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The world is officially in "Countdown to Christmas" mode and now, so are we. Every day until Christmas we'll be featuring a hotel that's in a holiday mood--whether it be with gigantic gingerbread houses, over-the-top Christmas decorations, thrilling lighting displays and best of all, Santa appearances. But of course, any hotel can assemble a fake tree, put on some lights and declare themselves "festive." Which is why we're looking at hotels that are really going ALL OUT. Know of a hotel that's super excited for Christmas? Let us know!
The Four Seasons Austin got a jump on the holiday decorations last week, when they unveiled their Dr. Seuss-themed Gingerbread WhoVillage, a gingerbread replica of the town of Whoville from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Conceived by the hotel's pastry chefs back in August, the WhoVillage features a Mt. Crumpet, Cindy Lou Who's house, a giant Town Center Christmas Tree, a Welcome to Whoville Sign and a train that looks like the Grinch's stolen bag of toys.
All in all, the village features ten houses made entirely out of edible materials (each one also takes the team of pasty chefs about 30 hours to construct.) Additionally, each house is sold to a sponsor and the proceeds are donated to the Seton Shivers Cancer Center. Sorry, we don't think sponsors can eat the house until the display comes down on January 1st.
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Deals: you want 'em, and surprisingly, everyone has 'em. Take a look at some of the latest hotel deals going around the internet today from booking sites, social media sites, flash sale sites and more. Don't forget to scroll down to see the HotelChatter-approved deal either. Who knows? You might just find what you're looking for. (But don't forget to tell us about your stay!)
DEALS, DEALS, DEALS*
· Bear Down Package at The Amalfi Hotel, Chicago: This one's for Da Bears...fans and enemies. The Amalfi Hotel's "Bear Down Package" includes overnight accommodations, complimentary deluxe continental breakfast before the Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field, a CTA pass (optional), a bucket of 6 domestic beers to celebrate (or mourn), a signature snack trio and a nightly manager's reception with complimentary Italian hors d'oeuvres. The package is available through January 4th. Go here to book or call the hotel at 312.395.9000 (Toll Free: 877.262.5341.) Use code BEAR-DOWN to book. Oh and here's the Chicago Bears home schedule just in case. We found a room for $294 next weekend when they take on the New Orleans Saints.
· Wander & Wonder at the Hotel Monaco San Francisco: The newly redesigned Hotel Monaco has a new Cal Academy package to go along with their new look. In addition to a pretty new room, the hotel will give you two adult general admission tickets to the California Academy of Sciences to check out the penguins, parrots and the albino alligator named Claude. Also included is two 3-day MUNI passes and a 20 percent discount off food at the Grand Cafe, adjacent to the hotel lobby. Go here to book an use promo code WANDER. The deal is valid until December 31st but a two-night minimum stay is required.
· Moment in Time at The Plantation Inn, Maui: The 19-room Plantation Inn is the sister B&B to the Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel, which features turn of the century architecture with modern amenities such as air conditioning and soundproofing. Plus, it's just two blocks from the beach. Now, the inn is offering a "Moment in Time" package that includes three nights in a Lanai category room, daily breakfast for two, dinner for two at Gerard's Restaurant, a bottle of champagne on arrival, his and hers Hawaiian robe keepsake and daily compact car rental (rental policy here.) The total for the package is $877 which is a savings of $237. But it's only available through December 19th. Go here to book.
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We've already had a busy morning as far as new hotels news goes. But there's even more. Here's a short list of new hotels coming to a city near you:
· Hotel Van Zandt, Austin: Kimpton Hotels will open a new hotel in Austin in 2015 in the city's historic Rainey Street District. The 16-story hotel will feature 322 guest rooms, over 12,000 square feet total event and meeting space, achef-driven restaurant, lobby cafe and pool deck and bar. Interior designer Mark Zeff will oversee the interior design of the Hotel Van Zandt and its restaurant. Kimpton has also made announcements for new properties in Savannah, San Antonio, Milwaukee, Palm Springs, Sedona and Grand Cayman so there will be lots more Kimptons to choose from in the coming years.
· Fairmont Austin: Speaking of Austin, construction should begin on the new Fairmont Hotel at 101.Red River Street later this fall, according to this report. The 1,000-room hotel will cost nearly half a billion to build and should open sometime in 2016.
· The Archer Napa: The Archer in New York City hasn't opened yet (that's happening early next year) but already they've announced a second Archer Hotel for Napa Valley. The Archer Napa will be a new-build luxury hotel at the First Street site of the former Merrill’s building, adjacent to The Shops at Napa Center. LogdeWorks and Zapolski Real Estate have partnered up on the seven-story property which will reflect "a casual elegance, organic to the Napa aesthetic. " No opening date has been set yet.
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In honor of St Patrick's Day coming up this Sunday, we thought we'd take a look back at a few hotels that just can't seem to catch a break. If any leprechauns are reading this right now, take note. You've got your work cut out for you!
#7: Le Parker Meridien.
We thought it was bad enough when a random construction accident managed to flood the entire Knave Cafe at LPM. But it turned out the hotel had more bad luck coming, when Hurricane Sandy tore through Manhattan, toppling a nearby crane, and causing Le Parker Meridien to be evacuated. Here's to a cheerier 2013.
#6: JW Marriott Chicago.
The JW Marriott Chicago made plenty of headlines (though not the good kind) this past fall when an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease claimed the lives of three guests who stayed there over the sumer. The Chicago Dept of Public Health reported that the hotel "fully cooperated with the ongoing investigation," and concluded by saying there was no further health threat at the hotel. Still, we're probably going to lay off those hot tub parties for a while.
