Larry Olmsted

Correspondent

  • Vermont, USA

Larry Olmsted is an at-large Forbes Travel Guide correspondent who lives in Vermont but regularly treks around the world as an award-winning journalist who has covered travel for more than 15 years. He writes the “Great American Bites” column for USAToday.com, previously wrote the “Life on Vacation” column for USA Today, and is the longtime contributing travel editor to Cigar Aficionado magazine. He has contributed to numerous travel guides, including the Michelin Green Guide, and writes regularly for both US Airways’ and American Airlines’ magazines. He also writes “The Great Life” column for Forbes.com.

  • On February 21, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best fine-dining restaurants in Las Vegas?

    In my opinion Las Vegas has the best fine dining scene in the US. The 3-Michelin Starred, Forbes 5-Star Joel Robuchon (MGM Grand) is the finest meal money can buy, maybe in the world, a three hour extravaganza of course after course for an incredible tasting menu. Unlike many celebrity chef clones or spinoffs from elsewhere, this is Robuchon’s flagship for the world – and he has more Michelin stars than anyone in history. Other top choices are Pierre Gagnaire’s Twist (Mandarin Oriental), also 3-Michlen Stars and Forbes 5-Star, and Guy Savoy, another eponymous 3-star chef (Caesars). After these, the tops on the Strip would be Alex at the Wynn and Picasso at Bellagio. But an often overlooked old school favorite with a magnificent experience is Michael’s Fine Dining, which relocated from its longtime home to the South Point Resort several miles south of The Strip on Las Vegas Boulevard, well worth seeking out.
  • On February 21, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best souvenirs to buy in Las Vegas?

    Las Vegas is one of the world’s great souvenir shopping spots, with offerings from cheesy to collectible. A great gift for yourself and all your friends would be playing cards. These come in two varieties: personalized, like “Larry’s Casino,” sold in the many general Strip souvenir shops, and actual decks from individual casino hotels, sold once they get worn and are taken out of circulation at the tables, in the casino shops. There is something magical about playing with a logo deck that won and lost fortunes at Caesars or the Mirage. The Field of Dreams sports memorabilia store in the Forum Shops regularly hosts celebrity and athlete signings several days a week, where you can get items personally autographed for you by everyone from Pete Rose to Evander Holyfield, much more memorable than just buying an autographed item. Also in the Forum Shops is Antiquities International, which has been there for over 20 years, and often has old fashioned mechanical slot machines for sale – along with county fair style Fortune Telling machines and other novel collectibles. Several casinos have magic shops selling easy to use professional tricks, something hard to find in most places. Bonanza Gifts, on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Bonanza, loudly claims to be the world’s largest souvenir shop and it is easy to believe – if in doubt just go there and look around.
  • On February 9, 2013
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  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best places to ski in Aspen?

    Many first time visitors are not prepared for how vast the skiing at Aspen is. Aspen is actually four resorts in one, with four completely different mountains, each with its own base village and facilities. One of these, Snowmass, is by itself the third largest ski mountain in the nation and could easily be a weeklong destination on its own. The key to a successful ski trip here is picking the right mountain for you, which may mean changing each day – almost all lodging is in town Aspen or at Snowmass. Buttermilk is one of the best places in the world to learn to ski or snowboard, full of greens and blues and basically an entire mountain devoted to less challenging skiing, free of intimidation and with little chance to accidently get in over your head. It is popular with families and learners but most skilled skiers skip it altogether. Aspen Mountain (or Ajax), the one in town, is surprising to many visitors because it is the only major ski resort in the country with no green terrain. It has plenty of blue but is not the place to learn to ski or for first times. It is generally a “vertical” mountain, high relative to its width, with a lot of steeps and sustained pitches, good skiing for intermediates and advanced. The best true expert terrain is at Aspen Highlands, just outside town, which has a much more down to earth “ski bum” feel than posh Aspen Mountain. The main attraction here is Highlands Bowl, which requires a short hike up the boot packed rim trail before dropping in – it is famous in skiing and a rite of passage of visiting experts. Snowmass, the furthest for town, is a world unto itself, with excellent skiing for all abilities and vast terrain. You can learn, cruise, or get in over your head here, with plenty of steeps and chutes, especially on Hanging Valley Wall. A new intermediate glade area of nearly 250-acres was added for this season. Some visitors stay at Snowmass the entire week and never leave, but even if you stay in Aspen it is worth at least two days.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best hotels in Aspen?

