The Iron Horse Hotel, Milwaukee
Repurposing industrial buildings is a concept that I always enjoy, and The Iron Horse did it right. It’s housed in a 100-year-old warehouse within a historically preserved district. What else makes this hotel unique? It caters to both business travelers and motorcycle enthusiasts, given its location near the Harley-Davidson Museum.
The Orchard Hotel, San Francisco
This is one of the first green-certified hotels in California and one that has stayed true to that philosophy. It was built green from the ground up, using recycled materials, energy-efficient insulation, key cards used to “turn on” your room and in-room recycling. It’s also smoke-free and uses organic, citrus-based cleaning products. theorchardhotel.com
International House, New Orleans
I always appreciate when a hotel pays homage to its surroundings, and the International House is no exception. Situated in a historic Beaux-Arts building in the Central Business District, it features New Orleans-inspired decor that is based on its original 19th- and early 20th-century design.
21C, Louisville, Ky.
How about spending the night in a museum? A museum hotel, that is. That’s right—Louisville’s 21C is a truly unusual concept with more than 9,000 square feet of exhibition space to showcase the works of contemporary artists. The rooms have their own charm, housed in a series of former tobacco and bourbon warehouses. But it’s not all about style here. The service is top-notch and the on-site restaurant, Proof on Main, carries a great collection of Kentucky bourbons.
Hotel Erwin, Venice Beach, Calif.
The Joie de Vivre brand has done some great things with renovating and modernizing various California hotels. Hotel Erwin is a fun option for those who want to be in the center of the funky Venice Beach scene, and the rooftop bar has become an attraction for both locals and out-of-towners.
The Little Nell, Aspen, Colo.
When it comes to luxury, few boutique hotels do it better than The Little Nell. From the airport pickup and exceptional service to chef Ryan Hardy’s menu at the on-site Montagna restaurant, this is one spot that is well worth the price tag. And while I’ve never taken advantage of the ski-in/ski-out access, its accessibility to the Silver Queen Gondola is also a treat in the summer and fall when guests can ride up the mountain to hike back down.
McMenamins Old Saint Francis, Bend, Ore.
A hotel with a built-in pub? It doesn’t get much better than that. There are now several McMenamins properties in the Pacific Northwest, but one of the coolest is the McMenamins Old Saint Francis in Bend. Housed in a former Catholic school, the property boasts its own brewpub, a movie theater and even a meeting space called the Rambler Room—named after the first car owned by the nuns who used to run the school.
Canoe Bay, Chetek, Wis.
This property is a real gem in the heart of the Midwest. It’s garnered every award you can think of, including becoming the first Midwestern establishment to become a member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux guide. But there’s nothing pretentious about it, and in fact it is a favorite getaway for couples looking for a romantic place to unwind with natural surroundings, plus great food, wine and service. canoebay.com
Inn on the Alameda, Santa Fe, N.M.
This little inn is centrally located in Santa Fe, but you’d never know it from the quiet, tucked- away rooms. Not only is the property’s décor very reflective of the Southwest, but guests can also take advantage of hotel packages to immerse themselves in the local culture. For example, the Taste the City package includes walking tours led by a chef from the renowned Santa Fe Cooking School, where participants interact with local chefs and restaurant owners, followed by a cooking class at the school. innonthealameda.com
Originally published in Watch! magazine, October 2011