October 2009

Potentially-haunted elevator at the Algonquin, NYC

Potentially-haunted elevator at the Algonquin, NYC

Just in time for Halloween, we’ve got another haunted hotel story for you. This one comes from reader Kat, who wrote in to tell us about her own haunted hotel experience after we passed along the story of the “duppy encounter” in Jamaica:

We just got back from another stay at The Algonquin in NYC, our favorite hotel.  I never thought of it as haunted but treasure its’ storied history.  However, on this stay a woman (a bit freaky but not a ghost) said are you feeling anything on your side of the hotel?  My first thought was earthquake? I laughingly said no the round table wouldn’t haunt the place they weren’t exactly a happy bunch – why would they hang around? Then I remembered in a previous stay I was on the elevator and I heard the song “I’m In The Mood For Love” and I jokingly asked who was singing it – or to my husband and a fellow passenger thinking about it?  They responded as if I were nuts and I secretly enjoyed the communication from somewhere??

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Planning to be in Las Vegas for Halloween? We have two pieces of advice for you. First: whatever costume you’ve chosen, don’t skimp on the outrageousness — be sure to turn up the dial to 10; subtlety isn’t necessary.

Our other tip: hit up one of our picks for the Best Party Hotels in Las Vegas. Most of them are throwing Halloween bashes, so pick and choose which one you think suits your style. Here’s what’s going on at each one this Saturday night:

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
As one of the most unapologetically hedonistic hotels in Las Vegas, you’ll be sure to find something you like on All Hallows’ Eve — and have a killer story to tell your pals by sunrise. The hotel’s nightclub, Body English, is throwing a Halloween Celebration with E! Entertainment Television and Smashtime Radio, hosted by E! TV personalities and DJed by Clinton Sparks. Try your luck with the guest list here.

But the real draw at Hard Rock tomorrow night will require you to don some leather drawers. Known to many as “The Worlds Wildest Halloween Party” and “The most Adult of the Adult Halloween Events,” the world-famous Fetish and Fantasy Ball is once again going down at The Joint at the Hard Rock. The price of admission is $75 — and you’re not getting in unless you’ve got a costume on. Any sort of costume is fine, but leather, latex, and lingerie are recommended. No nudity though, kids!

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It wasn’t too long ago that the Standard Hotel in New York City threw some naked people in front of their giant windows and ignited a firestorm of silly newspaper stories about a “Manhattan Sex Hotel” (a title, by the way, that would be more appropriately given to other establishments) — but if nakey-time is your thing, head South to a city that will respond to your nudity with less scrutiny, fewer gawking tourists, and the understanding that the perfect tan requires a little extra exposure.

So, in which US city are the hotels known to welcome the topless tanners? Miami. Duh.

The Standard Hotel Miami's saltwater pool

The Standard Hotel Miami's saltwater pool

The Standard. Topping our list of the Best Hotels to Go Topless in Miami is the Standard NYC’s big brother, the Standard Miami. Considering the weekly party nights featuring promos like ladies and “bottoms” drink free, the pleasantly raunchy pool scene, and the coed sauna, your toplessness ain’t no thang here.

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The weather’s getting colder in the Big Apple, which gives the residents and guests of this fine city another good excuse to drink (which, incidentally, also happens when the weather gets warm again, when it rains, when it snows, when it’s sunny, when it’s windy…). The sun’s going down earlier, too — and everyone knows the cure for the cold, sunless, late-afternoon/early-evening blues is a good, boozey happy hour.

Which hotels offer the best happy hours in the city? Based on drink prices, yummy snacks, or notable after-work bar scenes, here are our picks for the Best Hotels for Happy Hour in New York:

The Cellar Bar, Bryant Park Hotel The Cellar Bar, Bryant Park Hotel

For fashionistas or media types (or those looking to meet a fashionista or media type): The Bryant Park Hotel’s Cellar Bar is a popular choice — and since guests get free cocktails between 5:00 and 6:00 on weeknights, the spot promises an always-bustling scene for locals and a can’t-go-wrong option for guests. That is, if you can find a place to sit.

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A ghost seen at Round Hill...

A ghost seen at Round Hill... (Photo: Dani S)

Halloween is coming up, and, right on schedule, the lists of haunted hotels are passing through the news cycles again. From the famously-haunted to the haunted by the famous — like the Hollywood Roosevelt, said to be haunted by the spirit of Marilyn Monroe, and the Algonquin in New York City, reportedly still inhabited by ghosts of the storied Round Table –  we’ve heard about ‘em every year.

According to a new source, we’ve actually stayed in a haunted hotel ourselves — though we didn’t know it at the time. Check out this excerpt from a comment submitted by user Dani S., who had some curious things to say about her stay at Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay:

Another pro is that the grounds are haunted as we caught this awesome ghost on camera. I told the manager who didn’t want to hear it. He said if Dupee don’t know me, Dupee won’t bother me” Lol

Alright, so maybe this isn’t actually a ghost. But it’s Halloween — and telling a personal ghost story is much more fun than repeating the same old tired tales, right? By the way, a “duppy” (a term that’s popped up in a Bob Marley song or two), in Jamaican folklore, is a restless spirit of the dead that is believed to still haunt the living. And, apparently, the manager didn’t deny that there may have been one around at Round Hill, so…

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Last week, we showed you some of the first shots of the brand new Surrey Hotel on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Today, we’re journeying below 14th Street to bring you snaps from our stay at the just-opened Crosby Street Hotel, the first American property from London-based Firmdale Hotels.

