We can’t help but get a little nostalgic when thinking of Disney World; after all, it’s where dreams come true! And whether you’re six or sixty, a pair of Mickey Mouse ears never looked so good as when you’re spinning in a teacup or roaming the theme park grounds, cotton candy in hand. However, one thing that decades of Disney experience can change is where you want to stay on the massive property. A resort with a pool teeming with tots, waterslides, and floaties? Great for families, not so fab for couples looking for a bit of romance — you catch our drift. So we’ve done some digging into Disney’s digs and have found the resorts that’ll best suit all types of Disney-bound Disney fanatics. Whether you’re planning a girls’ getaway or a family vacation, Disney World can be just the spot to relax, reconnect — and most importantly – have the time of your life. So without further adieu, first up: Disney for families.
Kids love the long, winding slide at the pool at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge.
Have some rambunctious kids on your hands? Twenty minutes at the playground will wear them out.
Modeled after an East African safari lodge, with giraffes and gazelles that freely roam the grounds, the 762-room Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of Disney’s most unique resorts — and is arguably the best option for families looking to have highly-entertained tots. Though it’s a bit more removed from Epcot and the Magic Kingdom than other properties, the resort is adjacent to the Animal Kingdom theme park and features a massive pool, a playground, a great kids’ club, and numerous free activities — such as cookie decorating and African drumming — throughout the day. Older children can enjoy the on-site arcade.
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Offering some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and most stunning natural wonders, virtually endless recreational opportunities, year-round temperatures that hover around 80 degrees, and a well-organized tourism infrastructure that creates a mostly seamless vacation experience, Hawaii attracts some seven million tourists each year. What’s more, the best of Hawaii — its natural attractions — can be enjoyed at little cost. But whether you’re on a budget or you’re looking for luxury, Oyster has found just the spot to stay for almost every kind of traveler and has a hotel for you. We’ve teamed up with Captivate Network to bring you five ways to stay in Hawaii. Check it out below and next week, check out your Captivate elevator screens for 1 Trip, 5 Ways: Rome!
Marriott Wailea Resort
You can’t visit Hawaii without going to a luau, and the Marriott’s three-hour extravaganza is the best in Wailea. The meal is delicious and doesn’t forgo any of the essential luau elements, including traditional food like poi and kalua pork.
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Let’s face it: Traveling can bring out the inner germaphobe in even the most adventurous of us, and for good reason. There are lots of health risks encountered in your hotel room that you won’t necessarily find at home, from mold to industrial cleaning product residue. Didn’t even cross your mind ’til now? Well, fear not — more and more hotels are offering solutions, so your next hotel stay can be cleaner and safer than ever before. Read on to find out what to be wary of — and what you can do about it.
The Orchard Hotel in San Francisco uses chemical-free cleaning products.
The Risk: Chemical Cleaning Products
The chemicals in cleaning products used in many hotel rooms can make you sick — and routine exposure (road warriors, take note) can be life-threatening. Exposure to the carcinogens in cleaning products can increase cancer risk, while endocrine disruptors found in many pesticides, detergents, and disinfectants can confuse body hormones and cause fertility problems or even miscarriages.
The Solution: Chemical-Free Cleaning Products
Eco-friendly hotel initiatives are growing increasingly popular, and these days many hotels are being recognized for their efforts by organizations such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). So don’t be afraid to ask hotel staff about the cleaning products they use, or check out our research here. One of our favorite LEED-certified hotels is The Orchard Hotel, which was at the forefront of this movement. Among the very first LEED-certified hotels in San Francisco, the Orchard uses chemical-free cleaning products — among many other impressive green practices.
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It’s true that every traveler is unique, and our mission at Oyster is to find the best hotel for each one’s specific needs. But most travelers can agree on one thing: wanting the best hotel for the lowest possible price. And we can certainly help with that, too. We used some database wizardry to discover the least expensive four- and five-pearl hotels on Oyster, and layered on our editorial expertise to select which of those were also truly awesome hotels. The result? Take a look!
