The different regions of the United States all have their own personalities, and in the South, there’s certainly a flair for the historic, the laid-back, and the grand. Naturally, that makes the area a great place for a relaxing retreat. If you’re looking for historic grandeur while you relax on vacation, look no further than these 10 grand hotels in the South.
Located in the Coral Gables neighborhood of Miami, the Biltmore was constructed in 1926, and at the time, it was the tallest building in Florida, reaching 315 feet in height. During the Jazz Age, it played host to luminaries like Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Biltmore underwent a $40 million, 10-year restoration in the 1990s, received National Historic Landmark status in 1996, and today has 273 luxurious rooms, a 22,000-square-foot swimming pool, a legendary golf course, and a spa.
Another Florida hotel, The Breakers is a 140-acre beachfront property in Palm Beach that first opened in 1896. The palatial hotel that exists today was built in 1926, after two fires devastated the original buildings, and it was modeled after the opulent Villa Medici in Rome. Today the expansive complex, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, comprises 540 rooms, five swimming pools, two golf courses, nine restaurants, and 10 boutique shops.
Five generations of the Monteleone family have run their eponymous hotel in New Orleans since it opened in 1886. While thoughts of Bourbon Street might conjure drunken revelers, this hotel in the French Quarter exudes historic splendor — though drinking is in its DNA. Hotel Monteleone is famous for its Carousel Bar, where the circular, 25-seat bar actually rotates. Famous patrons of the hotel include Truman Capote, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner, whose presence there helped the hotel earn literary landmark status from the Friends of the Library Association. The hotel was most recently renovated from 2010 to 2012, so while the property exudes historic charm, it certainly isn’t outdated.
While Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” it’s also the capital of Texas — and that means in the 1800s, it enjoyed rapid growth and prosperity. Many new buildings went up in the 1880s, including the 1886 Driskill, which a local cattle baron built to compete with palace hotels in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Today, the hotel is a music lover’s dream, as it’s right off Austin’s booming Sixth Street, which is lined with live music venues.
Going through Jekyll Island’s long history would take quite a bit of time, so we’re going to rapid-fire name some highlights: The island was established in 1733; Georgia’s first brewery opened here in 1747; the island became the site of a private club for the country’s wealthiest families in 1888; AT&T President Theodore Newton Vail joined the first transcontinental telephone call from the Jekyll Island Club in 1915 — we could keep going, but let’s just get to the point. The Club suffered during the Great Depression, and the final blow was the evacuation of the island during World War II. The island eventually became a state park, then growing interest in transforming the former Jekyll Island Club into a hotel resulted a grand reopening in 1987. Today, the island resort has a range of accommodations across five historic buildings, five restaurants, a pool, a spa, and a salon, among other amenities
Founded in the 1890s by Gulf Coast lawyer Walter White (no, he was not the inspiration for the fictional character from “Breaking Bad”) and his wife Cora, the White House Hotel in Biloxi had humble beginnings as a boarding house. Mrs. White’s prowess as a proprietress had guests flocking to her home, which she soon expanded into a proper hotel. It quickly became one of the prime resorts along the Gulf Coast. Today it has 76 guest rooms, an outdoor pool, a gym, and a restaurant and bar popular with both guests and locals.
If you’re in Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and you need a posh place to stay, the Brown Hotel is it. Opened in 1923, the hotel has long been a favorite of the socialites and celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Harry Truman, Queen Marie of Romania, Muhammad Ali, and Barack Obama. Today, guests can enjoy the Brown Hotel’s proximity to the theater district, as well as its free shuttles to the airport and downtown.
When Edwin Wiley Grove set out to design his Asheville hotel, he was inspired by the rustic lodgings in Yellowstone National Park, which led him to create the stone masterpiece that is the Omni Grove Park Inn. Opened in 1913, the retreat provided guests a respite from city life, offering them fresh air and mountain views. Today it has a renown golf course, a spa, and several dining options, not to mention an adventure center honored by National Geographic.
The original Peabody hotel opened in 1869, and it served as the social center of Memphis for years. But in 1925, a newer, even more spectacular hotel was built — that’s the one you see today. The hotel had a staggering 625 rooms, and it often filled them, drawing in massive crowds. One if its more endearing traditions that’s still in place today is the daily duck march, in which a group of ducks that lives in the hotel, known as the Peabody Ducks, is ushered by the official Duckmaster to the hotel fountain. (Additonal fun fact: Elvis Presley had his senior prom here.)
As its name suggests, this Victorian hotel in Eureka Springs was opened in 1886, and guests can explore all 132 years of its history in the archive on the fourth floor. Over the course of its long life, the hotel has served as much more than guest accommodations: It was a college for women in the early 1900s, and a hospital shortly thereafter. Today, the hotel is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, offering guests a seasonal outdoor pool, a spa, and a casual pizza restaurant.
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