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Storied Stays at Historic Hotels

A night at a luxury hotel can make anyone feel like royalty. The gold-plated bathroom fixtures, Michelin-starred restaurants and eager-to-pamper staff at these upscale hotels live up to their decadent hype.

Groups looking for a little luxury in their next vacation can splurge on rooms at an iconic hotel for more than just a night’s sleep. Even groups on a budget can soak up the opulence of these properties during tours, dinners or cocktail hours.

Plaza Hotel

New York

When the Plaza Hotel opened in 1907, rooms cost $2.05 a night. Today, rooms can run guests anywhere from $800 to $30,000.

Known as “the playground for the rich and famous,” the elegant hotel is the pinnacle of New York City extravagance. The only hotel in the city designated a National Historic Landmark, the Plaza features a renowned spa and 24-hour butler service that stations a different butler on each floor.

If the glamorous interior seems fit for a scene in “The Great Gatsby,” the similarity is not a coincidence. F. Scott Fitzgerald set part of his trademark novel inside the Plaza.

In 2008, a $400 million overhaul installed gold-plated bathroom fixtures and other additions to the 282-room venue. Travelers who can’t afford the nightly price tag can still bask in the lavish surroundings by booking tea at the Palm Court, listening to jazz at the Rose Club or sipping drinks at the Champagne Bar.

Groups can also enjoy a decadent meal at the Todd English Food Hall for a wide range of gourmet meals that includes such items as sushi and pasta.

The hotel also welcomes tours. Movie tours normally visit the hotel because of its appearance in several films, such as “North by Northwest.” Tours also allow visitors to walk in the footsteps of a long list of celebrities, including the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo.

Stanley Hotel

Estes Park, Colorado

Old World elegance meets rugged mountain scenery at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The 1909 property overlooks Rocky Mountain National Park, with rooms ranging in price from $200 to $750 per night. And it became famous when it inspired author Stephen King’s 1977 novel “The Shining,” as well as the subsequent film of the same name.

The summer resort has long hosted honored guests such as Molly Brown and Theodore Roosevelt. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property offers several room styles, from the historic main hotel to the more modern lodge area.

Groups wanting a quick stop can choose from several restaurants. The Cascades is a full-service restaurant with American food and Colorado specialties. The Whiskey Bar and Lounge serves high-end whiskey drinks, as well as other drinks and cuisine.

Tours at the hotel begin with a short video. Guides then lead guests to some of the hotel’s famous rooms while relating its history, its connection to “The Shining” and modern ghost stories.

On weekends, the Stanley Hotel features comedy performances, concerts and mystery dinner events.

Grand Hotel

Mackinac Island, Michigan

On a tiny island between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, time appears to stand still. Mackinac Island’s sprawling Grand Hotel offers a 19th-century luxury experience with upscale amenities fit for modern standards.

This all-wood hotel features lavishly decorated rooms from design icons Dorothy Draper and Carleton Varney. The 1887 property is known for its views of Lake Huron, 660-foot-long front porch and past guests, who include five U.S. presidents.

Since the island forbids automobile traffic, daily life takes place at a more relaxed pace. Groups can easily get around on bicycles, electric golf carts or horse-drawn carriages.

The average daily rate of the hotel is $600, though the price fluctuates depending on the season. The summer season is the busiest, so some groups prefer to visit in the spring or fall. The hotel closes during the winter, which gives the staff time to make repairs and updates.

Groups can opt for several different packages. Those that don’t want to spend the night often purchase a meal package. One package includes a full breakfast and a five-course dinner. Another option is the lunch buffet.

History lectures, live music and afternoon tea can also add to the experience.

The Greenbrier

White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia

Natural mineral springs originally led to the opening of The Greenbrier in 1778. For more than 200 years, the National Historic Landmark has attracted guests, including 27 U.S. presidents, to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The 11,000-acre resort’s 20 dining establishments, 55 activities and 36 retail shops could keep anyone busy. The Greenbrier boasts five acclaimed golf courses with views of the Allegheny Mountains. Each summer, the hotel hosts The Greenbrier Classic, a PGA Tour event.

Dorothy Draper designed the hotel’s bold and colorful interiors. Guests can stay in the hotel for an average of $550 per night or participate in a tour. Tours take guests to the hotel’s historic attractions, including the Bunker, a “secret” nuclear fallout shelter built at the hotel in 1968. The government built the shelter to house Congress in the event of a nuclear fallout, with enough food to last 30 years.

Groups can still dip into the property’s healing sulfur springs at the Spa at The Greenbrier. Two pools, an expansive tennis center and a 103,000-square-foot gaming and entertainment venue also allow group members to pursue their own interests.

French Lick Resort

French Lick, Indiana

A gold-gilded lobby welcomes guests to the French Lick Springs Hotel. The ornate hotel is about a one-mile trolley ride from its sister property, the West Baden Springs Hotel. Together, these two historic resorts make up the French Lick Resort.

Groups can stay at these affordable upscale resorts to enjoy gorgeous decor, amenities and on-site attractions. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the French Lick Springs Resort features a canary-yellow exterior, frescoes and gilded decor from its 1845 construction. Today, the hotel offers a wide range of programs geared toward groups and families.

Famous for its remarkable domed atrium, the West Baden Springs Hotel is a National Historic Landmark. Couples looking for a luxurious, romantic experience often choose West Baden Springs Hotel.

The site initially gained attention for its unusual salt springs. Travelers can still bathe in the spring’s reputedly healing waters at both hotels’ spas. French Lick’s spa reflects American tastes; the Spa at West Baden was influenced by lavish European spas. Visitors can follow their treatments with afternoon tea in the atrium.

Activities abound at the resort, with swimming pools, a six-lane bowling alley, an arcade, bike rentals, casino gaming and historic walking tours through the surrounding Hoosier National Forest. Groups can book horseback riding outings or carriage rides to explore the grounds.

The resort’s Donald Ross golf course has attracted many sports lovers. The course even hosted a few PGA championships over the years.

Ritz Paris


The first hotel with a phone, electricity and a tub in every room, the Ritz Paris continues to wow visitors. An elegant French design aesthetic combines with the legendary history of the hotel, which has attracted great thinkers such as Marcel Proust, Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway since its opening in 1898.

Each room feels like a private residence, with palatial decor, original artwork and stunning antiques. The rooms feature 18th-century Parisian design with neutral color palettes, gold accents, chandeliers and fireplaces.

Three dining options, including one Michelin-starred restaurant; beautiful gardens; and a Chanel-themed spa keep guests pampered throughout their stay. The Spa at the Ritz offers a two-hour treatment with a diamond-exfoliating scrub, fragranced body massage and caviar face treatment.

Groups can learn to re-create a French meal at the Ritz’s cooking school, L’Ecole Ritz Escoffier. The school rigorously trains chefs all over the world and teaches one-hour workshops on how to create one simple dish, like risotto and truffles. Participants watch the demonstration and then sample it with a complimentary glass of wine.

Other high-class experiences at the hotel include Sunday brunch with traditional French favorites and a Parisian high tea on porcelain cups with delectable meringues.

The Hemingway Bar pays tribute to the hotel’s literary history. Travelers can order a classic cocktail and munch on tapas in honor of Hemingway’s love of Spain.