Archive for the ‘Diamond Ratings’ Category

Julie HallORLANDO, Fla. (April 21, 2016) – As families across the country eagerly await the end of school and the beginning of summer, millions of Americans are making plans to travel with loved ones this year. According to a recent AAA survey, more than one-third of Americans (35 percent) are planning to take a family vacation of 50 miles or more away from home involving two or more immediate family members in the next 12 months.

AAA estimates that U.S. drivers have saved nearly $12 billion on gas so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, and drivers this summer should pay the lowest gas prices in 12 years. These lower gas prices have helped motivate Americans to drive at record levels, and prompted many families to take road trips this year. Fifty-five percent of Americans say they are more likely to take a road trip this year due to lower gas prices.

Additional Resources

Road trips (69 percent), national parks (49 percent) and theme parks (42 percent) are the most popular types of vacations for families planning to travel in the next year. Vacations to international destinations (26 percent) and cruises (19 percent) round out the top five most popular vacation options for traveling families.

“Two-thirds of Americans say spending quality time as a family is the most important part of taking a family vacation,” said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior vice president of Travel and Publishing. “Whether it’s a cross-country road trip or a dream vacation to a far-off destination, travel offers busy families an excellent opportunity to share experiences and connect with each other in meaningful ways.”

AAA Travel experts offer tips for families planning vacations this year:

  • Road Trips: AAA recommends travelers map out a route in advance to make the most of their road trip. Drivers should plan frequent stops, about every 100 miles or two hours, to remain alert. Tools such as AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, in desktop and app versions, can help families find AAA Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, gas prices and plan fun stops along the way.
  • National Parks: The National Park Service celebrates its centennial anniversary in 2016, making it a great year for travelers to discover the parks. The most popular national parks, such as Great Smoky Mountains, Grand Canyon and Yosemite, may reach capacity during peak travel times, so plan ahead. For families traveling on a budget, national parks are waiving entrance fees this year April 16-24, Aug. 25-28, Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.
  • Theme Parks: Theme parks in Orlando and Southern California are expected to continue growing in popularity with families this summer, as new attractions debut at theme parks coast-to-coast. For families with flexible travel schedules, early May and September are great times to visit theme parks, when travelers can experience lighter crowds and shorter lines.
  • International Vacations: Favorable exchange rates and discounted pricing are helping many families plan trips to international destinations this year. The current strength of the dollar makes international travel especially affordable right now and Americans will get more for their money when visiting destinations around the world.
  • Cruises: Cruises offer a variety of activities for all ages, plus children’s programs that give parents a chance to relax and unwind. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) forecasts 24 million vacationers will cruise the world’s waterways in 2016, one million more than last year. Experienced travel agents can help first-time cruisers identify the cruise line, ship and itinerary that best suits their family.

AAA’s professional hotel inspectors, who evaluate nearly 28,000 hotels across North America using detailed, published guidelines, have identified a few of their top picks for family-friendly Diamond Rated hotels:

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Negril, Jamaica – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: Marvelous for both families and adults, this lovely all-inclusive is well laid out with an amazing water park offering refreshing fun for all ages. There is an Xbox play lounge, sailing lessons for children and adults and a comprehensive kid’s camp area for all ages.

Great Wolf Lodge, Centralia, Wash. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: From splashing in the water park, gaming in the arcade, playing a game of checkers in the lobby, to any number of other seasonal adventures, this hotel is a fantastic place for the entire family. A nice selection of guest rooms is available, including some with bunk beds and a popular kids’ cabin.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort, Winter Haven, Fla. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: Geared toward children, this LEGOLAND resort features pirate, adventure and kingdom themed rooms. Kids have a bunk bed area while adults can relax in their own space. Set on Lake Eloise, there are boardwalks with views of wildlife, a fire pit to relax beside at night, a LEGO club room with movies, a splash pad by the expansive swimming pool and even a Master LEGO builder’s workshop with classes.

Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, East Harwich, Mass. – Four Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: This waterfront resort is the perfect family-friendly destination, with an outdoor amphitheater and a pirate-themed interactive water playground with treasure chests, fountains and a pirate ship with slides and swinging ropes. The high-tech children’s center features a 135-inch HD screen for Wii, PlayStation and Xbox gaming. Activities include dive-in movies, teen gaming nights and lessons in swimming, sailing and tennis. An ice cream truck with complimentary treats makes special appearances throughout the property in summer.

Westgate Smoky Mountain Resort & Spa, Gatlinburg, Tenn. – Three Diamond

AAA Inspector Notes: The resort features cabin-style duplexes, plus condos that can be expanded via connecting doors, perfect for large families. Many units have fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. Family-friendly facilities include an infinity pool and nature trails that lead from the property into the densely wooded forest of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Before setting out on a family vacation, download the free AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Travelers can use the app to map a route, find the lowest gas prices, access exclusive member discounts, find more than 58,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, request AAA roadside assistance and more. For in-person travel planning, seek the expert advice of a trusted travel advisor, who can provide personalized service and first-hand destination knowledge to create a memorable family vacation. For more information and to begin planning a vacation, visit AAA.com/Travel.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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About AAA’s Family Travel Survey

This report presents the findings of a telephone survey administered as part of global market research company ORC International’s weekly CARAVAN® omnibus surveys conducted among two national probability samples (landline only and cell phone), which, when combined, consists of 1,002 adults living in the continental United States. Interviewing was conducted March 17-20, 2016. This study has an average statistical error of ±3.6% at the 95% confidence level for US adults. That means there is a 95% chance that the results found in this study are within ±3.6% of the results that would be found if all US adults living in private households in the continental United States were interviewed using the research methodology and questionnaire used in this study. The actual statistical error depends on the number of respondents to each question and on the observed proportions.

Julie HallEvolving dining trends influence update to Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines used by AAA inspectors

ORLANDO, Fla. (March 30, 2016) – AAA recently updated its restaurant Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines, the blueprint AAA inspectors use to evaluate 30,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated restaurants throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. The guidelines, last updated in 2009, reflect changing industry trends, incorporating input from AAA’s hotel and restaurant inspectors, AAA members and industry professionals.

As an example of change reflected in the revised guidelines, AAA’s Director of Content Development Michael Petrone cites growing consumer interest in food-related components of the dining experience. “Diners are more educated than ever before about food trends, preparation styles and ingredient sourcing. They are eager to interact with knowledgeable wait staff and culinary experts, learning how dishes are prepared and where ingredients originate. As the focus continues to shift in this direction, formalities such as opulent décor and place settings are becoming less important.” In response to this shift and feedback gathered from AAA members, food-related attributes now account for 50 percent of a restaurant’s Diamond Rating.

