America's Coolest Hipster Hotels
At Longman & Eagle, a tiny inn set in Chicago’s artsy Logan Square neighborhood, it’s pretty clear you’re in hipsterdom the moment you check in. You pick up your key from the bearded barkeep at the downstairs gastropub, then head to a room with a custom wall mural, a (modern) Apple TV, and a (retro-cool) cassette player.
Related: America's Best Cities for Hipsters
You generally know a hipster hotel when you see it—like Longman & Eagle, it’s most likely located in an up-and-coming neighborhood and filled with amenities that appeal to a creative-minded and tech-savvy clientele. Retro, of course, reigns. And staffers, who might include a resident DJ or tattoo artist, come clad in the latest downtown-hip fashion.
The modern hipster hospitality phenomenon traces back to the Ace Hotel, a pioneering brand owned by Alexander Calderwood that opened its first property in Seattle in the late ’90s (its fifth outlet will open in L.A. in fall 2013). Its name references the playing card, either the highest or lowest in the deck, and every Ace establishment offers a hierarchy of accommodations: from budget, hostel-style rooms—where there’s a shared bathroom down the hall—to indulgent, rock star–style pads, with turntables and customized Gibson guitars.
It appears that Calderwood, along with fellow trailblazer André Balazs—who opened the first Standard in Hollywood in 1998—tapped into something of a cultural zeitgeist. Today, more and more hoteliers are jumping on the budget boutique bandwagon, opening properties that range from the industrial and retro-mod to the avant-garde and cutting-edge, and even to the downright quirky.
Some hotels also embody the ethical, artisanal mind-set of modern-day hipsterdom. At the Wythe, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, much of the old wood was salvaged and repurposed—the building once housed a textile factory—for a classic urban warehouse look. The restaurant specializes in sustainable “whole animal wood fire cooking” and sources all ingredients from local New York farmers and producers.
Things are a little less precious inside San Francisco’s Hotel des Arts, where rising stars from the underground and street-art scene had full creative license over most of the accommodations. Design motifs in the tiny rooms include wild techno-punk patterns, whimsical Japanese anime, and trippy “Southwest Voodoo” murals.
One of the most requested rooms here includes an installation by artist Anthony Skirvin, who was inspired by obsessive-compulsive disorder and the hoarding of worthless objects. Expect a lot of random clutter, along with the very clear sense that you’re checked in to a true hipster hotel.
Surf Lodge, Montauk, NY
Though no longer Montauk’s wildest party spot, the original “hampster” hotel is on our list for its pioneer status and creative, surf-inspired design. New managers have pushed a number of green and holistic initiatives as well as an outdoor concert series that draws indie rockers like Courtney Love and the Kills.
Jupiter Hotel, Portland, OR
This glammed-up roadside lodge boasts a prime hipster location in Portland’s increasingly trendy LoBu neighborhood. You’ll find indie coffee shops, vintage clothing boutiques, and some of the city’s coolest rock venues, like the adjacent Doug Fir Lodge. Mod minimalist rooms, the scene for most post-show parties, come with wall-length photo murals, eco-friendly bath products, and quirky chalkboard doors.
McMenamins Kennedy School, Portland, OR
This unique, scholastic-themed property embodies Portland quirkiness. Housed in converted classrooms—the building was once a neighborhood elementary school—guest rooms feature chalkboards, playful little water fountains, and children’s coat hooks. While the TV show Portlandia may have relegated the city’s McMenamins hospitality empire into the “over” category, the hotel’s on-site microbrewery, art-house cinema, and moody cigar lounge (called the Detention Room) are still beloved hangouts for local hipsters.
Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco
Some of the modern hipster’s most revered icons, from David Bowie and Johnny Rotten to Vincent Gallo and Johnny Depp, have holed up at the kitschy-chic Phoenix, a former roadside “no-tell” set in San Francisco’s still-gentrifying Tenderloin District. The hotel’s ultimate concept is based on Rolling Stone Magazine, and—to that end—owner Chip Conley lures traveling musicians and rock band managers with discounts and free massages, a model that’s been replicated by hipster hotels around the country. jdvhotels.com
Wythe, Brooklyn, NY
Everything about this Williamsburg newcomer is locally sourced, from the artisanal furnishings and eco-friendly bath products to the ingredients at Reynards, the property’s sustainable “haute barnyard” restaurant. Upstairs “band rooms” cater to musicians playing shows at the adjacent Brooklyn Bowl, while Vice magazine (i.e. the bible of hipster snark) collaborated with the hotel for a recent on-site street-art exhibit. wythehotel.com
Jane Hotel, New York
Modeled after vintage sleeper cars in The Darjeeling Limited, “cabin” rooms at the Jane are some of the cheapest ($99) and tiniest (a meager 50 square feet) in all of Manhattan. There’s no shortage of space, though, inside the hotel’s pièce de résistance: the grandiose Jane Ballroom. Late-night revelry at this hipster-beloved party spot inspired a community protest blog (titled Nightmare on Jane), making the Jane one of the most infamous (and coolest) hotels on our list.
Ace Hotels (NYC, L.A., Palm Springs, Seattle, Portland OR)
Today there are hundreds of hotels with turntables, vinyl collections, and artsy graffiti-inspired wall murals (as well as quirky bathroom fixtures, resident DJs, curated bedside reading, and retro bike rentals), but you can trace it all back to this pioneering, Seattle-based chain, the brainchild of self-described cultural engineer Alexander Calderwood. Each property offers a site-specific design—NYC is all about industrial salvage while the look at Ace Palm Springs is vintage desert-chic—and a wide range of accommodations, from cheaper hostel-style rooms to elaborate “rockstar” pads with custom Gibson guitars.
