Blueblood vacations: The most extravagant trips in the U.S.A.
The latest remake of “The Great Gatsby” reminds us how extravagant American vacations can be.
But a lot has changed since the Roaring Twenties.
Champagne and caviar in a posh private railcar or trans-Atlantic sailing on a luxury liner are no longer gold standards when it comes to living large.
These days it’s all about exclusivity -- engaging in activities or events that mere mortals can’t afford, and access to people or places that are normally off limits.
Like playing poker in Vegas with legends of the game, helicopter skiing in the remote Alaskan wilderness or hiring Adele to sing at your Hamptons beach party.
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Sure, you can attend the same music festival or stage play as the hoi polloi, but with VIP tickets, backstage passes or box seats.
Even tooling around in a chauffeur-driven limousine pales in comparison to driving California’s Highway 1 in a $16 million Ferrari Testa Rosa prototype that you just picked up at auction in Carmel.
Here are some of the most luxurious, sophisticated and pricey holiday experiences in the good old red, white and green U.S.A.
“The Berkshires seemed dream-like,” sang James Taylor in “Sweet Baby James” in the early 1970s when these Massachusetts hills were a hippie haven.
The area’s counterculture vibe has added a chic side in modern times, highlighted by the posh Canyon Ranch spa and resort in Taylor’s longtime hometown of Lenox, which offers luxury treatments for mind and body starting at an all-inclusive $1,850 per day.
There are also special events like a Broadway Dance weekend and the Gilded Age New Year’s Eve bash, which sprawls across three decadent (but healthy) days of food, music, comedy, astrological readings and inspirational speakers.
Beyond Canyon Ranch, the Berkshires offer cultural distractions.
You can book box seats for Tanglewood music events, mingle with artists at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival or purchase museum-quality American art from galleries like Harrison (Williamstown) and Ferrin (Lenox) located in the towns that inspired Norman Rockwell.
Estimated vacation cost: $14,700, plus $50,000 art budget
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America’s most storied golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links is known for its rich history, awesome scenery, sloping greens, cliff-top fairways and steep fees -- $495 per round.
The $2,000-per-night suites make the Lodge at Pebble Beach the place to stay on the Monterey Peninsula. And yes, you can bring your purse dog.
Plan right and you can visit during Pebble Beach Automotive Week, the world’s most extravagant car show.
Among events are the legendary Concours d’Elegance, which features 200 prized collector cars, and the Pebble Beach Auctions, where rare and historic vehicles are sold for world record prices (like the $7.26 million sale in 2010 of a 1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider Competizione).
After-auction activities include driving your new ride down Highway 1 to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, where you can meld mind and body with massage, meditation and nude group encounter sessions in the hot springs.
Estimated vacation cost: $22,000, plus classic car expenses
Roughing it in the wilderness is so “Deadwood.”
With so many celebrities and dot-com gazillionaires living in Montana and Wyoming, the Yellowstone experience has gone decidedly upscale in recent years.
The exotic yet posh Amangani near Jackson Hole is a fave with the Hollywood crowd (Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Emmy Rossum). Private bungalows range up to $7,500 per night.
Horseback riding and whitewater rafting are favored activities, but mostly these are just excuses to grab a chakra stone facial and hot stone massage in the Amangani spa.
In the park, private guides are available from the Yellowstone Association. At $495 for eight hours, they’ll lead wilderness hikes and locate the wolf packs, bison herds and grizzly bears that roam the world’s oldest national park.
If it’s summer, your yacht -- because you have one -- can be delivered to one of the park’s two marinas for a sail across Yellowstone Lake to a remote cove where you can anchor for the night.
If it’s winter, a private dogsled foray or snowmobile trip at around $600 per day will take you into the vast white wilderness to see Old Faithful erupt through the snow.
Estimated vacation cost: $67,000
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Ultima Thule is the name the Greeks assigned everything beyond their known world, and that pretty much sums up the $1,700-per-night, all-inclusive luxury lodge in the Alaska wilderness of the same name.
A hundred miles from the nearest road, the only way to get here is by air.
Even in the middle of nowhere, of course, there’s indulgence: wood-fired cedar sauna, king-sized feather beds, gourmet meals predicated on fresh fish and game straight from the wild, as well as bread and pastries made from scratch at the lodge each day.
Airborne explorations of the vast Wrangell-St. Elias National Park will have you landing on glaciers and snowfields and snatching bird’s-eye views of grizzlies and other wildlife.
