When you just need a place to stay on your way to somewhere else, finding a comfortable bed and a clean room may be all that’s required. But for atmosphere that reflects a unique location look beyond a chain hotel, no matter how glammed up that chain hotel might be. Why stay at a hotel with an ambiance that says it could be anywhere when you can stay at a place that is influenced by its location?
Head to the hotels or inns that are independently owned where the decorator has a passion for a hotel’s setting and authenticity is key. Often a creative, clever touch is a signature trait. Whenever I have stayed in such a place, the memories I bring home with me are more vivid and my experiences more satisfying. I picked these five because of personal experience–or that they intrigued be because of their sense of place and culture.
1. Glenlaurel Inn and Cottages in the Hocking Hills of Ohio. The bag piper who stands outside the manor house (in the first photo) in the evening and plays a Scottish tune to announce that dinner is served is only one part of Scotland that’s been transplanted to the hills of Ohio. There’s also the Scottish poetry read before dinner, the complimentary homemade shortbread in each accommodation and the look of the place.
The manor house looks like it is in the highlands of Scotland instead of the highlands of Appalachia. The main feature of the terrain is the Camusfearna Gorge that the manor house, the crofts and cottages use as backdrop. Trails wind throughout the property offering waterfalls and nooks and crannies for exploring. The mist in the morning adds to the allure. Be aware that this is an adult only establishment.
2. Broadway Hotel, Philipsburg, Montana. Reflecting a love for Montana and a sense of travel adventure, this small hotel has one-of-a-kind thematic rooms. Some have a western flavor and others reflect owners’ Jim and Sue Jenners’ world travels. Overlooking downtown Philipsburg, a former mining town that is one of the prettiest painted towns in the west and on the Pintler Scenic Route, the hotel offers a place to park your car for a weekend of wandering among shops, a museum, restaurants and live theater.
If you go here, take time to hang out in The Big Cowboy Room with its upscale western decor. This is the hotel’s common lounge. If you bring a bottle of wine, there are wine glasses available for use.
3. Hotel Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Adobe stucco hotels are not uncommon in Santa Fe. It’s the look of choice. But, for a more authentic experience, try this option. Hotel Santa Fe is the only Native American-owned hotel and the decor and offerings reflect it. Here is a sense that you’ve ended up somewhere special.
Native American cuisine from other areas of the U.S. are incorporated into the hotel’s menu. There aren’t many places where you can dine in an authentic tee pee for a private meal. Native American dances, flute playing and story-telling are part of the entertainment. The Hacienda–also part of Hotel Santa Fe, offers Native American decor as well. Both hotels have a Native American package that includes pueblo tours.
4. The Saint Ann/ Marie Antoinette, New Orleans. If heading to New Orleans, stay near Bourbon Street. The French Old Quarter is made for wandering and walking. This hotel is small, elegant and captures the flavor of where it is located. It’s close to the action, however, by the description and looks, appears to be a bit of a hideaway location as well.
The courtyard and gardens caught my attention. I’ve stayed in New Orleans twice. Next time, I’d head here. I’m a sucker for creamy colors and arched windows with white trim.
5. Panama Hotel, Seattle. Located in old Japantown, the influence of this hotel is a mix between European and Japanese. Built in 1910, the hotel has the only remaining Japanese bathhouse in the United States. This Sento is still intact and can be toured, although it is not in use.
The hotel is unusual in that there are shared men and women’s bathrooms, although there are separate sinks in each room. There is also a tea house that features teas and coffees from around the world. Staying here is like staying in history.