Archive for the ‘Diamond Ratings’ Category

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.

DesmondJordonOnly 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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Eight cities chosen as divisional favorites surpass standard fan fare with local specialties and creative choices

ORLANDO, Fla., (August 28, 2012) – This fall, pro football fans will spend Monday nights and Sundays rooting for their favorite teams while munching on nachos, wings and a whole lot more. Based on the long-standing tradition of pairing gridiron action with notable eats, AAA inspectors have selected this season’s top contenders solely on the merits of their home game food offerings.

Although every affiliated team won’t be in line for a Lombardi Trophy come February, fans can still cheer on the championship caliber food. Discover where to find enough hidden talent and rising stars — like alligator-sausage po’ boys and Dungeness crab panini — to fill a super-sized snack bowl.

Green Bay, Wis., Lambeau Field

Inside: Whether you’re looking to go deep or grind it out on the ground, the cheese curds and beer cheese soup deliver in clutch situations at Curly’s Pub, named for team founder, former player and head coach Earl “Curly” Lambeau. For a winning beverage accompaniment, try the Spotted Cow beer, a well-malted Wisconsin product, or the green Packertini. The loud, spacious restaurant has more large-screen TVs than the players’ locker room. Outside: Two blocks away, the tailgate party that starts three hours before kick-off outside former quarterback Brett Favre’s Steakhouse (1004 Brett Favre Pass) would make anyone keep coming back for more. Decorated with team photos, the AAA Two Diamond casual restaurant serves steaks, including a 20-ounce London broil, seafood and such Southern dishes as jambalaya.

Kansas City, Mo., Arrowhead Stadium

Inside: Start your offense by enjoying delicious, fine-smoked meats and sides including burnt ends, ribs, smoked sausages and rich cheesy corn at Fiorella’s Jack Stack Barbeque, a long-time BBQ competition champ and Kansas-City style BBQ supplier. For another Kansas City original, stop at Topsy’s Popcorn. The cinnamon flavor, one of four varieties, is the MVP of every game. Outside: Just a short drive away, your dining game plan could include amazing homemade comfort foods like chicken with dumplings and pot pies at the Corner Cafe (4215 S. Little Blue Parkway, Independence). This AAA Two Diamond casual country café opens at 5 a.m. for breakfast. There’s no defense strong enough to avoid the temptations in the bakery cabinet just as you enter.

Miami Gardens, Fla., Sun Life Stadium

Inside: Tasty touchdown tidbits include paella, Asian stir-fries and Cuban sandwiches. Try the Cuban coffee for the extra point! After further review, it’s clear the club level also offers up a couple of full-service restaurants. Outside: Still want to throw the challenge flag?  Take a short drive to sample the jerk chicken and daily lunch specials at Lorna’s Restaurant (2732 NW 183rd St.), featuring a Caribbean menu with mostly Jamaican and Bahamian delicacies and a few American dishes.

Nashville, Tenn., LP Field

Inside: Appetite trailing at half time? You’ll want to get back on the field once you taste the BBQ nachos smothered in cheddar cheese and piled high with smoky Southern pulled pork topped with a tangy sweet BBQ sauce. Those on the club level can enjoy a spectacular buffet with carved roast beef, brunch offerings and barbecue. Outside: Just a short field goal away, fill up on traditional German fare like oyster rolls, kraut balls, potato pancakes and a Southern twist on fried pickles, an old-world favorite, at Gerst Haus (301 Woodland St.). Fans pack the “Haus” at this AAA Two Diamond German beer hall, serving beer brewed in-house, situated on the grounds of the former Gerst brewery.

New Orleans, La., Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Inside: A 10-year veteran, Triple B’s Cajun Corner, is your all-star selection for crawfish pie, gumbo and an array of po’ boys made with fried seafood, Louisiana hot sausage, smoked brisket and — a local favorite — alligator sausage. Noshing on a po’ boy in one hand while leaving the other free to root for your team is a game-winning call. Outside: For hearty all-day breakfasts, seafood gumbo, “World’s Best Baked Ham” and bread pudding, saunter 10 blocks toward the Mississippi or catch the vintage trolley to Mother’s (401 Poydras Street). This AAA One Diamond iconic 1938 landmark has patrons lining up around the block, serving some 90,000 pounds of jambalaya last year alone. That’s a whole lot of roux to root about!

