The Best Hotels in the U.S.
A great hotel can make you feel you’ve traveled back in time—and even help you dress the part.
That’s why Sharon Cantor loves The Chanler, a sprawling, former summer home in Newport, R.I. “It’s a journey back to the Golden Age of mansions—architectural beauty, timeless elegance, and impeccable service,” says the Miami resident. During one recent stay, Cantor and her husband Steve were invited to a 1930s-themed gala, and Chanler staffers helped them hunt down last-minute costumes. “We have stayed at many five-star hotels,” says the Cantor, “but none of them compares to the personal attention and genuine warmth shown to us by the staff of the Chanler.”
Travel + Leisure readers felt the same way, ranking the Rhode Island manse among the top 10 of all U.S. hotels. As part of the magazine’s annual World’s Best survey, readers ranked airlines, spas, hotels, and even islands around the globe. Within the hotel category, readers ranked properties for such features as their service, dining, family-friendliness, spas, and location. Indeed, some of the top 20 hotel winners could get away with being ho-hum on the inside, given their fabulous settings—like, along Newport’s Cliff Walk, in the shade of the Golden Gate Bridge, or on a private island overlooking Key West.
That tiny-island locale is one reason Beth Blair loves Sunset Key Cottages, another top 10 contender. Its air of exclusivity is “magical, and I could go on and on about the top-notch service and views,” says the Minnesota travel blogger. But something else won her heart: “The pastry baskets that arrive every morning at the front door are a wow factor,” she says. “There's nothing more relaxing than sitting on a beach-facing patio, sipping hot coffee and nibbling on freshly baked muffins.”
No. 20: The Sebastian Vail, Vail, Colorado
Survey voters clearly don’t want to have to take a shuttle to the slopes. This 100-room hotel made the top 20 for location, since it’s just a few steps from Vail’s Gondola One. While the lobby has classic-ski-lodge stone and timber, rooms lean toward the contemporary, rather than the log-cabin vibe, with polished wood headboards and reserved earth tones. The après-ski scene is similarly elegant, with the signature scotch collection at Frost, the hotel bar. For another kind of après-ski, readers loved the hotel’s spa, which utilizes the Vail Valley’s indigenous pine, flowers, and herbs. They may have also felt relaxed by the prices. Despite its high-end setting, the Sebastian was the top U.S. ski resort in the survey’s value category.
No. 19: Inn Above Tide, Sausalito, California
A literal reading of this hotel’s name explains how it ranked at No. 3 in the location category: it sits right over the water in Sausalito, giving you deck or picture-window views of San Francisco Bay, Marin, and Alcatraz. Considering the prime real estate, readers also gave the 31-room, shingled hotel high marks for value (it’s also evidence of the affection travelers have for a free continental breakfast and an evening wine-and-cheese reception). You also get niceties like in-room binoculars, Bulgari toiletries, and complimentary bicycles, so you can pedal around Sausalito or nearby Mill Valley and Tiburon.
No. 18: Lake Placid Lodge, Lake Placid, New York
Choose between lakeside cabins, which date back to the 1920s and ’30s, or the recently renovated main lodge: both channel a rich arts-and-crafts ambience, which helped the resort score well in the survey for its rooms. Readers were also coddled by the high level of service, like having griddle cakes and house-made preserves delivered in a basket to your cottage door each morning. No matter what kind of room you choose, the chances for carefree play abound: snowshoes and cross-country skis are available for guest use, and trails start right outside the lodge.
No. 17: Calistoga Ranch, Napa Valley, California
Secluded among 157 acres of ancient trees and burbling streams, this Northern California retreat got raves from readers for its leafy privacy. The 48 “rooms” are actually cedar-and-glass cabins with huge views of the woods, along with fabulous outdoor living rooms, “bath gardens” and outdoor showers. Given the spa’s mud baths and private mineral-soaking pools, the resort also scored well with readers for its stress-relieving potential.
No. 16: Lodge at Sea Island Beach Club, Sea Island, Georgia
The sister property of The Cloister caters well to the golf crowd: the Lodge’s 40 rooms overlook two legendary golf courses, Plantation and Seaside, and sit near the 18-hole Retreat course, co-designed by David Love III. The Lodge also has generous, country-manor-style rooms—at least 700 square feet—with exposed beams, overstuffed chairs and views of the Atlantic. To complete the Scottish effect, bagpipers even stroll the grounds at dusk. As with the Cloister, you get easy access to the resort’s Sea Island beach club, as well as horseback riding, tennis, and squash.
