The Most Iconic Hotel in Every State

The word "iconic" gets thrown around by hotels almost as often as the words "$34.95 overnight parking." But unlike charging your car its own AARP room rate, the term is pretty hard to define. Hotels that opened in January will be calling themselves "iconic" by March if something as crazy as the Bad Girls Club film crew shows up. What we're saying is, the word has gotten a little diluted.

But in each state there's at least one hotel that can legitimately call itself an icon. Whether it's historic, famous from movies and TV, or just enduringly emblematic, if you're going to stay in that state, this is the quintessential place to do it. Turns out that some are grand, Gilded Age structures, some are Art Deco masterpieces, some are wilderness lodges. All are worth checking out, or even parking yourself at for a spell. 


The Battle House Renaissance
Opened: 1852 (the original)
Perhaps a more accurate name for this institution would be the "out-of-battle house," as its most historic use was during the Civil War as a confederate hospital. The building, on the grounds of Andrew Jackson's War of 1812 headquarters, was opened by James Battle in 1852. The original burned down in 1905, and was reconstructed four years later. Since then it has housed such luminaries as Woodrow Wilson when he gave his first public address as president.

Denali Backcountry Lodge
Denali Backcountry Lodge


Denali Backcountry Lodge
Denali National Park
Opened: 1989
With a serious tip of the hat to the Historic Anchorage Hotel, which opened way back in 1936, nothing is more ironically Alaska than a lodge in the middle of Denali National Park. And even though this property opened relatively recently, its luxe private cabins set in the rugged Alaska wilderness are the stuff of dream vacations. Sure, it's an all-inclusive, but that just means that guests can do all the classic Alaskan activities like fishing, hiking, and gold-panning at no extra charge. Ditto encountering wildlife -- a bus ride there has at least a 50/50 chance of being held up by moose in the road.

Arizona Biltmore
Flickr/Michael Stephens


Arizona Biltmore
Opened: 1929
This place is so Arizona, it's literally made of desert sand. No joke, when Frank Lloyd Wright consulted with his former student Albert Chase McArthur on the hotel's design, they chose to construct it out of "Biltmore Blocks" made of hardened desert sand. The place has been a celebrity hotspot since the day it opened; the classic Catalina Pool is said to have been Marilyn Monroe's favorite, and where Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas." Which, if you've ever spent the holidays in Arizona, makes perfect sense. 


Capital Hotel
Little Rock
Opened: 1870
The plaque on the outside of this Downtown landmark lets you know that Ulysses S. Grant stayed there; another president, by the name of William Jefferson Clinton, used it as his local landing spot during his two terms before he built his presidential library down the street. More relevant to your stay is the $24 million renovation that local I-banking billionaire Warren Stephens sank into the joint a decade ago. The rooms may be the poshest in town -- a visiting David Sedaris once gushed over his stay there, saying that's where he'd go to have a baby. But even passers-by can wander in to ogle the tile and chandeliers of the grand lobby, or duck into the bar for great cocktails, served with complimentary pork-fried black-eyed peas. -- Sam Eifling, Thrillist Travel editor

Beverly Hills Hotel
Byron W.Moore/Shutterstock


Beverly Hills Hotel
Beverly Hills
Opened: 1912
In a state as vast and iconic as California, there are bound to be some snubs. The Coronado in San Diego, the Claremont in Berkeley, the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. But nowhere exudes Hollywood celebrity like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows, a 208-room, 28-bungalow pink-and-green legend that fueled celebrity gossip decades before TMZ. This is the place where John Lennon and Yoko Ono holed up for weeks to escape the press. Where Nixon's chief of staff learned about Watergate, and where the picture on the cover of the Eagles' Hotel California was shot. You can check it out anytime you like.

Stanley Hotel Colorado
Phillip Rubino/Shutterstock


Stanley Hotel
Estes Park
Opened: 1909
Two hotels are inextricably linked to The Shining. One is the Timberline in Oregon (more on that later) and the other is this 420-room behemoth, which housed Stephen King in the 1970s and, ostensibly, served as the model for the place where Jack Nicholson communed with dead bartenders. Inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley created it to introduce wealthy Northeasterners to the wonders of the Rockies. The hotel effectively turned the settlement of Estes Park into a legitimate city, and helped with the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. Though The Shining might be the hotel's most recognizable legacy, the park will be its most enduring.


