My Top Eleven Most Memorable Hotels

It’s Freaky Friday so I get to write about whatever I want. This week, instead of ranting complaining about devaluations in hotel or airline loyalty programs or commenting on how travel companies can do better, I decided to do something a little more fun. With no intent to do so, I started to reminisce about the most memorable hotels where I’ve stayed. Now, these aren’t necessarily the best hotels, the fanciest hotels or the most expensive ones I’ve ever stayed. Instead, these are the places that left the most distinct memories. Some of these places I haven’t stayed at for decades and others we just visited this year. The reasons they’re memorable vary. They could be places where I stayed during a “once in a lifetime” trip or somewhere that was so unique that it was unforgettable. I think you get the picture. It’s not always the fanciest or most expensive or most popular hotel that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Any place could end up being on the list. You just have to find out for yourself what places are special to you.

Here are, in no particular order, eleven of my most memorable hotels:

Disney’s Contemporary Resort

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There’s no denying that I’m a Disney fan. Heck, I live in Orlando because of it. When I was growing up, the coolest thing ever was when we stayed at the Contemporary on a trip to Disney World. Come on, the monorail goes right through the hotel. The view from the top of the building wasn’t that bad either.

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The Contemporary also holds a special place in my heart because it’s the hotel where we were staying when I proposed to Sharon. Awwwwwww. 

Hotel Taiseikan

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Part of what makes the Taiseikan Ryokan in Hakone, Japan one of the most memorable hotels for me is because it was the setting for of one of my most embarrassing travel mistakes. It was also the first place I’ve ever stayed where I couldn’t find the bathroom in the room. Ignoring these things, it still is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had while traveling. It was my first trip to Japan so staying somewhere off the major tourist path and so, well, Japanese, was fascinating.

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Being treated like an special guest (we were assigned the room from the brochure) made the two night stay here something I’ll never forget. I still remember small details like watching part of the movie Taxi with Jimmy Fallon shown with French dialogue and Japanese subtitles on the small TV we had in the room.

Casablanca Hotel

The Casablanca Hotel isn’t an exotic getaway, it’s smack dab in the middle of Times Square. I found it when looking for hotels on TripAdvisor. It’s been over a decade since we’ve stayed there.

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The reason we haven’t returned isn’t a bad one, well not for the hotel. You see, it’s been rated the number one hotel in New York on TripAdvisor for years and years and they price the rooms accordingly. We just happened to get in before they got famous.

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The hotel is fascinating. It’s steps from Broadway but feels like a quiet oasis. The rooms are small but the theming makes it feel more exotic than cramped.

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I’d gladly there there again to see if it holds up to the memories I have about the place but I’m not willing to pay upwards of $400 a night. I’m glad they’re doing well and happy we were able to stay there when we could.

L’Enfant Plaza Hotel

In my mind, this hotel will always be the Lowes L’Enfant Plaza. It was one of the first “fancy” hotels I ever stayed at. Up until then it was all hotel, motel and Holiday Inns but now I was in a huge hotel in Washington D.C., just steps away from the Air and Space Museum.

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The only way we could ever afford to stay here was by using a coupon from the Entertainment book.  Not only did we get a discounted room, they gave us a suite. My dad and I had no problems making ourselves at home (um, he now knows better than to put his feet up on the table).

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Apparently the hotel has been closed for several years for renovations but is supposed to be reopening this year as the Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall. I’m looking forward to see what they did to the place.

Freycinet Lodge

There were many places we stayed in Australia that were memorable but the one that really sticks in my mind is the Freycinet Lodge in Tasmania. The cabin itself wasn’t anything too fancy. Much as I would expect for staying inside a national park.

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What made this place special was the setting. I walked three minutes from our cabin to take this picture in the morning.

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Tasmania was breathtakingly beautiful. I’m so glad we got to visit there. So sometimes it’s not the hotel or the room but the location that makes a place memorable.

