Fairy tales have been bewitching readers long before Emma Swan wandered into Storybrooke on ABC‘s “Once Upon A Time.” In fact, these stories of heroes and magic, and goblins and trolls, have been entrancing the masses ages before even the Brothers Grimm decided to pen some of history’s most memorable tales. The reasons for this preoccupation with folklore vary: Some people pine for their favorite characters and others wish for a world where magic spells and potions can be bought and sold at your local witch’s hut.

But perhaps the most alluring part of a fairy tale is the setting, filled with grand castles, forbidden forests, and charming villages galore. These fascinating worlds come to life before our eyes thanks to the rich descriptions of our favorite fairy tale authors. And there’s good news for all of the dreamers out there: Many of these otherworldly settings were inspired by real life destinations around the world. Now we all know Sleeping Beauty’s castle was based on the gorgeous Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany, and that Colmar, France could be La Belle et La Bete’s hometown, but what about lesser known fairy tales? From Sicily to Scotland, we have the scoop on some of the most idyllic lands of folklore that are just waiting to be discovered — and, of course, the dreamy hotels where you can almost imagine Prince (or Princess!) Charming awaiting your hand for a dance.

1. Sicily, Italy 

sicily

Sicily remains one of the most intriguing regions of Italy. A mix of cultures — including Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, and African — provide the island with a heady history filled with intrigue. You can see the blend of cultures reflected in the island’s cuisine, architecture, language, and — yes — folklore. Fairy tales from Sicily have all of the traditional components: heroes and heroines, magic and might. But they also have some surprising twists that make them entirely their own. In Sorforina, for example, our titular heroine is a well-educated young woman, the daughter of a Sicilian merchant, who falls in love with a young, belligerent prince. The tale of their love affair is tortured, filled with artful witchcraft and steamy seduction (this is an Italian fairy tale, after all). It is a fairy tale of its own unique making, filled with the wry and unabashed sarcasm Sicilians are known for in the face of insurmountable obstacles.

Stay: Grand Hotel Villa Igiea  

The Grand Hotel Villa Igiea offers a magnificent and ornate example of Sicily’s 19th-century architectural history — as well as a plausible backdrop for our Sorforina. Visitors have noted that this is considered one of the best, if not the best, hotel in Palermo. The grounds are spectacular, and the outdoor pool was built to incorporate ancient stone ruins. Inside, there’s a romantic bar with vaulted stone ceilings and wall frescoes. Read More »

{ 0 comments }

It’s no secret that space in New York City is limited, which makes it all the more precious and expensive. Unfortunately, for budget travelers in particular, this means not much lodging — that you’d actually want to stay in — is available outside of hostels. Fortunately, in the last few years the Big Apple has seen its own take on Japanese-inspired capsule hotels pop up, and these spots are dedicated to making the best use of tight spaces (and budgets!) without sacrificing style. Trust us, we’ve stayed in some small spaces during our travels — but no place does small quite so chicly as these three NYC “pod” hotels. These are the perfect budget hotels for a stay in Manhattan as they are modern, stylish, compact, unique, and efficient — just like NYC. (Besides, how much time do you really spend in your hotel room?)

1. Yotel

premium-cabin--v1241917-35-720

Born out of a desire to create luxurious accommodations in compact spaces, Yotel began as a by-the-hour hotel system in various London airports. In 2011, NYC became home to the first standalone, brick-and-mortar incarnation of the brand. Located two blocks from Time Square, Yotel’s intuitively efficient rooms are well-steeped in style, and display a futuristic design with high-tech convenience built right in. Well-thought-out floor plans mean rooms never feel cramped (well, I guess we can only speak for ourselves…), while monsoon showerheads and heated towel racks prove you don’t have to skimp on comforts. Rooms here may be small, but the hotel isn’t shy when it comes to common spaces. With 18,000 square feet of lounging and dining space, including a 7,000-square-foot trendy rooftop terrace, Yotel gives you plenty of über-hip bang for your buck.

___________________________________________________________________________

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

The Golden Age of Hollywood has come and gone. While Los Angeles once had a firm grip on all film-related business — movie and television alike — the industry has expanded well beyond the Hollywood Hills. In the last forty years especially, we’ve seen emerging markets in Louisiana, Toronto, and Atlanta increasingly cut into La-La Land’s share of the filming world. Where Hollywood once hosted a commanding 64 percent of the live-action films being made in the early 2000s, today that figure has dropped to around eight percent, according to a study by FilmLA. It’s a big departure from the norm — and it is only good news for people looking to get their fifteen minutes in front of the camera. We’ve rounded up the top six destinations outside of Los Angeles for aspiring actors to book their first gig, or adoring fans to potentially score some time as an extra. And we’ve included some movie star-worthy accommodations in each spot as well.

