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2009 Stay List: 129 Hotels We love
National Geographic Traveler
The Stay List
These 129 places to stay in North America combine good service, sustainable practices, community involvement, and a strong sense of place.
The hotels on our Stay List 2009 don’t just reflect their surroundings—they help define them. What they all have in common is a transcendent vision that goes beyond traditional hotel-keeping. This mindset is what gives these hotels their special sense of place. Make no mistake: You’ll sense the vibe at once. Maybe it’s the regional architecture that speaks to you. Or a guest room resonating with history. Or local food that not only tastes great but tells a story to boot. After your stay, you’ll leave with the kind of insight only soulful places can provide.
To find these hotels, Traveler tapped into the collected experiences of veteran journalists, inveterate road warriors, and local experts. They based their nominations on key criteria. Is the hotel engaged with the local community? Does it subscribe to sustainable practices that respect the region? Does it truly capture the spirit of its setting? Further research and detailed questionnaires winnowed hundreds of submissions down to this sweet list of 129 hotels.
There’s something for everyone here, from wilderness cabins to urban lairs of luxury—all authentic, purposeful places to enhance your travels. Welcome to Stay List 2009. —Charles Kulander
Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, D.C.: Closest you’ll get to spending the night at the White House. 1920s Italian-Renaissance hotel drives Secret Service crazy with direct White House views from top floors. Restaurant defines power dining; bar is called Off the Record for a reason. Ornamental fireplaces, marble baths. Obama’s choice for pre-Inaugural digs. 145 rooms; from $435.
Tabard Inn, Washington, D.C.: Word-of-mouth hideaway on a tree-lined street in Dupont Circle district. Quirky character: vintage furnishings and flea market finds; no TVs but windows open to city sounds. Clubby fireside lounge, Sunday jazz. Good location: about a half-hour walk to the White House. Great restaurant. 40 rooms; from $113, incl. breakfast.
Williams House, Amelia Island, Fla.: Gingerbread fretwork amid magnolia trees sets the tone for this antebellum home in a quaint seaport village. Rose garden with arbor, hand-carved mantels, antiques; the closet with crawl space was an Underground Railroad hiding spot. Take breakfast Southern-style—on the veranda. 10 rooms; from $165.
Island City House Hotel, Key West, Fla.: Oldest operating B&B on the island; retains true Conch Republic character. Three houses—one an unpainted replica house of original Alfonso Cigar factory—linked by hurly-burly gardens and brick pathways. Wraparound porches, hammocks. Six-toed Hemingway cats roam the premises. 24 suites; from $150.
The Marquesa Hotel and Cafe Marquesa, Key West, Fla.: A true-to-history renovation of several vintage Conch houses (1884), one block off main-drag Duval. Mullioned windows cast sweet light on sleigh beds covered in tropic-weight duvets. Outside? Two pools, plus a three-tier waterfall spilling into koi pond. Caribbean-influenced cuisine and tropical fruits. Ask front desk for free walking and biking guide. 27 rooms and 6 cottages; from $190.
Lake Rabun Hotel, Lakemont, Ga.: Lake lodge in northern Georgia, rehabbed (in 2008) by preservationist owner. Speaks the local vernacular with cedar-log bar and original 1920s Adirondack furnishings (beloved by President Carter). Alfresco dining under the hemlock. Wine tasting on pontoon boats. Downy beds invite sleep, lulled by summer chirp of tree frogs. 8 rooms; from $109, incl. breakfast.
Camden Harbour Inn, Camden, Me.: Hilltop 1874 mansion overlooking Penobscot Bay. Minimalist interior warmed by spare-design highlights. Modern guest rooms fitted with latest electronics; some also have working fireplaces. The pastry chef makes breakfast a treat. At dinner, lobsters get fine-dining treatment. Just a short stroll to historic seaport blessedly free of Cape Cod-style crowds. 18 rooms; from $175.
Quisisana, Lovell, Me.: Maine meets Mozart at this 47-acre cottage resort on Lake Kezar. Staff culled from Juilliard and Oberlin cook or make beds by day, then participate in recitals, one-act operas, arias come evening in lakeside music hall. Cabins as New England as maple syrup: pine-paneled walls, white wicker furnishings. Lake sports, pool, clay tennis courts at this summer camp for music lovers. 70 rooms; from $175, all- inclusive.
The Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston, Mass.: A Bean Town landmark dressed in top hat and tails. Gilded and coffered ceiling, marble columns in grandiose lobby. Rooms look like Back Bay town houses: traditional furnishings, rich jewel colors. Toss down New England oysters in Oak Bar. Close to Beacon Hill and the Freedom Trail (just follow the red line). 383 rooms, from $249.
