If you’re craving a charming but chic escape this summer, you can nix the cookie-cutter hotel experience without sacrificing splendor and style. Escape the ordinary and stay in historic homes, hip hideaways and luxury inns that have perfected intimate indulgence with A+ amenities. Here are two of our favorite finds.
You don’t have to be a Vanderbilt to feel right at home at one of Newport’s best hotels, thanks to a signature bespoke service that invites guests to choose everything from the fragrance and type of pillows in their room to items in the amenity bar before arrival.
Just a short walk from historic Newport Harbor, the Vanderbilt Grace was built in 1909 during the Gilded Age as a summer home for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s son, Alfred. The landmark has since been restored to its former glory by the esteemed Grace Hotels group. A quintessential Newport mansion, the elegant space comprises 33 luxurious rooms and suites, two restaurants and a cocktail bar—plus a spa and fitness center with indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Grace Hotels’ top chef, Jonathan Cartwright (a New England native), heads up one of the restaurants, Muse, with a menu that fuses locally sourced ingredients and favorites with a modern take on traditional European cuisine. This summer, Cartwright re-creates classic dishes from a vintage menu that the Vanderbilts once dined on in the mansion’s sophisticated halls. Select items from the vintage menu will become permanent favorites at summer’s end.
Another summer treat? On Wednesday nights, the hotel’s roomy rooftop terrace will be transformed into an outdoor theater and will screen films such as The Great Gatsby and Chocolat. Take in spectacular Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay views, and July 11 through August, savor food inspired by the films as well as a glass of champagne and truffle popcorn (both of which are included in the $25 cost to attend). It’s the kind of pampering and R&R one expects from a place that once housed a Vanderbilt. We’re sure Gossip Girl’s Serena van der Woodsen would fit right in. vanderbiltgrace.com — Jennifer Goddard Huete
If you find yourself at 37 Beach Ave., just steps away from the village of Kennebunkport, you’re “inn” for a treat. The White Barn, as the locals call it, is a converted 19th-century farmhouse, with 29 guest rooms (most with fireplaces), a four-star spa, an outdoor swimming pool and Maine’s only five-diamond, five-star restaurant. Which brings us to the breathtaking barn details—the restaurant is in a converted barn that has been painted white. Inside, soft white table linens mix with natural timbers, century-old wide plank floors and a two-story picture window showcasing the natural and classic beauty of coastal Maine woodland.
As for the food, four words: butter-poached smoked lobster. If it’s on the menu, order it. Having lobster in Maine is one thing; having lobster created by culinary genius chef Jonathan Cartwright is something entirely different. Mike Biggs and Molly Flynn (Mike & Molly) may have to take a romantic road trip east this summer. whitebarninn.com — Christopher Ross
CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg breaks down best ways to find excellent alternative lodging
Studies have shown that renting a home costs, on average, 50 percent less per square foot than staying in a hotel. Having access to your own kitchen and amenities can translate into big savings. Vrbo.com matches owners directly with renters. Alternatively, you can opt for a managed property through a resource like homeaway.com and beautiful-places.com, where there is a go-between who acts as your advocate.
Bed and Breakfasts
If you don’t like socializing over coffee or sharing small quarters with strangers, this may not be the experience for you. But done right, a B&B can give you a truly local perspective on a new destination. Check out bedandbreakfast.com and bbonline.com for available stays.
Free and Cheap Stays
Just need a room or an apartment? Check out istopover.com and airbnb.com, where locals list their homes for a nightly rate. The owner may even still be home, meaning you have the bonus of a built-in tour guide. Couchsurfing.com connects hosts and travelers so you can literally sleep on someone’s sofa … for free.
In home exchanges, travelers swap homes at the same time. Homeexchange.com and lovehomeswap.com get you access to everything from urban apartments to country manors.
• Is the picture I see online the same place I’ll be renting?
• How many beds—not just bedrooms—are there?
• Which amenities will I have access to, and which are off-limits?
• Is there an emergency contact accessible 24/7?
• What’s the cancellation policy?
Seeking sophisticated, short stays with a little local flavor? Roomorama vets and lists apartment rentals around the world. From beachside bungalows in Phuket, Thailand, to hip urban apartments in Manhattan, finding the perfect vacation pad has never been easier. roomorama.com
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