Philadelphia, Pa., Lincoln Financial Field

Inside: No need to scramble out of the pocket when you stick with your go-to guy — the cheese steak of course, with sharp provolone and broccoli rabe, from Tony Luke’s. Looking to pile it on? Then visit McNally’s Tavern for a Schmitter consisting of steak, grilled salami, cheese, tomatoes, fried onions and special sauce on a Kaiser roll. Or, for a mega treat, try the Fat Darrell sandwich (originated at Rutgers University) made with chicken fingers, French fries, mozzarella sticks and marinara sauce. Now that’s a personal foul! Outside: Across the street at the Xfinity Live complex, try the Crabfries or white lobster pizza at AAA Two Diamond Chickie’s & Pete’s Crabhouse & Sports Bar (1526 Packer Ave) followed by TV game viewing at the NBC Sports Arena restaurant.

Pittsburgh, Pa., Heinz Field

Inside: Take your terrible towel to one of two Primanti Brother’s locations for a meat and cheese sandwich with fries, eggs (optional) and coleslaw — a fan favorite of near-cult popularity. Not up for the steel curtain challenge? Other options include cheese steak and capicola sandwiches. Outside: For flatbread sandwiches served deep fried, blackened, grilled or stuffed, take the “Bus” a few blocks to former halfback Jerome Bettis’ Grille 36 (393 North Shore Drive), frequented by locals and celebrities. Other attractions include generously portioned appetizers, numerous flat-panel HDTVs, a full bar and never-ending views of the riverfront or stadium skyline from the patio.

San Francisco, Calif., Candlestick Park

Inside: If you’re looking for a place to huddle, gather for specialty sandwiches like the fresh Dungeness crab panini at the Gridiron Grill (Lexus level, above Gate B). Who needs a water boy when you can add a complement of mixers and condiments to your Bloody Mary at the full bar? Look downfield for Boudin’s chowder in sourdough, as this local favorite is always open. Outside: Travel five miles to the casual AAA Three Diamond Chenery Park (386 Chenery Street) for great fish and chips with a remoulade sauce or house-made bacon or vegetarian mac ‘n cheese. Their complex playbook includes dry aged sirloin steak and smoked pork chops with bacon, apricots and roasted potatoes.

For the complete lists of AAA/CAA inspector picks for food favorites across all U.S. and Canadian cities that host pro football games, visit the AAA travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

Find additional dining options in the AAA.com Travel Guides, and ask about special offers on tickets, merchandise and hospitality areas at local AAA club offices.

 

 

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 76 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 accessed in the AAA TourBook guides, free eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks, online at AAA.com/Travel and from smartphones using the free AAA Mobile app or AAA Mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.

 

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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.

Evolving travel and hotel trends spur revisions to Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines used by AAA hotel inspectors

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 31, 2012) – The voice of the consumer just got louder during the only comprehensive North American hotel inspections and ratings performed by experts.

AAA has updated its Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines for lodgings, the blueprint for assigning ratings of One to Five AAA Diamonds following successful on-site inspections at more than 30,000 hotels throughout North America. The new guidelines incorporate member expectations regarding hotel fees, recognize emerging shifts in design trends and reflect a more personalized approach to enhancing guest comfort and satisfaction.

“Traveler expectations and travel industry capabilities continue to evolve,” said Michael Petrone, director AAA Tourism Information Development. The new guidelines address changes that have occurred since the last update in 2007. With input from AAA’s full-time hotel inspectors, AAA members and industry professionals, the updated guidelines reflect current AAA member expectations and travel trends.

AAA Diamonds: Expert Ratings Guided by Member Priorities

“The biggest changes reflected in this update were prompted by AAA member feedback,” said Petrone. “In a time when travelers are challenged to manage costs amid changing gasoline prices and airline add-ons, members are fed up with hidden hotel costs. For example, charges are sometimes assessed for an in-room safe, on-site fitness center or pool — whether the guest uses them or not. Members want all-inclusive, published room rates with no surprises at checkout.

