When it comes to planning an aspirational trip, many people dream of far-flung, international hot spots, rather than the history-filled enclaves found in America's backyard. But the truth is, while places across the U.S. might be young compared to storied destinations overseas, America features its fair share of historic cities and hotels filled with old-world grandeur and timeless charm. So, if you want to get away for a quick weekend and get transported to another time – without reaching for your passport – head to one of the country's top historic hotels. Here are five U.S. haunts that are steeped in history and nestled in some of the nation's most influential neighborhoods.
The Jefferson, Washington, DC
Just blocks from the White House and a slew of historic landmarks, The Jefferson leaves an impression on its guests. This 95-room property, built in 1923, was converted into a hotel in 1955. History lovers will appreciate the property's historical artifacts, including art, paintings and documents signed by Thomas Jefferson and other significant national figures. And though the hotel retains its opulence, thanks to renovations in 2009, which included upgrades to guest rooms, meeting spaces and restaurants as well as the addition of two specialty suites, the property doesn't compromise on contemporary comforts. Rooms start at around $400 per night, and special packages are available.
It's impossible to think of Salem without remembering the Salem witch trials. Yet, the Hawthorne Hotel has a history of its own, not only as the site of epic Halloween parties, the backdrop for a memorable episode of the hit television series "Bewitched" and even seances, but also as a member of the Historic Hotels of America. Since opening its doors in 1925, the Hawthorne Hotel has become renowned as a destination for grand ballroom dances, weddings and a famed Halloween party. Guests at the Hawthorne Hotel do much more than stay the night; they bring a piece of Salem and its history home with them. Rooms start at $129 per night, but book early to secure your reservation.
The Peabody Memphis
With an original building dating back to 1869, The Peabody reflects the opulence and glamour of a bygone era. A newer and grander property was erected at its present Memphis location on Union Avenue, but the hotel never lost its grasp on its historic roots. The Peabody also boasts time-honored traditions, such as its Peabody Duck Parade, a spectacle that continues to delight visitors today. If you want a slice of history in Memphis, rooms at The Peabody start at just $165 per night.
Palmer House, A Hilton Hotel
Located in Chicago's Loop District, the Palmer House offers both historic charm and modern conveniences. Built by wealthy business magnates and socialites, the property first opened its doors in 1873. The hotel's former owner, Bertha Palmer, even befriended Claude Monet in France, which helped influence the property's artistic flair. Today, you'll find garnet-filled chandeliers and a ceiling fresco created by the French painter Louis Pierre Rigal. What's more, as a Chicago landmark, the hotel has hosted many prominent figures, from U.S. presidents to world-renowned entertainers, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Rooms start at $169 per night, and special offers are available for couples and groups.
The King's Daughters Inn
Durham, North Carolina
Across the street from the prestigious Duke University, the King's Daughters Inn packs plenty of culture into its historic property. Formerly serving as retirement housing for elderly women in 1903, the property evolved into a two-story Colonial Revival style brick building and hotel. The home served 34 women and housed 9 full-time staff members at its peak, yet waned in popularity and ultimately closed in 2006. However, by 2009, the building was purchased and artfully restored to its former grandeur, showcasing elegant rooms and suites. Rooms start at $200 per night.
The Bottom Line
If you love history, it might be time to venture just beyond your doorstep. America's historic hotels make it easy to see some of our nation's most celebrated landmarks while enjoying stately retreats that celebrate their rich heritage and offer a throwback to the grandeur of yesteryear.
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