    The Little Nell is easily tops, the only Forbes 5-Star and the only ski-in/ski-out option in the town of Aspen. This boutique hotel has long led the pack in terms of room, service and dining, all of which it excels at. There are also much larger and quite luxurious residences for rent. A few blocks from the base of the mountain in the heart of town lies the historic Hotel Jerome, which hearkens back to the days of the Wild West. While its grandeur had faded in recent years, it was just taken over and completely renovated by luxury group Auberge Resorts, reopening in tem for Christmas 2012, and is now one of the hottest lodgings in ski country. Martini loving hipsters should check out the trendy Sky Hotel, seemingly transported whole from New York’s Meatpacking District to town, while the St. Regis Aspen is the choice for those seeking a large, full service and self-contained luxury resort, with spa, elaborate pool facility, and multiple bars and restaurants, but still right in town. Snowmass Mountain has two excellent choices, both very convenient for ski-in/ski-out access and both with full spas and standout restaurants, the hip Viceroy Snowmass and the brand new Westin Snowmass.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Should visitors rent a car in Aspen?

    Only to get here and only if you are not flying into the very close but often weather affected Aspen airport. If you are coming from Eagle/Vail (90 minutes) or Denver (a 3 hour drive), you likely want a car, though there are some shuttle services available. From the Aspen airport, most hotels pick up and taxis are a short ride. Within the town of Aspen itself you can walk to everything easily, and there is a very efficient and extensive public bus system all throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Every day the bulk of skiers staying in Aspen who want to ski the outlying mountains of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk find it easier to jump on the free bus than to drive themselves. Likewise, those staying out at Snowmass have little need for a car since everything is condensed on the mountain, and even shuttling between Snowmass and the town of Aspen, the longest route in these parts, is easy by free bus. Finally, top luxury hotels like the Little Nell and St. Regis have complimentary in-town car service for guests.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best restaurants in Vail?

    Miso Black Cod, Photo: Nobu Group Vail likely has the best assortment of great eateries of any ski town in North America, but even here several stand out. For anniversaries or special occasions, the number one choice is Kelly Liken. This is the eponymous flagship of the former Top Chef finalist, whose modern American cuisine focuses heavily on ultra-fresh, ultra-local ingredients in specialties like elk carpaccio. Larkspur is a local favorite – don’t miss the salad with signature croutons made of pan-fried mashed potato cubes. The Game Creek Club is a private on-mountain lunch club atop the gondola that opens to the public for dinner. You need to take a custom sno-cat to get there but it is worth it, for a fine dining take on game and Colorado cuisine.  One of the few hidden gems in Vail Village proper is La Bottega, an Italian enoteca serving lots of wines by the glass and delicious small and large plates, good for dinner or just an après ski snack. Flame in the Four Seasons hotel may be the best high-end steakhouse at any ski resort, with exquisite dry aged meats and house-made salumi. Last winter Vail embraced Peruvian-Japanese fusion when famed chef Nobu Matsuhisa opened an outpost of his LA Matsuhisa here, featuring his trademark signature dishes such as rock shrimp tempura and miso black cod.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best outdoor activities in Vail?

    Downhill skiing is the main attraction, but both Vail and sibling Beaver Creek have world-class Nordic skiing and snowshoe programs that receive much less attention. This is a great thing to do on a midweek recovery day when your Alpine muscles need a break, or simply to experience the natural beauty of the Rockies, learn something new, or get a workout in. At Beaver Creek the unusual McCoy Park Nordic trail system is atop the mountain – you ride a lift to get there. They have a slate of half-day options, including snowshoe tours, telemark lessons, and cross country lessons or tours that can all be mixed or matched, any three for $199 in a 7-day period. In summer they turn it into guided hiking. At Vail, the Nordic School uses the adjacent White River National Forest as its playground. Every day they offer 2 ½ hour beginner cross country ski lessons, cross country ski tours, or snowshoe tours, all of them guided and with all equipment for just $89.
  • On January 11, 2013
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  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is Southern Vermont most famous for?

    Forbes Travel Guide editors found that those traveling to Southern Vermont can expect to discover idyllic little Vermont towns, usually built around a main green, surrounded with galleries, shops and restaurants. Manchester, Woodstock, Quechee, Ludlow and others all fit the bill. Vermont is also widely known for its artisanal products — “Made In Vermont” has an aura of purity and simplicity recognized worldwide. Items that you can actually watch being made include cheeses, maple syrup, craft beers and ice cream. Southern Vermont is also known for its iconic imagery: red covered bridges spanning pristine streams, waterways seemingly made for fly-fishing, mountains covered with nothing but green foliage (or snow in winter) and a complete absence of billboards, cell towers and high-rise buildings.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best thing to bring home from Southern Vermont?