“Additionally, today’s family often travels with four or five electronic devices and can face dramatic increases in accommodation costs when properties charge daily Wi-Fi usage fees. The growing expectation is for in-room Internet access that is both high-speed and free,” added Petrone.

Now, as part of the travel information collection process, properties charging resort and Wi-Fi fees will receive points off their evaluation score, which could impact their overall rating. To facilitate member decision making, AAA’s digital and printed hotel listings will indicate if a resort fee is charged, and Wi-Fi reporting will shift from on-site availability to in-room availability and fees.

Another changing trend is increased focus on property exclusivity. The new guidelines continue to emphasize guest comfort and satisfaction while recognizing greater flexibility and differentiation in how hotels achieve this goal. For example, while improved bedding may have similarities across properties, approaches to enhanced décor may be wide ranging. Hotels may incorporate self-serve, playful or artistic elements such as check-in kiosks, interactive touch screens, digital signage, mood lighting or fragrances in social areas. At the higher rating levels, service standards have been updated to include a more creative approach to the personalized guest experience.

AAA inspectors have also noted growing member expectations for more amenities at lower rating levels, particularly in regard to technology. Examples include flat-screen televisions, portable device docking stations and jack packs that allow transmission of digital information on TVs. Other preferences growing in prevalence include sustainable design features, products and eco-friendly services. Relevant changes for each market segment are noted in the revised guidelines and will be reflected in the on-site evaluation report inspectors provide to all properties.

The AAA Diamond Rating Guidelines are updated as industry standards and member demand dictate and will continue to be a mirror of the most recent hospitality trends. View the new AAA Approval Requirements & Diamond Rating Guidelines for lodgings, available to properties on the AAA.biz/Approved website.

AAA Inspectors: On-Site and In the Know

AAA’s professional inspectors get an in-depth, inside view of every AAA Approved property. They strive to avoid any treatment or services not extended to every guest to experience properties the same way members do, supplementing this view with a broad knowledge of the larger marketplace. “This comprehensive, real-time expertise sets AAA’s hotel ratings apart from any other source,” said Petrone.

“Because AAA inspectors are fully immersed in the industry, across all segments and markets, on a daily basis, they’re in an ideal position to observe industry trends as they emerge. Seen in isolation, for example, vivid design colors, open room designs that incorporate the bathroom or an infusion of natural lighting may appear unique; seen across multiple segments or geographic areas, these attributes may well be trends that prompt the next guidelines update,” explains Petrone.

Since 2007, other design trends noted by the inspectors and reflected in the revised guidelines include open and active lobby areas, dramatic headboards, wood and laminate flooring options and the increased use of glass, marble and stone. Amenities incorporate sustainable and allergy-free products and expanded fitness options. Technology trends include easy-to-use alarm clocks, single-use coffee makers and power stations for gadgets and devices.

About AAA Inspections

AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is the only comprehensive on-site inspection program of its kind, using published guidelines to evaluate, Approve and rate lodgings and restaurants on a scale of One to Five Diamonds. For 76 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results for member travelers.

Listings of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants can be accessed in the downloadable eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks, online at AAA.com/Travel and in the TourBook guides available at AAA and CAA offices. Travelers with smartphones can access Diamond Rated property listings using AAA’s free app or AAA Mobile Web, at AAA.com/mobile.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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.

Affordable One and Two Diamond restaurants offer notable menus and environments

ORLANDO, Fla., (July 12, 2012) – Does your appetite for eating out wane at the thought of a hefty bill? For many Americans, watching the wallet is as important as watching the waistline when selecting a restaurant for a night out. With more than 29,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated Restaurants — and 60 percent of these at the One and Two Diamond levels — AAA can help point the way to plentiful options for quality dining that won’t bust the budget.

AAA inspectors evaluate restaurants on a scale of One to Five Diamonds, from simple eateries with specialty menus to fine-dining restaurants with renowned chefs and expert service staff. Here’s a sampling of AAA inspectors’ casual dining favorites including mouthwatering barbecue, authentic ethnic specialties and abundant fresh seafood.

