Sleeping around is part of a travel writer’s job, and the end of a year is my time to review the wide variety of places where I’ve rested my head or at least gotten a peek beyond the lobby.
More and more often, much to the consternation of tourism reps, I have spread the good word about AirBnB.com (where a traveler pays to stay in private home) while saving significant money.
Subtract AirBnB bookings, fine but predictable chain hotels and places already woven into my earlier columns. What remains that is worth writing about? Plenty, both close to home and far, far away.
The Dearborn Inn, Dearborn, Mich.: The boutique hotel is a historical treasure. Henry Ford opened the Georgian-style structure in 1931 for business travelers (an airport was across the street, at the time). Also on the property: five themed houses (devoted to folks such as Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman), used for overnight lodging in addition to rooms at the inn. The location is most convenient: One-half mile away is The Henry Ford complex (Greenfield Village, Henry Ford Museum and the departure point for Ford Rouge factory tours). Rates start at $166. marriott.com/dearborn
Detroit Foundation Hotel, Detroit: The Motor City’s longtime fire department headquarters has morphed into a stylish and edgy, 100-room hotel downtown. Expect a stash of Detroit-made snacks and beverages in the minibar and works by local artists adorning the property. Eat in the Apparatus Room, within feet from the original firepoles and massive firetruck doors. Chef Thomas Lents orchestrates an imaginative menu, stuffed pork belly to apple cider baked Alaska. Locals crowd into the roomy lounge-bar for free music on Thursday nights. Rates start at $179. detroitfoundationhotel.com
Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, Stone Mountain, Ga.:Marriott shows up again because of this property’s unlikely location, inside 3,200-acre Stone Mountain Park. It is 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Ride a cable car or hike one mile to the top of the park’s granite monolith, best known for its moonscape terrain and side-of-mountain carving of Civil War Confederates Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The carving is bigger than Mount Rushmore. Add a golf course and theme park atmosphere elsewhere. Rates start at $152. stonemountainpark.com
Hotel Clermont, Atlanta: No strip club in the city is older than the retro, basement Clermont Lounge, an endearing landmark with dancers who are older than you might expect. Lodging above the club recently was revamped, and a rooftop bar provides beautiful skyline views. Plenty of indoor nooks and local art too. That included Paris photographer Cyril Bailleul’s show about Clermont strippers, when we visited. A quick walk away is Ponce City Market and the Atlanta Beltline rec trail that links the hipster area’s many restaurants in the Historic Fourth Ward. Rates start at $99 (for a room with bunk beds that sleeps four); fashionable rooms, suites available too. hotelclermont.com
Iberostar Grand Mencey, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Spain: It’s a long haul to Spain’s Canary Islands but breathtaking, ecologically diverse and affordable once you arrive. This five-star spa hotel, on the largest of the islands, has a backdrop of mountains and is a short, pretty walk from downtown. Stroll the gardens, dine on cuttlefish outdoors and save an hour or two for the spa’s water circuit, which ends with a leisurely soak at indoor and outdoor pools. Cooking and wine-tasting classes happen too. Rates start at $113. iberostar.com
Ruebel Hotel, Grafton, Ill.: The small and century-old hotel, near the meeting of Mississippi and Illinois rivers, is in the downtown of a charming, vibrant community of under 650 residents. No two guest rooms look alike, and all were remodeled in 2008. Love ghost stories? This place has a few – ask about Abigail while bellying up to the wooden bar, built for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, which is just 35 miles south. Chicken and pork schnitzels are specialties at the hotel restaurant. Rates start at $89. ruebelhotel.com
Smokey Hollow Campground, Lodi: The glamping – glamorous camping – concept has been around a while. Pay attention if you won’t sleep on the ground in a tent but don’t want to pony up for plush surroundings. Our deluxe cabin came with a campfire ring, indoor bathroom, lofts and bedrooms, modern kitchen (stovetop but no oven) and A/C. Add active surroundings and a pond to cool off in summer. It’s kid friendly (with almost as many inflatables to bounce, slide and float on as water). Some accommodations (yurts, gazebos, a revamped school bus) are unusual. Rates start at $160 for a deluxe cabin that sleeps six. (Don’t mind walking to a bathroom? Rates start at $80 for a covered wagon that sleeps five.) smokeyhollowcampground.com
Starved Rock Lodge, Oglesby, Ill.: No state park in Illinois is more popular than Starved Rock, a National Historic Landmark because of its many canyons, waterfalls and structures built long ago by the Civilian Conservation Corps. That includes the core of the main lodge, made with white pine logs and anchored by a gigantic, two-sided, fieldstone fireplace. Expect rustic-looking, yet contemporary, lodge guest rooms and cabins. Rates start at $80 for a cabin, $90 for a lodge room. starvedrocklodge.com
Warwick Allerton Hotel, Chicago: The Windy City has no shortage of lodging, and the Allerton’s location is ideal: Michigan Avenue, two blocks from Water Tower Place. Snagging a room rate under $100 (via TravelZoo.com) was a coup. Getting an automatic upgrade to a suite, upon check-in, was an unexpected bonus. The vintage architecture remains gorgeous and well-kept. It opened in 1923 as a club hotel for men. Check out the views and cocktails at Tip Top Tap, on the 23rd floor. Rates start at $85. warwickhotels.com
White Pines Resort, Mt. Morris, Ill.: Stay in one of 16 cozy log cabins built by the CCC a century ago in this 385-acre forest that is 55 miles southwest of Beloit. Each cabin has a stone fireplace, or head to the resort restaurant and linger at a larger fireplace after a from-scratch dinner that ends with a slice of pie. The big attraction here? Peace and quiet. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done in today’s world. Rates start at $89. whitepinesinn.com