November 2010

Maison 140, Los Angeles

Maison 140 is one of Los Angeles' best hidden gem hotels

Plenty of travelers know the famed, grand dame hotels in the big cities: The Plaza in New York CityThe Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, and The Fairmont in San Francisco, to name just a few. But sometimes the best hotels are the ones that pleasantly surprise you, the ones that you hadn’t even heard of before planning your trip. We call those hidden gems — the quaint hotels that fly under the radar, but wind up being just what the travel doctor ordered. If you’re looking for a hotel that’s a bit off the beaten path, consider one of the hotels below — our top picks for the best hidden gem hotels on Oyster.com.

Maison 140, Los Angeles

This tiny, 43-room boutique makes up in style what it lacks in size and amenities. Granted there’s no pool, real business center, or even a restaurant — but the unique Chinoiserie and Parisian-inspired rooms, cozy lobby bar with nightly absinthe happy hours, and central Beverly Hills location lure in a loyal crowd.

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Penguins at the New England Aquarium in Boston

Penguins at the New England Aquarium in Boston

As you might expect, Boston has one of the nicest aquariums on the East Coast. If you are visiting the city with your family, the New England Aquarium is a great place to take your kids. There’s the aquarium, an Imax theater,  and whale watching (weather permitting), so you could easily spend almost a whole day there.

When I visit with my family (we are members, so we can get in free at any time), we start out at the penguin exhibit, which is my daughter’s favorite. We have to pull her away, because while my son likes the penguins, he’s always ready to move on first.

The giant ocean tank, which takes up four floors and is located in the center of the aquarium, is a huge draw.  My kids can just sit forever in the windows, watching for Myrtle the giant sea turtle (who is older than me!) and the sand tiger sharks, along with the “regular” fish. There are also smaller exhibits on all four floors, including some hands-on sections.

The attached Imax theater generally shows nature-themed shows, although in the evenings, they sometimes show more adult-type blockbuster movies. Combination tickets, which offer a discount, can be purchased.

You can access the aquarium via the MBTA’s Blue line, and there are also several parking garages nearby. Parking can be quite expensive, so public transportation is your best option if possible.  Nearby hotels include the Boston Harbor Hotel and the Intercontinental Boston.

– Jodi Grundig of Family-Friendly Boston and Multitasking Mommy

[Photo Credit: Flickr/pobrecito33]


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The 24-layer crepe cake at Cafe de Amis

The 24-layer crepe cake at Cafe de Amis

Walking into the glam back dining room of the new Cafe Des Amis in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, I felt like I should have donned an elegant Hermes scarf for the occasion. If only I owned one.

The three-month-old restaurant, a short drive from the Fairmont Heritage Place San Francisco, was four years in the making. But it was worth the wait. The former Prego Italian restaurant has been transformed into the ultimate brasserie that encapsulates tres French chic with antique marble floors, a nickel bar, deep red walls, crimson leather banquettes, a classic limestone fireplace and an enormous bejeweled chandelier.

Attention to detail is evident, as when the table next to ours was reset and a busser actually brought out a cordless iron to smooth the creases in the white tablecloth.

On a recent Saturday night, when I was invited to dine as a guest of the restaurant, the 200-seat establishment that stays open daily till 1 a.m. was bustling with diners. And this was a slow night, according to our server.

The Bacchus Management Group — which also owns Spruce in San Francisco, the Village Pub in Woodside, Mayfield Bakery & Cafe in Palo Alto, and numerous Pizza Antica outposts — joined with Perry Butler of Perry’s restaurant in San Francisco, who acquired the old Prego spot, a half block from his famous bar, in 2005. They brought on board Chef Edward Carew, who has cooked at top New York spots such as Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park and Craft, as well as San Francisco’s Florio, where he was the executive chef. Read More »

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The Kahala Hotel and Resort has appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-0, and it is rumored it will appear again on future episodes.

The Kahala Hotel and Resort has appeared on an episode of Hawaii Five-0, and it is rumored it will appear again on future episodes.

The new Hawaii Five-0 television series is making a splash across the nation with an all-new cast bringing Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Danno (Scott Caan), and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) back to the islands. They’re joined by Kona Kalakaua (Grace Park) and an occasional appearance by Jean Smart, who plays the part of Hawaii’s governor. Visitors to Oahu can add some famous filming locations from vintage 5-0 and the new 2010 series to their itinerary. Read More »

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Many travelers may think that living it up in luxury digs isn’t that easy with the whole family in tow (many four- and five-star hotels don’t exactly cater to energetic youngsters), but we at Oyster.com are here to tell you that you don’t have to sacrifice hotel quality for convenience. (If Brangelina can manage to travel in style with their brood, so can you!) Below, take a look at the list of our favorite kid-friendly luxury hotels.

