Forget logo branded t-shirts and shot glasses. These hotel gift shops forgo stocking their shelves with those usual tchotchkes in favor of products that raise their retail status as high as the penthouse suite! The six shops that make our list make it so you don’t even have to leave the hotel to score some seriously awesome merchandise. After shelling out some green, you can head back to your luxe digs to admire your vacation loot. Now how to pack it all in your suitcase…

The Plaza, New York City

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Heard of the children’s book series Eloise — about a little girl who lives in The Plaza? Well, some clever retail folks made the storybook character come to life. The Eloise Shop at The Plaza offers one-of-a-kind merchandise based on the book series. But you don’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy the hotel’s charm. The century-old, 282-room Plaza is a New York landmark. A $400 million overhaul in 2008 gave the huge rooms gold-plated bathroom fixtures, but it also converted most rooms overlooking Central Park into privately-owned residences (akin to how Eloise lived). The hotel even has an Eloise-themed suite.

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It may not be Malibu, but land-locked surfers in Canada have found some white caps in an unlikely place — rivers. And so now river surfing is all the rage in Calgary these days (no joke). So grab your board and head across the border for some water play. (Just bring your wet suit, because these rivers will be chilly! And we’re not joking about that either…)

The pros at the Alberta River Surfing Association gave us tips on the top spots to ride the river waves in Canada. Check them out after the jump >>

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Anyone who’s watched The Shining late-night has probably had at least one nightmare featuring hotel ghosts. (Truth be told, we watched it during broad daylight. And we were still terrified…) Whether you believe in paranormal encounters or not, be prepared to shiver from more than the autumnal chill in the air if you book at stay at one of these haunted hotels this Halloween.

The Place d’Armes Hotel, New Orleans

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New Orleans is famous for its paranormal activity, so the title of “most haunted” isn’t one to be taken lightly – and Place d’Armes Hotel, a popular spot on haunted walking tours, may just be that. The historic townhouses, centered around a pretty courtyard, that make up the hotel don’t show any signs of the ghastly fire that took the lives of several students and teachers when their school burned down on this site in the 1800s. But footsteps, children’s laughter, and the sound of furniture moving in unoccupied rooms are just the beginning of reported paranormal activity here. Resident ghosts include a young girl who asks where her grandmother is before vanishing into thin air, and an elderly bearded man dressed in old-fashioned clothes who gives a friendly nod of acknowledgment before he disappears.

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America’s Most Haunted Bars

by Guest on October 23, 2014

This post comes from our partners at Travel + Leisure

Here’s one way to ensure a bar will be haunted: open it in a former morgue. That’s the case with Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West, FL, also a former speakeasy, where you may find yourself sipping gin and tonic next to a grave—or a ghost.

“Ghosts tend to go to places they frequented when they were alive,” says California-based Loyd Auerbach, author of A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. “Consequently, places like bars, where people gather for social reasons or for other personal reasons, are often the target sites for the disembodied.”

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Every city seems to have a haunted bar and an intriguing story behind it. The ghostly presence can often be traced back to an erstwhile love affair or, sadly, the result of a grizzly murder. In Austin, TX, the victim of a bar fight has been causing mischief at The Tavern for decades, changing the TV channels or banging dishes in the kitchen. And outside of Las Vegas, a gambler killed when caught cheating still roams the poker tables at Pioneer Saloon.

Still, some ghost tales are taller than others. Jim Fassbinder, who leads ghost tours in San Francisco, says: “There’s a bunch of haunted bar stories out there mostly promoted by barkeeps who know a well-told ghost story keeps ’em drinkin’ and gets the barkeep a tip.”

Not so at Stone’s Public House in Massachusetts, where paranormal experts confirmed eerie happenings the owner had noticed. It’s one of our picks for the most haunted bars in the nation—and you might want to consider a nice tip, after all, if you want to keep the resident spirits happy.

See tons of photos of haunted bars after the jump >>

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It’s almost November, which has us thinking about elections and presidents – even if that vote is a couple of years away. While leading the country is one of the harder jobs you can have, it does come with a few perks. We imagine the extensive traveling is exhausting, but at least it gives presidents the chance to see some amazing places and stay in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels: Four-poster beds, dining rooms, and spacious bathrooms are always on the checklist. We’ve been lucky enough to get to peek inside some of these fabulous properties and their stunning suites – that we can only dream about. Here are 12 hotels throughout the United States and abroad where former U.S. presidents (and the current one!) have checked in; if you can’t book one of these grand rooms, you can at least look through our thousands of photos of places that presidents from William Howard Taft to Barack Obama have made their short-term home.

Palace Hotel, San Francisco

Palace Hotel

Boasting ample turn-of-the-20th-century elegance and 550 rooms on eight floors (we’re digging these stately corridors), the Palace is aptly named — it is indeed palatial. But other than a nice indoor pool and an elaborate Sunday brunch, few features distinguish this business-oriented Starwood from its competitors. Expect, of course, that eight U.S. presidents have visited the Palace, including both Roosevelts and Warren G. Harding. The hotel’s Presidential Suite is truly worthy of a country’s leader, featuring antique furnishings like marble-lined fireplaces, a dining room table and chairs, and a gorgeous wooden piano.

