The Best Boutique Hotel in Every State (and DC)
In traveling around the country eating burgers and donuts and other things that make you look good in swimsuits, we realized that we constantly found ourselves trying to figure out the best boutique hotels to stay at in order to accomplish these things, and not really knowing who to trust. And so we asked our local editors for recommendations and once we built up enough of a list, we realized we should probably pass these on to everyone else.
How we did it: like with our food/drink stories, we based everything first on experience. Had Liz or I stayed at the place? Had one of our editors stayed there? After that, we based it on individuality: did the hotel capture the local flavor of the city/town/state? Did it feel like a boutique hotel, in terms of making you feel special and unique? If it was owned by a bigger collection of hotels, did it keep that individuality? We also factored in cost whenever possible, but admittedly ignored that factor when it came down to unique hotels on cliffs or taking over ghost towns. Some things are worth the money. And finally, we asked ourselves: does this place make you excited about traveling?
As you know, we’re not trying to hide our biases and be objective here, we’re simply telling you the places we -- and our editors -- love and think are worth checking out in each state. If you think we missed one, tell us. Otherwise, pull out your credit card and book a trip. You’ve only got 51 options.
If you were coming to visit Alabama, having never been there before, there’s a chance you’d be working off stereotypes. And, as such, you’d assume that everyone lives in giant, antebellum homes and has quaint, small-town lifestyles and maybe has a weird transplant New York-bred doctor, just like in Hart of Dixie. And, friends, there’s little at the Malaga Inn that’ll dissuade you of that idea, which is a very nice thing. With massively high ceilings, shining hardwood floors, four poster beds, and floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto balconies with wrought-iron railings, the 39 guest rooms at this duo of circa 1860s townhomes is a well-preserved architectural relic of another period. But BYO Yankee doctor if you're trying to complete the rest of your CW fantasies.
The Hotel Captain Cook
Alaska is trouble in this sort of a thing, because most of the greatest, most spectacular places involve some sort of 7-14 day stay so that you can fly up in helicopters and hunt wolves running into Russia or whatever. Which is not to take anything away from the Captain Cook. CC is a great -- grand even -- hotel in Downtown Anchorage that has all the bells and whistles you need (views of the Chugach Mountains and the Cook inlet; an old-school AAA Four-Diamond restaurant in a tower called the Crow’s Nest; A SAUNA). So maybe it’s the place you hang before you start your two-week wolf-hunting journey to the edge of Russia.
I stayed here, having never been to Arizona before, and assumed I was going to be out in the desert far, far away from humanity. That is not the case. As most people much smarter than I know, Camelback is actually in Phoenix, but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular, and the 53 acres the hotel sits on kind of do make it feel like I was right. Anyway, each of the rooms is actually a casita, which is kind of amazing, and a lot of them have those giant tubs you sit in with fruit-forward glasses of zin while you peruse Ian McEwan novels. Oh, and if you need to eat: its chef is a Food Network celebrity, and the Jade Bar serves up craft cocktails like a Barrel Aged Negroni, and something that involves pisco, muddled pineapple, serrano peppers, and infinite happiness.
The Dickson Street Inn
What could’ve swayed into the B&B territory, blissfully, doesn’t. Instead, The Dickson Street Inn houses 10 suites in an 1894 Victorian home that was converted to a boutique hotel in 2009. Ask for an upstairs room so you can snag balcony views of Fayetteville and U of A’s campus. But if you can’t get one, you’ll be just fine, since the hotel’s bar includes a rooftop patio on the house’s veranda and the beer list includes a few impressive crafts (Boulevard, Avery) amongst its choices.
Post Ranch Inn
With apologies to Calistoga Ranch, Rancho Valencia, the Belmond El Encanto in Santa Barbara, and so many other fantastic California hotels, the pick here came down to unique beauty: you literally sit 1,200ft up along the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Yes, it is extremely expensive, but the 39 rooms seem like they’re built into the forest and mountains, and have the most insane views you could ever hope for. The restaurant, Sierra Mar, is spectacular and has ocean views that seem like you’re dining in the restaurant version of that house from Up. And they’ll give you a Lexus to drive to Big Sur Bakery, and eat my favorite wood-fired breakfast pizzas.
