Washington D.C.

This year, the Festival of Lights takes place from this Saturday (December 8th) through the 16th. Celebrations vary from the traditional — lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and giving gelt — to the more unique gatherings (skiing with the “Adventure Rabbi”, anyone?), but all are heartfelt, fun affairs that involve the whole family. Jews around the globe will be coming together over the next eight nights, and there are plenty of events for them to explore the world over. We’ve collected some of our favorites here, but no matter where you end up, here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Hanukkah!

This holiday season, The Plaza is playing host to the world's largest menorah, in addition to other celebrated guests.

Visit the World’s Largest Menorah in New York City

Standing 32 feet tall and weighing two tons, New York City‘s menorah is the largest in the world. It stands on a piece of prime real estate, right in front of the iconic Plaza hotel on 5th Avenue, across the street from Central Park. Admission is free, and guests can stay to enjoy sufganiyot — holiday jelly donuts — and folk dancing after the lighting, which starts at 5:30 nightly (excluding the Sabbath). On December 8th, there will also be live music, singing, and dancing to kick off the holiday, as well as Hanukkah gelt for the children and hot latkes for everyone to enjoy.

Where to Stay: The Plaza

As NYC’s menorah is so conveniently located in front of The Plaza, why not stay at the iconic New York hotel? The century-old landmark has huge rooms, gold-plated bathroom fixtures, an exceptional spa, and 24-hour butler service. It’s definitely worth the splurge this holiday season.

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Who hasn’t dreamed of traveling like royalty, sleeping in some of the world’s most expensive suites, and eating in Michelin-starred restaurants? The time and money for that kind of trip can be tricky to come by, but it’s always good to be ready just in case the opportunity arises, right? We here at Oyster have been lucky enough to have visited thousands of hotels around the globe and across the states. The U.S. is known for having high standards when it comes to hotels, and hotels stateside offer some of the most decadent services around. So we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite luxury properties in the States for those planning a luxe trip — and for those who just like to dream. Enjoy!

The St. Regis New York

Rooms feature decadent decor and opulent bathrooms.

Rooms feature decadent decor and opulent bathrooms.

There are dozens of ultra-luxurious hotels in New York, but The St. Regis is second to none, with a refined atmosphere, extraordinary service that includes butlers on call 24-hours, Clefs d’Or concierges, a signature bath menu, gorgeous guest rooms, a great Fifth Avenue location (the better for shopping), and a stunning Beaux Arts lobby. (Phew! That was a long list.) It won’t come cheap, but the level of luxury offered here is not found in any other hotel in the city.

  • Our favorite luxe amenity: The packing and unpacking services offered by the guest’s personal butler

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As the Hotel-Tell All, Oyster is very well-traveled when it comes to hotels. We’ve seen it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly. So around this time last year, we came up with a list of 11 things we hate about hotels. And trust us, we really hate them (don’t even get us started on daily resort fees…). But tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we realized that, sure, hotels can do some annoying things, but hotels give us plenty to be thankful for, too. So this time, we decided to come up with a list of 11 things we love about hotels.

11. 24-hour room service

Breakfast in bed at The Surrey in New York City

Breakfast in bed at The Surrey in New York City

Even Mom won’t whip up an omelet for us when we just gotta have one at 4 a.m. But at hotels with 24-hour room service, guests can have their pick of tasty treats no matter the time of day or night. And even better than 24-hour room service is 24-hour room service with a menu dreamed up by a celebrity chef. Hotels such as The Surrey and Mercer Hotel, both in New York City, are known for their celebrity chef restaurants and room service menus.

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Nowadays, more and more hotels are offering unique services to cater to their guests’ every whim. From surf butlers to in-house tattoo artists to pet psychics, the list of luxe hotel amenities is expanding rapidly (and, many would argue, getting more ridiculous over-the-top every day). Some of these may be gimmicks — seriously, The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, tanning butlers? — but other services are more than just asterisks on amenities lists. Dedicated to their craft and eager to educate others on their field, professionals from a variety of industries have been called on by some our favorite hotels to share their expertise— and we want to hear their stories. Our Q&A series provides an inside look at some of the most fun and, oft-times surprising, services hotels offer. (Check out our first installment, with the Affinia’s pet psychic, here.)

Tea Master Robert Rex-Waller will brew you a perfect cup of tea at the Park Hyatt Washington.

We recently interviewed Robert Rex-Waller, the resident tea expert at the Park Hyatt Washington. Tea experts, also known as tea masters or sommeliers, are growing in demand at luxury hotels around the globe. Brewing a perfect cuppa isn’t as simple as Lipton would have you believe, and that’s where experts such as Rex-Waller step in.

