It’s easy to forget where you are in many chain hotels. But it’s a different story at these gorgeous boutique hotels around the United States, which place an emphasis on local goods and history above all else.
How to Find a Sense of Place
Most individual properties owned by chain hotels are indistinguishable from one another. Whether you’re in Denver, Amman, Beijing or Bethlehem, you’d never guess which country you’re in from the decor of your room. To really get the full local experience, think of your hotel not as a place to sleep, but a chance for bonus immersion, even within the United States relatively close to home.
These 10 hotels, many of which are renovated historic properties, have incorporated local artists, craftsmen, farmers, designers and born-and-raised-there architects to make sure you understand the fiber of their towns from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep.
The Atticus Hotel, McMinnville, OR
As soon as you arrive, you’re greeted with a glass of bubbly made right in the Willamette Valley’s wine region. Treats in your room include locally-grown chestnuts, walnuts and loose leaf tea. The accent wallpaper, furniture and even mattresses were handmade in Oregon, and much of the hotel’s art was commissioned from local artists. Silhouettes of beloved McMinnvillers adorn the hidden Drawing Room, along with a fireplace salvaged from an old schoolhouse.
Borrow a cruiser bike outfitted with a wine basket to explore downtown McMinnville, and be sure to make a stop at the tasting room for The Eyrie Vineyards. Founder David Lett was the first to cultivate Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot gris vines in Oregon, paving the way for the state’s wine culture. It’s family-owned and operated to this day.
Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm, Albuquerque, NM
The historic Los Poblanos Inn and Organic Farm was designed by John Gaw Meem, considered to be one of New Mexico’s greatest 20th Century architects. You’ll find art and influence from New Mexican creatives in every corner, including massive pine doors carved by Gustave Baumann, photography by Lauren Gilpin, and iron door handles crafted by Walter Gilbert. Signature Los Poblanos toiletries are made with lavender grown outside your window, and the on-site restaurant, Campo, serves sumptuous dishes with other ingredients grown steps away.
The Dean, Providence, RI
As a former gentleman’s club, The Dean expertly blends a peek into the city’s more sinful side with tastefully risque artwork, luxe amenities and nightlife options built right in. With custom lighting fixtures and furniture made in New England and antiques and in-room snacks sourced from Rhode Island and neighboring states, The Dean offers an atmosphere unique to downtown Providence. The hotel has its own hidden bar, the Magdalenae Room; karaoke bar, Boombox; coffee bar, Bolt, and is attached to North, where you’ll find creative Asian fusion dishes with an emphasis on seafood. To record your travels, The Dean will lend you a film camera for the duration of your stay. A few months later, you’ll get a surprise in the mail: a postcard featuring memories from your trip.
SunMountain Center, Manitou Springs, CO
SunMountain Center started out as two private homes built around the turn of the century from greenstone quarried nearby by artisans. Today, it’s a wellness retreat center harnessing the spiritual energy Manitou has harbored since its earlier days, when tuberculosis patients flocked to bathe in the mineral springs. SunMountain grows much of the food it serves for breakfast right on site, and you’ll find scores of pieces from local artists, including by owner Kat Tudor. Sister property SunWater Spa offers rejuvenating hot soaks in tubs filled with Manitou’s spring water.
FieldHouse Jones, Chicago
FieldHouse Jones pays homage to Chicago’s field house community centers, sporting quite a few touches taken from other parts of the city. The lobby features a giant piece of artwork made from exactly 400 tennis rackets the owners scored secondhand from shops around the city, and the wooden desks in the guest rooms are made from old Chicago high school gymnasium floors. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator: Scoreboards taken from Chicago field houses are hidden in the stairwells.
Hotel Emma, San Antonio
Once a brewhouse, San Antonio’s Hotel Emma now offers riverfront lodging steeped in local history. Each room has an “Ice Box” filled with local beer and snacks from the farmer’s market, robes made by the nearby shop Dos Carolinas, which hand-makes Guayabera shirts, and carved tables and woven leather benches made by local artisan furniture maker Peter Glassford. Hotel Emma also features a 3,700-volume library stocked with the personal collection of local author Sherry Kafka Wagner.
The Alexander, Indianapolis
Lots of hotels have beautiful art, but The Alexander is the only one in North America that can claim its collection was curated by an accredited art museum. Newfields, formerly the Indianapolis Museum of Art, commissioned works bursting with local flavor and history, from custom wallpaper designed to match the city’s grid, to footrests made from old railroad ties dug up during construction, to a sculpture of Madam CJ Walker, the first African American woman to become a self-made millionaire. The sculpture is made out of more than 3,800 broken combs, a nod to the hair product factory Walker opened in Indianapolis in the early 1900s. Do check out Newfields if you visit. Aside from an incredible collection of art, the museum’s garden and grounds are stunning.
Hotel Trundle, Columbia, SC
Columbia, South Carolina’s first downtown boutique hotel opened last spring with a goal to incorporate as many local partners as possible: Aside from stunning pieces from local artists, Hotel Trundle’s beds, breakfast table and reception desk were designed and made by Columbia furniture artisans at Bricker & Beam, mattresses were made in town by Best Mattress, breakfast pastries come from local bakeshop Ally & Eloise, and the list goes on.
The Eliza Jane, New Orleans
Once the headquarters for The Daily Picayune, The Eliza Jane in New Orleans is named for Eliza Jane Nicholson, who became the country’s first female publisher of a major metropolitan newspaper. It’s only fitting that some of the hotel’s walls are covered in newsprint. The hotel is part of the Hyatt chain, but offers a serious sense of place: the whole joint is a nod to old newspaper culture, with rooms like the Editor’s Suite and Publisher’s Suite and a bar called the Press Room, which serves locally-roasted coffee among other treats. Of course, you’ll find antique typewriters decorating the hotel, along with many other antiques sourced in the area.