A good place to get one’s bearings when visiting Quebec City is the Citadelle of Quebec. It is only a short walk from most of the Old City hotels. Originally conceived by French colonists, and constructed by British forces, the fort has the perfect, and near impenetrable, defensive position atop the plateau. It has served to restrict entry to the important St. Lawrence River and formed the centrepiece of the town’s defensive structures. These include a circling stone wall which survives to this day, making Quebec City the only remaining walled city in the US or Canada. Despite being an active military installation, and an official residence of both the governor general of Canada, and the Canadian monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II), tours of the site are available throughout the year. The citadel, along with the historic district of Old Quebec, is a designated World Heritage Site.
While the Fairmont Pacific Rim features a long list of luxurious amenities, its downtown Vancouver location is what helps it stand apart from competitors. Set on the Coal Harbour waterfront, the hotel sits across the street from the Canada Place cruise ship terminal. Thanks to the hotel's location, recent guests say the views from the rooms and rooftop are spectacular. When you're not gazing out across the harbor, relax poolside in one of the private cabanas or by one of the cozy outdoor fire pits. For even more serenity, visitors recommend booking a treatment at the Willow Stream Spa. Continue the pampering at Botanist, which serves regionally sourced dishes. Craving a pick-me-up? Venture to giovane cafe + wine bar, which offers house-made pastries for breakfast and Italian cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Once you've refueled, retreat to your digs where you'll find a Stearns & Foster bed, an iPod docking station and an iPad2, which you can use to order room service and operate various controls in the guest room. Although this Fairmont's high-tech amenities are an added perk, according to recent visitors, it's the hotel's exceptional service that makes a stay here memorable.
Enjoying a prime location in midtown Manhattan, The St. Regis New York puts guests close to the Big Apple's top sights, such as the Museum of Modern Art and Central Park. The No. 4 Best Hotel in New York City prides itself on its sophisticated setting and high level of customer service: Lodgers note the elegant interior throughout the property and the friendly staff members as highlights of their stays. (Courtesy of The St. Regis New York)
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The Auberge St-Antoine is a luxury hotel in the heart of Quebec City’s Old Port. In addition to its superb location facing the majestic St. Lawrence River what makes it so unique is its location on one of Quebec City’s richest archaeological sites; the presence of artifacts in the hotel; and its construction made from 3 historic buildings, a dock and a battery of cannon from the 17th century. You will find yourself immersed in the heart of the city’s magic as it is near the old ramparts, museums and the picturesque Petit-Champlain district. The hotel offers 95 luxury rooms and suites equipped for your utmost comfort. It is member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux.
Hôtel le Priori is close to Old Québec’s main attractions, and though the building is quite old, the décor inside does not only reflect the history of the surrounding district. Instead, the décor expertly blends old and new, with antique bathtubs in the bathroom complementing the Art Deco furniture and bright, contemporary colors. Each room is individually decorated. There are also multiple loft-style suites for extended stays. Like many other hotels in the old city, reservations are a must. The hotel restaurant, le Toast, is also exemplary.
This is an old-money place with intensely private guest cottages and suites, roaring fires and gardens bursting with head-sized hydrangeas. A living, breathing slice of Californian folklore, the 500-acre ranch has remained seemingly unchanged since Vivien Leigh married Laurence Olivier outside the hacienda in 1940, or when John and Jackie Kennedy checked in during their honeymoon 13 years later. But if the hotel's green-striped awnings, thick Oriental rugs and chintzy furnishings recall the 1950s, its heritage is actually far older. Originally a cattle ranch in the 19th century, then a citrus farm, San Ysidro has long welcomed guests (the ranch's appeal to celebrities was given a boost in 1935 when it was bought by suave English film star Ronald Colman and businessman Alvin Weingand). In the farm's former packing house is the Stonehouse restaurant, where skilfully cooked, old-school comfort food (steak Diane, baked Alaska) is served beneath a high, wooden-beamed ceiling or under twinkly lights on the terrace. There are 14 acres of wildly fragrant gardens filled with lavender bushes, lily ponds and eucalyptus trees, and 17 miles of wooded hiking trails to explore. Bikes are provided for rides to the beach. Later, you'll sleep soundly, surrounded by silence, in the protective embrace of the Santa Ynez Mountains.