Dunton Hot Springs
Perhaps no hotel on our list is more spectacular and singular than DHS. It's a ghost town across the mountain from Telluride, with each of the buildings painstakingly restored and then modernized on the inside, while the outside still looks like you’ve stepped onto the set of the Oregon Trail movie. It has a natural hot spring (and one of the cabins is built around it), and offers up every amenity you can think of, many of which are included in the (admittedly steep) price. Oh, and you can have it all to yourself and up to 44 friends. Think about it.
When we started researching, we were expecting the CT pick to be some fancy, clever place in one of the cities, but then we found the Farm, with its 18 cottages set over 113 acres designed by 15 different architects, so they each have their own unique style. There’s Beaver Lodge with its stick canopy and heated river-rock floors, or the Connecticut Yankee with its exposed beams and herringbone fireplace and a screened porch. Add a fine-dining restaurant and 5,000sqft spa, and yeah, you can see why we didn’t go for the spot in the city.
The Inn at Montchanin Village
Named for the grandmother of the founder of DuPont Gunpowder Company, Montchanin is the place that you go if you want to pretend you are 19th century gas tycoon J. Edward Addicks, as the guest rooms all have period furniture and antiques (aside from, like, gas fireplaces, and soaking tubs and the nice stuff). It also boasts the strangest restaurant on this list: Krazy Kat’s, which has Northeast cuisine... as you are surrounded by many, many portraits of cats. Just like J. Edward Addicks liked it.
Unless your past Florida experience was classier than the average Panama City spring break trip, then this isn’t the Florida you’re used to. The hotel is, well, an island in the Keys only accessible by boat, and, unlike similar islands (Shutter Island, the place where they harvest organs in Gotham), you’ll be totally fine being trapped here since it’s populated by 30 thatched-roof bungalows, one restaurant (go for the meal plan -- it’s pricy on top of the actual room, but, hey, you can only leave by boat), and some very curious iguana and Key deer.
This Kimpton-run hotel breaks onto our mainly-chain-free list for a number of reasons. The brand transferred its touches that guests in major hubs, like Chicago, know well: bold decor, complimentary wine hours, and a hotel bar/resto that locals are actually thrilled to go to. But this is Savannah, so that’s layered on top of a stunning garden patio and pool that you can use basically year-round -- featuring views of the country’s largest historic district -- both of which pair pretty perfectly with a dry rosé from the bar. All that puts any hotel in competition for best in the country, and we haven’t even gotten to the physical stuff: the landmark building has played the role of everything from cotton warehouse to Coca-Cola bottling plant over its 150-year history, and its newest incarnation is an impressive melding of modern style and Southern charm.
The Modern Honolulu
Hawaii lacks not in beautiful hotels and beaches and all of that, but what it did lack for so long was an actual boutique hotel with modern styling in the city (that also makes you still feel kind of okay wearing your dad’s Hawaiian shirt down to Waikiki Beach). TMH marries all of that together with beautiful modern rooms featuring all the bells and whistles (custom teak errything), a restaurant from Iron Chef Morimoto, three bars, a poolside lounge, and private beach club.
The Modern Hotel
Idaho was a hard choice, mainly because there are so many amazing, small resorts set in the woods, near the state’s amazing outdoors, which is probably why you’re going to visit the state to begin with. But the Modern Hotel is, simply, cool. Set in Boise’s six-block-long Linen District -- we're trying hard not to call this the Bushwick of Boise -- the hotel is a transformed Travelodge and the design mixes ‘60s mod pop that surely looks far better on the building than when the style first arose. Plus, there’s an impressive bar, a courtyard with fire pits, and an incredible lineup of programs to support local arts -- you’ll find everything from summer courtyard concerts and book readings to a dedicated TV channel that loops independent short films submitted by the filmmakers.
Longman and Eagle
The overwhelming majority of Chicago's (don't worry, not sending you to Decatur!) hotel inventory lies within a relatively compact Downtown area, which results in far too many visitors failing to see much beyond the Bean and Michigan Ave. A more interesting path: this six-room inn above a Michelin-starred bar and restaurant of the same name in the dynamic Logan Square neighborhood (its slogan: Eat. Sleep. Whiskey). This isn’t the place if you’re seeking spa treatments and concierge services, but you’ll get a comfortable, smartly appointed room with adorably hipster flourishes like an old Fisher Price tape deck complete with a handful of mixtapes. More importantly? You get preferred seating at the restaurant for the duration of your stay (it doesn’t take reservations), and a token that gets you a complimentary whiskey at the bar.
