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The Road Trip Has Always Been DIY—These Experts Are Here to Change That!

Even Black Tomato and Auberge are partnering to elevate the old model.

It’s been a rough year for the travel industry so far, but there’s no question that domestic travel is about to have its busiest season in years. After months of lockdown and stay-at-home orders, the U.S. has begun reopening just in time for summer—and with international travel on pause, that means that those eager to get out will be doing so closer to home.

The all-American road trip, an easy solution for avoiding the anxiety of plane travel right now, is evolving in lock step. “Across the board, there’s a need for space, for distance, and an acute focus on extraordinary, remote destinations and accommodations enveloped by the natural world,” says Tom Marchant, the co-founder of Black Tomato, a travel company that creates bespoke, luxury experiences. “The desire to travel has never been more tangible—and we know from past intel and current desire that extraordinary U.S. road trips are what people are craving.”

Today, Black Tomato joins several other brands in catering to this interest, as they launch a new offering of domestic road trip itineraries for summer, in partnership with Auberge Resorts Collection (which is known for boutique luxury properties in the U.S. and beyond) and Mercedes-Benz. Travelers can choose from four itineraries throughout the country, from a California wine coast route to a seven-night trip through Colorado and Utah, all of which are planned around stays at destination-worthy Auberge Resorts. (In California, guests will bed down at Napa’s Auberge du Soleil; in Utah, they’ll rest at the new The Lodge at Blue Sky by Auberge.)

Along the way, count on exclusive experiences set up by Black Tomato’s fixers: In California’s Santa Ynez valley, that might mean foraging for mushrooms for dinner, or a private whale watching sail. On the New England drive, expect to take a private helicopter to Rhode Island’s Block Island for a hike through the National Wildlife Refuge.

The trips are more expensive than throwing your family in the station wagon—they start at $4,995 per person for a five-night trip, including accommodation, breakfast, and private experiences—but the teams at Black Tomato and Auberge say this reflects what travelers are asking for. “[Travelers] are recalibrating where they can go, and what they can do, but many have saved money, or already allotted it to travel,” says Marchant of the feedback he has heard from customers. With international flights out of the equation, many are putting what they had already planned to spend on bigger overseas trips toward elevating domestic journeys, like an in-state road trip, that they would have spent less on.

Travelers on Black Tomato’s California route may spend a night at Auberge du Soleil.
 Trinette Reed/Courtesy Auberge Resorts

Other travel specialists are hearing much of the same—and adapting accordingly. “As domestic travel restarts, we are hearing from luxury travel advisors who are looking to provide their clients with the same expert on-the-ground knowledge that Abercrombie & Kent offers in far-flung destinations, in places closer to home,” says Keith Baron, the president of Abercrombie & Kent USA, a travel company best known for their luxurious safari trips. “In response, we have added six new adventures across the American West and Alaska, as well as two new iconic American road trips, each with private guides and carefully-vetted accommodations that offer added space and privacy.”

Some of Abercrombie & Kent’s trips focus on national parks, like the Grand Canyon and Zion, and are self-driven; others, like the “Chicago to the West” road trip itinerary, include a chauffeur and stops at scenic ranches, guided hikes, and overnights at luxury lodges. Abercrombie & Kent’s new domestic itineraries start at $7,995 for six days, but are customized based on start and end points.

Through Steppes Travel, new road trip experiences combine elements of both of the above offerings, for an especially luxe experience. The new road trip itinerary, soon to be available for purchase, will span 14 days, with stays at Utah’s Amangiri safari-style lodge and Auberge’s The Lodge at Blue Sky. Starting at $12,895 per person, everything from stargazing in the Grand Canyon to horseback riding through Arches National Park is customizable, as is the option to be joined full-time by a guide or left to hit the open road on your own.

As for who’s booking these fabulous road trips and domestic stays? It seems like just about everyone who can, is. “We are seeing demand from a lot of families whose children will no longer be attending camp this summer,” says Craig Reid, the president and CEO of Auberge Resorts Collections. “Families want to go on trips that are dynamic, interesting, educational, and that will keep their children engaged.” Multi-generational families in particular are inquiring to book, says Marchant, while Reid is also seeing an interest from couples, too. Currently, bookings are rolling in for late-June and beyond, with trip length increasing as compared to past summers, they both report.

These road trip trends are expected to continue well into fall—the hope being that once Americans develop a newfound appreciation for what’s in our own backyards, domestic trips will continue receiving attention once saved for heading overseas. “There is truly so much to discover in the U.S., where each destination feels almost like its own country,” says Marchant. “We needn’t be dependent on flying internationally to have these extraordinary travel experiences.