Hotel Erwin, Venice Beach, CA
You’ll get a full dose of funky local style at this self-described “underground rock album.” There’s an extensive outdoor graffiti mural, a resident tattoo artist, and colorful, kitschy-cool rooms including the much-hyped Red Bull Dogtown Suite, a 750-foot homage to local skater/surfer culture. Local hipsters congregate over “barn-to-belly” fare at the on-site restaurant and rooftop lounge.
Longman & Eagle, Chicago
You could call this unique gastropub/hotel a hipster interpretation of the traditional tavern lodge. Guests check in at the downstairs restaurant, the de facto lobby as well as a beloved Logan Square hot spot for both foodies and cash-strapped creatives. (Haute comfort fare and a generous whiskey policy provide a lingua franca.) The six rooms upstairs feature “vintage” cassette players, Apple TVs, and a rotating selection of contemporary artworks. Daily brunch features an ironic $7 PBR breakfast. (It’s $8 if you opt out of the beer.) longmanandeagle.com
Hotel San José, Austin, TX
Despite the no-frills setup, the San José is a hideaway of choice for many visiting musicians and artists, who appreciate the urban-bungalow design and hip, retro style. Guests can borrow Polaroid cameras and Remington typewriters, rent stylish hipster-approved bicycles, or brush up on their vintage Americana at the hotel’s music library. The outdoor San José courtyard is ground zero for Austin hipsters, who come for the live music, tasty Micheladas, and laid-back vibe.
El Tres Inn Silver Lake, Los Angeles
Set in L.A.’s most high-profile hipster neighborhood, this über-boutique hideaway—there are only three rooms—has caught a lot of press for its unique apartment-style design and haute Modern Mexican aesthetic. All suites offer a turntable with accompanying vinyl, high-tech amenities (iPod docks, VTech Internet Radio), and margarita tokens for the downstairs bar. Owners Melanie Tusquellas and Dave Neupert are former music execs, so expect a well-curated record collection and rocker-heavy clientele. eltresinn.com
Hotel Saint Cecilia, Austin, TX
Texan hotelier Liz Lambert’s latest Austin project is an homage to the rock ’n’ roll decadence of yesteryear. All 14 rooms come with turntables and iPod sound systems; edgy, eclectic artworks; and haute bohemian design touches, like red velvet furniture and dramatic chandeliers.
Thunderbird Motel, Marfa, TX
Though Marfa remains relatively under-the-radar, serious art-world heavyweights have been vacationing in this tiny West Texas outpost for years—and most book the Thunderbird. This revamped roadside motel offers a desert-inspired take on minimalism, as well as bike rentals and various vintage-chic amenities including typewriters, record players, and Lomo cameras.
Hotel Max, Seattle
Known for its edgy, often erotically charged artwork, this self-proclaimed hipster haven is one of the coolest addresses in party-central Belltown. Rooms are notoriously small though highly stylish…in a modern, minimalist way, of course. Quirky, irreverent little amenities include a Spiritual Menu, where guests can have the religious tome of their choice—from the Western Bible to the Buddhist Bible—delivered to their doorway.
Hotel des Arts, San Francisco
Rising stars from the underground art scene, including hipster heavyweight Shepard Fairey (of Andre the Giant and Obama poster fame), had full creative license here. Selected designs range from wild techno-punk paintings and vulgar graffiti to whimsical Japanese anime and trippy “Southwest Voodoo” murals. Cramped quarters, particularly the one designed to resemble a troubled hoarder’s den, keep the business travelers away.
Royal Street Inn & Bar, New Orleans
Recently refurbished, the five suites at this self-announced bed-and-breakfast aim for “sleazy luxury,” with dark, decadent wallpaper and slick leather couches. Downstairs, Faubourg Marigny musicians and hipsters play pool and drink $2 PBRs through the night at R Bar. Decked out with old-school red vinyl furniture and the requisite voodoo-kitsch artifacts, this funky neighborhood dive is also the de facto lobby—guests pick up their room keys as well as two complimentary cocktails from the bartenders. royalstreetinn.com
Loft 523, New Orleans
Housed in a former dry-goods warehouse, this über-minimalist hotel is practically cutting-edge in New Orleans, where aesthetic sensibilities lean more toward Victorian and French Colonial drama. Loft-inspired suites have an urban, industrial look, as well as some fun electronic gadgetry (surround-sound systems, plasma TVs). Le Phare, the sexy, subterranean cocktail lounge, lures stylish Faubourg Marigny hipsters away from Frenchman Street. loft523.com
“Do Your Thing” is ACME’s tagline; given the hotel’s techie focus, it works. Guests can jump on free 100-MB-bandwidth Wi-Fi, crank Bon Iver or Nicki Minaj on Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin audio systems, or stream their own movies and content through 46-inch LED TVs with Apple and HDMI connections. acmehotelcompany.com
Standard Hotels (NYC, Miami, L.A.)
A pioneering hipster chain—the first property opened in Hollywood in 1998—the Standard is the Ace’s sexier, glammed-up cousin. Over the years, the brand has developed a reputation for its cutting-edge, often irreverent design sensibility. There’s floor-to-ceiling “shag” carpeting inside the Hollywood hotel, clothing-optional mud baths in Miami, and notoriously debaucherous lounges at all of them that bring forth the scenester hipsters.