Craigie’s Harbourview Restaurant, Tobermory, Ontario, AAA/CAA One Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/American

Nestled in a quaint harbor town, this spot is a family tradition for locals and tourists. The home-style breakfasts are a stand out, and the white fish, always fresh, is served in a variety of ways. Choose casual sit-down dining or take-out orders especially for day trippers and boaters. Inspector Tip: Only cash is accepted, but there is an ATM around the corner.

The Fish Hopper, Monterey, Calif., AAA Two Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/Seafood

Located on Cannery Row, floor-to-ceiling windows offer incredible views of Monterey Bay. Tempting appetizers include crab cakes, coconut prawns, shrimp cocktail and award-winning clam chowder. Specialties include sanddabs, macadamia nut crusted tilapia, scampi with scallops, prawns in a puff-pastry shell and Cajun mahi mahi. Steaks and pasta are also available. Inspector Tip: The Monterey Bay Aquarium and unique shops are nearby.

Gaulart & Maliclet Café Restaurant, Charleston, S.C., AAA One Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/French

Also known as “Fast and French,” the cozy bistro consists entirely of counters and high stools. Stop in for a salad creation, soup and sandwich or a delicious afternoon snack. After 6 p.m., vegetarian entrees share menu space with classically prepared French dishes like seafood Normandy, pate and imported cheese samplers and a three-vegetable dinner. Designated evenings feature chef specials, fondue and traditional ethnic dishes. Vintage wines may be ordered by the glass or bottle. Inspector Tip: Dining is communal and seating packed, so expect to make friends.

The Grand Traverse Pie Company, Traverse City, Mich., AAA One Diamond Restaurant, Quick Serve/Deli

Like all locations in this growing Midwest chain, the flagship bakery café is quaint and cheerful. A large, open working bakery fills the shop with tempting aromas. Service is counter style with a menu of freshly made soups, sandwiches and salads as well as quiches and pot pies. The daily assortment of fresh fruit and cream pies from local ingredients would make Grandma proud.

Jambo Cafe, Santa Fe, N.M., AAA Two Diamond, Casual Dining/African

This chef-owned restaurant serves up intensely flavorful Afro-Caribbean cuisine using family recipes handed down for generations. Traditional menu items range from jerk chicken and beef kabobs to a popular lamb stew and coconut lentil stew. The specialty soups, which change daily, consistently win local competitions. Experience a cozy atmosphere, off the beaten path, with great background music and a delightfully friendly staff.

Les Madeleines Cafe & Patisserie, Salt Lake City, Utah, AAA Two Diamond Restaurant, Quick Serve/Bread-Pastries-Sandwiches

A Salt Lake City “must do.” Stop in for sesame chicken salad, a wild mushroom wrap served with edamame and other delicious sandwiches and croissants. Try the award winning Kouing-aman (kween a-mon), a crusty pastry made of bread dough with layers of butter and sugar folded in, slow baked until the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramelizes. This French creation has been featured on Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” Inspector Tip: Order two Kouing-aman (just point, they’ll know what you want) and coffee, sit down and relax. One bite and you’ll be hooked.

Nav-A-Gator Grill, Lake Suzy, Fla., AAA One Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/Seafood

This rustic family owned and operated fish camp on the Peace River at Old Desoto Marina is a great spot for fresh seafood. Find grouper, gator tail, shrimp, conch and even duck on the menu. Inspector Tip: The spot is popular for its fossil museum, gift shop, nature retreats, local band performance and 90-minute riverboat tours. It’s also a great spot for fishing and viewing wildlife.

Rendezvous, Memphis, Tenn., AAA Two Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/BBQ

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and many patrons rank this establishment among the best of Memphis’ many great BBQ restaurants. The dry-rub ribs are one-of-a-kind due to a combination of secret ingredients and cooking over charcoal versus a wood fire. The ambience and décor, with historic artifacts, memorabilia and antiques, are as interesting as the food is good.

Something Different Country Store, Urbanna, Va., AAA One Diamond Restaurant, Quick Serve/Deli

Find gourmet Southern fare in a rustic country store. Specialties include roasted and smoked succulent meats such as brisket, pork and chicken, smoked salmon served with an elegant dill sauce and great she-crab soup. Bread rolls are baked with whey for a unique flavor. Desserts include cobblers, pies and premium ice creams. Inspector Tip: The owner, a bit of a food historian, will bend your ear if you show interest, or you can read his musings from a binder.