Foxwoods Resort Casino
Opened: 1986
Connecticut, famous for fishing lodges and wilderness resorts, has one symbol that stands above the rest: Foxwoods, the pre-eminent gaming destination for discerning nickel-slot players throughout the tri-state area and New England. One reason: It paired destination gambling with a trove of outlet stores, including the new Tanger Outlets, home to high-end retail from the likes of Coach, H&M, and Michael Kors. All that, and it's also home to the best steakhouse in Connecticut, David Burke Prime.


Hotel du Pont
Opened: 1913
The most esteemed family name in Delaware is also on the grandest hotel in the state. Located in the heart of Wilmington, the hotel opened in 1913, after a team of 18 European craftsmen spent two years completing the marble, woodwork, and artisan ceilings. A recent $40 million renovation only cements it as one of the finest hotels on the continent. Its DuPont Theatre inside boasts the fourth-largest stage in America, and the Green Room restaurant has earned the coveted AAA Four Diamond rating. No wonder presidents such as Warren Harding, JFK, and Obama have all stayed nights in its delicately appointed guest rooms.

District of Columbia

Watergate Hotel
Opened: 1967
Every American scandal or quasi-scandal since 1974 has been called "Something-gate." What happened in '74 to change the American lexicon? In a word, Watergate. This is where burglars working for Richard Nixon's campaign broke into Democratic National Committee offices, setting in motion events that led to the only presidential resignation in US history. While the curved, painfully 1960s design has been described as being "as appropriate as a strip dancer performing at your grandmother's funeral," the building was DC's first mixed-use complex, with apartments, offices, shopping, swimming pools, and gardens. After a recent nine-year closure, it reopened this summer as one of the most modern hotels in the city.

Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Courtesy of Fontainebleau


Miami Beach
Opened: 1954
Florida has some beautiful historic hotels: the Breakers in Palm Beach, the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach. But ask anyone born after 1990 to name a hotel in Florida, and Fontainebleau will be the only one they MIGHT come up with. This gem is a lot more than the home of the night club LIV and celebrity-filled pool parties. Art Deco king Morris Lapidus designed it the 1950s, intending it to be the state's grandest example of that architecture style. It soon became a playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and Lucille Ball, helping to make its pool America's most famous outside of California. Today, after a billion-dollar renovation, it's still the go-to hotel for living the Miami fantasy better than any other place in the state.


Clermont Hotel
Opened: 1939
"Iconic" does not necessarily mean "nice." Or even "up to legal health codes." Nowhere is this more apparent than at Atlanta's notorious Clermont Hotel. It may be the only hotel in the world that is exponentially more famous for its strip club than it is for its guest rooms, where the authentically divey Clermont Lounge has been an end-of-the-night staple for generations of Atlantans. The Lounge has remained open even as the hotel was shut for health-code violations in 2009, but a massive renovation and reconstruction plan is currently underway in the hotel, and its slated to open in March 2017 as a completely reinvented, but no less iconic, fixture of the city.

Royal Hawaiian Hotel Honolulu


Royal Hawaiian
Opened: 1927
On a Honolulu skyline jammed with fungible hotel and apartment towers, this pink stucco monument stands out like a beacon of history. What originally began as a four-story, 400-room luxury resort went on to serve as a major R&R center for soldiers and sailors in the Pacific front during World War II. Since then it's seen a few major renovations, adding the Royal Tower wing in the 1960s and the new Mailani Tower wing in 2015. The resort now boasts 528 rooms, drawing hordes of visitors to Waikiki, the most famous tourism neighborhood in Hawaii.


Sun Valley Lodge
Sun Valley
Opened: 1936
Destination ski lodges are now de rigueur in any self-respecting ski town. But in the 1930s, the idea of building an entire resort based around a seasonal sport was unheard of, until this central Idaho spot opened its doors. After a massive renovation this year, the nation's first destination ski lodge has never looked grander.


Drake Hotel
Opened: 1920
Right now, a dozen people born after 1995 are reading this and thinking, "Holy crap, they opened a Drizzy-themed hotel!" But this Windy City landmark outdates the Auto-Tuned Degrassi alum by about 66 years. The bright-red rooftop sign stands over a place where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio once carved their initials into the Cape Cod Room bar, and where the Coq d'Or opened to serve 40-cent whiskey the day after Prohibition's repeal. Its legendary Gold Coast room has been a swanky hangout for celebrities from Charles Lindbergh to Walt Disney.

