May 2010

Monkey Joe's at the Festival Bay mall

You’ll notice a lot of shopping malls as you drive around Orlando. One of the more recent additions in the International Drive area is Festival Bay located near Universal Studios. The mall has the usual suspects (clothing stores, restaurants), but there are also three attractions that children big and small will absolutely love.

1) Monkey Joe’s is an indoor bounce house pumped full of fun (and, well, air). For less than $10 per child, children (only those 12 and under) can bounce all day long. Parents are unfortunately not invited to jump, but can accompany children 3 and under into the bounce houses. The large room where everything resides is a mecca of large slides, climbing walls, and inflated bridges and tunnels. And for parents? There’s an arcade where parents can sit in massage chairs, watch the big screen TV, or surf the net on the free Wi-Fi connection.

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The toilet-top sinks at the Good Hotel conserve water with each flush.

The toilet-top sinks at the Good Hotel conserve water with each flush.

These days, almost every hotel asks guests to save the planet by reusing their towel. But a growing number of properties are taking their environmental friendliness way beyond the bare minimum: Eco initiatives like graywater systems, cooking oil recycling, and — one of our favorites– toilet-top sinks, are paving the way for a greener future in the hospitality industry. Below, we’ve outlined ingenious eco initiatives that the average hotel guest has probably never heard of — yet.

Related articles: LEED-certified hotels; Eco-conscious design in Jamaica

Toilet-top sinks: Although water-efficient measures like low-flow toilets, showers and faucets are becoming increasingly common ( you can find them at the Residence Inn Washington, D.C. , the Crosby Street Hotel, and the Lenox Hotel, among others), Good Hotel in San Francisco has implemented one of the most inventive water-efficient fixtures we’ve ever seen: A toilet-top sink. Each flush prompts a stream of clean water from the toilet-top faucet, which flows for a full minute and drains into the bowl to be used for the next flush.

Staff uniforms made from recycled bottles: We love it when hotels use recycled materials, like the pillows made from old hotel blankets at the Good Hotel, the disposable cups made from compostable corn at the Fairmont Kea Lani Maui, and the recycled teak wood furnishings at the Nu Hotel. Ritz-Carlton Kapalua even dresses some of its employees in recycled materials: Uniforms for the front of house staff at the  are made from recycled bottles.

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Brooklyn Flea is held every Saturday in Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Most visitors to New York City think of the giant window displays on Fifth Avenue or the imposing storefront of the Macy’s flagship store when they envision shopping in New York,. But fashion insiders have their own little haunts where they go to find discounted designer duds and one-of-a-kind vintage.  If you’re looking for a real shopping experience that promises to yield more than just crowds and jaw-droppingly high prices, you’ll have to head downtown, where –if you’re in the know — finding vintage designer pieces for a fraction of their original prices is easier than locating a hot dog stand in Times Square.

Below is a list of designer discount stores and consignment stores to help you shop like a stylist.

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The opening weekend of Sex and the City 2 is finally here, and we’ve selected four hip hotels in downtown Manhattan to match the personalities of everyone’s favorite women about town. Whether you consider yourself a “Carrie” or a “Charlotte,” we’ve picked the perfect place — so pack your stiletto heels and get ready for a glamorous trip to the Big Apple.

The Bowery's fashionable, boho-chic style reminds us of Carrie.

The Bowery's fashionable, boho-chic style reminds us of Carrie.

The Carrie: Boho-chic luxury at the Bowery Hotel

  • Price: $375/night & up
  • Location: East Village, New York City
  • Why it’s Carrie: The hotel’s vintage, boho-chic design reminds us of Carrie’s funky fashion sense. The hotel redefined class in a neighborhood where punk rock and squalor once ruled, and like Carrie, it was an instant classic.
  • Check Rates

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Cellar 360 at Ghiradelli Square, San Francisco

For many, a trip to San Francisco just isn’t complete without a jaunt to Napa and its many wineries.  But what if you don’t have time to make the drive up to wine country?  Not to worry: A visit to one of the many tasting rooms or wine bars right in the heart of San Francisco can be the perfect stand in. 

Ghirardelli Square, home to the Fairmont Heritage Place hotel, is home to two charming choices for wine lovers:  Wattle Creek Tasting Room and Cellar 360.  

