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The summertime beach vacation is a much-awaited annual tradition for many. As soon as the weather turns warm, families, couples, and singles alike, flock to shorelines near and far.  Don’t get us wrong — the beach will always hold a special place in our hearts. But when sandy toes and sunburn get to be too much, here are ten great alternatives to the typical beach getaway.

1. Bluffton, South Carolina 

Situated along the May River and bursting with Southern charm, Bluffton might make you feel as though you’ve been transported into a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s part of a peaceful, beautiful region along the South Carolina coast known as Carolina Lowcountry, where salty marshes meet mossy forests. The Palmetto Bluff real estate development features a small, picturesque village, private homes, an 18-hole golf course, numerous recreation facilities, and a beautiful hotel.

Where to Stay: The Inn at Palmetto Bluff

Stay at the beautiful hotel, of course! The Inn at Palmetto Bluff provides the ultimate Coastal Carolina retreat with all the trimmings…think wrap around porches, rocking chairs, and tons of Spanish moss.  After your first leisurely stroll along historic River Road, you’ll think a quiet winding river really may be better than a packed sandy beach.

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We love the Florida Keys for so many reasons: the sun, the sand, the seafood, the sunsets, the nightlife… And fortunately for most East Coasters, the Keys are easy enough to reach that a weekend getaway to the beach (that doesn’t feel rushed) is totally doable. Not to say that you’ll want to leave, but at least your travel time with be short enough that you’ll have plenty of time to chow down on key lime pie and sip on margaritas even during a quick trip. On our recent jaunt to the Keys, we visited a slew of adorable properties and confirmed what we’ve believed to be true for some time — the Florida Keys are home to some of the cutest boutique hotels EVER. From a two-room hotel on a quiet street to a luxe adults-only property on its own private island, here are our ten favorite boutique hotels in the Florida Keys, NEW on Oyster.com!

Casa Morada

Casa Morada

Okay, so it’s not that small. But boat rides, fishing charters, and dive trips are just some of the perks available at Casa MoradaInspired by a laidback Caribbean lifestyle, this upscale 16-suite boutique hotel is perfect for couples looking for a romantic getaway, whether for a honeymoon or just because. Situated right next to the ocean in the middle of the Florida Keys on Islamorada, the hotel provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere with hanging hammocks and lots of fun and free activities like yoga classes, kayaking, and bicycle rentals. Compared to nearby hotels, this property offers great value with spacious and upscale rooms with water views.

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The Caribbean, the West Coast, and North America’s ski resorts…. During the winter months, these spots are bustling with tourists who are either looking to escape the cold, or are seeking it out for that fresh powder. But summer months see their crowds dispersing for destinations like the beaches of the East Coast, Europe, and theme parks around the world, where temperatures are generally high — as are the prices. That’s why we think it’s a great idea to not overlook your favorite wintery getaway as a possible summertime escape. Not only are hotel rates nearly cut in half, but winter destinations can be just as fun (dare we say more so?!) in the summer as they are during peak season. Here are eight popular winter destinations where you can enjoy an amazing, and affordable, summer getaway!

1. Cancun

Fiesta Coral

Not surprisingly, Cancun’s busiest months are those around winter and spring breaks, when hordes of college students descend upon the white-sand shores to party and lounge poolside. Even early June, though it technically falls during low season, can be a busy time for Cancun tourism as families treat their tots to summer vacations. By the end of the month, however, this beach destination starts to clear out — which means beautiful, uncrowded waters and great deals on hotels. It may be warm, but the crystal-clear ocean is right at your toe tips and the culinary scene is still bustling. September sees particularly low rates — but be prepared for potential hurricane weather!

Where to Stay: Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa

While not all-inclusive, to which many guests attribute the resort’s quiet atmosphere, the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach Resort & Spa has three restaurants; three poolside bars, including a swim-up bar; and a lobby bar. The extensive and beautifully designed spa, billed as the only in Latin America with a 10-step hydrotherapy program, is a big draw.

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This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel

As much as we would all love to pack our bags and fly off to some remote corner of the world, the reality is that the majority of Americans won’t be leaving the “Land of the Free” any time soon. In fact, as of last year, a study showed that more than half of Americans have never left the country. A full third does not have a passport. When asked why, many of those Americans who participated in the study said they felt everything worth seeing was already in their own backyards. While we’d like to contest the veracity of that statement, we have to give credit where credit is due. The States DO have lots to offer travelers. From crystal clear waters that rival those in the Caribbean, to insurmountable mountain peaks that wow even the most experienced adventure traveler, the geography of America is as varied as the citizens that call it home. By that logic, you technically don’t have to leave the States to feel miles away. This summer, explore the far corners of America and discover just how diverse your country — you won’t even know you’re still on your home turf.