Charley Creek Inn
With apologies to the incredibly hip Alexander and upscale Conrad, two Indianapolis boutiques that we love, our votes finally fell with the independent Charley Creek Inn in Wabash. Only five years old in its current iteration (a two-year reno ended in 2010), the 30-room historic hotel toes the rare line between quaint (thanks in no small part to the town’s small population and fondness for calling its hotel shops “shoppes”) and grand (that $15-million renovation revived the 1920s building’s lobby and rooms). And, while the in-house restaurant and lounge are lovely, we were particularly wooed by the Wine & Cheese Shoppe (see?) with its focus on gourmet cheese and large selection of Midwest beers for sale.
In 2013, Jay Hartz, a 35-year veteran of the hospitality business, decided to go all in and purchase his own hotel. So he chose to refurbish the legendary Perry Hotel, giving each of the 40 rooms its own unique theme, adding original art from 30 different artists honoring the great native sons of Iowa, and adding a spa, because people need a place to get their hair did. Oh, also: there’s A BOWLING ALLEY.
The current Eldridge dates back to 1925 which, by most standards, is plenty old. But the corner’s history goes much farther back with the first hotel on this spot, named the Free State Hotel, opening in 1855 -- before Kansas was even a state -- as temporary housing for settlers. It only lasted a year before it was burned down; Colonel Shalor Eldridge rebuilt a hotel on the spot and this one, too, burned down. The next rendition was torn down in 1925 and rebuilt and THIS, friends, is the all-suite, flame-retardent hotel you can come stay in. Despite a stint as apartments and a total renovation in the Aughts, the history is still rich: namely in the form of Colonel Eldridge’s ghost, who is said to be particularly fond of Room 506 and fiddling with the elevators.
21c Museum Hotel
Of the four 21c Museum Hotels across the country, Louisville’s is our favorite. It’s not simply because it houses Proof on Main, which is one of our favorite restaurants and bars in the entire country. It’s also because the rooms are just a little bit modern and weird, in the best way possible, juxtaposing the historic Museum Row neighborhood where the hotel sits. And it also has something to do with the fact that you can leave your room to get a cocktail of Old Forester, sorghum, and house-made orange bitters and sip it while looking at the changing art collection. And then it’s probably still about Proof on Main.
Hotelier Klaus Ortlieb bought and started renovations on Hotel Le Cirque with a very clear goal: the hotel should be like a good friend's house. And if your friend has drinks made by one of the best cocktail teams in a city that invented the cocktail, and is able to make Kim Chi Grit Beignets for dinner, then you’ll think he achieved his goal. (Also, we’d like to be friends, too, please.) That the hotel is perfectly perched between New Orleans’ Garden District and the Warehouse District, which leads farther Downtown to the Quarter, certainly helps its case. So, go check yourself in (a regular front desk process was deemed too unfriendly), let the bellhop show you your room, and then go grab an armchair and a strawberry mezcal cobbler in Bellocq. It’s the right way to decide which direction you’ll be taking from the hotel.
The White Barn Inn
When you think Kennebunkport, the first thing that comes to mind is George W. participating in pencil dive contests with his brother Jeb, but the SECOND thing that comes to mind is the ridiculously lavish and exceptional restaurant attached to this lovely inn, famous everywhere for being one of the best restaurants in the country. But enough about these other things, this is about the actual inn, which gives you everything you need to feel fancy and loved, but especially if you get one of the waterfront cottages, with access to your own canoes off your private waterfront patios, so you can do your own version of the Bush family diving contest.
Inn at Perry Cabin
Yes, you do recognize the Inn from Wedding Crashers. And whether that makes you shake in your boat shoes with excitement or want to never show up here, just take a second to ignore all of that. Its a classic boutique resort, whose 81 rooms give immediate access to Chesapeake Bay. And whether you want to sail on a working oyster boat, build a sailboat, or sit on the dock and scream about your bitch lover, well, you can do all of those. If you're a happy sort, who isn't yelling about death, you'll also find that the restaurant is lovely.
