For true foodies, a vacation that doesn’t involve mouth-watering cuisine is hardly worthy of the title. In fact, food can often be a major focus of a trip; it’s hardly uncommon for the taste connoisseurs among us to plan a foodcation. And in our opinion, it should all start with your hotel. If you stay somewhere with a truly phenomenal restaurant right on the premises, your foodcation will be off to a wonderful start. Whether you’re heading to New York City for its famous fine dining, California wine country for its earthy farm-to-table fare, or Mexico for an elaborate upscale meal on the beach, we’ve got a first-rate foodie hotel for you. Take a look at the top hotel restaurants we’d travel for in the U.S., Mexico, and Caribbean.

Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg, California

Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel HealdsburgCharlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen is one of the best – and best-known – restaurants in the Sonoma area, and for good reason. The farm-to-table, seasonal menu features items such as California Sea Bass with sweet corn fondue and Sonoma County Liberty Duck with crispy sunchokes. The restaurant’s outdoor terrace is situated under a shady arbor.


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Aruba, Jamaica, Ooohh we wanna take ya…to the Caribbean for $125/night. Okay, we know those aren’t the exact lyrics, but it’s true: We did some research so we could give you the deets on the best budget picks in the Caribbean this time of year. The price: $125/night. The dates: November 1st through 8th. And we’re off!

Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort, Aruba: $139/night


Renovated in 2010, the Divi Village Golf & Beach Resort is bright and modern, if a bit plain. The lush garden setting sits alongside a nine-hole golf course and is across the street from the beach. There are three distinct dining options, free nightly entertainment at neighboring hotels, a kid’s club, and two large outdoor pools. We know it doesn’t quite make the $125/night budget, but it’s still a solid deal. And if you’re not sold, check out the Tropicana Aruba Resort & Casino for $116/night — and we’re positive you’ll be fine with the $23/night upgrade.

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3777798387_7c622448e0_b-001For cash-strapped tourists visiting New York, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, a hotel room in trendy Little Italy for $120/night might seem like a deal that’s too amazing to pass up. But consider what those low rates may mean you’re signing up for — particularly in the case of the Sun Bright Hotel. The New York Post did an expose on the property last year, calling out the hotel for renting abysmal single-unit occupancies to impoverished male tenants on the top floors. For $10 a night, these men live in filthy, animal-like conditions.  Shockingly, the remaining floors of the hotel are rented out to tourists – some of them unsuspecting, others willing to put up with chicken wire ceilings and dirty communal bathrooms to save money. Trip Advisor gives the hotel one-and-a-half stars, and reviewers have described it as “a cross between a jail cell and a chicken coop,” and “full of insects.” Absolutely no refunds are given.

This week we called the hotel to check rates and see for ourselves what conditions are like at the notorious hotel. After being hung up on (accidentally? we think not) once, a male employee explained that the hotel was booked for the weekend but had availability the following week for $120/night, with free Wi-Fi. After that, we headed to the property for some in-person investigating.

Read up on what we found after the jump >>

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It’s time to get your spook on. Halloween is just two short weeks away, and for many that means shaking out the costumes, buying some candy and cueing the Monster Mash marathon. But for the brave of heart, Oyster’s here to help you choose your spooky itinerary for Fright Night. No matter where you are across the globe, hauntings and mysteries abound that are sure to scare your socks off. From ghost towns to witches’ hideaways, we’ve found some of the best places to spook and be spooked — and where to rest your head (if you can) at the end of the day. But we’d suggest sleeping with one eye open…

Visit a Ghost Town

The American West is rife with these abandoned metropolises that once served as centers for mining and railroad operations. Walking among the now-desolate edifices that line the streets of these ghost towns is like taking a spooky step back in time, and as the nation’s largest unreconstructed ghost town, Bodie, California is the perfect spot to get your frightening fix. Founded in 1859 on the heels of the gold rush, the town’s 200 original structures once housed thousands of residents – families, robbers, miners, gunslingers, prostitutes – but now they stand eerily empty. Visitors come seeking ghostly encounters — or even just great photos, as the abandoned buildings look hauntingly beautiful at night.

