January 2011

We know, we know — not all boys like dark colors and clean lines, just the way not all girls like pastels and frills. But these seven hotels fit the stereotype, with design features like dark woods, leather, plaid, button couches, and low lighting. So if you dig the boys’ club vibe, dig in.

Trump Soho, New York City

Trump SoHo, New York City

Trump SoHo, New York City

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Ice skating on Frog Bond, Boston Common, Boston

Ice skating on Frog Bond, Boston Common, Boston

Boston can be very cold and windy in the heart of the winter, but there are plenty of things that you can still do with your kids.  Here are a few suggestions:

Ice Skate: There are lots of places to ice skate in Boston, but none as popular as the Frog Pond right in the center of the Boston Common.  If you stay at the Ritz-Carlton Boston or the Four Seasons Boston, you’ll be just a few steps away.  Prefer something a little more off the beaten path?  The Charles Hotel in Cambridge also has their own ice skating rink as a wonderful winter guest amenity.

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Orbitz's photo of Hotel Shangri La, Los Angeles

Marketing Photo

Oyster's Photo of Hotel Shangri La, Santa Monica

Oyster's Photo

By now, after finding so many Photo Fakeouts, we’re used to the basics of hotel marketing images. Take, for example, the perfect (ahem, perfectly airbrushed) blue sky seen in the above photo (the left one, that is). It cascades so nicely from midnight blue down to cornflower blue.

But when we stumbled upon this marketing image of Hotel Shangri La, Santa Monica (a lovely hotel, by the way) — first on discount sale website Ideeli and then on Orbitz.com – the things that really struck us were the two balls of light. What are those, we thought, and why were they randomly placed on the photo? As it turns out, those flashes of light are not random at all, but rather strategically placed to cover unsightly objects. One ball of light covers a lamp post right outside the hotel’s door, and the other covers a traffic light.

Neither object is something to be ashamed of, Shangri La! Traffic lights are a part of everyday life. But hotel marketers, of course, need to pretend that their beauitful hotel stands in a perfect vacuum — heaven forbid the hotel exist anywhere near streets, or cars, or lamp posts, or traffic lights.

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Miami’s Natural Side

by Jeanine Barone on January 13, 2011

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park

Miamians are certainly not ones to sit still. How could they, when year-round warm weather and miles of sand and sea seduce them to play? But vacationing in Miami also often seems synonymous with navigating the club scene that’s still colorful at 5 a.m. When I visit, I try to stay at a low-key hotel, the Angler’s Boutique Resort, and spend my time at these nature spots that are plenty vibrant:

1. In 415-acre Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, four miles of trails course past a subtropical forest of gumbo limbo and pigeon plum trees and mangrove wetlands that once flourished in Florida. You’re bound to spy numerous butterfly species and maybe even a rare peregrine falcon.

2. The two-mile Fossilized Reef Trail winds to a unique geological feature — visible at low tide — at Crandon Park’s Bear Cut Preserve. On the way, you’ll likely encounter a variety of birds, from white ibis to cormorants.

3. Just 20 minutes from downtown, Oleta River State Park is a perfect venue for kayaking along the mangrove-lined Oleta River. This is also one of the state’s best spots for mountain biking with some 14 miles of interconnecting single track beside waterways where you may spot dolphins or manatee.

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It can be hard for high-powered, hooked-up 21st century worker bees to truly relax on their vacations. But a vacation is no time to be checking your Blackberry on the beach. Whether you have trouble letting go of your of your tech-powered world, or are itching to escape it, these unplugged getaways help you recharge your batteries — no batteries required.