First off, let’s get something straight: the Verb is not the fanciest or most lavish boutique hotel in Massachusetts. The Liberty may have it beat for the wow factor of being in an old jail, and the XV might have it beat in terms of luxury, but the Verb is the coolest, and most creative hotel we’ve stayed in in the Bay State. It kind of feels like an extremely hep version of a '60s California motel, which makes sense considering it used to be a Howard Johnson, and the rooms -- decorated with art from old issues of the Boston Phoenix and retro memorabilia like old typewriters -- look out onto the pool. Oh, and it just announced that Tim & Nancy Cushman of O Ya (James Beard award-winning big deal sushi restaurant) have decided to open an izakaya appropriately called Hojoko in the hotel. So the cool keep getting cooler.
Honor and Folly
Okay, so look: we broke a tiny rule with this one, as this is essentially like staying in someone’s apartment. It’s only two rooms with queen beds, and so the max capacity at any time is four people. But the space -- upstairs from the fantastic and popular Slows restaurant -- is so unique and part of this burgeoning scene in Corktown, that it’s worth pointing out and celebrating. What they’ve done here is not about gentrification (as you can’t gentrify what has already been abandoned) but about re-creation and restoration, and proprietor Meghan McEwen and her husband have done more than that. Also, it doesn’t hurt that our favorite cocktail bar in Detroit, The Sugar House, is right down the street.
In 1917, city leaders built the Saint Paul Athletic Club building with “public areas designed in the English renaissance tradition.” I’m not exactly sure what that is (I recall columns and a large stone fireplace?) but what they’ve done since is recreate the top three floors into a boutique hotel that mixes that old-school charm of living in what feels like an old social club, with all the modern things you need to feel like you have not made a crucial error in booking an old social club. If you’d like to use said Athletic Club for athletics, they’ll happily show you to the 68,000sqft space, and you’re going to need it, as the Nook (and its famed Juicy Lucy) is not far away.
The Alluvian hotel stands out both as a testament to its Delta region and as a modern contrast to much of the area. The hotel itself is sleek with marble bathrooms, working fireplaces, and even an award-winning art collection commissioned from Mississippi artists. But it’s housed within a circa-1920s building that also is home to one of the city’s oldest restaurants, Giardina’s, and those paintings and photographs depict the Delta region, which is also the inspiration for the hotel’s name: alluvial refers to a fertile region. And if all of this combination of luxury and local celebration doesn’t get you, just know you're across from The Viking Cooking School (you know, those very nice ovens your mom always wanted), which partners with The Alluvian for culinary weekend packages, which can include classes from major chefs, like Peche’s Ryan Prewitt.
The Raphael Hotel
The Raphael was pioneering the whole boutique hotel thing long before small, upscale hotels with the American trend existed. Built in pre-Great Depression times as apartments for wealthy Kansas City residents, the building was purchased in the ‘70s and converted to a hotel, modeled after European style. While it’s changed hands over the years (it’s a Marriot now), it’s still ahead of the curve in its field of hotels and a destination on Kansas City’s Country Club Plaza. Should you not plan to gorge yourself on ‘cue for your entire trip, the hotel’s Chaz resto is worth an exploration. Should you choose to gorge yourself, well, at least you’ll feel classy afterwards.
The Hotel Phillips bears an interesting presence, boasting our favorite traits from both the grand, historic boutiques and cool, modern brands. The lobby is dramatic and sweeping, clearly of the 1931 historic building with Art Deco style. But the rooms are a bit more funky, with a few pops of color and bold, patterned carpets. And in toeing the line between these two, the hotel manages to overcome its larger size (217 rooms), which we tend to see as a flaw elsewhere. Also, have you seen this ballroom?
(We accidentally put a Kansas City, MO spot in Kansas, so, as a bonus, we're including it here as an alternative option for Missouri, and updating the Kansas section with a new pick. Apologies!)
