MIKE'S TOP TEN HOTELS AND RESORTS
This is the time of year when Travel & Leisure, TripAdvisor and other travel media trot out their “Best” lists, so I thought I might share my own list of outstanding hotels I’ve had the good fortune to visit over the years.
On the premise that “best” doesn’t necessarily mean most luxurious or most expensive, I’ve included inns and resorts that the average “Joe” can enjoy. But I have listed some “pricey” ones as well, that could befit a honeymoon or special occasion.
The Shangri-la Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand: Service, service and more service. Add dazzling décor, scrumptious food, and a spectacular view of the Chao Phraya River, and a visit to this hotel reaches storybook proportions. Though Bangkok has been politically restive lately, these outbursts are generally short-lived, and this stunning city usually returns to its tourist-friendly atmosphere. www.shangri-la.com.
Frankfurter Hof, Frankfurt, Germany: The name seems inelegant to American ears, but this Old World hotel is the epitome of elegance, without being snooty. It boasts large and comfortable rooms, rare in Europe in even fine hotels, and impeccable service. Though, like Frankfurt, it caters to mostly business travelers, it is, like the city, utterly charming. www.steigenberger.com/en/Frankfurt.
Hilton Anatole Hotel, Dallas, TX: This gorgeous hotel ushered in the idea of hotel as museum. Built by legendary Texas developer Trammel Crow, it became the depository of much of his personal art collection. The service doesn’t take a back seat, however, and even though it’s one of this brassy city’s largest convention hotels, it retains a gentile atmosphere. www.hilton.com
Rittenhouse Hotel, Philadelphia, PA: Its location on a quiet square takes it out of the hustle and bustle of a big city, and it has an atmosphere of somewhat faded charm. But the big draw of the Rittenhouse these days is the food. Its immensely popular Sunday brunch, hosted by master chefs, is what makes the Rittenhouse most memorable. www.rittenhousehotel.com.
The Inn at Weston, Weston, VT: This lovely Bed & Breakfast would be fabulous even without the orchids. The fact that the innkeeper, Bob Aldrich, has one of America’s great orchid collections is, pardon the pun, window-dressing. Bob and Linda Aldrich also know a thing or two about growing a hospitality business, because the serene country atmosphere, fine dining and classic New England furnishings are Vermont perfected. www.innweston.com.
Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville, TN: Many travel publications would lift their noses at the Opryland Resort, calling it too big and too schlocky. Though they might have a point, this huge property, usually overtaken by conventions, is definitely an experience. If country music is your thing, it’s almost a pilgrimage, since the Grand Ole Opry House is part of the property. And there’s something to be said for getting a wake-up call from George Jones or Loretta Lynn.
Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, Uncasville, CT: This is my favorite casino/hotel, and I’ve been to a lot of gaming locations. It has all you’d want from Atlantic City, without the urban blight, and all you’d want from Las Vegas, without the overbearing glitz. Great dining choices and just enough shopping opportunities, and the Casino of the Sun banishes the idea that gaming has to be done in the dark. Coming upon the vision of this gleaming hotel, as you make the turn from the woods, is truly splendid. www.mohegansun.com.
Smugglers’ Notch Resort, Jeffersonville, VT: Dubbed ”America’s Family Resort,” Smugglers’ Notch is a four-season playland that offers a variety of family activities, from skiing to water rides. It’s been rated number one for families by many publications, such as Ski Magazine and Disney, and with good reason. The resort offers villa-style accommodations, on-site restaurants, game rooms and even a child care center. Guests can arrange in-season activities like canoeing, horse riding and dog sledding. www.smuggs.com.
The Fern Lodge, Chestertown, NY: This is the archetypical Adirondack retreat, with a lakeside location, rich wood furnishings, fireplaces everywhere. It’s not just rustic, however, because it offers in-room Jacuzzis, a state-of-the art theatre room, sauna, and even a wine cellar. Perfect for a first or second honeymoon or just a romantic getaway. www.thefernlodge.com.
Zum Storchen, Zurich, Switzerland: “Boutique hotel” is kind of a modern term to apply to a property that’s been receiving visitors for over 600 years, but that’s how this small five-star hotel on Zurich’s Limmat River describes itself. I’d describe it as fairy-tale romantic. Its Old World atmosphere, attentive service and luxurious rooms make it an essential stop in this charming Swiss city. www.storchen.ch.
It’s hard to limit my top choices to ten, when there are many other extraordinary hotels I could consider including. The Shangri-la hotels in Makati, the Philippines, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, are certainly top-notch, as is the Inn at Mountain View in East Burke, Vermont. One of the things I love about travel is there’s always another great experience around the corner, or at the bottom of the ramp.
Got your own list? Comments? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.