New York City

Forget logo branded t-shirts and shot glasses. These hotel gift shops forgo stocking their shelves with those usual tchotchkes in favor of products that raise their retail status as high as the penthouse suite! The six shops that make our list make it so you don’t even have to leave the hotel to score some seriously awesome merchandise. After shelling out some green, you can head back to your luxe digs to admire your vacation loot. Now how to pack it all in your suitcase…

The Plaza, New York City

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Heard of the children’s book series Eloise — about a little girl who lives in The Plaza? Well, some clever retail folks made the storybook character come to life. The Eloise Shop at The Plaza offers one-of-a-kind merchandise based on the book series. But you don’t have to be a bookworm to enjoy the hotel’s charm. The century-old, 282-room Plaza is a New York landmark. A $400 million overhaul in 2008 gave the huge rooms gold-plated bathroom fixtures, but it also converted most rooms overlooking Central Park into privately-owned residences (akin to how Eloise lived). The hotel even has an Eloise-themed suite.

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America’s Most Haunted Bars

by Guest on October 23, 2014

This post comes from our partners at Travel + Leisure

Here’s one way to ensure a bar will be haunted: open it in a former morgue. That’s the case with Captain Tony’s Saloon in Key West, FL, also a former speakeasy, where you may find yourself sipping gin and tonic next to a grave—or a ghost.

“Ghosts tend to go to places they frequented when they were alive,” says California-based Loyd Auerbach, author of A Paranormal Casebook: Ghost Hunting in the New Millennium. “Consequently, places like bars, where people gather for social reasons or for other personal reasons, are often the target sites for the disembodied.”

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Every city seems to have a haunted bar and an intriguing story behind it. The ghostly presence can often be traced back to an erstwhile love affair or, sadly, the result of a grizzly murder. In Austin, TX, the victim of a bar fight has been causing mischief at The Tavern for decades, changing the TV channels or banging dishes in the kitchen. And outside of Las Vegas, a gambler killed when caught cheating still roams the poker tables at Pioneer Saloon.

Still, some ghost tales are taller than others. Jim Fassbinder, who leads ghost tours in San Francisco, says: “There’s a bunch of haunted bar stories out there mostly promoted by barkeeps who know a well-told ghost story keeps ’em drinkin’ and gets the barkeep a tip.”

Not so at Stone’s Public House in Massachusetts, where paranormal experts confirmed eerie happenings the owner had noticed. It’s one of our picks for the most haunted bars in the nation—and you might want to consider a nice tip, after all, if you want to keep the resident spirits happy.

See tons of photos of haunted bars after the jump >>

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It’s almost November, which has us thinking about elections and presidents – even if that vote is a couple of years away. While leading the country is one of the harder jobs you can have, it does come with a few perks. We imagine the extensive traveling is exhausting, but at least it gives presidents the chance to see some amazing places and stay in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels: Four-poster beds, dining rooms, and spacious bathrooms are always on the checklist. We’ve been lucky enough to get to peek inside some of these fabulous properties and their stunning suites – that we can only dream about. Here are 12 hotels throughout the United States and abroad where former U.S. presidents (and the current one!) have checked in; if you can’t book one of these grand rooms, you can at least look through our thousands of photos of places that presidents from William Howard Taft to Barack Obama have made their short-term home.

Palace Hotel, San Francisco

Palace Hotel

Boasting ample turn-of-the-20th-century elegance and 550 rooms on eight floors (we’re digging these stately corridors), the Palace is aptly named — it is indeed palatial. But other than a nice indoor pool and an elaborate Sunday brunch, few features distinguish this business-oriented Starwood from its competitors. Expect, of course, that eight U.S. presidents have visited the Palace, including both Roosevelts and Warren G. Harding. The hotel’s Presidential Suite is truly worthy of a country’s leader, featuring antique furnishings like marble-lined fireplaces, a dining room table and chairs, and a gorgeous wooden piano.

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apartmenttherapy

Maxwell Ryan, founder of Apartment Therapy, knows a thing or two about turning up interior charm. He started out his career as an “apartment therapist,” transforming homes into beautiful, organized, and healthy-to-live-in spaces. You could say he’s a bit of a hybrid — part interior designer and part life coach. His style is about comfort, simplicity, and a lack of clutter. Today, his website has become the go-to site for design inspiration. Since our main decor interest here at Oyster.com is hotel-focused, we asked Maxwell to turn his creative eye towards hotel design. We couldn’t wait to hear of his favorite hotel spots around the globe.

See his top picks after the jump >>

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Whether you’re traveling on business or avoiding rain-filed cloud, sometimes you’re stuck indoors while on vacation with little to do; but the best hotels have features that are ideal for those not-so-great sightseeing days. An indoor spa, welcoming bar, and game room are a few of our preferred indoor spaces, but our favorite may be a cozy library – especially once the cold weather hits (and it has). Bookshelves lined with classic authors and city history books, burning fireplaces, and plush seating make a snug, snuggle-ready setting for reading. We’ve seen many hotels that offer a small shelf of loaner books, but these 10 hotels went above and beyond in creating a literary oasis for their guests. So even if you forgot to pack a book, you’ll be covered — and may just be hooked from cover to cover.

The Jefferson, Washington DC

The Jefferson, Washington DC

After a massive renovation in 2009, this boutique reopened, and regained its place among DC’s elite hotels. It’s not as famous as the Hay-Adams, but its subtle blend of technology (TVs embedded in bathroom mirrors; electronic housekeeping buttons) and colonial charms, like a working dumbwaiter, are second to none. All that’s missing is T.J. himself. (Oh wait, no. Here he is. … ) The intimate, lovely library has an impressive collection of vintage hardcovers (Writings of Thomas PaineThe Age of VoltaireEncyclopedia Americana), a cozy fireplace, and even a magnifying glass – you know, if you’ve been reading for so long your eyes begin to strain.

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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 seems like everyone we know is lacing on sneakers and hitting the ground running these days. With marathons picking up speed and popularity across the globe, we’re happy to call the host of one of the most popular –  The New York City Marathon — home. Runners will put their best (and fastest) feet forward this year on November 2nd, when just over 26 miles of ups and downs will route them through all five boroughs. Couldn’t summon the will power to train over the last six months? No worries; you can still participate by cheering on those who dragged themselves out of bed, trained tirelessly, and maybe even lost a few toenails in the process. We’ve got a list of the best places to stay along the NYC Marathon’s 2014 route, so you can peep, pep, and cheer on the runners. But walk, sprint, or jog quickly — because these prime spots are bound to fill up fast!

Hotel Le Bleu: Mile 7, Brooklyn

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This 48-room boutique hotel in the middle of the Brooklyn‘s Park Slope neighborhood makes up for its slim offering of amenities with delightfully modern rooms, balconies, free breakfasts — and a convenient location right by the Mile 7 marker. Rooms have contemporary decor in shades of white, blue, and brown, modern technology, and Egyptian cotton linens; glass-walled bathrooms are sleek but small, and lack privacy (they’re not separated from the rest of the room). The affordable rates may be the biggest draw; rooms at this outer-borough gem are around half the price as similarly stylish options in Manhattan.

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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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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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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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