The word "iconic" gets thrown around by hotels almost as often as the words "$34.95 overnight parking." But unlike charging your car its own AARP room rate, the term is pretty hard to define. Hotels that opened in January will be calling themselves "iconic" by March if something as crazy as the Bad Girls Club film crew shows up. What we're saying is, the word has gotten a little diluted. But in each state there's at least one hotel that can legitimately call itself an icon. Whether it's historic, famous from movies and TV, or just enduringly emblematic, if you're going to stay in that state, this is the quintessential place to do it. Turns out that some are grand, Gilded Age structures, some are Art Deco masterpieces, some are wilderness lodges. All are worth checking out, or even parking yourself at for a spell. —By Matt Meltzer
Perhaps a more accurate name for this institution would be the "out-of-battle house," as its most historic use was during the Civil War as a confederate hospital. The building, on the grounds of Andrew Jackson's War of 1812 headquarters, was opened by James Battle in 1852. The original burned down in 1905, and was reconstructed four years later. Since then it has housed such luminaries as Woodrow Wilson when he gave his first public address as president.
With a serious tip of the hat to the Historic Anchorage Hotel, which opened way back in 1936, nothing is more ironically Alaska than a lodge in the middle of Denali National Park. And even though this property opened relatively recently, its luxe private cabins set in the rugged Alaska wilderness are the stuff of dream vacations. Sure, it's an all-inclusive, but that just means that guests can do all the classic Alaskan activities like fishing, hiking, and gold-panning at no extra charge. Ditto encountering wildlife -- a bus ride there has at least a 50/50 chance of being held up by moose in the road.
This place is so Arizona, it's literally made of desert sand. No joke, when Frank Lloyd Wright consulted with his former student Albert Chase McArthur on the hotel's design, they chose to construct it out of "Biltmore Blocks" made of hardened desert sand. The place has been a celebrity hotspot since the day it opened; the classic Catalina Pool is said to have been Marilyn Monroe's favorite, and where Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas." Which, if you've ever spent the holidays in Arizona, makes perfect sense.
The plaque on the outside of this Downtown landmark lets you know that Ulysses S. Grant stayed there; another president, by the name of William Jefferson Clinton, used it as his local landing spot during his two terms before he built his presidential library down the street. More relevant to your stay is the $24 million renovation that local I-banking billionaire Warren Stephens sank into the joint a decade ago. The rooms may be the poshest in town -- a visiting David Sedaris once gushed over his stay there, saying that's where he'd go to have a baby. But even passers-by can wander in to ogle the tile and chandeliers of the grand lobby, or duck into the bar for great cocktails, served with complimentary pork-fried black-eyed peas. --Sam Eifling, Thrillist Travel editor
In a state as vast and iconic as California, there are bound to be some snubs. The Coronado in San Diego, the Claremont in Berkeley, the Biltmore in Santa Barbara. But nowhere exudes Hollywood celebrity like the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows, a 208-room, 28-bungalow pink-and-green legend that fueled celebrity gossip decades before TMZ. This is the place where John Lennon and Yoko Ono holed up for weeks to escape the press. Where Nixon's chief of staff learned about Watergate, and where the picture on the cover of the Eagles' Hotel California was shot. You can check it out anytime you like.
Two hotels are inextricably linked to The Shining. One is the Timberline in Oregon (more on that later) and the other is this 420-room behemoth, which housed Stephen King in the 1970s and, ostensibly, served as the model for the place where Jack Nicholson communed with dead bartenders. Inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley created it to introduce wealthy Northeasterners to the wonders of the Rockies. The hotel effectively turned the settlement of Estes Park into a legitimate city, and helped with the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park. Though The Shining might be the hotel's most recognizable legacy, the park will be its most enduring.
Connecticut, famous for fishing lodges and wilderness resorts, has one symbol that stands above the rest: Foxwoods, the pre-eminent gaming destination for discerning nickel-slot players throughout the tri-state area and New England. One reason: It paired destination gambling with a trove of outlet stores, including the new Tanger Outlets, home to high-end retail from the likes of Coach, H&M, and Michael Kors. All that, and it's also home to the best steakhouse in Connecticut, David Burke Prime.