Getaway: The Florida Keys 

florida keys

The Florida Keys are as close to the Caribbean (and its nice weather) as you can get in the U.S. Formerly thriving on the loot from wrecked ships, the Keys now thrive on tourism. Visitors flock to the area during the winter and spring to soak up the year-round heat and swim in the beautiful, calm waters. Situated on the third largest barrier reef in the world, the Keys are a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving, and there are tons of other outdoor activities, too — tennis, golf, kayaking, fishing…the list goes on.

Stay: Little Palm Island Resort & Spa

Reachable only by boat or seaplane, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa is located on a private island where wild key deer roam. It includes 30 luxurious suites, many with private oceanfront verandas. A favorite getaway for celebrities, it provides a secluded place to unplug from the world (use of technology is discouraged) and experience a romantic vacation in a lush, tropical environment. Read More »

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Forget no-frills lodging; today’s new brand of hostels offers cool decor and plenty of perks. Sounds too good to be true? Well, we’ve got the scoop on hostels that pack a wow factor with upscale amenities, contemporary comforts, prime locations, and good food. Plus, with fun social scenes and affordable rates, they have all the ingredients for a pleasant stay without breaking the bank. Join us as we step into the (little-known) world of modern hostels.

Hostelling International – New York

hostelling_intl_nyWithin walking distance of Central Park and numerous subway lines, Hostelling International in New York City offers an affordable stay on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. This well-run property has both private and shared rooms, free Wi-Fi, a theater room, game room, café, several lounges and a private patio/garden. To keep guests (mostly in their 20s and 30s) entertained, the hostel organizes daily events like city tours, pub crawls, and in-house comedy shows.

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The 4th of July falls on a Friday this year, so it’s the perfect excuse to turn the holiday into an extended weekend vacay! We’ve honed in on some cities that are fun to visit at just about any time of year, but if your trip falls over the long weekend, it’ll be amped up by fireworks, festivals, and fabulous food as these destinations get in gear to celebrate the red, white, and blue. These six cities pull out all the stops and bring you great entertainment, including free concerts by artists that would normally cost a pretty penny to see in your local arena — but in the spirit of patriotism and community, they’re free! Round up your crew because it’s time for a road trip.

Atlanta Lights Up in the Laser Show Spectacular

stone mountain

Photo Credit: Stone Mountain Park

There are 4th of July celebrations going on all over Atlanta next weekend, including festivities at Lenox Square Mall and a fireworks display at Centennial Olympic Park. However, Stone Mountain Park offers the ultimate display with a combination laser and fireworks show. Make sure you get to the park super early and enjoy a day with attractions such as Sky Hike and the 3-D/4-D show “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

Where to Stay: Loews Atlanta Hotel

The 414-room Loews Atlanta brings style and luxury to Midtown. Rooms are bright with floor-to-ceiling windows, and spacious bathrooms have soaking tubs and TVs. Upscale amenities include a modern spa and fitness center, along with a swanky cocktail bar in the lobby. Convenient dining options range from an innovative restaurant to a gourmet snack bar, but many restaurants and bars are in walking distance as well. Wi-Fi is available for a fee and parking is pricey, although free transportation is on offer within a three-mile radius in a stylish Mercedes GL450.

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The beauty of reading a good book is that it transports you to a whole different world — without ever costing you a penny. Whether James Joyce guides you through Dublin or Hemingway fixes you a drink from his home in Key West, literature opens pathways to other dimensions that never require a passport. But sometimes the imagination needs a dose of reality to fully grasp the whole picture. Other times, an author’s words so imbue a reader’s mind, he or she cannot help but pack up bags to experience the same sights, sounds, and smells that gave birth to a favorite novel. Poets, novelists, and playwrights give us a little bit of their world on every page — and now it’s our chance to take a bit more for ourselves. The best destinations for book lovers are enumerable: Every person has a favorite author, and every author has a different world view. But there are some spots around the globe that possess just a bit more of a literary spark than others. So pack your bags — and your favorite paperback — because we’re going on a trip perfect for any bookworm.

1. Dublin, Ireland 

dublin

The Irish have a reputation for storytelling, and with good reason. A UNESCO City of Literature, Dublin the home of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, and countless other prominent literary figures — and you can visit several of their homes during your visit. At Trinity College, visitors can take a look at one of the most famous books in the world, The Book of Kells, dating back to 800 A.D. And, once night comes, be sure to take part in the Literary Pub Crawl that takes you to some of the city’s best pubs with an acting troupe in tow portraying some of your favorite scenes from Irish literature. The James Joyce Museum, the Dublin Writers Museum, the Chester Beatty Library, and the Long Room at Trinity College are among other popular literary sites.

