Portland

“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius…”  Yesterday, our favorite astrological free spirits started celebrating their 2013 birthdays, and we couldn’t be happier for them. Possessing a deep social conscience, Aquarians are humanitarian, philanthropic, and dedicated to making the world a better place. And they do so with flair. Known for their wildly inventive and creative ideas, Aquarians can also be temperamental and flighty if you don’t encourage their quirk. Luckily, Oyster has stayed at some of the best off-beat, hippie-chic retreats for fostering the unpredictable and artistic notions of the Water Bearers in your life. So get your sketchpads ready, it’s time to take these rebellious visionaries on a one-of-a-kind vacation.

Korakia Pensione, Palm Springs

Korakia Pensione brings a bit of the Mediterranean to Palm Springs.

Korakia Pensione is a striking hotel in Palm Springs. Modeled after a Mediterranean pensione, it looks like something out of Greece or Morocco, and Aquarians are sure to relish in its exotic, eclectic vibe. Aquarians are also notorious flirts (what with all of that passionate, creative energy roiling around inside them), so they’ll definitely appreciate that Korakia was named one of Forbes’ sexiest hotels in America. The two Korakia Pensione pools and many outdoor spaces – including fire pits, fountains, and stone paths — are all beautiful and unexpected. And the hotel plays old movies every night outside on the terrace. The rooms are named, not numbered, and each is slightly different, but all have an old-world, whimsical feel.
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Hotel minibars have a bit of a naughty reputation. After all, they tempt and tease world-weary travelers with salty-sweet goodness at all hours of the day, and then come with a double-digit price tag to boot! But sometimes, the items up for grabs can at least provide guests with a moment of amusement. Some hotels feature rather surprising minibar offerings — we’re talking walking sticks and 24-karat gold vibrators. It’s enough to make guests pause in their perusal of the candy selection and say, “Wait, what?” We’ve come across some of the wackiest minibar items during our travels; here are some of our favorites:

Alexander Wang-Designed Condoms at the Thompson Beverly Hills 

Get your groove on at the Thompson Beverly Hills.

At the flashy Thompson Beverly Hills, spending the night with that special someone just got more fashionable. Designer Alexander Wang created special packaging for PROPER ATTIRE condoms, which are for sale at all Thomspon properties, as well as on the brand’s website. Couples pay $5.99 for a pack of three assorted (which include extra large, ultra-thin, and studded — oh my!) and proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood.  Read More »

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If you’re one of the many shoppers out there struggling with gift buying this holiday season, don’t fret. Whether you’re a road warrior with no time to shop or just looking for a ‘lil inspiration, we’ve found a surprising source for great gift ideas: hotels. From gourmet goodies to decadent bath products to home decor, hotels have plenty of items that can make the perfect present — so swipe something on your next hotel stay (and pay up, of course!) or simply swipe the suggestion!

Gift Idea: Signature Pantry Goodies

Guests can buy signature pantry items from The Merrion kitchen, such as red onion marmalade.

Guests can buy signature pantry items from The Merrion kitchen, such as red onion marmalade.

Little-known fact about hotels: Some of the really, really nice ones have their own signature gourmet goodies. At The Merrion, for example, the hotel chef sells kitchen creations such as red onion marmalade (4 euros, or about $5) and hotel-brand chocolate bars crafted under the guidance of chocolatiers in France, both for sale in the in-room minibars. In addition, entire holiday hampers of treats can be purchased. One of our favorites? The Merrion Hamper, with items such as cranberry sauce, brandy butter, mulled wine and grape chutney, macaroons, mince pies, chocolate truffles, Christmas pudding, and lemon oil, all for 55 euro (about $72). At The Shelbourne Dublin, more tasty seasonal signature treats are for sale, such as various relishes (4.95 euros, about $6.50), preserves (4.95 euros, about $6.50), and even Christmas pudding (10 euros, about $13).

Oyster’s Picks for Where to Swipe ‘Em: The Merrion Hotel in Dublin, The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel

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We love when hotels feature one-of-kind amenities — many of which tread the line between amazing and ridiculous (not that they can’t be both). While W hotels are known for  their Whatever/Whenever service – which promises to accommodate any (legal) guest requests at any time, and the Sound Your Stay rock star treatment at Hard Rock Hotels — complete with free Fender guitars rentals — is pretty awesome, it’s the wildly decadent, completely over-the-top amenities we love best when visiting our favorite hotels. Here’s just a taste of some of the creative ways hotels are keeping guests happy with some unnecessary [Ed. note: Or are they?] but incredible hotel indulgences.

What: Surf Butler

Why carry your surf board when the St. Regis surf butler can?

