January 2010

Michael Westen at the Fontainebleau on Burn Notice

Michael Westen at the Fontainebleau

Oyster at the Fontainebleau

Oyster at the Fontainebleau

The oh-so-resourceful former CIA agent Michael Westen — the main character of the USA Network’s cult hit, Burn Notice, now in its third season — isn’t the only one with spying skills. In last night’s episode, we couldn’t help but notice that the meet with big baddie Gilroy took place at the sexy Fontainbleau pool. (We’d know those curves anywhere.) In fact, Westen’s life of well-intentioned crime has taken him to real-life Miami hotels fairly often. We did a little tactical research to find out some of the other hotels that have aided and abetted.

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Classic burger & sweet potato fries at Taylor's Refresher

Classic burger & sweet potato fries at Taylor's Refresher in San Francisco

[Flickr/Pecan Sandies]

A busy day of sightseeing is enough to make anyone hungry, and when traveling with a young family it’s often hard to find a place that makes everyone happy – both children and adults. Keep it simple and go for burgers and fries – prepared the local way – and you’re guaranteed an instant crowd pleaser (tip: if you’re going to eat from a chain restaurant, at least make it a Bay Area chain). Here are three great burger joints to help you refuel after a long day of exploring the city:

Mel’s Drive-In –  If you’ve seen American Graffiti, you’ve seen Mel’s. While no longer a drive-in, this 50′s diner retains its period charm with the help of cheeky waitresses, burgers and shakes. Kids get their burgers delivered in paper cars – which they notoriously drive around the table and then take home, ketchup stains and all. You’ll find four Mel’s locations in the City. Try the one at 4th and Mission, just around the corner from the San Francisco Marriott Marquis.

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The Distrikt (on the right, adjacent to the glass building) debuts on Monday.

The Distrikt (on the right, adjacent to the glass building) debuts on Monday.

Yesterday we had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the brand new Distrikt Hotel in New York, which opens on Monday. Located across the street from the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown West, a few blocks west of Times Square, the Distrikt joins an already-crowded hospitality scene in the city’s most touristed neighborhood: two other midrange hotels, a Four Points Sheraton and a Fairfield Inn, are literally next door. The building is as tall in floors — 33 — as it is wide in feet; that’s Manhattan for you.

The 155-room Distrikt is named for its theme: essentially, the diversity of New York City’s various neighborhoods, or districts. Starting from the bottom of the building (Wall Street, TriBeCa, etc.) and ascending “uptown,” the neighborhood changes every three floors, culminating with Harlem at the top. Other than the views, which obviously improve the more “uptown” you get, the themes manifest themselves in the artwork in the hallways and rooms. You can request which “neighborhood” you want to stay in.
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Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA

Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA

[Flickr/Dave Rytell]

Celebrity spotting in Hollywood is never predictable – while you probably will see a celebrity (or two) at some point during your vacation, there are no sure-fire locales that can always be counted on to deliver up our precious celebs. Well…except for the cemeteries, that is.

Los Angeles happens to be the resting place for hundreds of our favorite icons, so why not stop by and pay your respects? Just think of all the names you can add to your celebrity-spotting repertoire: Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, and Clark Gable, just to name a few. Here are four historic cemeteries to spot Hollywood dignitaries of years past:

Hollywood Forever -  Founded in 1899, this cemetery is over 100 years old and listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. If you’re here in the summer, be sure to go for one of their movie nights! A short ride from the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, you get to picnic in the park (yes, on top of the graves) and they screen a movie from Hollywood’s Golden Era, most likely starring one of their tenants like Clifton Webb or Peter Lorre. Also home to Cecil B. DeMille, Jayne Mansfield, Rudolph Valentino and Douglas Fairbanks. 6000 Santa Monica Blvd

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TK hard rock

The pool won't be open on Valentine's Day, but the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino knows how to throw a good party in any season.

Valentine’s Day is a day for candlelight dinners, heart-shaped chocolates, and bubble baths for two …for some people.

This year, we want to inspire single folks everywhere to forget about roses and reclaim February 14th as their own. After all, if couples get a weekend to celebrate love, then singles should get a weekend to celebrate the fun and freedom that is being single.

We propose — no pun intended — that you gather up your favorite single friends and get out of town for the weekend — no lovers allowed.

