January 2010

Chinese National Day Parade in Chinatown, San Francisco

Chinese National Day Parade in Chinatown, San Francisco

[Flickr/Brian Stechschulte]

It’s always fun to poke around shopping districts like Union Square and the Marina, but to get a better flavor of San Francisco’s diversity, you’ll want to head to the ethnic neighborhoods.

The Mission – If you’re looking for Latin culture, the Mission district is the place to be. Bordered by Portrero Hill, the Castro and Noe Valley, this area is known for its food, music, funky shopping and colorful murals depicting the life and history of the people living here. The district is home to Mission Dolores, the oldest building in the city, finished in 1791. As for window shopping, walk Valencia Street and get the most bang for your buck. While everyone has their favorite burrito spots, we go to Taqueria Cancun on Mission Street, which sports picnic style tables and multicolor paper cutouts hanging from the ceiling. You won’t be too far from the Mission, staying at the Good Hotel.

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The saltwater pool at the Residence Inn Washington, DC/Capitol

The saltwater pool at the Residence Inn Washington, DC/Capitol

Hot hotels – and even a lot of not-so-hot hotels – all seem to have a saltwater pool these days. (Want some examples? Click here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.) To the layman, a saltwater pool sure sounds like something special. I did an informal survey and found that most people assume that these exotic-sounding vessels are safer, healthier and/or more environmentally friendly than conventional swimming pools. Many figure the saltwater eliminates the need for chlorine, and some think it comes from the ocean itself – never mind that the nearest natural body of seawater may be hundreds of miles away. And some hotels encourage these ideas by making explicit claims to that effect in their marketing literature.

As you might have guessed by now, almost none of that’s true.

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The E&O Trading Company in San Francisco, CA

The E&O Trading Company in San Francisco, CA

[Flickr/doortoriver]

For those of you who still think “tiki” to be synonymous with “tacky” (read: Trader Vic’s) and brush it off as an icon of kitsch from years past, the E&O Trading Co. is stepping up to refute your claim. Located steps away from the Campton Place Taj Hotel and Hotel Triton, this San Francisco establishment has reinvented the long-belittled pu-pu platter into something hip, fresh and budget-friendly.

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The Luxor Hotel & Casino, one of many Vegas hotels running promotions right now

The Luxor Hotel & Casino, one of many Vegas hotels running promotions right now

As hotel mavens, we’re constantly reading about travel deals, be it on Twitter, on blogs, or right in our email in-boxes. Lately we’ve noticed that one city keeps popping up over and over again. That city?

Las Vegas.

With rock-bottom prices on flights and hotel rooms (plus plenty of buffets to boot), Sin City is our pick for where to have a cheap (and warm!) getaway right now. Shop wisely and we’ll bet you can plan a long weekend for just a few hundred dollars (okay, so that doesn’t include all the money you’re going to blow at the craps tables).

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Bar Pleiades at the Surrey Hotel

Bar Pleiades at the Surrey Hotel

As you may have noticed, once overlooked hotel bars are slowly but surely becoming some of the best spots around for quality cocktails. These three new drinks are some of the most creative concoctions we’ve spied around Manhattan.

Aviation Cocktail: This gin-based drink served at the Grand Bar and Lounge at the Soho Grand Hotel has been popping up on an increasing number of classic cocktail menus in recent years. However, it’s still hard to find made, as it is here, with the originally intended ingredients. The secret is Creme de violette, a rare French flower-based liquor that just recently became available in this country. 31o West Broadway

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Workers reinstall the newly gilded "long-johns" weathervane on top of Boston's Old State House

Workers return the newly gilded "long-johns" weathervane to its perch atop the Old State House, Boston

There are many reasons to keep your nose to the ground when navigating Boston’s historic streets: uneven pavement, notoriously bad drivers, and twisting streets (thought to be paved over cow paths from the city’s former colonial days) are only the beginning. Keep your head down too much, however, and you may just miss some of Boston’s most important landmarks – its 18th century weathervanes that have witnessed over 260 of American history in the making.

Here are four historic weathervanes to keep an eye out for while wandering the cobblestone streets – how many others can you find? Most are within easy walking distance for guests staying at the Millennium Bostonian on North Street.

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TK TK

Interactive touch-screen at The Eliot Suite Hotel in Boston

MSNBC just ran a nice round-up of 10 tech-savvy hotels that go far beyond — yawn — flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. How about those nail polish dryers in the rooms at the Peninsula Tokyo? Cool. And New York’s Pod Hotel made the cut thanks to its free Wi-Fi and “Pod Blog,” a guests-only message board. Fair enough.

But we’ve come across a few cool hotel gadgets that didn’t make the list. Check ‘em out after the jump.

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Japantown at night, San Francisco

Japantown at night, San Francisco

[Flickr/Averain]

Walking into the Japantown center in San Francisco is like entering another country; spend just a few hours wandering around the three story building, and you’ll feel like you just took a trip overseas, just without the jet lag. Here are a few shops to visit while there:

Pika Pika – Imagine a photo booth, where you put in a few dollars, and a strip of photos of you with a goofy grin spits out of the machine. Pika Pika does this, but with so much more style. Enter one of the seven Japanese photo booths. Pick your background. Add words and designs. Make them into stickers, stamps or print them on golf balls. Or just wander around and see what others are doing. 1581 Webster Street, Kinokuniya Mall

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Infinity Pool at the Shore Club

The Shore Club has eclipsed the Mondrian as the better deal for a swanky South Beach party hotel this Super Bowl weekend.

It’s official: the Colts and Saints will face off in the Superbowl. And enthusiastic fans who held out to buy tickets — and book their hotel rooms — until they knew their team would make the big game are jumping to action. Today. There’s a good chance hotel rates are going to start to skyrocket, so if you’ve been dreaming of watching your team win, it’s decision time. Fortunately, almost all of our favorite Miami Super Bowl hotels still have availability; keep reading for their updated prices.

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Hey kids! Don't get dirty!

Playground at the Desert Tides in Las Vegas

At Oyster, our main goal is helping you find the best hotel for your trip. That’s why we visited some 800 hotels in 2009. And that’s why we spend a lot of time and energy compiling “best of” lists, from the most family-friendly hotels in Jamaica to the most luxurious in New York. We even have “best of the best” roundups for a number of categories in each location.

Isn’t it also fun, though, to poke fun at the worst of the worst, to marvel at the derelict and mock the unclean? Yes. Yes it is. In that spirit, welcome to Rotten Oysters, where we mock not just the unclean, but also the unfriendly and ill-equipped, the supercilious and superfluous.

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