French Lick Resort atrium


French Lick Resort
French Lick
Opened: 1845
Thanks to this hotel French Lick was a grand destination for a century before Larry Legend came along. Opened by Dr. William Bowles as a wellness retreat, the hotel reached its most grandiose with the 1901 addition of the "spa wing" -- now the West Baden Spa -- an architectural forerunner to the Astrodome with its sprawling, 200ft atrium, once dubbed "the eighth wonder of the world." The property's golf course in 1924 hosted the PGA Championship; during the 1930s the hotel was the unofficial home of the Democratic party. While not the most famous hotel in the Midwest, it's still a popular destination for conventions, golfing, or just plain relaxation.


Hotel Blackhawk
Opened: 1914
This historic gem, not to be confused with the Blackhawk Hotel in Cedar Falls, is a grand, imposing structure that has undergone numerous renovations in 102 years. While its storied history as one of the oldest hotels in the state makes it iconic in and of itself, nothing is quite as quintessentially Midwestern as having a massive fire break out because of a meth lab explosion. Which is exactly what happened in Room 803 back in 2006.


Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview
Opened: 1922
This 200-room brick landmark sits on the Arkansas River, close to major rail lines. During a time when travelers through the Midwest found few signs of civilization it was a bastion of comfort on the vast, empty plains. During Prohibition its basement was home to Wichita's only speakeasy, and the rooftop bar was the first in the city. But perhaps the hotel's most notable feature is the 1,500sqft mosaic in the Crystal Ballroom from Blackbear Bosin called The Advance of Civilization in Kansas, which portrays the state during its most rugged frontier period.


Brown Hotel
Opened: 1923
When J. Graham Brown opened his 16-story, $4 million hotel, Downtown Louisville wasn't much. The hotel kicked off a boom in theaters, offices, and restaurants around the intersection of Fourth St and Broadway, which became known as the city's Magic Corner. The Brown served as both a gathering place during the great Ohio River flood of 1937, and a first-stop-home for World War II soldiers returning from Fort Knox

Hotel Monteleone New Orleans
Hotel Monteleone


Hotel Monteleone
New Orleans
Opened: 1886
Narrowing down the most iconic hotel among the French Quarter jewels is almost as hard as figuring out who has the best drinks on Bourbon Street. While the Roosevelt is famous for its ornate lobby and the Sazerac Bar, the nod here has to go to the Monteleone. Its grand white façade is almost as unmistakable as the giant, lit-up sign on the roof. Capote, Hemingway, and Faulkner used to hole up here to write, taking the occasional break for a Pimm's Cup at the famous Carousel Bar. Which is, as the name might imply, a majestic indoor carousel that doubles as a place to get a little woozy.


Westin Portland Harborview
Opened: 1927
When the then-369-room Eastland Park Hotel opened in 1927, it was the largest hotel in New England, standing as a welcoming icon over the port at Congress and High Streets. It gained notoriety as a place that refused to let Eleanor Roosevelt stay with her dog, and later became famous for Ozzy Osbourne tossing pool furniture off the rooftop (a practice guests later imitated, leading to the eventual closing of the pool). The hotel fell into disrepair until 2011, when it underwent an 18-month, $50 million renovation and reopened as the Westin Portland Harborview.

Inn at Perry Cabin
Inn at Perry Cabin


Inn at Perry Cabin
St. Michaels
Opened: 1999
Have you ever used the phrase "stage-five clinger" to describe someone? Welp, that term originated here, at a former manor house that was used as the backdrop for Wedding Crashers, and the former IRL home to the family that created the Laura Ashley line of fabrics. Now it's a full-service resort in Maryland's most exclusive vacation region, run by Belmond, replete with a spa, fine dining, and loads of sailing excursions.


Omni Parker House
Opened: 1855
What do Emeril Lagasse, Malcolm X, and Ho Chi Minh all have in common? All were waiters at this legendary hotel on Boston’s Freedom Trail. (Bust that out at your next cocktail party.) The oldest continuously operating hotel in America has seen more history than probably any in the nation, and just walking through the lobby is an immersion in 19th-century luxury. Its guest roster is a stunner: Henry David Thoreau, Babe Ruth, FDR, Yo-Yo Ma. "The Grand Dame of Boston hotels" is so intertwined with our nation's history, an entire book has been written about it, called Heaven, by Hotel Standards.

