes, redwoods, and more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at, northeastern California’s Shasta Cascade region is a veritable haven for outdoor enthusiasts. But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the REI Co-Op to appreciate the area’s natural beauty—there’s a ton here for all skill levels to explore. With clean, freshly appointed rooms, reasonable rates, and a convenient central location, the Thunderbird Lodge in Redding, California, makes a great base of operations, especially if you’re planning to spend most of your time on the go. THE STORY This classic roadside motel was originally part of the mid-century Thunderbird chain; today, there are only a few left in existence, and they’re all independently owned and operated. An immigrant couple from Zambia bought Redding’s Thunderbird Lodge nearly 20 years ago, and their sons and daughters-in-law took over operations in 2010. (Thankfully, the vintage sign remains the same.) THE QUARTERS The property was completely remodeled in 2015, and its 58 guest rooms now feature contemporary dark-wood furniture, white linens with pops of color via accent pillows, throws, and bed skirts, and flat-screen TVs, refrigerators, and microwaves, all in various configurations. Book a king, queen, or double-queen room for a short stay; if you’re planning on sticking around a bit longer, consider a kitchenette room, which comes equipped with proper cooking facilities. The ground-floor accommodations are perfectly fine, but if you can handle the stairs, book a room one flight up, where the vaulted ceilings and exposed beams offer an airier, much more spacious feel. THE NEIGHBORHOOD Located right in the middle of downtown Redding, the Thunderbird is walking distance to landmarks like the Cascade Theatre, a circa 1935 nonprofit venue that hosts concerts, dance performances, and free summer kids’ movies; there’s also an array of independently owned restaurants, breweries, and shops within a few-block radius. The motel isn’t far from the freeway either, so it’s easy to get out of town to explore the region’s outdoor attractions—it’s a quick drive from downtown to Lake Shasta Caverns, Whiskeytown Lake, the immense, 602-foot-high Shasta Dam, and waterfalls upon waterfalls upon waterfalls. THE FOOD There are a few vending machines on the property, and the motel offers a basic continental breakfast, but other than that, you’ll have to look elsewhere for sustenance. Luckily, there are some solid options nearby. For a no-frills, pre-hike diner meal, Corbett’s should do the trick—it’s right across the street and opens at 7:00 a.m., so you can fuel up and be on the trail nice and early. The motorcycle-themed Coffee Bar is a little further, but it’s worth the walk for the consciously sourced caffeine and tidy selection of pastries and small bites. (You’re in California, after all, so be sure to try the avocado toast.) Open only for lunch, Wilda’s Grill is infamous for its Buddha bowl, a heaping helping of beans, rice, and protein under a shower of avocado, cilantro, and shredded cabbage, a steal at $7.50. With a cheap lunch, you can treat yourself to a fancier dinner, and Moonstone Bistro serves pretty plates of seasonal, organic fare at the price point to match. Grab a table in the intimate, dimly lit dining room or take seat on the patio (the strip-mall view is terrible, but on a nice evening, the fresh air is worth the sacrifice), have a cocktail and a few appetizers, and don't pass on the bread plate. To keep things casual, beer-drinkers would do well to commandeer a spot at the bar at the family-owned Woody’s Brewing Co., order a round of tater tots—or, as my bartender more accurately described them, fried mashed-potato balls—loaded with blue cheese and bacon, and enjoy with a pint of microbrew. Final Draft Brewing Company is another local favorite within walking distance. Finally, awesomely, there’s a branch of Heavenly Donuts, a mini-chain with six locations in the western United States, just two doors down from the Thunderbird. The drive-thru window is open 24 hours, and they serve a ridiculously good strawberry-jelly donut. Consider yourself warned. ALL THE REST The Thunderbird is Fido-friendly, with a charge of $15 per pet per night. Parking is included with the room rate, but the space is tight and can be tough to navigate, especially on weekends. WiFi and continental breakfast are also free, and there’s a small pool on the premises that’s clean and well-maintained. RATES & DEETS Starting at $65. Thunderbird Lodge1350 Pine StreetRedding, CA530.243.5422thunderbirdlodgeredding.com
#BTReads: ‘Eating My Way Through Italy’
Say the word travel. If the first image that comes to mind is a table exquisitely set with heaping bowls of pasta, bottles of wine, and, ideally, a field of cornflowers in the distance, then Elizabeth Minchilli’s Eating My Way Through Italy: Heading Off the Main Roads to Discover the Hidden Treasures of the Italian Table may be the book you’ve been waiting for all your life. ENJOY AN ENTHRALLING FOOD MEMOIR - PLUS RECIPES! (Ermess/Dreamstime) Elizabeth Minchilli is perhaps the only food writer working today who could have pulled off this miraculous hybrid, a book that belongs in your carry-on the next time you fly to Italy, and on your kitchen shelf the next time you want to whip up an authentic taste of, say, Umbria (you must try the white bean soup recipe in the chapter on olive oil). Because Minchilli has spent decades studying, celebrating, and writing about the food cultures of the Italian peninsula, most recently in her masterful memoir-cookbook Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City, and on her website elizabethminchilli.com and bestselling app Eat Italy, she brings a depth of experience, wit, and contagious enthusiasm to each chapter. Open Eating My Way Through Italy to any page and dive into an anecdote, recipe, or travel suggestion and you know you are in the hands of a writer who starts with your best interest at heart, a writer who wants to educate you even as she enthralls you, and, in a media world increasingly dominated by