 

Where: The St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Orange County

St. Regis hotels are known for their top-notch butler service, which even uses eButlers to receive requests via e-mail. With such attentive service throughout the luxury chain, it’s no wonder that oceanfront St. Regis hotels, like the Monarch Beach Resort in Orange County, offer surf butlers. Before your lesson in hanging ten, the surf butler will take your measurements for your wetsuit and bring all necessary equipment right down to the sand so you won’t have to lift a finger — your focus should be on catching some gnarly waves anyways, dude! Read More »

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Rose City may best be known for its lush natural surroundings and eco-centric personality, but that doesn’t mean fashion-forward visitors should stow their credit cards for a rainy day (although, this is the Pacific Northwest we’re talking about, so I suppose you could do so). Along with our friends at Lucky Magazine, we’ve found all the best places to shop (and sleep) in Portland, no matter what your personal style. From hipsters to socialites, we’ve got you covered on the chicest boutiques both to rest your head and shop ’til you drop.

If your style is avant-garde…

Shop: The underground scene in Portland is alive and well. Having grown up from its days of grunge and grit, the avant-garde Portlander is now a sophisticated (but still off-beat) animal. Machus, for example, features unisex staples for those daring enough to sport the androgynous look. Ensembles are completed by Solestruck’s sky-high platforms, which are often embellished with spikes or sparkles.

Hotel Monaco Portland

Hotel Monaco Portland

Stay: If  you’re style exudes the artistic quirk and over-the-top charm of the avant-garde, you’ll fit right in at the Hotel Monaco Portland. Set in a historic 1912 building, this top-notch downtown locale has a bevy of (off-beat) freebies for guests to enjoy, including an evening cocktail hour where guests can actually paint their dream ensemble for free with brushes, canvases, and easels that the hotel sets up in the lobby. Hotel Monaco also showcases local art, has bright, whimsical decor, and even loans out the house goldfish for the lonely traveler. Shopping for him (or her) will most likely prove more difficult.
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The Best Road Trips is a weekly summer series highlighting our favorite getaways from major cities all over the United States.

Seattle may be known as the home of grunge rock, Starbucks coffee, and grey skies, but that doesn’t mean its residents are grim. In fact, the city has one of the lowest crime rates in the entire country; and has both beautiful scenery and a bangin’ nightlife scene. But should locals (or visitors!) need a day off the java or a weekend without rain, there are plenty of nearby places to check out. The best part — each of these three trips takes less than three hours to drive, meaning if you only have one day to spend outside of Seattle, you can do it up right. So pack your bags, slather on some SPF (hey, you can burnt when there are clouds!) and hop in the whip — we’ve got some miles to cover.

Road Trip #1: Seattle to San Juan Islands, WA

  • Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 46 minutes
  • Distance Covered: 104 miles
  • Take This Trip If: You’re looking for an island escape that doesn’t require a transcontinental flight.
San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands offer Seattlites a quick break from city life.

The Outlook Inn

The Outlook Inn offers amazing views from its perch on Orca Island.

Bird Rock Hotel

The Bird Rock Hotel is within walking distance of the ferry landing.

The San Juan Islands (a collection of around 800; 600 of the isles are unnamed) are a popular summer getaway for Washingtonians, and have a relaxed, back-to-nature vibe; expect farmlands, evergreen forests, nature trails, whale-watching, and mom-and-pop shops. Popular activities include hiking, wildlife spotting (whale-watching in particular is common, and the Shark Reef trail on Lopez Island leads to a harbor seal hangout), sailing, and kayaking. For those days when it does rain, the islands have several wineries, farms, and museums. Although properties are more intimate than luxurious, the Outlook Inn is a romantic boutique that boasts killer views of Eastsound from almost anywhere you can stand. Service is incredibly personalized, and perks like free Wi-Fi and fresh food from an on-site cafe make this hotel a choice pick. Those with slimmer budgets should check out the Bird Rock Hotel, a charming, 15-room no-frills B&B. The hotel’s central location, though, is definitely the highlight — just a block from the ferry landing, and within walking distance to plenty of shopping and dining in downtown Friday Harbor.

  • Top Driving Tip: In peak season (summer), the ferries fill up fast — so you’ll need to arrive early in order to ensure you get on board, as the lines can take hours to get through. You can find the latest ferry schedule here.

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The U.S. is known for being ahead of the curve in a lot of things (we’re still feeling a bit patriotic after all of Wednesday’s activities), and that includes making music. Paving the way for the rest of the world – from bluegrass to hip-hop, country to surf rock – cities around the country are famous for putting new music on the map. If you’re music junkies like we are, visit our five favorite U.S. spots to hear live music in a variety of venues — and of course, we’ve included our picks for hotels to stay in once the music’s over.

The City: Los Angeles

L.A. has long been a hub for musicians and mainstay venues on the musical scene are still hot destinations for touring bands, especially those looking to be discovered. In recent years, an influx of young creatives has brought on a whole new age of music that’s less starry-eyed and more visceral.