Mackinac Grand Hotel
Michael G Smith/Shutterstock


Grand Hotel
Mackinac Island
Opened: 1887
Traveling across the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge, to Mackinac Island is like entering an entirely different country, in a different century. You'll still have cellphone service and Wi-Fi -- but cars are prohibited, so the preferred mode of transportation is horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. The social centerpiece of the island is the Grand Hotel's front porch -- the world's longest -- where visitors gather day and night from May to October, even if they're not guests of the resort. As such, the Grand holds a special place in the heart and mind of anyone who's ever stuffed their face with Mackinac Island fudge. If you are so lucky to have slept in the Grand, you did so in one of the hotel's 386 rooms, no two of which are identical. 


Saint Paul Hotel
St. Paul
Opened: 1878
You know that friend who always has, like, four random strangers sleeping on his couch? That was John Summers, a St. Paul man who epitomized "Midwestern Nice" and let travelers the world over crash at his house. He eventually partnered with John Baugh to build the Windsor in 1878. Through a series of ownership changes and varied uses, the hotel reopened in 1910, touted as "St. Paul's Million-Dollar Hotel." It went on to serve as headquarters for Leon Gleckman, the mob boss who ran St. Paul in the 1920s and '30s. After falling into disrepair in the 1970s, the end of the 20th century saw the hotel return to its glory as a 255-room Minnesota mainstay.

Beau Rivage Biloxi
Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino


Beau Rivage
Opened: 1999
Being the tallest building in Mississippi may not be much of a bragging point, but this 32-story hotel & casino is not only the tallest manmade structure in the state, it's by far the most recognizable. Even after Hurricane Katrina forced it to close for an entire year, it has reopened as a little slice of Vegas on the Bayou. Originally a Wynn property, the hotel is now owned by MGM and stands as the backdrop to the outfield at minor-league baseball's MGM Park across the street. It's the main reason the view from the seats there is so unmistakably Mississippi.


Chase Park Plaza
St. Louis
Opened: 1931
This 28-story Art Deco castle stands as the symbol of St. Louis' Central West End and was THE place to see and be seen from the '30s to the '60s, when acts like Nat King Cole and Bob Hope played the Chase Club in front of celebrity crowds. The hotel on the edge of Forest Park became known for hosting the biggest events in St. Louis, so much so that a book called Meet Me in the Lobby was written about it. And though the surrounding neighborhood is now filled with Starbucks and Lululemons, this classic hotel stands as a reminder of an era when St. Louis was a celebrity hotspot.


Hotel Finlen
Opened: 1924
People get all craft beer misty-eyed about Missoula and Bozeman, and Robert Redford has made Whitefish a "rustic" getaway for the rich and famous. But a hundred years ago the only city in Montana that mattered was Butte, the largest town at the time between Chicago and San Francisco. The copper-mining boom there fueled the opening of the McDermott Hotel, the most luxurious in the Northwest, in 1889. The McDermott was purchased in 1902 by James Finlen, who tore it down to construct his own palace, a 200-room, nine-story Second Empire masterpiece modeled after the Hotel Astor in New York. After several restorations the hotel is still as elegantly appointed as it was when Butte was a major destination.


Hotel Deco XV
Opened: 1989
Omaha's most historic hotel was once the Flatiron, which is now apartments. Its most iconic? This place, which until 1989 was a stocky Art Deco office building called Redick Tower, built in the style of the city’s Union Station. It stands as Nebraska's greatest Art Deco building, is one of only two AAA Four Diamond properties in the state, and has Omaha's best bourbon bar in the lobby. Though the interior is decidedly modern, the building itself is an important part of the city’s artistic history.

Bellagio Las Vegas


Las Vegas
Opened: 1998
In a city filled with famous structures from other cities, perhaps the most recognizably Vegas are the fountains outside this 3,950-room behemoth. The hotel was the setting for the remake of Ocean's 11, and is probably the most photographed place in Sin City after the famous welcome sign. A trip to the buffet here might be the most overwhelming dining experience of your life. Another fun fact: The original name of this hotel was supposed to be Beau Rivage, a name Steve Wynn instead used for his Mississippi project, which is now the most iconic hotel in that state. 

