5 Historic Hotels Southerners Love

Waiting for the Duck Walk at The Peabody Hotel, Memphis

The South has some legendary grand hotels, and many Southerners would love to keep them all to themselves. These are five of my favorites, all elegant, renovated, and award-winning:

The Hermitage Hotel | Nashville

Lobby of the Hermitage Hotel, Nashville

The Hermitage Hotel is really the grand dame of them all. The architecture and décor are the very best of Southern elegance. From the minute you step into the beautiful lobby staff is attentive and friendly. Our room was lovely, spacious and totally modern in every amenity and function. We started the evening with local friends in the hotel’s iconic Oak Bar (with a quick side visit to see the famous Men’s Room). Then out the door of this conveniently located hotel to hit some of the cities great nightspots and hear some excellent music.

Inn at Perry Cabin|St. Michaels, Maryland’s Eastern Shore 

Nestled between the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay, the Inn at Perry Cabin Resort and Golf Club conveys a much cozier feeling than its resort size would indicate, with a Pete Dye golf course, tennis and boating. Built as a private estate in 1812, it was designed to resemble the Commodore’s cabin on the flagship USS Niagara. Subsequently, it was a tobacco farm, riding academy, and eventually purchased by the owners of Kentucky Derby winner Spectacular Bid. The next owner was Sir Bernard Ashley (husband of Laura) who renovated the estate and transformed it into a luxury resort which was purchased and expanded by Orient-Express Hotels( now renamed Belmond). I’m not sure who owns the property now, but it has maintained its elegance and superior ratings.

Today it radiates nautical, coastal charm in a traditional colonial setting. Our accommodations here were so pretty, cozy and pleasant. There is a lot to do in the area, but you could easily never leave the 26-acre property.

 The Homestead Resort | Hot Springs, Virginia

Grounds of The Homestead, Hot Springs, VA
Iconic tower, The Homestead, Hot Springs, VA

Now under management by Omni, the 2,000-acre property features impressive grand hotel facilities, two golf courses, tennis, a spa, and much more. We were delighted to get an upgrade while here and had a huge, lovely room with a wonderful view. Staff was absolutely delightful, and we just immediately felt right at home. I did not want to leave.

The Homestead lays claim to being America’s first resort, with the natural medicinal hot springs playing a central role in its location. It’s a wonderful setting to contemplate the resort’s historic role and what conversations (or debates) may have taken place here through its 250+-years. Twenty-three U.S. Presidents have stayed here, including Thomas Jefferson. This is a beautiful property in any season.

 21c Museum Hotel | Lexington, Kentucky

Bourbon flight at the Lockbox Bar at 21C.
Corner room, 23c Museum Hotel, Lexington

The 21c Museum Hotel is a great hotel with a contemporary vibe and a focus on historic preservation and art; what a winning combo. And yes, there is an art museum. This is one of several art museum/hotels in renovated sites by this innovative company. I loved the rooms in this repurposed historic bank building. I particularly enjoyed the fun the designers had with color and art. Bright colors were used as accents in the rooms and public spaces, and photography by one of the owners was beautifully featured in the room.

The room was comfortable, bed great, shower excellent. We had no trouble getting feather pillows. Our corner room was on a high floor and the views of the city were terrific. I arranged the trip for a group of friends and we enjoyed the bourbon package. Breakfast was excellent and our bourbon flight was a lot of fun, with a super bourbon steward. Valet was efficient and the staff was very friendly. The only hitch was check-in which was very slow and disorganized, a contrast to everything else about the hotel and our stay.

The Peabody Hotel | Memphis

The Duck Walk at The Peabody Hotel, Memphis

We arrived in the city of rhythm and blues in the rain. But more importantly, we arrived in time for the duck parade at The Peabody Hotel. A surprisingly large crowd was on hand at 5 PM to watch the five Mallard Ducks line-up and, to the music of John Phillip Souza, march (waddle) out of their lobby fountain into the elevator and to their penthouse home for the night.

The rooms are beautifully decorated and large with every modern convenience. Perfectly located for a visit to nearby Beale Street, we met-up with a good friend from J-school and headed over for dinner, drinks, and great conversation at the Itta Bena restaurant, upstairs at BB King’s Blues Club. In the morning, we just had to see the ducks return to their fountain at 11 AM.

2 Comments on “5 Historic Hotels Southerners Love

  1. Love this post! You sure make me want to travel when I see these wonderful hotels and read your complimentary commentary! And for sure, I want to see the duck parade!! How special is that!

    I so look forward to your blogs. Thanks for giving all of us your gift of travel and descriptive words, and great photography

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