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If you’re tired of the bland familiarity of big hotel chains, it might be time to go a different route. Although often owned by larger entities, boutique hotels are smaller establishments that pay special attention to aesthetics, often reflecting local culture and traditions, giving them a unique look and feel you can’t find anywhere else.
These 13 boutique hotels are reminiscent of their locales, using thematic elements that define the destination. They’re also super cool — located in former jails, featuring giant trees, and exhibiting world-class art — so you may want to book a room ASAP.
Madonna Inn (San Luis Obispo, California)
When it comes to boutique hotels, the kitschy, fairy-tale-like, all-pink Madonna Inn resort is truly one of a kind. Each of the hotel’s 110 guest rooms is outfitted with a different theme in mind, turning an overnight stay into a choose-your-own California adventure. Golf pros will enjoy the clubhouse vibe in the Golfer’s Room, while the nautical theme in the “Captain’s Bridge” will quench your thirst for the sea. And lovebirds can cozy up by the roaring fireplace in the eponymous Madonna Suite or stargaze in the Just Heaven suite’s private viewing tower.
Situated on a hilltop, the Madonna Inn treats guests to a terrace pool with a full bar, miles of trails to explore on horseback or on foot, and nightly live music and dancing. The inn is surrounded by acres of wine country, while the college town of San Luis Obispo is a mere five minutes away and relaxing Pismo Beach is another 15 minutes down the coast.
Big Cypress Lodge (Memphis, Tennessee)
The Big Cypress Lodge in Memphis, Tennessee, showcases the beauty of the great outdoors, with a giant cypress swamp located within the city’s iconic reflective pyramid set on the banks of the Mississippi River. Located on the upper floors of the Bass Pro Shop which moved into the pyramid in in 2015, the hotel’s various rooms celebrate sporting in Tennessee, including the Duck Cabin, a one-room suite that resembles a vintage camp for duck hunters, and the Fly Fishing Lodge, a two-bedroom suite dedicated to the art of angling.
Guest rooms are outfitted with balconies that offer views of the 100-foot-tall cypress trees and the Bass Pro Shop, in addition to fireplaces, giant tubs, and rain-showers. The lodge is also home to an underwater-themed bowling alley, a native-fish aquarium, the tallest freestanding elevator in the world, and a sky-high glass observation deck with sweeping views of the city.
Carlton Arms Hotel (New York City)
The Carlton Arms Hotel is a funky boutique hotel that honors New York’s eclectic art scene, with 46 rooms that feature artwork everywhere you look — on the walls, ceilings, and doorways. Situated in the East Side neighborhood of Kips Bay, the five-story building is located on a pedestrian-only block and has a history as a speakeasy, which further adds to its unorthodox vibe.
Nicknamed the “Artbreak Hotel,” Carlton Arms offers free room and board to any artist willing to lend a hand in the hotel’s guest rooms, and the talent speaks for itself — rumor has it, legendary street artist Banksy once resided in these hallowed halls. From massive cartoon sketches to dreamy landscape murals, each room’s walls are different from the next, which makes the Carlton Arms more akin to an art exhibition than a hotel. Fortunately for starving artists, this accommodation is budget-friendly, with a shared bathroom as an option to keep costs low.
McMenamins Kennedy School Hotel (Portland, Oregon)
As quirky as the city itself, McMenamins Kennedy School is one of the most unique hotels in Portland, Oregon. Located inside a former elementary school, the hotel allows guests to sleep in old classrooms, unwind in the boiler-room-turned-bar, and ride their bicycles to and from “school” using Biketown rentals.
The 20th-century building is filled with plenty of nostalgic touches, including literature-themed guest rooms that feature the school’s original chalkboards and cloakrooms. The outdoor soaking pool is available to all guests, while the school auditorium has been converted into a movie theater that features loveseat lounges and screens $5 flicks. Best of all, the hotel is home to an onsite brewery, with local beers brewed in the former ladies’ restroom.
Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch (Tombstone, Arizona)
For a true taste of the Wild West, Tombstone Monument Guest Ranch offers guests an authentic glimpse into Tombstone’s historic past. Located on a working ranch that dates back to the 1880s, the rooms are situated in different spots on Main Street, including the “Post Office,” the “Grand Hotel,” and the “Jail,” with interiors that reflect the hotel’s turn-of-the-century roots.
By day, the ranch offers plenty to do, such as horseback riding, archery, UTV tours, and visits to the nearby ghost town Watervale and the historic town of Tombstone, located three miles away. In the evening, guests can sit in a rocking chair and watch the sun go down, or belly up to the bar in the hotel’s western saloon to listen to live country music.
Liberty Hotel (Boston)
Located in the former Charles Street Jail, which housed some of the city’s most notorious criminals, the Liberty Hotel is a chic accommodation in the heart of Boston. As part of Mariott’s Luxury Collection, the hotel features stunning architecture, including a 90-foot-tall lobby, circular windows, and exposed brick walls. The antithesis of jail rooms, the converted guest rooms are both luxurious and spacious, with sweet nods to the building’s history, such as framed skeleton keys.
Situated in Beacon Hill, one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods, the Liberty also contains a few Boston hotspots. Alibi Bar is a watering hole located in the jail’s old drunk tank, while the aptly-named Clink serves classic New England fare. The Catwalk is a dining area reserved for hotel guests on the jail’s former catwalk, and upscale Italian restaurant Scampo was created by renowned chef and Boston icon, Lydia Shire.