Hollywood Bowl; Credit: Flickr by Margaret Napier

Hollywood Bowl; Credit: Flickr by Margaret Napier

Where To Hear It:

Nestled in the Hollywood Hills, The Hollywood Bowl is an iconic music venue known for its large outdoor amphitheater and BYOB wine and food policy, which creates a one-of-a-kind atmosphere for viewing big ticket acts such as Animal Collective and The National. On the other side of the spectrum, Hotel Cafe is a dimly lit, intimate space showcasing up-and-coming talent, leaning towards promoting female singer-songwriters like Meiko.

The Pool at The Orlando

The Pool at The Orlando

Where to Sleep: The Orlando – West Hollywood

Nobody walks in L.A. – except on the rare stretch of street where this cheap but chic hotel is located. Besides prime location, The Orlando offers free Wi-Fi (helpful in planning your nightly outings), two saunas and a pool for post-music show recharging. Plus, it’s pet-friendly for those divas who won’t leave home without their dog. A short drive from Sunset Boulevard, where many of L.A.’s famous venues reside, and well placed for offshoots to hip neighborhoods such as Silver Lake and Echo Park, this hotel is a music lover’s dream.

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Attention hipsters-at-heart: You too are running out of time to plan your vacation. Okay, so the summer just officially started, but hotels are booking up fast, festival ticket booths are hanging the “Sold Out” banners, and flights are getting more expensive. So if all you’re looking forward to is to having an excuse for growing a mustache, getting a tattoo, spending a few days eating organic, locally grown food, drinking coffee and biking around, check out our 5 top picks for a real hipster vacation and start packing. Tip: skinny jeans for him, cut-outs jeans for her, sunglasses, and an instrument required.

BROOKLYN, NY

Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY

Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY

Hipsters started flocking to Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood in the early 2000’s, and in just a few years the area has become the ultimate boho-chic spot. As housing prices soared in the area due to its popularity, hipsters started moving to more affordable yet equally cool neighborhoods in Brooklyn, such as Greenpoint and Bushwick, and spreading the lifestyle. There’s now a bunch of farmer’s markets, hundreds of cool bars, and dozens of organic restaurants all around the borough. However, Williamsburg is still the place to catch a show at one of its hundreds of venues (ranging from small holes in the wall –check out Pete’s Candy Store–, to larger spaces like Brooklyn Bowl), get a drink, or even get a haircut (an expensive one, that is) in an old garage that doubles as a trendy tattoo parlor. Round up the experience with a trip to beautiful Carroll Gardens, family-friendly Park Slope, and even up-and-coming Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods.

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It’s chilly out there, and sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a book — or even just the cocoa. But when you’re staying in a hotel, it can be tricky to find the perfect corner for dozing off reading. That’s where we come in — Oyster.com investigators have stayed at hundreds of hotels with libraries that run the gamut: everything from one-book “lending libraries” to luxurious library-themed bars to entire hotels devoted to the Dewey Decimal System. So pick a book (or turn on your Kindle) and check out our favorite hotel libraries below!

The Book Room at The Jefferson, Washington DC

The Book Room at The Jefferson, Washington DC

For the dignified historian: The Jefferson, Washington DC

After a massive renovation in 2009, this boutique hotel reopened, and regained its place among DC’s elite hotels. The staff went to great lengths to incorporate aspects of Thomas Jefferson’s life that are less known than his accomplishments as a statesman and an author. Jefferson the architect? The custom-made toile draperies in the rooms depict scenes from Monticello and other buildings he designed. Jefferson the book lover? Enter the lovely library, and peruse its impressive collection of vintage hardcovers (Writings of Thomas Paine, The Age of Voltaire, Encyclopaedia Americana). With the blazing fire, the velvet chairs, and the resulting romantic ambiance, any historian would feel right at home in this intimate, luxurious space.

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If you’re citified but like to hike, a foodie but ride your bike more than your car, or use your Patagonia Solar Wind Jacket for a city blizzard, you can consider yourself Urban Rugged by Oyster’s standards.

These destinations and hotels are rustic-chic with lots to do, whether it’s hiking, cycling, shopping, going to art galleries or eating in top notch restaurants. At these eight hotels, you can always tap into your natural — and metropolitan — side.

The Travaasa Hana, Maui, Hawaii

The Travaasa Hana hotel overlooking Hana Bay delivers rustic luxury in the middle of Maui’s lush, secluded east coast. It has incredible service, a long list of stuff to do and only 70 rooms on acres of uncrowded property. The rooms are large, clean, sleekly furnished — and stripped of TVs, clocks and radios. Though it’s hard to reach, it’s worth the trip. The gorgeous, secluded location near hikes, waterfalls and beaches, excellent cuisine using local products, one of the most beautiful spa facilities on the island and unmatched personalized touches make this hotel one of your best choices in Hawaii.

Travaasa Hana, Maui, Hawaii

Travaasa Hana, Maui, Hawaii

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