White Heather Tea Room, Victoria, BC, AAA/CAA Two Diamond Restaurant, Casual Dining/Sandwiches & Desserts

Reservations are required at this popular spot for afternoon tea. Its signature offerings are known as “The Wee Tea,” which includes a delightful sampling of tea sandwiches, bakery goods and a scone, “The Not So Wee Tea,” which includes more sandwiches and bakery goods and “The Big Muckle Giant,” designed for two, with even more tasty items. Inspector Tip: Muckle is a word the original owner recalled from a Scottish retelling of David and Goliath.

Read the full list of 50 Inspector Picks for Budget Dining on the AAA travel blog at AAATravelViews.com, and find thousands of additional options in AAA travel information products.

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 76 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 accessed in the AAA TourBook guides, free eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks, online at AAA.com/Travel and from smartphones using AAA’s free app or mobile Web at AAA.com/mobile.

Welcoming One and Two Diamond lodgings offer enjoyable environments and easy access to beaches, mountains and popular vacation destinations

ORLANDO, Fla., (May 10, 2012) – As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, the unofficial start of the summer travel season, millions of travelers are beginning to plan road trips. For many, planning a vacation full of excitement and fun while staying within a comfortable budget can create anxiety. But with more than 31,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels, and more than a third of these at the One and Two Diamond Rating levels, AAA can help point the way to affordable options with appeal.

AAA evaluates lodgings on a scale of One to Five Diamonds, from budget-oriented hotels and motels offering basic accommodations to luxurious hotels and resorts offering extensive services and amenities — all with acceptable cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. For those seeking an exciting summer vacation without high costs, AAA inspectors have compiled a list of their favorite One and Two Diamond lodgings.

Read about rustic mountain cabins, charming beach-side motels and locations convenient to popular tourist destinations, all offering modest but memorable accommodations. A sampling of AAA inspector favorites is listed below. Access the complete list on the AAA travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

Armada-By-The-Sea, Wildwood Crest, N.J., AAA Two Diamond Motel

This is one of the best of the many classic old motels along the Jersey Shore in the Wildwoods area. The beachfront motel is extremely well maintained, as the owners spend their time in the off season keeping it in top condition. The beach in this area is exceptionally wide, and the motel also offers a sparkling pool and large sundecks for lounging. An open green park next to the motel affords great southerly views. Rooms have a clean beachy décor with modest but comfortable furnishings, and many rooms have kitchenettes.

Au Pic de l’Aurore, Percé, Québec, AAA/CAA One Diamond Cottages

Rustic knotty pine cabins perched on a hilltop just outside of the town of Percé on the Gaspé Peninsula offer sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. This lobster-fishing village is famous for its Pierced Rock (Rocher Percé) natural arch, whale watching excursions and Bonaventure Island walking trails and bird sanctuary. Verandas and wood-burning stoves or fireplaces outfit the well-spaced cabins, some dating back to 1932. Wood-floored motel units and a large vacation home are also available. The lobby area, where boat tour tickets may be purchased, has an art gallery and a bar overlooking the coastline.

Best Western Inn of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Ark., AAA Two Diamond Hotel

This hotel accommodates a variety of traveler needs in an economical manner. Guests find plenty of nature in the wooded area that runs the length of the west side of the property. Sporting facilities include an outdoor basketball court and complimentary miniature golf in the game room. The pool area offers family friendly movies shown on a big screen (weather permitting) and a hot tub in the nearby gazebo. Insider tip: Visit Myrtie Mae’s, the on-site, home-style restaurant, for mouthwatering fried chicken prepared with a recipe dating back to the 1920s.

Mayberry Motor Inn, Mount Airy, N.C., AAA Two Diamond Motel

If coming to town in search of yesteryear Americana by way of the TV classic, “The Andy Griffith Show,” three things will complete the journey:  a pork chop sandwich at the Snappy Lunch, a visit to the Andy Griffith Museum and a stay at the Mayberry Motor Inn. The vintage motor court offers large, clean rooms with simple, comfortable décor, and an outdoor pool open in summertime. The office is decorated with Andy Griffith memorabilia, and replicas of the sheriff’s squad car and Emmett’s pickup are out front.