The Tea Cellar at the Park Hyatt Washington features over 50 rare and limited-production, single-estate teas from remote regions of China, Japan, Sri Lanka, and the Himalayas — and Rex-Waller is happy to help guests discover new, unique flavors during their visits, whether they order a calming pot of chamomile tea or a $300 pot of exclusive Pu-erh tea. Check out our interview with the tea expert after the jump. Read More »

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You can smell it in the air: From pumpkin spice lattes to steaming bowls of butternut squash soup, the nose knows that fall is in full swing. And as the air gets chillier and the days get shorter, cinnamon and clove cravings have crept upon us.  Luckily, our favorite hotel restaurants are spicing up their menus for autumn, featuring seasonal ingredients in innovative ways that are sure to make everyone’s taste buds happy. So get your chompers ready — those apple cider doughnuts (and more complex offerings) aren’t going to eat themselves!

Ame at The St. Regis San Francisco

Ame

Ame opened with the hotel in 2005 to much critical acclaim, and its mixture of Japanese and New American cuisine is still a hit with locals and visitors. The chefs Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani, renowned for their Napa Valley debut restaurant Terra, refer to their cooking as “personal cuisine” — a refined blending of local ingredients and the flavors of southern France and northern Italy that are then filtered through Sone’s Japanese culinary sensibilities. The result is a seasonally changing menu with offerings such as butter poached Maine lobster and Hokkaido scallops with grilled cauliflower and pickled grapes in a curry brown butter sauce. Read More »

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Heaven, thy name is [insert dessert of choice here]. It doesn’t take a genius to know that sweets trump suites any day of the week – but why choose between one or the other? Hotels today are serving up the good stuff, and we here at Oyster have dug into some of the most unique, mouth-watering desserts during our travels. So, in honor of National Dessert Month — which begins today (gotta love October), we’ve decided to round up our five favorites for you to salivate over.  Buon appetito!

1. Grilled Black Pepper Pineapple at Half Moon, Jamaica

Spicy-sweetness is done right at the Half Moon's Sugar Mill restaurant in Jamaica.

Half Moon has been defining Jamaican luxury for decades – attracting everyone from Queen Elizabeth II to 50 Cent with its bountiful amenities and delicious Jamaican fare. This unique dessert straddles the sweet-savory line to scrumptious ends. Thick slices of pineapple are grilled with black pepper, creating a spicy base on top of which refreshing rum raisin ice cream and sinfully rich Tia Maria sauce are drenched. Garnished with a single mint leaf, this dessert is as pretty as it is mouthwatering.  Read More »

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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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What we would give to be snuggled up in one of those velvet chairs!

What we would give to be snuggled up in one of those velvet chairs!

Gone are the days of summer. And while we look back with nostalgia (it’s easy to forget how brutal the heat was once it’s gone, right?), we here at Oyster are already looking forward to fall: Pumpkin bread, hot apple cider, a good book…and the best way to round out this autumnal trifecta is with a crackling fire, of course. It’s time to get cozy: Warm up with a peak at our favorite hotel fireplaces across the country.

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Before they can even think about taking up residence at the White House (or, in Barack’s case, renewing any magazine subscriptions), presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have to earn the comfy D.C. digs. Election season is heating up and the two have been on the campaign trail for months, spending night after night on the road in hotels across the country. And though their campaign accommodations may pale in comparison to one of the most famous addresses in the world, neither contender is losing any sleep at these luxe hotels that line the road to the White House.

The White House is up for grabs, and Romney and Obama are on on the road to Pennsylvania Avenue.

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If there’s one thing we’ve learned this summer it’s that the Brits are classy. From the Diamond Jubilee to the ongoing Olympic games, it’s clear that Her Royal Majesty recognizes true luxury when she sees it (and isn’t afraid to parachute out of a helicopter, either…but that’s a whole other story). While we all might be wishing our way to London right now, it might be easier – and just as fabulous – to visit some of the Royals’ favorite hotels beyond the British Isles. They can’t take their castles with them when they travel, but Queen Elizabeth II and company do find some of the most elegant, indulgent properties to call home when touring the globe. Just don’t forget to pack your finery when traveling to these hotels – they are, after all, literally fit for a queen.

Home Away From Castle: Half Moon, Jamaica

Half Moon Entrance

Regal Entrance to Half Moon, Jamaica

Since opening in 1954, Jamaica’s Half Moon resort has played host to many a royal, including HRH Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, HRH The Prince of Wales, and HRH Princess Margaret. This exclusive resort is built on a perfectly shaped crescent beach (hence its celestial name), and is known for its timeless, understated luxury across every nook and cranny of its 400 acres. Classic design, attentive service and quality cuisine are abound – even at the swim-up bar. But what truly sets Half Moon apart from other resorts is its endless breadth of activities. Guests can swim with dolphins in the resort’s private cove, play tennis or golf, windsurf, kayak, choose from a myriad of spa treatments…the list literally goes on for a bit. With so many options (even if HRH chooses only to soak in the Jamaican sun), the island’s status as member of the British Commonwealth, and Half Moon’s dedication to service and taste, it’s no wonder the royals feel right at home here.

Oyster’s Fave Royal Amenity: Half Moon’s Equestrian Center gets it major British brownie points. Polo is as British as tea and crumpets, and at Half Moon the boys (Their Royal Boys?) can work on their form, beach-side.

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