Go Away With … Nancy O’Dell

Nancy O'Dell

By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Content Agency
September 1, 2015

Nancy O’Dell is best known as the host of “Entertainment Tonight.” She has traveled worldwide interviewing everyone from President Obama to Angelina Jolie and, if she can make it happen, she’ll bring her children (Ashby, Carson and Tyler) with her.

“My favorite memories are of my children and my husband walking along the beaches searching for seashells and sea creatures,” says O’Dell, who is based out of Los Angeles. “It seems so simple, but we do this on every Hawaii or beach trip and we love it. It just makes me happy to think of it. I could probably make 10 scrapbooks alone of all the beautiful things from nature we have found on the beach.”

Her latest project is a fashion line for Evine Live, where she is aiming to keep the pieces at under $99 each. Fans may follow O’Dell on Twitter () and Instagram.

Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?

A. I had the great pleasure of interviewing my good friend, Garth Brooks, while he was on his world tour in Dublin, Ireland, in 1994. The people there were so sweet and nice that it reminded me of home. I grew up in South Carolina. And the added bonus was that they are huge country fans, as am I.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. The Hawaiian Islands are always our choice when it comes to a favorite destination. My family and I go pretty much every year as a family trip. There is just something so magical about Hawaii. I love the minute we get off the plane and I smell that distinctive paradise smell. It’s one of my favorite places because it is so simple to plan for and we have never failed to have an amazing time. We stay on a different island every trip and every one of them has been wonderful. My daughter is a big fan of exploring around the beach, looking for seashells and sea creatures. I’m also an avid runner and there is always great scenery to look at on my daily run, so it makes staying healthy a breeze. Everything is just so peaceful and relaxing. Also, it’s an easy nonstop flight from Los Angeles. We can leave LA in the morning and by afternoon we can be splashing around the beach.

Q. To someone who was going to Hawaii for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. I would say try going to the Kona Coast on the big island. It is not the first place you think of when going to Hawaii, but we stayed there on our last trip to Hawaii and loved it. The Kona side of Hawaii is almost always dry and sunny, and there are numerous white sand beaches perfect for sunbathing, snorkeling, and swimming. It’s an outdoor paradise with its dramatic black-lava landscapes. My husband and my son are huge golfers and the Kona side of the island is known for its golf courses. They are beyond gorgeous, such a beautiful contrast in colors sitting on top of the dark lava rocks. Every day I would just sit outside our hotel, relaxing, looking at the waves crashing over the black lava rocks while sipping a cup of the world-famous Kona coffee!

Q. What untapped destination should people know about?

A. Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina. This past October, I spent a magical time there with one of my high school friends and her daughter, who is the same age as my little girl. Palmetto Bluff is on the coast of South Carolina between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia. It’s a 20,000-acre development with a nature preserve, walking trails, a village center with river access, gas-lit walkways and wraparound porches. It honestly feels like it is from another time. There are footpaths and bike trails and we even took a boat ride through the Intracoastal Waterway and the May River and spotted lots of dolphins. We stayed at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, which was so relaxing and is absolutely gorgeous. And the Southern food is yummy!

Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?

A. When I was fairly young, probably about 6 years old, my parents took my sister and me to the Grand Canyon. I remember it being very hot. What I remember most from that trip is my Dad constantly wanting to take pictures of us and my feeling he was getting too close to the edge to do so. I just remember feeling like he was going to fall into the canyon and I was so worried. So I think I need to revisit the canyon now that I am older and cameras are better!

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. My favorite weekend getaway is to the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara. It’s a quick drive from Los Angeles and it is one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve ever seen. It’s so romantic, located along a beautiful California stretch, between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. The views you can enjoy while having dinner are beyond gorgeous. Its style is Mediterranean — our favorite. Plus, there’s an amazing spa. And it holds a special sentiment for me because that’s where my husband and I got married.

Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?

A. I haven’t been to Australia yet. I want to see the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach, the Great Barrier Reef and Great Ocean Road. I’m looking forward to visiting one day.

Q. What would be your fantasy trip?

A. I’ve always dreamed of going to Bora Bora and spending a week in one of those huts over the water where you can just jump off your balcony and swim. I think that will be an anniversary trip with my hubby someday.

Q. What is your worst vacation memory?

A. My worst vacation memory would be from just a few years ago. I was in Hawaii and we’d been swimming all day long in the pool and at the beach. I had put conditioner in my hair and wrapped it in a bun. The waves crashed on the back of my head and then we went for a ride in a convertible. By the end of the day, my hair was so tangled because of the sand and chlorine that it took two full bottles of conditioner and hours to untangle it.

