By Sara Clemence
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Travel + Leisure readers’ picks for the best resort hotels in the continental U.S. reflect a desire for wide open spaces and properties that are packed with character. Whether it means heading to mountain towns or Western plains, charming coastal towns or snowcapped mountains, our travelers are clearly drawn to resorts that shift their mindsets away from the day-to-day and give them an opportunity to truly, deeply unwind. There are no generic, you-could-be-anywhere resorts on this list, but rather strong characters that linger in the memories of anyone who has had the pleasure of staying there.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L invites its readers to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Hotels were rated on their facilities, location, service, food, and overall value. Properties were classified as city or resort based on their locations and amenities.

The 2020 winners showcase the breadth of American hospitality. They are spread across the country, from northern Vermont to southern California, from the heights of Colorado to the lower reaches of Florida. The Lodge at Blue Sky (No. 4) is brand new, while the No. 10 Chanler at Cliff Walk, in Newport, Rhode Island, dates back nearly 150 years.

In fact, two of this year’s winning resort hotels are in that classic Ocean State resort town. The Chanler at Cliff Walk — once the “cottage” of a New York congressman — comprises 20 exquisite rooms, each decorated in a different style that’s often inspired by a period in history. A large part of its appeal is no doubt its stunning location “perched on a hillside, looking directly down on the beach in one direction, and then off to sea along the shoreline of the Cliff Walk on the other,” as one T+L reader described. The Vanderbilt from Auberge Resorts Collection (No. 14) was built by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt in 1909 and beautifully restored to evoke a similar Gilded Age appeal.

Courtesy of Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection

Other properties are upscale takes on classic dude ranches. Colorado’s C Lazy U Ranch, which opened in 1919, snagged this year’s No. 5 spot. One visitor said, “It’s by far one of the best places I have ever stayed and one of the best memories I have from traveling. The location, the staff, the horses, and even the donkeys made this a memory I will never forget!” The reopened San Ysidro Ranch (No. 13), in the Montecito foothills outside of Santa Barbara, California, puts an ultra-glam spin on the concept. Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married there; John and Jackie Kennedy came for their honeymoon. But it wasn’t glitz that drew them — rather the laid-back, organic elegance that endures today in its 41 romantic cottages.

This year’s winner for the best resort in the Continental U.S., the Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, epitomizes the qualities T+L readers prize most: fantastic food, warm staff, and a deep sense of place.

1. The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, Saratoga, Wyoming

Courtesy of Brush Creek Luxury Ranch Collection

Score: 98.00

More information: brushcreekranch.com

As one Travel + Leisure reader put it: “It’s definitely an adventure to get there.” Private planes can land just 20 minutes away, but if you want to reach the 30,000-acre working ranch and luxury resort from the nearest major airport, you have to drive for nearly four hours, crossing state lines and passing through a national forest. The trek is worthwhile — and not merely for the sense of remove from the everyday world. “The staff is friendly, helpful, and just attentive enough,” wrote one reader. “It's one of the few places where I can truly relax.”

Set amid creeks, prairies, and mountains, family-friendly Brush Creek Ranch is a Western fantasy come to life. This 30,000-acre all-inclusive resort doesn’t just offer the traditional horseback riding and fly-fishing. Guests can busy themselves with everything from ice fishing to cooking and baking classes. Guests can sip rare small-batch whiskeys and dine on Wagyu beef that was raised on the ranch. The extensive culinary program includes a hydroponic greenhouse, creamery, and distillery. In winter, guests have access to a 600-acre private ski mountain nearby. The log cabins and lodge rooms are relaxed, yet beyond comfortable. As one T+L reader said, “I'd move here if I could.”

2. The Deer Path Inn, Lake Forest, Illinois

Courtesy of Deer Path Inn

Score: 97.64

More information: thedeerpathinn.com

3. Rabbit Hill Inn, Lower Waterford, Vermont

Courtesy of Rabbit Hill Inn

Score: 96.69

More information: rabbithillinn.com

4. The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection, Park City, Utah

Courtesy of The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 96.40

More information: aubergeresorts.com

5. C Lazy U Ranch, Granby, Colorado

Courtesy of C Lazy U

Score: 96.28

More information: clazyu.com

6. Sonnenalp Hotel, Vail, Colorado

Courtesy of Sonnenalp

Score: 96.00

More information: sonnenalp.com

7. Sunset Key Cottages, Key West, Florida

Courtesy of Sunset Key Cottages

Score: 95.35

More information: sunsetkeycottages.com

8. Twin Farms, Barnard, Vermont

Courtesy of Twin Farms

Score: 95.31

More information: twinfarms.com

9. North Block Hotel, Yountville, California

@TheNomadicPeople/Courtesy of North Block Hotel

Score: 95.24

More information: northblockhotel.com

10. The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island

Courtesy of The Chanler at Cliff Walk

Score: 95.15

More information: thechanler.com

11. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, San Diego, California

Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

Score: 95.12

More information: ranchovalencia.com

12. Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, Harwich, Massachusetts

Courtesy of Wequassett Resort and Golf Club

Score: 94.97

More information: wequassett.com

13. San Ysidro Ranch, Santa Barbara, California

Courtesy of San Ysidro Ranch

Score: 94.87

More information: sanysidroranch.com

14. The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection, Newport, Rhode Island

Courtesy of The Vanderbilt, Auberge Resorts Collection

Score: 94.86

More information: aubergeresorts.com

15. Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Courtesy of Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club

Score: 94.73

More information: lagomar.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.