New Hampshire

Wentworth by the Sea
New Castle
Opened: 1888
Do you know how many hotels in the United States have hosted the signing of treaties to end major international wars? Not many. But one of them is this Victorian "wedding cake" castle in New Hampshire, that in 1905 housed delegates from Japan and Russia as they hammered out a treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War. Teddy Roosevelt went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the negotiations, and the Wentworth went on to become the backdrop for Robert Downey Jr.'s In Dreams.

New Jersey

Claridge Hotel
Atlantic City
Opened: 1930
Though it's not made entirely of red plastic, this boxy hotel is exactly what Rich Uncle Pennybags would have envisioned building after putting four green houses on Park Place. Upon opening in 1930 it was known as "the Skyscraper by the Sea," a 370ft concrete monument that looked more appropriate to Manhattan than to the Jersey Shore. As Atlantic City became a glamorous beachside getaway, celebrities with names like Sinatra, Capone, and Princess Grace all stayed there. Though AC isn't the vacation destination it once was, the Claridge maintains its classic charm.

La Fonda on the Plaza Santa Fe
Courtesy of La Fonda on the Plaza

New Mexico

La Fonda on the Plaza
Santa Fe
Opened: 1922
Though the current building dates back to 1922, some sort of hotel has stood on these grounds since 1601. That's 415 years, making this the oldest hotel site in America. Santa Fe's first inn was established here by the Spanish, and throughout the years several adobe buildings housed frontiersman, gold miners, soldiers, and others who found their way to remote portions of New Mexico. Its current incarnation has 25ft cathedral ceilings and stained-glass skylights, and continues the tradition that has stood on this corner longer than the US has existed.

New York

The Plaza
New York City
Opened: 1907
The Plaza likes to call itself "The World's Most Famous Hotel," and while that's a pretty bold statement, once you've appeared in Home Alone 2 you've earned the right to claim anything you like. Even the restaurants here are icons, with names like "The Palm Court" conjuring up images of opulent afternoon tea among tropical foliage. While this 19-story, French chateau-inspired landmark is known the world over, it holds some surprises still. For instance: The Todd English Food Hall downstairs serves fast-casual food of almost any cuisine, that all lives up to the reputation of the hotel above it.

Biltmore North Carolina Asheville
Flickr/Peter Bugaiski

North Carolina

Opened: 2001
When George Vanderbilt planned his epic Asheville estate in 1889, he also envisioned opening an inn so others could share in the mansion's splendor. Sadly, it never happened. Or at least it took more than 100 years to happen, as the hotel portion of North Carolina's greatest man-made landmark didn't begin operation until 2001. The 250-room mansion is the most awe-inspiring private residence in America where you're invited to stay. It offers the moderately priced Village Hotel, the luxurious Inn on Biltmore Estate, and the Cottage, the only lodging here that dates back to the days of Vanderbilt.

North Dakota

Hotel Donaldson
Opened: 1893
Throughout its history, the Hotel Donaldson has been a symbol of Downtown Fargo's revitalization. After a fire burned down much of the city, this new hotel was among the first things to be built in 1893. Then after decades of neglect, Downtown Fargo -- like so many American Downtowns -- began to revive in the early 2000s. The Donaldson had turned into a flophouse in the years in between, but its 2003 reopening signaled a new era for the city. Now, it's a 17-room boutique, where each room is inspired and designed by a local artist.


Golden Lamb Inn
Opened: 1803
Though the Cincinnatian and the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza are both grand, urban hotels, the Golden Lamb is the oldest continuously run business in Ohio. It began as a simple tavern and resting spot for travelers on their way from Cincinnati to the old National Road (now US-40), featuring entertainment and stiff drinks. Two hundred years and 12 presidential visits later, it's a bona fide landmark, where you can still get a drink in the original Black Horse Tavern, or spend the night in one of its uniquely appointed rooms.


Mayo Hotel
Opened: 1925
Opened by a couple of furniture store magnates in 1925, this 19-story brick beauty was the tallest building in Oklahoma at the time of its construction. It was also the first hotel in the state to boast ceiling fans and cold running water, pretty welcomed features if you've ever spent an August night in Tulsa. Though it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, it closed the next year and didn't reopen until 2009, by which time it had considerably fewer rooms (102 vs. 600 in 1925) and 76 private residences.