No. 15: Cavallo Point, The Lodge at the Golden Gate, San Francisco
This 142-room hotel sits in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and in the shadow of the iconic bridge—which, no doubt, helped it land its top-10 rankings for both location and lovebirds. You get the choice of two compelling kinds of lodging: either the new, eco-friendly suites with gas fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and bamboo furniture; or rooms in the site’s original Fort Baker, which was an officers’ residence during World War II. Readers also loved the Northern-Cal-style spa, which features massage as well as energy work (like reiki and jin-shin) and hypnotherapy.
No. 14: Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina
This 21-room mansion-turned-hotel was the survey’s No. 1 winner among small city hotels, and it embodies that time-machine charm of the Holy City: fireplaces in every room, hors d’oeuvres and sherry in the lobby, and chocolate truffles on your pillow at bedtime. With so many seductive treats, readers also awarded the Second-Empire-style hotel a high ranking for romance. Meanwhile, with Southern-meets-global dishes like antelope country paté, cast-iron poulet rouge and sweet potato doughnuts, the on-site Circa 1886 restaurant helped the Wentworth win the gold medal for small-city hotel dining.
No. 13: The Cloister, Sea Island, Georgia
Sitting on the sand of a Georgia barrier island, this 1928 grande dame is a readers’ favorite for its country-estate aesthetics: Turkish rugs, overstuffed chairs, and marble baths (as well as an old-school Sweet Shop, home of the pecan-covered Gold Brick Sundae). That stately ambience helped secure its No. 4 ranking in the business hotel category: its generous meeting space has hosted a G8 Summit, and offers downtime at three championship golf courses (including Seaside, designed in 1929 by famed architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison). It also scored well for multi-generational travelers, thanks to the less formal diversions of bingo nights and low-country boils on the beach.
No. 11 (tie): Hotel Terra, Teton Village, Wyoming
Rather than tucking the spa below the lobby, like some resorts do, this slopeside Jackson Hole lodge put its high-scoring facility on the rooftop, so you can gaze out at the mountains while you decompress. And while the 132-room hotel is lined with edgy regional art, it ranks well with families, perhaps because of its high percentage of studios and suites, which come with kid-friendly kitchens. Plus, it’s a short walk to the ski lifts, and less than a mile from Teton National Park. Readers also placed it in the U.S. top 10 for service: you can call upon 24-hour concierges to customize your activities, or ask the ski valet to tend to your gear and advise you on the best runs.
No. 11 (tie): Inn at Little Washington, Washington, Virginia
To some readers, a great hotel room is merely the place where you rest up between memorable meals. This plush country-style inn has an English country home vibe—it was decorated by a London set designer— but many guests initially came for the menu, created by inn founder and James Beard Award-winner Patrick O’Connell. Indeed, the inn won the survey for the best hotel dining in America: it has a 14,000-bottle wine cellar and a French-influenced menu featuring “munchies” like foie gras with pear butter, or a Tin of Sin with American Osetra caviar and peekytoe crab. The hotel also tied at No. 1 in the U.S. for service, with such attentive amenities as afternoon tea, kitchen tours, and three housekeeping visits for your room per day.
No. 10: The Little Nell, Aspen, Colorado
The 92-room mainstay scored well for its location—with ski-in, ski-out access to Aspen Mountain—but some might argue that the ski trails are lucky to be situated near this charismatic hotel. Not surprisingly, readers also ranked the Little Nell in the top 5 for its excellent nightlife scene: it’s home to the elegant lounge Element 47 and the more traditional Ajax Tavern, known for its beloved cheeseburger and truffle fries. The hotel also scored well for its high level of service: You can take advantage of the Ski Concierges, who can set up your lessons and warm your boots, while your dog can get butler-level services, too, from dog-walking to a Puppy Jet Lag kit.
No. 9: Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park
Located in a classic pre-war building, this Manhattan Ritz-Carlton ranked at No. 1 among big-city hotels in the U.S., and also made the top 10 for business hotels. Whether or not readers came here to cut deals, the hotel made them feel like insiders: Each member of the multilingual concierge team belongs to the prestigious Les Clefs d’Or, and readers repeatedly wrote that the service feels warm and natural, despite the grand setting. Indeed, one of the daily activities is a standing invitation to help feed the hotel’s carriage horses across the street. Its La Prairie day spa, meanwhile–where one treatment is the decidedly-non-fishy Caviar Back Massage—ranked at the top of the U.S. survey for hotel spas.
No. 8: Primland, Meadows of Dan, Virginia
Tucked among 12,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland tied for first place among U.S. hotels for both its design and rooms. The LEED-registered property is both smart and whimsical: the stone fireplaces and exposed beams came from indigenous materials, but readers were most dazzled by the treehouse-style cabins and the Celestron-equipped observatory. Readers also ranked it in the top 20 for service, thanks to a committed team of concierges, and an app that lets you schedule do-not-disturb timeframes, choose a pillow or request wine and truffles. Readers also gushed about the ridge-top golf course, designed by renowned architect Donald Steel.