The Hotel: Evergreen Lodge at Yosemite 

When the sun goes down, the monsters come out to play at Yosemite’s Evergreen Lodge.

Located east of Yosemite National Park, Bodie is a fun and spooky visit for campers looking to combine history with mystery this Halloween. And the Evergreen Lodge, a 22-acre cabin resort nestled into the Stanislaus National Forest, is a great spot to call home at the end of the day (if you’re not camping on-site).

Other Haunts: Other ghost towns of the American West worth checking out include Jerome, Arizona (which is well-known for its spectral lore — watch out for the beautiful Sammie Dean!) and South Pass City, Wyoming.

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It’s game time, leaf peepers! We are in the midst of peak leaf-peeping season, and you don’t even need to be a binocular-bearing botanist to enjoy fall magic taking shape in the form of beautiful changing leaves across the country. From the White Mountains of New England to the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest — we found plenty of foliage-friendly hotels that give guests a front row seat on the chlorophyll breakdown action. So, if you’re stumped on where to spy purple dogwoods, red sumacs, and orange maples  – look no further, leaf ogler. We branched out to find some of the best lookin’ treetops in the land!

Salish Lodge; Snoqualmie Valley, WA

Salish Lodge & Spa

The Salish Lodge & Spa offers breathtaking views of mother nature’s artwork. Thousands of leaf oglers swarm the Lodge every October to snap images of the bright orange Cascades and gushing waterfalls. The hotel is about 40-minute drive from Seattle  — so bring along that Starbucks pumpkin latte. Most of the property’s 84 rooms have wood-burning fireplaces and peek-a-boo bathrooms with two-person tubs.  Stone fireplaces, stacked firewood, and cashmere throws make this hotel super snuggle-worthy for couples looking for a romantic fall escape.

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No one likes being nickel-and-dimed — especially not by hotels. After you’ve already shelled out major bucks for your vacation, charging for extras like Wi-Fi can feel like adding insult to injury. Some fees are especially egregious, and we’ve encountered charges for everything from air-conditioning to towels to electricity. (Yes, electricity.) These are the seven costs you probably never knew you had to watch out for.

1. Air-conditioning

This is just sneaky. Of course you’re going to pony up for air-conditioning on a hot day — no one wants to try to sleep in the sweltering heat. But once you’ve checked into your room and you’re drenched in sweat from lugging your bags in the hot sun, finding out it’s going to cost you to cool down is seriously cringe-inducing (and probably sweat-inducing, too). Watch our for this at the Samsara Cliff Resort & Spa in Negril, Jamaica.

2. Mini-fridges

At the GHT Oasis Park and Spa in Lloret de Mar, Spain, guests must pay extra to use their mini-fridges. Have some leftovers you want later and trying to avoid food poisoning? That’ll be about four euros a day, please. Or a tummy ache — your choice.

Get ready for some more temper-flaring fees that are just plain ridiculous after the jump >>

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Merlin’s beard! This hotel room gives a whole new meaning to “magical getaway.” If you’re hoping to channel Harry Potter on your next trip, the Wizard Chamber at London’s Georgian House is full of wizardly goodness: from a “cauldron” by the fireplace, to an owl figurine by the bed, from old-fashioned luggage under the bed, to “potions” in the bathroom. Just BYO-W(and).

Guests who book the Harry Potter Tour Package not only get to stay in the Wizard Chamber, but the package also includes breakfast, a Muggle Walking Tour, and a Warner Brothers Studio Tour on the making of Harry Potter.

