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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techLet’s face it, the way we travel has changed — a lot. Thanks to technology, we have instant access to information – and lots of it. We no longer blindly trust a travel agent to plan our vacations anymore. Instead, we research, we study, we read, and we wait to book a hotel room until after we’ve scanned through Oyster’s honest photos and unbiased reviews, of course. And in our world of “apps,” where we can download just about anything onto our phones, studying, researching, and planning our vacations has become easier than ever. So here’s a story of a time when a lack of travel apps ruined a travel experience — and when their presence saved one.

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Austin will be hosting the second annual three-day weekend of the ACL Music Festival starting this Friday. The self-titled Live Music Capital of the World (and the actual capital of Texas), Austin has emerged as a hotspot thanks to its South by Southwest festival (where Twitter gained buzz in 2007), downtown entertainment district, and Brooklyn-like vibe. The popular music festival began in 2002 and has continued to grow thanks to the big-name headliners it obtains; this weekend will feature acts like Eminem, Lorde, Outkast, and Iggy Azalea. In addition to the more than 130 artists taking the stage, delicious eateries, an art market, and kid-centric activities will be spread out across Zilker Park where the event is held. In 2013, ACL adopted the Coachella philosophy and changed from one weekend to two consecutive to accommodate all the festival-goers. Although one-day and weekend passes have been sold out for some time, you can still see what all the fuss is about for the city whose motto is “Keep Austin Weird” by heading to one of these ten hotels. And you can always snag some (pricey) last-minute tickets on StubHub!

The Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel

The 189-room Driskill Hotel sets a new standard for historic hotels. The hotel was built in 1886 and was beautifully restored; the gleaming marble floors, towering columns, and stained-glass ceilings evoke a bygone era. Tasteful, elegant rooms follow suit with designer furnishings, towering ceilings with crown moldings, brocade carpeting, and pretty bathrooms with black marble floors and counters. They’re a bit small, though — but that’s to be expected in a historic downtown hotel. There’s no pool or other on-site amenities besides a nice fitness center and small massage room, but the location in the heart of Austin’s famous Sixth Street entertainment district is prime. Head to the southwest-themed Driskill Bar for a cocktail and live music performances several nights each week.

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We are always amazed how fashionistas never let jet lag cramp their style: Always dressed to impress. Hair and makeup never out of sync. How do they do it? Well we honestly had no idea — until we rounded up some beloved fashion bloggers and begged them to spill their secrets. After reading their tips below, we swear you’ll hit your next flight feeling runway ready!

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1. Avoid Wrinkled Clothes

After a long flight, have you finally unzipped your bag — only to find a full week’s worth of suitcase-smushed outfits? Luckily, there’s an easy fix. First of all, plan ahead — and pack soft, rollable clothing that doesn’t wrinkle easily. As CouponPal’s Erin Konrad (@CouponPal) agrees, “I love to pack clothes that don’t wrinkle easily — there’s nothing that makes you look unkempt and frazzled faster than a wrinkled outfit!”

Former fashion buyer Tara Cannon (@pintsizedpilot) of the Pint Sized Pilot suggests that if you must bring wrinkle-prone clothing, to pack a steamer along. She also says “I plan out my outfits beforehand, making sure I have an extra amazing outfit just in case I get invited to a surprise event. I fill the bottom of my suitcase with conversation- worthy, pretty shoes too.”

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beach--v2681489-1024 Here at Oyster, we believe summer should be a year-round celebration, so we’ve come up with an Endless Summer Series to satisfy our sand-and-sun dreamin’. It’s a simple idea based on the fact that no matter what month it is, it’s summer somewhere. And since we started off September on the hot sands of Palm Springs, we figure the next logical step should be on the sunny sands of St. Pete Beach, Florida, where flip flops and tank tops are still given a warm welcome — even in October. Click through the jump to get all the scoop on St. Pete Beach, Florida in October…and where to stay (on every budget) for your perfect SPB holiday >> Read More »

