13 July 2012

Four Favorite Hotel Getaways

This is Architecture and Building Week on Gold Notes, part of my Fourth Anniversary celebration… It's also Friday and summer, when we look longingly out of our office windows for a weekend getaway.  So for all those reasons So for all those reasons – as though I really needed one, ha! – I thought I’d share my Four Favorite U.S. dream vacation hotels. 


I’ve actually stayed at The Del, as it’s affectionately known around San Diego, twice before I moved to the area and I visit its eateries and incomparable beach often. (Coronado was named # 2 Best Beach in America this year.) 

This historic hotel, built in 1888, really put Coronado on the map, though it was hardly the charming beach town then that it is today. 

Here’s the description of The Del's fabled history, including a sexy royal connection, from the hotel site: 

As a National Historic Landmark, the Hotel del Coronado has a rich and colorful heritage that sets it apart from neighboring Coronado hotels. From Marilyn Monroe to Charles Lindbergh, from state dinners to the ghost of Kate Morgan, The Del is an American treasure with more than 120 years of fascinating stories to tell.  Today, we invite you to create new memories at this cherished hotel in Coronado. 


The Del's visionary founders - Elisha Babcock and H.L. Story - dreamed of building a seaside resort that would be "the talk of the Western world." Since then, the resort has become a living legend, visited by celebrities, dignitaries and U.S. presidents. In fact, publisher Rand McNally recognized the Hotel del Coronado for enjoying "more fame and historical significance than perhaps any hotel in North America." 

Presidents and Princes

Eleven U.S. Presidents have visited The Del, starting with Benjamin Harrison in 1891. One of the resort's most famous visitors was England's Prince of Wales in 1920. He would later become King Edward VIII, only to give up his throne in 1936 to marry Coronado divorcee Wallis Spencer Simpson. Many have speculated that they may have first met at The Del. 

American Legends

The Del has played host to some of America's greats, including Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum and Babe Ruth. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was honored at The Del in 1927 after his successful trans-Atlantic flight. At this lavish banquet, a replica of Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" circled the enormous Crown Room ceiling. 

My dream stay!

The most recent addition to The Del are its beach-front cottages. I love their iconic coastal architecture and wide fire pit-warmed patios overlooking the Pacific. This is where I want to park myself for a weekend next time I “stay-cation.” 

Stay suggestion: Summer – when it’s obscenely hot and sticky everywhere else! 

Beach cottage at The Del
(Photo Courtesy:  Hotel Del Coronado)


This luxurious Relais and Chateaux resort was built in the tradition of a Great Adirondack Camp on the site of William Avery Rockefeller’s Camp Wonundra. The Point epitomizes the Gilded Era’s idea of rustic elegance. Those robber barons sure knew how to relax! Each room has Adirondack furniture, antiques and a huge stone fireplace. 

Here’s the write-up from the hotel’s history page: The Adirondack Great Camps were built along rugged shorelines, between ancient forests and shining mountain lakes, in the late 1800s and the early part of the 20th century. These immaculate properties were sumptuous retreats for the very wealthy and their friends. None was more lavish or expressed more fully the collage of mountain charm and luxury sought by their owners than The Point. 

Painstakingly constructed on ten acres of peninsula stretching into Upper Saranac Lake, The Point was originally Camp Wonundra, the home of William Avery Rockefeller. There, in the heart of the vast Adirondack wilderness, he lived quietly and entertained in the gracious style of The Great Camp era. 

Stay suggestion: Fall or Winter – for gorgeous autumn foliage or snow sports 

Boat House at The Point
(Photo Courtesy: HotelPlanner.com)


Another Relais and Chateaux property on my must-stay list is Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm. I love Southern architecture, arts, food and scenery and this resort combines them all. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, this luxury property is known for its fine cuisine and relaxed style. 

Here’s the write-up on its more recent history from the hotel’s web site: 

As the sun rises over the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the morning mist fades to unveil one of America's greatest hidden treasures, Blackberry Farm. Its 4,200 acres have been a mountain haven and tranquil escape for family, friends and guests for more than 70 years as it evolved into a luxurious resort of breathtaking scenery, gourmet cuisine and pleasurable pastimes. 

In the 1930's, Florida and Dave Laiser were enthralled by the majesty of these mountains and, on a trip from Chicago to the Georgia coast, discovered the perfect setting for their dream home. In 1930, while selecting just the right location, Florida snagged her silk stockings in a thicket of blackberry bushes, and the name Blackberry Farm was born. 

In 1976, the charm of Blackberry Farm captivated Kreis and Sandy Beall and inspired their own dream of sharing a magical property with good food and friends. As a new mother of four-month old Sam, Kreis made Blackberry the family's home and opened the beautiful property to the public as a six-room country inn. Sam's love for Blackberry began at an early age as he ate chocolate mousse, crepes, and followed his mom around the kitchen as she prepared and served meals and welcomed Blackberry's first guests. The Bealls' vision for Blackberry Farm became a reality and began to create a tradition of Southern hospitality, gourmet cuisine and cherished experiences. 

Stay suggestion: Autumn for fall foliage 

House with a view at Blackberry Farm
(Photo Courtesy: Blackberry Farm)


Staying at The Ahwanee in Yosemite National Park is on my bucket list and I’m thinking this coming winter might be the right time to book a stay. I love grand old hotels like this one and you can’t beat the breathtaking backdrop that is one of the country’s most beautiful escapes. 

Here's its history from the hotel site: 

In the early 1920's, Stephen Mather, the National Park Service Director, realized that the Park needed accommodations to suit the affluent and influential traveler. The concept of a hotel such as The Ahwahnee became the impetus to draw such a visitor. The site for The Ahwahnee, once a village of the native Miwoks, was chosen because of its exposure to the sun and stunning views of Yosemite's icons – Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Glacier Point. In July 1925, Gilbert Stanley Underwood was selected as the architect for Yosemite's new luxury hotel. Due to its remote location, the construction of The Ahwahnee was the most complex trucking endeavor of its day. Over 5,000 tons of stone, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet of timber were hauled over the challenging mountain roads. To protect The Ahwahnee from fire, a fate of many of the Park's earlier hotels, its wood-like facade is actually concrete, poured into rough-hewn wooden forms and stained to look like redwood. Today, The Ahwahnee is a major attraction to visitors to Yosemite as they explore this unique relationship of architecture and nature. 

Stay suggestion: Avoid summer crowds and choose a fall or non-holiday winter getaway. For me, the Ahwanee might be ‘base camp’ for snow shoeing and cross-country ski adventures next winter.

Rustic Majesty in Ahwanee Dining Room
(Photo Courtesy:  YosemiteFun.com) 

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