Written by Megan Spurell,

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24 Delicious Food-Filled Hours in Pasadena

Make every meal count in the City of Roses by Cathy Chaplin  Updated Sep 12, 2019, 2:57pm PDT

With its tree-lined streets, family-friendly parks, and Craftsman-style homes, Pasadena may very well be Los Angeles’s quintessential suburban paradise. However, scratch beneath the well-manicured lawns to find a neighborhood that is as dynamic and as diverse as any in greater LA. The dining establishments in Pasadena reflect the tastes of its residents and the tourists that visit year-round. From timeless institutions to modern hit-makers, the itinerary below is meant to help both first-timers and locals alike by highlighting some of the most essential places to eat in town.

Breakfast: 7 a.m. — Lucky Boy

Breakfast Burrito with eggs and bacon in paper wrap on a white plate at Lucky Boy.
Breakfast burrito at Lucky Boy.

Head to this Pasadena institution for the most important meal of the day. Place your order with one of the gruff fellas at the front window and wait for your number to be called a short while later. The dish to get is Lucky Boy’s famed breakfast burrito, jam-packed with hash browns, eggs, cheese, and choice of bacon, sausage, chorizo, or ham. Spanning eight-inches in length and weighing in at close to two pounds, this flour tortilla-wrapped gut-buster has been fueling residents since 1973.

Morning Coffee or Tea: 8 a.m. — Home Brewed Bar

For a thoughtfully crafted caffeinated hit, head to Home Brewed Bar for a cold brew tea or coffee. Order something strong at the counter and sip it slowly while watching the morning hustle and bustle in Old Pasadena. 

Morning Snack: 10 a.m. — Roma Market

Snag “The Sandwich” for a mid-morning snack. Renowned city-wide for its simple and satisfying prowess, The Sandwich is the creation of the owner of Roma Market Rosario Mazzeo. Its foundation, a sturdy Italian roll drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt, is layered with provolone, mortadella, spiced coppa, and salami.

Lunch: 12:30 p.m. — Super Burger

Located on the not-so-scenic-corner of Altadena and Villa, Super Burger has been around for years. However, it wasn’t until Jean and Ben Khe took over the al fresco stand in 2009 that word began to spread about their incredible burgers. Indulge in a true California classic for lunch and get the cheeseburger, which comes decked-out with two slices of American, sautéed onions, tomato, lettuce, and Thousand Island dressing, smooshed between two toasted buns.

Afternoon Dessert: 3 p.m. — Carmela Ice Cream

Jessica Mortarotti opened this brick and mortar on the edge of Pasadena after years of selling her delightful ice creams from a push cart at local farmers markets. After lunch, swing in for a seasonal scoop made with organic milk. The list of flavors changes from day-to-day, but tubs of the shop’s perennial favorites like salted caramel, mint cacao, lavender honey, and brown sugar vanilla bean are always ready for the regulars. 

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Are you a cone or cup kind of person? 🍦🍨✨

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Happy Hour Drinks and Bites: 5 p.m. — Bone Kettle

Head to Bone Kettle in Old Pasadena for a drink or two before dinner. Sip a glass of the house sangria made with chipotle, orange extract, and pinot noir, while snacking on a few of chef Erwin Tjahyadi’s Asian-inflected small plates like the fried oxtail tips or the mapo tofu fries. 

Dinner: 7 p.m. — Union

Nab a table at Union for some of LA’s finest Italian cooking from chef Christopher Keyser. Start with some light appetizers, like the burrata with house-made bread or the polenta with mushrooms, and then settle in to as many pastas as the table can handle. The torchetti, a ridged and tubular canvas, comes topped with a Calabrese pork ragu, a dollop of ricotta, crispy rosemary leaves, and best of all, an intense dried chili oil that the chef calls “pizza grease.” 

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Sunday Supper state of mind…

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After Dinner Drinks: 9:30 p.m. — Maestro

Wrap up the day over drinks at this fantastic modern Mexican restaurant. Hone in on the wildly creative cocktails made with rare tequilas and mezcals, like the tequila-forward Mexican Lollipop made with lime, fresh passion fruit, and chamoy, or the Mezcal Campfire with mezcal, lime, and green chartreuse. 

Late-Night Bites: 11:30 p.m. — Los California Tacos

Finish the day with a late-night taco run. Parked on South Fair Oaks Avenue, the Los California Tacos truck is as dependable as it is delicious, serving until 12:30 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday and until 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. It’s hard to go wrong with porky hits like carnitas, chicharron, and cabeza.