November 2009

Fort Point

Fort Point

California might be a car-loving state, but San Francisco is a walker’s city. Urban hikes abound in the city, winding through skyscraper forests and into eucalyptus groves, up steep stair-studded hills and on down to flat sandy beaches. These trails get positively packed on sunny Saturdays with iPod-wearing locals and camera-juggling visitors.

Lobos Creek Trail in the Presidio (Easy): Spend a half an hour meandering half a mile along the revitalized nature trail in the Presidio parkland. Lincoln St. at Bowley St. Stay nearby at the Laurel Inn. Read More »

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Sofitel's Photo

Sofitel's Photo

Oyster's Photo

Oyster's Photo

Listen, Sofitel L.A. We understand that you’d probably rather not advertise for Macy’s on your own website — and we understand you’d rather not advertise the fact that Macy’s is right there, bumpin’ up against your pool.

But it is. It is right there. You can frame it out of the photos on your website all you want, but we know it’s there.

We’ll concede that the giant mall is, in a way, a comforting presence; at least we know we’d be covered if a chick from “The Hills” should happen to spill her $12 cocktail on the only swimsuit we brought. Otherwise, as we noted in our evaluation, the mall view is one of several pool-related disappointments: the pool itself small, the surrounding landscaping is meh, and the piped-in lounge music doesn’t mask the busy street noise.

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Whether you’re looking for a panty-dropper or a posh spot to take the ol’ wifey for the golden anniversary, these romantic hotels in San Francisco have it all. Tony Bennett must have had these places in mind when he crooned about the love that “waits here in San Francisco above the blue and windy sea” — although he never mentioned any Ghirardelli chocolates perched atop pillows or free wine

Still, we’re certain he’d approve of our picks for the most romantic hotels in San Francisco.

The Huntington Hotel

Mulholland Suite, The Huntington Hotel

Mulholland Suite, The Huntington Hotel

Nob Hill, San Francisco’s swankiest neighborhood, is home to many of its grandest hotels — stately old buildings with cavernous marble-filled lobbies and hundreds of rooms. By contrast, the elegant 136-room Huntington Hotel is more intimate and unassuming. Yet it’s just as luxurious as its neighbors. The spacious, newly renovated rooms overlook either the city or quiet Huntington Park across the street. The formal staff is attentive, yet discreet. The hotel’s Nob Hill Spa is one of the city’s best, and guests can use its indoor pool and lounge with a fireplace for free.

Read More »

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Ayres Hotel's Image

Ayres Hotel's Image

Oyster's Photo

Oyster's Photo

Looks like someone got all dressed up for picture day!

On the left is the image of a Deluxe King room displayed on Ayres Hotel’s website. On the right is a picture we snapped during our stay. Can you spot the differences between these two photos?

While most of our Photo Fakeouts demonstrate how photographs can be deceptively doctored to conceal the unappealing or shot to exaggerrate the appealing, this is an example of how simply dressing up a room with a few props — extra pillows here, pretty flowers there — can make an already-luxurious room appear lavish and exquisite.

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We understand that selecting the “best” hotel in San Francisco really depends on what’s best for you based on the trip you’re taking. The “best” hotel for your foodie escape or girlfriend getaway may not meet your needs when you’re planning to, say, grab the kids for a family vacation. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the top hotels from each of our individual “best” lists — the most distinguished properties in the city broken down by category — to give each of the hotels listed below our “best of the best” distinction.

Without further ado, we present to you Oyster’s picks for the very best hotels in San Francisco.

Best Luxury Hotel

The St. Regis Suite, St. Regis San Francisco

The St. Regis Suite, St. Regis San Francisco

Built in 2005, the St. Regis offers the best in modern luxury: Highly attentive, personalized service includes a 24-hour butler staff; the relaxation rooms at Remede Spa serve chocolate truffles and champagne; the hotel’s Ame restaurant is a notable destination in its own right; and the rooms and suites match the city’s best for space, superior technology, and amenities. Its artsy SoMa surroundings, modern glass building, and impressive contemporary art collection lack the historical grandeur of the Nob Hill grand dames, but in substance it stands shoulder to shoulder, or above, its hilltop competitors.

Read More »

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Tomatoes in Union Square

Tomatoes in Union Square

[Flickr/anniebee]

New York has plenty of restaurants stocked with local, organic, family-farmed, and otherwise sustainable ingredients. But sometimes it’s more fun to go straight to the source — or at least the farmers who actually grew (or raised) what you’re eating. Here are three greenmarkets worth a stop.

