$129 Chicago doesn't have many B&B's—it's not Dublin, despite all those Daleys—which makes the Gold Coast Guest House Bed & Breakfast (113 W. Elm St.; 312/337-0361; www.bbchicago.com; breakfast included) something of a miracle. In an 1873 town house on the outskirts of the Magnificent Mile, this four-bedroom beauty has astounding light, much of it provided by a rear patio. Rooms have quirky touches, such as a 45-rpm record player and a stack of oldies.
$99 Pop culture meets Pop art in the Hotel Helix (1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW; 866/508-0658 or 202/462-9001; www.hotelhelix.com), a 178-room Pucci-inspired palace devoted to kitsch Americana. The walls are covered in green lizard-skin wallpaper or white leather; rooms have faux-fur blankets, high-fashion photographs of Barbie and Ken, and silk-screened images of California surfers.
$109 Rock stars are big fans of the Hotel Rouge (1315 16th St. NW; 800/ 368-5689 or 202/232-8000; www.rougehotel.com), three blocks from Dupont Circle. West Coast designer Mike Moore has adorned its 137 rooms with red velvet drapes, Frette sheets, and zebra-print robes. High style meets major attitude here—even in the mini-bars, stocked with wax lips, red pistachios, Johnny Walker Red, and temporary tattoos. Standard rooms that end in 07 or 11 are more spacious, but not more expensive.
NEW YORK CITY
$139 For Ian Schrager style at a Holiday Inn price, head to the Upper West Side's On the Ave (2178 Broadway; 800/497-6028 or 212/362-1100; www.stayinny.com). The 251-room hotel has all the features of a boutique (slate bathroom floors, steel sinks, down comforters), minus a few (room service comes from the diner across the street). Standard rooms are small, so book one facing the street or suffer with an air shaft view.
$149 It's far enough from Times Square to reduce the noise to a faint hum, but the Washington Jefferson Hotel (318 W. 51st St.; 888/567-7550 or 212/246-7550; www.wjhotel.com) is close enough that you can see the glow of the billboards. The 130 rooms are modest in size (in New York you get what you pay for) but embellished with designer touches—fresh flowers, Molton Brown amenities.
$147 The Abingdon Guest House (13 Eighth Ave.; 212/243-5384; www.abingdonguesthouse.com) feels more like a friend's place in Connecticut than a Manhattan hotel. Two landmark West Village town houses contain nine themed rooms, such as the Martinique, with a canopied four-poster and a skylight, and the Ambassador Suite, with dark red walls and a faux tiger-skin rug. Rooms in the back overlook a small garden (and neighboring apartments—think Rear Window). The Brewbar downstairs serves pastries and coffee and doubles as the check-in desk.