Chain hotels are great for business travel, and for those out-of-town trips for youth soccer tournaments. Many frequent business travelers may not be able to tell you their neighbor’s name, but they can probably tell you with astounding accuracy how many Marriott Rewards Points they have in their account. But when you want to get away for a special weekend with a loved one, sometimes you want more than just a Marriott or Hilton. Maybe you want the hotel itself to be part of the experience. Here are five unique historic luxury hotels around the U.S. that will give you that old-school atmosphere … with high-speed Internet, spas and other modern luxuries.
5. Timberline Lodge (Mount Hood, Oregon)
If the photo of the Timberline Lodge looks familiar, it’s because the hotel appeared in exterior shots for the fictional Overlook Hotel in the 1980 horror film The Shining. You won’t encounter any ghosts or axe-wielding maniacs here, but you will find a four-story lodge built by the WPA during the Great Depression. Standing right on the slope of Mount Hood at about 6,000 feet elevation, the hotel offers a heated outdoor pool open year-round, where you can enjoy the surreal experience of swimming with snow on the ground mere feet away. But many visitors come away most surprised by the dining. In addition to an award-winning wine list, the Timberline uses lodge-butchered meat and local produce. There are plenty of recreational opportunities here, from hiking to year-round skiing.
4. The Palace Hotel (San Francisco)
Opened in 1875, the Palace Hotel earned renown as the largest and most luxurious hotel in the world. The original Palace did not survive the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 (actually, it made it through the quake, but was wiped out in the subsequent fire). In its place rose this nine-story Beaux Arts structure, which opened in 1909. The hotel underwent a two-year restoration around 1990, and the rooms were extensively renovated again in 2015. Among the many superlatives here, the domed ceiling in the Garden Court features one of the largest expanses of colored glass in the world, something to gaze at in wonder while you await the award-winning cuisine. It’s a few minutes walk from many of San Francisco’s leading attractions, from Union Square to Chinatown to the financial district. Oh, as for what we said earlier about chain hotels, we must point out the Palace is part of the Starwood Hotels family, which includes the Sheraton and Westin brands. You won’t mind.
3. Wentworth Mansion (Charleston, S.C.)
This Southern city features many famous historic inns, some dating to the 1700s. The Wentworth Mansion is probably the best known, appearing on many “Best of” lists in recent years. Travel & Leisure named it the No. 1 “Small, City Hotel in the U.S.” in 2015, while it came in No. 5 on the Trip Advisor Channel’s list of “Top Romantic Hotels.” Completed in 1886, the mansion underwent extensive restoration around the turn of this century, with many original features left intact, from the hand-carved marble fireplaces to Italian crystal chandeliers. The rooms are spacious (averaging around 475 square feet) and feature oversize whirlpool tubs and walk-in showers. Behind the mansion you’ll find the original carriage house, which has been converted into Circa 1886, a AAA Four Diamond restaurant.
2. Hotel Del Coronado (Coronado, Calif.)
Many famous hotels will tout the fact that they’ve hosted a couple of U.S. presidents. The Hotel del Coronado has them all beat. Since opening in 1888, the hotel has opened its doors to 16 presidents — not to mention celebrities, royalty and others. The second-largest wooden structure in the U.S., this National Historic Landmark is located right across San Diego Bay from San Diego and is a full-fledged resort offering everything from villas and cottages to sunset cruises.
1. The Plaza Hotel (New York City)
Opened in 1907, the Plaza is beloved by generations of visitors and New Yorkers, including a real estate investor named Donald Trump, who bought the property for $407 million in 1988 (the equivalent of more than $800 million in today’s dollars.) In a full-page open letter he took out in the New York Times, Trump explained, “I haven’t purchased a building, I have purchased a masterpiece — the Mona Lisa.” Trump long ago sold the Plaza, but it is still the embodiment of luxury lodging in Manhattan, with its iconic location on Central Park. And if you’re worried this grand historic hotel is stuck in the past, consider this — the Plaza says it is the first hotel in the world to offer in-room iPads for guests to order room service, talk with the concierge, and more.
There are scores of grand historic hotels around the U.S., from those located in big cities to those that continue to thrive off the beaten path. The Historic Hotels of America website features information on many of these hotels.