Hotel Review: Gates Hotel South Beach

Hotel Review: Gates Hotel South Beach

Overview: Recent upgrades make The Gates Hotel South Beach a great value for modern style at a reasonable price. And the food is good, too.

The Gates South Beach
2360 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139
(305) 860-9444
800-445-8667
miamh_rm@hilton.com

The Gates Hotel South Beach

I’d never been to Miami before checking out the newly relaunched Gates Hotel in South Beach this December, and the four-star Hilton hotel offered the perfect entrance into the eternal summer of South Beach.

Located right on the busy Collins Avenue, the Gates Hotel South Beach a short walk to the beach, the surrounding city, and several peaceful residential streets. Within the span of an hour, I strolled down the boardwalk at sunset, gazeed over the pond from a bridge, and got a drink in the upscale pool-flanking bar at The Setai. The hotel is also a short walk from The Bass, a museum full of quirky modern art.

poolside bar at Gates Hotel South Beach

When I got to my room, the first thing I noticed was the giant bed. “King size” would be an understatement — I could sleep diagonally on it. I’m a terrible sleeper, but the soft mattress and soft, luxurious pillows let me rest better than I had in a while.

bedroom at Gates Hotel South Beach

The top-floor room was spacious, with a desk, a board to put my stuff on, a separate segment for the toilet and shower, and a view of the pool outside the lobby. The WiFi was not super speedy but fast enough and easy to access with my name and room number, and there were outlets all over so I could plug in my computer from the desk or bed. There was no mini-bar, but there was a fridge and a coffee and tea maker. The only downside was that there was another room perpendicular to mine, so the people in it could see me if I left my blinds up.

Cabana by the pool at the Gates Hotel South Beach

One of the hotel’s biggest standouts was its food. When I checked in, the staffer at the front desk greeted me with a hot chocolate chip cookie. From room service, I got a surprisingly delicious cookies and cream milkshake, zucchini chips, and shrimp Caesar salad. Later on in the trip, I ate at the hotel’s restaurant Agaveros Cantina, which features unique Mexican dishes like Tamale Bites and Elote Fritters. The same restaurant also served breakfast for an extra charge, including a continental buffet and a menu with omelettes and other hot dishes.

“Welcome to Miami” played through my head as I walked through the halls. Between the Gates’ convenient location, luxurious accommodations, and friendly staff, I felt welcome, and I’d trust them to welcome me again.

Rooms:

King rooms and double queen rooms are available with or without pool view and with or without terraces.

King suites with separate living room also available.

Tech:

Free wifi throughout hotel

Family-friendly amenities:

This hotel is not explicitly family-friendly, but you can bring children. Cribs are available, but no extra beds.

Swimming pool on the terrace.

Food options:

The onsite Mexican-inspired Agaveros Cantina offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Pool bar and lobby bar offer lunch and dinner until 10pm.

Deals and Activities Nearby:
Parking:

Valet parking available.

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hotel Review: Yotel Times Square

Hotel Review: Yotel Times Square

Overview: Everything you need and nothing you don’t. Tiny rooms but modern and efficient use of space. Best for solo travelers, ok for couples, groups might be cramped, even in a larger room. And the bathroom does not offer a lot of privacy.

YOTEL New York
570 Tenth Avenue
New York, NY 10036
By phone: +1 646 449 7700

The Yotel in Times Square claims on its website that it “creates time, giving you everything you need and nothing you don’t.” Confused by the vague description? So was I. Let me fill you in on what actually makes the Yotel unique.

The lobby (if you could call it that) was as confusing as the website. Instead of a front desk with human beings, there were machines to check guests in and out, though there were people there to help. The process was surprisingly efficient: I just entered in my name and the dates of my reservation, and since I was early, the machine told me the room wasn’t ready yet.

luggage robot Yotel New York

So, I headed up to the fourth floor (the closest thing the hotel has to a real lobby, including a desk where staff take questions) to sit at the cafe, which boasts an impressive North African-inspired menu. I worked at a small table while eating fried cauliflower and pita bread with hummus, yogurt, and eggplant — dishes I enjoyed so much, I ordered the exact same ones again later that night. In addition to the cafe, which also sold coffee and pastries, there’s a larger restaurant on the fourth floor.

