Sedona

Sedona provides the perfect hiking grounds for your next trek.

The Southwest is one of our favorite places to get physical thanks to its crisp, high-altitude air; gorgeous terrain; and earthy, holistic vibes. And though there may be tons of incredible national parks throughout the region — including Arches, Zion, and the Grand Canyon — other lesser-known areas prove to be just as majestic. Take a look at just a few of our favorite places in the Southwest to get fit and reconnect with Mother Nature!

 

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Summer is the time to get outdoors and get active. And even though it can get your blood pumpin’, there is nothing more relaxing than some quality time with Mother Nature, whether you’re hiking, fishing, or whitewater rafting — or simply kicking back and taking in the views after a day filled with activity. Our seven favorite spots in the U.S. for an outdoorsy getaway this summer were chosen for their combination of natural beauty and breadth of outdoor activities. To make planning easier, we’ve also recommended a cabin, lodge, or ranch in each place that brings you closer to the outdoors with great views or settings.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is most famous for its stunning red rocks, which are particularly beautiful in the glow of sunrise and sunset, and have formed the backdrop for many a western film. The temperatures here are cooler than other Arizona destinations, thanks to the higher elevation, and Ponderosa Pines surround the city. It’s a hub for outdoor enthusiasts, with excellent biking, horseback riding, and a particular focus on hiking. Some of the most popular hiking spots include Cathedral Rock, Bear Mountain, Bell Rock, and Courthouse Rock.

Where to Stay: L’Auberge de Sedona, with 87 luxurious and woodsy cottages spread across 11 acres
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Summer is just around the corner, and if a trip to the Grand Canyon is on your bucket list (as it should be), there’s no better time to visit! Whether you’re planning a day-trip or a week-long stay at the national park, these luxe hotels are the perfect place to come home to after exploring the natural beauty — and they’re all within driving distance. Check out our top ten favorite luxury hotels within driving distance of the Grand Canyon.

 

Montelucia Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

Driving time to the Grand Canyon: 3 hours, 32 minutes

Montelucia Resort & Spa

This Spanish villa-style property with great views of Camelback Mountain is one of Scottsdale’s most luxurious desert retreats. The grounds feature pretty floral-lined walkways and arched entrances, and sophisticated rooms have lots of Spanish-inspired details, including dark woods and big mirrors.
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The Ahwanee, Yosemite National Park

The Ahwanee, Yosemite National Park

Nothing man-made can rival Mother Nature at her finest. For those who love the great outdoors, the most memorable vacations aren’t at massive mega-resorts — they’re at hotels that bring you closer to some of the world’s natural wonders. From an historic landmark hotel in Yosemite National Park to a lodge at the top of a massive waterfall to luxury tree houses nestled among California’s redwoods, these 10 hotels have natural settings that are truly jaw-dropping.

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Ever dreamed of sleeping in a castle? Check out all 15 of Oyster's bucket list stays.

Ever dreamed of sleeping in a castle? Check out all 15 of Oyster's bucket list stays.

If you’re like most of us, you probably have a dream trip tucked in the back of your mind — the improbable fantasy hotel stay that will happen one day down the road when you have the time/money/etc. Maybe. But now that we’ve all survived the Mayan apocalypse and are busy working on New Year’s resolutions, Oyster has a resolution challenge for you that you probably won’t mind keeping. In 2013, don’t put off that trip you’re planning to do before you die any longer. Because if the Mayans taught us anything, it’s that we could be dead tomorrow, right? To help you take the plunge, we’ve compiled 15 incredible and utterly unique hotel stays that should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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For a lot of employees, corporate retreats are dreaded events. And for good reason: At a bad corporate retreat, you might end up singing Kumbaya in the woods with your boss or falling backwards into the arms of a coworker to “build trust.” But it doesn’t have to be that way. At Oyster.com, we’ve covered some resorts that provide truly awesome settings for company getaways. The daily schedule may still be in your boss’s hands, but at least the resorts will make the probability of being able to squeeze in some fun much higher.

Best Corporate Retreats for…

An AIG-Style Luxury Bash

The Hotel: St. Regis Monarch Beach, Orange County

St. Regis Monarch Beach

St. Regis Monarch Beach, where AIG spent over $7,000 on golf fees alone for their executive retreat in 2008.

If you’re in the mood to party like it’s 2008, look no further than the St. Regis Monarch Beach. This is the high-end hotel where AIG reportedly spent over $400,000 on an executive retreat — less than a week after the government’s $85 billion bailout of the company. (The bill included over $23,000 in spa treatments; we guess the executives had a lot of de-stressing to do after their company nearly went down the toilet.) But hey, the times are a changin’ and 2012 has seen the return of luxury corporate retreats. So go on, celebrate the fact that your company is no longer facing imminent disaster (we hope). With a gorgeous 18-hole, ocean-view golf course, eight tennis courts, a renowned spa, an excellent business center with videoconferencing technology, and a high-tech boardroom, it’s the ideal setting for a decadent company getaway.

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When planning a destination wedding, the first locations that come to mind are likely postcard-perfect beaches in the Caribbean or some other exotic sandy setting. However, if you’re not quite ready to spend a fortune — or you don’t want to put that burden on your guests — there are tons of gorgeous, inexpensive (or shall we say, less expensive) destinations in the U.S. that make for memorable weddings. And it’s always nice a change of scenery! Just because you’re not Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner doesn’t mean you can’t have your own beautiful destination wedding, so we’ve put together a list of our favorite spots for a more affordable event to help you decide.

