Best Hotels of 2010: U.S. Hotel Experiences
Mandarin Oriental: Las Vegas
Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
Las Vegas is known for visitors with exuberant, exhibitionist tendencies. But on my last visit, I discovered a magnificent alternate universe at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, with no gambling or reality-show drama. In the new CityCenter complex, the Adam D. Tihany design (filtered through the Mandarin's own exquisite Asian aesthetic) is subtle and stellar: custom golden "bullions" cover the walls of the 23rd-floor lobby, representing prosperity in Chinese culture. This elegance continues in the rooms, which have the expected amenities (super-comfortable beds, electronic controls), but also a few touches I've never seen before. One innovation: a small receptacle with two openingsone into the hall, the other into the roomwhere you can get the morning paper.
The Surrey: New York City
© Eric Langel/Courtesy of The Surrey
When my husband and daughter went camping, my son and I checked into the Surrey as a consolation prize. The room-service food was the best I've ever had; Gavin Kaysen oversees the menu from downstairs at Café Boulud. We ate pan-seared halibut with cilantro pesto and watched SpongeBob.
Insider Tip The Surrey hotel's roof deck has an English garden and bar-cart service. Try the signature muddled lemonade.
Ames Hotel: Boston
Courtesy of Ames Hotel
New England glamour seems like an oxymoron. But the new Ames Hotel has brought serious style to Boston's 19th-century Federal aesthetic. The Morgans Hotel Group has brilliantly reimagined the former headquarters of the Ames Tool Co. with details like a fun take on whale-oil lamps and a chandelier of tiny mirrors. I can picture a modern-day Paul Revere eating the short-rib pot roast in its restaurant, Woodward, with a growler of the hotel's exclusive ale from Smuttynose.
Insider Tip The Ames's Woodward serves a spectacular brunch: lobster-and-leek hash, brioche French toast and La Colombe coffee.
The Roosevelt: New Orleans
Courtesy of The Roosevelt New Orleans
I wanted to explore as much of New Orleans's legendary past as possible when I made my first-ever trip there last November. Luckily for me, the historic Roosevelt hotel had just reopened after a $145 million renovation. I entered the lobbyall holiday white lights and evergreensand headed straight for the landmark Sazerac Bar's low glow. The Sazerac still has its Art Deco etched glass and Paul Ninas murals. A Southern gentleman in a seersucker suit pulled up a stool next to me, and we struck up a conversation. He ordered me the bar's namesake cocktail to officially welcome me to the city.
Ace Hotel & Swim Club: Palm Springs, CA
© D.L. Thompson & Jon Johnson
I love the Ace Hotel for many reasonsfrom its quirky haute-bohemian design (by Los Angelesbased Commune) to the amazing bathroom amenities (like Rudy's shampoo and body wash, an Ace exclusive). Hammocks, a massage yurt and a mini trailer selling snacks surround the pool. As for the food served poolside, I won't forget my taco dinner under the stars: Upon request, the staff will light the fire pits and set up a buffet of fish tacos, ceviche, corn coated in Mexican cotija cheese and ice-cold beers. In the morning King's Highway, the Ace's hip diner, serves Stumptown coffee.
The Allison Inn & Spa: Newberg, OR
© Barbara Kraft
Just 45 minutes from Portland, the Willamette Valley has always been a great wine destination (there are more than 200 producers) but not a great place to find a good hotel. Now, though, it has the Allison. At the hotel's Jory restaurant (named for the local soil type), chef Sunny Jin has a knack for dishes that match the region's extraordinary Pinot Noirs, like an uni risotto, often made with produce from the Inn's own garden.
Courtesy of Viceroy Miami
After two straight days of business meetings in Miami's 90-degree summer heat, I was feeling run down. But all it took was a three-hour escape to the Viceroy spa to revive me. Philippe Starck is responsible for the 28,000-square-foot space's whimsy. I had to pass the 15th-floor infinity pool (Florida's longest) and a trippy life-size chessboard to reach the spa. Lars, my dreamy Scandinavian therapist, fetched me from the water lounge, which is set against a floating library. I had signed up for the hotel's signature massage, the Paradise, which promised to detoxify my body while simultaneously inducing deep relaxation. It was easy to maintain my state of bliss: Eos, the hotel's excellent Mediterranean restaurant from chef Michael Psilakis, is just steps from the spa.
The Jefferson: Washington, DC
© Sterling Elmendorf/Courtesy The Jefferson
When I went to Washington, DC, for a long weekend, I chose a hotel that would match my mini tour of American history. The recently renovated Jefferson was perfect. It's infused with a sense of the third president's passions: wine and food. Chef Damon Gordon's cooking at the hotel's Plume restaurant deserves a Michelin star, and sommelier Michael Scaffidi (a French Laundry alum) has put together an impressive wine list featuring old, rare vintages such as a 1780 Borges Madeira Bual.
Insider Tip The Jefferson is just four blocks from the White House and walking distance from the Smithsonian museums.
Best Hotels of 2010: International Hotel Experiences
The Tcherassi Hotel + Spa: Cartagena, Colombia
Courtesy of Tcherassi Hotels
A fabulous first hotel from fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi.
The Upper House: Hong Kong
Courtesy of The Upper House
Chef Gray Kunz runs this modern, chic hotel's buzzy 49th-floor restaurant.
Rough Luxe: London
Courtesy of The Upper House
Each of the nine rooms has unique quirks, like distressed walls or a freestanding tub.