Snowmass Mountain Chalet, Snowmass Village, Colo., AAA Two Diamond Hotel

Near the Village Mall, the well-known Aspen Snowmass Jazz Festival is held each summer directly across from the outdoor deck of this popular ski-in/ski-out slope-side chalet. Floor-to-ceiling windows surround the many seating arrangements and snug nooks that occupy the spacious lobby. Relaxing, reading, socializing, resting and — in winter — watching skiers and boarders have fun outside on the picturesque mountain will have guests thinking that they are part of a scene from a postcard.

Strawberry Creek Bunkhouse, Idyllwild, Calif., AAA One Diamond Motel

There aren’t any phones here, but Wi-Fi is available at this quaint establishment just north of the Village, where shops and restaurants abound in this mountain hamlet in Southern California. Besides the rustic, knotty pine-filled cozy guest rooms with balconies that overlook the forest, there are two cabins on property with fireplaces and private decks. Some units have full kitchens while others offer the basic efficiency; all are comfortably and attractively furnished. Hiking in the nearby woods is a popular pastime at this quiet yet memorable get-away-from-it-all lodging. Insider tip: Enjoy the free organic continental breakfast delivered to your door in a replica fishing basket, or opt for the Hike-to-Breakfast option for a hot gourmet breakfast at the nearby B & B.

Swan Motel, Stratford, Ontario, AAA/CAA Two Diamond Motel

The outstanding grounds and gardens are a highlight of this quaint family-run motel. The seasonally run property operates around the Stratford Shakespeare Festival schedule, which guests have made a tradition for a relaxing mini getaway. Original art adds interest to the comfortable rooms, and the large outdoor pool area is a great place to relax while reviewing show schedules. A short drive to town offers an abundance of fine restaurants and shops.

The Thomas Bond House B & B, Philadelphia, Pa., AAA Two Diamond Historic Bed and Breakfast

This cozy lodging alternative in the historic area of Philadelphia is a restoration of an 18th century home of Thomas Bond, close friend of Benjamin Franklin and co-founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital. While the guest rooms are small, guests enjoy the charming colonial décor and lovely parlor area equipped with a marble fireplace. The convenient location is in easy walking distance of multiple restaurants, shops and historic sites — a great spot for anyone visiting the city of Philadelphia!

The Woodsman Country Lodge, Crescent, Ore., AAA Two Diamond Motel

Located on US 97 between Bend and Klamath Falls in the heart of Central Oregon’s recreation playland, this motel is close to hiking, boating, skiing, and the great outdoors in general. The owners’ pride in this motel is evident in the fantastic condition of the property, variety of bronze statues set about the grounds and well-maintained rustic décor of the guest rooms. Rooms feature log furniture and a variety of outdoor or western themes. Insider tip: Try to get a different room on each visit to see all the interesting decorative touches and artifacts.

Yuma Cabana Motel, Yuma, Ariz., AAA Two Diamond Motel

Serving weary travelers at the halfway point between San Diego and Phoenix since 1965, this retro cute motel can be spotted from far away by its massive ‘60s kitschy neon sign. Independently owned and operated, this excellent and very affordable option offers something different than standard lodgings. The small but immaculate rooms offer useful amenities, and guests can visit the lobby for free coffee all day and continental breakfast. There’s also a cool kidney-shaped pool and shaded patio for those many triple-digit Yuma afternoons. Insider tip: If staying for a few days, ask for the larger corner rooms with kitchenettes.

For more AAA inspector picks, insider tips and travel stories, visit AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

About AAA Inspections

AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is one of only two that conduct physical, on-site evaluations. AAA Approved lodgings and restaurants are assigned a rating of One to Five Diamonds. For 75 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results for member travelers.

Listings of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants can be accessed in the AAA TourBook guides, online at AAA.com/Travel and from smartphones using AAA’s free app or AAA Mobile Web. In addition, AAA members can download free eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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.