The Liberty Hotel, Boston, Mass.: The 1851 Charles Street Jail at the foot of Beacon Hill—overlooking the Charles River—transformed into contemporary hotel. Walk catwalks in central atrium to your room: floor-to-ceiling windows, sepia artwork, eco-friendly soap dispensers. Historical gallery. Alibi bar. Cross a footbridge and you’re on Charles River Esplanade. 298 rooms; from $295.
A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay, South Orleans, Mass.: A 1798 gray-shingle inn situated on cape’s elbow, overlooking bay. Likely a stop for slaves on Underground Railroad. Enveloped in flowers, with jetty and pebbly beach. Shipshape rooms named for sailboat designs. Nearby scenic trails along shoreline. Catch the early-fall harvest on adjacent cranberry bog. 9 rooms; from $230.
Liberty Hill Inn, Yarmouth Port, Mass.: 1825 Greek Revival built by a shipwright, maintained like a yacht, within earshot of the Atlantic. Take your pick: four-poster or sleigh beds, claw-foot tubs or Jacuzzis—period wallpaper throughout. Grand piano subs for TV in living room; guests roam free in kitchen. New this season: preprogrammed GPS units for Cape Cod sightseeing. 9 rooms; from $110, incl. breakfast and afternoon tea.
Five Gables Inn & Spa, St. Michaels, Md.: A living page out of James Michener’s Chesapeake (which he wrote while staying in this Eastern Shore village). Three 19th-century homes with indoor pool, spa. Unassuming elegance in light-filled quarters: whirlpool tubs, sink-in club chairs, gas fireplaces. Write your own story: visit Talbot Street antiques stores, Chesapeake Maritime Museum, sail on a working skipjack, or cruise the hood on complimentary tandem bikes. 20 rooms; from $150.
Highland Lake Inn, East Andover, N.H.: New England 1767 farmhouse adjoining 21-acre nature preserve and trail head of the Northern Rail Trail (train tracks turned into hiking and biking trail). Rockwellian panoramas: 250-year-old maple trees, rustic stone walls, even a swimming lake with drinking-quality water. Food sourced from within 50-mile circle; coffee from artisan roaster. Canterbury Shaker Village nearby. 10 rooms; from $160, incl. breakfast.
The Whiteface Lodge, Lake Placid, N.Y.: A handcrafted resort styled after 19th-century tycoon "Great Camps" of the Adirondacks. Rustic luxury: bark and timber surfaces, soaring ceilings, lots of camp-style furnishings. Carbon-offset program. One and a half miles from Olympic village, but plenty to do right here: ice skating rink, indoor/outdoor pool, nightly bonfires. SUV shuttle to beach club on lake. 94 rooms; from $315.
Casablanca Hotel, New York, N.Y.: Bogey meets Broadway in Times Square tribute to 1942 North Africa. Wine-and-cheese receptions in mosaic-tiled Rick’s Café (with piano). Moroccan touch in rooms: rattan furnishings, louvered shutters, ceiling fans. Sounds-of-nature alarm clocks. An oasis in heart of Big Apple, despite being closest hotel to New Year’s Eve ball drop. 48 rooms; from $225.
The Rhinecliff, Rhinecliff, N.Y.: A riverside rehab in original Queen Anne style. Private balconies overlook Hudson River; rooms perked with double whirlpool tubs, flat-screen TVs. Wide-plank hemlock floors, original oak bar, hand-stacked stone fireplaces. Brasserie featuring Hudson Valley bounty; blue stone patio for alfresco dining. Amtrak station a two-minute walk away (it’s an under-two-hour roll from Manhattan’s Penn Station). 9 rooms; from $180.
The Roxbury, Contemporary Catskill Lodging, Roxbury, N.Y.: A mid-century-modern interpretation of the Catskills’ heyday. Rooms inspired by 1960s and ’70s TV shows: Fred’s Lair, George’s Spacepad; Genie’s Bottle features illuminated chromatherapy bathtub. Wi-Fi lounge with video projection and mini-spa. In back: a trout stream runs through two rolling green acres. Entire town of Roxbury on National Historic Register. 18 rooms; from $99.
Falling Waters Adventure Resort, Bryson City, N.C.: Comfortable camping on 22 pine-covered acres. Yurts set around pond and atop lakeside bluff. Fish in ponds, cook on BBQ grills, sleep in rust-color yurts with real furnishings, shared baths. Hot tub. Five traditional rooms in group lodge. Soft adventures: raft, scenic train, interpretive Jeep tour on back roads through old communities. 13 rooms; from $39.
The Swag Country Inn, Waynesville, N.C.: An old split-rail fence separates this 250-acre aerie from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Lots of homegrown Appalachian character: local fieldstone, hand-hewn logs, early-American rustic antiques. Rooms with wood-burning fireplaces, balconies, steam showers. Southern-style grits, homemade biscuits. Frequent guest lectures and lending library. 14 rooms; from $490 for two, incl. all meals.
Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, Penn.: A new generation Poconos resort, synthesizing forested surroundings into an integral mind-body-spirit approach. Verandas, porches, balconies take in a waterfall or private 15-acre lake. One-mile nature path, natural cranberry bog, kayaking on lake. Cushy rooms with sink-in wingbacks and marble showers. Horizon-edge whirlpool. Spa designed with woodland views. 58 rooms; from $425 per person.
Castle Hill Inn & Resort, Newport, R.I.: A Gatsbyesque Victorian mansion on 40 genteel acres between the Atlantic and Narragansett Bay. Old World decor fused with nautical tradition in rooms. Beachfront kitchen cottages set in the sea grass. Turret Suite—a Thornton Wilder character described the view from here—inspires with 360-degree panorama. Bird-watching, beachcombing, foraging grounds for wild blackberries. 35 rooms; from $259.
Carriage House Inn, Aiken, S.C.: Traditional Southern refuge in historic main street location (it’s number 23 on Historic Aiken tour). Antiques, hardwood floors, 19th-century lithographs. Suites in renovated warehouse. Go-tos: self-guided tour of historic district, Sunday polo matches, touch-and-scent walking trail at 14-acre Hopelands Gardens. 16 rooms; from $103, incl. breakfast.
Planters Inn, Charleston, S.C.: An urbane synthesis of history and Southern lifestyle in a former 1844 dry goods emporium. Museum-quality repro furnishings in white-shuttered, high-ceilinged rooms. High-end cooking employs Low Country ingredients: grits, black-eyed peas. Palmetto courtyard. Explore boutiques and bistros around the corner; King Street antiques shops, a block away. 64 rooms; from $199.
Twin Farms, Barnard, Vt.: Classic New England 1795-era farmhouse and lodge with literary chops. Once country retreat of author Sinclair Lewis, artistic pedigree continues with museum quality artwork in rooms (Hockney, Lichtenstein, Dine) and creative regional cuisine. Chef subscribes to locavore philosophy, visiting nearby farms for seasonal organic produce. Private ski runs, foliage jaunts, after-dinner bonfires under the stars. 10 suites and 10 cottages; from $1,300 for two, all-inclusive.
The Old Tavern at Grafton, Grafton, Vt.: An 1801 inn in the Green Mountains promoting historic preservation, land conservation, and Vermont food products. Seasonal swim pond, large organic kitchen garden with heirloom vegetables. Restaurant a member of Vermont Fresh Network. Don’t-miss Sunday suppers featuring comfort foods of the past. 45 rooms; from $160.
The Inn at Shelburne Farms, Shelburne, Vt.: A Queen Anne manse on the shores of Lake Champlain is the crown jewel of a 1,400-acre showcase of sustainable land use. Nonprofit operation cultivates a conservation ethic: managed woodlands, a grass-based dairy, cheesemaking. Accommodations are 19th-century upper crust: wingback chairs, spiral-turned bedposts, chintz wallpaper. 24 rooms, 4 cottages; from $122.
Stowe Mountain Lodge, Stowe, Vt.: Ski-in/ski-out lodge built of local granite and recycled steel, surrounded by 2,000 acres of protected wildlife habitat: moose and black bear country. Rooms with a view: floor-to-ceiling windows, balconies. In-house naturalist leads mountain safari hikes and tours; executive chef gives farm-to-table cooking classes. 139 rooms; from $239.
North River Inn, Gloucester, Va.: In slow-moving Tidewater region of the Chesapeake Bay, three historic buildings conjure colonial spirit of Old Dominion among the magnolias, hickories, and red maples. The reproduction beds echo Chippendale sofas; silk and brocade hangings. Wood-burning fireplaces in some rooms. Rib-stickin’ breakfasts: Southern grits, Virginia cheeses, bacon, sausage. Wind back the clock (and burn off breakfast) with a walk along pea-gravel lanes or by canoeing the tidal river and creek. 8 rooms; from $145.
Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park, Shenanadoah, Va.: A Blue Ridge Mountains masterpiece built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1939 from native chestnut trees and stone cut from Massanutten Mountain. Mission-style furnishings to match. Gift store stocks homemade jellies, jams, syrup. Live music nightly; biweekly wine tastings, basket-making workshops (June-Oct.). A midway stop on 105-mile Skyline Drive. 97 rooms; from $76.
Graves Mountain Lodge, Syria, Va.: Rustic mountain retreat on a working/educational farm in Blue Ridge foothills. Tin roofs, rocking chairs on porches, family-style meals. Prolific orchard, barnyard tours, hayrides. Celebrate fall hoedown when foliage is at its peak: craft vendors, cloggers, bluegrass music. 78 rooms; from $78, incl. meals.
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