1. New York City 

nyc

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in reality NYC only became a film industry hot spot in the 1970s when prolific directors Martin Scorcese and Woody Allen shifted their films’ focus to the Big Apple. Since then, NYC has become the clear challenger to Los Angeles’ filming supremacy. Just this year, NYC officially surpassed Hollywood for the number of TV pilots filmed in town, with Vancouver, Toronto, and Atlanta slowly creeping up behind the two industry giants. This week alone HBO’s Martin Scorcese-directed drama The Long Play begins filming its pilot in the city, as do over sixty other returning network programs. USA’s White Collar, CBS’s Person of Interest, Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, and HBO’s Girls are just some of the projects currently in play across the five boroughs. Plus, NYC has one thing Los Angeles doesn’t when it comes to acting: the Great White Way. For actors looking to pursue a career on stage, there is nowhere else to be but Broadway. Daniel Radcliffe and Neil Patrick Harris are both currently headlining shows, and Breaking Bad’s Brian Cranston just wrapped All the Way, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Lead Actor in a Play.

Stay: Mercer Hotel

The Mercer‘s 75 loft-style guest rooms, beautiful staff, personalized service and swanky SoHo location make it a go-to choice for celebrities and other fashionable members of the entertainment industry — from Leonardo DiCaprio, to fashion designer Calvin Klein, to oddball rock star Marilyn Manson, to Russell Crowe (who made headlines in 2005 for allegedly throwing a telephone at a Mercer check-in clerk). If you want to stay in a movie star-approved hotel, you can’t do much better. 

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Tuscany is a dream destination for many — rolling green hills, charming medieval towns, stone farmhouses, and acres of vineyards are what usually come to mind. But there’s a side of Tuscany many may not know about — a steamy side. No, not that kind of steamy (well, maybe that too), but steamy in the literal sense — many Italians and Europeans flock to the little town of Saturnia for its natural thermal waters. These charming properties take full advantage of this unique geographical feature.

Agriturismo Le Cascatelle

thermal-waterfalls--v2179348-912

Set among olive and fruit trees in a quiet field, this bed and breakfast consists of four simple but clean, well-stocked apartments slightly set apart from one another, furnished with the basics. A few rooms are available for rent within the compound’s main house. Wine made by the owner is available for sample and sale, and a much-lauded homemade breakfast is offered each morning at a very reasonable price. The main advantage of this location is its convenience vis-à-vis the Saturnia waterfalls (within walking distance), as well as its proximity to several towns of historical and cultural interest, including Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana. The owner organizes full and half-day mountain biking excursions for guests for an extra fee. Read More »

{ 0 comments }

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 »

{ 0 comments }

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.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Some may turn up their noses at America’s “unrefined” grub, and others may stare in horrified shock at our portion sizes (which is understandable) and our tendency to fry everything (also understandable). But our great U.S. of A is home to some pretty great eats — many of which you’ll likely chow down on this holiday weekend. So here we bring you eight quintessentially American dishes in seven amazing American cities (because, after all, New York does both bagels and pizza better than any other destination we know).

Lobster Roll, Nantucket

lobster roll

Lobster rolls are about as “New England summertime” as you can get, and though destinations like Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the Hamptons all claim to do them better than the rest, we crown Nantucket the winner. Almost every restaurant on the island offers their signature variation of a lobster roll, but Millie’s — with a restaurant and a food truck — is known to serve up one of the best.

Where to Stay: Jared Coffin House

One of the oldest inns on the island, Jared Coffin House gives travelers a taste of Nantucket history and classic New England style. Some of the rooms and bathrooms are small, but all combine antique-style furnishings with modern features, such as flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi. The inn, open year-round and centrally located near the downtown area, also features the elegant and popular Nantucket Prime restaurant; the menu not only features a lobster roll (either hot with butter, or cold with mayo), but also a delicious half lobster from its raw bar.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.13.44 PM

Hyatt members received excellent news this month: The Park Hyatt has opened its first ever hotel in Vienna, Austria. The luxe brand has taken up headquarters in Vienna’s First District, a quiet part of the bustling European city that’s focused less on tourism and more on history and shopping (so, not surprisingly, tourists are nonetheless focused on it). The First District is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the hotel itself is housed in a 100-year-old bank building overlooking Am Hof square. The hotel is elegant and impossibly grand, even when taking Vienna’s high standards into consideration. Read on after the jump >>

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

Throughout our travels we’ve seen over-the-top luxurious rooms, themed rooms, massive rooms, just plain weird rooms, and everything in between. But for some rooms that we’ve gotten the chance to explore, there’s no better way to describe them than just, well, cool. Whether they’re located in caves or decked out in all-over orange (you’ll understand in a minute), these ten picks are some of the coolest hotel rooms in the world.

1. The Suite of Orange at Hotel Estherea, Amsterdam

 Hotel Estherea

Hotel Estherea takes a maximalist approach to its interior design, and treads the fine line between plush extravagance and gaudiness with aplomb. This is particularly apparent in the lavish Suite of Orange, which lives up to its name; decked out in various shades of orange with plenty of mahogany touches, it features a gorgeous chandelier and high-tech amenities such as massive flat-screen TVs and iPads upon request. The hotel’s location on the Singel canal is picturesque, and well positioned for exploring Amsterdam‘s attractions.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }

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.

Read More »

{ 0 comments }