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Melbourne may be Australia’s second largest city, but it’s number one as the country’s culture capital. Situated on Port Phillip Bay, it’s packed with Victorian buildings, museums, galleries, large parks and gardens. The tree-lined streets and green spaces create a clean, eco-friendly vibe, which is probably part of the reason Melbourne has consistently been dubbed as one of the world’s most livable cities.

The city’s roots can be traced back to the mid-1800s, when British settlers colonized the city after finding gold in the surrounding hills. Now, burgundy-colored (and free!) City Circle trams zig-zag across the metropolis, making it easy for visitors to explore the city at a relaxed pace within a few days. Business travelers will likely want to stay within the City Centre -– the Central Business District. As the city’s heart, the City Centre is also great option for those looking to be within walking distance of all the major sights. The 59-room Hotel Lindrum is a modern boutique hotel located just a short walk from sights such as Federation Square and Melbourne Park. It lacks a fitness center and spa, but the features it does have are done well: The restaurant serves a nice breakfast buffet, and the cozy bar features a fireplace and a billiards table. Round-the-clock room service is also available, and Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel. Though its slightly south of the City Centre, St. Kilda Road Parkview Hotel offers a solid value, with contemporary rooms and a rooftop plunge pool.

- Oyster.com Staff

Buenos Aires

The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires is home to many Argentine traditions and trademarks; the streets are lined by parrallias, or steakhouses, that serve up Argentina’s famous beef, luxury boutiques sell leather clothing and pieces by high-end designers, the nightlife is dominated by the tango and Evita’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” balcony overlooks the central square, Plaza de Mayo.

Though there are plenty of museums to visit in the city, Buenos Aires is a great place to explore by foot and simply wander around (the streets’ grid system makes it easy to explore). Known for its stunning architecture (gorgeous marble and bronze buildings line Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest boulevard in the world), Buenos Aires also boasts beautiful parks, particularly those in Palermo that include a museum, a planetarium and rose gardens. Outdoor markets are frequent occurences during the weekends and the cafe culture is a popular pastime — Portenos (as locals call themselves) can be seen sipping coffee with friends until the wee hours of the morning. So if you’re heading to Buenos Aires, be prepared to not get much sleep. Often referred to as the “Paris of South America,” the city has a lively nightlife that doesn’t get started until midnight, after locals and tourists have finished their late-night dinners.

Palermo is a popular area to stay in, as it boasts some of the city’s best restaurants, shops, and parks. A tranquil, minimalist vibe pervades the Awwa Suites & Spa. Its 60 large, bright rooms feature fully equipped kitchenettes, and the spa is comprised of a gorgeous indoor pool area, sauna and massage room. The nearby Livian Guest House is a funkier alternative, with just 8 artsy rooms in a French-inspired 1920s building Recoleta, a beautiful historic area, is also a nice spot to stay. Loi Suites Recoleta offer a solid value and convenient location, as well as a small pool, fitness center and full-service spa.

- Oyster.com Staff

Photography by REUTERS

The holidays are here, and our favorite travel blog posts have survived the ill-fated Mayan apocalypse to tell us about them. From where to celebrate and where to avoid (if you can), to what to do before the next end of days — check out this week in travel.

Gadling brings us the top holiday travel destinations. New York catapults to the top of the list for New Year’s Eve, but it doesn’t top the list overall.

Atlas Obscura peeks into the 5 swankiest bunkers for surviving the next apocalypse.

The Culture-ist finds out what to do if contract Giardia (a parasite found in contaminated food and water), are tricked by a bird poop scam or robbed while traveling — scary stuff.

Mighty Girl has her life list all planned out, even if it isn’t the end of days. Of her “100 Things To Do Before I Go,” how many can you check off?

Grantourismo explains why they are spending Christmas in Hanoi. See what happens when 2 of our favorite globetrotters decide to celebrate spontaneity.

See what else happened this week with our This Week in Photos gallery!

Cancun

There are 2 Cancuns: The Zona Hotelera in Isla Cancun, which is the mega-resort, mega-mall area that caters to mass tourism, and Ciudad Cancun, which is the original downtown area and where locals actually live and have their businesses. Thousands of spring breakers, honeymooners, old couples, families and young groups of friends flow into Cancun every year, making it one of the world’s top beach destinations. Its turquoise waters, beautiful stretches of sand, and night-long parties are a main draw here, but there’s a lot to do besides going to the beach. Cancun is the gateway to the breathtaking Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum (Coba is also nearby, but is less well-preserved). Even for those planning to spend most of their time in lounge chair, these centuries-old archaeological sites are well worth a visit.