#5: Revel Resort.
This $2.6 billion resort was supposed to be the saving grace of Atlantic City, but after barely a year of being open, it announced it was planning to file for bankruptcy. Ouch! Hurricane Sandy couldn't have helped things either. We feel like they need a lucky charm or something to bring them back from the dark side, but then again, if a four-night Beyonce run during opening weekend didn't manage to do it, we're not sure what will.
Four more unlucky hotels after the jump!
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As many people already know, Austin, TX is currently in the midst of the South By Southwest festival, in which music venues, event spaces, and, yes, hotels, are overrun with artists, musicians, filmmakers, tech start-up hopefuls, and pretty much anyone with a bent towards modern-day media culture.
Which makes this a pretty good time for Hyatt to announce their recent acquisition of the city's historic Driskill Hotel. The Statesman reports that Hyatt bought the iconic hotel (and classic SXSW celeb hangout) for $85 million, and plans to spend another $8 million renovating the place over the next two years.
Comprised of 189 rooms, and originally built in 1886, the Driskill occupies a bustling corner of downtown Austin and remains the city's most beloved historic hotel.
According to hotel lore, the original structure was named after Jesse Driskill, a cattleman who wanted to build the "finest hotel south of St. Louis." Looks like he had the right idea, as 126 years later, the hotel is not only thriving, but also incorporates its colorful past into its current identity (case in point: the Cattle Baron Suite).
A room at the Westin Austin at the Domain
2015 will be a busy year for Austin, Texas. We’ve looked at the 50-story Fairmont Austin that will add 1,000+ rooms on the corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River Streets, promising views-galore over Lady Bird Lake and the city. Another 1,000+ rooms come courtesy of the JW Marriott Austin, on Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Starwood has just announced the Westin Austin Downtown, on East 5th and San Jacinto, opening in spring 2015. With its 326 rooms, that means hotel capacity will increase by a staggering 2,400 rooms within a five-block radius.
After a drawn-out renovation process that completely overhauled the top five floors of the building, Omni Austin has reconfigured its suite options, creating twenty-five new one-bedroom suites.
Though the hotel had previously offered suites, it nixed a bunch of the pre-existing two-bedroom suites in order to cut down on space that guests apparently weren't even using. Which sounds a little strange when we put it like that—Texas is generally known for doing everything bigger than the rest of the country. However, if it's a space efficiency issue, then we totally get it. Bigger is better, most of the time. Until, that is, you end up paying for extra beds you're not even sleeping in...
The high-end hotel chain announced their plans for a new hotel close to the Austin Convention Center at the northeast corner of Cesar Chavez and Red River Streets. which will span 50 stories, making it the largest building in downtown Austin. Detes are still scant but the hotel will cost about $350 million to build and will feature over 70,000-sq.ft. of function space and the aforementioned 1,000 hotel rooms.
The hotel's design will also use several green building elements and will seek LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. But best of all, guests here will be able to get free WiFi so long as they join the Fairmont Presidents Club loyalty program. Sigh, too bad it's three years away though.
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In the ever-expanding universe of Twitter, there is one particular trend @HotelChatter happens to quite enjoy: candid hotel photos. These pics range from stunning views to anti-views to celebrity tomfoolery and everything in between. And we can't get enough of 'em! Every Monday, we commemorate our favorite "Twitpic of the Week." Got a favorite of your own? Want to show off your sweet suite? Send it in!
We don't know exactly what might have prompted this awesome public display of nerd-dom (Star Wars convention? Flashmob? Family reunion?), but we are so very glad @k4ng took the time to capture these saber-wielding Jedis in the lobby of the Renaissance Austin. And what better place: with all the rooms looking down onto the lobby, pretty much every guest had front row seats to the show!
On our last visit to Austin, most of the hotels were full up with SXSW musicians, filmmakers, attendees and media types. But clearly, the real magic happens about a month later...
You don't really want to look down when you're plunging nineteen stories in a glass elevator. But of course, you do look down. Because the view is awesome. Here's a quick snapshot we took from inside the elevator at Omni Austin, which, we admit, we rode like a five-year-old on a Ferris wheel over and over again.
Interestingly, the hotel is housed under the same roof as an office tower. So when you look down on the lobby from above, you can also look directly across and into the windows of the neighboring offices. Whose occupants didn't look nearly as amused to be inside their glass cages as we were to be inside ours. Then again, theirs weren't motorized.
Nevermind the untold legions of Best Westerns, La Quinta Inns and Econolodges that dot highways all around the country. A Texas-based hotel company is attempting to bring back the classic American motor court with a new brand of "ranch tech" properties that are modeled on the old roadside motels from the 1950s.
Which technically went out of style in the 60s during Eisenhower's Federal Aid Highway Act. But hey, that was fifty years ago, and who's to say Americans still can't be thrilled by a cool motel concept? The first of these, named the Lone Star Court, will open in Austin in 2013, and, appropriately, will feature live music, a fire pit, and a dipping pool.
Ah, hotel room trashing. Sure, it's a bit of a cliche, but clearly it hasn't gotten any less cool for musicians and celebrities who have a little extra energy—and cash—to burn.
Last year, Complex magazine ran a video of young Pittsburgh rapper Mac Miller offering his "guide to hotel living." And as you can probably imagine, he isn't the most attentive of guests (think loose cigarette butts, alcohol spills, food fights, and plenty of other, weirder messes).
Right now, we're down in Austin checking out the bands for SXSW. And we couldn't help smiling a little when we spotted Mac Miller out and about. He certainly looks harmless, but then again, maybe his animal side only comes out once the hotel room door closes...