The most esteemed family name in Delaware is also on the grandest hotel in the state. Located in the heart of Wilmington, the hotel opened in 1913, after a team of 18 European craftsmen spent two years completing the marble, woodwork, and artisan ceilings. A recent $40 million renovation only cements it as one of the finest hotels on the continent. Its DuPont Theatre inside boasts the fourth-largest stage in America, and the Green Room restaurant has earned the coveted AAA Four Diamond rating. No wonder presidents such as Warren Harding, JFK, and Obama have all stayed nights in its delicately appointed guest rooms.
Every American scandal or quasi-scandal since 1974 has been called "Something-gate." What happened in '74 to change the American lexicon? In a word, Watergate. This is where burglars working for Richard Nixon's campaign broke into Democratic National Committee offices, setting in motion events that led to the only presidential resignation in US history. While the curved, painfully 1960s design has been described as being "as appropriate as a strip dancer performing at your grandmother's funeral," the building was DC's first mixed-use complex, with apartments, offices, shopping, swimming pools, and gardens. After a recent nine-year closure, it reopened this summer as one of the most modern hotels in the city.
Florida has some beautiful historic hotels: the Breakers in Palm Beach, the Don CeSar in St. Pete Beach. But ask anyone born after 1990 to name a hotel in Florida, and Fontainebleau will be the only one they MIGHT come up with. This gem is a lot more than the home of the night club LIV and celebrity-filled pool parties. Art Deco king Morris Lapidus designed it the 1950s, intending it to be the state's grandest example of that architecture style. It soon became a playground for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis, and Lucille Ball, helping to make its pool America's most famous outside of California. Today, after a billion-dollar renovation, it's still the go-to hotel for living the Miami fantasy better than any other place in the state.
"Iconic" does not necessarily mean "nice." Or even "up to legal health codes." Nowhere is this more apparent than at Atlanta's notorious Clermont Hotel. It may be the only hotel in the world that is exponentially more famous for its strip club than it is for its guest rooms, where the authentically divey Clermont Lounge has been an end-of-the-night staple for generations of Atlantans. The Lounge has remained open even as the hotel was shut for health-code violations in 2009, but a massive renovation and reconstruction plan is currently underway in the hotel, and its slated to open in March 2017 as a completely reinvented, but no less iconic, fixture of the city.
On a Honolulu skyline jammed with fungible hotel and apartment towers, this pink stucco monument stands out like a beacon of history. What originally began as a four-story, 400-room luxury resort went on to serve as a major R&R center for soldiers and sailors in the Pacific front during World War II. Since then it's seen a few major renovations, adding the Royal Tower wing in the 1960s and the new Mailani Tower wing in 2015. The resort now boasts 528 rooms, drawing hordes of visitors to Waikiki, the most famous tourism neighborhood in Hawaii.
Destination ski lodges are now de rigueur in any self-respecting ski town. But in the 1930s, the idea of building an entire resort based around a seasonal sport was unheard of, until this central Idaho spot opened its doors. After a massive renovation this year, the nation's first destination ski lodge has never looked grander.
Right now, a dozen people born after 1995 are reading this and thinking, "Holy crap, they opened a Drizzy-themed hotel!" But this Windy City landmark outdates the Auto-Tuned Degrassi alum by about 66 years. The bright-red rooftop sign stands over a place where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio once carved their initials into the Cape Cod Room bar, and where the Coq d'Or opened to serve 40-cent whiskey the day after Prohibition's repeal. Its legendary Gold Coast room has been a swanky hangout for celebrities from Charles Lindbergh to Walt Disney.