Distinctive hotels and resorts inspire romance with secluded locations, luxurious amenities and delectable cuisine

ORLANDO, Fla., (Feb. 1, 2012) – What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than a romantic getaway or private dinner with that special someone? Cupid can be found at hotels and restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada all year. But for those seeking an exceptional opportunity to cozy up to a sweetheart this February, AAA inspectors have compiled their favorite places for romance.  

Read about private retreats, sumptuous spa treatments and intoxicating gardens in settings ranging from a historic mansion to seaside cottages. Discover places to enjoy mouthwatering meals and exotic specialties served in hideaways that span from a rooftop oasis to a Moroccan palace.  

AAA inspectors’ 14 favorite romantic hotels and restaurants are listed below. Find their additional recommendations on the AAA travel blog at AAATravelViews.com.

 

Romantic Lodgings

Beachfront Bed & Breakfast, Saint Augustine Beach, Fla., AAA Three Diamond Bed and Breakfast

Situated directly on the beach in a city noted for romance, this quaint, adult-only B&B offers breathtaking views from many areas of the property. With just five rooms in the main house and three in the back cottage, a crowd is not something you’ll find here. Unlike traditional B&Bs, the Beachfront features a heated pool, hot tub and complimentary bicycles. Romance packages include champagne and chocolates on arrival.

The Bryant Park Hotel, New York, N.Y., AAA Four Diamond Contemporary Boutique Hotel

This high-style, midtown Manhattan boutique hotel offers easy access to many of the city’s top attractions. The hip, modern rooms provide luxurious touches like hardwood floors with Tibetan area rugs, Travertine marble bathrooms and state-of-the-art electronics including sound therapy machines. The cellar bar is the place to see and be seen, popular with the young “fashionista” set. Free ice skating is offered right in front of the hotel at Citi Pond in Bryant Park until February 26. 

Chateau Avalon Hotel, Kansas City, Kan., AAA Three Diamond Hotel

This hotel’s focus is providing an exceptional in-room experience. Guestrooms feature individual classic, luxury and adventure themes, all beautifully and tastefully executed. Themes range from the tame, such as the Hemmingway or Seville, to more adventurous styles like the Tahitian Treehouse or Castaway Isle, which features a two-story replica ship’s bow. All include a luxurious tub. Package options include in-room massages and chilled champagne. Guests are served breakfast in their room.

The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C., AAA Five Diamond Resort Cottage

This virtual Garden of Eden sits alongside the tranquil May River. Single and duplex cottages throughout the sprawling, secluded resort offer privacy, with a full menu of world-class amenities. Enjoy a ride on a historic yacht or laps in the heated infinity pool. Indulge in a spa treatment, soak in your enormous in-room steam bath or relax in an Adirondack-style rocking chair on the wooden bridge as you watch the dolphins play in the river. A little white chapel is on property for those who want to take their romance all the way!
 
Mill Rose Inn, Half Moon Bay, Calif., AAA Four Diamond Bed and Breakfast

Just the drive to get here along Highway 1, a scenic coastal drive, is romantic. It’s located within walking distance to the Old Town district and a nice hike to the beach. The beautiful rose garden is perfect for a wedding, according to the local inspector. Each guestroom has different décor with distinctive wallpaper, antique furniture, claw foot tubs and a fireplace to complete the picture. 

Sparkling Hill Resort, Vernon, British Columbia, AAA/CAA Four Diamond Boutique Hotel

Built on a hilltop overlooking Okanagan Lake, this hotel boasts more than 3.5 million individual Swarovski crystals throughout the premises — from opulent chandeliers in the lobby and dining room to unique fireplaces in the guestrooms. Guests may witness a spectacular light show when the sun is setting and its rays hit the crystals just right. The hotel is set up mostly as a couples retreat and offers one of the area’s largest spas featuring more than 100 different treatments.

Vanderbilt Grace, Newport, R.I., AAA Four Diamond Historic Boutique Hotel

This impressive circa 1908 mansion turned Four Diamond hotel features a multimillion dollar art gallery, spa, heated indoor pool and rooftop terrace overlooking the harbor. Each room features sumptuous 400-thread-count sheets, a fluffy duvet topper, Frette robes and slippers. The bathrooms include oversized Italian ceramic showers with dual shower heads and high-end Penhaligon’s bath amenities. The current “Month of Love” package is valid throughout February. 