- Price: $110 and up
- Pearls: 4
Hotel St. Francis, Santa Fe
This 81-room upscale boutique, housed in a historic building two blocks from the Santa Fe Plaza, underwent a complete renovation in 2011 and now features simple, mission-style decor inspired by the principles of St. Francis of Assisi. The elegant, minimalist rooms have original wood floors, sturdy wood furniture made by local artisans, and a color scheme of gray and white — but, as in many historic buildings, they’re small. The hotel features a fine dining restaurant serving New Mexican cuisine, as well as a bar, with outdoor seating available, that offers appetizers and cocktails. But there’s no pool or Jacuzzi, and guests will have to pay a daily fee for parking. If a pool is a priority, consider the nearby Inn and Spa at Loretto. Read More »
Most of us forget our New Year’s Resolutions as soon as we’ve written them down, but we’re sure a lot of you out there at least aim to unplug a little this year by talking more face-to-face and less via social networks; planning at least a short getaway to the countryside; and hitting the road to get back in touch with nature: No TV, no Internet access, no cell phone service. It’s easy to fall into the office-gym-home routine and find that it’s the end of the year again and you haven’t quite done all you’ve set out to do (although if you keep up with the “gym” part, maybe you will have lost those 15 pounds!). Well, we’re determined to help you stay on the “back to nature” bandwagon this year. Check out our favorite unplugged havens and pick the best one for you. Then it’s time to lose the cell — at least for a weekend.
Rooms are housed in open palapas with no window panes or screens.
Haramara, a luxurious yoga retreat located on 12 seaside acres of wild vegetation, is arguably one of the most special hotels in Mexico. All hotel structures have been built using traditional construction techniques to minimize the environmental impact, and there is no electricity besides in the restaurant and the yoga studio. Each room is housed in a private, standalone thatched hut with no window panes or screens separating the indoors from the jungle, and only gauze curtains and mosquito nets protect guests from bugs and critters. Even the bathrooms are open. The peaceful retreat is geared towards those in need of some detoxification and relaxation, with yoga and meditation classes, an open-air spa, a vegetarian and seafood restaurant, unpaved trails, and limited cell phone service.
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Choosing between artsy Melbourne, seen here, and beach-y Sydney isn't easy.
Australia is a big country. With an extremely diverse landscape and culture, the “Down Under” offers something for every kind of traveler. But deciding where to vacation when visiting for a limited amount of time can be difficult. Even the country’s two largest cities — Sydney and Melbourne– are two very different sides of the same coin. Both offer gorgeous architecture and a boat load of culture, but where one gets top marks for an eco-friendly attitude and a hipster vibe, the other is renowned for its beaches and bold attitude.
The rivalry between the cities is legendary, dating back as far as their foundings. While Sydney was originally built with very little urban planning as a massive jail for English convicts, Melbourne was a settler’s destination, constructed as a European metropolis with a grid of streets (one point for Melbourne!). Both bustling, rough-and-tumble Sydney and up-and-coming Melbourne experienced population booms in the late 1800s, establishing themselves as the largest cities — and most bitter rivals — early on. But which is superior? The decision isn’t an easy one: Canberra was even made the country’s capital back in the day just so as not to fuel the fires between the two cities. Today, visitors have to make that choice for themselves — but with a little help from Oyster, of course. Get the lowdown on our favorite aspects of these Aussie cities and then make your decision!
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Well, the time has finally come! We’re in the last stretch of humanity as we know it (according to the ancient Mayan calendar, at least), and we’re searching the globe for the best places on earth to spend our final days — or day as the case may be. We’ve visited every (habitable) continent and through our travels, we’ve found that whether you’re preparing for a traditional Biblical Apocalypse of fire and brimstone, or something a bit more on the sci-fi spectrum, there is a Doomsday destination for you somewhere on this fated planet. Take a look at our list and pick the spot where you’ll spend your last blissful moments.
Hit the beach before making your last offerings in Riviera Maya.