Stay: Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa

The Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located about half an hour northwest of Dublin’s city center. The historic property — an 18th-century castle turned Georgian house, turned convent, turned hotel — sits on beautiful green grounds, making it a popular spot for weddings and events. The location allows visitors to see more of the country that inspired Ireland’s great writers, and with a library, restaurant, three bars, and several golf courses nearby, there is plenty to keep guests entertained. Read More »

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Oftentimes a movie, TV show, or music video can suck you in with its gorgeous sets and shooting locations. They can feel so real, you  just wish you could be there. Well, you probably can’t live the fictional lives portrayed on the big and small screen (and sometimes, you probably don’t wan t to), but you can catch a bit of the magic with a visit to the set locations. We’ve found some real-life places that set the scene for some of our favorite on-screen moments.

Mad Men Goes For Drinks at P.J. Clarke’s in New York City

New York City, 1 Aug 08

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Mad Men is an amazing show for many reasons, including it’s incredibly detailed portrayal of the 1960s in New York City. When Peggy gets promoted to a copywriter position, she invites everyone for a round of drinks at P.J. Clarke’s. This landmark New York pub has been around since the 1800s and it is still a popular after-work spot. Back in the day, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra were frequent patrons.

Where to stay: The Waldorf Towers

The Waldorf Towers occupies the top floors of the iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel in Midtown East. It is an exclusive boutique with 117 classic, individually decorated rooms, some of which have a rich history of famous guests and long-term residents. Most amenities are shared with its sister property — including the great (but pricey) restaurants, high-end Guerlain Spa, and beauty salon — but the hotel has its own lobby, fitness center, elevators, and concierges.

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While a nautical theme can make for fun hotel decor all year round, we can’t help but enjoy it a little more in the summer when the timing feels particularly fitting. After all, during warmer months we love the idea of being out on the open seas, wind in our hair… until we think about how crowded and gross cruise ships can actually be. Considering the many recent mishaps on ships and boats — some of which actually proved to be quite dangerous — as of late, we’d rather enjoy a nautical theme from dry land, thank you very much. Fortunately, we’ve visited plenty of hotels that make you feel like you’re first mate — without actually having to set sail.

Amstel Botel, Amsterdam

Amstel Botel

The 175-room Amstel Botel, a former river cruiser converted to a floating hotel, sits by the industrial NDSM wharf, a growing outpost of Amsterdam’s underground art scene. The Botel is decorated like a European ferry, and is a no-frills budget-friendly option for visitors. Central Amsterdam is a 15-minute free ferry ride away. Kids may enjoy the experience of staying on a boat, but the property is more popular with value-minded couples and groups. Luxury seekers and visitors hoping for a charming European hotel should look elsewhere, but those searching for a boat-like vibe without having to leave the dock will find the nautical decor fun and charming.

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Beyonce isn’t the only one with a message for all the single ladies out there — a growing number of hotels, in an effort to target single female travelers, are offering women’s-only rooms and floors. These range all the way from shared hostel accommodations to entire floors of upscale business hotels. So for the hostel dorm rooms we’re pretty much on board – we know we wouldn’t love having to possibly change in front of strange dudes — but we’re a bit conflicted about having women’s-only rooms and floors in nicer hotels, where it’s less a matter of practicality and more of a marketing gimmick. These properties are targeting well-heeled businesswomen with female-oriented amenities such as curling irons and glossy fashion mags; some may find it convenient, others a bit insulting.

We can see that it might be nice to leave the yoga mat and nail file at home for those who often pack up all their supplies for just a short weekend getaway — but other women may find the selection of amenities discriminatory (after all, I’ll take the standard NYTimes over Cosmo any day). Also, for hotels with women-only floors (rather than select rooms), there’s an implied security element — it’s as if the hotel is promoting a way for women to stay safe and non-sexed on their next business trip. (Kind of like, er, staying in a convent.) What do you think — are women’s-only floors convenient or anti-feminist?

To help you decide, we’ve rounded up nine properties around the world with dedicated dude-free accommodations.

The Georgian Court Hotel, Vancouver

georgian court

The women’s-only Orchid Floor has 18 rooms, all equipped with extra amenities for women, including flatirons, curling irons, yoga mats, ladies emergency kits, and lifestyle magazines. The upscale hotel is on the edge of Downtown Vancouver, within walking distance of numerous Vancouver attractions.

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