May 10, 2010

With hotel occupancy rates on the rebound, are last-minute bookings still a bargain? To find out, we reserved a standard room for one night at hotels in five U.S. cities two days, one week, and three months in advance. Across the board, one week out was the time to book. A caveat: you can often lock in an even better rate if you’re willing to pay when you book. Ask the hotel if it offers this option.

Chicago: Park Hyatt

2 Days: $365/night
1 week:
$335/night
3 months:
$465/night
Advance Purchase:
$284 (available only one week out)

Dallas*: Ritz-Carlton

2 Days: $399/night
1 week:
$329/night
3 months:
$349/night
Advance Purchase:
n/a

Los Angeles: SLS at Beverly Hills

2 Days: $419/night
1 week:
$369/night
3 months:
$369/night
Advance Purchase:
$289

New York: Four Seasons

2 Days: $655/night
1 week:
$655/night
3 months:
$855/night
Advance Purchase:
n/a

San Francisco: Intercontinental

2 Days: $159/night
1 week:
$159/night
3 months:
$189/night
Advance Purchase:
$143 (one week out); $170 (3 months out)

(*Prices are for the Club Level, which was the only category available two days out.)

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins San Francisco

Grand architecture and old world charm set atop Nob Hill make this one of San Francisco’s most classic luxury hotels. Its rich woods, elegant fabrics, and classic décor are rivaled only by the views from its famous bar on the 19th floor, Top of the Mark (try one of the 100 martinis on the menu). A free weekday car service is available for guests.

Ritz-Carlton, Dallas

Indulging in maple-and-peppercorn-soaked buffalo tenderloin from celebrity chef Dean Fearing, relaxing with a massage in the 12,000-square-foot spa, heading to lunch in a Bentley town car—these are some of the highlights of a stay at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas. Opened in 2007, this Uptown hotel has 218 rooms, each of which is dressed up with 400-thread-count Frette linens and marble bathrooms, where soothing soaking tubs look on to in-mirror TV or city views. Don’t miss the heated outdoor pool.

Four Seasons Hotel New York

Raising the opulence bar—even for a Four Seasons property—this soaring, sleek, I. M. Pei-designed tower epitomizes the cool high life in this coolest of American cities. The spare stone façade leads to a cavernous marble lobby, where the voices of arriving guests echo among angular stone columns and vaulted skylit ceilings. Fifty-two stories high, the hotel has 368 rooms with views overlooking the midtown skyline (if you're facing south) and Central Park (to the north); the higher you go, the better and more expensive the vantage point. The average 600-square-foot size is massive by NYC standards, and all rooms are kitted out with clean-lined wood furniture; velvety fabrics in shades of champagne and cream; and spacious marble baths, many with soaking tubs. The amenities include a spa offering rose-petal foot soaks.

Room to Book: Corner rooms on the 28th and 29th floors have great views at lower-floor rates. If price is truly no object, the Ty Warner Penthouse Suite is a 4,300-square-foot palace with 25-foot cathedral ceilings, a private elevator, a grand piano, and an indoor Zen garden (approximately $45,000 per night).

Park Hyatt Chicago

Rising 67 stories above Michigan Avenue, the Park Hyatt Chicago is within a five-minute walk of major attractions like the John Hancock Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The hotel has an urban-chic vibe that begins in the lobby, where huge black columns make a striking first impression. The 198 renovated guest rooms contain reproduction Eames furniture, as well as oversize soaking tubs with candles, and window seats overlooking Lake Michigan or the Magnificent Mile. Amenities include a spa, a cocktail lounge, and the NoMI Kitchen, which serves locally inspired cuisine.

SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills, a Luxury Collection Hotel

Combine Philippe Starck’s exuberant interiors with the genius for tapas of chef José Andrés and the retail vision of design curator Murray Moss, and you have a hotel unlike any other. Though the lobby scene may border on chaotic, the guest rooms are whisper-quiet and American Gigolo–minimalist, with peekaboo sliding doors between the bath and boudoir. But God help you if you have self-esteem issues: virtually every surface in the rooms is reflective. Ultra-trendy though it may be, SLS delivers service that is doting to a fault.

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