At Calistoga Ranch in northern Napa Valley, guests rejoice in the hotel's bevy of amenities, which include complimentary use of a Mercedes-Benz, a private lake, a private wine cave, an on-site vineyard and more. The No. 1 Best Hotel in Napa Valley invites visitors to relax on its 157 acres of land, with offerings such as outdoor spa treatments, an on-site mineral pool and a restaurant dishing out California cuisine with expert wine pairings. (Courtesy of Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort)
You can bet that just about every detail at this palatial hotel, which took more than three years and 1,200 master craftsmen to build, aims to please. Each of the 53 individual three-story riads has a mini courtyard (with a canopy that automatically unfurls if rain is detected); a dazzling living room and bedroom with silk-covered walls; and a private rooftop terrace with a fireplace and heated plunge pool. If you do decide to leave your room, (though, you very well may not) try one of the two superb restaurants, La Grande Table Marocaine and La Grande Table Française (both overseen by chef Yannick Alléno from Paris’s Le Meurice), as well as the indoor-outdoor La Table, which serves a formally presented breakfast and lunch—by white-gloved staff.
The Lowell is conveniently situated near Fifth Avenue and Central Park on the Upper East Side. Offering 74 rooms and suites with cashmere throws, king-sized beds and pantries or kitchenettes stocked with Dean & DeLuca snacks, this boutique property also features an array of drinking and dining venues, including the elegant Majorelle, the oak-paneled Jacques Bar and the cozy Club Room. And no visit to the No. 2 Best Hotel in New York City would be complete without sitting for afternoon tea in the Pembroke Room. (Courtesy of The Lowell Hotel New York)
Tucked among 12,000 acres in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland tied for first place among U.S. hotels for both its design and rooms. The LEED-registered property is both smart and whimsical: the stone fireplaces and exposed beams came from indigenous materials, but readers were most dazzled by the treehouse-style cabins and the Celestron-equipped observatory. Readers also ranked it in the top 20 for service, thanks to a committed team of concierges, and an app that lets you schedule do-not-disturb timeframes, choose a pillow or request wine and truffles. Readers also gushed about the ridge-top golf course, designed by renowned architect Donald Steel.
Years in the making, this is the first East Coast hotel for Pendry, the off-shoot brand from Montage. The hotel occupies the Recreation Pier, a landmark building in Fell’s Point, that was left empty for nearly two decades before reopening as the Pendry, thanks in part to a big investment from Under Armour’s Kevin Plank. While the “Rec Pier” serves as the frontispiece of the property—and houses the Andrew Carmellini Rec Pier Chop House restaurant and a small whiskey bar called The Cannon Room—the guest rooms are in the new-build addition on the old footprint of the pier, which gives the place a bolted-together feel but also supremely comfortable guest rooms that aren’t jig-sawed into a historic building. The Pendry is probably one of the best places to stay in Baltimore right now, and if you’re coming for nightlife and dining, this is the perfect place to be.
Located in the charming Georgetown neighborhood, the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC welcomes guests with ample luxury amenities and services. The No. 4 Best Hotel in the District of Columbia houses an indoor saltwater lap pool, a spa, a health club and the highly praised Bourbon Steak restaurant. Travelers also compliment the staff members, who they describe as professional, warm and accommodating. (Michael Kleinberg/Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC)
Music producer Chris Blackwell, who introduced the world to Bob Marley back in 1973, also founded this oceanfront island hideaway a few years later, based around the clifftop villa where Ian Fleming wrote all his Bond novels. In the decades since its reach has grown and grown. There’s no sign at the entrance, which is part of the low-key charm. It’s easy to see why many music and film stars make their way here: this is a sweet spot with a very independent flavour, a world away from the oversized all-inclusives, and more honed than Blackwell’s companion hotel, Strawberry Hill, in the Blue Mountains. Couples tend to hole up in the wooden beach huts; families and friends take over the massive villas; industry bigwigs feel right at home in Fleming’s former house, which has three bedrooms and a personable, clued-in staff. There are a few nods to 007 – black-and-white photos of Bond in reception plus novels and films on loan – but GoldenEye is mainly about Jamaica, a sensibility found in the blazingly coloured fabrics, breezy breakfasts on the verandah with cups of Blue Mountain coffee, and heaps of tropical fruit. The sheltered bay for morning swims is just a few paces away across immaculate sands. It says everything that Blackwell still lives here (guests have been known to unwittingly roll up to his villa and ask for a drink, which is always obligingly provided). And why would he leave? He gets to enjoy a highly original hangout that is entirely of his making. This is that rare beast: a hotel that balances heritage and hip and gets away with it. By Nigel Tisdall