North American Destination: Riviera Maya, for an ancient Mayan offering
The small Caribbean district along the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula is undoubtedly the best place in North America to spend your last day on Earth. Riviera Maya not only boasts stunning white-sand beaches and some of the most majestic natural beauty in the world, but it is also home to the ruins of 7th century A.D. Mayans. The Mayans, of course, were the ones who predicted the 2012 end of the world (or maybe they just ran out of rock), and the area is having its share of “End of the World” celebrations to honor the culture with ancient ceremonies.
Stay: Dreams Tulum Resort and Spa
The Tulum area of Rivieria Maya, where the Dreams is located, is the site of the walled cities of the Mayan culture, and the gateway to the ruins. The beachfront Dreams is only a five-minute drive from major ruins, where visitors can offer sacrifices or just say their prayers.
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For those with disabilities, the challenges of traveling go beyond just getting to the airport on time and figuring out the TV in their hotel rooms. But fortunately, numerous destinations in the U.S. and abroad continue to work towards making travel for the handicapped as smooth as possible. We’ve visited quite a few spots during our travels and have come up with a list of the most handicap-friendly destinations around the world. First up, Seattle!
Even the Space Needle is a wheelchair-friendly attraction in Seattle.
Seattle is continuously ranked as one of the most disabled-friendly cities in the U.S., thanks in large part to its condensed downtown area and public transportation system. Since the city did not begin operating its first rail system until 2009, it is entirely built to comply with ADA standards, unlike older major railway transits in cities such as New York and Boston. The Emerald City also has tons of entirely accessible attractions such as the Seattle Museum, Pike Place Market, and even the Space Needle.
Stay: Hyatt at Olive 8
This hotel is not only known for its chic and eco-friendly decor and design, but also for its great downtown location and variety of assistance services. The hotel has just about every feature offered in Braille, along with audio-visual smoke detectors and ADA-approved rooms.
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Legalization supporters in the U.S. have been abuzz (excuse the pun) in recent weeks, ever since Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. So it’s safe to say that heading west is a good call these days if you’re planning on toking up. But heading east to our friends in Europe isn’t such a bad idea, either. For example, despite the recent tourist drug ban in the Netherlands, tourists and locals alike can continue to openly smoke in Amsterdam’s cafes. And numerous neighboring countries where weed is decriminalized have loose policies when it comes to the drug’s recreational use. So we’ve come up with a list — here are some of the best spots to smoke weed in Europe.
View from The Dylan Amsterdam
Though recent steps within government policies have made it seem like the Netherlands will become less tolerant towards marijuana use, Amsterdam’s mayor has promised that the city’s over 200 coffee shops will continue to serve locals and tourists. After all, many of the city’s 1.5 million tourists visit Amsterdam solely because of its lenient policies. Marijuana use is officially decriminalized in the Netherlands, and laws banning its use are rarely enforced.
Where to Stay: The Dylan Amsterdam
The Dylan is a stylish, upscale boutique centrally located in the Canal Ring. The 41 rooms are split into six different styles, ranging from lofts with cathedral ceilings to all-white rooms to Asian-inspired spaces. All rooms have high-end amenities including Bose sound systems, stocked minibars, and Zenology toiletries. A cozy lounge, two bars, a brasserie, and a lovely courtyard with heat lamps are all draws, but the real highlight here is the Michelin-star Vinkeles restaurant, which serves contemporary French cuisine in an exclusive space with just a handful of tables. Talk about a swanky spot to cure the munchies!
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‘Tis the season for annual awards lists, but if you think you know what’s coming, guess again. Oyster’s awards aren’t like the other guys’ — we’re not like the other guys, so why should our awards be? You can find lists of the world’s best luxury hotels in a dozen other places, but only Oyster digs deep to learn every hotel’s secret quirks. Our hotel investigators trot the globe and visit every hotel in person so we can bring you the unvarnished truth, and this year, for the first-ever annual Oyster Hotel Awards, we’d like to show you the wackiest, coolest, weirdest, and most interesting things they came across in their travels. We are thrilled to present the 2012 selection of Oyster’s Most Interesting Hotels in the World. Are you ready for this?
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