Triple Creek Ranch
We were going to stay away from the ranch type of accommodations here in favor of something more modern, but then we realized that this is Montana, and that would be stupid. Triple Creek is two hours from Missoula, and features 23 private log cabins. Whatever you’re thinking you want to do in Montana, you can do from here. Fly-fishing, snowshoeing, skiing, etc. There are even cattle drives. Meals are included in the rate, and it's got a rooftop lounge on the top floor of the main lodge, if you feel like you need to unwind after a day of unwinding. And to answer the obvious question: they do bring you fresh-baked cookies everyday.
Hotel Deco XV
If your idea of Nebraska leans towards cattle, rather than urban sophistication, just stand on the sidewalk across from the Hotel Deco XV. In case you didn’t catch it from its name, the building fully captures that opulent Art Deco style and lifestyle. It was finished in 1930, but the vibe of the 14-story building is all Great Gatsby opulence, from the Mercedes that are offered as transportation for guests, to the hotel’s chrome and mirrored and richly wallpapered interiors. And all that luxury is so much more enjoyable knowing that you are in Omaha and the adjacent Old Market neighborhood has some of the best steaks of your life waiting in its restaurants
Hotel experiences in Vegas are nightmares. Hotels are gigantic and stressful and even if you get the room from The Hangover with the tiger and Mike Tyson hanging out in the bathroom, you still have to deal with the fact that there are likely 4,000 other people in your hotel, and it is more like a factory of sleep than any sort of place for enjoyment. THAT SAID: Hotel 32 sits on the top floor of the Monte Carlo casino, and has only 50 rooms. You have your own Suite Assistant, who essentially acts like your butler, and will get you things for your room, at the pool, wherever. They also check you in privately so you’re not waiting in line, and it features its own private lounge with gratis cocktails just for hotel guests. You should go ahead and stay there, but maybe don’t tell your friends.
Because the cities of New Hampshire are stuck with the typical selection of big-box hotels, for something a little more special, you need to head to the White Mountains. I’m feeling confident enough in myself to say this: the White Mountains are beautiful. And you can feel all of that beauty from one of the 60 or so rooms at The Wentworth, with its sleigh king beds and fireplaces and outdoor hot tubs. Or if you’ve got a crew, you can rent one of its detached cottages and all revel in that White Mountain beauty, perhaps after playing its 18-hole PGA golf course. Or, you know, hiking those damn sexy mountains.
New JerseyLong Branch
In theory, the Bungalow is working against two stumbling blocks: the aquatic theme most tourist beaches are expected to have at least on some level, as well as the kitsch of the Jersey Shore. But it handles them both so damn well. It all works thanks to bright mod art (think huge flags and artsy surfboards) that are more like throwback statement pieces to the ‘60s that pop against the mainly white interiors. The rooms are spacious and the lobby and bar, complete with retro pool table, are places you really do want to hang out after a day at the beach. It’s Jersey Shore... just chic.
New MexicoSanta Fe
Rosewood Inn of The Anasazi
The Rosewood hits a certain perfect middle ground between capturing the traditional pueblo-style buildings of the area’s history, paying homage to the Anasazi tribe native to the area, and, you know, giving you all of the nice things you want when going to a hotel. The hotel itself is absolutely beautiful, with local art in both rooms and public spaces, and gas-lit kiva fireplaces in all rooms. The Southwestern restaurant is delicious, and the patio bar spills out onto the plaza so you can experience the true flavor of Old Town, or at the very least witness many women walking by wearing somewhat expensive ponchos.
New YorkNew York
Before you even get upstairs, you kind of know you’re going to love the Ludlow. Maybe it’s because the Lobby Bar just happens to be one of our favorite cocktail bars in the country -- with drinks from the corrupted mind of Thomas Waugh. Or maybe it’s because Dirty French just happens to be one of the best new restaurants from a group that pretty much only makes “best new restaurants” (Mario Carbone, Rich Torrisi and Jeff Zalaznick). Or maybe it’s because its incredible lofts offer 180-degree views of Manhattan, and it just happens to be right by a fantastic chicken & waffles spot (Sweet Chick), and a block from Katz’s, and a long baseball toss from Russ and Daughters. Or maybe it’s all of those things combined, that make it the best damn boutique hotel in NY.