Remote kayaking, fishing and hiking can also be arranged, or you can fly down to Icy Bay for a gourmet picnic among humpback whales, waterfalls and icebergs.
Flights within the park are included in the lodge’s all-inclusive rate.
The nearby Chugach Range is one of the holy grails of backcountry skiing, a vast white wilderness best tackled by helicopter.
Points North runs choppers to the most remote snowfields, $5,500-per-day treks that include pro guides and up to a dozen runs in virgin powder.
Estimated vacation cost: $90,000
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In little more than 40 years, this lush California valley has morphed from rural backwater into one of the world’s most exclusive places to eat, drink and sleep.
Meadowood Resort offers the valley’s most exclusive digs -- bungalows sprinkled through the woods and around an 18-hole golf course on a 250-acre estate.
There’s also tennis, croquet, spa and a Michelin three-star restaurant.
Nearby Yountville is home to the legendary French Laundry, twice named Best Restaurant in the World (average bill $800) by Restaurant Magazine, or the hyper-trendy Bottega, with sassy waiters and catwalk clientele.
For an initial fee of $140,000 and annual dues, the Napa Valley Reserve tenders your own row of vines and everything you need (including an expert vintner and label designer) to produce your own vintage each fall.
Estimated vacation cost: $207,000
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Florida’s Gold Coast
It doesn’t get much cushier than cruising the Florida coast between Key West and Palm Beach in a megayacht from Seven Seas.
For around $200,000 per week you can charter a seagoing palace with six staterooms, main salon and formal dining room, sky lounge bar and sundeck with a Jacuzzi or plunge pool, plus Waverunners, scuba and deep-sea fishing gear, and a fleet of three speedboats to whisk you to secluded beaches or upscale shopping.
Other shore excursions might include $200-per-hour private lessons with a professional player at Palm Beach’s International Polo Club, 18 holes at the Blue Monster course at Doral golf club ($250 per round) or a night on the town in South Beach that includes a VIP table with bottle service in the exclusive Trophy Room (plush leather chairs, paparazzi-free privacy, exclusive window onto the dance floor) at the swank SET nightclub.
Estimated vacation cost: $224,000
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The over-the-top Fantasy Suites at Palms Casino Resort are among the largest and most outrageous in Vegas.
The Hardwood Suite ($25,000 per night) boasts a basketball court and scoreboard; the Hugh Hefner ($40,000) features a rotating king bed and cantilevered swimming pool that hangs over the side of the building. Both come with 24/7 limo service.
After settling in, a driver will whisk you to the Bellagio Casino and the elite Bobby’s Room, which stages the highest stakes poker games on the planet. Minimum buy-in is $20,000, but pots often top six and seven figures.
You can spend your winnings (you won, right?) on adventure in the Nevada wilderness. If it’s winter, Las Vegas Private Jet Charter Flights ($5,000-$13,000, depending on the plane) will fly you to the Ruby Mountain sky area in northern Nevada for a day of heli-skiing on snowy slopes above the desert. The rate is $1,375 per person.
If it’s summer, the call of the wild means manning a tricked-out houseboat at Callville Bay Resort & Marina, with six bedrooms, wet bar, water slide, Jacuzzi and companion ski boat for a long, hot day of water sports on Lake Mead ($2,000 per day).
Estimated vacation cost: $256,000 (plus or minus poker winings/losses)
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No place does decadence better than the posh Long Island enclave, where having a bigger, better beach house is how you scale the social ladder. Paul McCartney, Steven Spielberg and Sean “Diddy” Combs are among those who have vacation spreads here.
But you don’t have to be a celebrity to wade into the fray -- you can rent a vacation home complete with swimming pool, tennis courts and putting green for $35,000 a day.
Naturally, you’ll want to fill it with servants from Hampton Domestics -- chef, butler, personal trainer, chauffeur, nanny, gardener, social secretary, maids and a major domo to manage them all -- and a fleet of Bentleys, Ferraris and/or MacLarens from Gotham Dream Cars starting at $750 a day. (Discounts begin at just three days!)
With some help, you can draft a guest list of who’s who in the Hamptons this summer and throw a lavish “Gatsby” bash, a multi-day party, with live entertainment provided by A-listers like Al Green ($250,000), Tony Bennett ($350,000) and Brad Paisley ($1.5 million) available for private gigs through the William Morris Agency in nearby Manhattan.
Estimated vacation cost: $989,000 (not counting the Paisley appearance your guests will be expecting from a bon vivant of your eminent standing in the community)
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