New Orleans

Whether it’s a sweet sixteen, wedding, or 50th anniversary, events held in a ballroom evoke luxury. Gorgeous crystal chandeliers, high ceilings, and ornate gold drapes are just a few things that come to mind when picturing a ballroom; it’s clear why these stunning spaces are popular choices when hosting a soiree. From grand rooms that fit hundreds of people, to smaller spaces designed for more intimate — yet equally impressive — gatherings, the following 12 hotels are amazing choices — as long as you’re willing to pay up, of course.

Harbour Grand Hong Kong

Harbour Grand Hong Kong

The Harbour Grand impresses guests upon entry. The massive marble lobby with huge chandeliers is imposing, and the stately, yet modern, look continues throughout the hotel. Rooms here are sexy and up-to-date, with none of the stuffy grandeur of some other luxury hotels in Hong Kong. Simple, sexy decor with peek-a-boo bathrooms, large sepia-toned wall photos behind the headboards, and views of the harbor give the rooms a sophisticated vibe. Overall this 828-room mega-hotel is a gorgeous option, complete with with four full restaurants, a fitness center, and a spa. The Grand Ballroom shown above is often used for weddings and can fit 500 people banquet-style. The high ceilings, stunning chandeliers, and high-tech features — like audio/video projectors and special light effects — make it a truly gorgeous event space.

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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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How is it already August?! This summer may be swimming by — we have some pretty hardcore party scars to prove it — but it’s not over yet. The sun is still shining, so in our book that means that there’s still time for clear booze and colorful sundowner cocktails. And, since there are only a few more summer Fridays to squeeze in before the school year starts, here’s a list of hotels that won’t throw salt in your summer party game (but they just might throw it in your margarita!). So, Cheers! Salud! Skål! Proost! Party like the summer’s almost over because, well, we hate to break it to you — but it is.

Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas

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The swank Hard Rock is off the Strip, but it knows how to throw a party, particularly at the pool. Home of Rehab (arguably Vegas’ best pool party), go-go dancers in the casino, live music at The Joint, partying at Vanity nightclub, and stylish cuisine at Nobu or Ago, this sinful Strip property has earned lots of Oyster Awards for partying. Arguably even more so than the Palms, Hard Rock is one of the most unapologetically hedonistic hotels in Las Vegas. It’s a place where wanna-be rock stars and, well, real rock stars come to party, gamble, and trash their hotel rooms. Of course doing so will cost you, or your record company, a fortune.

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Many hotels that we visit are housed in brand-spanking-new buildings, erected in recent years for the sole purpose of being the site of that “just opened” Marriott or Four Seasons. But some properties, recently opened ones and historic ones alike, instead reinvent old spaces to create the hotels that visitors call home during their vacations. And some of these old buildings have quite the story to tell! From prisons to plantations, the 10 hotels on this list were once the sites of quite different operations, and all have storied – whether eerie or interesting or just downright weird – pasts.

 Liberty Hotel, Boston

Liberty Hotel

For nearly 150 years, this tall granite building was known as the Charles Street Jail and housed some of Boston’s most heinous criminals. In 2007, after a painstaking restoration that preserved elements of the prison design, it reopened as the Liberty Hotel. The result is stunning, with nearly 300 rooms, a 90-foot-tall atrium, winding catwalks, and high, circular windows that flood the lobby with light. The hotel’s popular restaurants and bars play on the jailhouse theme with names like Alibi, Clink, and The Yard.

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Who doesn’t love a girls’ trip? A fun getaway with a group of your girlfriends is the perfect way to get together and reconnect, whether you all live in cities across the country or in the same neighborhood. Hey, even guys love a girls’ trip! For those who are left at home, it means more time in control of the remote; for those in the visited destinations, it simply means more odds of meeting someone special (at least temporarily so). After visiting countless hotels and resorts all over the world, we’ve seen quite a few that are suited for that precious — and always entertaining — time spent with girlfriends. No matter if your gang likes to shop till you drop or roast marshmallows while camping, we’ve rounded up nine hotels that will suit your style.