White Elephant Village's close proximity to Nantucket's Children's Beach and ample complimentary kids amenities (think: video games, boogie boards and coloring books) make this a popular option for families. However, visitors of all ages enjoy staying at the No. 1 Best Hotel in Nantucket, citing the property's superb service and spacious accommodations as highlights. Rooms, suites and residences offer island-inspired decor, minifridges and high-definition TVs, among other perks. Plus, all guests have access to an outdoor pool, free loaner bicycles, a spa and daily treats in the lobby. (Courtesy of White Elephant Village)
A short, cobblestoned walk up from Cusco’s central plaza sits an elegant hotel with ancient roots. The story of this Belmond all-suite property—which opened in 2012—is reflected in its décor: Original Inca stone walls from the building’s footprint give way to the colonial-era frescoes and gilded 17th-century décor of its private mansion days, while a small restored chapel and serene arcades reveals its time as a convent. Now, tucked-away terraces and gardens, bubbling fountains, and Cusco’s first heated pool encourage contemplation of another kind to guests of the 55 accommodations. With butler service included for all rooms, checking in and getting acquainted with your suite is a breeze. Despite the historic air, all the technology is up-to-date, so enjoy the in-room iPads, espresso/tea machines, heated bathroom floors, and pumped-in oxygen to help ease any altitude issues.
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The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Hilton Head, sits on 5,000 oceanfront acres within The Sea Pines Resort. Guests heap praise on this elegant property, especially its welcoming staff and well-appointed rooms. All 60 accommodations offer 480 square feet of space, Nespresso coffee makers, walk-in rain showers and blackout curtains. Plus, all room rates cover two hours of daily court time at the on-site tennis club, reduced green fees at the property's three golf courses and preferred reservations at the on-site restaurants, among other perks. (Courtesy of The Sea Pines Resort and Rob Tipton)
Sitting on the sand of a Georgia barrier island, this 1928 grande dame is a readers’ favorite for its country-estate aesthetics: Turkish rugs, overstuffed chairs, and marble baths (as well as an old-school Sweet Shop, home of the pecan-covered Gold Brick Sundae). That stately ambience helped secure its No. 4 ranking in the business hotel category: its generous meeting space has hosted a G8 Summit, and offers downtime at three championship golf courses (including Seaside, designed in 1929 by famed architects Harry S. Colt and Charles Alison). It also scored well for multi-generational travelers, thanks to the less formal diversions of bingo nights and low-country boils on the beach.
Few hotels are as synonymous with their destination as La Mamounia. Frankly, if you don’t end up overnighting in one of this former palace’s tiled guest rooms, just behind the blush-coloured walls of the medina, it’s almost as though you were never in Marrakech at all. That’s because this opulent, more-is-absolutely-more pocket of palm trees, landscaped gardens and fountains, where sultry lobby spaces and bars are draped in silks and dark velvets, has come to embody all those reasons we travel to Marrakech in the first place. Inside its hammam, a mosaic of blue, red and pine-green tiles, are cheery therapists who offer clay body wraps (head down early for
Halekulani, the No. 1 Best Hotel in Honolulu – Oahu, wins favor with guests for its luxe accommodations and impressive views of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. Guest rooms are outfitted in a sleek "seven shades of white" theme and the property offers several on-site amenities, including a spa, multiple restaurants and a unique outdoor pool that features an orchid mosaic on its floor. (Courtesy of Halekulani)
The people of Quebec City are hardy and quite used to the harsh weather that is typical in the long winter months. Rather than mope and complain they tend to turn lemons into lemonade, or rather snow and ice into sculptures and other works of art. The city holds a winter carnival every year, officially known as Le Carnaval de Quebéc. Despite the brisk temperatures that are experienced at this time, this carnival is as popular among travellers as events held in the summer months. In fact it is the largest carnival of its kind in the world, with more than one million people drawn to view the ice sculptures, take part in winter sports and attend parades and masquerade balls. Bonhomme, a stylised giant snowman, is the delightful official mascot. Those looking for a unique and beautiful place to stay in the deep winter months should head a few miles to the north of the city where the Hôtel de Glace, North America’s only ice hotel, is open from January to March each year. The spectacular suites are carved out of the ice by artists and have to be seen to be believed.