Periodic adjustments to the guidelines are also prompted by a trickle-down effect, as offerings previously specific to higher-rated restaurants have become more prevalent. For example, chef’s tasting menus and suggested food and beverage pairings are now introduced at the Three and Four Diamond Rating levels. Menu ingredients are evolving as well, increasing access to once-rare items such as farm-branded products, ancient grains, locally sourced ingredients and artisan creations.

As the restaurant industry continues to change, AAA inspectors continually note the newest dining and hospitality trends. The industry’s most talented chefs, for example, are expanding beyond the fine-dining world to spearhead new fast-casual chains, a domain typically reserved for fast-food restaurants. Now consumers can find numerous gastropubs and micro-distilleries serving high-quality food, healthfully prepared vegetables and small portions for sharing. With improved mobile options for reservations, ordering and payment, technology is also gaining an increasing presence in the food service experience.

“The updated guidelines reinforce AAA’s longstanding pledge to provide our members with reliable travel information through on-site inspections and accurate ratings for the restaurants we approve,” said Petrone.  “We regularly evaluate and update the guidelines to ensure they remain accurate and relevant to the travel and dining needs of AAA’s more than 56 million members.”

The assignment of a rating of One to Five Diamonds marks the completion of a successful on-site evaluation by a professional AAA inspector. The first step is to meet the basic cleanliness, comfort and hospitality requirements to become AAA Approved. Consumers can find Diamond Rated restaurants in the free AAA Mobile app, online TripTik Travel Planner and regional TourBook guides available at AAA offices.

About AAA Inspections

For 80 years, AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property evaluations. AAA offers the only rating system using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. With a far greater inventory than any other rating entity, AAA’s rating system covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 56 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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Julie HallLeading-edge restaurants impress knowledgeable guests with innovative menus and enticing surroundings

ORLANDO, Fla. (February 5, 2016) – Just in time for Valentine’s Day celebrations, AAA has unveiled 64 restaurants that have earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2016 Five Diamond Award® list. This exclusive group represents just 0.2 percent of the more than 30,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated restaurants. Following rigorous evaluations from AAA’s professional inspectors, the following three restaurants were added as first-time Five Diamond honorees.

Additional Resources

Gabriel Kreuther – New York, N.Y.

AAA Inspector Notes: Chef Gabriel Kreuther leads this modern, yet sophisticated fine-dining restaurant.

A diverse menu that leans on Kreuther’s French-Germanic roots includes a signature sturgeon sauerkraut tart, foie gras terrine and langoustine tartare. Even basic items such as Kugelhoph bread with soft white cheese and chives are astonishing. Much more than a meal, a visit here is a full-blown sensory event full of unexpected twists and turns. The experience provides a kind of culinary magic many aim to achieve, but few accomplish. Passion and artistry are displayed from start to finish.

TÈ – Leola, Pa.

AAA Inspector Notes: This one-of-a-kind dining experience is truly divine. Guests choose from either a five- or nine-course prix fixe menu of inspiring Italian cuisine. Extras that further enhance the experience include a selection of artisanal cheeses from a roving cart, expert wine pairings and multiple chef accoutrements between courses. A highly refined staff pampers guests and assists with their every need while artfully timing each delectable dish for a relaxing and memorable meal.

The Georgian Room – Sea Island, Ga.

AAA Inspector Notes: Diners should prepare for an experience like none other when stepping through the doors of The Georgian Room. Gorgeous antique gold and crystal chandeliers, grand molded stone columns, majestic arches and a stately fireplace create an impressive backdrop for the equally magnificent menu. A highly trained staff provides unparalleled tableside service and impressive knowledge of New Southern cuisine and world-class wine. The menu changes seasonally and offers freshly sourced wellness selections such as milk-poached organic hen breast with mushroom porridge and farm egg. Save room for the decadent crème brûlée bread pudding soufflé, one of the restaurant’s highly touted dessert offerings.

Collectively visiting more than 1,100 hotels and restaurants weekly, AAA inspectors have an unmatched opportunity to observe emerging dining trends. “Contemporary restaurant enthusiasts are more educated than ever about food trends, preparation techniques and ingredient sourcing, and less interested in formalities such as proper attire and opulent décor. This raises the bar for today’s top chefs who attempt to achieve perfection with each offering. Diners want to learn about unfamiliar ingredients, discuss their selections with wait staff and interact with culinary experts through tastings, tours and chef’s table dining experiences,” said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Inspections & Diamond Ratings. “At the Five Diamond level, one can expect a broad sensory-based experience including flavor, visual appeal, aroma and texture along with personalized service and ambient, ultra-comfortable surroundings designed to engage and impress even the most experienced patron.”

Of note among the new additions is Georgia’s only Five Diamond hotel and restaurant pairing. Sea Island’s The Georgian Room is located in The Cloister, a new Five Diamond hotel honoree for 2016. The addition of TÈ in Leola marks Pennsylvania’s second Five Diamond restaurant. Additionally, The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room in Washington, Va., remains the longest tenured Five Diamond restaurant, the only one to maintain the coveted status for 28 consecutive years, since 1988.

“Attaining the Five Diamond Rating is an impressive accomplishment and a point of great pride for these top restaurants,” said Petrone. “Five Diamond establishments stand apart by redefining personalized service, using creativity to enhance guest comfort and provide memorable experiences.” Candidates for the rating undergo multiple unannounced evaluations and a final decision by a panel of experts. Using guidelines weighted by member priorities, inspectors meticulously evaluate food quality, guest services and physical attributes to assess the level of competence, refinement and hospitality and assign a rating of One to Five Diamonds.

For more information about Diamond Ratings and the complete lists of Four and Five Diamond restaurants, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.

