12 Boutique Hotels Outside Major U.S. Cities That Make the Case for a Road Trip
One of the many benefits of a luxury resort is the myriad of amenities. From multi-story spas complete with plunge pools, treatment suites, and impeccably decorated lounge spaces to renowned resident restaurants that even the locals are dying to try, resorts can grant just about any whim its thousands of guests may have. That said, the one comfort sprawling resorts can’t offer is a sense of charm that comes with a bed-and-breakfast or a quaint hotel.
For those travelers looking to swap plastic keycards for brass skeleton keys, take a short road trip outside just about any major city. The old—sometimes antique—cabins, manors, and villas tucked in the charismatic nooks of towns you’ve probably heard of but never visited are worth the drive. Plus, there’s no shortage of charming lodgings available: A luxurious take on the classic 1920s American motor lodge in the Berkshires; a 19th-century historic mansion turned bed-and-breakfast in Galveston, Texas; and a European-inspired château in Oakhurst, California, to name a few. No matter where you book a reservation, you’ll surely make it your new go-to for a sweet escape.
Set atop a grassy hill overlooking the Willowemoc Valley in upstate New York’s Catskill Park, The DeBruce hotel is where clean and simple design meets ages-old architecture. Erected in the heyday of America’s silver-mining era, The DeBruce, formerly the Maple, St. Brendan’s, the Willowemoc, and the Ararat, was one of nearly 20 hotels in the area. Today, it’s the only one still standing.
Each of the 14 guest rooms is elegant in its own right, but some are perhaps a bit more enticing. The ones with clawfoot tubs and sweeping views of the neighboring valley and river and mountains are like something out of a rustic dream. Every nook and cranny of The DeBruce is informed by the hotel’s historical bones—especially in the Great Room, where the walls wear a textured and gentle plaid wallpaper and the ceilings don their original brass light fixtures. Other common areas include a conservatory in which the original fieldstone fireplace keeps the space even cozier; and a tackle room, which functions as a modern-day mudroom. Feel free to take off your muddy post-hike boots or sopping wet pool towels here before heading to the resident restaurant, where executive chef Eric Leveillee will whip up a truly decadent dish.
Newport, Rhode Island’s Castle Hill Inn is the reimagined hotel version of its former status as a summer home to Alexander Agassiz, a prominent Harvard University marine biologist and naturalist. Agassiz built the shingle-style mansion in 1875 and filled it with Chinese and Japanese bronze sculptures and delicate porcelain, many of which are still scattered throughout the space. When Agassiz died, his son and daughter-in-law inherited the house, enjoying it every summer until 1938 when the Great New England Hurricane swept through Rhode Island and cut off the peninsula from the mainland. After that, Mrs. Maximillian Agassiz said goodbye to her beloved summer home, and, four years later, it became an impromptu base for naval officers during World War II.
After the war, however, Castle Hill was transformed into a spectacular hotel to the stars, providing a much-needed beachside retreat for everyone from Grace Kelly to playwright Thornton Wilder. Even all the years later, the elegant inn’s charm is relatively untouched, save, of course, for modernizations designed to accommodate 21st-century travelers.
Each of the 33 guest accommodations, which range from beach cottages perched atop sand dunes to a 560-square-foot lighthouse suite on the third floor of the original Agassiz mansion, boasts unparalleled views of either the water or the immaculately manicured grounds.
Less than three hours outside Atlanta, Highlander Mountain House is where Victorian elegance meets contemporary style. Tucked within the Highlands, North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the 18-room hotel is a design-centric Anglophile’s dream: The walls are adorned with original Cherokee, Joseph Albers, and Sally Mann art; the interiors are equal parts rugged Appalachian lodge and refined English estate; and there are countless plush textures and colorful patterns at play. As for the aesthetic, owner Jason Reeves explains, “Hospitality is storytelling, so once I found the right historic property in Highlands, I knew I needed to immerse myself in the context of the area and pull on some threads that would help define the space and the experience.”
