United States Articles & Reviews
America's Best City Hotels
See the sights and sleep well at one of the best city hotels in America.
By Donna Heiderstadt
Walk into the St. Regis New York and it still feels like 1904—the year this Beaux-Arts landmark welcomed its first guests. Then and now, well-dressed travelers saunter downstairs to sip Bloody Marys (perfected here) before stepping outside to enjoy the best of the Big Apple.
It’s no surprise, then, that the St. Regis was named one of America’s best city hotels by the readers of Travel + Leisure in our annual World’s Best survey. In fact, the storied Manhattan hotel is one of three New York City properties to earn a top spot. But with 15 other cities claiming at least one of the top hotels, you’ll never be too far from a great city stay.
In the Midwest, the Windy City blew away the competition, with four hotels in the top 25. Among them is the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, at No. 9. This 346-room, sky-high property—located on floors 30 to 46—features deluxe rooms and suites with mid-century French flair; one- and two-bedroom suites were recently restyled for a more contemporary look. The hotel’s trump cards? Panoramic views, a glass-domed indoor pool (disposable swimsuits are available for guests), and easy access to the upscale shops that line Michigan Avenue.
Out West, it turns out that downtown Los Angeles is not the place for SoCal’s best city hotels, according to T+L readers. Instead, they prefer L.A.’s leafy west side, home to the 65-year-old Hotel Bel-Air, which ranked No. 2 on the list this year. Closed until late 2011 for a facelift (this is Beverly Hills, after all), the beloved pink stucco icon is a 12-acre oasis of tranquility renowned for its gardens, resident swans, and ramshackle-chic layout of 91 rooms and suites. The renovation will add 12 hillside rooms and suites and a 12,000-square-foot La Prairie spa.
A boutique hotel and a modern skyscraper property are also represented on this list of America’s best city hotels. Which others made the cut? Read on to find out.
No. 1: Trump International Hotel & Tower, Chicago
Located in a minimalist, 92-story stainless-steel monolith next to the Chicago River, with a 23,000-square-foot spa. For some extra pampering, book one of the 53 spa guest rooms, all of which come stocked with essential oils and are directly connected to the treatment areas.
No. 2: Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
The 103 uniquely decorated rooms all have luxurious, understated touches like Alicante marble tiles and Pratesi linens; many of its 45 suites include fireplaces. Those with private patios are tucked behind walls covered with cascading bougainvillea, flowering shrubs, and giant California oaks. (Note: the hotel is undergoing renovations and scheduled to re-open in July 2011.)
No. 3: The Peninsula, Chicago
As you walk into the Peninsula, the concierge and receptionist greet you by name; classical music plays when you enter one of the 339 rooms; and your bedside table has a control panel to manage the lighting, deactivate the doorbell for privacy, and alert housekeeping when you want service. The luxury extends to the hotel’s spa by ESPA: it includes an outdoor sundeck, spa cuisine, eight treatment rooms, a steam room, and a lap pool. And be sure to dine at Shanghai Terrace—Food & Wine voted it one of the top 100 Asian restaurants in the U.S.
No. 4: The Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia
Prestigious address on Rittenhouse Square, unbeatable service, and 98 large rooms (starting at 450 square feet). Public spaces display paintings by Mary Cassatt. Be sure to book one of the -08 rooms; they are some of the largest in the hotel and face Rittenhouse Square.
No. 5: Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas
This hotel, recently redone by interior design firm BAMO, includes Michael Taylor sofas, William Switzer chairs, and limed oak reception desks, befitting the original Italian Renaissance decorative scheme. The 143 rooms have been redone in calm colors and opulent fabrics, and last year, chef Bruno Davaillon—who earned two Michelin stars during his stintat Alain Ducasse’s Mix in Las Vegas—took over at the Mansion Restaurant, earning acclaim for signature dishes including King Crab butternut squash soup and bison tenderloin au poivre.
No. 6: Sutton Place Hotel, Chicago
A contemporary tower on the Gold Coast with 246 rooms, the hotel is perfectly situated for those looking to hit up luxe boutiques and great restaurants. Guests can top off busy days with a soak in one of the deep tubs found in each room.
No. 7: Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
The 259 rooms and suites, done up in taupe and pale rose tones, come with damask curtains and four pillow choices; bathrooms are outfitted with deep soaking tubs and Frederic Fekkai amenities. Potted palms and original Samuel Halpert paintings of New York adorn the African-wood Star Lounge, and a farm-fresh meal at BLT Market, the hotel's new Laurent Tourondel restaurant, is a must.
No. 8: The Peninsula Beverly Hills
From the moment you arrive you are in the hands of your own guest relations manager, who will know your name, have your registration materials and keys, and escort you to your room, suite, or private villa in the garden—bypassing the front desk along the way. These days, check-in can start at the airport. Your Peninsula concierge will retrieve your luggage, lead you to your car idling at the curb, and present you with a menu so that you can order room service on your way to the hotel.
No. 9: Four Seasons Hotel, Chicago
This French-inspired hotel is set on floors 30–46 of a Chicago skyscraper; while all 343 rooms have views of Lake Michigan, the deluxe executive suites have inspiring views of both Lake Michigan and Michigan Avenue.
No. 10: Sofitel Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C.
The 237 Art Deco-inspired rooms, buff and brown with red-velvet accents, are creatively lit, and hung with original paintings, black-and-white architectural photos of Washington, and—la surprise—Paris. Corner rooms 14 and 26 have windows on two sides flooding the space with light.