About AAA Inspections

For 80 years, AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property evaluations. AAA offers the only rating system using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. With a far greater inventory than any other rating entity, AAA’s rating system covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Travelers can find Diamond Rated establishments and inspector insight in AAA’s trip planning products: the AAA Mobile® app, the online  TripTik® Travel Planner mapping and routing tool, searchable online Travel Guides and AAA TourBook® guides available to members at AAA/CAA offices.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Restaurant Images

Gabriel Kreuther

(Photo Credit: Paul Wagtouicz)

GABRIEL KREUTHER sturgeon and sauerkraut tart GABRIEL KREUTHER langoustine tartar GABRIEL KREUTHER interior

TE

(Photo Credit: Preston Sean Photography)

TE_night shot TE_baby octopus

The Georgian Room

(Photo Credit: Sea Island)

The Georgian Room_interior2 The Georgian Room_interior1

The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room

(Photo Credit: Gordon Beall)

The Inn at LW Dining Room_kitchen The Inn at LW Dining Room_interior

 

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Julie HallUltra-luxury accommodations use creativity and technological conveniences to deliver one-of-a-kind services and amenities

Additional Resources

ORLANDO, Fla. (January 15, 2016) – AAA has unveiled 118 hotels that have earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2016 Five Diamond Award® list. This exclusive group represents just 0.4 percent of the nearly 28,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels. Following rigorous evaluations from AAA’s professional inspectors, the following six hotels were added as first-time Five Diamond honorees.

Hotel Mousai – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

AAA Inspector Notes: This chic hotel, exclusively for adults, offers the ultimate in contemporary design in its rooms and public areas. Distinctive personal attention includes a mid-day “siesta” hammock service. Using an iPad to control the electric curtains, guests enjoy stunning hilltop views that offer both jungle and seaside vistas. Exclusive amenities include a rooftop pool, world-class spa and a gym with yoga room and resident DJ.

Park Hyatt New York – New York, N.Y.

AAA Inspector Notes: An ultra-refined, modernist style greets guests at this gleaming glass jewel in the center of Midtown. The spacious rooms feature a custom designed beverage center and a media hub integrated with curated art and designer furnishings, complemented by fine linens, aromatic scents and an oversized soaking tub. Facilities include an indoor pool and state-of-the-art 1,845-square-foot fitness center. This pet-friendly property donates all pet fees to animal charities.

St. Regis Deer Valley – Park City, Utah

AAA Inspector Notes: Located on a ski run with true slope-side ski-in/ski-out access, the guest experience begins with a peaceful funicular tram ride up the mountain, offering stunning picture-postcard views. The luxurious lobby, split-level infinity pool and convenient ski beach for downhill rest breaks invite total relaxation. The rooms, baths and one- to four-bedroom condominiums are luxuriously appointed. Refreshments include a daily afternoon iced tea social, nightly s’mores for the kids and a dramatic evening Champagne sabering for adults by the fire pits.

The Cloister – Sea Island, Ga.

AAA Inspector Notes: This exclusive luxury resort features five miles of private beach, championship sports and recreation, lush gardens and a seaside spa. Rooms are large, luxurious and uniquely designed. Relax in an overstuffed chair and treat your feet to the caress of handmade Turkish rugs after a full day of boating, tennis, squash or your favorite beach activity.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain – Marana, Ariz.

AAA Inspector Notes: Nestled into the Tortolita Mountains, this elegant resort features rooms with expansive views and luxurious baths as well as world-class golf facilities. Influenced by the traditions of the Sonoran desert, the spa features ancient curative rituals and eco-holistic therapies, a treat for guests who wish to be pampered. Enjoy an indoor-outdoor fitness center, complete with a private fireplace and courtyard, and mountain-view serenity pool terrace surrounded by ancient Native American carvings in nearby rocks.

Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto – Toronto, Ontario

AAA Inspector Notes: Set in the heart of the city’s financial district, this stunning showpiece soars high in the sky. Floor-to-ceiling windows offer guests remarkable city views. Luxury is standard as each room features Bellino fine linens with an extensive pillow menu, a European-style wet bar with a Nespresso machine and a stone-finished bathroom with a deep soaking tub, rain shower and in-mirror TV. Business features include personalized stationery, business cards, and an in-room fax machine and computer, on request.

AAA inspectors have an unmatched first-person, on-site view of emerging hospitality trends. “At the Five Diamond level, we’re seeing hotels using new technology to expand the scope and depth of the traditional hallmarks of ultra-luxury accommodations: indulgent pampering and highly personalized service,” said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Inspections & Diamond Ratings. “For example, using virtual touchpoints such as text messaging, social media and apps, hotels reach out to guests before, during and after their stay. These tools allow guests to interact at their own convenience to further personalize their stay. They can reserve special services like in-room spa treatments, check in and out, maintain their guest folios and share experiences and photos with other travelers.”

Of note among the new additions to the list are three properties that are the only Five Diamond hotels in exclusive destination areas: Marana, Ariz.; Sea Island, Ga. and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. New York City and Toronto continue to add ultra-luxury accommodations, gaining their ninth and fourth Five Diamond hotels, respectively. Additionally, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., remains the only hotel that has maintained the Five Diamond Rating for 40 consecutive years – since 1976 when AAA first introduced the Diamond Ratings for accommodations.

“Attaining the Five Diamond Rating is an impressive accomplishment and a point of great pride for these top hotels,” said Petrone. “Five Diamond establishments stand apart by redefining personalized service, using creativity to enhance guest comfort and providing memorable experiences.” Candidates for the rating undergo multiple unannounced evaluations and a final decision by a panel of experts. Using guidelines weighted by member priorities, inspectors meticulously evaluate guest services and physical attributes to assess the level of competence, refinement and hospitality and assign a corresponding rating of One to Five Diamonds.

For more information about Diamond Ratings and the complete lists of Four and Five Diamond hotels, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.

About AAA Inspections

For 80 years, AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property evaluations. AAA offers the only rating system using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. With a far greater inventory than any other rating entity, AAA’s rating system covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Travelers can find Diamond Rated establishments and inspector insight in AAA’s trip planning products: the AAA Mobile® app, the online  TripTik® Travel Planner mapping and routing tool, searchable online Travel Guides and AAA TourBook® guides available to members at AAA/CAA offices.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 55 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Images provided for media download and use with the above release.
Additional photos available upon request.

 

Hotel Images

Hotel Mousai – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

(Photo Credit: Hotel Mousai)
Hotel-Mousai_therooftop-arcos Hotel-Mousai_suite Hotel-Mousai_suite-balcony

Park Hyatt New York – New York, N.Y.

(Photo Credit: Park Hyatt New York)
Park-Hyatt-New-York_pool_August  

St. Regis Deer Valley – Park City, Utah

(Photo Credit: The St. Regis Deer Valley)
St-Regis-Deer-Valley_outside-pool St-Regis-Deer-Valley_lobby St-Regis-Deer-Valley_luxury-suite-living-room

The Cloister – Sea Island, Ga.

(Photo Credit: Sea Island)
The-Cloister_suite-w-balcony The-Cloister_Black-Banks-Terrace-from-dock 

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain – Marana, Ariz.