This will stop even island regulars in their tracks: on the way to breakfast when they see baby sharks swimming right there in the shallows; passing the giant, gnarling, Tomb Raider-esque banyan tree near the tucked-away spa; at sunset when the pool becomes a mirror for the sky and the only colours that exist in the world are orange and blue. Amilla is a minimalist and clean-lined version of the Maldives, with low-rise buildings in a white wood the same shade as the flour-fine sand. Nothing pokes above the palm trees, even the treehouses high up in the canopy (for those who prefer to fall asleep to the sound of birdcall rather than waves) cleverly blend into their surroundings. Being in or near the water is what it’s all about: the snorkelling is sensational and the house reef is home to a coral-lined underwater chimney where hawksbill turtles, triggerfish and guitar sharks schmooze. But there’s also a knockout spa where trainers from hit London outfit Bodyism lead guests through a gym session to get hearts racing and then brilliant therapists from Bhutan calm them back down again. All is mellow and fairy-lit when it gets dark and everyone seems to be wearing something floaty. Among the half dozen restaurants, Japanese Feeling Koi, set right out over the ocean, is a highlight: reef-fish ceviche with pomegranate; crispy crab roll with green-tea powder. Amilla has some of the most knockout villas in the archipelago. Any which way, it’s a very fun, very glamorous place to stay. By Grainne McBride
Just northeast of Kekaha Kai State Park, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is one of the most luxurious resorts on the Big Island. Recent visitors suggested indulging in the Hualalai Spa, which features spa treatments with island twists, like a Polynesian Niu (Coconut) Scrub or a Sun Relief Ti Leaf Wrap. Meanwhile, the resort's seven unique swimming spots – from a saltwater pond with a few friendly manta rays to an oceanfront infinity pool – earn high marks across the board. Should you be interested in learning more about Hawaiian life, the Ka'upulehu Cultural Center offers interactive programs that give insight into the island's history, traditions and even music. After a long day of learning (or relaxing), enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of three restaurants or two lounges before retiring to your room. Accommodations at this Four Seasons resort feature nature-inspired hues and Hawaiian art, as well as balconies, granite bathrooms and plasma TVs. Although recent guests won't deny that room rates and dining costs here are high, they say that the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai's facilities and customer service are worth the price.
This LEED Platinum-certified boutique property in Yountville, California, is dedicated to protecting the environment while providing a high-end experience for travelers. Not only does the No. 2 Best Hotel in Napa Valley place guests close to the area's vineyards and top-notch restaurants, it's also home to its own highly praised "field-to-fork" eatery, Lucy. Travelers also rave about Bardessono's rooftop pool, accommodations and spacious bathrooms. (Courtesy of Bardessono)
Strolling into this hotel is a rich sensory experience unlike any other in town. The atrium is filled with a dozen ficus trees wrapped in delicate white lights and dotted with lavish ‘Are they real?’ floral arrangements. The answer is, of course. Since opening in 2005, Wynn has remained the high-rolling kingpin of Sin City names, partly because of its money-no-problem approach to design and services, but also because it likes to poach big spenders – as well as newly minted winners on the casino floor. There are nearly 40 designer shops (including two Chanel stores) spread throughout three shopping hubs, the newest of which, Wynn Plaza, just opened this autumn with a Cipriani restaurant and a SoulCycle outpost. Elsewhere, there’s a multiplicity of restaurants, nightclubs, a beach club, pools, spas and bars (our personal tip is the pretty Parasol Down for its fanciful cocktails and waterfall views). Rumour has it the cost to maintain the floral displays at Wynn and its sister tower, Encore, is in the millions. But not everything is gilded fantasy here. Wynn recently opened its own solar field, which offsets up to three-quarters of its energy usage, and every restaurant has a vegan or vegetarian menu. A golf course designed by Tom Fazio will open at the end of the year. The Strip has no shortage of hotels, but despite its size, the Wynn manages to feel intimate and draws a clued-up international crowd who appreciate a player with style. By Juliana Shallcross