Union Square Greenmarket: Opened in 1976, this year-round attraction is by far the most well known greenmarket in the city. Come by early enough in the morning and you may bump into some of New York’s top chefs as they pick out items for their restaurants. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays feature cooking demonstrations from the likes of Robin Puskas of “Kitchen Caravan,” and on Fridays you’ll be able to sample some fine wines. Union Square West from 15th to 17th Streets. Stay nearby at W New York — Union Square. Read More »

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The SinkPositive system, Good Hotel

The SinkPositive system, Good Hotel

File under “Things That Are Awesome”: We encountered this toilet-top sink during our stay at the quirky, eco-friendly Good Hotel in San Francisco and we’re digging the whole concept — you might even say we were so jazzed by the idea of it that our faces were a bit flushed (ha!) when we walked out of the bathroom.

Here’s the deal: When you flush a toilet outfitted with the SinkPositive system, a stream of clean water flows from the toilet-top sink faucet. It flows for one minute, allowing you to wash your hands without ever touching the tap. That greywater then flows off your hands and drains down into the toilet bowl to be used for the next flush.

SinkPositive system

SinkPositive system

The good news: you don’t have to expose yourself to germs by turning the faucet on and off before and after rinsing your hands. The better news: the limited stream of water reminds you to make the effort to wash your paws and dispenses only enough water needed to effectively clean both hands. The best news: the water is efficiently reused for the next toilet flush.

According to the sign (left), this little contraption can help each user save a gallon of potable water per day, and the leak detector on the device helps prevent additional water waste (not-so-fun fact: did you know U.S. toilet leaks alone account for over 12% of the nation’s water supply?)

Not a bad initiative for hoteliers to consider — nor a particularly expensive one: the SinkPositive system (shown here) runs $109.00 per fixture. Some hotels spend more than that on throw pillows. Just saying.

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San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco. Cable cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Haight-Ashbury, Coit Tower, Twin Peaks, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Ferry Building, Lombard Street, AT&T Park, Ghirardelli Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, Full House, and…hotels! Lots of them! Reviewed on Oyster! Right here!

A team of Oyster reporters visited and photographed almost 50 of the city’s most notable hotels. We slept in the beds, we ate in the restaurants; we tested the service and scoped out the neighborhoods. As always, we’ve organized the hotels both by their location — Fisherman’s Wharf, Nob Hill, SoMa/Financial District, Union Square — and by their standout qualities (best for romance and most luxurious, for example).

Don’t forget to take a peek at our San Francisco travel guide and flip through destination photos, too!

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Hotel’s Photo:

"Hyatt Regency Washington is steps away from the U.S. Capitol," they say.

"Hyatt Regency Washington is steps away from the U.S. Capitol," they say.

Oyster’s Photo:

Lots of steps, though.

Lots of steps, though.

Proximity to power is valuable currency in Washington, D.C. So it won’t surprise folks inside the Beltway that the city’s prominent players occasionally exaggerate their standing. But we’re from New York City, and we couldn’t help but notice that this photo, which appears on the website of the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, gives the false impression that the hotel practically stands in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol.

It doesn’t. Take a look at this photo that we snapped last week during a hotel-reviewing trip to the city and that, we think, more accurately reflects the distance from the hotel to the Capitol — which is, in fact, about a third of a mile. That’s close, just not reach-out-and-touch-it close.

True, as hotel-related D.C. scandals go, this one doesn’t exactly rank up there with Watergate. The hotel’s marketing photo is probably the well-intentioned work of a skillful photographer using a telephoto lens, not a more devious case of digital manipulation. Still, you don’t have to be too great a cynic to see this as evidence that, in Washington, things aren’t always what they seem.

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Los Angeles is a pricey place to stay. If you’re not careful, a night in the land of the rich and famous might cost you a pretty penny (unless you find a Vinny Chase-like gentleman to foot the bills for you). But you don’t necessarily have to forgo location, comfort, and trendiness to score a decent hotel deal. We’ve rounded up our picks for the best value hotels in Los Angeles; the spots that give you the most bang for your buck — and even some luxury hotels at impressively reasonable prices.

The Standard Hollywood

Lobby, the Standard Hollywood
Lobby, the Standard Hollywood

This 137-room hip boutique offers stylish lodgings and a prime Sunset Strip location. The hallways and elevators are scuffed, but you won’t get this much (stylish rooms with good bedding, a cool pool, a cheap 24-hour restaurant, and great nightlife) for this little elsewhere on the Strip. Read More »

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