food writers who seek to amass an audience before they actually have anything remotely interesting to say, a writer who knows her subject so deeply and brings such love to her work, you simply can’t stop reading. TRAVEL ACROSS ITALY IN 289 PAGES (Giuseppemasci/Dreamstime) I confess, I tend to read travel and food books (and hybrids like this one) with an eye toward my favorite destinations or foods, so I went straight to “A Crash Course in Parmigiano Reggiano,” in which Minchilli sorts out the rules under which the cheese is made, plus tips for how to buy the best and use it well. Spoiler alert: Never, ever, buy cheese labeled “parmesan.” For more, you’ll have to read the book. From Parmigiano, I moved right to “A Sense of Place and a Bowl of Farinata,” which not only delves deeply into the Tuscan polenta-beans-and-kale recipe but also divulges locals-only secrets of my favorite Italian city, Florence, from the point of view of a lifelong Roman (Minchilli lives in a rooftop apartment in Rome), which, frankly, is a little bit like a native New Yorker explaining how much they’ve genuinely come to appreciate Boston. (Toldiu74/Dreamstime) Basically, Eating My Way Through Italy allows you to drop in on Italy’s many culinary regions. We Americans often forget that what we think of as the country of “Italy” is a relatively new, 19th-century entity, and its centuries-old regions, from Emilia-Romagna in the north to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, encompass a variety of flavors, terroir, dialects, architecture, and style that cannot possibly be reduced to a single adjective, no matter how alluring the word Italian may sound. With Eating Rome and Eating My Way Through Italy on our nightstands, kitchen counters, or in our carry-ons, Budget Travelers will always be just steps away from an authentic Italian feast. What a gift Elizabeth Minchilli has given us.
Hotel We Love: Jupiter Hotel, Portland, OR
Log cabins are to the Pacific Northwest what skyscrapers are to Manhattan and adobe houses are to Arizona, but if you think a hotel in the center of Portland, Oregon, is gonna offer classic log-cabin lodgings, think again. The city known for its creativity and eccentricity has accommodations that are true to form, and Jupiter Hotel is perhaps the most representative of Portland's originality and zany energy. THE STORY Originally opened in 1964 as a motor lodge, the building was bought in 2004 and spruced up in a style that hints at a log cabin motif but also flies in the face of it, thanks to rooms appointed with creative, modern furniture. With all the rooms' entrances lined up along outdoor corridors, it has a distinctive retro charm, but that's where the vintage element ends. The sweeping, airy window-lined lobby doubles as a 24-hour gallery, with works by local artists changing every two months. If your visit falls on a first Friday of the month, partake in the neighborhood's art walk-around, when the hotel and many other nearby venues offer free wine and bites. THE QUARTERS In standard Portland fashion, creativity reigns supreme. The rooms have an underlying Scandinavian minimalism about them, all clean lines and bright colors down to the turquoise remote control, but a Pop Art vibrancy ensures that a stay here is an engaging affair. For instance, giant chalkboards hang from the doors, with signs encouraging you scribble a masterpiece and post a shot of it on Instagram. Just don't forget to tag it: #jupiterhotel. Sleep options include one bed and two, and each of the 81 rooms is adorned with its own unique, colorful mural. And in a cute nod to Portland's all-inclusive attitude, there's a copy of The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide To Personal Freedom, a treatise on creativity and happiness based on ancient wisdom, in the bedside nightstand's drawer. THE NEIGHBORHOOD The hotel is located in what's locally known as LoBu (shorthand for Lower Burnside) and more technically referred to as Central Eastside. It's something of a destination for foodie types, as it's home to the celebrated Le Pigeon, which offers French-minded fancy food in a decidedly informal setting. It's the flagship restaurant from two-time James Beard Award-winner Gabriel Rucker, who opened Canard, an equally French-inspired cafe-style eatery, right next door to Le Pigeon in April. The Jupiter's sister property, Jupiter NEXT, which opened in June, features Hey Love, a casual all-day/late-night restaurant/bar/lounge specializing in warm-weather-inspired food. And for quick convenience, Plaid Pantry is just three blocks away. Vintage shops and a handful of design-minded businesses also keep the neighborhood buzzing. THE FOOD The hotel doesn't have its own eatery, but it sits adjacent to Doug Fir Lounge, a bar/restaurant/music-venue hybrid that's open from 7:00 a.m. until "late," with a 3:00 p.m. happy hour in between and live music every night in the downstairs performance space. (Concerts are ticketed.) The restaurant dishes out elevated pub fare made with seasonal ingredients as well as craft beer and cocktails. Call in an order for takeout and relax in your room, or stick around and mingle with locals, as it's a popular hangout with a lively patio scene. It's worth noting that there's a delightfully stylish, slightly kitschy log-cabin-meets-lounge look to the place. Expansive logs make up the bar-top, the walls and even some of the furniture. ALL THE REST Of the hotel's 81 rooms situated in several sprawling buildings, 41 are located on the "chill side," out of earshot of Doug Fir's many patio revelers. Those rooms fetch a slightly higher rate than the bar-side rooms, so be sure to note your preference when making reservations. Also, to help you feel like a local during your stay, you can rent one of the hotel's bicycles and see the city on two wheels, alongside the many, many other urban bikers occupying the streets. Rates are $35 per day or $10 an hour. RATES & DEETS Starting at $139 for the bar-side rooms and $149 for the chill-side rooms. Jupiter Hotel500 E. Burnside Ave.Portland, OR 97214(503) 230-9200 / jupiterhotel.com