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In our original post, we brought you from Nantucket to Kauai and everywhere in between, offering perfectly captured glimpses of our country’s most beautiful vistas. But we’d be biased if we only shared our stunning photos of the United States. So we packed our bags and headed to Europe in search of its best vantage points. Here are 13 of our favorites…

Fretheim Hotel, Norway

Norway

For travelers interested in exploring Norway’s natural wonders, there’s no better starting point than the Fretheim Hotel. Located in Flam, a popular departure point for fjord cruises, the Fretheim offers some pretty breathtaking views of its own. With its floor to ceiling windows, the Fretheim’s popular restaurant has an unobstructed view of the beautiful valley and nearby harbor.

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Free breakfast and yoga classes are some nice perks, but when we’re on vacation and feeling creative (or the weather’s not ideal for sight-seeing), taking a hotel’s art class is a fun way to spend the day. A good handful of hotels we’ve visited offer free or inexpensive classes for their guests –some as part of a children’s club and others geared toward adults. Because who said arts and crafts was just for kids? And one surefire way to adult-ify a painting event (and to make for some interesting “abstract” creations) is to add booze! The classes we’ve taken range from watercolor painting and sand art to decorating picture frames with sea shells and mosaic tiles. So if you’ve tired yourself of the beach, pool or surrounding tourist locales, these hotels can keep you occupied with an art-filled experience. Plus, you’ll have a handmade souvenir to take home!

Jake’s, Jamaica

Jake's

With just 30 hippy-chic cottages in secluded Treasure Beach, Jake’s is a member of Bespoke Hotels, a trendy, luxury hotel group. Guests come to unplug — there’s no phone, Internet, or TV in the cottages. The black-sand beaches aren’t Jamaica’s most impressive, but the Driftwood Spa, yoga classes, and excellent food make this a particular favorite. In addition to the cooking classes and beach activities, guests of all ages can utilize their artsy side. For the littlest ones, there’s an Octopus Garden mosaic-tile workshop geared towards kids ages two and up for $60. There’s also a mosaic-tile class for adults and older kids where all materials are provided to create uniquely tiled mirrors, trays, or picture frames. The Sea Shell Garden poolside workshop lets kids choose between a birdhouse, trinket box, and other structures that they can decorate with an assortment of beads, shells, and other natural materials. Led by artists-in-residence, watercolor painting classes, available for both group or private sessions, guarantee that you can leave Jake’s with more than just a tan.

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3215777143_9fd88fc35b_b[SPOILER ALERT: The following article makes some rather pointed insinuations about the film's plot.]

If you’re anything like us, you breathlessly awaited the premier of Gone Girl, the dark psychological thriller based on Gillian Flynn’s best-selling book. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike as that oh-so-charming couple, Nick and Amy, it hit theaters earlier this month. And just in case you’ve been living under a rock (we prefer luxury hotels, ourselves, but no judgement), the book (and movie) begin on the day that Amy has mysteriously disappeared. We’re not going to tell you what happened to her (she MAY have been murdered, or she MAY have been shacking up at a motel in the Ozarks as part of an elaborate ruse to frame her husband). But for argument’s sake, let’s just say she was shacking up — and that she encountered some unsavory fellow hotel guests who robbed her. We personally think Amy (hypothetically, of course!) could have done a whole lot better in her hotel choice. If only she’d known about Oyster! Because we could have helped her out…but better late than never. So, travelers and unhappy spouses of the world, we bring you seven hotels that we think are smart places to hide out — next time you want to get gone. Read More »

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Judy Joo, host of Cooking Channel’s Korean Food Made Simple, loves to travel just as much as she loves to cook. With 100 visited countries under her belt, she’s a certified globetrotter — with a knack for spotting the best menus in town. We’re not ones to turn down some insider info, so we sat down with the superstar chef to get the lowdown on her favorite restaurants — in the world’s hottest hotels, of course.

Judy Joo

Click READ MORE to, well, read more about Joo’s favorite hotel restaurants.

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