Where to Find Five-Star Hotels for Three-Star Prices
Related: Airfares Are the Cheapest They’ve Been in a Long Time
Have you ever said to yourself, I don’t care where I go—I just want to get away and get spoiled. It’s sort of the opposite of the Staycation—let’s call it the Awaycation—and it can be a surprisingly affordable splurge, especially if you’re willing to venture to off-season locations that many travelers are passing on. After all, who cares if it’s hot outside if your 5-star hotel has great A.C. and a sweet pool (or two).
Related: JetBlue May Start Flying to Europe
There are a surprising number of A-list places at rock-bottom prices all around the country. A price check on TripAdvisor for a Saturday night in mid-August turned up plenty of places for less than $150 a night, including a Waldorf Astoria for $95 a night. Get ready to spoil yourself rotten—without maxing out your credit card.
Related: How Terrorism & Turmoil Affect What You Spend on Coffee, Pizza, and Fashion
Built in 1929 in consultation with Frank Lloyd Wright, the Arizona Biltmore is known as both “the jewel of the desert” and the home of Marilyn Monroe's favorite swimming pool, the Catalina. Today you’ll find vast guest rooms (the smallest is 400 square feet), eight pools (hit Paradise for a swim-up bar and 92-foot water slide) and afternoon tea that’s supervised by a tea “sommelier.” Local tip: Walk the 140-acre Desert Botanical Garden to explore an agave forest and some 20 species of butterflies.
The marble-and-bronze-lined Beaux Arts beauty that is the Seelbach Hilton is even more luxe than when it opened in 1903: valet parking, same-day shoeshine, a full-size Starbucks off the lobby, and in-room check-out. Have a glass of bourbon in the billiard room, where Paul Newman filmed scenes for The Hustler. Local tip: Float like a butterfly into the Muhammad Ali Center, where you can explore his life history within the frame of his six core principles, including confidence and respect.
There’s a waterfall-fed plunge pool, 143-foot-long water slide, and an adults-only pool lined with daybeds at the 500-acre Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort under the Santa Catalina mountains. Hop on one of the hotel’s free loaner bikes to explore the Oro Valley, then spend the rest of the day lounging on your downy Hilton Serenity bed or coddled in the spa, where Swedish massage is the specialty. Local tip: Sip a prickly pear lemonade in the succulent-filled gardens at Tohono Chul.
With rain showers and river stone floors in your bathroom, iPad docking stations, room service ribeye steaks, and glossy mahogany and scarlet decor, you may forget to ever leave your room at the Hotel Duval. One reason to venture out: happy hour in the 8th floor rooftop lounge, when all drinks are $2 off. Local tip: hike through a wildlife refuge nearby to see St. Mark’s Lighthouse, originally built in 1831.
Baton Rouge: $134
Rooms are awash in calming, spa-like neutrals at the Renaissance Baton Rouge Hotel—all the better to complement the all-natural Aveda bath amenities. Continue the Canyon Ranch-like experience in the on-site gym, which is open to guests 24 hours, and shimmering al fresco pool—lined with cabanas and daybeds—before grabbing a mint julep by the fire pits at the hotel’s wine bar. Local tip: wander the 103-acre, magnolia and cypress-filled Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center, eyes peeled for everything from armadillos to coyotes.
It’s fitting that Neiman Marcus’s hometown is chockablock with luxury hotels. The Omni Dallas Hotel at Park West features a full-size gym and in-room fitness kits (you can never be too rich or too toned); an outdoor pool with cocktail service and "dive-in" movies on weekends; and a grand piano beckoning in the lobby. Local tip: unmissable works from Irving Penn and Vermeer are currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Art.
You’ll find 300-thread-count Italian linens and Bose stereos in every room at The Citizen Hotel. Located a few blocks from the California state capitol building, the hotel also offers same-day dry cleaning, a concierge and valet, and a great happy hour featuring unique drinks such as the On the Lam, a mix of whiskey, restretto, and tobacco tincture. Local tip: Sacramento’s answer to the Guggenheim is the Crocker Art Museum, where paintings by Kehinde Wiley are drawing crowds.
Starbucks coffee in the lobby, a 24-hour gym, and down-swaddled king-size beds help make the riverside Hyatt Regency Wichita one of the finest hotels in Kansas. Want more? There’s also an art-filled, airy lobby and locavore-focused restaurant (get the lamb T-bone with Kansas beets). Local tip: take a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style Allen House, reportedly one of his personal favorites.
New Orleans: $125
You could spend a small fortune on coctails alone in New Orleans, but you can make up for it at the Omni Riverfront Hotel, where you get the royal treatment without emptying your pockets: fountains gurgle, renovated rooms overlook the Arts District, and the chef has perfected the art of the Nutella brioche (it's drizzled in banana rum Foster sauce.) Local tip: book a table at Cavan, one of the city's buzziest and most inventive restaurants, where specied honey hushpuppies and fried oysters in kimchee ginger remoulade are served in an 1881 mansion.
San Jose: $135
Just an hour from downtown San Francisco (and only 15 miles from the San Jose airport), you can drop your car with the valet and claim short-term ownership of the 1905 marble-filled Dolce Hayes Mansion, once home to the Hayes family. Ask for a room overlooking the leafy gardens (many have patios), then spend the day in the palm-shaded outdoor pool and hot tubs, followed by an antioxidant facial in the spa. Local tip: pop for tickets to the symphony or opera at the California Theatre, an over-the-top-ornate 1920s Fox movie palace that hasn’t lost its luster.
With doormen, bellhops, valet, and turndown service, the art-filled Le Meridien Charlotte brings the guest experience back to the white-glove glory years. The 300 rooms are fitted with original artwork, marble-lined bathrooms, and platform beds. Save time for a night at the skyline-view rooftop bar, where the drink du jour is a Popsicle served in a glass of prosecco. Local tip: guests of the hotel can show their key cards for free access to the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts (worth $12 a person), where Dorothea Lange photographs and rare high heels (Dior! Hadid!) are currently on display."
TheRenaissance Albany Hotelopened last year across the street from New York’s capitol: a sleek and sumptuous $70 million renovation of the 1927 Dewitt Clinton hotel building, where Elizabeth Taylor once slept. Even the simplest rooms are more than 400-square-feet, with upholstered headboards and soundproof windows (in case a political rally erupts outside). Local tip: the decadent cheesecakes at Cheesecake Machismo—in flavors from boysenberry to caramel toffee—are more than worth the calories.
The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, a Historic Hotel of America, features an arbor-decked rooftop pool and 10,000-square-foot spa, where a fire pit flickers and steam rooms are scented with eucalyptus. Local tip: explore antebellum history at the Greek Revival Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, where docents lead tours back in time.
Columbus, Ohio: $143
The newly revamped guest rooms at the Hilton Columbus at Easton take a page from a modernist design magazine—all clean-lined silver furniture and Italian marble. The high-def TV with on-demand HBO alone may keep you tethered to your room, but do take a dip in the heated indoor pool and pick up a billiard cue in the on-site sports bar. Local tip: flower fiends should make the 13-acre Park of Roses, with some 11,000 rose bushes, their first stop.
Built by a railroad magnate in 1882, the Tudor-inspired Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center is so luxe that you can have a manicurist or masseur turn your room into a private spa. The room itself is spa-like already, with granite counters and lighted vanity mirrors in the bathroom, bottomless Wolfgang Puck coffee, and views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Local tip: bike any of the hundreds of leaf-shrouded trails in the nearby foothills, touted by serious cyclists as some of the best in the east.