No. 7: Allison Inn & Spa, Newberg, Oregon
Readers declared this 85-room hotel in the Willamette Valley to be one of the best values among American wine country inns—perhaps not a surprise, since Pinot fans tend to love Oregon wineries for their laidback (and less costly) ambience. And while the hotel is nobly LEED Gold-certified—for such features as solar water heaters and glassware made from reclaimed wine bottles—it also offers decadent, you're-soaking-in-it spa treatments, like baths of local wine, honey and roses. Set on seven acres of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapevines, the Allison also got high marks for its idyllic location and a top-10 ranking for cuisine: its locavore restaurant Jory is named after the region’s fertile soil.
No. 6: Ocean House, Watch Hill, Rhode Island
This once-dilapidated, 65-room hotel tied for first in the world in the design category: it was completely rebuilt in 2004 as an exact replica of its 1868 self, with each of the original 247 windows placed in the exact same location as before. Today's rooms have feather-top beds and Early New England artwork, as well as flat-screen TVs and iPads. The bluff-top hotel also ranked at No. 4 in the survey for its location, offering views of either the Atlantic or Little Narragansett Bay. To explore in either direction, you can go fishing, surf or tool around in one of the Mercedes-Benz house cars, available for day use.
No. 5: Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
This 20-room mansion could make anyone nostalgic for the Gilded Age: it was built in 1873 as the summer home of a Congressman. Each room has its own décor personality (like Louis XIV, Gothic or Regency), as well as fireplaces, heated bathroom floors and even TVs by the tub—earning the hotel a near-perfect score in the rooms category. Readers also declared the Chanler a worthy dining destination even if you don’t spend the night: the Spiced Pear does a signature New England tasting menu that speaks with a French accent—like butter-poached lobster, cold oysters with pickled-pear mignonette and, for dessert, seasonally-inspired soufflés.
No. 4: Inn at Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, South Carolina
This Spanish-moss-draped resort combines an idyllic beauty with a little bit of history, including antebellum plantation land and the ruins of a Gatsby-era mansion. But readers also ranked it at the top of the survey for families: various ages can go horseback riding, fishing, golfing, paddle-boarding, or swimming, while grownups can engage in such rigorous activities as “porching”—sitting in a rocker out front of the 50 clapboard cottages (the hotel will expand by 150 rooms in 2016). Readers raved about the vacation-home atmosphere, which helped the resort make the top 5 of the world for design. Cottages range up to 1,500 feet, have screened-in porches and make the most of the river, lagoon, or forest views.
No. 2 (tie): Farmhouse Inn, Forestville, California
This Russian River Valley boutique hotel was a big winner in the inn and small lodges category, perhaps because it embodies the ultimate wine-country escape: a Michelin-starred restaurant, an on-site winery, and tastefully homey rooms (some housed in a posh version of a barn). But even the down-home touches have a serious pedigree: the lobby offers a selection of help-yourself artisanal soap, and the outdoor s’mores pit features house-made marshmallows and Vahlrona chocolate. Even if you don’t normally seek out food on a stick, the hotel placed at No. 4 in the U.S. for dining.
No. 2 (tie): Sunset Key Cottages, Key West, Florida
Despite its humble tin roofs, this otherwise plush hotel ranked at No. 1 in the U.S. for its location: a private island that’s 500 yards from Key West, which is close enough to enjoy the festive vibe, but far enough away to feel tranquil. It also impressed readers with its design, by way of 40 white-washed cottages that come with kitchens, but without any pressure to cook, since a breakfast basket shows up on your veranda in the morning. The hotel also gives you the best of both worlds in terms of recreation: there’s a private beach on your side, but full access to the big-resort perks (like a 37-slip marina) across the water at the Westin Key West
No. 1: Triple Creek Ranch, Darby, Montana
The winning U.S. hotel in the survey has a quintessential American spirit: located in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley, it’s a four-star dude ranch where you can rustle dogies by day then reward yourself with duck confit, Wagyu steaks and a huckleberry trifle by evening, all with thoughtful wine pairings. As a result, the hotel also ranked at No. 3 in the U.S. for cuisine, and in the top 10 for its elegantly rustic design: cedar-lined log cabins, stone fireplaces and world-class Western art. Given its thorough menu of complimentary activities—including fly fishing, archery, skiing, and even horse-pulled skijoring—readers also ranked the high-end Triple Creek at No. 1 for being a solid value.