Q. What are your some of your favorite cities?
A. Paris, Rome, Venice, Kyoto,Santa Barbara, Charleston, S.C., Asheville, N.C. and New York City.

Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. A good book is always great, especially for a beach vacation. Catalogs are also a lot of fun for a trip. I am obsessed with all things home, but I also love clothing catalogs. I’m always in search of clothing that is elegant, but has an edge. That’s my favorite style and actually what I based my whole clothing line for Evine on, so, I always get magazines galore for a trip and use vacation as one of the great times to see what is on trend for designing my line. It’s relaxing, so it is the best time to be creative! And comfy clothes are a must for traveling, in fact for everyday life. I love wearing clothes that are stylish, but yet comfortable. For example, a good pair of leggings is a must for vacation, as well as a great maxi dress. As far as a camera, I actually bring two on vacation, one as a backup. I’m constantly snapping pics of the kids and husband. I love making photo albums to keep those memories. And I feel memories are so important and bonding for kids!

Q. What are your favorite restaurants?
A. There are so many places that I’ve been fortunate to eat at because of my work, but some of my favorite include: Amaya in London. When I was covering the Royal wedding of Will & Kate, we ate there and what an experience! Its Indian food and everything we tried, I give an A+++! Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami. I first ate there with my new boss when I worked in Miami as an evening anchor there. I tried Stone Crab for the first time. Momotaro in Chicago. The menu is so diverse, you could eat a new delicious something every night. Locanda Verde in New York City. I love this very hip Italian eatery with delicate plates. Italian…need I say more? The Ivy restaurant in Los Angeles. I love the outdoor setting. It’s the only place I have found stone crabs in L.A. and it’s always good for celeb sightings. Melvin’s barbecue in Mount Pleasant S.C. Their BBQ sauce is the best anywhere. They actually Fed-Ex’d me some BBQ on ice for the entire staff at E.T. to try.

Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. Santorini, Greece has to be the most romantic place I’ve ever been to! I went there in 2004 when I was covering the Olympics in Greece. I was dating my husband at the time. We were just starting to get serious and he flew out to spend some time with me in Greece. We decided to make a quick weekend trip from Athens to Santorini and, boy, was it out of this world! There are few places that combine beautiful beaches, ancient cities, amazing restaurants and an active volcano. And the scenery with the multi-colored cliffs soaring over the sea-filled caldera — you just cannot imagine a more beautiful site. It truly takes your breath away with its white houses lining the cliff tops. And there is no better sunset in the world. When the sun starts to go down, everyone — locals and tourists — come outside and toast the sun going down. Because of Santorini’s location where the cliffs drop in to the sea, you get to see the island in a different light every minute. You get to watch all of this while drinking some of the world’s best wines. I want to go back! As far as romantic vacations, I can’t beat the one I had with my husband to Manele Bay in Hawaii. It was the first trip we took together and it’s where I fell in love with him. There was this rock cliff which you could walk out to, sit on the edge, and look out at the ocean. We would sit there for hours, while having the most wonderful conversations.

Q. If you’ve ever gone away for the holidays, which was the best trip?
A. I would have to say all of my best trips for the holidays would have been anytime I got to head back to my hometown of Myrtle Beach. I was extremely close with my Mom, so she always made coming home so special. And now that I have a family of my own, I cherish those memories even more.

Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I’m a total study freak, so I like to read travel books before I head anywhere. I also do a lot of research online. Even if I’m going for work, I like to read up on my destination. My assistant, Lizzy, loves to give me a hard time, but it makes me feel better if I can plan ahead. I just don’t want to miss out on anything spectacular and fun!

Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. I’m a total spa/massage obsessed person.  So if I’m traveling and have some downtime, you’ll be sure to find me in the spa!

Q. What are your favorite hotels?
A. The Eden Roc, St. Barths, where my husband and I stayed on our honeymoon. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island, S.C. The Savoy, London and the Ritz-Carlton, New York.

Q. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
A. Because of my hectic work schedule, when I’m on vacation, the one thing I make sure I do is to be present. I make sure that I’m in the moment with my family. I try to block out any thoughts of things I have to do when I get back home. So whether we’re taking a walk on the beach or playing a board game, I really enjoy those precious times. I also make sure I take photos, even of the simplest things. One of my favorite things to do is to go back through my scrapbooks with my daughter and relive all those wonderful memories.

Q. Have you traveled to a place that stood out so much that you felt compelled to incorporate it into your work?
A. Yes! Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, SC. I was going to Savannah, Georgia, to interview Paula Dean. Even though it was a little drive to Savannah to get to the interview, it was worth it to stay at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff. And on top of it all, the roads on the drive were gorgeous, surrounded by oaks, red cedars and Spanish moss.

© 2015 JAE-HA KIM


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