A hotel has “made it” when it’s honored as a Relais & Chateaux property. After all, established in 1954 in France (mais bien sur?!), this exclusive association is made up of just about 500 hotels and restaurants, combined, that introduce guests “to a deeper, truer understanding of the Art of Living.” Or, in much simpler Oyster terms, they show guests a darn good time by providing gorgeous rooms, luxurious facilities and amenities, and top-notch service. We’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in quite a few of these R&C properties (don’t get too jealous — as hotel experts, we also have to stay in spots like this), and here bring you the real creme de la creme of the best of the best.
It makes sense to start in grand Paris, non? With a sweeping private entrance surrounded by green lawns and an impressive fountain, the upscale Saint James is a rare find in Paris — in fact, the 19th century manor is considered the only chateau-hotel in the city. It’s fitting that the hotel is located in the wealthy 16th arrondissement (and yes, valet parking is included). The 48 rooms and suites are large by Paris standards, and decorated in plush luxurious fabrics. But the common areas are more impressive — especially the black and white grand staircase on the main floor. The terrace is a beautiful spot for lunch on a nice summer day. And there’s also a small fitness center, a spa, and a gourmet restaurant. The rates here are steep, but guests who want to experience luxury in Paris (and can afford it) should give the Saint James a look.
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Sure, Labor Day has come to be synonymous with the beach and end-of-summer parties, but it’s actually a holiday with more industrious beginnings. In 1882, the first Labor Day was held in New York City to create a holiday for workers, thanks to the efforts of the Central Labor Union; the group wanted a day to allow the public to appreciate and acknowledge the work of the trade and labor organizations. Made a federal holiday in 1894, Labor Day has become more and more celebratory throughout its 120 years and often features parades, music, food, and all-around festivities. Many of the biggest parades occur in smaller cities throughout the country, so if you’re still looking for something to do before we say farewell to summer, consider a trip to these locales! These eight parades are sure to make for an afternoon of family-friendly fun!
Charlotte may be a bustling city these days, but it still retains its southern charm. Freedom Park, the Rosedale Plantation, and one of the country’s best symphony and operas can all be found in this lovely North Carolina destination. The historic city will be celebrating the three-day weekend by hosting a Labor Day Parade with the theme “An old-fashioned parade, union-made!” Next Monday, the parade will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Hal Marshall Center. Expect to see local union floats, beauty queens, and political candidates.
Stay: Charlotte Marriott City Center
The Charlotte Marriott City Center hotel is a quick 13-minute walk to the parade starting point. The hotel boasts spacious rooms, the acclaimed Savannah Red Restaurant, and a cool cigar bar.
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Electra Palace Hotel Athens is a beautiful luxury property with 150 rooms in the neighborhood of Plaka. The grounds and facilities are gorgeous, featuring an outdoor garden with manicured lawns and a pavilion where guests can enjoy the free breakfast. The rooftop restaurant, pool, and surrounding deck offer stunning views of the Acropolis. The hotel has a spa with a large indoor and hot tub, as well as a fitness center. Rooms offer classical decor with crown molding, wooden floors, and area rugs. From the gold lettering and five stars crowning the hotel’s entrance to the five-tiered chandelier hanging from the lobby ceiling, Electra Palace specializes in opulent details and fabulous stays.
See more beautiful pics of the Electra Palace after the jump >>
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August is an antsy month. Back to school madness descends upon parents, kids, and coeds alike, with everyone looking to squeeze in one last shore run before class starts up once again. Then September rolls into town with the first inklings of crisper weather — and the lure of the shore is only heightened. But where to go? For many East Coasters, a quick trip to Southern neighbors where the sands are still toasty and the waves still refreshing is dampened by the threat of Mother Nature’s finest beast: The Hurricane. The Gulf Coast becomes a ghost of what it once was, and Caribbean tourists flock to other beachfront locales where winds and rain aren’t so rampant. But for the brave of heart (who are more scared of a high price tag than some high winds), traveling to the eye of the storm means gorgeous, uncrowded beaches and tranquil luxury resorts at extremely reasonable rates. It goes without saying that safety comes first, and booking a trip during this time of year to some of our favorite Gulf and Caribbean destinations won’t always pan out. So make sure to double check with your favorite weatherman and get the scoop on how the winds are swirling across the Atlantic before you purchase. (You can always hit up these hurricane-proof spots if you’d rather not risk it.) But if you’re ready for a little adventure on the cheap, here’s a selection of Oyster’s favorite hurricane hideaways to get you started on your end-of-summer getaway!
A peaceful and beautiful resort, The SPA Retreat Boutique Hotel was designed to be a true escape for couples and small groups that want to relax, be pampered, and enjoy a quiet getaway in Negril, Jamaica. For adults only, the intimate hotel (which maintains a maximum 47 visitors) features individual cottages, all-inclusive packages for dining at the on-site restaurant and bar, a variety of spa services, and an incredible view of the Negril cliffs plunging into the Caribbean Sea. Read More »
If you suffer (we use the term lightly) from an intense devotion to wine, you will feel right at home at these wino-friendly hotels. We must say, we’ve uncorked the best of the best with these seven getaways. Many are near the best grape stompin’ vineyards in the country, or either offer expansive wine lists, classes for newbies, or wine-infused spa treatments — or all of these things! Just be sure to bring a clean palate; you’ll have plenty of opportunity to unleash your inner connoisseur.
