From sprawling to tiny, notorious to awesomely cool, these 13 new and renewed lodgings are our luxury picks for the best of the Northeast USA this year. Stay where the most memorable Presidential Scandal took place, in a Casino resort that doubles as a literary boutique hotel, and in a Pullman car used by Teddy Roosevelt – and ten other hotels, inns, and B&B’s that have proven to be Maven Favorites. The following are our new picks for 2019. Check out our choices for 2018 here.
- The Watergate Hotel, Washington DC. There’s never been a hotel so fraught with figurative baggage, so memorable in its role in the takedown of an American Presidency, as The Watergate Hotel in Washington DC. The suffix, “gate,” in fact, has applied to every scandal since, traced back to this newly renovated and mod-sexy hotel on the Potomac River. Yes, Richard Nixon ordered the “hacking” of the office of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) during the 1972 Presidential Campaign; a burglary of hard-copy files that now seems downright quaint in light of current breaches in our nation’s cyber-security. Interestingly, the new and improved Watergate Hotel, a five-minute walk from the Kennedy Center, does not hide its notorious history – it celebrates it with a sense of humor – and therein lies its vast appeal. That and the fact that the whole place glistens with groovy 60’s architectural elements and stylish rooms. The Watergate is, according to its new tagline, “Unapologetically Luxurious.”
- James NoMad, Manhattan NY. This flagship of the James Hotel brand opened in the Flatiron District of NYC (29thand Madison) in August 2017. Originally built in 1904 as the Seville Hotel and then, in 1987, rebranded as the Carlton, the space was gut renovated in 2017, keeping its elegant Beaux Arts exterior, and re-imagined inside as the boutique James NoMad. What sets this cool boutique apart from most others in the area? The James Hotels has launched Four Bodies Wellness – in-room programming curated exclusively for hotel guests. In partnership with consultant Ruby Warrington of The Numinous, the in-room programming has been designed to help balance all four bodies: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, and Emotional, in pursuit of total wellbeing. Guest rooms are spacious and Designs Within Reach modern, with pleated hanging lamps and voluminous white duvets on beds punched up by large pillows in shades of turquoise, sunshine, and cantaloupe. But bathrooms here are the stars, with grey veined marble tiles on the floor and in a large glass shower. The centerpiece is the sink: a carved and smooth oval basin in the shape of an enormous worry stone. Just running my hands over its cool, curved surface was a soothing Zen exercise.
- Renaissance Pittsburgh. After a savvy redo, the cooly designed luxe Renaissance Pittsburgh in the former Fulton Building, on the riverfront opposite PNC Park, is a top choice for style-minded travelers. Located in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, the Renaissance is right next door to the Byham Theater, within a couple of blocks of the Benedum Center and Heinz Hall, and across the river from the Andy Warhol Museum. The vast central hall, white marble staircases and arches awash in purple light that emanates from a soaring domed ceiling, provides a striking first impression, in a Beaux Arts meets Avant-Garde kind of way. Ask for a Corner Executive King for the best view of the river, bridges, and all Pirates home games. From afar, you can see the scrolling announcements and cannon fire after each home run, but the Renaissance also provides a telescope, so you can watch each player at bat or rushing to catch a fly ball up close.
- MGM Springfield, Springfield MA. This is the first, and so far only MGM carved from vacant downtown city buildings – thus uplifting a flagging urban center in Western Massachusetts. MGM also showcases the literary figures who lived here – Dr. Seuss, Emily Dickinson, Merriam-Webster – with nods to all and more in hotel décor. There are 252 rooms, including 16 suites, on six floors – each slightly different based on the “literary” art on the walls. As you make your way to your room pay attention to your surroundings: lines from Emily Dickinson poetry are woven into the hallway carpets; arrangements of sculptural lighting on hallway walls incorporate Dr. Seuss spectacles. The creativity of interior designers continues in the guest rooms, which are unlike any I’ve seen outside of a NYC boutique hotel. Steam-punk style reading lights loom over ultra-comfy fabric covered beds distinguished by slanted backboards that are ergonomically perfect for reading before sleep. Poured concrete ceilings, dark wainscoted walls splashed with bookish art, forest green cable knit throws, chairs upholstered in tweed and hound’s-tooth with a punch of bold floral pillows – it’s a masculine/feminine/Yin/Yang mash-up of a space that is at once giddily fun and seriously sumptuous.
- Bristol Hotel, Bristol VA. If you’re a fan of country music, and want to learn about its origins in the USA, the Bristol Hotel, opened adjacent to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in October 2018, is the best place to overnight. However, next-best-thing pilgrims will also be drawn here for the modern décor with historic design elements from the 1920s, including exposed brick with original pressed lettering, the former hand-crank elevator displayed in the lobby and Roman-arched entryways, eye-catching lobbies (there are two seating areas), and the phenomenal rooftop bar/lounge overlooking the city and surrounding mountains.
- Marriott Syracuse Downtown, Syracuse NY. The Hotel Syracuse was a sensation when it first opened in 1924. Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, aviator Charles Lindbergh, entertainers Bob Hope, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and John Lennon (who celebrated his 31stbirthday here, with Yoko) were all guests. In the thick of downtown, the top floor Grand Ballroom in all of its Versailles-like grandeur was the place to be in Syracuse. But by the 1980’s, the hotel had lost its luster, became a banquet facility, and cycled through one owner after another before failing by the early 2000’s. Now privately owned, this flagged Marriott, was completely renovated and reopened to much fanfare on June 15, 2016 and is once again an epicenter of a revitalized Syracuse.
- Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Baltimore.In all the frenzy about the new boutique hotels cropping up around town, some might forget that there are others in Baltimore, grand in their day, newly renovated, that have stood the test of time. One is the understated Royal Sonesta Baltimore, fresh from an $11 million restoration and right across the street from the Baltimore Science Center. What sets Baltimore’s Royal Sonesta apart is its roof-top tennis court, large indoor pool, and views (from select rooms) onto the Inner Harbor and its most lauded museums. Recently refreshed in shades of sand and earth, with grass cloth wallpaper, white tucked-in comforters, raindrop-shaped glass nightstand lamps, light-filed marble bathrooms, and modern furniture that doesn’t scream over-reaching interior designer, rooms at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court give off a vibe of hushed elegance. Ask for a larger room overlooking the harbor that sports bay windows, eggplant colored window seats, and sheer curtains that, when closed, create a cocoon-escape from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor happenings.
- Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Farmington PA. How to explain this 2,000-acre, multi-hotel luxury resort? It’s a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a small-plane airport ( just don’t ask who’s flying in on his/her private plane). It’s an award-winning golf course (Pete Dye designed Mystic Rock, The Links) and Golf Academy. It’s a Holistic Healing Center and incredible Spa for both humans and animals. It’s an Art Museum with a collection valued at $45 million. It’s an antique car museum, a prop-plane museum and an official Jeep Driving Academy. It’s got a climbing wall, a zip-line, x-country skiing, tubing, horseback riding, dogsled rides, canopy tours, paintball. There’s even a piece of the Berlin Wall on the property. Nemacolin is a deliriously wacky, extravagant, homey, friendly, fun whirlwind of a place. And, by dint of parts of it being ever-renovated (the latest, The Lodge), it can stay on this list nearly every year.
- Carpe Diem, Provincetown MA. Owner, Stephen Hooper worked for Donna Karan for over 20 years. His husband, Paul Graves, was a NY attorney. Three years ago, they gave up their high-power jobs and their homes in Brooklyn and upstate NY to establish a life in their “Happy Place,” Provincetown – where they met many years ago. Hooper’s two decades traipsing all over the world for Donna Karan served him well, honing his keen eye for design and appreciation for what makes the best hotels on the planet so appealing. The aura at Carpe Diem is “New England Sea Captain Travels to Asia,” in the reception area and out into a beautifully landscaped center courtyard, peppered with inviting chairs and couches. Rooms might be small but are stunning: ideally romantic cocoons.
- The DeBruce, Livingston Manor NY. Built in 1880 as an inn, and then a boarding house, The DeBruce has not roamed far from its origins – except stylistically. Now a cool-bean 14-room boutique hotel, owned by hospitality maestros, Sims and Kirstin Foster, (who also own the Arnold House, North Branch Inn, and 9 River Road), the DeBruce is emblematic of a new kind of Catskill Hotel: less mass market resort, more high-end, mid-century-modern getaway geared toward travelers who appreciate fine design and excellent food. Recently, the DeBruce was recognized by Conde Nast Traveleras one of the Best New Hotels in the World.
- Canopy By Hilton Hotel North Bethesda at Pike and Rose, MD. In the Canopy Hotel vernacular, employees are “Enthusiasts” in their respective posts: ergo, the Director of Food and Beverage is the “Food Enthusiast,” Marketing and Sales is “Sales Enthusiast,” and so on. And, it appears there’s a lot to be enthusiastic about. The spiffy section of N. Bethesda, Pike & Rose, is the perfect setting for Canopy – Hilton’s answer to Gen X, Millennial, and even Boomer travelers who are all about being enthusiastically social, and seek out craft drinks, opportunities to mingle, and stylish streamlined rooms. The Canopy brand debuted in Iceland, but its first US hotel is located just a few miles away in Washington DC. This, its third location, opened in March ’18 with 177 large rooms and a separately run condo entity with 99 residential units.
- Loews Boston MA. There are reminders everywhere of Loews Boston Hotel’s original identity: as Boston Police Headquarters from 1926 until 1997. In 2004, the Irish hotel company, Jury’s, purchased and repurposed the “last major Italianate Renaissance Revival building erected in the city” into a luxury hotel. It became a Loews Hotel in 2009. Larger than average standard rooms (300-345 sq. ft), renovated in 2014, are handsomely designed “like a fine tailored men’s suit.” Navy throws on white duvets top cloudlike beds that sport dark wood and cream-colored leather headboards, and sturdy armchairs are upholstered in a tweedy houndstooth fabric. Streamlined to the max, Keurig coffee makers and small refrigerators are concealed inside contemporary bureaus, and electrical outlets can be found on walls just above bedside tables.
- Doolittle Station Teddy Roosevelt Pullman Car B&B, Dubois PA. Custom built in 1901 for the President of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad (with construction overseen by Todd Lincoln), and used by Teddy Roosevelt for a Northern Tour in 1903, this opulent train car was decommissioned in 1963 and enclosed in a vacation home until its recent relocation to this roadside attraction in DuBois PA. In mint condition, it’s one of the last original Pullman Palace Rail Cars, complete with original furniture and gleaming woodwork, in existence. Stay here, and you’ll sit on chairs and sleep in rooms that President Roosevelt himself probably used. There are two bathrooms (one in the entry foyer outside of the train car), a dining room, library, and three sleeping cubbies that can accommodate a total of 4-6 people on one modest double bed and four bunk beds. $150 per night Sun-Thurs, $200 per night weekends.