YOTEL rooftop Terrace New York

The “everything you need and nothing you don’t” tagline began to make sense when I entered my 27th-floor room, overlooking a gorgeous view of midtown Manhattan. The bed was tilted to partially lean against the wall and create space, and it went down for sleeping at the press of a button. The shower had shampoo and soap combined in one bottle, as well as a large bottle of conditioner, something I often find hotels lacking. The menu was on the TV. (They don’t deliver, but you can order food from your room, get a call when it’s ready, and pick it up downstairs.) Every inch of space was put to use.

Yotel room size

There was only a glass wall and curtain separating the bed and bathroom and there wasn’t too much extra space, so the room would not be ideal for multiple people traveling together. It looks like most of the Yotel’s rooms work this way. As a solo traveler, though, I didn’t feel cramped. The bed was not luxurious but comfortable. The WiFi in the hotel was quick, and there was an outlet to charge my computer next to the bed. The Yotel is impressively high-tech, in fact, with a luggage-storing robot and a mobile concierge app.

The hotel’s in a great location on 10th avenue between 41st and 42nd streets, a quick walk to the ACE trains and Times Square but far enough west that it’s still quiet. There are tons of cafes and restaurants right around the corner.

The building was a bit annoying to navigate, though, since you have to transfer elevators every time you hit the fourth floor. The Yotel definitely has its quirks, but they’re all part of its charm.

Rooms:

Rooms are known as “cabins” at the Yotel, and they definitely echo the size of a ship cabin.

Queen rooms are the most plentiful, but there are rooms that add one or two bunk beds that can work for a family of up to four.

Some king rooms are available, and some with terraces and outdoor tubs (not hot tubs) that look pretty special. One VIP terrace room has a king bed and a sofabed so it can accommodate up to four adults.

Tech:

Good wifi and outlets next to the bed for charging.

Luggage storage robots!

Family-friendly amenities:

Bunk beds in some rooms.

Bikes available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Yotel branded coloring books and colored pencils are available for a fee. Or download the images from the website.

Food options:

The Green Fig offers Mediterranean food on the fourth floor lobby level.

The rooftop terrace is the largest of any hotel in NYC, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Many restaurants in the neighborhood.

Deals and Activities Nearby:

Ummm… it’s New York City.

Parking:

Parking garage below the hotel. The standard rate is $45.00 for 24 hours, $62.00 for valet parking with SUVs costing an additional $6.00.

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hosted

The writer of this review was a guest of the hotel. All writers on All Over the Map provide unbiased opinions, whether hosted or not, but we thought you should know that they didn't pay to stay there. 

What museums are open in Washington DC during the federal shutdown?

What museums are open in Washington DC during the federal shutdown?

The U.S. Capitol showing the words "Closed. Call your Congressman." A list of family activities in DC that are open

So you’re in DC with kids with plans to visit the Smithsonian, the National Zoo, and all the memorials around the National Mall, but those dag blasted legislators in the Capitol building have managed to shut them all down just in time for your visit. So what can you do? What’s open?

