Style and substance are at the core of our choices for 2007's Top 10 new hotels. From renovations of classic New York buildings to a redo of a mid-century tower near LAX in Los Angeles to a 19th-century jail-turned-hotel in Boston, today's most forward-thinking hoteliers marry innovative design ideas with the most current in-room technology. iPod docks and high-speed connectivity are must-haves while in Detroit, as well as smart touch-screen keypads that equal instant service without picking up the phone. In San Francisco, Japanese Anime makes a dramatic in-room appearance; further north in California's wine country, eco-consciousness and luxury combine. Partnerships with top chefs in Key West and Dallas demonstrate the evolution of the hotel dining experience, as today's travelers expect more than just generic menu choices. And a lush, sprawling resort in Del Mar takes refined relaxation to a new level. Also of note, the tourist meccas of Palm Springs, Miami Beach and the eastern Poconos, where new inns add posh perks to long-standing popular destinations. Check in and explore the best debuts of 2007.
Think next-gen resort: Solage Calistoga aims for environmental consciousness without sacrificing style or guest services. Guest rooms, called studios, have open floor plans, and were built using wood from sustainable forests and non-toxic finishes. Two cruiser bikes come with each room—perfect for exploring the Napa Valley countryside, local wineries and Calistoga's scenic and gastronomic charms. The expansive on-site Spa Solage acknowledges Calistoga's famed mud bath tradition with a walk-up mud bar, where guests are lathered with the region's de-toxifying, volcanic mud. Facials feature products by celeb skincare guru Kate Somerville. A number of fitness and movement classes are offered. There's also a 130-foot, geo-thermally heated pool, giving guests the opportunity to stay fit in the midst of wine country's temptations.
The Grand Del Mar
San Diego’s North County is home to some of the country’s most exclusive resorts: La Costa, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, The Lodge at Torrey Pines and as of October 2007, The Grand Del Mar, set on 380 acres in a boulder-studded canyon. Inspired by the elegant, 1920s-era Spanish Revival architectural style of Addison Mizner—the visionary behind Boca Raton, Fla. and numerous Palm Beach mansions—the resort is lush with colorful tiles, ornate stonework and wrought iron finishes, and is dotted with fountains and loggias throughout. Outside there’s hiking, biking and horseback riding through the adjacent Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve; four outdoor pools, including an adults-only spa pool; tennis; and San Diego’s only Tom Fazio-designed golf course. In addition to the 249 richly finished rooms and suites, there’s a 21,000-square-foot spa, six restaurants, ample meeting space and quick access to all of San Diego’s diversions. Kudos for improving the neighborhood, Grand Del Mar.
Chic and well-priced, the Custom Hotel brings a novel sense of fun and plenty of contemporary style to a close-to-Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) stay. The hotel is a redo of the former Furama, now boldly painted black, showcasing the clean lines of mid-century architect Welton Beckett (famed for Hollywood’s iconic Capitol Records building). The fun starts in the lobby where playful sheep-shaped stools and an espresso greet guests at check-in. A DJ spins nightly at the hotel’s pool and bar, Hopscotch, designed for socializing with stadium seating and a fire-pit. Rooms have the latest high-tech gadgets and panoramic views that, on clear days, extend from the runways of LAX to downtown and out to the nearby Pacific Ocean, giving guests numerous reasons to not park-n-fly.
Best Western Hotel Tomo
Imagine a Japanese pop-art palace. Known for its lifestyle hotels, San Francisco’s Joie de Vivre Hospitality debuted this unique 125-room hotel with special appeal in April 2007. Filled with artifacts from Japanese pop culture, like Anime-themed art, comic books and toys, the Hotel Tomo is a playful remake of the formerly bland Miyako Inn in the heart of the city’s revitalized Japantown. Upgrades include the requisite tech toys (iPod dock) and high-speed connectivity plus two-player suites that have three game systems plugged into a super-sized screen. Fun design touches confirm that this is not your mother’s Best Western: at bedside are Japanese comic books, rooms have cushy bean bag chairs and the covered interior courtyard has two geodesic-domed meeting spaces. With room rates from $139 per night, Hotel Tomo proves that style and affordability can partner.