Destination #1: Vermont

Vermont, with its quaint villages and scenic landscapes, is probably your best bet for a back-to-nature inspired wedding. If you can totally see yourself posing for the pre- or post-wedding photos along tumbling streams, thick woodlands and gorgeous views, search no more. Its small, cozy inns and B&B’s are perfect for intimate weddings and small receptions, and the green meadows and steep mountains make for great backgrounds when saying your “I Do’s.” You will probably need a car or a shuttle to move your guests around, as Burlington’s is the only major airport serving the entire state, but the scenery and the vibe will prove to be well worth it.

Oyster’s Fave Value Wedding Spot: Swift House Inn

The Swift Room at the Swift House Inn; Mid Vermont, VT

Vermont's kitschy B&Bs are perfect venues for intimate weddings and family affairs.

The historic Swift House Inn is located within walking distance of downtown Middlebury, a picturesque New England town, with traffic-free streets lined by locally owned shops, art galleries, and restaurants. The hotel’s 20 rooms are spread throughout the Main House (formerly a Governor’s Mansion), the Carriage House, and the Gate House. Room decor varies, allowing guests to choose a room depending on personal style. Some rooms offer a classic New England B&B vibe with floral wallpaper, fireplaces, and four-poster beds, while others are more understated, with soft-toned walls and tasteful furniture. One of the inn’s highlights is its delicious and free breakfast, and an on-site restaurant, Jessica’s, is a popular destination for both guests and locals.

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Two-Bedroom Mesa Suite Lockoff at the Sedona Summit Resort; Sedona, AZ

The Sedona Summit Resort is already making us wanna take a snooze -- how comfy does it look?

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Sedona Summit Resort is looking to “redefine the guest sleep experience” with custom-made, three-pound pillows for each guest.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? A jury has ordered the owner of Hotel Shangri-La Santa Monica to pay over $1 million to a group of Jewish customers for discrimination.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Hotel Casa Del Mar is trying to improve the lobby bar service with a gadget that reads the guest’s mind and sends orders to a computer used by the bartenders.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? No need to fret if the Mandalay Bay’s wedding chapel is booked up and you just need to tie the knot — Sin City now boasts the Wedding Wagon, which is a van that drives around the city and can marry couples on the spot.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The teen concierge at all Omni Hotels will double as a babysitter and tour guide, and take your kids out while you relax (or do just about anything else).

Check out the answers after the jump!

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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.

Nicknamed Valley of the Sun, Phoenix is known for its sub-tropical desert climate, where temperatures can skyrocket beyond 100° Fahrenheit in the summer. With a host of museums and galleries, top-notch Tex-Mex cuisine, and cactus-dotted landscape, Arizona’s state capital is one of the most unique metropolises in the country. But the city’s 4.2 million residents need to venture out every once in a while and take advantage of myriad vacations spots within (somewhat-reasonable) driving distance. So pack your bags, crank the A.C., and hop in the car — we’ve got some miles to cover.

Road Trip #1: Phoenix to Sedona, AZ

  • Total Driving Time: 2 hours, 6 minutes
  • Distance Covered: 117 miles
  • Take This Trip If: You need a spiritual re-awakening.
Sedona

The iconic red rock formations of Sedona are surrounded by natural energy forces known as vortexes.

Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa

The Rouge Hotel offers visitors a world-class stay in an incredible setting.

Bell Rock Inn

The Bell Rock offers a family-friendly atmosphere for those with kids in tow.

With its iconic Red Rock landscape and spiritually-charged environment, Sedona is an other-worldly paradise for earthbound explorers. The city is practically ensconced by endless hiking trails, and has four vortexes — natural energy fields said to possess mystical powers. But Sedona is also a blossoming cultural center, filled with eclectic local galleries, Native American craft shops, and indie boutiques. For a truly indulgent experience, check out the Sedona Rouge Hotel and Spa. The property boasts incredible vistas of the Rocks from the fire pit on the observation deck, as well as from the private, in-room balconies. But the hotel’s real draw is the lavish spa, with treatments inspired by the vortexes and daily outdoor yoga classes. For a no-frills yet family-friendly stay, the Bell Rock Inn is a great budget option that still has the scenery and amenities necessary for a proper Sedona stay. The inn has two heated pools, a BBQ and picnic area, and an outdoor playground for kids, all with the same magnificent views of the rocks.

  • Top Driving Tip: Jerome, a 30-mile detour on the trip to Sedona, is about 45 miles outside of your final destination. Past the Old West ruins, this legendary ghost town is actually home to a thriving winery owned and operated by the frontman for the heavy metal band Tool.

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The West has some of the best scenic hiking in the entire country.

One of our favorite summer pastimes is hitting the dirt road and taking to the hills for a nice, long hike. And because of its clear skies, open pastures, and low humidity, there’s no better place in the U.S. to hit the trail than out West. Boasting countless National Parks and some of the most spectacular wildlife in the nation, the West is an adventurer’s paradise. Whether you’re in search of New Age stimulation or a adrenaline-filled adventure, grab your walking stick because we’ve found some of the best hiking spots the West has to offer.

 

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