(Photo Credit: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain)
The-Ritz-Carlton-Dove-Mountain_suite The-Ritz-Carlton-Dove-Mountain_lobby The-Ritz-Carlton-Dove-Mountain_spa-pool

Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto – Toronto, Ontario

(Photo Credit: Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto)
Trump-International-Hotel-and-Tower-Toronto_Huber Trump-International-Hotel-and-Tower_Huber-Grand-Foyer Trump-International-Hotel-and-Tower-Toronto_bath

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(Photo Credit: The Broadmoor)
The Broadmoor The-Broadmoor_aerial 

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JulieHallUltra-luxury establishments redefine personalized service with new technology and custom experiences

ORLANDO, Fla., (Jan. 16, 2015) – AAA has unveiled 121 hotels and 63 restaurants that have earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2015 Five Diamond Award lists. This exclusive group represents just 0.3 percent of the more than 58,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants.

Additional Resources

AAA inspectors collectively visit approximately 1,200 hotels and restaurants each week, allowing them to identify emerging trends in the industry. “At the ultra-luxury level we’re seeing an increasing number of hotels offering guests the choice of high-end service by white glove or touch screen — in person or electronically,” said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Inspections & Diamond Ratings. “They’re complementing personal delivery with technology options such as in-room iPads and TV menus for ordering and scheduling services, apps for accessing newspapers and local reservations, mobile check-in and text alerts when their room is ready. Some Five Diamond hotels even place a TV within the bathroom mirror to complete guests’ high-tech stay.”

Of note among the new additions to the 2015 list is the Orlando area’s only Five Diamond hotel, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort, marked by numerous upscale service options. Each room is equipped with an iPad that serves as the radio, resort map, event guide and newspaper, as well as a Bose Bluetooth speaker system and high-tech keypads that control lighting, air temperature and even guests’ request for privacy. For additional custom luxury, guests can create their own fragrance at the spa’s Aroma Design Bar. At the Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto, the guest room drapes, bedside lighting and air-conditioning system are all electronically controlled by the guest. In-room iPads are available to order room service, call housekeeping or contact the 24-hour concierge.

The best high-end restaurants are fast becoming international destinations by providing a unique dining experience in which the selection and enjoyment of exceptional food is also an educational event. Typically, Five Diamond restaurants are ahead of trends in farm-to-table and super-local food sourcing.  Directed by artistic whims, the chef creates solid, lifelong relationships with farmers, purveyors and producers who can deliver the finest ingredients, whether it’s coffee, olive oil or artisan cheeses.

At the Inn at Little Washington Dining Room in Washington, Va., for example, AAA’s longest tenured Five Diamond restaurant, Chef Patrick O’Connell uses as many local ingredients and foods as possible, along with bounty from his own garden, applying masterful techniques to create captivating results. At Eleven Madison Park in New York City, diners are invited to build their dinner around specific ingredients instead of predetermined recipes. But it’s the service experience that shines brightest as guests are pampered in a manner that is intimate yet relaxed. With personalized service or surprising insight, each staff member adds a special touch to the guest’s dining experience, creating a powerful, memorable event.

New Five Diamond Hotels (8):

Four Seasons Hotel Denver – Denver, Colo.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort – Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Grand Luxxe – Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
One&Only Palmilla – San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico
Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa – Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Shangri-La Hotel – Toronto, Ontario
The Langham, Chicago – Chicago, Ill.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

New Five Diamond Restaurants (6):

Le Chique – Puerto Morelos, Mexico
Orchids at Palm Court – Cincinnati, Ohio
Palme d’Or – Coral Gables, Fla.
Passion by Martin Berasategui – Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
Saison – San Francisco, Calif.
Twist – Las Vegas, Nev.

“Attaining the Five Diamond Rating is an impressive accomplishment and a point of great pride for these top hotels and restaurants,” said Petrone. “Five Diamond establishments stand apart by redefining personalized service, using creativity to enhance guest comfort and providing memorable experiences.” Candidates for the rating undergo multiple unannounced evaluations and a final decision by a panel of experts. Inspectors meticulously evaluate guest services and physical attributes, closely examining the level of competence, refinement and hospitality, from reservations to checkout for hotels and from seating to presentation for restaurants.

For more information about Diamond Ratings and the complete Five Diamond hotel and restaurant lists, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.

About AAA Inspections

For 79 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections. AAA offers the only rating system using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. With a far greater inventory than any other rating entity, AAA’s rating system covers the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Travelers can find Diamond Rated establishments and inspector insight in AAA trip planning products: the AAA Mobile® app for tablets and smartphones, the desktop and mobile versions of the TripTik® Travel Planner  online mapping and routing tool, searchable Travel Guides on AAA.com and AAA TourBook® guides available to members at AAA/CAA offices.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

 

Images provided for media download and use with the above release.
Additional photos available upon request.

 

Hotel Images

Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa – Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

 

Four Seasons Hotel Denver – Denver, Colo.

 

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort – Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

 

The Langham, Chicago – Chicago, Ill.

 

Shangri-La Hotel – Toronto, Ontario

 

The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman – Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

 

One&Only Palmilla – San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico

 

Grand Luxxe – Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico

 

Restaurant Images

Saison – San Francisco, Calif.

 

Palme d’Or – Coral Gables, Fla.

 

Twist – Las Vegas, Nev.

 

Orchids at Palm Court – Cincinnati, Ohio

 

Passion by Martin Berasategui – Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

 

Le Chique – Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Heather HunterCozy cafes and simple eateries coast to coast beckon locals and travelers with down-home favorites like pot pies and skillet scrambles 

ORLANDO, Fla., (Feb. 4, 2014) Some of the most exciting aspects of travel are seeing new sights, experiencing different cultures and sampling unfamiliar cuisines. Yet every now and then, even the most die-hard road warrior can become a bit homesick. That’s when just the sight and smells of favorite dishes can make everything seem much, much better.  AAA inspectors, who each year experience hundreds of restaurants, share 10 of their favorite places to enjoy a taste of home.

Travelers can read about nearly 70 AAA Inspector Picks for Favorite Comfort Food Restaurants on the AAA TravelViews blog, and explore thousands of additional restaurants in the AAA.com Travel Guides.

American Flatbread, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Pizza, Burlington, Vt.

Red and white checkered table cloths. Warmth emanating from the wood-fired earthen oven in the corner of the dining room. This is where comfort comes to relax. Ask for a table near the kitchen and watch as flatbread pizzas are expertly prepared in a mesmerizing show. Ingredients are seasonal, organic and locally grown, a true reflection of many Vermonters’ healthy lifestyle. It’s a block from the Flynn Theater, perfect for before a show.