Whether you book your stay in the effortlessly elegant 150-year-old main house or in the cabin-inspired bunkhouse, you’ll hardly want to leave—except, maybe, to lounge by the wood-burning stone-surrounded fireplaces in the lobby or dig into the wild boar ragu at The Ruffed Grouse, the hotel’s seasonally inspired eatery.
Makeup mogul Bobbi Brown is what we’d call a renaissance woman: She’s an entrepreneur with not one but two cosmetic and skincare lines (Bobbi Brown and Jones Road), and she’s the creative director behind The George, a Georgian inn in Montclair, New Jersey. She and her husband, Steven Plofker, undertook the project together, transforming the circa 1902 historically protected structure into a quintessentially British-inspired boutique hotel. The couple’s renovation wasn’t the first the former mansion had undergone: It was originally built as a private residence for Charles Van Vleck and later converted into a charming lodge (dubbed the Georgian Inn), and in the 1940s it was transformed into a residential hotel for short-term stays. The powerhouse couple bought the building in 2012 and, six years of renovations later, opened The George’s doors to guests.
The 31 bright and airy rooms and suites, some of which are enveloped by lightly distressed charcoal-painted wood panels, while others feature charming exposed brick, are impeccably decorated with a sophisticated edge. Ever the perfectionist, Brown spared no detail. Even guests’ furry companions are greeted with a pillowy soft dog bed.
The Neighborhood Hotel in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood may not take a road trip to get to, but it’s basically on the water, which makes it quite the destination, in our opinion. Plus, this chic space lives up to its name: It’s a former walk-up turned residential-style hotel with the original banister staircase leading to the 14 well-outfitted suites.
The creatives behind the hotel’s design tapped The Heirloomist to make the building owners’ family memorabilia into art throughout the space’s guest rooms and common areas, making it feel like a true neighborhood hangout spot. Perhaps most important, The Neighborhood Hotel is a friend to Instagram; there’s no photogenic detail left unchecked here.
A restorative oasis in the Berkshires—North Adams, Massachusetts, to be specific—the 48-room single-story hotel was cleverly designed as a contemporary take on the traditional American motor lodge from the early 20th century. TOURISTS, however, is more luxe than it is anything else. The wood structure’s rooms come with chic powder-coated metal sliding doors and enormous windows with unrivaled views of the surrounding Hoosic River and Appalachian trails. For those who want to spend some time outside their guest rooms, opt for an en plein air massage, foraging walk, waterfall meditation, or an open-air yoga session.
New Orleans’s The Chloe is the collaborative brainchild of restaurateur Robert LeBlanc, interior designer Sara Ruffin Costello, and architect Thomas Sully, who transformed the 19th-century former mansion into a whimsically decorated 14-room hotel. It’s not just a hotel, though; it’s also a restaurant, bar, pool, and patio whose lively and sophisticated energy mimics the historical Uptown neighborhood in which it resides. Owner Robert LeBlanc notes, “There is a beautiful and haunting Mother Love Bone song called ‘Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns’ that references New Orleans. It is a moving song that is seemingly interpreted differently across various listeners based on their own lens. That’s exactly how we want people to experience both New Orleans and The Chloe.”
The sweet details, including the turntable and accompanying Fats Domino or Allen Toussaint records, a lavish armoire that unexpectedly leads to a sitting nook or bathroom, and the collection of stunning local art, not so subtly reference the history of the neighborhood. Interior designer Sara Ruffin Costello adds, “The interior design highlights The Chloe’s historic 1850s architecture, riffing on popular period elements like exotic Orientalism, a moody color story, and a whiff of the occult. The hotel is meant to feel as if it has been in the same worldly, bohemian family for generations but made culturally relevant with contemporary art and photography.”
