10 Famous Hotels in the US on My Must-See List

by Shelli Stein

Do you know what the word iconic means? If I asked which hotel was an icon in your home state, which one would you choose? I often think of iconic and historic as similar in meaning. I recently found out, though, when starting to write about a hotel I describe as an icon, the words can take on different meanings. And then I realized I was fascinated by historic hotels, some of which are indeed icons. For sure they are ALL famous hotels in the United States!

As someone who usually spends way more than a hundred nights a year in hotels, it’s no surprise that I’m interested in hotel architecture, design, and function. I don’t even have to be staying in a hotel to spend time exploring a property. Many times just visiting a hotel for a few hours can be fun. I’m weird, I get it.

As I started learning more about famous hotels in the US, some of which are iconic, some of which are historic, and some are both, I came upon a list of the most famous hotels in every state. I’ve been to every state so naturally wondered how many of these hotels I’d been to. I’ve actually been to nineteen of them. Not bad!

Before getting on a plane, road trips may be the type of trips we think about taking as we all start traveling again. Scratching the travel itch feels good!

Ten Famous Hotels In The United States I’d Like To Visit

Alabama: The Battle House Renaissance

This Mobile hotel, which was built in 1908, was the site of Andrew Jackson’s former military headquarters during the War of 1812. Fully restored, the hotel highlights include a domed skylight with stained glass windows.

famous hotels United States, Idaho

Makes me want to grab my skis and head to the slopes!

Image: Flickr

Idaho: Sun Valley Lodge

Sun Valley is Idaho’s ski resort hub. The Sun Valley Lodge suites are named for celebrities. An interesting piece of trivia is that in 1940 in Room 206, Ernest Hemingway finished his novel, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. The ski resort lodge added a new, 20,000-square-foot spa and in-room fireplaces when it went through a refurbish.

Iowa: Hotel Julien

Dubuque’s Hotel Julien looks so elegant. The hotel is located in the Old Main District. Its claim to fame is that it’s rumored to have hosted Abraham Lincoln on his travels to Illinois. Another rumor is that mob leader Al Capone once owned the hotel.

famous hotels United States, Kentucky

Image: Flickr

Kentucky: The Brown Hotel

I’ll admit to having an ulterior motive for visiting this hotel: the famous Hot Brown sandwich! A Hot Brown was originally created at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, by Fred K. Schmidt in 1926. It is a variation of traditional Welsh rarebit. It was one of two signature sandwiches created by chefs at the Brown Hotel shortly after its founding in 1923. The Hot Brown was to be an alternative to ham and egg late-night suppers. I hope I don’t have to wait until late night to try one!

Of course, the best time to be at this English Renaissance-style hotel would be for people-watching during the Kentucky Derby.

The Grand Hotel, Michigan

Image: Flickr

Michigan: The Grand Hotel

Between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas, is Mackinac Island. The Grand Hotel is a resort overlooking beautiful Lake Huron. The hotel opened in 1887 and has hosted five U.S. presidents. I love hotels with wonderful front porches! The Grand Hotel’s porch is the longest in the world at nearly 660 feet. Wow.

Pro Tip: Be sure to get the best deals on hotels. If I’m paying cash for a hotel stay, I always use Pruvo to monitor for price drops!

Hotel Deco, Nebraska

Great colors and ambiance!

Image: Flickr

Nebraska: Hotel Deco

Hotel Deco, as its name implies, is an Omaha landmark for displaying the Art Deco architecture found throughout Omaha. It’s a modern hotel with neoclassic decor. It’s well located near Omaha’s historic Old Market.

North Dakota: The Hotel Donaldson

This 17-room boutique hotel is called “HoDo”. Fargo has been going through a revitalization and this hotel is a symbol of this. The hotel lounge hosts musicians, authors, and poets. In keeping with the local arts theme, rooms are decorated with works by local artists to show off flair of the Fargo area.

Ohio: The Golden Lamb Inn

I’m a fan of Ohio, and Cincinnati is one of my favorite cities. Lebanon, home to this hotel, is within the Cincinnati metropolitan area.The Golden Lamb Inn is the oldest hotel in Ohio. It is also the home of Ohio’s oldest restaurant. Twelve American presidents have paid visits to Lebanon, and stayed at the historic Golden Lamb Inn.

Tennessee: Peabody Hotel

The Peabody Hotel was built in 1869. Its guest list includes Andrew Johnson and William McKinley. In 1981 the hotel had a grand re-opening and brought downtown Memphis into a downtown revival period. Today, its most famous residents are the “Peabody Ducks”. These ducks live on the rooftop and make daily treks to the lobby to swim in the hotel fountain. This duck tradition has been going on since the 1930s. That’s a long time and a lot of generational follow-through!

Wyoming: Old Faithful Inn

Hotels in national parks are not all that common. Yellowstone National Park is an exception. This log cabin–style resort has been in business since 1904. It’s considered to be the largest log structure in the world. The Old Faithful Inn has 327 rooms and a stone fireplace. Visitors can enjoy taking a meal there because the inn has a full-service restaurant.

Final Thoughts

Every hotel has a story to tell. Especially famous hotels in the United States! And as someone who stays many nights each year in hotels, I do tend to listen and enjoy those stories. Its story can be one of history, of arts and culture, or of being an elegant, top-notch service-oriented hotel. Of course many hotels are all of these combined. It is time for me to listen to more hotel stories from places I’ve yet been. These ten picks will help me do just that!

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Eric June 14, 2020 - 4:32 pm

You should check out West Baden Springs Hotel in Indiana:

Shelli June 14, 2020 - 4:51 pm

Thanks for adding to the list, Eric. This hotel calls itself a “historic treasure” and it sure does look like one!

Carl WV June 14, 2020 - 4:56 pm

I’ve only done one of your ten – the Old Faithful Inn. It certainly is a must-see.

I’m not saying any of the ten should be bumped, but I have enjoyed always all my stays at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs,

Shelli June 14, 2020 - 5:15 pm

Hi Carl, Not sure how I’ve never been to the Old Faithful Inn. I agree, the Broadmoor is a great property. I think in some states it’s hard to choose the must-see ones. Thanks for reading and adding your ideas.

SHP January 23, 2021 - 2:16 pm

Old Faithful Inn definitely something to walk through and visit. We stayed at the OF Snow Lodge across the parking lot. Whole area was swarming with people when we went in summer of 2019.

Skip the Brown Hotel. Had the HB 10 years ago and it was underwhelming. Hotel was quite dated 10 years back and looked NOTHING like the photo. Maybe they finally renovated.

Shelli January 23, 2021 - 5:40 pm

Thanks for adding to the conversation, SHP. You make good suggestions! Not sure about the Brown Hotel, but if they still need a renovation, hopefully they’ll read what you wrote 🙂

Christian January 23, 2021 - 2:38 pm

Wow, your list makes me realize how little I’ve traveled the USA. Personally I’d add the TWA hotel in JFK, the Willard in D.C., and the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco.

Shelli January 23, 2021 - 5:41 pm

I second the Willard and Mark Hopkins. Both classic hotels. Not had a chance to see the TWA yet as travels, certainly in the past year, haven’t taken me to JFK. The USA is a big country, that’s for sure. Lots out there to see and explore. Have fun!

Usadiscoverer May 12, 2021 - 4:06 am

Hello Shelli,
I love this piece of content. It’s very informative.

You’re really a good writer. I’ll love to read more from you.


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