- Maine – Sailing Downeast
- The Granite State, New Hampshire
- Green Mountains of Vermont
- Massachusetts – “One if by land, and two if by sea…”
- Rhode Island – Jazz and Mansions
- Connecticut – The Constitution State?
- New York – The Big Apple, and Smaller Apples
- New Jersey – It’s not all the South Shore
- Delaware – The First State
- Pennsylvania – Colonial Keystone
- Maryland – Resistance to Prohibition
Selecting a hotel for your well-earned vacation or even your business trip can the most daunting part of your travels. I’m here to help add variety to your experience.
Many contemporary American travelers settle into chain hotel rooms for the reasons that McDonald’s is successful with diners; we fret over the unheard-of, and consistency can be expected if we choose a cookie-cutter hotel. Our childhood excitement at the thought of a new adventure becomes muted by life’s disappointments. We want to travel, but we fear the unknown or resist giving up control.
With information quickly available at numerous online sites, it’s time for you and I to step out of the shadow of adulthood and consider a hotel other than “Motel America” for our next vacation.
Across the United States, we are fortunate to have numerous classic, historic hotels that frequently remain unfettered by the standards of the behemoth chains. Often they are the stuff that great movies and your dreams are made of.
The list is longer than you may think – and I don’t pretend to have ferreted out every option available for you. In fact, limiting myself to one or two properties in any state, selecting historic hotels and B&Bs to feature, has forced me to edit my content with the flip of a coin. Over the next several weeks I will provide a list of hotels in other regions of the country. I urge readers to submit your own favorites, those that you think travelers may be missing out on. Bargains are great, but high-end accommodations are of interest to many readers among us, too. If I hear from enough of you, we’ll add a Readers Choice story early in 2012.
This week, I begin with the Northeast – - New England and the Mid-Atlantic states:
Maine – Sailing Downeast
Many 18th- and 19th-century seafarers’ homes along Maine’s 3,400 mile coastline have been lovingly restored, preserved and converted into lodging options that feature charming architecture and furnishings with modern comforts. Since Maine’s craggy coastline, of hundreds of significant peninsulas, is four times longer than California’s, you have an idea of the challenge of selecting something special.
The Gray family has been in the “Maine Inn” business since the 1880s. Today, their Harraseeket Inn exemplifies what a full service hotel was like during the nostalgic era when traveling was less of a hassle and lodging was a significant factor in a traveler’s vacation experience. Eighty-four luxury rooms and suites, some featuring fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs, await you. And if your traveling legs are beat, but your tummy says “eat now”, the Harraseeket has two award winning dining rooms (best Sunday brunch in Maine). And breakfast is included in your room rate. The Maine Dining Room features classic Maine seafood dishes as well as gourmet items like confit of duck. I loved the dining room because of their “Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence.” For the environmental vacationer, the Harraseeket is as green a hotel as you will find. Enjoy yourself.
Portland, Maine has experienced a renaissance. Its old port area is home to a selection of fine galleries, shops, pubs and fine dining establishments – most are independent, non-chain businesses. The Inn on Carleton is a meticulously restored Victorian home providing visitors a comfortable and convenient pied à terre for their visit to the southern Maine coastal area. Six elegant, period-decorated rooms, some with fireplace, will soothe your spirit. “Pahk” your car and walk everywhere. At Inn on Carleton, you are at the edge of the excitement that is Portland.
The Portland Regency Hotel may arm you for a southern Maine exploration. Built in 1895, it served as a National Guard armory until 1941. Surely the soldiers that served here never imagined the luxury, comfort and services that awaited future guests staying in the 95 rooms and suites. Skylight windows were added, but most of the interior was left intact and creatively enhanced. Guests may discover a room with turreted corners or a fireplace. Located in the old port area, the Regency’s full-service hotel and spa is sure to meet the needs of the most discriminating guest.
The Granite State, New Hampshire
Eagle Mountain House and Golf Club began in 1879 in Jackson, New Hampshire, with 12 guestrooms. Eighty-five miles inland from Portsmouth, the popular Eagle Mountain House has grown significantly (a 280 foot veranda with surperb views now wraps the front of the hotel) and is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The structure is typical of mountain resorts and spas of the period, and it retains the sense of elegance of travel-as-it-used-to-be. Today they feature a nine-hole golf course, seasonal outdoor heated swimming pool, an exercise facility with sauna and hot tub, and a game room. The Jackson area offers an abundance of outdoor and indoor activities during all seasons. Check them out on YouTube, too.