    Vermont is known for its many craft culinary goods, and Forbes Travel Guide suggests bringing home a delicacy or two — think artisanal cheeses, maple syrup and related maple products like sugar, candies and pancake or waffle mixes. There is an official cheese trail of dairies to visit, but a quick stop in any gourmet store will provide an instant opportunity to snap up some excellent cheese. If you’re worry about transporting the dairy items, grab a bottle of syrup to take home — after all, Vermont is considered the world’s best syrup producer. To go along with the sweet stuff, head to Norwich to visit King Arthur Flour’s new Baker’s Store. Here you can get some fresh unique flours to bring home with you, too.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best Southern Vermont food experiences?

    Given that much of Vermont is farmland and the state caters to visitors, it’s not surprising that food is taken very seriously here. According to our Forbes Travel Guide editors, the five best dining experiences in Southern Vermont are:
     
    1. Maple syrup-filled breakfasts. Vermont and maple syrup are hopelessly intertwined, probably because Vermont has a well-earned reputation as the world’s best syrup producer. For this reason, any breakfast item on which maple syrup can be poured is revered, most notably pancakes (especially blueberry) and French toast.
     
    2. Church suppers. You don’t have to be religious to attend these dinners and people come from neighboring states like Massachusetts (two hours each way) just to attend these traditional small town social affairs and fundraisers. They are frequent but hard-to-find — ask locals about any upcoming events. Those in the know tend to go early, so if it starts at 5 p.m., expect a line to form at 4 p.m.
     
    3. Ice cream. Vermont famously has a lot of cows and all that milk seems to go into cheese and ice cream — or gelato, which is rapidly proliferating. And although Ben & Jerry’s is the most well known, it’s hardly the only one. Craft ice cream prevails, usually organic and hormone-free, such as Strafford Organic Creamery, Leonardo’s Gelateria or Island Homemade Ice Cream.
     
    4. Farmer’s markets. There are farmer’s markets almost every day of the week, and many on weekends. In addition to fresh meats and produce, many feature ready-to-eat foods such as Vermont-made samosas, crepes and barbecue. Some of the best are found in Norwich, Woodstock, Ludlow, Manchester and Brattleboro.
     
    5. Cheese. Vermont makes some of the best cheese in the world — its cheeses often beat the best of Europe in competition. Cheddar was once the gold standard, but today Vermont produces world-class cheeses of every style: raw, aged, hard, soft, goat, cow, sheep and bleu. There is an official cheese trail to visit, but a quick stop in any gourmet store will provide an instant cheese-centric picnic or meal.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best nightlife in Southern Vermont?

    The Killington resort area has long had the best nightlife in all of the Eastern ski region, and certainly in Vermont as well. It is considerably slower in summer, but several of the popular places such as Charity’s (where the bar food and beer is essential nourishment after a day on the slopes) and the lively Casey’s Caboose (famous for its wings) are still open. In fall and winter, the big venues for live music are the Pickle Barrel and Wobbly Barn but there are things happening the entire length of the resort’s access road, nearly five miles long. Head out early and be ready for hearty food and plenty of drinks.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What is the best way to see Southern Vermont in one day?

    To see the best of Southern Vermont in just a day, you’ll want to rent a car. The Forbes Travel Guide recommended driving route can be done starting at either end, Manchester or Norwich. (Use your driving time to take in the natural beauty of the landscape.) When starting in Manchester, take time to explore (by foot) the town’s ample shopping and great mountain vistas. Next, drive to Woodstock stopping briefly on Main Street. Have lunch in here, and explore the village shops and galleries before driving to nearby Quechee. Here you can tour the Simon Pearce glassblowing factory, with optional stops at Sugarbush Farm or the Harpoon Brewery. Finish in Norwich, and visit King Arthur Flour for some local souvenirs.
  • On September 19, 2012
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Where is the best shopping in Southern Vermont?

    The town of Manchester is the single best shopping destination in Vermont because it has so much variety in one place. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you walk the sidewalks lined with shops and take in the mountain views — there aren’t many places where world-class shopping and vistas collide. The town is home to the flagship store of Orvis, the nation’s oldest catalog retailer, fly-fishing expert and outdoor outfitter. It’s also home to kitchenware and butcher block producer J.K. Adams. There are unique factory outlets from companies that rarely have them, like Giorgio Armani, TSE Cashmere and Hickey Freeman. The best of the rest? A slew of art galleries, jewelry stores, a local artist and craft consortium and some of the best bookstores in the state (be sure to check out the local favorite Northshire Bookstore). The authentic general store, Vermont Country Store, is also along the Manchester strip.