If all you need is a beautiful beach and a self-contained megaresort close to the party area, you’ll probably have a great time in the Hotel Zone. Le Blanc Spa Resort is a luxurious adults-only choice directly on a heavenly white-sand beach, with amenities such as a gorgeous spa and 3 outdoor pools. The nearby Gran Caribe Real is also a nice choice, but caters more to families with suite-style rooms, a kids’ club, and a waterpark. If you’d prefer a more authentic experience and don’t mind being a 10-minute cab ride from the beach, consider Ciudad Cancun. Here, you’ll find cheaper, smaller hotels, and a wide array of traditional and international restaurants and shops. The Radisson Hotel Hacienda is a decent budget option, with clean, spacious rooms and a nice pool.

- Oyster.com Staff

Photography by REUTERS/Mike Segar

This week, our favorite travel blog posts take a look at the people behind the industry. From an enlightening interview with the Frugal Traveler to the rudest airline employees, there’s never a dull moment with these travelers.

Gadling reports American Airlines has the rudest employees, according to a recent survey. Equally interesting is which carriers ranked the best.

Go Big or Go Home found the world’s largest group of carolers – 502, to be exact – in Westport, CT.
Nomadic Matt sits down with the Seth Kugel, NYT’s Frugal Traveler, to find out his most interesting trip (he’s been 3 times) and, of course, his best budget-friendly travel advice.

Carry On shares their 6 travel etiquette rules on the Today Show, just in time for holiday travel. No more wondering about who gets the armrest on a plane, how to silence noisy hotel neighbors and what to do about reckless taxi drivers.

Behold, Slate’s new photo blog, takes a look into the absurd world of fake holidays with shots from photographer Reiner Riedler’s new book, which was inspired by the temporary beaches in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany.

See what else happened this week — including romantic celebrations on 12/12/12 — with our This Week in Photos gallery!

A high-density, vertical city with tourists and locals from everywhere on the planet, New York delivers — no matter who you are or when you visit. But the holidays are a particularly nice time to head to the Big Apple, when the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, the holiday shops at Union Square, and the ice-skating rink in Central Park put the city in the holiday spirit. Lined with iconic museums, Central Park draws class field trips, jogging locals, and Hollywood film crews all year long. At Union Square, students take to the streets on skateboards and New York’s premier chefs seek out locally grown produce from the farmers’ market. Shoppers can splurge on Chanel, Prada, and Gucci along 5th Avenue, or venture deep into SoHo, the West Village, or the Lower East Side for insider boutiques, where one might glimpse New York’s acting elite. Meanwhile, art lovers can bask in the grand museums of the Upper East Side or preview up-and-coming imagery at Chelsea galleries.

Throughout the city, expect to pay a premium for cramped rooms — a cozy 200 square feet is about the norm. But remember that in New York, it’s not so much about the room as the location, location, location, instead. For old-world grandeur, Midtown East and the Upper East Side are home to the Waldorf-Astoria, the Peninsula, and the Pierre, an elegant, historic hotel across the street from Central Park, which offers a taste of grand old New York to those staying in any of its 189 small — but freshly renovated — guest rooms. Hip downtown spots include such notables as the Gramercy Park Hotel and the Soho Grand, where guests can find an authentic but accessible taste of the trendy downtown scene. And the hotel still attracts its fair share of celebrities. Of course, you’ll also find outposts of every major hotel franchise — from the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental up by Central Park to the more down-to-earth Hilton,Westin, and Marriott Marquis in Times Square.

- Oyster.com Staff

More on the Holidays in New York City:
Best Holiday Shopping in New York
Best New York Hotel Holiday Decorations
Christmas in New York City

By Oyster.com Staff

US Virgin Islands

The small collection of mostly arid islands that make up the US Virgin Islands has long been a seafarers stomping ground — from the pirates of yore to today’s more abundant cruise ship hordes and the occasional yachtsman. And as they have for the past 400 years, people come to the islands mainly to drink, relax on the beach, and bargain shop — often, in just that order. Traveling to the islands, considered “insular areas” or “unincorporated territories” of the United States, is in many ways analogous to traveling within the US — citizens don’t need a passport, the US dollar is the official currency, and English is the official language. But a trip to the Virgin Islands still feels like a getaway with its laid-back atmosphere and sunny weather.