Bretton Woods -
New England and “Upstate”, New York were famous for their extended stay retreats in the early 20th century. The Mount Washington Resort, remodeled and expanded in 2009, opened for business in 1902, a Spanish Renaissance architectural project of industrialist Joseph Stickney. The original hotel contains 200 rooms, however the entire facility is comprised of the hotel, a more intimate inn of 34 rooms, the lodge and 70 condo-town homes. The hotel environs is truly a magnificent setting for corporate meetings or large family getaways, as well as romantic vacations. There are lots of activities in the area, best described on the resort’s own website. An interesting point to note is that many of the amenities of the Mount Washington Resort are available to guests only if the reservations are made directly with the hotel. So, do your research to avoid disappointments. (Managed by Omni.)
Green Mountains of Vermont
The Old Tavern at Grafton was once a stagecoach stop on the Boston to Montreal route. History delivered a number of memorable characters to the front desk, and they signed their names as Daniel Webster, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Nathanial Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rudyard Kipling (on his honeymoon), and Henry David Thoreau – (literary elites of their day, whom might be shunned in some contemporary political circles). This gracious establishment was restored in 1965. In business since 1801, The Old Tavern is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Room categories include Traditional, Classic and Suites, and may be located in the main Tavern, cottages, or even your own private home for secluded accommodations. Activities include tennis, fly-fishing, bicycling and cross country skiing. The award-winning restaurant serves breakfast and dinner, and they feature (my favorite) the most extensive wine selection in the area.
Massachusetts – “One if by land, and two if by sea…”
Dating from 1716, “the shot heard ’round the world” was fired not far from Concord’s Colonial Inn‘s front porch. The original structure served as storage for the Minutemen in their battles with the British. Since 1889, the buildings have served as an inn, and Concord’s Colonial Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main inn has 15 guest facilities, many of them containing architectural features from the 1716 building. Yet guests are provided services unimagined by colonialists – complimentary Wi-Fi and cable TV. A 1970-wing added 30 more guestrooms. They have some extended-stay facilities if you discover you are “forced” to steep yourself in this center of comfort and relaxation while visiting eastern Massachusetts.
The city of Boston can not be overlooked. It’s one of America’s most historical, vibrant, walkable cities. Several years ago, I had the pleasure to be a guest at The Lenox Hotel. In spite of 214 rooms, this boutique hotel has been named as “one of the five greenest luxury hotels in America” by U.S. News and World Report. Centrally located in fashionable Back Bay, the Lenox provides the perfect point from which to visit Boston, or to consider as your home-away-from-home when business or the Red Sox call you to Beantown. Twenty-four hour in-room dining ensures that you will not miss a quality meal because you got sidetracked while exploring America’s early history or attended a business meeting that dragged beyond reasonable hours!
Rhode Island – Jazz and Mansions
Since invitations to stay at the Breakers are difficult to arrange, visitors to Rhode Island are still able to experience a famous inn at the Hotel Viking in Newport. For over 80 years, the Viking has offered exceptional service to its guests, including a few you may have heard of; Ella Fitzgerald, Will Rogers and Jackie Kennedy among them. You may choose to be pampered at their SpaTerre or enjoy fine dining without going out-on-the-town at their One Bellevue. Visiting the famous Newport Mansions is an easily arranged excursion; local performing arts and galleries will keep you entertained, and the Newport activities calendar is replete with ideas for every season.
Connecticut – The Constitution State?
The Simsbury 1820 House is another member of National Register of Historic Places, providing 32 rooms and suites. The Simsbury 1820 House, whose history dates back to the American revolution, welcomes guests with a complimentary glass of sherry in the parlor of the elegant New England country inn while they admire the finely carved woodwork, leaded glass windows and working fireplaces; all features restored to their original grandeur. Simsbury 1820 House retains the integrity of its original design while offering the modern amenities and personal service of a first class hotel. Within the historic inn, modern spa services may be arranged. Conveniently located, Simsbury 1820 House is less than 30 minutes from downtown Hartford or Bradley International Airport.
