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25 Stylish U.S. Hotels for Under $200

In the French Quarter, where decked-out women are actually men and fruit drinks pack a 151-proof wallop, things aren't always what they seem. Same for the year-old W, which looks like a 19th-century building with its carriageway, horse-head hitching posts, and inner courtyard, but was actually built in the 1970's. Young hipsters who nurse their mornings-after here couldn't care less about its modern steel-frame construction, however. They're all fans of the hotel's delicious proximity to the fortune-tellers of Jackson Square; the bars, clubs, and strip joints of Bourbon Street; and the antiques of Royal Street. They sleep it off in rooms decorated with ruby and purple velvet throw pillows, black-and-white photographs of pussy willows, vintage-y Mike & Ike's candy dispensers, and 250-thread-count sheets. Lest they forget where they lie (N'awlins kitsch comes in small doses at the W), the voodoo doll in the mini-bar will remind them of the offbeat city they're visiting. 316 Chartres St.; 800/522-6963 or 504/581-1200, fax 504/523-2910; doubles from $179.

Each of nine apartment-like suites comes with a generous dose of color, as well as ample use of salvage-yard finds (a wrought-iron fence for a headboard; a table made from a manhole cover). No two rooms are the same: in No. 5, bleached-white furnishings, including a four-poster bed, are set against salmon-pink walls. No. 1 is eye-popping, with black-and-white checkered floors, periwinkle walls, and black leather barstools. All come with full kitchens and high-speed DSL Internet connections; six have private balconies. The Talbot Heirs may be within earshot of Beale Street's music clubs, but no one here gets the blues. 99 S. Second St.; 800/955-3956 or 901/527-9772, fax 901/527-3700; doubles from $200+.

In an effort to stay modern, Ohio's only small luxury hotel (which also occupies a space on the National Register of Historic Places) is constantly being updated. Its latest incarnation has 146 rooms, wired with high-speed Internet access and multi-line phones. The fitness center, too, is state-of-the-art. Angular sculptures add a contemporary flair to the Art Deco paintings that line the Cricket Lounge, where businesspeople and locals linger over glasses of Merlot. American classics, such as Hudson Valley foie gras and Atlantic salmon, are served up in the formal, candlelit Palace Restaurant. 601 Vine St.; 800/942-9000 or 513/381-3000, fax 513/651-0256; doubles from $165.

In 1895, the steel-and-glass Reliance Building, designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, anticipated the modern skyscraper. Later towers overshadowed it—until 1999, when the Kimpton Group invested $27.5 million. Vivid mosaic floors, red marble walls, and filigreed elevator grills replicate the original State Street entrance to the 15-story tower. Upstairs, antique mahogany doors open onto indigo-and-gold guest rooms, where half-canopy beds and chaise longues seduce business and leisure travelers alike. 1 W. Washington St.; 888/271-1928 or 312/782-1111, fax 312/782-0899; doubles from $179.

This 1937 office building was transformed into a 65-room Deco den in 1998, but the thirties still linger: swing standards such as Johnny Mercer's "Glow Worm" paint a sonic backdrop to the chrome-and-wood lobby. Double rooms have large sitting areas furnished with seafoam-green sofas, oval ottomans, and retro lamps. You could venture just steps away to the Milwaukee Art Museum, with its new building by Santiago Calatrava that's about to open (see Artbeat, page 98), or stay in and sip cocktails from the oversized martini glasses that await in the mini-bar. 411 E. Mason St.; 877/638-7620 or 414/272-1937, fax 414/225-3282; doubles from $180.

The crown jewel at the Grand, in Scandinavian-flavored Minnesota, is its knockout Japanese restaurant, Mizu. That said, the hotel's two other restaurants, as well as its Aveda day spa and 58,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art workout space, are not to be overlooked. The 140 guest rooms, wrapped in creamy neutrals, all have CD players and high-speed Internet connections. Their marble-and-granite bathrooms feature extra-deep tubs; many have TV's for those who like to channel-surf while they soak. 615 Second Ave. S.; 866/843-4726 or 612/288-8888, fax 612/373-0407; doubles from $149.

The San José is so intensely hip that at first it seems to have jetted in with the latest wave of Hollywood types. But this 40-room inn is pure Austin. Built in the thirties, when bungalow-style motor courts were the last word in travel, the San José has done time as everything from a Bible school to a flophouse (and a brothel, if you believe local legend). New owner Liz Lambert recently resurrected it as a retro-mod hotel. Cowhide rugs pad cement floors; Eames chairs sit beside furniture made from warehouse beams; the pool is inspired by Japanese bento boxes. Thursday movie screenings in the parking lot bring out power brokers and Austin hipsters, along with the hotel's guests. 1316 S. Congress Ave.; 800/574-8897 or 512/444-7322, fax 512/444-7362; doubles from $95.

Though it's housed in a pair of landmark early-20th-century buildings, there's nothing old-school about the Hotel Monaco. A yo-yo, a Pez dispenser, and a deck of cards liven up the mini-bar selections, and the nightly fireside "altitude adjustment" hour in the lobby offers free wine and neck massages. Pets—of any (legal) variety—are welcome and stay free; a goldfish can even be delivered to your room if you left Fido at home. Humans are treated to fluffy feather beds, fish-shaped chocolates at turndown, and the Aveda day spa (for a fee). 1717 Champa St.; 800/397-5380 or 303/296-1717, fax 303/296-1818; doubles from $125.

Brick arches, a soaring great room with cast-iron chandeliers, curvy butter-colored walls, and 1920's Pueblo Deco sofas are just part of the $10 million renovation transforming this Sheraton into the very first example of "Albuquerque Style"—a fusion of Spanish, Native American, and Territorial design. Aside from the 187 Southwestern-inspired rooms, the Old Town has 22 suites, a formal ballroom, and a turquoise-ceilinged Mexican cantina where tequila shots are served in chili peppers. 800 Rio Grande Blvd. N.W.; 800/237-2133 or 505/843-6300, fax 505/842-9863; doubles from $99.

Even after a recent renovation (in preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics), the Peery recalls the weathered glamour of a Wild West saloon. Tapestry carpets, crystal chandeliers, grand pianos, and other period antiques (the reception and concierge desks are the 1910 originals) add after-hours undertones to the cream-marble lobby, while lace-draped canopy beds in the 73 guest rooms lend more of a boudoir feel. But it's not all Gunsmoke and mirrors: there's a high-speed Internet connection next to the vintage nightstand, and a laser printer is available upon request. In keeping with the Stagecoach theme, guests can dine in-house under the gaslights of Christopher's Seafood & Steakhouse. 110 W. Broadway; 800/331-0073 or 801/521-4300, fax 801/575-5014; doubles from $117.


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