No. 11: Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, Houston
Imagine a resort—or a hunting lodge—in the middle of Central Park, and you'll have an idea of life at the secluded-yet-central Houstonian, a low-rise, high-price hotel in the middle of an 18-acre pine forest ringed by glass office towers. The lodgelike tone kicks in at the start, as you set foot in the Great Room, its walls bedecked with coats of arms and flags and its massive stone fireplace recalling the Xanadu of Citizen Kane. The well-appointed guest rooms are ordinary looking, but guests are more than assured of comfort, exacting service, and discretion.
No. 12: The Adolphus, Dallas
This downtown hotel was opened by beer magnate Adolphus Busch in 1912 and boasts a roster of famous onetime guests, like Babe Ruth and Oscar de la Renta. Its baroque décor transports guests to a bygone era full of opulence, while simultaneously making them feel right at home.
No. 13: St. Regis, New York City
Built in 1904, and still gleaming from its 2005 renovation, this Beaux-Arts beauty is a well-polished monument to old New York. The lobby is a model of old-school opulence, with a trompe l'oeil ceiling, Corinthian-capped pilasters, and a king's ransom in marble and gold trim. The 256 redone rooms all have canopy beds, paisley carpets, and silk wall coverings—and each floor comes with its own tuxedoed 24-hour butler.
No. 14: The Hermitage Hotel, Nashville
By far the city’s choicest digs—favored by country music stars since 1910—with a stained-glass ceiling, marble columns, and gilded plasterwork. The 122-room property—whose famous guests have included Greta Garbo and Al Capone—celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010 with musical performances, art retrospectives, and a fresh look, after a $17 million overhaul.
No. 15: Charleston Place, Charleston
This family-friendly Georgian hotel is chock full of grand staircases, Chippendale-style furnishings, and a 1-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio. It’s conveniently situated right in the heart of the commercial district, and is one of the city's larger hotels with 442 rooms and a magnificent spa.
No. 16: Hotel Commonwealth, Boston
Retro-looking but tech-savvy, this French Empire–style property is perfect for sports fans: it sits right next to Fenway Park. (If you really want to go all out and book a sporty retreat, book its newest room, the Baseball Suite.)
No. 17: Four Seasons Hotel, Austin
An unpretentious oasis on Lady Bird Lake, with public spaces that are distinctly Southwestern (like a hide-covered sofa). Try for one of the lake view rooms, which also have sweeping views of surrounding Hill Country.
No. 18: The Townsend Hotel, Detroit
This stately and sophisticated brick hotel is decked out with European-style interiors and conveniently located in a posh Detroit suburb, with quick access to the city. The spacious luxury suites are the ones to book, with French doors and balconies overlooking downtown Birmingham.
No. 19: Eliot Hotel, Boston
Small and traditional without being stuffy, this elegant Back Bay hotel welcomes guests like they were family—fitting, since it’s been owned and operated by the same clan for more than 50 years. Of the 95 guest units, 79 are spacious suites, decorated in toile and raw silk, with Italian marble baths and French doors separating the bedrooms from the sitting areas.
No. 20: Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, Santa Fe
A member of the swanky Rosewood Hotel Group, the inn puts a cushy face on traditional New Mexican design; its 58 rooms, with their earthy sandstone walls and traditional latilla-and-viga ceilings (thick beams crossed with narrow, rough-hewn sticks), are airy and sleek, and decorated with beautiful handwoven rugs and paintings by acclaimed local artists. All have kiva-shaped gas fireplaces (indispensable on those nippy high-desert nights), and four-poster beds so high that they require special stepping stools.
No. 21: The Peninsula, New York City
Of the same vintage as the neighboring St. Regis (both hotels were built between 1904 and 1905), the Peninsula has retained its decorative Beaux-Arts façade—but inside, old-world grandeur meets streamlined modernity. A crystal chandelier dangles in the lobby, illuminating dark-cherry and Carpathian-elm burl woodwork with Art Nouveau carvings; Oriental carpets are spread over white marble floors. The 239 rooms feature sleek chaises, Roman shades, lacquered armoires, mahogany headboards, and goose-feather duvets—as well as high-tech touches like bathroom flat-screen TV’s.
No. 22: Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco
Like metropolitan Ritz-Carltons across the land, the San Francisco incarnation is distinguished by its location; this one occupies an imposing palace halfway up Nob Hill. (Translation: good views, but not as far from dining and shopping as, say, the Huntington or the Fairmont.) Outside and in, it resembles the West Wing, only without the drama. The décor in the public spaces and the 336 rooms is ultratraditional, all Oriental rugs, reproduction Second Empire furnishings, and valences over endless layers of curtains. Think of it as a Greenwich-away-from-Greenwich for road-weary CEOs.
No. 23: The Palazzo Las Vegas
LEED-certified all-suite property with over-the-top room décor (multiple flat-screen TV’s, sunken living rooms, and mini-bars stocked with everything from champagne to La Belge Chocolatier desserts). With a two-story fountain gushing in its entry, the 3,066 room high-rise resort is a memorable new arrival, anchored by a Barneys New York and topped with a sprawling Canyon Ranch spa.
No. 24: Four Seasons Hotel, St. Louis
Conveniently located downtown, near the Gateway Arch, the 200-room hotel with streamlined interiors occupies floors 9–19 of a tower, giving each guestroom unobstructed views of the city.
No. 25: Planters Inn, Charleston
A peaceful 19th-century building and modern addition in the center of town, the 64 rooms have crown moldings and four-poster beds. But for a real treat, the Plantation Kings are roomy and have views of the Meeting and Market Streets historic district.