While you probably don’t have a reason to just go to Greensboro, I'd like to argue that staying at the Proximity should be reason enough. Two stories of windows backdrop a bold lobby that’s dotted with clusters of boxy love seats and is dominated by two spiral staircases leading up to balconies. Rooms are oversized with large windows, and, since the hotel has 2.5 acres of gardens and natural space, all those windows are that much more appreciated. Simply put, it’s a luxury hotel, designed comfortably and simply. Add in the Print Works Bistro, one of the best restaurants in town, and outdoor terraces for eating and drinking, and we could stay all day. But all this is managed on top of the Proximity’s LEED-Platinum certification -- it’s one of only two in the country -- so you can feel good about all that luxury living.
The Hotel Donaldson
Even if you’ve only heard of Fargo from television shows starring a murderous Billy Bob Thornton, The Hotel Donaldson gives you a reason to want to go there. It's only got 17 rooms but each is aesthetically pleasing with unique art on the walls, and that loft feeling that maybe comes from being in lofts. It's also got a pretty hep restaurant and lounge in-house (get the pork chop), and they deliver fresh-baked pastries to your room every morning. Oh and if you hang around from 5-6pm, they will give you wine and cheese and things for free. So stick around for that.
If I didn’t have a dog and felt like I should be practical and live in a house with a backyard, I’d be describing to a realtor that I’d want a big loft apartment with exposed brick and industrial elements and all the cool touches that remind you you’re living in a centuries-old converted building in the heart of an exciting downtown neighborhood. And, if I were in Columbus, I think the realtor would just suggest I move into the Lofts because, with its steel beams and giant windows and sweeping ceilings, the hotel captures all of the elements that every new apartment complex popping up in America desperately tries to recreate. And that’s what you really want when traveling: a hotel that feels like the nicest, most comfortable apartment you’d want to live in, just with 24/7 coffee and turndown service.
The Campbell Hotel
I’m just going to go ahead and say that this is one of our favorite hotels in all of the land. Can you resist a place with 20-odd rooms all meticulously designed with local themes, like the “Bama Suite” celebrating the local Bama Pie Company, or the Golden Hurricane room, celebrating the colors and pride of the University of Tulsa? A hotel that celebrates the restaurant next door to the hotel and offers to let you charge meals to your room from it? And has a small lounge where you can have all the tipples, and then go back to your room celebrating Bama Pie? Of course you cannot.
There’s just something satisfyingly off about drinking in a school. Or smoking in a school. Or doing sex stuff in a school. At the Kennedy School, you have a chance to do all that and more. The sprawling full-block spot tucked away in a NE Portland area was once an elementary school, and the company behind it has taken great pains to keep that feel, from the gigantic urinals to the chalkboards in the luxury guest rooms. The gym is a concert venue and meeting hall. The boiler room is one of the four bars on site, decked out with reclaimed piping as art and a shuffleboard for Mr. Kruger to play in his off hours. The auditorium is a second-run movie theater. There’s also a brewery and a full service restaurant. It’s a painstaking restoration -- the locally owned company, McMenamins, also has a restored work farm, train depot, bordello, and Masonic lodge as part of its hotel line -- that puts character in every corner. Which is normally where the teacher would make you sit if she caught you doing sex stuff and drinking in class. And unlike school, you kind of never want to leave.
There is a chance you may never find yourself in Milford, Pennsylvania and that would be a damn shame. Originally opened by “the crazy Frenchman” Louis Fauchere in the mid-19th century, and run by his descendants for a century after that, Fauchere pretty much has anything you need: if you want fancy, it's got the classic fine-dining Delmonico Room. If you want a cocktail that can hold its own in any big city, opt for Bar Louis. Bathrooms in the 16 hotel rooms are made from Penn blue stone and marble. It's got Frette bath towels and the requisite towel warmers. It's kept the original hardwood floors. Point being, you need to find yourself in Milford.
There has been much praise for The Dean, the new 52-room hotel in Downtown Providence. Could that be because it has a beer hall (with authentic Bavarian pretzels!), a karaoke bar (with authentic horrible singing voices and sake!), a Bolt coffee shop, and a cocktail lounge from Mike Sears? Could it be because the rooms are cheap and cool and built to maximize fun and space (think oversized bunk beds in the more affordable options) without making you broke? Or could it just be because people are just now starting to realize that Providence is a little bit of where it’s at for more than just grilled pizza? Yes.