New York – The Big Apple, and Smaller Apples
Saratoga Springs -
The Iroquois Indians visited the springs of Saratoga when they called the area “Sarachtogue.” From the early 19th century, Saratoga Springs became a place to be seen and gamble. Saratoga Arms, a landmark 1870 hotel of 31 rooms, maintains the elegant charm of the heyyday of Saratoga Springs. History buffs will relish its proximity to the historic site of the Battle of Saratoga, the first victory for the Colonies during the American Revolution. For your own visit, consider that Saratoga Arms B&B has received acclaim for its luxurious accommodations and services from travel writers at Frommers, USA Today and The New York Times. The staff of Saratoga Arms will prepare customized packages for individuals, families and business groups. A selection of spa services are available onsite. Quality dining opportunities at independently owned restaurants will ensure you are well fed. During the summer, the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra locate here for creative inspiration… and your enjoyment.
New York City -
OK, Manhattan is replete with every type of hotel imaginable – classic, historic, outrageously avant-garde decor, tiny rooms (just for sleeping), and some with multi-room penthouses larger than my own home. And it’s not difficult to find something you like. Finding something that you like AND within most vacationers’ budget makes the search more of a challenge. One charming place, that for New York standards is reasonably priced, is the Hotel St. James. Checking their own site, I found a rate of $159. Using a hotel online booking, I found $143 for the same dates. Their motto is “More NY for less $$.” If this is your first trip to New York city and you want to be centrally located, with the flexibility to explore all sides and ends of the island, consider the Hotel St. James. You’re five minutes from the hottest selection of top theaters in the world on the Great White Way. In the opposite direction you’ll stumble into world famous shopping opportunities. And with a subway card, you can quickly be dining in Chinatown, enjoying a performance at the Apollo in Harlem, or meandering the streets, enjoying the shopping and dining of classic-but-not-so-gay Greenwich Village and Chelsea. As with many properties, the realtor’s mantra holds for the Hotel St. James; location, location, location – which is West 45th, between 5th and 6th.
New Jersey – It’s not all the South Shore
If you “get caught between the moon and New York City,” the song says… then I say “stay at Lambertville House“, just outside New Hope, Pennsylvania in the community of Lambertville, New Jersey, only an hour from Philadelphia and 30 minutes more for New York City. Providing lodging to the traveling public since 1812, this inn will greet you with unparalleled service and comfort. In addition to its AAA Four Diamond Award, Lambertville house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Being on the 19th-century stagecoach route between Washington, DC and New York, the Lambert’s Inn, as it was then known, hosted Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Andrew Johnson. When you are not relaxing in one of 26 guest quarters (most with gas fireplace), visit their Left Bank Libations to sample one of their specialty martinis or a fine single malt Scotch.
Delaware – The First State
Montchanin Village -
The Inn and Spa at Montchanin Village may blow your socks off! Named for the family that founded the DuPont Gunpowder Company, the Inn is located in a small village comprised of 11 restored homesteads dating from 1799 through 1910. The inn’s 28 rooms have been restored, and are decorated with period pieces and reproductions. Most rooms have fireplaces and all have refrigerators and microwaves for those snacks you schlepped along but probably will not eat because of Krazy Kat’s Restaurant in the village. To keep yourself amused, you may start at the Brandywine Battlefield, site of the largest battle of the American Revolution in 1777. There are several respected museums in the area, along with a winery, public gardens, shopping and golf (if you can’t leave those clubs at home). And, did you take note of the word “spa” in the name? Recommended by Condé Nast and on the National Register of Historic Places, the Inn is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. (If you want to be impressed, check out their membership list!)
Pennsylvania – Colonial Keystone
In Lancaster, you may pop your cork over the fascinating and affordable Cork Factory Hotel! With 77 guest rooms and six luxury suites, I had to ask myself, how many different rooms did it take to make a cork? Like ancient hotels of Europe, your walls may feature authentic brick and the ceilings will display exposed wood. Renovated to include modern conveniences including Wi-Fi, today’s discerning guests will appreciate this upscale, award winning, boutique hotel. What’s more, vacationers are conveniently near Pennsylvania Dutch communities.
Maryland – Resistance to Prohibition
Baltimore, and its popular waterfront area, is home to this jewel of a hotel, the Admiral Fell Inn, in the historic Fell’s Point neighborhood. The community is well known for its Belgian block streets. shops, pubs and dining establishments. The Admiral Fell Inn has walls dating back to the time of the American Revolution, though it has not remained an inn during its long life, having served as a theater and even a YMCA! Using a nearby water taxi, guests can easily visit Inner Harbor attractions such as Baltimore’s Little Italy and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The inn’s 80 guestrooms, some with beamed ceilings, and one suite with two levels, are decorated in 18th-century style and 21st-century comfort. The Admiral Fell Inn is equipped for serious business meetings, too.
Photographs courtesy of the establishments.
This story is not sponsored.