Angie’s Waterloo, AAA/CAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Canadian, Waterloo, Ontario

A great place to enjoy real country hospitality and tasty home-style fare. A local favorite since 1962, the restaurant covers its walls with newspaper clippings of local events and family photos. The scent of fresh baked pies, breads and cookies rouses one’s appetite. The country breakfasts, fish and chips and daily specials make this multi-generational institution a tradition for many.

Big Pink, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Miami Beach, Fla.

“Real Food for Real People…Really” is the motto here, a fixture on Miami Beach since 1996. Everything on the menu is super-sized, so make room in your refrigerator for leftovers.  Try the Big Pink TV dinner daily special, the Thanksgiving on a roll or the mouthwatering foot-long hot dog made with Kobe beef. The tables are chock-a-block close, so get cozy and don’t be surprised if a neighboring diner asks for a smidgen of your peanut butter s’mores. A great place to people watch, especially in the early morning hours after a long night out.

Bryce Canyon Pines Restaurant, AAA Two Diamond, Family Dining/American, Bryce Canyon City, Utah

For over 50 years, travelers have been waking up to traditional, country-style breakfasts in front of an old wood stove at this rustic cottage complex. Primarily known for its homemade soups and pies, the daily menu offers generous portions of basic American fare like cowboy steaks, fresh local trout and chicken fried steak. Locals swear by a rule to eat dessert first — and why not with one of the largest selections of homemade pie around!

Cap City Fine Diner & Bar, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Comfort Food, Gahanna, Ohio

This smartly-styled retro diner, appointed with mosaic tile floors, futuristic light fixtures and stainless steel walls, is an excellent place for generous portions of comfort foods. There are usually several soups available, but one can always expect steak and bean chili. A good choice for a hearty entrée is the meatloaf stack, served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, onion rings and barbecued gravy. Another delicious option is the Southern fried chicken. Worthy desserts include the “Seriously Big Chocolate Cake” and “24K Carrot Cake.”

Georgia Brown’s, AAA Three Diamond, Casual Dining/Regional American, Washington, D.C.

This stylish restaurant serves up contemporary Southern cooking, with an emphasis on the Low Country of South Carolina, right in the heart of the city.  The menu boasts down-home dishes like buttermilk fried chicken, country-fried meatloaf, sour mash pork chops, cornmeal-fried catfish and twice-cooked pork shank with sweet potato cheese grits. Enjoy live jazz every Wednesday night, “’Cause it’s been said that she knocks ’em dead … ooooh sweet Georgia Brown!” as the song lyrics say. Valet parking available for dinner only.

La Palma Chicken Pie Shop & Restaurant, AAA One Diamond, Family Dining/American, Anaheim, Calif.

As you enter the front door the aroma of fresh-baked pies quickly alerts your senses to the down-home cooking you are about to enjoy. Start with piping hot chicken noodle soup or chicken pie. Fried chicken is always a good bet but, whatever you choose, don’t leave without a slice of — you guessed it — homemade fruit pie.  Decorative roosters and hens adorn every inch of free space. Seating includes tables and benches, with plenty of paper napkins to help wipe the deliciousness off your face.

The Meatball Shop, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/ Italian Comfort Food, New York, N.Y.

What could be more comforting than a meatball? This popular little place in Greenwich Village serves up some of the best, whether it is straight ground beef, spicy pork, chicken or even veggie topped with tomato sauce, mushroom gravy or parmesan cream. To up the comfort level, order them as meatball sliders. Despite the many “ball” options, they keep it casual here; no reservations are taken, so arrive early to avoid a wait.

The Moose Cafe, AAA One Diamond, Family Dining/Southern, Asheville, N.C.

Perched on a rise and offering a panoramic view of the Smoky Mountains, you’ll feel right at home the moment you step foot inside. Grab a seat and tear into a plate of hot, flaky biscuits, served with homemade apple butter, sorghum and honey. Order up a sweet tea served in a mason jar, setting the tone for the Southern delicacies to follow. The café is adjacent to a farmer’s market, so when the vegetables are at their peak, they are on your table for authentic ‘farm to table’ dining, nestled away in the Carolina mountains.

Salt Lick Bar-B-Q, AAA One Diamond, Casual Dining/BBQ, Driftwood, Texas

“You can smell our pits from miles away!” With a slogan like that, you’d better deliver – and the Salt Lick Bar-B-Q surely does. If you get a chance to swing by the original location in Driftwood, you’re in for great time and a great meal.  This popular fun spot serves brisket, pork and beef ribs, sausage, chicken and turkey. For lighter fare choose a sandwich, or tip the scale the other direction with the all-you-can-eat family style extravaganza.

About AAA Inspections

AAA offers the only rating program that conducts comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with far more Approved properties than any other rating entity, AAA operates the only rating system covering the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Travelers can find AAA Diamond Rated establishments across AAA’s online, mobile and printed travel information products.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

JulieHallOnly 124 luxurious hotels and 59 world-class restaurants across North America were selected to receive the travel authority’s highest property rating

ORLANDO, Fla., (Jan. 17, 2014) – Today AAA announced the 183 select establishments that earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2014 Five Diamond Award® lists. This exclusive group represents just 0.3 percent of the 59,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants. Five Diamond establishments stand apart using highly personalized approaches and creativity to enhance guest comfort and provide memorable experiences.

Additional Resources

 

As a result of this year’s additions, Chicago is now on par with New York City in its wealth of fine dining options, each home to seven Five Diamond restaurants. To the north, Québec now boasts Canada’s highest concentration of Five Diamond establishments, with four restaurants and one hotel.

New Five Diamond Hotels (6):

Château du Sureau, Oakhurst, Calif.

Wynn Tower Suites, Las Vegas, Nev.

Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto, Canada

Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, Acapulco, Mexico

Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

New Five Diamond Restaurants (8):

The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, Calif.

Acadia, Chicago, Ill.

Grace Restaurant, Chicago, Ill.

Sixteen, Chicago, Ill.

Per Se, New York, N.Y.

Restaurant La Tanière, Québec, Canada

Restaurant Le Patriarche, Québec, Canada

Cocina de Autor, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

AAA inspectors collectively visit some 1,200 hotels and restaurants each week, allowing them to identify emerging trends in the industry. “At the ultra-luxury hotel level we’ve noted a move toward minimalism in design but not overall experience,” said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Tourism Information Development, “and an emphasis on privacy and intimacy with options like in-room fitness, private butler service and spa-like bathrooms. Guests enjoy highly personalized, learning-oriented experiences worthy of immediate sharing through digital channels.”