Zero George Street
Charleston certainly has no shortage of boutique hotels, but Zero George Street is a standout. Its 18 rooms are spread across three homes and two carriage houses, all dating to the 19th century, and enclose a lush courtyard and are bolstered by wide verandas that live up to all cliches of the Old South and do, in fact, practically beg you to grab a glass of rosé and sit from early dusk into the evening. While this is undeniably Old South, the decor mixes elegant and modern with period and comfort. And if you’re too tired at the end of the day to make it around the corner to King St’s restaurants, well, that’s certainly not a bad thing when you have Zero Cafe and its bespoke Manhattans and Pan Roasted Octopus to fall back on.
Spearfish Canyon Lodge
'Round some parts of South Dakota, asking for a boutique hotel might well get you shot. But, dammit, the century-old Spearfish Canyon Lodge does it all proper, mixing the rustic South Dakota aesthetic -- a gigantic hearth in the lobby that looks like the world’s fanciest log cabin, rooms with balcony hot tubs overlooking the majestic Spearfish Canyon -- with boutique comforts and a great on-site restaurant. South Dakota gets a bum rap for being desolate and boring. The Lodge, though, is located in a spot that shatters those perceptions, offering the backdrop to a very cozy stay at an overlooked spot sandwiched between Deadwood and Spearfish. It’s a place that allows you to go out and play cowboy on the trails during the day, then resume being a princess back in the room.
404 looks and feels more like that elusive designer-made Airbnb that the company uses for its TV ads, but you can never actually find on the site; or just the guest house of that super-cool friend you had in college who was just slightly aloof and only listened to records and wore her grandfather's hats that made no sense but somehow just worked. The five-room hotel is minimalist and urban, but with a twangy country vibe thanks to pale wood and worn leather, and there’s no staff on hand -- just a passcode delivered to your inbox before your arrival. The best part of that is, if this were a guesthouse, the main house would count as 404 Kitchen, a James Beard-nominated restaurant. Order the Nearest Green (apple brandy, Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, and Benton’s bacon) while you wait for dinner and maybe spend that time pondering how you still can't pull off those hipster hats.
Hotel San Jose
I stayed in this hotel in 2006, on my first trip to Austin, and was at that point in my mid-20s life where anything that was novel (you have wine paired up with CHEESE PLATES?) felt like the coolest thing in the world. They gave discounts to musicians and played Tribe Called Quest and also bands I’d never heard of, and the rooms were cool, without being lavish. But as I grew older, I feared I would find it retroactively played out. That is not the case. The hotel, a renovated motor inn built in the '30s, is the perfect mix of hip and spartan, which might explain why you often find rooms somewhat on the cheap. Plus, there are few things better than trudging out of your room after a somewhat large night in Austin to eat breakfast sandwiches and coffee at Jo’s across the parking lot. Oh, and they still give those discounts to musicians.
Amangiri is technically part of a chain, but that doesn’t really matter when the chain is Aman and the hotel is built in below the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. And, if we’re being perfectly honest, we’d be fairly content to sleep in a tent in the same spot because we’d be waking up to the staggering views from this valley, especially if there was coffee at said tent. But Amangiri is a concrete-and-light-wood expanse that works with the juts of rock, with two wings branching off of a central pavilion and swimming pool, and each of the 34 suites is giant, a dressing room and a bedroom with a king bed facing a private terrace that opens to those stunning views; and the decor of whites and tans and natural elements helps you feel like you’re as close to the mesas and desert as a tent, but this is far more luxurious. Also, there’s coffee.
In recent years, Burlington has become that cool, chill, under-the-radar city everyone wants to go -- after all, who doesn’t like beer, cheese, ice creams named using hilarious puns, and syrup collected from maple trees? But it wasn’t until the Hotel Vermont opened that the city finally checked every box on the hip-place-to-travel-to survey. It might be thanks to Juniper, its incredible restaurant and cocktail bar, or its addition of a location of a great Vermont favorite, Hen of the Wood. Or maybe its the upscale seafood bar Bleu. Or its fantastic rooms with Vermont flannel bathrobes. Either way, Hotel Vermont has quickly become one of the top places to stay in all of New England. Just go easy on the Cherry Garcia.