Set on 26 pristine Carmel Valley acres awash with vineyards and lavender, The Bernardus Lodge is a hit with pinot aficionados. Guests can unwine (get it?) at the spa with a chardonnay pedicure before uncorking in the tasting room. The restaurants here stock 25,000 premium bottles of wine, including 10,000 bottles from the Bernardus Vineyards and Winery near the resort.
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As summer comes to a close and Labor Day fast approaches, it can only mean one thing — school is about to be back in session. Of course, degrees and majors are important (kinda, sorta). But when choosing their collegiate home for the next four years (or five or six — no judgement; it’s the best years of your life), many high school seniors also consider the nightlife, history, and culture of the college towns. Taking a trip to these locales offers potential students an opportunity to check out the scene — and it’s also fun chance to explore a young, vibrant college town and relive co-ed life — without the homework — for those who have already attended plenty of college reunions in their day. Here are 10 hotels to visit the next time you want to go back to school — but you can trade in the projects and essays for interesting sights and delicious meals.
Some of the most well-known universities call Boston home, so it’s no wonder the city’s population contains a large amount of students. Harvard, MIT, Boston University and Brandeis make up just a small handful of the Boston area’s higher education options. Rich in history, Boston can be as educational as it is entertaining. When you go, make sure to check out a few of the college campuses and perhaps opt for a stay at the 148-room Hotel Commonwealth, one of the most well-rounded boutique hotels in Boston. With its classical furnishings, large rooms, and impressive array of services, it captures the spirit of the city like few others. It’s also a quick three-minute walk to Boston University.
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Sweden and Norway typically conjure images a la Frozen: Stunning icescapes punctuated by the rogue reindeer or a flash of brilliance from the Northern Lights. But there is more to these Northern European countries than meets the eye — and it’s not all winter and chill. When hockey season ends and the sun comes out to play, Scandinavians flock to the coastline for summering on the shore. Whether boating along their country’s rugged oceanfront or exploring its lakes, Scandinavians embrace the warm weather with gusto. There’s also phenomenal hiking, golfing, and other athletic activities to enjoy, as well as island hopping and shopping, so Norway and Sweden are both wonderful, not to mention atypical, holiday vacations to squeeze in before the summer’s over. Check out our favorite stays and activities in Scandinavia.
This nautical-themed, boutique hotel has a secluded, out-in-the-country feel perfect for summering in Sweden – but in reality, it’s only a 10-minute drive from central Stockholm, making it convenient as well as picturesque. Though the suburban area of Nacka, one of the city’s business hubs, can be relatively quiet at night, the Hotel J has an excellent waterfront restaurant that’s often bustling. Nacka is well-regarded among sailing enthusiasts and spa-goers, making it an apt choice for a holiday. Read More »
This post originally appeared on Yahoo! Travel.
The Caribbean oftentimes musters up images of massive beach resorts. Even some of the most luxurious options can be teeming with crowds that filter from the various restaurants to the packed beaches to the lively pool scene, frequented by both splashing kids and partying co-eds. But during our travels around the islands, we’ve also found plenty of quiet hidden gems. These beachfront boutiques have the look and vibe of a casual oceanside hut – but nonetheless deliver a hotel-like experience with on-site amenities and activities, and quaint, well-designed rooms. Explore our 10 favorite low-key properties on the Caribbean sands.
For travelers who want to enjoy a resort experience but still prefer a more intimate hotel, the Coyaba Beach Resort is an attractive upper-middle-range option. The 50 plantation-style rooms are spacious, and guests won’t feel crowded or cramped at the private beach (even though it’s small). An all-inclusive option lets guests dine and drink on the property, and couples will likely appreciate the spa services, lush gardens providing shade and privacy, and the quiet pool.
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Who doesn’t love a good theme? We’re suckers for a little kitsch every now and then, and there’s something about the wild, wild West – cowboy hats and boots and all – that’s particularly endearing and fun. A western theme conjures up good ole days of yore, and it can make a property feel especially homey. That’s why we love these seven ranch-style hotels; from upscale estates spread across sprawling grounds to cheesy cowboy-themed properties, this list has the best of the best of the wild, wild West.
This rustic, all-inclusive resort is a quintessential Western dude ranch surrounded by miles of gorgeous mountains and desert. The property borders Saguaro National Park East, where guests can enjoy guided horseback rides, hiking, and mountain biking. There’s also swimming, communal ranch meals, and kids’ activities, and sweeping wood-beam ceilings, stone fireplaces, and local artwork add to the ranch-like vibe.
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Looking to escape to the beach for one last summer hurrah? Well, have we got the place for you: New Jersey. Stay with me. The Garden State has 130 miles of coastline and, contrary to what MTV might have you believe, not all of those beaches are chockfull of Snookis and Situations. Cape May has some of our favorite stays on the Shore that are anything but typical (or trashy). At this seaside town, visitors can catch some waves, swim with the dolphins, go whale watching, shop ‘til they drop, and so much more. Of course, there are always boozy days on the beach a la our favorite guidos, but Cape May and other Jersey towns are proving that there’s a lot more fun to be had down the Shore than just keg stands and table dancing.
Unlike the majority of the Victorian-style bed and breakfasts in the Cape May area — or anywhere on the East Coast, for that matter — the Mission Inn, built in 1912, was constructed in the classic California Spanish architectural style. Perfect for couples seeking a romantic getaway by the Jersey Shore, the upscale inn includes individually designed rooms (each themed after a different California mission) and an impressive home-cooked daily breakfast. And bonus: You’re only a block from sun and sand. Read More »