America's Best Lake Hotels
Early fall is prime time to visit New York State’s Lake Placid, when the trees in 6-million-acre Adirondack Park are starting to turn colors, and travelers can gather round for s’mores at Lake Placid Lodge—one of the best lakefront hotels in the U.S.
Every year, jet-setting readers vote on their favorite hotels around the globe in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards survey. A review of the top-scoring lakefront properties in the U.S. makes us nostalgic for vacation days—and simple pleasures like a calming view and a refreshing splash in the water.
Related: America's Best Lake Vacations
Mountain lakefront spots have an added appeal: access to hiking trails and ski runs, as well as fishing within sight of snowcapped peaks. One of T+L readers’ favorite spots is the new Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, No. 2 on the list, nestled at 6,225 feet in California’s Sierra Nevadas. This year, Colorado makes a showing at the top of the list as well, with the No. 3–ranked Broadmoor, a 1918 historic hotel with a 43,000-square-foot spa for a signature Swedish massage.
A robust list of land-based activities can be just as important as access to the water. At No. 5–ranked Keswick Hall, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the rural charms include vineyard tours and rounds of golf on a course that’s known for bird-watching. Nearby, the top-ranked lakefront hotel in the U.S. is the Umstead Hotel and Spa in North Carolina, perfect for outdoorsy types who love to wake up and take a riverfront stroll (there are more than 20 miles of trails along Big Lake).
For families, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, No. 9, on Orlando’s Crescent Lake, has nautical interiors reminiscent of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. (Disney World is just a 10-minute car ride away.) But travelers who prefer seclusion to navigating the crowds will love the No. 10–ranked Friends Lake Inn, where stone fireplaces and Jacuzzi tubs cozy amenities for a property alongside idyllic Friends Lake in Chestertown, NY.
Looking for more? We’ve got the top T+L reader picks for America’s best lakefront hotels.
No. 1 Umstead Hotel and Spa, Cary, NC
This tranquil property, minutes from downtown Raleigh, is on a three-acre lake surrounded by tidy trails just one mile away from William B. Umstead State Park. Don’t miss the resort’s signature afternoon tea in the art-filled lobby lounge—complete with a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture and a harpist who performs each Wednesday through Sunday.
No. 2 Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, Truckee, CA
A 10-minute drive from Lake Tahoe, this 170-room stone-and-wood lodge has a cavernous 17,000-square-foot spa with nature-inspired treatments, such as a crushed pinecone exfoliating scrub; a buzzworthy restaurant, Manzanita; and the Ritz’s famous concierges, who arrange kayaking, private boat charters, and more lake activities.
No. 3 The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, CO
Set on 3,000 Colorado acres, the Broadmoor hotel in the Rocky Mountains is a great choice for active families: there’s horseback riding, rock climbing, and fly-fishing on Lake Cheyenne. After a dinner of roasted Colorado lamb loin at the hotel’s Penrose Room restaurant, head up to your room in the Broadmoor West building, where you’ll have unobstructed water views.
No. 4 Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, NC
Nestled in western North Carolina, Old Edwards has a small-cottage vibe, luxury details (claw-footed bathtubs; whirlpools with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains), and a picture-perfect setting near Lake Glenville. A bonus: nightly rates start below $160.
No. 5 Keswick Hall, Charlottesville, VA
With its laird-of-the-manor grandeur, Keswick Hall evokes the old-guard spirit in the Blue Ridge Mountains more than any other hotel. In a stately Tuscan-style structure originally built in 1912, the 48 guest rooms are decorated with a mix of hunt-club prints, canopy beds, and Chippendale chairs. Cast your line at Keswick Hall’s Broadmoor Lake, well stocked with rainbow trout, bass, crappie, and sunfish.
No. 6 The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, WV
Travelers have long been drawn to this remote valley in the Allegheny Mountains in search of the curative powers of white sulphur springs. It’s here, in rural West Virginia, that travelers also find the Greenbrier, one of America’s most legendary resorts, which dates back to 1913 and features interior designer Dorothy Draper’s familiar floral patterns—and in the north corner, the hundred-yard Swan Lake.
No. 7 Ritz-Carlton, Orlando
The relative isolation of this property on 500 acres of well-tended land (about two miles east of SeaWorld) results in a sense of peace and quiet otherwise unknown in these parts. A businesslike hotel with a surfeit of Italianate pink marble, the Ritz has 584 rooms spread through a U-shaped tower. The next-door Grande Lakes, home of the Emotion Kayaks Flat-Water School, is also the place for private fly-fishing excursions.
No. 8 Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, Orlando
You’d be hard-pressed to find an Orlando property that’s more devoted to the ultimate lakeside experience than Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The hotel’s nautical-crisp design is reminiscent of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard—except it’s located on Florida’s Crescent Lake. Explore in one of the resort’s pontoon boats, or let the kids loose on the waterslide.
No. 9 Friends Lake Inn, Adirondacks, NY
Good things come in small packages, and such is the case with the 17-room Friends Lake Inn, with views of the petite-but-pretty Friends Lake. If fishing isn’t on your agenda, there are plenty of other land-based activities—from skiing to horseback riding and golf in the summer months. Come evening, return for dinner in the Inn’s farm-to-table Lakeview Dining Room and a roaring fireplace in your cozy bedroom.
No. 10 Lake Placid Lodge, NY
A stay at this exclusive spot means you can get right onto the water: the hotel has its own boat, the 35-foot, mahogany Hacker-Craft. Down by the private shore, you’ll unpack in one of 19 luxe log cabins, where a breakfast of raspberry pancakes and tiny jars of house-made preserves is delivered right to your door in a wicker basket.
No. 11 Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, Greensboro, GA
This lush, sprawling resort known for its world-class golf courses occupies 10,000 acres along the western shore of Lake Oconee—a glittering blue expanse 75 miles east of Atlanta. You’ll stay busy with tee times at the property’s 99 championship lakefront holes (designed by golf starchitects Tom Fazio, Rees Jones, and Jack Nicklaus); the kids will love the waterfront s’mores each evening.
No. 12 Sagamore Resort, Lake George, NY
Head out on a replica of a 19th-century boat at this storied 1883 hotel on Lake George. Thanks to its Bolton Landing location, this elegant clapboard resort has postcard-perfect views—especially from the Veranda Terrace and Pavilion Restaurant (just two of the seven dining areas on-site).
No. 13 Crater Lake Lodge, Oregon
Adventurous types gravitate to Oregon’s 71-room Crater Lake Lodge, a historic hotel surrounded by jagged cliffs that are prime for exploring (the nearby volcano crater, at around 2,000 feet, is where you’ll take off on boat cruises and hiking excursions). But plan for a summer stay: the lodge is open only from late May to mid-October.
No. 14 Coeur d’Alene Resort, Idaho
The towering ivory-colored Coeur d’Alene in North Idaho is just steps away from its namesake lake, complete with a 15,000-square-foot floating green golf hole. Aside from the usual adventure activities (guided hikes, lake kayaking, and paddleboating), the hotel is known for its boat tours, including a kid-friendly pirate-themed performance on the water.
No. 15 Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, WI
Midwesterners know this hidden gem: Elkhart Lake, near the Kettle Moraine State Park, for pontoon boating, fishing, and canoeing. Make your home base the Osthoff Resort, with a staff that’s at the ready to arrange on-the-water activities as well as bonfires three times a week in the summer months (yes, there are campfire songs and s’mores). Don’t miss lobster bisque and pecan-crusted oysters at the hotel’s lakeside restaurant, Lola’s on the Lake.