It was gently snowing the first time I visited Lexington. I was 17 and impressionable and had a great deal of romantic ideas about small towns and college and the South; and Lexington with its history, two genteel colleges, old architecture, and blanket of snow captivated me. And it’s a very odd thing that, many years later, The Georges and its story help keep Lexington within those notions I created. It checks the history box: the hotel is made up of two of the oldest buildings in the town -- one is late 18th century, one early 19th -- facing each other across the street. It’s a shoe-in for nostalgia and small city love: a Richmond couple with deep family ties to VMI bought the aging buildings, renovated the 18 rooms, and run it as a family affair. The food and drink situation is strong, with a restaurant in one building and a bar in the other. And, while I haven't had a chance to see it under the snow, I bet it looks damn lovely -- and with the new, heated floors and a drink from that bar in hand, that’s enjoyable whether you’re a sucker for flippant romantic notions or not.
My first trip to the Hotel 1000 coincided with my first trip to Seattle in 2008. I’d never been, but heard stories of drizzle and fog and plus I’d seen Grey’s Anatomy and, well, DON’T YOU THINK GREY IS ALSO A SYMBOL FOR THE CITY IT TAKES PLACE IN? But this was a Seattle summer, and Seattle summers are the best. And -- by a stroke of luck -- I’d stumbled upon the Hotel 1000, gotten upgraded, and found myself in a room in which the water going into the tub dropped down from the heavens. Or at least the ceiling. Its proximity to all the splendors of Downtown Seattle is commendable, the rooms are fantastic, the food and cocktails in its restaurant are well worth it if you don’t have time to get out, but I’ll never forget that tub. It changed me.
Washington, DCWe love the boutique hotel experience in large part because it’s tailored and we get to feel like individuals when we show up, tired and starving and probably in need of something spicy with mezcal. And Capella gets that. With the personal assistant approach (there’s no check-in, the assistants handle all your details before you even arrive and they’ll even press your clothes for free if that’s a thing you do) and the guest-only “living room,” which has an old-school boys club vibe, the hotel operates the way we imagine wealthy Upper East Siders feel in their homes every single day as they hum to themselves about their money while swirling their rare single malts and letting servants do the work (that’s a real stereotype, right?). But the decor is all modern, from the custom-made artwork to the highback armchairs and bold-printed rugs, which makes the whole place fun and relaxing, rather than stuffy, which means, most importantly, that we're excited to arrive at the Capella after a long day of travel, hand our bags off to an assistant, settle into the living room, and order that spicy, smoky mezcal drink, maybe with a hint of grapefruit, from our armchair.
While plenty of the places on our list are beautiful, old buildings, almost all call the hotel label their second or third or even fourth incarnations. Not the Blennerhassett, which has been a hotel since 1889, and if the place had nothing else going for it, we can at least do the math and tell you that this is a damn long time to figure out how to get this hotel thing perfect. But, thankfully, there’s plenty to love: the Queen Anne-style building is complete with the kind of turret you dreamed of living in as a 6-year-old, the cooking school in the hotel has an extensive range of classes (learn to make pasta, impress all your friends and probably your boss, too), and we're especially fond of the expansive patio and gardens.
The Iron Horse Hotel
Once you hear that a hotel is “motorcycle-friendly,” you certainly think a few things, at least three of which involve particularly violent scenes from Sons of Anarchy. But the motorcycle-friendly Iron Horse manages to both entice long-time Harley Davidson riders and people whose parents used to drive Saabs. The rooms are beautiful, huge, and each has an independent artistic angle, and the entire space seems like some sort of hip architect’s experiment in wood and steel.
In many of these Western states, it’s all too easy to choose the unattainable luxury ranch, but Hotel Terra is anything but that. It’s an actual boutique hotel that just happens to be in a pretty damn rustic cowboy town. The feel is modern, all the way from the hotel rooms with the heated floors and rain showers to Il Villagio Osteria, its authentic Italian restaurant. It also doesn’t hurt that its cafe makes some of the best damn French press coffee in the entire state.