Hotel News We Noted: February 22, 2013

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:

Quirky Hotels We’d Love To Visit: 134-Year-Old UK Fortress, Spitbank Fort, Now a Luxury Hotel
A mile off the Hampshire coast in the United Kingdom, the 134-year-old Spitbank Fort used to defend the English shores. Now it’s a nine-room luxury hotel featuring three bars, three restaurants, a rooftop champagne bar, wine cellar, library, rooftop hot pool, sauna and sun decks. There’s a private boat or helicopter option for arrival and rent-out options for “ultimate” weekends away. A night starts at $565. Check out the photos – we’re pretty sure this sounds like a place we’d love to visit.
Buzzy Hotel Destination: The Bronx
If the New York Times has it right, the newest destination for a luxury hotel just might be … the Bronx? A philanthropist has revamped a 10-room hotel called The Andrew Freedman, charging between $130 and $250 for a room, The Empire Hotel Group is planning a $10 million renovation of a historic opera house, turning it into a 60-room luxury property, and Marriott will open a Residence Inn in 2014. Is the transformation of this area best known for crime and poverty a good idea? The article has mixed reports. See for yourself here.

Travel Trend: Experiential Hotel Stays
A new article in the Wall Street Journal details how luxury hotels are attracting guests by offering one-of-a-kind experiences like private cooking lessons, celebrity makeup artists and even alligator tracking experiences. Would you pay more to stay somewhere that offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? The article thinks so.

Pampered Pooches: SoHo Grand Creates a Dog Park
There are dog menus and dog walkers and even dog massages, but what about a hotel with an on-site dog park? SoHo Grand is the first hotel in New York City to create a special outdoor area for furry friends, including cherry trees, boxwoods and ornamental kale. The park opens May 1. Will you be bringing Fido with you to the Big Apple? (h/t Luxury Travel Magazine)

Haute Packages: Oscar Ready
Even if you can’t make it to Los Angeles to celebrate the Academy Awards, you can enjoy special offers and packages at some fun hotels around the country. Here are a couple of our favorite packages related to Oscar-nominated films:

  • Beasts of The Southern Wild at The Blake Hotel, New Orleans. It’s a simple promo, but an effective one if you’re traveling with kids: mention code “Beasts” at check in and you’ll receive free VIP passes to the Audubon Institute, which features an amazing zoo, aquarium, insectarium and butterfly garden.
  • Lincoln at W Washington, DC. What better place to celebrate a president than in Washington, D.C.? This overnight package ($399) includes a chauffeured tour for two and visit to historic locations including Ford’s Theater, the Petersen House, the Lincoln Memorial, and President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home.

[Photo by Spitbank Fort]

Oscars take flight on United from O’Hare Airport

O’Hare Airport had a couple of extra visitors this morning in terminal B. Joining the rest of the passengers heading to Los Angeles on the United flight dubbed “Oscar 1” was none other than Tom Sherak, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His entourage consisted of several dozen short, gold men: this year’s Academy Awards.

Mr. Sherak was personally escorting the awards from their birthplace at the R.S. Owens Foundry to the ceremony. Passers-by were stopped in their tracks when they saw the famous statue being passed from person to person, and even making an appearance on a nearby concession stand counter. Sherak cleared things up by taking to the intercom himself, inviting anyone who wanted to take their own photo with Oscar.

Airport staff and passengers alike had their fun with the award. Guests pretended to write acceptance speeches, thanked their parents, and a couple brave souls lifted the 8.5-pound award single-handedly to the sky. When asked questions about what metals the statue was made of, Sherak pulled out a cheat sheet from his pocket for help: gold on the outside, then Britannia (tin, antimony, and copper) on the inside.

The crew of the flight also got to spend a few minutes with Oscar, and he even took a trip to the cockpit, where Captain Mel Mason Jr. said he was the most prestigious non-human passenger he’d ever flown. The other 42 trophies were also on board, stashed securely in the plane’s cargo. But preparing for the 4 1/2 hour flight, Sherak still had his Oscar in his lap, available for the passengers. Sherak was uncertain about their arrival time: “We’ll see how the speeches go. It could be a seven hour flight.”


Coast to coast: Best hotels for Oscar viewing parties

Want to live it up like an A-lister? You don’t have to hit the red carpet in Los Angeles to make like the stars of The Social Network, The King’s Speech, True Grit or Black Swan. Hotel bars, particularly at luxe properties, have long been beloved by the see-and-be seen set. But if what you really want to see is the annual Oscars / Academy Awards … you’re in luck at these great Oscar viewing parties:

New York

Head to the W Hotel Union Square for Refinery 29’s Oscars bash. $40 admission nabs gourmet popcorn, an open bar, passed apps and Refinery editrixes moderating a style panel of Timo Weiland, Carol Han and designer Jonathan Simkhai, plus prize giveaways. Get your tickets here.