Adventure Suites (North Conway, New Hampshire)
This adventure-themed hotel is perfect for North Conway, an outdoorsy town situated at the base of the White Mountains in New Hampshire. From the kid-friendly Treehouse, which features a pint-sized play area inside a tree trunk, to the Jungle, home to a jungle bar and rock waterfall, to the primitive Cave Suite, the possibilities for fun are endless at Adventure Suites.
A number of the suites, including the Wolf Den, the Dragon’s Lair, and the Wine Cellar are pet-friendly, while others are able to accommodate large groups, including the Haunted Castle, a spooky overnight experience in a rambling Scottish castle. Hotel amenities include a saloon, restaurant, spa, and fire patio — an expansive outdoor space with views of the nearby mountains.
Hotel Max (Seattle)
Hotel Max is a trendy boutique hotel that lives up to Seattle’s cool reputation, offering patrons a curated mix of art, photography, and music. Art lovers will appreciate that the hotel is home to an original Andy Warhol (Campbell’s Soup Can I – Vegetable), while the lobby pays appropriate homage to the city’s grunge roots with never-before-seen photos of Kurt Cobain.
Guest rooms in this Provenance hotel are modern, clean, and eclectic — ranging from queen-size bedrooms to space-saving bunk rooms. The hotel’s sixth floor houses Sub Pop, an independent Seattle record label, which is why each room features a Crosley record player and a selection of vinyl records. Since it’s centrally located in the hip Denny Triangle, between South Lake Union and Capitol Hill, guests can easily access Seattle hotspots, such as Pike Place Market, MoPOP, or the KEXP Studio.
Capitol Reef Resort (Torrey, Utah)
Situated directly outside Capitol Reef National Park, Capitol Reef Resort is a luxury boutique hotel located in one of the most stunning regions of the U.S. With direct views of Utah’s iconic red rocks, the hotel features a variety of rooms, including lodging inside a Conestoga Wagon and Teepees outfitted with private bathrooms and working televisions. Traditional hotel rooms are available to book as well, as are cabins and suites, with full dining services available for guests.
With adventures aplenty at the nearby national park, guests can go on llama day hikes, overland Jeep safaris, and trail rides on horseback through the national forest. When you’re not exploring the rugged terrain, the hotel pool is the next best spot, offering incredible views from the outdoor hot tub.
The Curtis (Denver)
Located in the Denver theater district, the Curtis, a Doubletree by Hilton, pays special tribute to all things pop culture. The themed hotel contains 13 floors, each of which is dedicated to a recurring motif, such as music, superheroes, story time, and big hair. The decor of individual rooms will please a wide variety of guests, with themes that range from Barbie to Star Trek to I Love Lucy.
The hotel’s 13th floor is referred to as “Dun Dun Dunnnnn!,” appropriately paying homage to legendary scary movies such as The Shining (1980) (a nod to Colorado’s very own Stanley Hotel) and Psycho (1960). Even with all its pizzazz, the Curtis doesn’t shy away from luxury, with glamorous guest rooms that contain comfy beds outfitted with 300-count sheets. Not to mention, the hotel’s Martini Bar has one of the best happy hours in the city.
Hotel St. Pierre (New Orleans)
Located on a side street in New Orleans’ French Quarter, Hotel St. Pierre is steps away from Bourbon Street and all that the historic district has to offer. Despite its prime location, the hotel combines the city’s past and present and feels a world away. Set in a renovated Creole cottage that dates back to the 1700s, the building was once home to an apothecary and a jazz museum before it welcomed guests.
The space celebrates the city’s heritage, with charming, French-style rooms featuring wooden bed frames and blue-and-white color palettes. As a nod to the city’s lively spirit, each room is named after a different New Orleans jazz musician, often displaying framed records on the walls. The suites are outfitted with jacuzzi tubs and private balconies that overlook the French Quarter, while the tranquil courtyards feature jungle-like plants and two outdoor swimming pools — perfect for lounging the day away.
Kennebunkport Inn (Kennebunkport, Maine)
Before it was one of Maine’s most sought-after vacation destinations, Kennebunkport was a bustling maritime village, founded in the 1600s. Located in the former home of a wealthy tea merchant, the Kennebunkport Inn celebrates this history. The Federal-style mansion still retains its original architectural integrity, with charming 17th-century details that include intricate woodwork, bay windows, and a grand staircase leading to the second floor.
The contemporary rooms are decorated to reflect New England charm, featuring white woodwork, nautical stripes, gas fireplaces, and four-poster beds. Home to a gastropub known as the Burleigh, guests can enjoy local beer at the cozy bar or sip a glass of wine on the outdoor patio. Located directly in Dock Square, the inn is conveniently situated in the thick of it all, steps away from the water, seafood restaurants, seaside bars, and boutique shops.
The Campbell House (Lexington, Kentucky)
Not far from the Kentucky Horse Park and four miles from the Keeneland Racetrack, the Campbell House is a dream destination for horse-lovers. Located in Lexington, the self-proclaimed horse capital of the world, the equestrian-themed hotel is situated on the property of an old horse farm. The historic hotel has been operating since the 1950s, but it boasts contemporary décor and luxurious furnishings, such as bed frames wrapped in leather, animal print rugs, and equestrian art.
The hotel and grounds are pet-friendly and include an upscale modern tavern serving Kentucky-inspired cuisine, as well as a large fitness center. Since the historic hotel is located on the Bourbon Trail, guests can sample up to 11 different flights of bourbon, including special varieties from Knob Creek and Woodford Reserve, exclusive to hotel guests.