Timberline Inn Mt. Hood
St. Nick/Shutterstock


Timberline Lodge
Government Camp
Opened: 1937
Eagle-eyed film nerds/psychopaths will recognize this ski lodge at the top of Oregon's towering Mount Hood as the place where Jack Nicholson froze to death in The Shining. That's because Kubrick shot the exteriors at the mountain's highest drivable location, the historic Timberline Lodge. There's no actual hedge maze, but there is a labyrinthine interior with a gigantic stone hearth adorned with snowboarders' drying boots, a series of upscale rooms with outdoor spas, and the equally iconic Blue Ox Bar: a hobbit hole of a stone-walled drinkery that makes up for the lack of red rum with wood-fired pizzas and Oregon craft beer. The skiing's great as well, though you'd be just as happy sitting in one of the grand lounge areas, sipping a hot toddy and gazing out at possibly the best panoramic view in a state known for its scenic majesty. Book at New Year's and it'll even throw a black-tie Shining ball. Or don't. Shit's pretty creepy. -- Andy Kryza, National Food and Drink editor


Inn at Leola Village
Opened: 2000 (est. 1867)
This collection of old Dutch country houses and shops was supposed to be demolished for a convenience store 17 years ago. But realizing its historic importance and place as an Amish country icon, some enterprising folks saw fit to turn it into a hotel. The 64 rooms are all situated in a couple of old farmhouses and a tobacco barn that date back to the 1860s, and the carriage house -- still with the original wood beams -- serves as the registration desk. A few days here is an immersion in the state's post-colonial history, and an unmistakable Pennsylvania experience.

Ocean House Rhode Island
Ocean House

Rhode Island

Ocean House
Watch Hill
Opened: 1868
Rhode Island was the 19th century's Florida. No, there wasn't a "Rhode Island Man" column in local newspapers, but it was the beach-getaway destination of choice for wealthy Northeasterners, and nowhere brought in the vacationing bourgeoisie like the Ocean House. For 135 years this yellow palace stood on 13 oceanfront acres, with 159 rooms full of people looking for a city escape. The original closed in 2003. A perfect replica rose in its place, now boasting 49 rooms and 18 signature suites -- one of only eight Forbes Triple Five-Star hotels in the world.

South Carolina

The Willcox
Opened: 1898
If you're not familiar with Aiken, you probably didn't spend your childhood in riding stirrups with a funny round helmet on. But Aiken is one of the top equestrian-training sites in America, and the high-society guests' lodging of choice has been the Willcox. The Second Empire/Colonial Revival white structure is the picture of Southern elegance, envisioned by British immigrant Frederick Willcox, and a place where a guest might be turned down because he wore the wrong brand of shoes. Judgmental? Perhaps. But when you're home to the state's first running-water bathtub, you call the shots.

Hotel Alex Johnson South Dakota
Hotel Alex Johnson

South Dakota

Hotel Alex Johnson
Rapid City
Opened: 1928
Unfortunately, South Dakota has limited itself to only a corn palace, and not a full-on corn hotel. So until that day the honors in SoDak go to the Alex Johnson, a building that embodies everything South Dakota. It began construction the day before work began on Mt. Rushmore, and the Germanic Tudor architecture reflects the state’s German immigrants, with flourishes from the Native tribes of the area: a chandelier made of war spears hangs in the lobby, and fixtures throughout the hotel are adorned in a tribal symbol representing the four corners of the earth. The hotel also has a famous haunted history: a bride who allegedly jumped out the window of room 812 is said to roam the place as the “Lady in White.” And many have reported seeing the ghost of Alex Johnson himself, who died in 1938.


The Hermitage
Opened: 1910
Though originally envisioned as a grand centerpiece for Nashville’s newly commercialized downtown at the turn of the 20th century, the Hermitage has become a symbol of high society in Tennessee’s wealthiest city. The interior is long on marble and mahogany, with a painted-glass skylight in the lobby and exquisite detail in the common areas. It’s also where Tennessee lawmakers debated the ratification of the 19th Amendment for women’s suffrage, and where the Country Music Association was formed. It was the hotel of choice for the likes of Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, and even today has its own farms outside Nashville where it raises much of the food served inside.

Driskill Hotel Austin
Driskill Hotel


Driskill Hotel
Opened: 1886
Though the façade is Roman, the interiors of the rooms Victorian, and the hand-laid marble floors feel Italian, the place is still distinctly Texan. The stuffed cattle heads on the wall are a good start, and the Driskill’s lobby also has a massive, custom-built stained glass dome, adorned with lone stars and towering over a statue of galloping horses. It has hosted numerous gubernatorial inauguration balls and was where Lyndon Johnson awaited the results when he ran for vice president in 1960.


