In many cases, the journey is all about the destination, and getting there is only a means to the end. On those types of excursions, basic motels and hotels that provide a safe place to get a good night’s sleep, eat a hearty meal and take a shower while traveling are often perfectly fine. Other hotels and resorts are destinations in and of themselves and can give a traveler an experience that is anything but “typical” and “ordinary.”
From a now-permanently moored 1930s luxury ocean liner to a hotel complex comprised of a 1900s train terminal complete with authentic train cars, here are six lavish and unusual historic hotels to consider for your next trip!
The Queen Mary | Long Beach, CA
Cruises are popular vacation options, and many people enjoy the amenities available on the ship just as much as they do the offshore excursions. The Queen Mary gives guests the option to stay aboard without ever sailing the sea or leaving port. Rich with history and permanently docked in Long Beach, CA, the ship’s original 314 staterooms and nine suites are all above sea level. Old world elegance is evident throughout the Queen Mary, and guided tours and attractions, including Diana: Legacy of a Princess, featuring royal artifacts and memorabilia, are available on the ship.
Soneva Kiri Resort | Koh Kood, Thailand
Guests at the secluded paradise known as Soneva Kiri can truly experience their own little slice of heaven. Surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and warm sandy beaches, visitors to this island getaway in Thailand can stay in one of 29 villas, each built from sustainably-sourced local timber and boasting a private swimming pool. Villas range from intimate to palace-like, with one- to five-bedroom units available for rent. A sunrise or sunset will never look the same after experiencing one at the Soneva Kiri, and a romantic meal will never be as special as one enjoyed in a cocoon-like treetop dining pod, where waiters serve dinner and drinks via zip line.
Hotel Monteleone | New Orleans, LA
Family-owned and operated, the Hotel Monteleone was built in New Orleans’ famous French Quarter in 1886. References to the famous historic landmark can be found in numerous literary works, including those by Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty and Ernest Hemingway. While bars are somewhat commonplace in the Big Easy, Monteleone’s 25-seat Carousel Piano Bar and Lounge, first opened in 1949, is the only revolving bar in the city. Modern luxuries are coupled with antiques from around the world, making the Hotel Monteleone a truly unique place to stay.
ICEHOTEL | Jukkasjärvi, Sweden
Accurately described as mind-boggling, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is an art project turned hotel. While a “freeze house,” ice bar and ice sculpting classes are available during the warm spring and summer months, the “icy” ICEHOTEL only exists between December and April of each year. “Warm rooms” similar to traditional hotel rooms do exist at the complex, but guests seeking a true ICEHOTEL experience prefer staying in a “cold room” made out of ice and complete with thermal sleeping bags atop beds built from ice blocks and a wooden frame. Outerwear, gloves and shoes are included; artwork made from ice and snow decorates the facilities.
The Grand Hotel | Mackinac Island, MI
Located on Lake Huron’s Mackinac Island, where motorized vehicles are forbidden and bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are preferred, The Grand Hotel is only accessible via ferry boat or plane. Built in 1887, the Grand Hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012. The setting of multiple Hollywood movies over the years, the hotel is also home to the world’s largest front porch — 660 feet long — as well as a 500,000-gallon swimming pool. Its 385 guest rooms, which include over 36 themed rooms and suites, are all completely unique. No two are alike.
The Chattanooga Choo Choo | Chattanooga, TN
Between 1909 and 1970, all trains in the southern United States passed through Terminal Station in Chattanooga, TN. Saved from demolition by investors in 1973 and turned into a popular vacation destination in the Volunteer State, guests at the famous Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel complex can sleep in one of 48 authentic train cars or spend the night in a traditional hotel room or suite. The complex is home to shops, pools and other typical hotel conveniences as well as gardens, the Chattanooga Choo Choo trolley, a model railroad museum and a variety of train-themed restaurants and lounges.
Destination vacations have become popular with couples who desire a romantic getaway for two, groups of friends who wish to relax or experience exhilarating adventures while being pampered and even families with children and teenagers. Unusual and historic accommodations — from turn of the century ocean liners to train cars complete with wheels underneath — can make the entire experience even more exciting.
Lorena Starkey does a fair bit of traveling and is a great admirer of history and the shaping of a nation. She works with a Minot North Dakota Hyatt House, supplying short and extended stays for both vacationers and workers coming into the booming oil country.