Tensing Pen, Jamaica

Tensing Pen, Jamaica

Tensing Pen, Jamaica

Opened in the ’70s as a tiny hippie hangout, this modest-size property has since grown into one of Negril’s top-rated resorts. The 17 cottages, restaurant, bar, pool, and small yoga studio and spa hut are built into the cliffs of Negril’s West End. The hotel adheres to an ethos of simple, back-to-nature living — there are no TVs, phones, or radios in the rooms, so that guests can focus on the rugged natural beauty and breathtaking views. Read More »

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Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Jamaica

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa, Jamaica

Everyone knows a water park is only as good as its best slide, so we did a little digging and found the tallest, longest, and most heart-stopping slides on Oyster. Put on your big-boy pants, because these slides are not for the faint at heart. Read More »

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Private Pool at the One Bedroom Cottage at the Jamaica Inn

Private Pool at the One Bedroom Cottage at the Jamaica Inn

Last week we told you about 5 unique, romantic hotel amenities, and the hotels that play host to them. With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s time to find the perfect romantic hotel, and perhaps even one with a special feature (hammocks on the beach, anyone? Personal fireplace, perhaps?). So in the spirit of love (and the spirit of helping you impress your significant other), we’re bringing you 6 more whimsical, romantic hotel features.  

Here’s what they are, and where to find them:

Private pool

The Hotel: Jamaica Inn, Jamaica
Book a one-bedroom or two-bedroom cottage at Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and you’ll find yourself with a gorgeous private plunge pool overlooking the azure sea. It will likely look the one shown above, or this one. You probably won’t mind that your private cottage is beautiful and elegant, or that you’re staying at one of the nicest hotels in Jamaica.

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Hamachi Shooters at Alexander's Steakhouse in San Francisco

Hamachi Shooters at Alexander's Steakhouse in San Francisco

When Executive Chef Jeffrey Stout opened a branch of his Alexander’s Steakhouse in San Francisco’s South of Market district about two months ago, he didn’t think the crowds here would differ much from what he gets at his original location in Cupertino.

But how wrong he was.

While the Cupertino restaurant starts to shut down after 9 p.m. because folks in the South Bay are early eaters, the party is just getting started in San Francisco around 8 p.m. and is still going strong three hours later.

The three-story restaurant (formerly Bacar),  a short hop from the InterContinental San Francisco, epitomizes The City’s eclecticism with its exposed brick walls, dramatic wine displays, custom Japanese shoji screens and bustling exhibition kitchen with cooks dressed in trendy black chef’s coats.

Stout, who is half Japanese, and his business partner, JC Chen, continue their upscale, contemporary, Asian-inflected take on a steakhouse here. But unlike the Cupertino location, there is no jaw-dropping display of meat on display in an aging room right when you walk through the doors. Wasn’t room for it in the San Francisco locale, Stout says. Instead, all the meat is butchered at the Cupertino restaurant, then trucked to the San Francisco one twice a week. Read More »

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Malibu Wines, California

Malibu Wines, California

Tucked into the Santa Monica mountains in Malibu (with the ocean breezes) there are many vineyards, making this area a mini-Napa. Located on the infamous Mulholland Highway just near Kanan Dume, Malibu Wines is a fantastic place to spend the afternoon or evening.

Bring a picnic and sit at one of the many tables; this oasis in Los Angeles is unlike anything you would expect from the city.  It has the feel of an adult camp with gorgeous trees, acres of greenery, horeshoes, and wine — lots of wine.  They sell vintages from local wineries, and you can choose from an abundance of red wines, or many white varietals from as low as $16 a bottle.  Or perhaps you’d like a tasting flight: For $12, you get four tastings.  Malibu wineries make wonderful, full-bodied wines, which you can taste before purchasing.  There is no cost for admission, just a minimum of one bottle purchase for each group of two to four people. Read More »

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Next time you travel, check out one of these hotels with exercise alternatives

With the new year comes New Year’s Resolutions, and we all know what that means: “Getting fit” will skyrocket to the top of many people’s priority lists. And while staying active on the road isn’t too hard — many hotels offer state-of- the-art cardio and strength training equipment — we know that treadmills can get downright boring after a while. So we’ve found the hotels that have one-of-a-kind fitness amenities that will add a little spice to your workouts in 2011, and below we’ll tell you where to find them.

Kayaking

The hotel: The Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, Orlando
At this Orlando hotel, have fun while you get fit: Rent a kayak ($20 for 1 hour) and paddle on Grande Lake, or book the day-long Kayak School ($295 per person), an eco-tour (2 hour excursion, $60 per adult, kids are free!), or a morning row ($20 per person for 1 hour).

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