Want a preview? We don’t have a magic mirror, but we DO have lots of great photos after the jump >>

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Stomp season may have commenced in September, but it’s still prime harvest time in Napa. Despite the recent earthquake that rocked area hotels and wineries, most are up-and-running once again and where there’s wine, there will be people (friendly ones, at that). This weekend in particular will be packed with wine tastings and tours, ghost walks, farmers’ markets, live music, stomping sessions, and even a PGA golf tournament. Now, Napa is certainly not known for being cheap — and if you’re booking some last minute flights to get away for Columbus Day, well, better stick to bread and water for dinner tonight (or the rest of the month, really). But at least we can help you out with finding some value-packed hotels that have some lovely rooms and nice amenities, to boot. Better to save your cash for some delicious wine! And since we’re always traveling around the world and discovering hidden gems, many of these properties are NEW on

River Terrace Inn

river terrace

The three-story River Terrace Inn is a 106-room property located along a tree-lined river path. It’s an upper-middle-range hotel with a range of features and services, but it nonetheless packs a terrific value for the price. Rooms are tastefully furnished and comfortably designed to meet the needs of both business and leisure travelers. It’s also romantic enough for couples, honeymooners, and those celebrating a special event. A path along the riverfront leads to the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. The inn has an outdoorsy feel yet it’s within a minute’s walk to dozens of restaurants and tasting rooms. Bonus: This property is NEW on Oyster!

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Even though it’s a few months away from Valentine’s Day, we’re always looking for ways to have a romantic weekend — especially a romantic long weekend. And thanks to Columbus Day, we have the perfect opportunity coming right up. One of the best (and easiest…and least expensive) ways to turn up the heat is to just stay put in your own city — but head to a luxurious hotel with features designed to heighten the romance. Staycations with a significant other can be the perfect way to experience some of the best properties your city has to offer; the true creme de la creme of your town is almost guaranteed to have cozy rooms, a spa, and a high-quality restaurant or two. At the twelve hotels that make our list, locals/guests won’t need to leave the property — and won’t want to — with all the couple-centric features. And if you don’t live in one of these locales, fear not; you can always hop in a car or on a plane (although the “inexpensive” aspect might get knocked out).

New York City: The Greenwich Hotel

Greenwich Hotel

This virtually flawless 88-room TriBeCa hotel (opened in 2008 by Robert de Niro, among others) offers large, homey rooms, breathtaking design, and very attentive service. Even better: free Wi-Fi; free minibar snacks; and free Wii video games by request are also available. The Greenwich feels like a lush oasis in the middle of the once-industrial neighborhood, with a plant-filled courtyard, the luxurious Shibui spa, and an underground, lantern-lit pool beneath a 250-year-old Japanese farmhouse roof. The exceptional rooms, each uniquely designed to evoke an Italian home, and the hip rustic Italian restaurant, Locanda Verde, complete the romantic experience. Plus, you can skip the lengthy wait for a reservation at the restaurant and just order it up for room service!

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With a Monday holiday (at least in the Oyster offices!) and low off-season rates at romantic hotels across the United States and Mexico, Columbus Day Weekend just might be the ideal time to run off and elope with your sweetie.  We rounded up six diverse destinations that make it easy for couples to combine their private “I dos” with a romantic weekend hotel stay. All you have to provide is the getaway car, rings, and happily ever after.

Rendezvous spot: Niagara Falls, New York

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is a traditional honeymoon destination, but lots of brides and grooms let this somewhat kitschy spot serve double duty by “taking the plunge” here as well. Heavenlee Weddings can arrange nuptials for two anywhere from on board the Maiden of the Mist to in a helicopter hovering over the falls. Of course, if you want a quiet chapel ceremony and then an epic photo shoot in your wedding duds alongside the thundering waters, that can be arranged too. We recommend getting married on the New York side of the falls for legal reasons, then driving the short distance over the border to a Canadian boutique hotel for an international wedding night.

Romantic hotel pick: Sterling Inn & Spa

This upper-middle-range intimate boutique doesn’t have a traditional honeymoon suite, but Deluxe King Rooms include fireplaces and enormous whirlpool bathtubs. Splurge on a couple’s massage at the on-site spa and cuddle up behind a curtained-off table for two at the red rose-colored (and chandelier-studded) AG Restaurant. The falls are within hand-in-hand walking distance from the inn.

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