Miami

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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Patriotic fever is in full swing; and luckily, at hotels across the country, guests don’t have to miss out on the action. In fact, the red-white-and-blue festivities can come right to them! The six hotels we’ve selected as the most patriotic of them all have a special love for Old Glory — and want to celebrate just as much as you do. From decking out their digs in American Flags galore, to elaborate 4th of July annual BBQs, to offering up a front row seat for viewing the best fireworks in the country — these hotels get our vote as some of the nation’s top spots to celebrate.

The Jefferson, Washington DC

This Washington D.C. hotel scores bragging rights when it comes to its patriotic roots. The hotel is named after Declaration-drafter Thomas Jefferson and offers holiday packages that even John Hancock would sign off on. Guests can jumpstart their morning with coffee – and a chat with the in-house historian — before perusing the hotel’s collection of Jefferson autographed documents. Guests can then enjoy a self-guided tour of Jeffersonian statues around the city. The hotel “We Salute You” package also offers great military discounts.

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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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Luxury resorts serve up more than just swanky guest rooms and exceptional customer service — they are also home to some of the best restaurants in the world. But with young kids in tow, chowing down white-tablecloth-style can be a challenge. While grownups attempt to enjoy fine wines and decadent fruits de mer platters, fidgety toddlers may clank silverware in protest. But with so many gourmet meals at your fingertips when staying at a posh spot, you hate to put the brakes on dinner plans just for fear of “making a scene” — I mean, we’ve all been there…right? Luckily, the restaurants at these family-friendly resorts manage to keep frazzled parents stress-free (and their kids content) with restaurant features such as kiddie menus and more.

JW Marriott Chicago

Don’t let the marble fool you, this chandelier-crazed Chicago hotel rolls out the red carpet for junior jetsetters. The JW paired up with renowned nutritionists to create a yummy (and healthy!) menu in its restaurant that will appeal to both kids and adults. From turkey meatballs to ‘mini’ adult offerings for teens, these comfort meals are sure to please mom. While parents enjoy selections from the dinner menu, kids can chomp on low-fat yogurt ranch dip paired with fresh cucumber and carrot sticks while exploring activity books provided by the staff.

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luxe manorHotels often incorporate themes into their rooms, but these so-called themes are usually “classic elegance,” “boho chic,” or “understated luxury.” In the case of the rooms in this slideshow, however, the themes are a bit more specific — and over-the-top. From a suite that Barbie would approve of, to a room dedicated to David Beckham (and, in particular, his abs), we’ve found some amazing themed rooms and suites that are worth a visit (or at least a look).

Check our these wildly-themed hotel rooms and suites >>

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Sun and sand is great and all, but some (us included) would argue that a beachy setting gets better when the clothes come off. Not only is it totally freeing (as a vacation should be), but it’s also economical — no need to buy a new bathing suit or pay to check your bag! So come and get the skinny on our favorite nude beaches.

1. Haulover Beach, Miami

Though Miami is topless-friendly just about everywhere, Haulover Beach is the only true nude beach in this spring break hotspot. The waters are crystal clear, the soft sand is debris-free, plus there are tons of on-beach amenities. Haulover has lifeguards (in swimsuits, unfortunately), food and drink vendors, and plenty of organized activities like birthday-suit volleyball…although we recommend not going for the save.

Where to Stay: Mandarin Oriental, Miami 

Secluded on an island overlooking Brickell Bay, the 326-room Mandarin Oriental offers a private retreat for couples, business travelers, and anyone else seeking an escape from the crowd. Chic, Asian-inspired decor, a three-level spa, and modern fitness center help soothe jangled nerves, while oversized rooms with water views offer ample opportunity to decompress.

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It seems that every week a new tablet device has launched or a new robot is being introduced to do the work of a person — and hotels that know what’s up have made sure to stock up on these new technologies. Although summer vacations are traditionally meant for getting away and unplugging, we can’t help but love these super high-tech hotels that boast some of the coolest geek-friendly amenities we’ve ever seen. From Bond-like retina scans to robots (yes, robots), these ten hotels have some pretty awesome technology.

Fingerprint Scan Room Entry at Alma Barcelona

fingerprint

A smartly designed luxury boutique hotel, the Alma Barcelona has 72 quiet, upscale rooms with flat-panel TVs and free Wi-Fi. Unlike the nearby Majestic, the pool here is indoors, but the rooftop terrace has first-rate views of the Eixample and Sagrada Familia. Style here has a starring role: design elements include fingerprint swiping instead of room keys, and architectural features such as a minimalist light-filled atrium. 

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Miami BeachYes, you read that right — Miami Beach is getting (another!) hip boutique hotel. Thompson Hotels — who we already know and love from the Smyth Hotel, Gild Hall, and Thompson Toronto, among others — will be opening the Thompson Miami Beach in late 2014 on Collins Avenue, just south of the Fontainebleau. The hotel was a whopping $200 million investment for Commune Hotels & Resorts (the hotel management company for not only Thompson Hotels, but another lovely boutique chain we love, Joie de Vivre) and the property will reportedly have preserved Art Deco features blended with contemporary glamour and bohemian flair. Sounds about right for what we’ve come to expect from the area’s trendiest boutiques.

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A beach getaway is meant to be a relaxing escape. But when you’re spending a fortune for just a few days on the sand, it can be everything but a time of peace and tranquility. Fortunately, we’ve traveled to beaches all over the world and have stayed not only in luxe beachfront hotels, but also in lovely motel-style beach properties that are — wait for it — affordable. Here are our top ten picks.

Ke Iki Beach Bungalows

1. Ke Iki Beach Bungalows; Oahu, HI

These 11 beachfront bungalows offer a solid value, and sit just above the sand on Hawaii’s picturesque North Shore. Sure, the bungalows are modest, amenities are few, and service is minimal. But a beautiful beach is just outside the door, as are hammocks and grills, and parking is free. Oahu’s most famous surfing spots and a charming surfer town, Haleiwa, are just down the street.

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There’s something about boutique hotels that make them sexier than your average getaway: Smaller spaces and dark corners, personalized service, and often diligent attention to detail make them well-suited for the romantically-inclined. We picked our favorite boutiques that have all the necessary trappings for romance.

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