For Relaxing at the Spa: Travaasa Austin

Spa Austin

Travaasa Austin is set on its own nature preserve on a hilltop amid forested canyons, 20 miles west of downtown Austin. Its 72 rooms are housed in seven buildings built on three different levels, with correspondingly different views from their balconies. Hiking trails, an infinity-edge pool enclosed by a wooden deck, a luxurious spa, and a restaurant with panoramic views are just some of the amenities providing inspiration and relaxation for visitors. The tranquil spa has a sauna and hot tub and uses only organic, bioenergetic products for personal treatments. The farm-to-face pumpkin facial and lavender vanilla hand treatment are just a few unique options they offer. You and your girlfriends will easily relax and decompress in this setting — and if you’re combining a little relaxation with a bachelorette party, Austin has quickly become one of the most popular spots in the U.S. for pre-nuptial soirees.

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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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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 

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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. 

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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 

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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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A city with a vibrant artistic community can mean lots of fun with great live music, terrific street fairs, and a laid-back vibe.  After all, the art scene of a city can define its very culture – and can make for a great getaway. You can stock up on one-of-a-kind artisanal goods by day and take in a different show every night. Or crawl through pubs and rock out to local bands after dark, while gallery-hopping during the day. We picked out our five favorite artsy cities, home to creative communities that deliver a unique flavor. And of course, we tell you where to stay in each!

1. New Orleans

Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr Photo Credit: Katie Harbath, Flickr

 

New Orleans has always been a cultural mish-mash with Latin, French, African, and Caribbean influences. The bright colors of Mardi Gras only scratch the surface of what this city has to offer. There’s plenty of experimental theater, live music (jazz!!!), and great artistry, as well. Visitors would be remiss if they didn’t check out the art galleries of St. Claude Avenue, especially on Second Saturdays when many galleries showcase their newest and boldest exhibits. If you’re looking to shop or take in some live music, start at the Frenchmen Art Market to pick up some one-of-a-kind jewelry or spectacular wall art and then drift over to Frenchmen Street for a show.

Where to Stay: Royal Sonesta Hotel

After a long day of artistic revelry, relax in some of Bourbon Street’s swankiest hotel digs.  This hotel is home to a hopping pool scene complete with a cabana bar, and live jazz is performed on the premises. You can also do plenty of people watching from a balcony room.

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This weekend, New York City will truly be the “City That Never Sleeps” as throngs of locals and visitors alike rock out at the fourth annual Governor’s Ball. This three day music fest features headliners Outkast, Jack White, and Vampire Weekend, as well as dozens of others from across the musical spectrum. And next weekend, a dusty stretch of Tennessee will see thousands of  people camp out in the name of all that is rock ‘n roll at Bonaroo, where Mumford & Sons, Passion Pit, Paul McCartney, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lead a stellar line-up. It may be too late to book your tickets to either of these extravaganzas (of course, anything’s possible if you’re willing to pay ten times the original price on StubHub), but that doesn’t mean you have to kiss your quest for the perfect summer music fest goodbye. With June’s arrival comes a slew of stages across the United States that are set to get you dancing well into the summer nights ahead. Featuring everything from bluegrass to dupstep, these ten summer music fests are not to be missed. And true to form, we’ll tell you where to stay for each too.

1. Electric Daisy Carnival 

Photo Credit: Keith Hamm, Flickr Photo Credit: Keith Hamm, Flickr

Taking place in Las Vegas from June 20-22, EDC is an electronic music-lover’s (trippy) dream. Essentially one large rave replete with dubstep beats and neon lights, EDC attracts over 300,000 to The Strip for a chance to hear major DJs, such as Above & Beyond, Avicii, Martin Garrix, and Eric Prydz, spin into the wee hours. 

Stay: EDC takes place about a half hour away from The Strip, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But unlike at other festivals, revelers are not allowed to park on premises, and the Nevadan heat forces many to find A/C elsewhere. Thankfully, Vegas has plenty of hotel options at hand. The Palms, known for its crazy parties and celebrity stopovers, is an apt choice for festival-goers.  Read More »

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