Tokyo DisneySea Hotel Miracosta

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So with my love of Disney and with Japan, staying at Tokyo Disneyland was a must during our trip. I have to say that the Miracosta hotel at Tokyo DisneySea is the best themed Disney hotel anywhere in the world. Everything about it is perfect. It also helps that it’s inside the Tokyo DisneySea park, which is also the best Disney park anywhere.

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From the lobby ceiling that depicts each of the themed lands of the park to the fountain outside the entrance. Everything is just perfect.

The Peabody

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I think The Peabody in Memphis is one of the first “old” hotels I ever stayed. Built in 1923, it’s full of history and elegance. That’s not why I remember it. I stayed there when I was in my tweens (that wasn’t even a word back then) and the coolest thing ever were the ducks.

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It’s really a farce. What began as a joke of leaving duck decoys in the fountain back in the 1930’s has become the iconic event at this hotel. Daily the ducks are paraded from the elevator, after leaving their Duck Palace on the roof, to the fountain where they swim the day away until they are paraded back to the elevator and up to the roof for the night.

La Casa de Concordia

Our stay in Havana, Cuba at the La Casa de Concordia was special in many ways.

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Our party of four had the entire three bedroom building to ourselves. The structure was wonderful and we really felt like we were staying in Cuba instead of just in a fancy hotel.

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What made this stay so memorable was the hospitality of our hosts, Nelly and Alejandro. They took good care of us and between our limited Spanish and their limited English, we managed to navigate several snags during our stay (like getting a taxi or having a shirt laundered). We spent Sharon’s birthday there and I’ll always remember the staff coming into the breakfast room to sing Sharon an unforgettable version of Happy Birthday:

“Happy baby to you!
Happy baby to you!
Happy baby, dear Sharon!
Happy baby to you!”

Glacier Park Lodge

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While I’ve stayed in several National Park hotels in Yosemite and Grand Canyon, Glacier Park Lodge is still the most memorable. It’s an amazing building dating back to 1913. Now, the rooms aren’t the reason you stay here.

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It also helps if you aren’t creeped out by hallways reminiscent of a certain movie.

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However, you don’t come here to stay in the room. You stay here because of what’s right outside of the room.

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Old Key West

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When our family purchased Disney Vacation Club in 1992, it was the confirmation that visiting Disney World would be our primary vacation for years to come.

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I’ve stayed at Old Key West many times and had many memorable experiences there. Sharon even had her bridal shower in a one bedroom villa. I’ve fed ducks from the back porch. We’ve had impromptu wine tastings in the kitchen. We reserved a grand villa and spent the week with a bunch of our friends. It’s been a great place for me. We still own DVC membership but don’t use it much anymore because we live 15 minutes away. But it’s still going to be a place I’ll always consider “home”.

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Now, I said in the beginning that these were in no particular order. Except for this one. I saved it for last because it’s currently my favorite place we’ve ever stayed.

Hotel Goldener Hirsch

The Hotel Goldener Hirsch in Salzburg, Austria is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever seen. It’s where we stayed when we saw a bunch of the places they filmed The Sound of Music. I’ll admit, from the back it doesn’t look that special

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You need to go to the other side and onto the old streets to get a hint of how special this hotel is going to be. Remember, it’s been here since 1407.

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Once you get inside, the charm starts to envelop you. From the real keys kept at the front desk:

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to the classically elegant (and a little cheesy) bar area:

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and finally to our room, which, in order to get there, we had to walk up stairs, down a hallway, up some more stairs, go up an elevator and then some more stairs.

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It looks strange in pictures but this place was just so, cute. The colors didn’t seem to match. The furniture was all mismatched but our cabinets smelled like they’ve been there for 100 years. Finally, there was the view from our windows, If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, you’ll recognize it immediately from the song My Favorite Things:

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Top that with the most amazing hotel concierges we’ve ever seen and this is a hotel that I’ll never forget.

So there they are. I had a blast going through my memories (and pictures) to put this article together. It reminded me that traveling isn’t always about how fancy the plane is or how large a room you get upgraded into but it’s about the memories you make while you’re away. Those can happen at any time, any where and it’s up to you to make them happen. Happy Travels!!!

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