Two Bedroom Residence at the Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square

Two Bedroom Residence at the Fairmont Heritage Place Ghirardelli Square

Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghiradelli Square, San Francisco

The best luxury option in SanFrancisco for families (and not just because it’s only a few yards from some of the world’s best ice cream and chocolate in Ghirardelli Square) the Fairmont’s huge, residential-style one-, two-, and three-bedroom units truly deliver all the comforts of home — a full kitchen with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances; an in-room washer and dryer; free DVD rentals to watch on a 40-inch flat-screen TV next to a gaslit fireplace. More importantly, foldout couches in the living rooms and bedrooms available with two twin beds make sleeping arrangements easy. Read More »

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The Peterson Museum in Los Angeles

The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is famous for many museums, including LACMA, MOCA, and the Getty. But did you know that one of the great automotive museums is here?  You can explore 100 years of the automobile, and its impact on our culture, at the Petersen Museum in Hollywood. Read More »

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Christmas wreaths

It’s been argued that the preponderance of chain stores — we’re looking at you, JC Penney, Pottery Barn, and Victoria’s Secret — have turned the streets of New York City into a giant mall. Escape that “we could be anywhere” feeling by shopping at the unique, holiday craft markets that pop up throughout the boroughs in November and December.

The Holiday Shops at Bryant Park, Now through January 2nd, 2011

While most of us were still sorting Halloween candy into piles, the folks behind the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park had already begun setting up. Open from November 5th to January 2nd, this holiday market features 120 vendors packed around the New York Public Library. After loading up on kettle corn and throw pillows, leather goods and handmade earrings, you can go ice-skating for free at Citi Pond. Then treat yourself to a hot drink from Big Apple Cider.

Bryant Park is located between 40th and 42nd Streets at Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Stay nearby at the Bryant Park Hotel New York City.

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Aria Resort and Casino Las Vegas

Aria Resort and Casino Las Vegas

Every once in a while, the girls need to make time for themselves, leave the guys behind, and hop on a plane for a weekend escape. And for ladies looking to get away in style, Vegas has so much to offer – way beyond just the casinos and flashing lights for which it’s best known. Whether you’re looking to lie by the pool, see a show, dine out, dance the night away – or some combination of all of those – the hotels along the Las Vegas Strip can provide a weekend of non-stop fun and relaxation. Plus, room rates in Vegas these days are terrifically reasonable. If you’ve been thinking of planning one such gals getaway, read on for insider info on Las Vegas’ top five hotels for the perfect girl excursion.

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Islands Dining Room at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando

Islands Dining Room at Universal's Royal Pacific Resort, Orlando

Hooray! My favorite time of the year is just around the corner! Thanksgiving marks the time when all things are good. Starting with that perfect bite: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing a gravy and ending with holiday cookies and the smell of all things Christmas. If you’re visiting Orlando for the holiday, or if you’re a local just looking for a place to have a nice meal, here are three suggestions to get out and about — and eat at! – on the infamous turkey day.

1. Islands Dining Room at Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort-a Lowes Hotel. The resort itself is a prime example of vacation luxury. The South seas exotic theme leads to that perfect feeling of zen that we are all looking for while traveling. The large, Indonesian-style Islands Dining Room will provide the perfect backdrop for a festive Thanksgiving buffet. Traditional turkey meals will be offered as well as the all-time favorite prime rib. There will also be a variety of food stations including: sushi, stir fry, omelet and waffle (until 2pm). Besides the food you can enjoy live music, hula dancers, face painting for the kids and the chance to get up close to some Universal characters.
Hours:
11am – 8pm
Price:
$43.95 for adults with champagne included
$17.95 for kids 12 and under, kids under 3 are free

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Oyster's new user interface

At Oyster, we’re constantly trying to innovate with our customers in mind. We want to make sure we’re always delivering the best experience and best product possible to you, because without you, there’d be no us. So we’re constantly examining how people are using our site and considering things we can do to make the experience that much better for you.

During the last 18 months we’ve noticed one very important trend: People’s monitors are getting bigger. Much bigger! So when we thought about what we could do to give you a better experience, one obvious thing popped into  our minds – give you even bigger photos!

We know that you love our photos. So what we do now is simple: We detect the resolution of your monitor, and then we deliver a photo that’s as big as possible. When looking at our maps, the same technology applies: The bigger your monitor, the more map you’ll see. Over the coming weeks and months we plan to extend this to other parts of the site as well.

The image above gives you some idea of the change, but just go ahead and trust us: It’s bigger, better, and badder (in a good way)!

Please send us feedback on what you think!

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