While the 19th-century Greek Revival former residence was in the process of undergoing major restorations and renovations, Shannon Eddings, the Austin-based interior designer tasked with decorating the space, started collecting. Her impressive assemblage comprises antique furniture and rugs, brass decor, and a sweeping collage of coastal paintings, which fit her design ethos, which is equal parts provincial and nautical. She notes, “I used many classic paint colors that are considered ‘historic’ and kept as many original details as possible. I thrifted and antiqued a lot to keep the decorative elements unique, and then I sourced a few brand-new pieces for each room.”
Just an hour outside Houston, the charming haunt’s rooms each boasts a tailored theme that transports anyone staying there to the glamorous eras of the past. For instance, the Governor suite, a coastal-inspired space with a robin’s egg blue–painted door, a regal velvet canopy above the bed, and the estate’s original fireplace, is named for former Texas governor Richard Coke, who used to spend his scorching Lone Star State summers at the Carr Mansion. Eddings adds, “My goal was for people to have a visual experience when visiting the Carr Mansion. I wanted to create something that they wouldn’t forget, aesthetically speaking. Color is powerful, so that was my primary tool for leaving a lasting impression on this incredible circa 1800s house.”
The white shingled cottage at 207 Main Street has been an East Hampton hallmark since its construction a century and a half ago. Throughout much of the 19th century, the Greek Revival served as a tannery that offered short-term housing for those whose saddles were in the midst of repair. It didn’t become the glamorous icon known for its rotating roster of stylish socialites until the 1920s when The Maidstone Arms swapped its status as a rustic tannery to a full-service inn.
Co-owned by the husband-and-wife duo of native New York writer, movie producer, and director Jonathan Baker and Swedish hotelier Jenny Baker, together, the creative couple infused the historic spot with a unique quirkiness and warmth that’s hard to come by in the Hamptons. Perhaps one of the most eccentric spaces is Karen Blixen, a guest room named after the Danish writer who authored Out of Africa. The interiors of the third-floor space honor the author with a zebra-printed rug; a fog-hued, palm fronds-patterned wallpaper; and a myriad of African decor. There are 16 additional rooms and three cottages that each pays homage to Scandinavian luminaries, including revolutionary furniture designer Verner Panton; dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson; and past, present, and future Scandinavian monarchs.
On the tip of Southwest Harbor, Maine, The Claremont proves the power of renovations, which the 137-year-old historic spot unveiled just in time for Memorial Day last month. In addition to the classic New England–style guest rooms in the main building, The Claremont’s charismatic dwellings also include 12 stand-alone cottages surrounded by the hotel’s resident restaurant, a seafood-centric spot along a private dock on the water, a carefully curated cocktail bar, and nostalgic sweets shop. Plus, with luxe spa treatments, dips in the heated pool, games of croquet, strolls through a sprawling garden, every water activity imaginable, and even celestial lawn parties, guests certainly have plenty to do during their stay.
This modern-day stately château may be in Oakhurst, California, but it’s reminiscent of a centuries-old, storied castle in the French countryside. Settled within a nine-acre property in the rolling foothills just outside Yosemite National Park, the 10-room Château du Sureau is a beacon of Old World charm. Aside from regally furnished suites, the estate also offers fine fare at the Elderberry House restaurant, relaxing treatments at Spa du Sureau, and the ultimate seclusion at a private two-bedroom Villa Sureau.
If there can only be one extravagant hideaway in Montecito, California, the historic San Ysidro Ranch would certainly be a top contender. Ty Warner, the owner of the 128-year-old ranch, wants guests to feast their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls at the charming 38-cottage getaway that’s nestled within the foothills. The cottages all possess sweet names like the Gardenia Cottage and the Kennedy Cottage (where Jack and Jackie celebrated their honeymoon). This serene oasis may boast a quaint feel, but it’s where Hollywood’s elite comes to relax by the pool, stroll the botanical gardens, and dine at the Stonehouse in a 19th-century former citrus-packing building. There’s also a renowned spa, live music, private wine tastings, private and group yoga classes, and a privileged pets program. Needless to say, there’s plenty to do.
Department of Architecture: https://www.ibu.edu.ba/department-of-architecture/