Thanks to this hotel French Lick was a grand destination for a century before Larry Legend came along. Opened by Dr. William Bowles as a wellness retreat, the hotel reached its most grandiose with the 1901 addition of the "spa wing" -- now the West Baden Spa -- an architectural forerunner to the Astrodome with its sprawling, 200ft atrium, once dubbed "the eighth wonder of the world." The property's golf course in 1924 hosted the PGA Championship; during the 1930s the hotel was the unofficial home of the Democratic party. While not the most famous hotel in the Midwest, it's still a popular destination for conventions, golfing, or just plain relaxation.
This historic gem, not to be confused with the Blackhawk Hotel in Cedar Falls, is a grand, imposing structure that has undergone numerous renovations in 102 years. While its storied history as one of the oldest hotels in the state makes it iconic in and of itself, nothing is quite as quintessentially Midwestern as having a massive fire break out because of a meth lab explosion. Which is exactly what happened in Room 803 back in 2006.
This 200-room brick landmark sits on the Arkansas River, close to major rail lines. During a time when travelers through the Midwest found few signs of civilization it was a bastion of comfort on the vast, empty plains. During Prohibition its basement was home to Wichita's only speakeasy, and the rooftop bar was the first in the city. But perhaps the hotel's most notable feature is the 1,500sqft mosaic in the Crystal Ballroom from Blackbear Bosin called The Advance of Civilization in Kansas, which portrays the state during its most rugged frontier period.
Narrowing down the most iconic hotel among the French Quarter jewels is almost as hard as figuring out who has the best drinks on Bourbon Street. While the Roosevelt is famous for its ornate lobby and the Sazerac Bar, the nod here has to go to the Monteleone. Its grand white façade is almost as unmistakable as the giant, lit-up sign on the roof. Capote, Hemingway, and Faulkner used to hole up here to write, taking the occasional break for a Pimm's Cup at the famous Carousel Bar. Which is, as the name might imply, a majestic indoor carousel that doubles as a place to get a little woozy.
When the then-369-room Eastland Park Hotel opened in 1927, it was the largest hotel in New England, standing as a welcoming icon over the port at Congress and High Streets. It gained notoriety as a place that refused to let Eleanor Roosevelt stay with her dog, and later became famous for Ozzy Osbourne tossing pool furniture off the rooftop (a practice guests later imitated, leading to the eventual closing of the pool). The hotel fell into disrepair until 2011, when it underwent an 18-month, $50 million renovation and reopened as the Westin Portland Harborview.
Have you ever used the phrase "stage-five clinger" to describe someone? Welp, that term originated here, at a former manor house that was used as the backdrop for Wedding Crashers, and the former IRL home to the family that created the Laura Ashley line of fabrics. Now it's a full-service resort in Maryland's most exclusive vacation region, run by Belmond, replete with a spa, fine dining, and loads of sailing excursions.
What do Emeril Lagasse, Malcolm X, and Ho Chi Minh all have in common? All were waiters at this legendary hotel on Boston’s Freedom Trail. (Bust that out at your next cocktail party.) The oldest continuously operating hotel in America has seen more history than probably any in the nation, and just walking through the lobby is an immersion in 19th-century luxury. Its guest roster is a stunner: Henry David Thoreau, Babe Ruth, FDR, Yo-Yo Ma. "The Grand Dame of Boston hotels" is so intertwined with our nation's history, an entire book has been written about it, called Heaven, by Hotel Standards.
Traveling across the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan converge, to Mackinac Island is like entering an entirely different country, in a different century. You'll still have cellphone service and Wi-Fi -- but cars are prohibited, so the preferred mode of transportation is horse-drawn carriage or bicycle. The social centerpiece of the island is the Grand Hotel's front porch -- the world's longest -- where visitors gather day and night from May to October, even if they're not guests of the resort. As such, the Grand holds a special place in the heart and mind of anyone who's ever stuffed their face with Mackinac Island fudge. If you are so lucky to have slept in the Grand, you did so in one of the hotel's 386 rooms, no two of which are identical.