[EDIT: As of Sunday, January 21, there has been no budget agreement and most of the federal government is shut down. HOWEVER, the Smithsonian and National Zoo will remain OPEN on Monday, January 22, 2018]

  • The Newseum, Washington’s museum of journalism, is a great place to go to reflect on the news of the day. In front of the museum is a display, updated daily, of the front pages of newspapers from around the world, showing just how ridiculous the U.S. government shutdown looks to people around the world. The Newseum is open from 9 to 5 daily (10 to 5 on Sundays).
  • The International Spy Museum currently has an exhibit of James Bond villains, which is rather cool, and its permanent collection is a favorite of kids and their trailing adults. Open 10 to 6 most days.
  • The National Building Museum has an amazing show of paper building models, some as small as matchboxes. And there are interactive indoor play areas for building with foam blocks while it’s freezing outside. Open 7 days a week.
  • National Geographic‘s current show is an immersive 3D experience about the Tomb of Christ. Open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.
  • … and speaking of Christ… the brand new Museum of the Bible sure wasn’t funded with taxpayer money, so it will be open through the shutdown. There’s a reconstruction of an ancient city that kids might enjoy.
  • Hillwood Museum and Gardens is a spectacular place to visit any time of year, though in winter the museum is much more so than the gardens. The permanent collection of the museum includes more Russian imperial art than anywhere outside of Russia. If it’s warm enough, kids will enjoy running through the grounds and spotting the “dacha” cottage, a pet cemetery, a putting green, and the lunar lawn. Open Tuesday to Saturday 10 to 5.
  • The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle is known as the first modern art museum in America, with an impressive collection of impressionist and modern art from the 1920s onward. Admission to the permanent collection is by donation on weekdays, $12 on weekends. So perhaps you furloughed feds should hit it up mid-week.
  • Artechouse, a massive underground art space with the feel of a dance club, has a brand new exhibit just in time for the shutdown. Parallel Universe features swirling light projections from the Turkish art studio Ouchhh. Open for ages 6 and up during the day; 21 and over after 5:30.

Of course, none of these (except the sweet mid-week deal at the Phillips) is free, which does change the family travel budget quite a bit. To save money, check on some of the local promotional sites, like Goldstar, Groupon, and Living Social to find last-minute deals on entertainment and dining. We’ll be adding more ideas as we find them, so keep checking back, and send your suggestions to editor [at] alloverthemap.net. And don’t forget to email your representatives to tell them what you think of the shutdown.

Hotel Review: Hotel Casa Blanca Mexico City

Hotel Review: Hotel Casa Blanca Mexico City

Overview: While it may be fitting for those traveling on a budget, this is most definitely not a five-star hotel. Don’t let the advertising fool you: You get what you pay for.

Hotel Casa Blanca
Lafragua 7
Colonia Tabacalera
Delegación Cuauhtémoc
Mexico City, Mexico
+52 (55) 5096 4500
reservaciones@hotel-casablanca.com.mx

While Googling places to stay in Mexico City, I was surprised to find a five-star hotel (according to its website and Google, at least) for just $54/night. After reading decent reviews, I booked four nights at Hotel Casa Blanca.

The first thing that struck me about the lobby was how dark and, frankly, ugly it was. The marble floors, brown paisley benches, and giant abstract sculptures looked like they’d been put up in the 50s — and not renovated since. One consolation was that they gave out water flavored with pineapple and watermelon. The jugs were the nicest-looking things in the lobby.

I hoped my room would be more attractive, but it kept up the theme of old-looking wooden furniture and pasty, porous white walls. One window-covered wall let lots of light in, but I had to keep the sheer curtain up over it because it faced the courtyard, so people from the other rooms could look in. The mattress was firm, leading me to wake up with back pain, though the pillows were squishy. Instead of a comforter, there were two thin blankets, one woven and one softer. The atmosphere felt kind of depressing, so I turned on some TV in Spanish to lighten the mood.

hotel casa blanca mexico city

The bathroom was adequate, with bar soap, shower gel, shampoo, and conditioner, but the shower was small and a bit dark, since there was no light in there. There weren’t any electrical outlets by the bed, so I had to work from the desk if I needed to plug anything in. The WiFi was decent but a bit slow when I uploaded images and watched videos.

The lobby wasn’t well-suited for work either: The benches got crowded as guests trickled in, and the tables were low and far away from the seats. I snuck over a couple times to work from the Meridian next door, which had nice furniture, a conveniently located outlet, quicker WiFi, and a Starbucks downstairs.