Washington DC

Get swanky just four blocks from The White House at The Jefferson hotel. For $95, you’ll snag admission to their Oscar party at Quill bar, where you’ll enjoy a private viewing area, glass of rose Champagne, a movie-inspired cocktail from their in-house mixologist, truffled popcorn, caviar tacos, foie gras bon bons, mini gold-plated chili cheese dogs and a copy of all recipes for the speciality cocktails served that evening. Snag tickets here.

[Flickr via Dave_B_]

74 degrees? We’ll take it. Lounge poolside at the chic South Beach hotspot The Delano, where they’ll be screening the Oscars broadcast by the pool.

Don’t miss Hotel 1000’s charity bash. $75 gets you admission to the red carpet event, which offers a “paparazzi experience,” cocktail, drink tickets, apps and a swanky swag bag. You even get a chance to win prizes for being the best celebrity look-alike or having the hottest outfit.

Las Vegas
It’s Vegas. Who would expect anything less than an over-the-top event? Party at The Palms, where, for between $50 and $100, you’ll enjoy a celebrity red carpet, private screening of the Oscars broadcast, an after-party at The Playboy Club, and more. Shell out for the VIP tix and you’ll also enjoy VIP after-party access,the official 83rd Academy Awards Program, admission to the Celebrity VIP Reception in the Brendan Celebrity Suite with hosted bar and complimentary hors d’oeuvres, and private balcony theater viewing of the ABC telecast. Buy tickets here.

San Francisco
Don’t miss the great views and private screening at the Intercontinental’s chic Top of the Mark restaurant. Nibble apps like Nob Hill Sliders and Shrimp Cocktail while you fill out your ballots. Choose right, and you’ll be entered to win a luxe gift bag filled with a gift card for brunch for two, complimentary cocktails for two, a limited edition Evian water bottle made by Issey Miyake, and Ghiradelli chocolates. The event is free, but reservations are suggested.

Los Angeles
Would you expect anything less than black tie for this star-studded city? Of course not. Join The Beverly Hills hotel for a swank bash. Tickets are a pricey $1,000, but we’ve heard rumors that actual celebrities may attend.

The Bahamas
Who says it’s just adults that can have fun? Atlantis is offering an exclusive party in their new CRUSH teens club, where atendees can compete for best-dressed prizes, sip Oscar-themed mocktails and enjoy screenings of Twilight and The Social Network.

The best hostels in the world gain “Hoscar” recognition from

Gaining a Hoscar might not sound like a big feat – unless, of course, you know what a Hoscar is. The award, now nine years in the running, is the top honor granted to hostels worldwide. Given by, the “Oscars of the Hostel World” chooses the best properties from among 25,000 hostels in more than 180 countries.

Hoscar winners are chosen based on their overall score in six categories – fun, cleanliness, staff, security, location and character – and were voted for by more than one million customers who booked their accommodation online and stayed in the properties in 2010.

The awards recognize the top hostels in a number of categories including the best hostels in each of the seven continents, the most improved and the top hostel chains. Several new categories were introduced this year including the top 10 Best Large and Small Hostels along with Best Seasonal Hostel, Best Hostel for Groups, New to Hostelworld and a Special Contribution and Lifetime Achievement Award.

While we at Gadling can’t personally vouch for these properties, we can say that an industry award based on user reviews seems to be a rousing positive. Next time you visit one of these properties, do remember to leave us your feedback in the comments section!

The winners include:

Best Hostels Worldwide
1. Travellers House – Lisbon
2. Lisbon Lounge Hostel – Lisbon
3. Living Lounge Hostel – Lisbon

Best USA Hostels
1. USA Hostels San Francisco – San Francisco
2. USA Hostels Hollywood – Los Angeles
3. HI Chicago – Chicago
4. Miami Beach International Hostel – Miami
5. Adelaide Hostel and Hotel – San Francisco
6. HI Washington DC – Washington DC
7. HI Boston Downtown – Boston
8. The New York Loft Hostel – New York
9. India House Backpackers Hostel – New Orleans
10. HI New York – New York

Best Hostels in North America
1. Montreal Central, Montreal
2. ACBB Hostel Niagara, Niagara Falls
3. USA Hostels San Francisco, San Francisco