The 86-room boutique hotel sits in the heart of SoHo, with no two rooms designed exactly alike — the vibe is whimsical, upscale but accessible (our reporter mentioned feeling completely at ease sitting on the velvet tuxedo-style sofa in the “drawing room”); the newly-constructed hotel is on its way to earning LEED Silver Level certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and aspires to earn Gold Level certification in the future. Also to come in the future: our full review.

For now, some eye candy:

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

Superior Double Room

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NileGuide in action

NileGuide in action

So you’ve flipped through the thousands of photos on Oyster, have read plenty of reviews and, at last, have arrived at your hotel decision. Your room is booked, your plane tickets are ready to go. You’ve got your travel and your shelter figured out — but before you hop on that airplane, there are dozens of other plans you need to make (besides purchasing TSA-friendly mini toiletries): you need to figure out what you’re going to do when you’re not sleeping in that carefully-selected hotel of yours. If accummulating paper cuts from guidebooks or aimlessly Googling “fun things to do in [destination]” don’t seem like appealing strategies, check out NileGuide.

The site, which curates content from several sources and adds insight and expertise from their staff of “local experts” in each of the destinations they cover, allows you to build a sort of customized travel guide that can be anchored by your hotel’s location. For instance, if you were planning a trip to New York and had selected the Library Hotel as your HQ, NileGuide can pull nearby restaurant recommendations, activities, and bars for you to check out during your stay — and with a few clicks, the site will create a customized list of activities for you to do, or even a full-blown, printable PDF itinerary complete with NYC overview information, maps, and sightseeing recommendations for each day of your trip.

Check it out here — and take a look at this awesome sample itinerary for a San Francisco trip (which we might have used recently… hint hint).

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Question: Karen

I own a restaurant, the only time we get to take a vacation is when we close for the month of January. I would like to know where you suggest going and where to stay. Here are my requirements….SUN, WARM, FRIENDLY PEOPLE. Preferably not a lot of children. We don’t like to just throw away money so luxury is not required, but not uncomfortable. Here are some of the places we have been and enjoyed….Costa Rica, St. Thomas, St. Marteen(eh?), Belize, Florida Keys.

Answer: Will Begeny, Oyster’s Senior Editor

Karen, you sound like my kind of traveler. Presumptive sleuthing suggests that, since you own a restaurant, you care about food. As such, I’m going to rule-out the all-inclusives.

Consider Jamaica. It has the mountainous, exotic beauty of Costa Rica (without the foot-long insects and dangerous tap water), the convenient, well-developed comforts of St. Thomas (without the cruise ship claustrophobia), the distinct local culture of Belize (and more ways to indulge in it), and the good-natured, low-key fun of the Florida Keys (forgiving, partially, Jamaica’s socio-political homophobia).

The Cliffs, in Negril, Jamaica

The cliffs at Catcha Falling Star in Negril, Jamaica

In particular, in the incredibly laid-back hippie haven of Negril, there are a number of unique hideaways perched along its coarse rock cliffs—few of which allow children, for safety’s sake. Of these, take your pick: the Rockhouse Hotel; Tensing Pen; Catcha Falling Star (if the other two are booked). If you’d rather  be on the beach, check out the Negril Tree House (gorgeous beach) or Jake’s (cute, artsy hotel on the remote, uniquely beautiful, black sand beaches of the South Coast, near Floyd’s Pelican Bar).

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The Central Park View Suite, Mandarin Oriental, NY

The Central Park View Suite, Mandarin Oriental, NY

Heads up to you and our gobble-y feathered friends: only a few weeks ’til Thanksgiving! On Turkey Day (while many of us will be wrapped up all snug in our jammies watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on TV), plenty of brave NYC-goers will be bundled up in layers of fall fleece to check out the world-famous parade in person.

Not down to shiver in the cold? No problem. For the first time in history, this year’s parade will move along 7th Avenue (instead of the Broadway route of years past). Snag a room at a hotel along the parade route for your best shot at checking out the intricate balloons and fancy floats from the comfort of your hotel room — no televisions or fleece required. It’ll cost you some dough, though: many of the rooms in these hotels will cost more than three times the normal rates on the night of the 25th.

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This weekend, we stayed at the just-opened Surrey Hotel, a 190-room Upper East Side newbie perched on a posh block just off Central Park. Inside a pre-war building fresh off of a $60 million renovation, the luxe property (a member of the Affinia Hotels family) has only been open since October 15th. We got in there to check the place out for you — you know, before you shell out the $500+ for a night there.

Take a peek at some of the photos we snapped; stay tuned for the full review in the New York section of Oyster.

A Deluxe Salon Room

A Deluxe Salon Room

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