You know that friend who always has, like, four random strangers sleeping on his couch? That was John Summers, a St. Paul man who epitomized "Midwestern Nice" and let travelers the world over crash at his house. He eventually partnered with John Baugh to build the Windsor in 1878. Through a series of ownership changes and varied uses, the hotel reopened in 1910, touted as "St. Paul's Million-Dollar Hotel." It went on to serve as headquarters for Leon Gleckman, the mob boss who ran St. Paul in the 1920s and '30s. After falling into disrepair in the 1970s, the end of the 20th century saw the hotel return to its glory as a 255-room Minnesota mainstay.
Being the tallest building in Mississippi may not be much of a bragging point, but this 32-story hotel & casino is not only the tallest manmade structure in the state, it's by far the most recognizable. Even after Hurricane Katrina forced it to close for an entire year, it has reopened as a little slice of Vegas on the Bayou. Originally a Wynn property, the hotel is now owned by MGM and stands as the backdrop to the outfield at minor-league baseball's MGM Park across the street. It's the main reason the view from the seats there is so unmistakably Mississippi.
This 28-story Art Deco castle stands as the symbol of St. Louis' Central West End and was THE place to see and be seen from the '30s to the '60s, when acts like Nat King Cole and Bob Hope played the Chase Club in front of celebrity crowds. The hotel on the edge of Forest Park became known for hosting the biggest events in St. Louis, so much so that a book called Meet Me in the Lobby was written about it. And though the surrounding neighborhood is now filled with Starbucks and Lululemons, this classic hotel stands as a reminder of an era when St. Louis was a celebrity hotspot.
People get all craft beer misty-eyed about Missoula and Bozeman, and Robert Redford has made Whitefish a "rustic" getaway for the rich and famous. But a hundred years ago the only city in Montana that mattered was Butte, the largest town at the time between Chicago and San Francisco. The copper-mining boom there fueled the opening of the McDermott Hotel, the most luxurious in the Northwest, in 1889. The McDermott was purchased in 1902 by James Finlen, who tore it down to construct his own palace, a 200-room, nine-story Second Empire masterpiece modeled after the Hotel Astor in New York. After several restorations the hotel is still as elegantly appointed as it was when Butte was a major destination.
Omaha's most historic hotel was once the Flatiron, which is now apartments. Its most iconic? This place, which until 1989 was a stocky Art Deco office building called Redick Tower, built in the style of the city’s Union Station. It stands as Nebraska's greatest Art Deco building, is one of only two AAA Four Diamond properties in the state, and has Omaha's best bourbon bar in the lobby. Though the interior is decidedly modern, the building itself is an important part of the city’s artistic history.
In a city filled with famous structures from other cities, perhaps the most recognizably Vegas are the fountains outside this 3,950-room behemoth. The hotel was the setting for the remake of Ocean's 11, and is probably the most photographed place in Sin City after the famous welcome sign. A trip to the buffet here might be the most overwhelming dining experience of your life. Another fun fact: The original name of this hotel was supposed to be Beau Rivage, a name Steve Wynn instead used for his Mississippi project, which is now the most iconic hotel in that state.
Do you know how many hotels in the United States have hosted the signing of treaties to end major international wars? Not many. But one of them is this Victorian "wedding cake" castle in New Hampshire, that in 1905 housed delegates from Japan and Russia as they hammered out a treaty to end the Russo-Japanese War. Teddy Roosevelt went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the negotiations, and the Wentworth went on to become the backdrop for Robert Downey Jr.'s In Dreams.
Though it's not made entirely of red plastic, this boxy hotel is exactly what Rich Uncle Pennybags would have envisioned building after putting four green houses on Park Place. Upon opening in 1930 it was known as "the Skyscraper by the Sea," a 370ft concrete monument that looked more appropriate to Manhattan than to the Jersey Shore. As Atlantic City became a glamorous beachside getaway, celebrities with names like Sinatra, Capone, and Princess Grace all stayed there. Though AC isn't the vacation destination it once was, the Claridge maintains its classic charm.