The Umstead Hotel & Spa is an oasis just outside Raleigh. Our first surprise, and introduction to the resort's emphasis on preserving nature, was learning we were eligible for free valet parking because we drove a hybrid car. A flower-filled lobby and a 12-acre lake also reflect the importance of nature. Our suite overlooked the gardens, where I witnessed a lovely Saturday afternoon wedding. In summer, you can lounge by the lakeside pool (waitstaff immediately brought a bucket of cold waters, a chilled towel and a spray bottle for cooling down). We appreciated the free wifi in our room and started each morning with complimentary coffee and pastries in the lobby. The couples' massage was a highlight - exceeded only by an extraordinary dinner at the resort's signature restaurant, Herons. Like The Umstead, Herons was awarded the AAA Five Diamond Award, so we put ourselves completely in the hands of the talented chef and ordered the Chef's Tasting Menu. Our excellent server brought us perfect wine pairings for our dishes that included white asparagus soup, Tasmanian salmon and lamb tenderloin. Everything here, from the spa to the pool to the service, is elegant and upscale, without being stuffy. Details: www.theumstead.com.
Sweet St. Kitts
Take a small volcanic island, some gorgeous weather and a smattering of white sandy beaches. Mix in a beautiful resort and some eclectic spa treatments. The result is the St. Kitts' Marriott, a resort with a parade of pleasant surprises sitting on the edge of the Atlantic. Besides the usual resort perks, there's a casino and a small but pretty spa where I experienced my first-ever bamboo massage