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This property is NEW on Oyster! One of the newer properties on the island, this chic 60-room boutique resort was built in 2009 and feels modern and fresh. The entire hotel has a spa-like ambience to it, with clean lines and soft lounge music — and the spa itself, with Aveda brand products, is an excellent space. The decor is contemporary, featuring light colors mixed with dark woods, and the artwork is inspired by the sugar cane plants for which the resort is named. Though not billed as adults-only, you won’t see many kids around. The guests are mainly couples of all ages, who will mingle with locals in the trendy Sugar Club bar for drinks in the evening. What makes the property truly unique are the sweeping views — it’s situated high on the side of a hill looking out over the west coast of the island. However, the hillside location means that Sugar Ridge is not on a beach, and guests will have to take a shuttle to get to the sand. The main draws here are the stylish pools, but the gym is also excellent and sophisticated rooms have four-poster beds and decks.

Click through the jump to see even more beautiful pics of this charming spot >>

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We know traveling during the holiday season can be stressful…and expensive. So as part of our bang for your buck series, we wanted to help you jet off to somewhere peaceful, relaxing, and incredibly beautiful; naturally, we thought of Hawaii. And the time to be thinking about that holiday getaway is now – because a lot of people are thinking the same thing as you are. With a budget in mind we kept the price at $150/night for Thanksgiving week, November 22nd through 29th. So don’t store away your bikinis and shorts quite yet! First up, we’re checking out our options in Maui…and then we’ll island hop to Oahu, the Big Island, and Kauai.

Maui Picks

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Outrigger Aina Nalu: $145/night

Located in touristy Lahaina, the Outrigger Aina Nalu is a refreshed condo property offering studio and apartment-style residences. One- and two-bedroom apartments have full kitchens (so you can still cook your own Thanksgiving dinner), updated bathrooms, and free (wired) internet access. The hotel has two large, uncrowded pools, but there are no swimmable beaches within walking distance and the hotel offers few on-site amenities.

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From the time Maria Maio could walk, she was fascinated with her mother’s makeup drawer. Fast-forward to today, and Maria is one of the industry’s most sought-after makeup artist. Her client roster is filled with A-listers — from pop stars to supermodels. “I love Carnie Wilson,” she gushes. “I also enjoy working with Hilary Duff, whom I am currently with on-set.” Maria is responsible for Duff’s makeup for the new Darren Star show, Younger. “I also loved working with supermodel Paulina Poritzkova,” Maria says. “She is such a pro — and what a great honor to do her makeup!”

Maria splits her time between clients in Los Angeles and New York City, and all that in-flight mileage can easily cause havoc on the skin. As Maria warns, “There is nothing worse than being on a plane for hours! The recycled air causes skin dehydration. And once you exit the plane, you can realize you have a bad case of the uglies.”

Well, the team here at Oyster.com surely don’t want a case of the uglies! (Although, to be honest, we’d take one any day in exchange for an awesome getaway.) So we asked Maria for the inside dish on how travelers can combat the bad skin blues.

Check out her easy tips after the jump to guarantee you’ll have hydrated, glowing skin — even after a transatlantic flight >>

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Photo by Ed Schipul

Superstition is a touchy subject. Even the most rational traveler might take a pause before booking a flight on Friday the 13th — although he or she may never actually admit it to friends and family. While researching the most haunted hotels in the world, we ran into a number of travel superstitions in Asia, a continent with a culture that can take dealing with ghosts pretty seriously. While not everyone in Asia believes in ghosts, there is a general consensus among the believers that hotel rooms in particular can attract the departed as a kind of way station between this life and the next. Curious, we asked self-proclaimed “modern-day nomad” Nellie Huang –  who grew up in Singapore and now writes about her travel adventures for the likes of Food & Travel and CNN Go – for her take on ghost culture in Asia. She also gave us some tips on what to look for — and then we did some in-depth research to ensure we know how to avoid ghosts while traveling!

Get her tips and takes after the jump >>

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Everyone has their must-have travel accessories, whether they be neck pillows, eye masks, ear plugs, sneakers — you name it. And now, thanks to technology, that list has grown even longer — which can kinda be a pain. But the gadgets that make out list of travel essentials make traveling so much less of a pain that we’re okay with the fact that our packing list is two pages instead of one. Here are five life-changing travel essentials that you shouldn’t board the plane without.

1. Global Phones

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The SPOT Global Phone may appear to be from the Atari era, but even E.T. could phone home with this bad boy. It can work almost anywhere, so it’s a favorite among adventure types, from mountain climbers to explorers. With its superior voice quality and the fastest satellite-based data speeds in the industry, the SPOT Global Phone keeps you connected well beyond cellular networks. Powered by 100 % satellite technology, the SPOT Global Phone connects you to family, friends, work, and emergency services from virtually anywhere in the world.

$500, SPOT Global

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