The islands’ hotels are largely concentrated on the 3 main islands – St. Thomas (the only island with an airport), St. John, and, to a lesser extent, St. Croix. Since the islands are so small, anywhere you stay will be within about a 30-minute drive from anywhere else on the island. Hotels range from the low-key, no-frills, family-owned spots, to all-inclusive mega-resorts, to unplugged, natural luxury, like at Caneel Bay, a historic sugar plantation turned top-notch hotel visited by the rich and famous (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have stayed here). Even with a quaint pool and rustic rooms that lack TVs and phones, Caneel’s attentive service and unparalleled setting make it one of the Caribbean’s best resorts. On neighboring St. Thomas, the Ritz-Carlton is also a luxe option, located only 5 minutes from Red Hook’s fun dining and yacht scene. And those traveling with kids (and on a tighter budget) may consider the Sugar Bay Resort and Spa – a clean, modern, family-oriented resort with a full-service spa, an excellent snorkeling beach and tons of kids’ activities.

This week, our favorite travel blog posts all feature something that’s a little hard to believe – whether it’s the world’s largest Christmas tree, the discovery of a unicorn lair (!!!), a woman who sold everything so she could see the world, or tips for actually fitting everything in a carry-on (it can be done!).

A Luxury Travel Blog shows us the biggest Christmas tree in the world, located in Umbria, Italy. The Guinness Book of Records dubbed it in 1991, but does it really count as a tree? That’s your call.

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Here at Travel Channel, we’re in the mood for anything (and everything) ho-ho-holiday travel-realted. We hope our picks for our favorite holiday content will put you in the mood, too! See what our editors are hoping Santa brings them this year, learn about the most exciting holiday destinations, and more:

Holiday Travel Moodboard

1) Give the Gift of Travel

2) Find the perfect present for the globetrotter in your life with the 2012 Lost Girls Gift Guide

3) See what’s hot this month — from Christmas cookies to holiday festivals with our Decadent December gallery

4) Check out some of this year’s Most Exciting Holiday Destinations

5) See how Christmas is celebrated around the world

6) Get a look at what the Travelchannel.com editors are hoping to find under the tree this year with our Editors’ Picks

7) Track Santa’s amazing adventures around the globe — we caught him water skiing in Virginia and swimming with dolphins in Japan

By Oyster.com Staff

Park City

Park City is Utah’s version of Aspen, though most would argue that its more laid-back than its Colorado counterpart. Considered one of the best places in the world to ski, Park City attracts tons of skiers and snowboarders with its fresh powder. Celebrities also flock to Park City during the winter — some for the slopes, but many for the Sundance Film Festival in January.

There are actually 3 distinct ski resorts in Park City, with distinct reputations: Park City Mountain is known as the party spot, while Deer Valley is for the rich and famous, and The Canyons attracts numerous families, being home to the largest mountain in the area as well as more casual, family-friendly accommodations. Bear Hollow Village is a neighborhood-like resort in The Canyons, featuring 3-bedroom condos and 3- and 4-bedroom townhouses. The individually owned condos and townhouses vary in decor and modernity, but all feature fireplaces, washer/dryers, sleek kitchens, and often reasonable rates. The nearby Waldorf Astoria, on the other hand, is luxurious in every way, starting with the beautiful lobby — crystal chandeliers hang from the high beamed ceilings, antlers protrude from the walls (a must in Park City) and leather and dark-wood accents give a dramatic but warm feel.

Deer Valley is the ultra-luxe option in Park City. Sidewalks are heated, restaurants are tres chic, and ski valets are free (but snowboarding is prohibited on the mountain). The 170-room Stein Eriksen Lodge offers ski-in, ski-out access to Deer Valley Resort, and has a design style that could be described as “wilderness chic.” It’s popular among couples for its romantic spa, 2 restaurants and year-round outdoor pool. The nearbySt. Regis, complete with elegant rooms and gorgeous views, is one of the only properties in the area that compares.

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