Hard Rock Hotel At Universal Orlando Resort Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Like all Universal resorts, the 650-room Hard Rock has solid service, great dining, and modern, very comfortable rooms. While it lacks the spa and quieter ambience of the pricier Portofino Bay, its pools and facilities are equally impressive. Plus, its more modest, rock 'n' roll theme might better appeal to teens than Royal Pacific or Disney's cartoonish fun.
MGM Grand Hotel & Casino Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Grand is the operative word. The biggest hotel (by room count) in Las Vegas has the biggest casino in town, many of the best restaurants, an enormous and fun pool complex, and a huge range of on-site entertainment options. Standard rooms are uninspiring, and the service unexceptional. But this place is so big and diverse that everyone -- yes everyone -- can find what they want.
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Luxurious (though small) rooms, an excellent spa, and a devoted staff make this five-acre, 302-room property one of the best hotels in Santa Monica. The Fairmont is not as intimate as the Oceana, and it lacks the direct beachfront of Casa Del Mar. But with beautiful grounds and a laid-back, private vibe, it's an excellent choice nonetheless.
Affinia Shelburne Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Located in sleepy Murray Hill, the Affinia Shelburne is a bit of a hike from most popular tourist attractions, but the abundance of reasonably priced restaurants nearby -- as well as the hotel's own rooftop bar and inventive burger grill -- make this comfortable, low-key property a solid mid-price option. The spacious suites recently underwent a renovation that added marble tubs and colorful custom-made furniture.
Mondrian Los Angeles Rating: 4.0 Pearls
This ornately designed Sunset Strip hotel, already an icon less than a decade and a half after opening, has an exclusive poolside lounge and more scene than even the Sunset Marquis. A 2008 renovation, polishing rooms that are second only to those at the SLS Hotel at Beverly Hills for cutting-edge style, keeps the pretty people coming back -- and keeps commoners satisfied too.
Ilikai Hotel & Suites, an Aqua Boutique Rating: 3.5 Pearls
The once-historic Ilikai has the makings of a great hotel -- massive, clean rooms, an elegant open-air lobby, a newly refurbished pool, and a well-equipped fitness center. But the hotel is far from the heart of Waikiki, and it's working to recover after financial problems in 2009 left it feeling like a ghost town.
The Fairmont San Francisco Rating: 4.5 Pearls
The Fairmont combines the history, cachet, and decor of a turn-of-the-20th-century grand old dame with the amenities, technology, and corporate-dominated clientele of a large chain property. What separates it from its luxury competitors are its beautiful, well-appointed rooms, many with stunning views, and its location atop Nob Hill.
Treasure Island Rating: 4.0 Pearls
Fresh from a recent remodeling, the 2,885-room resort has pulled back from its pirate persona. The pool is crowded, the casino is small, and top-notch Vegas entertainment is in short supply. But for a reasonably priced, clean and comfortable modern room in a convenient central-Strip location, it's hard to do better.
Distrikt Rating: 3.5 Pearls
Opened in February 2010, this stylish 155-room boutique offers some of the best rooms for the price near Times Square, with 37-inch flat-screen TVs, iPod docks, Frette linens, and nightly turndown service. Freebies like in-room Wi-Fi, gym passes, morning newspaper delivery, and iMac use in the lobby add value, but the location on a gritty block isn't ideal.