Washington D.C.

Legend has it that when Dom Perignon first discovered champagne, he called out, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” It’s hard to disagree with the Frenchman — a cool glass of bubbly can make even the most stoic person let loose a giggle or a smirk. And this is doubly true on New Year’s Eve. Tonight, 2013 will be rung in with champagne toasts around the world, and the best place to do just that? In a swanky champagne bar right in the comfort of your very own hotel, of course! On-site champagne lounges provide uniquely festive ambiances and make stumbling home post-festivities all the easier. Some of our favorite luxury hotels feature these sophisticated spots, so sit back, pop open a bottle of bubbly, and start spying for someone to kiss at midnight. It’s almost 2013 — Happy New Year!

PJ Lounge at the Dukes Hotel, London

The PJ Lounge at the Dukes is a classy spot to ring in the New Year.

While Dukes may be famous for its martinis — James Bond-creator Ian Flemming originated the famous “Shaken, not stirred” line here — its newest addition to the fold is serving up the finest champagne and champagne cocktails. The Perrier-Jouet Champagne Lounge (or, more simply, the PJ Lounge) is a stylish space, outfitted in rich greens, with bright pops of pinks and whites, to sip some bubbly. The bar is classic and playful all at once, just as any New Years Eve affair should be. Read More »

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Are you on Santa’s Naughty or Nice list this year? We’ve seen a lot of good and bad behaviors during our travels over the last year — and maybe dabbled in both as well! So we know every dirty little secret, or shiny gold star, that you’ve been part-and-parcel to on vacation. But if you’re not sure where you stand in Santa’s twinkling eyes, we’re here to help. You can find out whether your favorite hotel amenities will get your stockings stuffed full of goodies or weighed down by coal this holiday season with our quiz. So check out which list you’re on!

The Naughty List: 

1. Have you stripped down?

Clothing optional resorts like the Desire Riviera Maya can see some X-rated action.

For some travelers, itsy bitsy bikinis or revealing Speedos just don’t cut it — a vacation isn’t a vacation without a little nudity. Luckily for them, some hotels are redefining casual dress with policies that let guests bare it all (or almost all), like the couples-only, clothing-optional Desire Resort & Spa Riviera Maya. A little voyeurism never hurt anyone — but don’t be surprised if your nude antics land you on the naughty list this winter.

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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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The Penthouse at the Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Penthouse at the Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa; Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Eva Longoria was recently spotted at Garza Blanca Preserve, Resort & Spa with an unidentified new beau, with whom she reportedly canoodled by the pool.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Ritz-Carlton Washington’s $100,000 Access Package for Inauguration 2013 includes two first-class, round-trip, domestic-flight tickets, a four-night stay in a suite, and special access to the Capitol and Library of Congress.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Taj Boston’s Fireplace Butler builds and starts a fire for guests — who get their choice of wood from a Wood Menu [Ed. note: We know, we know, insert "that's what she said" pun here.] — in guests’ suites at no extra charge.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The InterContinental Miami has hired tennis player Anna Kournikova to redesign its two-story presidential suites, which feature striking views of Miami and Biscayne Bay.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo has introduced a program allowing guests to experience a tech-free vacation. Participating guests may leave their iPhones safely with the hotel and are given a free custom iPhone cover and a guide to 24 things they can do without technology at the resort.

Check out the answers after the jump!

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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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Deluxe Room at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel; New York, NY

Deluxe Room at The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel; New York, NY

1. FACT OR FAKEOUT? Patrons of The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel’s Bemelmans Bar booed Bono when he unexpectedly joined the bar’s band while they were performing I’ve Got You Under My Skin. Guests claimed it stole the spotlight from the talented band members.

2. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Montage Beverly Hills shut down the hotel’s exclusive bar per Brangelina’s request, as the couple wanted to dine without being interrupted by fans and nosy guests.

3. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Westin Washington, DC City Center is famous for being the spot where then-Mayor Marion Barry was arrested by the FBI in 1990 while smoking crack.

4. FACT OR FAKEOUT? German hotel chain Kempinski will manage North Korea’s famous Ryugyong Hotel, which was first started in 1987 but was stalled for years due to the country’s economic crisis.

5. FACT OR FAKEOUT? The Hotel Vintage Park – A Kimpton Hotel recently opened the Airstream Room, which is housed in a refurbished vintage Airstream trailer equipped with a double bed and a sitting area.

Check out the answers after the jump!

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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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