Beachside Resort & Conference Center
Driving the Overseas Highway to Key West is one of America’s most scenic day trips. Now there’s a resort at the end of the ride that luxuriously caps the journey. Opened in October 2007, the Beachside Resort & Conference Center was developed by one of the Keys' most reliable hoteliers, Robert Spottswood. This is his take on luxury: a 222-room, tropical plantation-style hotel with a private beach and dining options from one of Florida’s most esteemed chefs, Norman Van Aken. The James Beard Award-winning chef oversees Tavern N Town, as well as the hotel’s beach bar. All share the gleaming open kitchen, with a wood burning oven for pizzas and paninis, that spans one end of the hotel’s lobby. Tavern offers casual fare, and the freshest local fish, in a casual setting; Town promises the most rarefied dining on the island and showcases Van Aken’s New World Cuisine. In anticipation of the often-treacherous storms that rock the island chain, the hotel has hurricane-resistant construction and on-site back-up generators, so guests can still have ice in their hand-muddled Mojitos while waiting out a storm.
The Liberty Hotel, Boston
Set on the scenic Charles River, close to Beacon Hill, the 298-room Liberty Hotel provides one of Boston’s most unique stays—18 rooms of the hotel were once jail cells. Their brick walls remain, as do many other remnants of the hotel’s penal past. A $150-million, imaginative and stylish adaptive re-use project, the hotel incorporates the 1851-built, formerly abandoned Charles Street Jail and its muscular, granite block edifice. The former jail exercise yard is now a courtyard garden that links the historic main building and lobby, with iron catwalks floating above, to a contemporary, 16-story tower. Among the property’s highlights: CLINK, the hotel's restaurant; the latest digital technology throughout; and convenient access to Boston’s best attractions. Guests won’t be in a hurry to bust out of this one.
Introducing Sin City to the Motor City, the MGM Grand Detroit is a destination unto itself, featuring a casino, 400-room hotel, Vegas-sized resort-style spa, seasonally changing grand indoor garden, nightlife and 30,000 square feet of meeting space. Fine dining is by two of the country’s preeminent chefs, Wolfgang Puck and Michael Mina, both debuting their contemporary American dining concepts in southeast Michigan. Central to the $800 million project is the hotel with its own private entrance and opulent lobby living room that features a wall-long fireplace with cascading water-wall. In-room telephones serve as “butlers”: guests simply touch the screen to schedule wake-up calls or to order 24-hour room service from Wolfgang Puck. Bathrooms are high-tech too, with in-mirror flat panel TVs and peek-a-boo opaque glass panels that reveal showering silhouettes from the bedroom. Who says Detroit can’t innovate?
MGM Grand Resort & Casino
The Bowery Hotel
Return to Old New York, courtesy of the team behind Manhattan’s Maritime Hotel. Gilded Age splendor is recalled in the hotel lobby’s Oriental carpets, velvet-covered furniture and vested and bow tie-clad staff. But although the 17-story Bowery evokes the past, amenities and services are thoroughly modern: free wireless Internet access, iPod stereos and docking stations and a mobile business center (a laptop for guest use) stand out. The building’s original factory-sized floor-to-ceiling windows define guestrooms also outfitted with 400-count linens, overhead fans and rain shower fixtures in the bathrooms. On weekends, the lobby, bar and restaurant (Gemma) are great for people-watching. Despite its rundown reputation, the area around the hotel is quickly gentrifying. The Bowery Hotel proves remakes can sometimes be better than the originals.
Behind a 1928 Beaux Arts façade is 6 Columbus, the latest upscale boutique from the Thompson Hotels Group. Envisioned as the hotel that would bring downtown uptown, 6 Columbus is all about translating that relaxed attitude and casual elegance to buttoned-down midtown. Décor reflects the glam era of the early 1960s: rooms are painted in painter Yves Klein’s mod, international blue with photographer Guy Bourdin’s arousing images as guest room art. Upstairs, spectacular penthouses top the building; downstairs, Bromberg Bros. have opened their first restaurant north of 14th Street, the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill. Picture a Left Bank Parisian hotel in the midst of corporate Manhattan and you have the 88-room 6 Columbus.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas
Applying its signature traditional style paired with exemplary service, the 21-story Ritz-Carlton in Uptown Dallas, became a local landmark even before opening in August 2007. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the hotel’s architectural flourishes include a rooftop pool and deck with views of Dallas beyond, Italian-made, Murano-glass chandeliers throughout and Texas-sized guest rooms and bathrooms. Occupying the entire second floor is the hotel’s spa, pool and fitness center; specialty treatments include the Texas Eight-Hand Massage and Dean’s Margarita Salt Glow. Dean is none other than Texas’ own, cowboy-boot-wearing celeb chef Dean Fearing, who designed the menus and oversees the hotel’s seven restaurants. And how can you not love a hotel with a bar called the Rattlesnake?
(Updated: 06/25/10 CT)