Best Large Hostels Worldwide
1. Travellers House – Lisbon
2. Living Lounge Hostel – Lisbon
3. Yes! Lisbon Hostel – Lisbon
4. Hostel Mostel – Sofia
5. Friendly Fun Franks Backpackers Hostel – Riga
6. Montreal Central – Montreal
7. Han Tang Inn Youth Hostel – Xi’an
8. Home – Lisbon
9. EastSeven Berlin Hostel – Berlin
10. Castle Rock Hostel – Edinburgh

Best Small Hostels Worldwide
1. Lisbon Lounge Hostel – Lisbon
2. Rossio Hostel – Lisbon
3. Greg & Tom Hostel – Krakow
4. Academy Hostel – Florence
5. Rivoli Cinema Hostel – Porto
6. Hostel of the Sun – Naples
7. Oporto Poets Hostel – Porto
8. Oasis Backpackers Hostel Granada – Granada
9. BackHome Kuala Lumpar – Kuala Lumpur
10. Sant Jordi Diagonal Hostel – Barcelona

A travel guide to the 2011 Oscar movies

The 83rd annual Academy Awards are coming up in a few weeks and the Oscars race is on. This year’s nominations contained few surprises, with many nods for Brit period piece The King’s Speech, Facebook biopic The Social Network, and headtrip Inception. While 2010’s ultimate travel blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love failed to made the cut, there’s still plenty to inspire wanderlust among the Best Picture picks.

Read on for a travel guide to the best movies of 2010 and how to create your own Oscar-worthy trip.

127 HoursLocation: Danny Boyle’s nail-biter was shot on location in Utah’s Blue John Canyon near Moab and on a set in Salt Lake City. Go there: Should you want to explore Moab’s desert and canyons while keeping all limbs intact, check out Moab in fall for bike races and art festivals.

Black Swan
Location: Much of the ballet psychodrama was shot in New York City, though the performances were filmed upstate in Purchase, New York. Go there: To see the real “Swan Lake” on stage at Lincoln Center, you’ll have to hope tickets aren’t sold out for the New York City Ballet, performing this month February 11-26.

The FighterLocation: in the grand tradition of Oscar winners Good Will Hunting and The Departed, the Mark Wahlberg boxing flick was filmed in Massachusetts, in Micky Ward’s real hometown of Lowell, 30 miles north of Boston. Go there: For a map of locations in Lowell, check out this blog post and perhaps spot Micky Ward at the West End Gym.

InceptionLocation: The setting of this film depends on what dream level you’re in. The locations list includes Los Angeles, England, Paris, Japan, even Morocco. Go there: There are plenty of real locations to visit, including University College London and Tangier’s Grand Souk. Canada’s Fortress Mountain Resort where the snow scenes were shot is currently closed, but you can ski nearby in Banff.

The Kids Are All Right
Location: Director Lisa Cholodenko is a big fan of southern California, she also filmed the 2002 Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles. Go there: Love it or hate it, L.A. is still a top travel destination in the US and perhaps this year you can combine with a trip to Vegas, if the X Train gets moving.

The King’s SpeechLocation: A prince and a commoner in the wedding of the century. Sound familiar? This historical drama was shot in and around London, though stand-ins were used for Buckingham Palace’s interiors. Go there: It might be hard to recreate the vintage look of the film, but London is full of atmospheric and historic architecture and palaces to visit. If you’re a sucker for English period films or places Colin Firth has graced, tour company P & P Tours can show you around many historic movie locations like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

The Social NetworkLocation: Another Massachusetts and California movie, this very academic film shot at many college and prep school campuses, but none of them Harvard, which hasn’t allowed film crews in decades. Go there: If you enjoyed the Winklevoss rowing scene, head to England this summer for the Henley Royal Regatta June 29 – July 3.

Toy Story 3 – Location: The latest in the Pixar animated trilogy is set at the Sunnyside Daycare. Go there: Reviews are mixed, but Disney’s Hollywood Studios has a new Pixar parade, to let fans see their favorite characters in “person.” Visit any Disney gift shop to make your own toy story.

True Grit – Location: The Coen brothers western remake may be set in 19th century Arkansas, but it was filmed in modern day Santa Fe, New Mexico and Texas, taking over much of towns like Granger. Go there: If you’re a film purist or big John Wayne fan, you can tour the locations of the original film in Ouray County, Colorado.

Winter’s Bone – Location: Many moviegoers hadn’t heard of this film when nominations were announced, set and shot in the Ozark Mountains in southern Missouri. Go there: The difficult film centers around the effects of methamphetamine on a rural family, but travel destinations don’t get much more wholesome than Branson, Missouri. Bring the family for riverboat shows and the best bathroom in the country.

[Photo by Flickr user Lisa Norman]