The Whale Cove Inn, Depoe Bay, Ore., AAA Four Diamond Country Inn

Perched above the crashing Pacific Ocean waves of Whale Cove, this intimate inn offers a truly great escape for couples looking to get away, unwind and just enjoy quiet time together. With only eight luxury suites, guests experience a sense of peace and solitude throughout their stay. All suites feature a large private balcony with a Jacuzzi spa and unrestricted water views.  

 

Enchanting Dining 

Bertrand at Mister A’s, San Diego, Calif., AAA Four Diamond Restaurant

This lovely rooftop restaurant offering beautiful views of the city provides a romantic setting inside and out and highly attentive service. From the large wraparound balcony it appears the world is at your feet. Perfect San Diego weather enhances your opportunity to relax outside with a glass of fine wine, a flavorful entrée and the one you love any time of year. Inside, the inviting décor is softened with candlelight in the evening.

Dahl & DiLuca Ristorante Italiano, Sedona, Ariz, AAA Three Diamond Restaurant

If you associate Italian cuisine with romance, this restaurant will not disappoint. The dining room teems with flowing drapery, stone pillars and crystal chandlers. Background music and legendary homemade pasta complete the picture to “set the mood.” 

Gitane Restaurant & Bar, San Francisco, Calif., AAA Three Diamond Restaurant

The name itself, which means “gypsy,” evokes a sense of excitement. Tucked away in an alley, down a flight of stairs, guests enter to find a bar with soaring ceilings draped with lush velvet and tapestry. Continue to the upstairs dining area to sample mouthwatering dishes culled from Spain, Portugal and the south of France. Dine amid an eclectic, sensuous and surprisingly harmonious fusion of décor. To see the decorator’s piece de resistance, be sure to visit the restroom, renowned for its funky appeal.

Il Mulino, Chicago, Ill., AAA Three Diamond Restaurant

Located in the restored historic Biggs mansion, the restaurant presents a traditionally elegant ambience with luxurious chandeliers, rich dark wood trim, crisp linen-covered tables and a fireplace. On Valentine’s Day, choose the special four-course prix fixe menu or the regular à la carte menu. Every meal includes a variety of complimentary appetizers that start arriving shortly after guests are seated, and may include cheese and salami, fried zucchini and bruschetta. 

Restaurant XO (in Hotel Le Saint-James), Montréal, Québec, AAA/CAA Four Diamond Restaurant

Few hotel dining rooms offer the opulence and romance of this one. Located in a former bank built in 1870, the regal setting was once known as Bankers’ Hall, with a decor posh enough to woo the Victorian-era business elite. Two-story stained glass windows and lavish crystal chandeliers give the room a glamorous glow. The best spot for an intimate dinner is one of the semi-private dining nooks or at a table on the raised mezzanine level. For guests of the hotel, dessert, coffee or an after-dinner digestif can be served in your room.

Sultan’s Tent, Calgary, Alberta, AAA/CAA Two Diamond Restaurant

What could be more romantic than to whisk your loved one off to an exotic land? Exit the modern world when you enter the striking Sultan’s Tent featuring intimate and private booths decorated with rich tapestries and billowing ceiling curtains. Spice up the evening by feeding your Valentine in the traditional way by scooping up your food with the pita bread as knives and forks are available only on request.

For more AAA inspector picks, insider tips and travel stories, visit AAA’s travel blog at AAATravelViews.com

About AAA Inspections

AAA rates more properties than any other rating entity and is the only rating system that covers the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. It is one of only two that conduct physical, on-site evaluations. AAA/CAA Approved lodgings and restaurants are assigned a rating of One to Five Diamonds. For 75 years AAA has used professional inspectors to conduct in-person property inspections and publish the results for member travelers.

Listings of AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants can be accessed in the AAA TourBook guides, online at AAA.com/Travel and from smartphones using the free AAA TripTik Mobile app or AAA Mobile Web. In addition, AAA members can download free, digital eTourBook guides at AAA.com/ebooks.

About AAA

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 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.

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