Marion McDonald, an independent advisor at Brownell Travel, goes exploring to discover some gems out West.  

Recently, I heard a travel industry legend say that he equates luxury with time. I am looking at this pause as an unexpected but well-deserved sabbatical after a quarter of a century of hard work as a luxury travel advisor. I recently embarked on a seven-state adventure out West, kicking off my "Summer of the Great American Road Trip." Along the way, I was able to stay with some fabulous partner hotels, including several in Colorado and a ranch in Wyoming.

Our first night in Aspen was spent at the charming Limelight Hotel. Located in the heart of Aspen next to Wagner Park, it is one of three Limelight Hotels, with sister properties in both family-friendly Snowmass (about to undergo major renovations) and Ketchum, a.k.a. Sun Valley, Idaho. Though we found our room spacious and comfortable, we spent most of our time relaxing on our private rooftop terrace overlooking the slopes and the pool. The public areas of the Limelight are cozy, including the intimate cocktail courtyard and pool area. Other major bonuses: A sumptuous buffet breakfast and free airport transfers are included with all rates, and in winter, guests have early access to Aspen Mountain. The Limelight’s casual and friendly vibe makes it the ideal destination for travelers who seek unpretentious luxury in the heart of this quaint ski town.

Our next stop was the venerable Little Nell, considered the longtime luxury leader here for good reason. Aspen’s only five-star/five-diamond boutique property also has the distinction of being the only ski-in/ski-out hotel in town, with exclusive, early-bird access to the slopes. The décor is sophisticated throughout, and all of the well-appointed accommodations include stone fireplaces and luxurious bathrooms with heated marble floors. Our balcony overlooked both the slopes and the exquisite pool and courtyard, the focal point of which is a literal wall of living flowers! Of course, the food and beverage offerings at The Little Nell are without equal, and it is home to an extensive wine cellar. For larger groups and families, the Residences at The Little Nell are a great option, with multi-bedroom units and their own private terrace and pool area — an intimate hotel within a hotel. After experiencing it for myself, I can see why The Little Nell continues to be the go-to spot for celebrities and others who prefer discreet elegance in this bustling ski town.

Our final night in town was spent right across the street at the brand-new W Hotel Aspen. Formerly known as the Sky Hotel, this property was rebuilt from the ground up and opened late last summer. As one would expect, this hotel has an ultramodern vibe, with bright art throughout and functional and minimalist accommodations. A handful of multi-bedroom residential units with their own private pool deck are ideal for families or groups of friends. Certainly, the biggest draw at this new hotel is the fabulous rooftop. The aptly named “WET Deck” boasts the only public rooftop pool in town, and with its sweeping mountain views, craft cocktails here at sunset are a must. The W Hotel is already making a name for itself among hipsters in Aspen. 

Finally, I headed to Wyoming for a memorable weekend stay at The Lodge and Spa at Brush Creek Ranch. This was my first time experiencing a luxury ranch, and it exceeded every possible expectation. Adjacent to the breathtaking Medicine Bow National Forest, this vast working Wagyu cattle ranch is a quick three-and-a-half hour drive from Denver. 

Brush Creek is a collection of several ranches, ranging from an exclusive buyout to a secluded fishing lodge, though glamping is on hiatus until next year. Accommodations span from rustically chic lodge rooms to luxurious multi-bedroom cabins across the vast property. Inclusive rates make for a stress-free vacation, and during my stay, I enjoyed a horseback ride and private fly-fishing lesson, among other diversions. Just opened last year, The Farm boasts a “seed-to-table” fine dining experience, as well as a massive greenhouse operation, onsite distillery, and forthcoming goat creamery! An absolute highlight of my stay was a made-to-order private picnic, offered every Saturday, and sipping a wagon wheel daiquiri while enjoying the sunset over the plains was quite magical. I highly recommend Brush Creek Ranch for families and others who wish to disconnect from the world for a while so they can reconnect with each other.

What an incredible privilege it is to have the time to discover so many wonderful places in our country at this moment. Looking forward to more adventures as I continue my "Great American Road Trip" this summer. 

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