It's the end of the year. That means different things for different people. For some, egg nog. For others -- not many others, one assumes -- fruit cake. There are a few things, though, that apply to almost everyone: holidays, family, overeating, unmet resolutions (often related to family or overeating), and, of course, year-end top-10 lists. They're ubiquitous. The top 10 movies of 2009. Top 10 books. Top 10 songs and albums. Time even published a "Top 10 Everything of 2009," with 50 different lists.
Admit it: you love 'em. They're fun. They provide closure and fodder for debate. They're also useful. How else to know which 10 beach bodies men should ogle as January looms?
It's in that spirit that we present our 10 favorite hotels that have opened in the past 12 months. It was fun and debate-provoking and all that other good stuff, but we hope it might also inform your next trip. After all, there's something to be said for newness. The staff is usually just a little nicer than they will be a year from now; there's an extra bounce in the bellman's step. At the least, you can rest assured your newly designed room will be clean and high-tech.
The following hotels excel beyond the advantages newness itself brings. All 10 are superb; it's a safe bet they'll remain top hotels through 2010 and beyond.
Hotel: W South Beach Location: South Beach, Miami Price: $658 The stunning new 312-room W South Beach -- located on the beach, on the northern outskirts of South Beach -- blends cute comforts, intricate design (that spares no expense), and flawless service. Large, modern rooms; terraces angled to overlook the ocean; elegant landscaping around the pool -- even without its spa (yet), the W tops the Miami greats.
Hotel: Ace Hotel NY Location: Midtown East, New York City Price: $219 A hip hotel in an unhip neighborhood. The meticulously curated, vintage-inspired design will be a turn-off for some -- the Ace doesn't aspire to most conventional notions of luxury -- but the property is as cool, comfortable, and inviting in its own way as any fancy downtown hipster boutique. Rooms are a bit small, and in some cases dark. But service is solid and the rates very fair.
Hotel: Mondrian South Beach Location: South Beach, Miami Price: $338 Debuting in 2009 and designed by Marcel Wanders, the off-the-beach Mondrian is as stylish as its party-centric South Beach siblings, the Delano and Shore Club, but lacks the hyped-up clubbers. Its impeccable service, kitchen-equipped rooms, and notable after-parties at the Sunset Lounge draw well-heeled singles but also families seeking more than the PG-13 kitsch of most family hotels.
Hotel: The Standard New York Location: West Village and Chelsea, New York City Price: $349 Hovering above the High Line on concrete pillars, this one-of-a-kind Meatpacking District hotel offers 337 light-flooded, ultra-mod rooms with panoramic views of the city; one restaurant and (eventually) five bars; and excellent service.
Hotel: W Washington D.C. Location: Downtown, Washington, D.C. Price: $373 New and gorgeous -- the 317-room W Washington D.C. just opened in July 2009, taking over the historic Hotel Washington's 1917 Beaux Arts building. But blending the new -- fusion cuisine from Jean-Georges Vongerichten; a fashionable rooftop bar; a great spa and gym; Whatever/Whenever service -- with the old -- small guest rooms; no pool; desolate location (come evening) -- has its trade-offs.
Hotel: Smyth Hotel Location: SoHo and TriBeCa, New York City Price: $331 Built from scratch in TriBeCa and "soft-launched" in March 2009, the Smyth so far exhibits excellent service and lots of downtown style. There's no party scene -- yet -- and amenities are limited, but the restaurant and cellar bar are slated to open soon. The surprisingly low rates may evaporate then -- but for now, with brighter, newer, and cheaper rooms, the Smyth outshines its well-known neighbor, the Tribeca Grand.
Hotel: Crosby Street Hotel Location: West Village and Chelsea, New York City Price: $566 Opened in October 2009 on a quiet, cobblestoned street in SoHo, the 86-room Crosby Street Hotel offers spacious, impeccably furnished rooms to a sophisticated set who can afford the sky-high rates. The service needs some fine-tuning, but the hotel manages to be both lavish and welcoming, especially at the restaurant and in the vibrant public spaces.
Hotel: M Resort Spa & Casino Location: Suburban Las Vegas Price: $156 Opened in 2009, this beautiful, relaxing, 390-room resort is 10 miles from Strip, but offers the swanky rooms, a pool scene, and a casino that rival those of the Strip's best hotels -- not to mention free Wi-Fi and attentive service.
Hotel: Terranea Resort Location: Santa Monica and the Beaches, Los Angeles Price: $391 One of just a few true mega-resorts in Southern California, the 100-acre, 582-room Terranea in Rancho Palos Verdes offers a range of features that's unrivaled among Los-Angeles-area properties, including a top-tier spa, nine holes of golf, five restaurants, three pools, and georgeous, manicured grounds. Plus, it opened in June 2009, so the rooms and facilities still sparkle.
Hotel: Hotel Indigo Chelsea New York Location: West Village and Chelsea, New York City Price: $199 This brand-new (as of October 2009) 122-room boutique in midtown Manhattan is a full-service hotel in miniature, with plush rooms, excellent views of midtown, a gym, a business center, an elegant restaurant and lounge, and a soon-to-open 19th-floor rooftop bar. The rooms average just 240 square feet, but make up for it by being extraordinarily comfortable and well equipped.
Finally, special mentions to the following top hotels that reopened in 2009 after massive renovations:
- The Royal Hawaiian, Oahu, Hawaii
- Sheraton Waikiki, Oahu, Hawaii
- The Huntington Hotel, Nob Hill, San Francisco
- Hilton Checkers Los Angeles, Downtown, Los Angeles
- The Muse - Kimpton, Times Square and Midtown West, New York City
- Surrey Hotel, Upper East Side, New York City
- The Jefferson, Downtown, Washington, D.C.
- Fifteen Beacon, North End and Beacon Hill, Boston
- Eden Roc - A Renaissance Resort and Spa, Mid-Beach, Miami
- Marriott Kauai Resort and Beach Club, Kauai, Hawaii
- Riu Paradise Island-All Inclusive, Paradise Island, Bahamas