Whether you’re looking for a beach or a party, we’ve got a perfect singles getaway hotel for you. Below you’ll find our favorite picks for Miami, L.A., Las Vegas, and New York City, all of which still have availability for Valentine’s Day weekend.

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Performers in The San Francisco Ballet

Performers in The San Francisco Ballet

Photo courtesy of Saturday Matinee

Known for its romantic possibilities, San Francisco is a city that encourages visitors (and locals) to dress up and head out for a leisurely evening out. One great location for a hot night on the town is the Civic Center district, where the opera house and the symphony hall vie for the patronage of classical music lovers. Here’s one of our favorite itineraries:

Start with an early dinner at Jardiniere, the first restaurant opened by local celebrity chef Traci des Jardins. You’ll be comfortable wearing evening dress in the two-tier art deco dining room. Live jazz slides smoothly through the air, enhancing the haute flavors of the French brasserie inspired California cuisine.

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Bed and bathtub at The Standard separated by a quarter-inch of glass.

The bathtub in the Standard New York's superior room is at the head of the bed.

Who was it who decided that hotel bathrooms — which most of us have long regarded as places where can you do your business alone – no longer need to offer privacy? If you’ve stayed at a design-oriented hotel lately, you may know what I’m talking about: Bathrooms with windows or glass walls that allow the occupant to see out into the rest of the room — and anyone else in the room to see in. The trend seems to have started a couple years ago and continues apace — at least four hotels that opened in the past six months, including the brand new Andaz Wall Street, have eschewed opaque bathroom walls for transparent ones. 

Many people presumably find it sexy to watch their lovers lather up.  But glass bathrooms are also a clever design trick for making a small room feel bigger. It certainly works at the Standard New York, where some rooms measure in at a cramped 230 square feet. Less so the W Washington D.C., where the translucent shower stall right next to the bed seems to emphasize the room’s diminutive size. In any case, we think they’re kind of fun – if less than ideal for traveling with friends (without benefits), colleagues, or, as the woman interviewed in this New York Times article noted, family members.

Take a look at some of the examples we’ve come across over the past year, after the jump.

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Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

Georgetown, Washington, D.C.

These days (and in this economy) it feels like restaurants just never seem to stick around for long. Georgetown, however, is home to several notable restaurants that have stood the test of time and are must-visits when touring this historic Washington, D.C. neighborhood. Stay locally at the posh Four Seasons Washington D.C. or less pricey Hotel Monticello.

Martin’s Tavern – Family-owned and operated since 1933, this Georgetown institution just celebrated its 75th anniversary, making it one of D.C.’s most historic restaurants. It’s also a tradition – every sitting president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush has dined within its iconic walls. For a special slice of history, ask your server to point out the booth where JFK proposed to Jackie! 1264 Wisconsin Avenue, NW

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Kimpton Hotels, like the Hotel Rex in San Francisco, offer free wine hours to guests.

Free wine receptions are becoming increasingly popular; above, the lounge at Hotel Rex, a Joie de Vivre property in San Francisco.

It’s no secret that we at Oyster hate overpriced package deals, so-called resort fees, high Internet costs, and the myriad other ways hotels nickel-and-dime their guests. But now and then, instead of surprising us with extra costs, a hotel will surprise us in the best possible way – by giving us something free. These small touches can make your stay special, elevating a budget property to a true value, or a luxury property to one of the best of the best.

Check out this list of 11 great freebies and the hotels that give them away.

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Classic poutine: french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds

Classic poutine: French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds

[Photo: Flickr/JoelZimmer]

It remains unclear whether it’s the hearty ingredients, the kitsch factor, the maple syrup or something else, but New York’s latest ethnic food boomlet comes from our nearest neighbors. Here are three new spots to sample Manhattan’s new take on Canadian cuisine.

T Poutine: Forget hot dogs and pizza. The Lower East Side party set has a new late-night, soak-up-the-alcohol snack. Poutine is a French Canadian specialty that consists of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy, served here with gut-busting extras like ground beef and bacon. Someone call the cardiologist. This BYOB joint is open ’til 5am on weekends, and a quick walk from the Thompson LES on Allen Street. 168 Ludlow St.

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