As seen on TV. We've followed Don Draper for seven seasons as he's crisscrossed the globe, be it via Cadillac or TWA flight. As the final episodes air, we're taking you back to the Golden Age of travel with a 'Mad Men'-inspired vacation guide for retro-style trips to cities Don visited.
The days of boarding a plane in a sharp suit or tailored dress, lighting a cigarette, and promptly being handed a drink by a smiling flight attendant in knee-high boots have gone the way of the buffalo-- unless you're watching Mad Men. The stylized parade of free in-air cocktails and classy airport lounges makes it tempting to yearn for a time when people treated the inside of an airplane with as much respect as a church. But as devastatingly chic as the show makes the 1960s look (even the road trips!), there's one thing about the present day that Budget Travelers should be fiercely thankful for: Air travel is much more accessible now than it was in the '60s.
"Commercial air travel was a very exclusive means of transportation that most people couldn't afford," says Michael J. Allen, associate professor of history at Northwestern University, who taught a class called "Consumerism and Social Change in Mad Men America, 1960-1965." "And it really would have been oriented largely around work, as it is in Don's life."
Cheers to no longer needing an ad-man salary to travel but you can still experience the romance of mid century getaways. We'll show you how! Like a secretary in the typing pool, we've created your itinerary for these Mad Men vacation destinations before the final seven episodes air starting April 5.
Honolulu, Hawaii: Megan and Don's Honeymooon
"The Doorway," Season 6: What beach junkie didn't envy Megan Draper as she called "Mahalo" from under a floppy hat while exchanging an empty tropical cocktail for a full one? We'll take the Oahu honeymoon at the Royal Hawaiian, the bronze tan, and the Pucci-style bikini, thanks.
As depicted in the show, in Don's day Hawaii was a military hub for personnel passing through during WWII, Korea, and Vietnam but with a romantic bent. "Military personnel's wives could fly to Hawaii, oftentimes at reduced prices to visit their loved ones," professor Allen says. "It was a popular destination that many Americans wouldn't have been able to afford to go to otherwise. It was evocative of both Asia and Polynesia, but it was a very Americanized space, so it had the best of both worlds: It was English-speaking, American-dominated, but had certain cultural trappings associated with Asia."
Stay: The Royal Hawaiian if you want to splurge. Yes, the resort still exists! You'll need a rock-solid savings plan or a Draper-like wallet to wedge it into your vacation budget, but the authenticity could be worth it to hardcore fans (from $375). The show was shot at the hotel, dubbed the "Pink Palace of the Pacific"; the newly married Drapers shared the chi-chi King Kamehameha Suite. You might remember the gorgeous ocean view that slowly came into focus as Megan stepped onto the balcony in a billowing caftan. Order an old-fashioned la Don at the beachside Mai Tai Bar. It's not the koa-wood prop wet bar built for the show and plopped onto the Coconut Lanai, but the Scratch Mai Tai is the hotel's original recipe, concocted with fresh-squeezed orange and pineapple juices. Not eager to dole out cash at a Roger Sterling clip? The Aqua Waikiki Wave offers private lanais, ocean views, and an updated twist on retro orange '60s decor for a third of the price (from $127).
Eat: The tiki trend was huge in midcentury America, and dining at La Mariana Tiki Bar and Restaurant, with its rattan chairs, glass globes, and umbrella-speared cocktails, is the closest you can get to partaking in the fad without a time machine. Opened in 1957, the space displays tchotchkes like tikis and tables from pioneering tiki bars like Don the Beachcomber. Sip a potent zombie and try the ahi poke pupu (entrees from $12).
Do: You could solemnly read Dante's Inferno on Waikiki Beach, but the Royal Hawaiian's 'Aha'aina luau is still a big draw: Each Monday, the hotel puts on a traditional feast complete with seven lavish food stations (including one for pig-carving) and a live show not unlike the one the Drapers watched. Yes, there is hula dancing and an open bar ($179 per person).
Detroit, Michigan: Playground for GM Execs
Episodes: "For Immediate Release" and "In Care Of,” Season 6: Detroit is much more than the place where Ken Cosgrove gets his eye shot out and Pete Campbell reverses a brand-new Chevy into a towering glass GM sign. Now out of bankruptcy, the city has experienced a nosedive in downtown crime and a foodie renaissance, thanks to restaurants like local-ingredient-driven Selden Standard and Slow's Bar B Q. The American public is catching on too: Searches for Detroit hotels were up 29 percent last year, according to Hotels.com. Before you mingle with the new hipster entrepreneurs, appreciate the ghosts who built Motor City.
Stay: The St. Regis Detroit. That's right, you can afford the St. Regis! Even better, it's near the Art Deco style Fisher Building, an impossible-to-miss fixture of the Detroit skyline, across the street from the old GM headquarters (from $118 per night). Or tip your fedora to the past at the Crowne Plaza Detroit Downtown Riverfront, formerly the see-and-be-seen Pontchartrain Hotel (a.k.a. The Pontch), the height of hotel luxury when it was built in 1965 (from $142 per night). You can still take the elevator up to the 25th floor for a cocktail and a long look at the view of the Detroit River at the ritzy rooftop restaurant The Top of the Pontsch.