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Koa Kea Resort Hotel

Koa Kea Resort Hotel at Poipu Beach

When you sleep in as many hotels as we do, you’re bound to be disappointed in some hotels and pleasantly surprised by others. We’ve stayed in some world-famous hotels that failed to impress, while some of our favorites have been little-known spots that are, at times, a bit removed from the touristy hubbub. The next time you’re planning a trip, consider skipping the big name hotels and opt instead for one of these stylish, off-the-beaten-path gems.

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The Gate

The Garden at St. Luke in the Fields

In addition to its concrete canyons and mountains made of glass and steel, New York’s busiest borough boasts some of the prettiest, greenest spaces in the United States. Sure, there are the famous spots like Central Park and Riverside Park, but to really feel like a New Yorker, you need to take advantage of some of Manhattan’s off-the-beaten-track gardens. These secluded bowers provide a respite from the to-ing and fro-ing of the city and give you the thrill of discovering a secret few people other than savvy locals know about. So breath deeply and enjoy. Just don’t tell anyone who sent you.

The Garden at St. Luke in the Fields
Behind a wrought-iron gate, and surrounded by a high brick wall, is an extraordinary garden maintained by the Church of St. Luke in the Fields, in the West Village. More than 100 species of birds have been spotted flitting through the roses, lavender, petunias, daffodils, magnolias, and other foliage. It’s free and open daily to the public, but occasionally closes early for church events. 487 Hudson Street, close to the Washington Square Hotel and Soho House.

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The four-pearl Punta Cana Hotel in the Dominican Republic is currently selling rooms for $96 a night.

The four-pearl Punta Cana Hotel in the Dominican Republic is currently selling rooms for $96 a night.

Sometimes, we come across a deal so phenomenal, it makes us scratch our heads. That’s how we felt when we saw that the Punta Cana Hotel in the Dominican Republic is selling rooms for a mere $96 a night. It seems too good to be true, but this, dear reader, is the real deal. When we stayed at the Punta Cana Hotel last year, we paid $300 a night for our stay, and thought it was a pretty fair deal for that price.

The Punta Cana Hotel’s nearly identical competitor, the classy Casa de Campo (located in the less-convenient La Romana), is still selling its rooms for $195-$295 a night. After the jump, find out exactly what you can get at the Punta Cana Hotel, for less.

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Orlando Gay Days is full of pool, parks, sun, and speedos

During the last two decades, Orlando Gay Days (June 1-7, 2010) has swelled into a weeklong, citywide celebration of love, life, sex, and everything G-A-Y. The right-wing protests have faded, and with over 150,000 attendees, Gay Days offers events and parties catering to all crowds: muscle boys, bears, butch lesbians, fem lesbians, families, pre-ops, post-ops, sports fanatics, teens. It’s the most anticipated annual event in Florida and a mind-boggling explosion of gay subcultures. Read More »

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Oyster is offering 40% off at the Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

Oyster is offering 40% off at the Majestic Colonial Punta Cana

Yes, you read that headline correctly — you can win $100 off of your next hotel stay through Oyster.com’s first-ever Twitter giveaway. Here’s how:

  • The prize: $100 off your next booking with Oyster.com
  • To enter: tweet the following – “@OysterHotels I just entered to win $100 off my next hotel stay on Oyster.com! Where would u stay with an extra $100? http://bit.ly/9EhoAT
  • Time period: 2 days (48 hours) from when the blog post goes up, 1 winner will then be selected randomly
  • Official rules: www.oyster.com/about/official-giveaway-rules/

UPDATE: The contest is now closed.

Sounds pretty good, right? And the $100 is only the start of the savings: If you book one of the top deals on Oyster this week, you’ll save a heck of a lot more. Check out our list of the best hotels for the buck below.

The Fairmont Battery Wharf, Boston Fairmont Battery Wharf

  • List price: $367/night
  • Oyster’s price: $153/night & up
  • You save: $214/night (58%)
  • Super sale dates: July 31-Aug. 5

Why we love it: Great harborside views; attentive service; spacious standard rooms; a celebrated restaurant; and a location on the site of one of Boston’s most historic wharves

Book super sale dates at the Fairmont Battery Wharf

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