Inspectors have also observed a continuing evolution in the nature of fine dining. “Reservations are increasingly hard to get as formality is reduced in favor of greater creativity and attention to food sourcing,” said Petrone. “Innovative chefs handcraft artisanal menus featuring local, fresh and healthy ingredients. Increasingly educated guests focus more on the quality and origin of cuisine rather than complex presentations. A knowledgeable staff that can facilitate a memorable dining experience is paramount.”

“Attaining the Five Diamond rating is not an easy undertaking,” said Petrone. “Establishments at this level must consistently provide an unparalleled guest environment and experience.” Candidates for the rating undergo multiple unannounced evaluations and a final decision by a panel of experts. Inspectors meticulously evaluate guest services and physical attributes, closely examining the level of competence, refinement and hospitality, from reservations to checkout for hotels and from seating to presentation for restaurants.

Noteworthy for 2014:

  • Chicago gained three Five Diamond restaurants: Acadia, Grace Restaurant and Sixteen, bringing its total to seven, on par with New York City.
  • California and New York each gained one Five Diamond restaurant, bringing their totals to eight and keeping them tied for states with the greatest number.
  • California and Quintana Roo, Mexico, were the only states to gain both a Five Diamond hotel and a Five Diamond restaurant.
  • Canada and Mexico both gained three Five Diamond establishments per country.
  • One hotel, The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., has maintained the Five Diamond Rating for 38 consecutive years – since 1976 when AAA first introduced the Diamond Ratings for accommodations.
  • The restaurant with the longest consecutive Five Diamond tenure, 26 years, since 1988, is The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room in Washington, Va.

For more information about Diamond Ratings and the complete Five Diamond hotel and restaurant lists, visit AAA.com/Diamonds.

About AAA Inspections

For 78 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections. AAA offers the only rating system using comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. With a far greater inventory than any other rating entity, AAA operates the only rating system covering the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Travelers can find Diamond Rated establishments and inspector insight in AAA trip planning products: the eTourBook® guides and AAA Mobile® app for tablets and smartphones, the TripTik® Travel Planner and Travel Guides on AAA.com and AAA TourBook® guides available at AAA/CAA offices.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 54 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

Hotel Images

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Toronto, Ontario

Chateau du Sureau, Oakhurst, CA

Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah

Restaurant Images

Grace Restaurant, Chicago

Sixteen, Chicago

The Restaurant at Meadowood, St. Helena, CA

Heather HunterAAA Approved historic hotels offer travel experiences rich in culture, comfort and adventure

ORLANDO, Fla., (Aug. 6, 2013) – To help travelers connect with our nation’s history, AAA inspectors assembled a list of their favorite historic hotels — structures of notable record or architecture, typically 75 years or older. Artifacts range from an opulent pre-Depression luxury hotel to a flamboyant Old West rail stop to a sprawling mountain resort with a Prohibition speakeasy.

Here are America’s hotel experts’ 10 top picks for evoking an atmosphere of days gone by. Travelers can read about additional AAA Inspectors’ Favorite Historic Hotels on the AAA TravelViews blog, visit AAA’s historic hotels board on Pinterest and find more than 1,500 AAA Approved historic hotel listings on AAA.com.

 

Casa Laguna Inn & Spa, AAA Three Diamond Historic Bed & Breakfast, Laguna Beach, Calif.

Mission-style architecture adds charm to this ocean-view inn, situated on a terraced hillside among picturesque gardens.  Because there is no elevator, be prepared to climb the stairs to get a full perspective of the property. Each step you take unveils yet another hidden seating area, artistic tile work or lush landscaping accent.

 

The Driskill, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Austin, Texas

Opened in 1886 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1969, the hotel offers a spectacular lobby with inlaid marble floors and magnificent woodwork leading to a grand staircase. From the cattle barons of the Old West to LBJ commandeering the hotel to watch election returns to today’s celebrities, guests enjoy superior service and upscale amenities.

 

Fitger’s Inn, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Duluth, Minn.

This renovated Lake Superior brewery houses a historic hotel, an operating brewery, a brewery museum, shops and several restaurants. Guestrooms reflect the elegance of the brewery’s heydays, each unique in décor and size based on the style of building, many with great views of the lake.

 

The Grove Park Inn, AAA Four Diamond Historic Resort Hotel, Asheville, N.C.

Dating from 1913, the Arts and Crafts inspired architecture and interior design are meticulously maintained.  The lobby’s floor-to-ceiling stone fireplaces mirror one another across the great hall. Distinguished past guests include the last 10 U.S. presidents, prolific authors and numerous political notables. Patrons enjoy outstanding cuisine, a 40,000-square-foot spa and a magnificent mountain view.

 

The Hermitage Hotel, AAA Five Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Nashville, Tenn.

The stunning 1910 architecture, restored to its grandeur in 2003, marks the building’s exterior and ornate, cathedral-height ceilings in the large open lobby. Impressive marble columns circle the lobby and one-of-a-kind antique furnishings create an environment of pre-Depression prosperity. One area not to miss is the impressive 1930s art deco style men’s room near the restaurant bar. (Women may enter after knocking.)

 

La Posada Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Winslow, Ariz.

A popular stop on the Santa Fe Railroad, the hotel is just down the street from the “corner in Winslow, Arizona” made famous by the Eagles’ lyrics. Guest attractions include the hotel’s art museum, historical exhibits, architecture, gardens and contemporary southwest cuisine from the Turquoise Room. Restorations that began in 1997 include plans to add a million dollar garden to fulfill a dream of the original designer, Mary Colter.

 

Lake Quinault Lodge, AAA Two Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Quinault, Wash.

This 1926 hotel where President Franklin D. Roosevelt once dined offers guestrooms with the smaller, sparser furnishings of an era when the idea was to spend time hiking in the rain forest or paddling at sunrise on the glass smooth lake. Guests can curl up next to the lobby’s roaring fire, relax in Adirondack chairs at sunset or casually stroll the rolling lawn.

 

The Occidental Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Historic Hotel, Buffalo, Wyo.

The Wild West comes to life with embossed ceilings, mounted animal trophies and antiques. Calamity Jane, Butch Cassidy, Teddy Roosevelt and members of the Hole in the Wall Gang stayed here. Each guestroom features a unique theme. The hotel, a restaurant and saloon featuring the original back bar plus a complex of storefronts comprise a city block.