My first night, I ate from the buffet at Hotel Casa Blanca’s restaurant thinking I’d get to try authentic Mexican food, but most of it was actually not Mexican: The main dishes were a confused mix of penne alla vodka, fish fillet, fried rice, mashed potatoes, and refried beans. There were a few good Mexican desserts, though, including flan, plantains with cream, and rainbow jello. Still, I’d recommend that anyone seeking good Mexican food go across the street to the restaurant in Sanborns.

Many of the hotel’s online reviews talked about its location, but other than its proximity to the Plaza de la Republica and a bunch of restaurants and food stands, I didn’t find the area to be anything special. Most of the surrounding buildings were other hotels or touristy restaurants. (At one, I got enchiladas with barely melted cheese slices on top and liquidy guacamole.) With heavy traffic and many streets missing crosswalks, just crossing the street was stressful.

While it may be fitting for those traveling on a budget, this is most definitely not a five-star hotel. Don’t let the advertising fool you: You get what you pay for. If I could go back in time, I would’ve paid twice as much for a bed I could sleep well in and an interior I liked to look at.

Rooms:

Family rooms with two double beds and two pull-out sofas available.

Uncomfortable beds.

Tech:

No outlets by the beds.
Wifi adequate but slow for video.

Family-friendly amenities:

Swimming pool on the terrace.
Bike rental available.

Food options:

Two restaurants and two bars on site.
Many restaurants and food carts nearby.

Deals and Activities Nearby:
Parking:

Free covered parking available.

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hotel Review: Hotel Alessandra in Houston, Texas

Hotel Review: Hotel Alessandra in Houston, Texas

Overview: Chic five-star hotel in downtown Houston with luxurious rooms and attentive staff.

Hotel Alessandra

1070 Dallas Street
Houston, Texas
+1 713 242 8555

I spent the majority of my last visit to Houston in my hotel room, and I’m not even sorry. The moment I arrived in Hotel Alessandra, located downtown in the city’s “GreenStreet” shopping and dining center, I knew I was in for a treat.

Hotel Review: Hotel Alessandra Houston

Guest Room at Hotel Alessandra in Houston (Photo courtesy Hotel Alessandra)

My room had mistakenly been booked for two days later, but the front desk clerk found me a room right away, and the butler made conversation with me as he showed me up. The room had a giant king-sized bed, a couch, a table and chair, two bedside tables, two lamps, a TV, and walls completely covered in windows for views of the city.

As I got ready to go out, someone brought up a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. The rainfall shower helped me recharge after a long day of travel, and with a table and bench inside, I could even bring my food and wine in. The travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, and body wash lasted me two showers, which is rare for someone with hair as long as mine.

The vicinity of the hotel was home to dozens of bars, restaurants, and shops, with attractions including the Discovery Green, Toyota Center, Downtown Aquarium, Market Square, and the Downtown Historic District within a mile. As I mentioned, though, I didn’t take advantage of that as much as I could’ve. I stayed in and ordered room service twice during my stay, with food ranging from a peanut butter and jelly smoothie to lobster mac and cheese. The food was great but expensive — I paid over $50 for the mac and cheese and a caesar salad.

Hotel Alessandra Fitness Center

Hotel Alessandra Fitness Center (Photo Courtesy Hotel Alessandra)

Even though I was traveling alone, I didn’t get lonely. Every time I left and returned to the hotel, the staff by the door greeted me. One even accompanied me to the gym and chatted while I worked out. My favorite part of Houston is the people’s friendliness, and staying at Hotel Alessandra reminded me of that.

Rooms:

Large king size bed with white washable comforters and sheets and four pillows. Small fridge. Minibar with a large variety of drinks and snacks. Coffee machine.

Rooms can be reserved for up to five people.

Separate sections of bathroom for shower and toilet, table and bench in shower, good-sized shampoo, soap, and conditioner bottles.

