See This, Skip That: Ask the Concierge

Get tips from the experts in top destinations.

— -- At many of the best hotels across the country, and in many of America’s greatest destinations, the guest’s best resource is right past the lobby doors. Concierges can be a wealth of information, yes. But they are also insiders by design, cultivating relationships for years that can help travelers personalize their vacations, maximize their budgets and, often, secure experiences that would otherwise be unattainable.

Planning a trip? Want insight from your very own concierge? I tapped some of the industry’s best for unique, oft-overlooked things to do and see at some of our favorite places to visit.

See This, Skip That: Sonoma

See This, Skip That: Santa Barbara

See This, Skip That: Las Vegas

See This, Skip That: Dallas

See This, Skip That: Chicago

With an awesome downtown location and a sleek vibe, the Hotel Palomar – a Kimpton Hotel is one of my favorite places to stay in Chicago. Bobby Gonzalez has been the concierge here for five years and whets the palate of cocktail buffs with his short list of unique libation creations. “Be sure to check out the Aviary and try the "In the Rocks" cocktail,” he suggests. “You'll have to repeat yourself when your friends hear you say that your cocktail came trapped in a ball of ice, and that you had to break it open with this tiny slingshot - a real Dennis the Menace moment!” He continues, “If you don't enjoy a libation in a rad speakeasy you just didn't do Chicago right. Take The Drifter, located in the basement of a building built in 1872, and next door to one of Chicago's oldest bars, The Green Door Tavern. This is a small cocktail bar with sporadic live entertainment, and an interior boasting everything from 20th century circus paraphernalia, to an old-school phone booth, to an elevated door that was once used to roll in booze barrels during Prohibition.” For fall time visitors, Gonzalez also recommends the Chicago Botanical Gardens in the neighborhood of Highland Park, 30 minutes outside of the city. “Fall is a great time to visit and see the beautiful foliage on their October Fall-Color Tree Walk.”

See This, Skip That: Miami

Ever since the Bohemian, beach-chic Thompson Miami Beach opened right on the water late last year, it’s been one of South Florida’s sexiest spots to stay. Brenda Santana has been concierge here ever since, and she knows just where to send her water buff guests. “Book a private jet ski tour of the palatial mansions on Star Island, swim with the dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium, or go parasailing high above the white sand beaches of South Beach,” she suggests. When on land, she suggests, “Spend an afternoon of art and food in one of Miami's trendiest and most vibrant neighborhoods at the Wynwood Art District Food & Art Tour. Eat your way through favorite local restaurants in one of the largest open-air street art collections in the world.” She adds, “End your day with happy hour at Smith & Wollensky and enjoy the beautiful Miami sunset on their outdoor patio.” Her guests don’t have to travel far, though, to please the palate. At the onsite 1930s House, hand-crafted cocktails are served up with a side of live music and small plates by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein.

Next time, concierge tips from other great American destinations, including Maui and New York City.

Gabe Saglie is Senior Editor for Travelzoo, which features exclusive deals to and in all of these destinations at

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