 

Omni Mount Washington Hotel, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Bretton Woods, N.H.

Among its many historical claims is The Cave, a Prohibition-era speakeasy still operating as a bar and an octagon-shaped dining room designed to avoid seating any guest ‘in the corner.’ The property is renowned for hosting the 1944 Bretton Woods Monetary Conference that resulted in the creation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. From a distance, travelers note the stately structure’s distinctive red roof atop pristine-white stucco masonry and local granite, set against a backdrop of the White Mountains.

 

Strater Hotel, AAA Three Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Durango, Colo.

Steeped in history, this downtown landmark delivers world-class accommodations and hospitality. Employees in period costume add a sense of stepping back in time to your visit. The 93 Victorian-style rooms are filled with walnut antiques and period wallpapers. Western history enthusiasts enjoy the beautiful lobby, lounges and public space. Other offerings include fine dining, nightly live entertainment and live theatre performances.

 

The Willard InterContinental, AAA Four Diamond Classic Historic Hotel, Washington, D.C.

Opened in 1901, this time-honored hotel features rich, eye-catching Beaux Arts architecture. It was while staying here that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put the finishing touches to his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1968 the hotel closed and fell into disrepair.  Demolition was averted by a developer who restored and reopened the hotel in 1986 to provide luxurious accommodations and a high level of personal services.

 

About AAA Inspections and Historic Hotels

AAA offers the only rating program that conducts comprehensive, on-site professional hotel and restaurant evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with far more approved properties than any other rating entity, AAA operates the only rating system covering the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. Travelers can find AAA Diamond Rated establishments across AAA’s online, mobile and printed travel information products.

 

Hotels classified as historic are typically 75 years or older with historic architecture, design, furnishings, public record or acclaim and at least one of the following: maintains integrity of historical nature, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, designated a National Historic Landmark or located in a National Register Historic District.

 

Heather HunterRestaurants steeped in notable origins offer dining options rich in history and flavor

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 15, 2013) – As Memorial Day approaches, bringing the start of the summer travel season, many Americans look for ways to connect with our nation’s history during getaways and get-togethers. To help travelers enjoy a taste of our colorful beginnings, AAA inspectors gathered their selections for favorite historic restaurants. In locations that vary from an 1885 school building to a rustic stone and wood lodge in the heart of a national park, these restaurants invite diners to step back in time while enjoying a memorable meal.

Below is a sampling of 10 establishments with notable historic origins, patrons and menu offerings. Access the full list of 40 inspector picks for favorite historic restaurants on AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room, AAA Three Diamond, Fine Dining/Continental, Yosemite National Park, Calif.

On entering this magnificent establishment that opened its doors in 1927, visitors are struck by the 34-foot-high open beam ceilings, granite pillars and floor-to-ceiling windows. Delicacies on the dinner menu include grilled salmon, braised pork, roasted lamb and prime rib. Inspector Tip: Casual attire is permitted at breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch, but at dinner gentlemen are asked to wear collared shirts and long pants and ladies are asked to wear dresses, skirts or slacks and blouses.

Buckhorn Exchange, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Steak, Denver, Colo.

Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz, a performer in Buffalo Bill Cody’s shows, opened the Buckhorn in 1893. Now, after 120 years of continuous operation, Gramma Fanny’s pot roast is still on the menu. A meat lover’s dream, the menu features a variety of USDA steaks, elk, Colorado lamb, quail, bison, duck and even alligator tail. Inspector Tip: The decor features Old West memorabilia including a 150-year-old hand carved oak bar and an extensive taxidermy collection.

Carolina Crossroads Restaurant, AAA Four Diamond, Fine Dining/Regional American, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Inside the historic Carolina Inn, the restaurant embodies elegance with Chippendale-style chairs, posh fabrics and delicate orchids. Guests can relax over gourmet luncheon sandwiches, salads and cold plates or return for one of the chef’s prix fixe dinner menus offered in addition to à la carte selections. The seasonally changing Southern-inspired cuisine includes creatively prepared seafood, beef and chicken. Inspector Tip: Sunday brunch is a treat with an omelet station and homemade pastries.

Century Inn Dining Room, AAA Three Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Scenery Hill, Pa.

Swing open the doors of this 1794 pillared stone house and be transported back to Colonial times. The inn was an overnight stop for stagecoach patrons like George Washington, Andrew Jackson and James Polk. The homey dining room offers charming décor, antiques, exposed beams and rich wood tables and chairs. Fresh ingredients drive the seasonally changing menu of regional American dishes served by staff dressed in Colonial clobber.

El Charro Café, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Mexican, Tucson, Ariz.

Tucked away in a historic barrio on the edge of downtown Tucson, this family-owned Mexican establishment was built as the family residence and converted to a restaurant in 1922. One specialty is the chimichanga, reputedly invented here when the chef accidentally dropped a burrito into a skillet of boiling oil. Inspector Tip: Another favorite worth the visit is the carne seca made of sun-dried beef strips seasoned with secret ingredients.

Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Alexandria, Va.

The site’s two buildings include a circa 1785 tavern, now a museum, and the 1792 City Hotel, now the dining room. The Colonial atmosphere comes alive with the aged wood-plank floors and staff in period attire. Menu options include George Washington’s Favorite, a grilled breast of duck, and Gentleman’s Pye, made of tender cuts of lamb and beef in a savory red wine stew. Inspector Note: Renowned patrons have included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Regional American, New Braunfels, Texas

Constructed in 1878 as a cotton gin in this German settlement, now a historic district, the restaurant sits beneath the old Gruene water tower. View the rushing Guadalupe River beneath the shade of ancient oak trees. Inside, enjoy thick-cut steaks, oversized strawberry shortcakes and Jack Daniels pecan pie amid the ambience of enormous wood beams and period brick walls.

The Historic Green Manor Restaurant, AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/Southern, Union City, Ga.

Established in 1910, the restaurant is built on an early-1800s foundation. Cannon balls from the Civil War have been found on-site. The structure includes multiple fireplaces, elegant staircases and a basement wine cellar. Inspector Tip: The wraparound porch is a great place to wait for the tasty Southern buffet featuring fried chicken, barbeque pork ribs, collard greens, speckled butterbeans and sweet tea.

Union Oyster House, AAA Two Diamond, Family Dining/Regional Seafood, Boston, Mass.

As the city’s oldest restaurant and reputedly the nation’s oldest continuously operated restaurant, this popular establishment serves up traditionally prepared New England favorites — oysters, steamers, chowders, haddock and lobster — and even some landlubber fare. Inspector Tip: The narrow stairs and uneven wood-planked floors reflect the history of this nostalgic must-stop, which will celebrate 200 years in 2026.