Tech:

Wifi – Free fast easy

Plugs – Charging plugs built into bedside tables on each side of the bed

Family-friendly amenities:

Pool – Outdoor pool open until 10pm

Minibar/snack options for kids – Kids menu in room service

 

Food options:

Restaurant on site, room service you can order on a tablet next to the bed

Breakfast included? Available? In-room possible? – Available both in restaurant and in-room

Nearby food options – lots of bars and restaurants

Parking:

Garage with valet service

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)

Hotel Review: Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat

Hotel Review: Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat

Overview: If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging.

Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat
Yelapa
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
+52-322 209-5246
losnaranjos5@gmail.com

When I learned that a retreat I was interested in took place at the edge of the jungle in Yelapa, Mexico, I was hesitant to go. Cabins without walls? Mosquitos? Possibly snakes? No thank you. But looking at photos of Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat gave me some peace of mind. The rooms were wall-less, but they were surrounded by beautiful flora. After gaining reassurance that the chances of seeing snakes were low, I decided to go.

I flew to the Puerto Vallarta airport, caught a cab to Los Muertos beach, then rode a water taxi to Yelapa. I was reassured to see tourists on the boat with shirts reading “Yelapa.” So this wasn’t the middle of nowhere. On the shore, there were restaurants and people sitting on the beach, where Los Naranjos’s owner and his dog met me to bring me to the “eco hotel.” As we left the beach, a dog bared its teeth, people passed by on horses, and we waded through a pond. We also passed a little store where I bought conditioner for my hair. We were still within civilization.

los naranjos jungle retreat treehouse

When we got there, I entered an (also wall-less) common room with a kitchen, a hammock, and cushioned benches. The dining tables were just outside. Then, the owner showed me to my room, which was up a ladder and had a thatched roof. Inside was a table and three beds covered by mosquito nets. Not exactly luxurious, but I wouldn’t be roughing it either. I got the only full-sized bed in the room (the others were twin-sized), and while the mattress was firm, I could sink into it a bit. The blanket was thin but warm, and the pillows were comfy. There were two lights hanging from the ceiling, a fan, and an electrical outlet by my bed.

The closest bathroom was up another ladder, with two toilet stalls, two showers, and two sinks. There weren’t any problems with the bathroom, though one quirk was that you had to throw the toilet paper in the trash. The staff explained that anything that gets flushed down the toilet has to be dug up from underground, since Los Naranjos tries to minimize its impact on the environment.

los naranjos jungle retreat treetops

There was a WiFi connection, but it wasn’t quick enough to get anything done. It took several minutes just to load my emails. There were a few cafes nearby with slightly faster WiFi, but none were adequate for fast-paced work. If I had to send an email, my best bet was to use my phone. The data connection was decent decent enough to do this but not to use my personal hotspot. Lesson learned: Don’t try to get work done in Yelapa.

My first night in Los Naranjos was rough. Even with my earplugs in, I heard roosters (which, it turns out, make noise all night), howling dogs, and music from a nearby house. Every time one of my roommates walked, the ground slightly shook. I woke up many times throughout the night and got up in the morning with a sore back. But my second night was better: My ears were getting used to the jungle already. The only remaining annoyance was having to navigate through the dark (and I do mean dark — I needed a flashlight) to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The mosquito net protected my bed, but I got my share of bites during the day. Thankfully, I didn’t see any snakes.

The surrounding village was adorable, with little Mexican shops and restaurants owned by local families, the beach a 15 minute walk away, and a hiking trail leading to a waterfall. I had all my meals at Los Naranjos, though. They were a delicious mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs from chickens on the resort grounds, and fish caught from a nearby river.

If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging. Personally, I enjoyed jogging past wild dogs in the morning and seeing the stars at night, but I was counting down the days until I got a quiet room and private bathroom again.

 

Rooms:
Tech:
Family-friendly amenities:
Food options:
Deals and Activities Nearby:
Parking:

Suzannah Weiss

Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)