Eat: Treat yourself to a steak or dip into a happy-hour shrimp cocktail at the London Chophouse, once the gathering spot for Max Fisher, Henry Ford II, and the auto magnates of the '50s and '60s. It's been restored to match its history with such care you can practically see Roger Sterling slurping oysters in the corner (entrees from $28). Try your luck at reserving coveted booth No. 1: "Those guys would fight over booth No. 1: The first guy in got it," says Michael O'Callaghan, executive vice president of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Or grab a "ground round" hamburger topped with Velveeta on the honor system at Miller's Bar, where Lee Iacocca and other execs used to convene William Clay Ford Jr. still stops by (from $5.50).
Do: Marvel at the four-wheeled beauties at the Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum (from $12). Don bought a sexy 1962 Cadillac Coupe de Ville at Roger's urging, and after seeing the 10,000-square-foot museum's collection of autos and memorabilia, you'll understand why.
Palm Springs, California: Don Meets a Group of Mysterious Jet-Setters
Episode: "The Jet Set," Season 2: Who was that leisure-driven, overeducated, well-dressed clan that Don hung out with in Palm Springs? The "idle rich" is one way to describe them. "That kind of milieu is common in films from the 1960s, and it's often supposed to represent a kind of cosmopolitan elite that has a ton of leisure time and, I think, is usually fictional," professor Allen says. "It's designed for an American audience that works hard to suggests that there's some sort of world out there that's different from the commonplace humdrum of American society." Good thing you don't have to be a Slim Aarons approved heiress to experience Palm Springs like they did. (And anyone can challenge or annoy their friends with the "Places" parlor game: Name a city that starts with the last letter of the place named by the player before you. Don deftly follows up "Sarajevo" with "Oslo.")
Stay: The gorgeous, cube-like home pictured in the show is actually the Fox Residence, former home of Frank Sinatra, located in L.A.'s Chatsworth neighborhood and now on sale for a cool $7.5 million. You can get that same vibe by renting a vacation home with friends in Palm Springs. The three-bedroom, two-bath Palm Springs Private Oasis on HomeAway.com is a good facsimile of the Fox, with its soaring sliding glass doors, a massive combination pool and hot tub, and haute mid century design trappings like a Noguchi coffee table and Saarinen womb chairs (from $250 per night). If you have a month to burn, like those jet-setters, the Stan Sackley-designed Desert Contemporary Vacation Home will run you only $167 a night (plus utilities) if you rent it for 30 days.
Eat: Will you order the steak Diane or the vichyssoise ( la Betty ordering room service at the Algonquin) for your big vacation dinner at old Hollywood hangout Melvyn's Restaurant? Tough call. But leave room for one of the classic desserts that the frozen-in-time restaurant has been serving for years: Cherries jubilee and bananas foster are two options (entrees from $23).
Do: Nobody does midcentury-modern architecture like Palm Springs. Learn about the sleek buildings born out of the Desert Modernism movement at the Palm Springs Art Museum's new Architecture and Design Center, itself a restored glass-and-steel midcentury wonder ($5).
Rome, Italy: Don and Betty's European Getaway
Episode: "Souvenir," Season 3: Imagine leaving for Rome one day and coming back the next. It wasn't a lengthy getaway, but Betty took what she could get after Conrad Hilton called Don and asked him to come check out his new property last-minute. Traveling to Europe by air (rather than the less-expensive Caribbean or Hawaii) would have been out of reach for most middle-class Americans in 1963. When they planned a vacation, "for most people it would have been a road trip to somewhere warm, like Florida or California," professor Allen says.
Stay: Too bad we can't all have Connie Hilton foot the bill for our European trip, but the Hilton in Rome that Don and Betty visited is still standing and now a Waldorf Astoria. Rooms at the Rome Cavalieri are surprisingly reasonable at the current exchange rate, and significantly more ornate than they were back when the hotel first opened (from about $200 per night). Even the least expensive rooms have an option to upgrade to the same Rome view that the Drapers took in.
Eat: Order an asti spumante (sweet white sparkling Italian wine) just like Betty, except do it at the tourist-friendly but tasty Giggetto, near the Portico D’Ottavio. Open since 1923, the restaurant drapes its outdoor tables with white tablecloths, similar to the fountainside ones Don and Betty perched at. We hear the classic dishes, like amatriciana or carbonara, are the ones to order.
Do: If you're craving a Betty Draper-esque high-fashion updo, you can indeed request a hairdresser at the Rome Cavalieri's Grand Spa. A more economical option in Italy: The simple (free) pleasure of listening for ringing church bells. Betty appreciated those too, if not the Colosseum charm Don gave her later.
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