Webster House, AAA Three Diamond, Casual Dining/American, Kansas City, Mo.

Constructed in 1885 as the Webster School, this Romanesque Revival style building was restored and repurposed in 2002 as a unique dining and shopping locale. The menu focuses on lighter fare and Sunday brunch, complete with mimosas, is fantastic. Inspector Tip: The impressive first floor has been artfully restored as an upscale antique shop.

Read the complete list of inspectors’ favorite historic restaurants across North America on the AAA travel blog at AAA.com/TravelViews. Find more than 600 restaurants classified as historic in the searchable listings on AAA.com.

About AAA Inspections

AAA is the only rating system that conducts on-site professional evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with more properties than any other rating entity, AAA is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. For 77 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results, on a system of One to Five Diamonds, to guide member travel decisions.

AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotel and restaurant listings can be found in the eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks, the AAA Mobile app at AAA.com/mobile, online at AAA.com/Travel and in the printed TourBook guides available at AAA/CAA offices.

A total of 125 luxurious hotels and 53 world-class restaurants across North America begin the new year with the travel authority’s highest property rating

ORLANDO, Fla., (Jan. 18, 2013) – AAA announced today the 178 select establishments that earned the AAA/CAA Five Diamond Rating in the past 12 months, qualifying them for the 2013 Five Diamond Award® list. Representing just 0.3 percent of the total 59,000 AAA/CAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants, this exclusive group provides unique experiences chock full of leading-edge creativity and highly personalized hospitality to satisfy even the most savvy traveler.

Of note among the 13 new additions are the only AAA Five Diamond hotels in Puerto Rico and Nevis. New York and Florida each added three new Five Diamond establishments: New York added one hotel and two restaurants, while Florida added two hotels and one restaurant. Florida’s additions include the only new Five Diamond pair: The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and its on-site restaurant, Salt.

 

Additional Resources

New Five Diamond Hotels (9):

Montage Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, Calif.

St. Regis Bal Harbour, Bal Harbour, Fla.

The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Trump SoHo New York, New York, N.Y.

Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

The Ritz-Carlton Montréal, Québec, Canada

Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies, Charlestown, Nevis

St. Regis Bahia Beach Puerto Rico, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Capella Pedregal Resort and Spa, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

 

New Five Diamond Restaurants (4):

Benu, San Francisco, Calif.

Salt (in The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island), Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Eleven Madison Park, New York, N.Y.

Le Bernardin, New York, N.Y.

 

“AAA Five Diamond hotels offer guests a meticulous degree of personalized attention and extensive amenities in a luxurious setting, and Five Diamond restaurants feature world-class service and imaginative menus using the finest ingredients,” said Michael Petrone, director, AAA Tourism Information Development.  “These establishments consistently exceed the expectations of the most discriminating traveler – the AAA inspector — and AAA is pleased to recognize them with a Five Diamond Rating.”

Collectively visiting some 1,200 hotels and restaurants every week, AAA inspectors are in a unique position to identify emerging trends in the hospitality industry. Inspectors have observed hotels and restaurants using increasingly personalized approaches to enhance guest comfort and satisfaction. “The definition of Five Diamond luxury continues to evolve as guests seek unique experiences with intrinsic value,” said Petrone.

Experienced, highly qualified staff are required to provide the custom service today’s luxury hotel guest expects. Larger hotels, faced with the difficulties of responding to individual needs, often restructure their approach. Many use the immediacy of social media to augment the experience as luxury travelers research, purchase, engage in and reflect on their stay. Imagine tweeting your desire for a rare vintage wine and having it arrive moments later at your guestroom door.

Restaurants employ an artisanal touch to provide an individualized culinary experience in a non-obtrusive manner. Menu offerings, once complex and highly orchestrated, are now often simple concepts meticulously executed. Meals and beverages are handcrafted using seasonal, organic ingredients from local sources. Distilled or flavored ice may be one of several original effects added to an already enchanting homemade cocktail mix.

The path to a Five Diamond Rating is rigorous. Properties identified by AAA as potential candidates for the Five Diamond Rating undergo multiple unannounced evaluations by a AAA inspector and final decision by a panel of experts. In addition to the evaluation of physical attributes, potential Five Diamond establishments are subject to thorough onsite assessments of all guest services from the initial reservation through checkout for hotels and from seating to  presentation for restaurants. Each area is evaluated based on level of competence, refinement and hospitality.

 

Noteworthy for 2013:

  • The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the only hotel that has maintained the Five Diamond Rating for 37 consecutive years – since 1976 when AAA first introduced the Diamond Ratings for accommodations.
  • The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room in Washington, Va., has the longest Five Diamond restaurant tenure, 25 consecutive years, since 1988.
  • With two restaurant additions, Eleven Madison Park and Le Bernardin, New York now ties with California for the most AAA Five Diamond Restaurants: seven in each state.
  • The only new AAA Five Diamond hotel and restaurant pair is The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island and its on-site restaurant Salt, in Fernandina Beach, Fla.
  • The number of Five Diamond hotels in Canada doubled to four with the addition of the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver and The Ritz-Carlton Montréal. The country is also home to five Five Diamond Restaurants, representing nearly 10 percent of the total.

For more information about Diamond Ratings and the complete Five Diamond hotel and restaurant lists, visit NewsRoom.AAA.com.

 

About AAA Inspections

AAA is the only rating system that conducts on-site professional evaluations guided by member priorities. And, with more properties than any other rating entity, AAA is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. For 77 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results, on a system of One to Five Diamonds, to guide member travel decisions.

Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants are listed in AAA trip planning products: the eTourBook® guides and AAA Mobile® app for tablets and smartphones, the TripTik® Travel Planner and Travel Guides on AAA.com, and AAA TourBook® guides available at AAA/CAA offices. Travelers can learn about AAA inspections and Diamond Ratings at AAA.com/Diamonds.

 

The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo.
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Montage Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach, Calif.
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The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach, Fla.
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Trump SoHo New York, New York, N.Y.
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Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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The Ritz-Carlton Montréal, Québec, Canada
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Capella Pedregal Resort and Spa, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
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Benu, San Francisco, Calif.
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Salt (in The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island), Fernandina Beach, Fla.
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Eleven Madison Park, New York, N.Y.
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Le Bernardin, New York, N.Y.

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Four Seasons Resort Nevis, West Indies, Charlestown, Nevis
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