10 Unique Hotels in the U.S. You Have to Experience At Least Once in Your Life

Domestic travel doesn’t have to be boring. These hotels will give you memories that will last a lifetime.
Last updated Aug. 10, 2022 | By Becky Holladay | Edited By Michele Zipp
Couple checking in at hotel

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We hear you, frequent travelers, and we know you’re craving next-level, experiential lodging that you’ll never forget. After all, you’ve done the work and set aside money for an amazing trip — why should you settle for a standard, cookie-cutter hotel?

This list of 10 unique U.S. hotels are storied, eccentric, or just simply jaw-dropping.

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Sheldon Chalet in Denali National Park, AK

Image courtesy of sheldonchalet.com Sheldon Chalet Hotel

In remote and isolated luxury, Alaska’s Sheldon Chalet is perched on top of a giant granite rock on Ruth Glacier, surrounded by a natural amphitheater of mile-high mountain peaks in the middle of Denali National Park.

By day, you’ll explore the glacier, making fresh tracks in the snow or climbing walls of ice, and experiencing 3,000 feet of ice below you. And at night, dine on locally sourced food and custom cocktails prepared by a world-class private chef. The mountains and play of light upon them is the main show here, and the entire lodge was built for optimal views.

The Saint Hotel in New Orleans, LA

Image courtesy of thesaintnola.com Saint Hotel room

This French Quarter hotel embodies the hedonistic spirit that New Orleans is known for. Their sultry Burgundy Bar, with red-light chandeliers and deep-red walls, hosts weekly burlesque performances filled with “naughty antics.”

Guests of The Saint Hotel can choose to “sleep saintly'' in an angelic-themed suite, or continue down their path of pleasure-seeking in the luxurious Archangel Lucifer Suite. This suite is a sensuous den in shades of red, decorated with Victorian-style pieces, a glass-walled and black Carrera marble bathroom, and massive boudoir photographs that might just inspire you to put on your own show.

Amangiri in Canyon Point, UT

Image courtesy of aman.com Amangiri Hotel

Set underneath salmon and sand-colored mesas on a 600-acre parcel of desert in Utah, the Amangiri is a clean-lined, modernist luxury hotel and spa, built to blend in with the surrounding landscape. If romantic hotels are what you are seeking, the suites here fulfill that desire. The rooms are both opulent and minimalist, built from white stone, concrete, and natural timbers with terraces that lead right out onto the desert landscape. Some also have private pools.

For those wanting to soak up the healing powers of the desert even more, there’s also a 25,000-square-foot spa on site, yoga “on the rocks,” and hikes through the stunning Navajo Nation slot canyons.

The Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles, CA

Image courtesy of dorchestercollection.com Beverly Hills Hotel

For over a century, L.A.'s power players, stars, and those hoping to mingle with the rich and famous have been coming to The Beverly Hills Hotel, an iconic and glamorous institution on Sunset Boulevard. With lush gardens, opulent accommodations, and world-famous “Polo Lounge,” the hotel still maintains an elite status.

Dubbed the “Pink Palace'' for both the color of its walls and the Hollywood royalty inhabitants, this hotel boasts plush bungalow suites that once reportedly served as hideaways for legends such as Elizabeth Taylor. Or lounge in a private cabana next to the same pool that Katharine Hepburn was said to dive into — fully clothed.

The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, MT

Image courtesy of pawsup.com Montana resort hotel

Paws Up is a 37,000-acre working cattle ranch and all-inclusive luxury resort surrounded by misty foothills in western Montana, with 10 miles of the rushing Blackfoot River running through it. There are several different types of accommodation to choose from here, but one of the most awe-inspiring is the two-story modern wood and glass “Tree Haus” surrounded by a pine tree forest.

While at The Resort at Paws Up, guests can participate in every kind of Big Sky dude ranch type activity imaginable — from fly fishing to rappelling, or even take part in a cattle drive on horseback. And after a hard day on the range, head to tented “Spa Town” for a massage in a meadow, or see what the executive chef is serving up in one of the resorts’ award-winning restaurants.

The Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, MI

Image courtesy of grandhotel.com Grand Hotel

On Mackinac Island in Lake Huron, the sweeping Grand Hotel takes visitors back to a time when staying at a resort meant afternoon tea, dressing up for dinner, and dancing to a nightly orchestra. There’s bocce ball, croquet, and see-and-be-seen pool, but one of the most timeless activities might just be lounging in a white rocking chair on the expansive columned verandah that also happens to be the world’s longest porch. There are 388 rooms here, many named after historic figures and no two decorated the same.

Kokopelli’s Cave in Farmington, NM

Image courtesy of kokoscave.us Kokopelli’s Cave hotel

The entrance to Kokopelli’s Cave is through a vertical cliff face overlooking La Plata River valley, which lies 300 feet below. This cave suite was built 70 feet deep into the 60 million-year-old rock formations, and you’ll be surrounded by smooth and cozy sandstone walls.

Adding to the natural experience, there’s a waterfall shower and hot tub in the rock-walled bathroom. Sliding glass doors open onto terraces cut into the rocks with unfettered views of the Four Corners region with its arid landscape and mountains in the distance.

The Plaza in New York, NY

Niquirk/Adobe Plaza Hotel, NY

We would be remiss if we didn’t include this legendary hotel on our once-in-a-lifetime list. Built in 1907 and located on Central Park South and Fifth Avenue, The Plaza is a New York City institution — the hotel and fountain just outside have been the backdrop for gobs of photo shoots, films, and television shows.

Want to feel like you’re ready for the society pages? Book the Grand Penthouse Suite with unparalleled Central Park and Uptown Manhattan views. If that seems wildly over-your-budget, take in afternoon tea at the iconic Palm Court, with its turn-of-the-century atrium vibes, sumptuous mini sandwiches, and fine pastries.

Pro tip: The best travel credit cards are great to have so you aren’t walking around with cash in your wallet, but they also may be able to earn you rewards you can use for future adventures.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando, FL

Image courtesy of disneyworld.disney.go.com Disney Animal Kingdom Hotel

The stars of the show here are the animals, of course. Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is surrounded by more than 30 acres filled with over 200 animals, including zebras and giraffes. Book a “Savanna View” room to watch them graze and mingle underneath you, or take a safari with a guided tour.

The hotel lobby has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the preserve as well. There’s also an 11,000 square-foot pool with waterfalls and one of the largest collections of African art in the world. To boot, most of the on-site restaurants feature African-inspired cuisine.

The Roxbury in Roxbury, NY

Image courtesy of theroxburyexperience.com Roxbury Hotel

It’s as if “Alice in Wonderland married Willy Wonka and set up residence in Oz,” say the owners of these uber whimsical sister properties in the Catskills region of New York, collectively called, The Roxbury. We couldn’t agree more. At the Roxbury Motel, guests can stay in a room designed to make them feel like they’re inside a coconut cream pie or a genie’s bottle. Down the street at The Roxbury at Stratton Falls, there are additional themed rooms in the mansion and otherworldly cottages. Anyone want to sleep underneath an 18-foot Cinderella gown?

Pro tip: Before you book, make sure you’re using one of the best hotel credit cards, which could earn you points, perks, and even free nights as you travel.

Bottom line

Rawpixel.com/Adobe Happy friends eating hotel breakfast

There are a lot of accommodation options in the U.S. with some serious wow factor, and we hope we’ve inspired you to never book a standard hotel again. These unique spots offer something for nearly everyone — whether you are looking for a romantic, adventurous, or whimsical getaway.

Once you get your finances in order, don’t forget to check the weather trends in each of these locations before you book, so you’re aware of the temperatures and climate during your desired time of visit — and to get the most out of your excursion. Though at these hotels, getting stuck in your room might not be a bad thing.

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Author Details

Becky Holladay Becky Holladay is a finance and travel writer whose work has been published in The Christian Science Monitor, The New York Times, and the California Business Journal, among others. She loves finding out what makes people tick and telling their stories, whether they're entrepreneurs, artists, or changemakers.