Ruby’s Inn
Bryce Canyon
Opened: 1923
The Hotel Utah is unquestionably the most iconic hotel building in the Beehive State. It’s also unquestionably now called the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and hasn’t seen an overnight guest since 1987. So the most iconic operating hotel is this throwback Best Western near Bryce Canyon. It’s actually the closest commercial lodging to the park, the unofficial jumping off point for wilderness expeditions there. It’s also the best place in the state to learn Utah’s role in the Wild West, before it was a ski destination and Mormon homeland. The best way to get educated: take in the Old West dinner show at Ebenezer’s Barn and Grill, which plays during the summers at the hotel.   


Inn at Shelburne Farms
Opened: 1987
For the most Vermont experience you can find at a hotel, nowhere beats this 19th-century farmhouse tucked in the hills: a 24-room brick mansion with four guest cottages, many adorned with the original furnishings. The campus of the Inn is a working, 1,400-acre farm where guests can tour to see how the innkeepers contribute to sustainable farming. Shelburne Farms even offers educational programs with topics like “Farm Craft: Past and Present,” as well as moonlit wagon rides.

Jefferson Hotel Richmond Virginia
Jefferson Hotel


Jefferson Hotel
Opened: 1895
This marble-and-stone hotel was the brainchild of Lewis Ginter, who made and lost two fortunes before going into tobacco and building this place. Aside from the clock tower, its most iconic feature is the palm court, filled with trees imported from Central and South America, that once upon a time saw errant alligators wandering through when they left their homes in the nearby fountains. Though it, like many historic properties, became dilapidated in the 1980s, the Ballroom was still used as the set for My Dinner with Andre. And after a massive renovation in the early 1990s, it received the coveted AAA Five Diamond rating in 1995.


Fairmont Olympic
Opened: 1924
Though the most historic hotels in Seattle are probably in Pioneer Square, those spots that used to sell rooms for 25 cents to traveling miners haven’t exactly been kept fresh. A little bit north sits this stone majesty, located on the original site of the University of Washington and a fixture of Seattle social life for nearly a century. Though the 2005 renovations made this an epic, 450-room Downtown gem, locals have been coming here for generations too, whether it was for special events in the Georgian room or for happy hour oysters at Shuckers. Between 1924 and 1996, every president spent at least a night here, whether on the campaign trail or during official visits to Seattle.

Greenbrier West Virginia
The Greenbrier

West Virginia

The Greenbrier
White Sulfur Springs
Opened: 1778
Sometimes being iconic means being completely emblematic of a hotel’s home. Not so much the case here, where the place lauds itself as “America’s resort” and is, in fact, in complete opposition to every West Virginia stereotype.The Greenbrier has 10 lobbies, 96 guest houses, nine restaurants, eight bars, a 100,000sqft casino, and a golf course that hosts an annual PGA event. The imposing white main building also sits on 11,000 acres of perfectly manicured land, and Prime 44 West isn’t just the best steakhouse in the state, it’s among the best in the world.


The Edgewater
Opened: 1948
Because it sits smack in between the University of Wisconsin campus and the capitol building, the Edgewater has become known as the optimal place to stay no matter what you're doing in Madison. Its location right on the shore of Lake Mendota provides a relaxing waterfront ambience, and easy access to boating and waterskiing. It has also hosted Elvis, Bob Hope and the Dalai Lama, so it's got that goin' for it, which is nice.

Olf Fiathful Inn
robert cicchetti/Shutterstock


Old Faithful Inn
Yellowstone National Park
Opened: 1904
With apologies to the Virginian Hotel (est. 1911) in Medicine Bow, which was and is one of the most significant cowboy landmarks in the West, Old Faithful Inn is one of the most majestic lodges in the world -- if you can ignore the smell of the famous sulphur geyser visible from the patio. The 327-room property boasts a four-story main lobby in the “old house,” the largest log structure in the world, punctuated by a daunting stone fireplace. Many rooms here have front row seats for the famous geyser, and while the overnight rates aren't cheap, it’s a great way to see the eruptions without 4,000 cell phones in your face.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist whose definition of "iconic" may or may not include a Super 8 with a retractable-roof pool. Sadly it didn't make the list, but you might see it on his Instagram @meltrez1.