My adventure across America on Route 66 was made special by any number of fun and unique experiences. Whether it was meeting the kind owners of restored service stations, or visiting one of the largest (but not THE) largest rocking chairs in the world, it was a mix of quirky and more traditional tourist activities. Since the trip was sponsored by Marriott International, not only did I enjoy the kind hospitality of their many different brands across the country, but also the experiences offered by something new for the company, Marriott Moments. Today I want to share what Marriott Moments are and how they added a lot to my overall enjoyment of tackling The Mother Road.
What are Marriott Moments?
Marriott International and Marriott Rewards have both had a busy couple of years. Acquiring Starwood, redesigning entire brands and merging rewards programs have all been making the travel news. But, what I think is one of the most exciting changes is the introduction of Marriott Moments. Simply said, they are a marketplace of more than 110,000 activities and experiences around the world that anyone can book. From a food tour in New York to walking the Great Wall of China, the options are incredible. In addition to these more mainstream experiences, there are Marriott-only member exclusives available through the marketplace. Even better, but you also earn rewards points for each experience you enjoy, a perk for those of us who hoard miles and points like they were long lost treasure. But what is the process like in real life?
Chicago Architectural Cruise
Before the start of the drive, I planned a couple of extra days to explore Chicago, and Marriott Moments activities were an indispensable resource. There was a lot I wanted to experience during what was my first time in Chicago as a tourist, but at the top of that list was the famous architectural cruise. Long considered one of the best tours in the world, dozens of people have recommended it to me over the years and I couldn’t wait to see what all the fuss was about. A warm and sunny weekend day meant that the entire city seemed to be outside, enjoying the near perfect weather. That was certainly true on the water; I couldn’t help but notice that the cruise I was on was almost fully booked. I don’t think I ever realized that the Chicago River does indeed run through the city itself, creating not only a beautiful waterway through the heart of the city, but some natural air conditioning on those hot summer days. Chicago is a fascinating city for a number of reasons, but its relatively young age is I think amongst the most notable. Not only is it young, but it was almost completely destroyed during the Great Fire, which means the city we see today is mainly a product of the 20th century. It’s through that history that the architectural cruise sails, and the 90 minutes spent on the water learning all about the dozens of buildings along with the history of the city was one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever enjoyed. I quickly understood why the cruise is so very well regarded and it’s just one of those experiences I think everyone needs to do at least once in their lives.
Along the Route
At nearly every daily stopping point as we drove along old Route 66, there were Marriott Moments options for us to enjoy. The only limitation was our own time; I quickly wished I had spent a month driving across the country instead of a fast two weeks. There were a few places though where I built in extra time, knowing I wanted to see more of the regions, including Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was my first time in the state and I was thrilled to finally experience the famously laid back and artistic vibe of the city. I was also excited because I booked a special Marriott Moments tour of nearby Taos. Long known as the capital of counter-culture cool, Taos is simultaneously one of the most physically beautiful places I’ve been, but also the strangest. Since time was short, the organized small-group tour wasn’t just nice, it was essential to make the most of our limited time. Meeting our guide in downtown Taos, we climbed into her truck and set out to see the best of the region. Stunning landscapes, adobe churches and quirky homes were all included, but without a doubt the highlight was spending time in the UNESCO-recognized Taos Pueblo. One of the country’s most photographed buildings, this 1,000 year-old dwelling is also the oldest continuously inhabited dwelling in the USA. Standing there in the community, chatting with the fine people who call it home and looking up at this impressive monument to a way of life and culture, it was all nearly overwhelming. I didn’t expect that on this trip, to be so completely impressed and wowed by places like this, but then again, that’s why I decided to tackle Route 66. To see – to really see – my country and to allow those amazing moments to happen, whenever and wherever that may be.
Although Route 66 officially ends in Santa Monica, California, I decided to spend a couple of extra days in Southern California to rest and recover, including a night at the JW Marriott LA Live. Located next to the STAPLES Center in the heart of downtown LA, it wasn’t my first time there so I thought I knew what to expect. That’s one of the many great benefits of booking experiences and tours when we travel, we learn a lot long the way, just as I did when I enjoyed my final Marriott Moments experience, a food tour of downtown LA. Downtown LA doesn’t get the respect it deserves; probably due to the number of times it has had to reinvent itself over the decades. Today though it’s once again being revitalized, as I discovered on a fun food walk around the oft-neglected downtown core. Booking the tour through Marriott Moments, I was excited for the immersion into all things Angeleno and I hoped that this time I would actually come to like the city. Over the course of 3 hours, the guide took us not only to tasty restaurants and cafes, but also gorgeous spots hiding in plain sight. Whether it was old art deco theaters or vibrant murals painted on the sides of massive brick buildings, the tour did indeed open my eyes to how much fun downtown LA can be.
I’ve been writing about walking tours and day trips for years. I firmly believe that they add a lot to any trip and I always include at least a few no matter where in the world I am. Using the Marriott Moments experiences to augment an already incredible trip wasn’t just fun, it helped me make the most of my limited time as I drove across the country. Thanks to the diversity of experiences available in all corners of the planet and the fact I can earn points, I know this won’t be my last time using the Marriott Moments marketplace.
This post was created in partnership with Marriott International, but all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.Add to Flipboard Magazine.