Not being able to travel right now has led me to start reminiscing about the most memorable hotels where I’ve stayed. They aren’t necessarily the best hotels, the fanciest hotels or the most expensive ones I’ve ever stayed in. Instead, these are the places that left the most distinct memories. I haven’t stayed at some of these places for decades, while others are places we’ve just recently visited. The reasons the hotels are memorable vary as it could be a place we stayed during a “once in a lifetime” trip or somewhere that was so unique it was unforgettable. I think you get the picture. It’s not always the fanciest, most expensive or most famous 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:
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.
The Contemporary Hotel also holds a special place in my heart because it’s where we stayed when I proposed to Sharon. Awwwwwww. (Note from Sharon: he didn’t mention that he proposed while we were on the Haunted Mansion attraction [because he knew it was my favorite ride]. He popped the question as we went through the ballroom scene and then I COULDN’T SEE MY ENGAGEMENT RING UNTIL THE RIDE WAS OVER!)
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 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 being a place that was so, well, Japanese, was fascinating.
Being treated like a special guest (we were assigned the room from the brochure) made the two nights here something I’ll never forget. I still remember the small details like watching part of the movie Taxi with Jimmy Fallon with French dialogue and Japanese subtitles on the little TV we had in the room.
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.
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.
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.
I’d gladly stay 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.
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 massive hotel in Washington D.C., just steps away from the Air and Space Museum.
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, but they also 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).
The hotel was closed several years for renovations and has reopened as the Hilton Washington D.C. National Mall. I want to see what they did to the place.
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 to stay inside a national park.
What made this place special was the setting. I walked for three minutes from our cabin to take this picture in the morning.
Tasmania was breathtakingly beautiful. I’m so glad we got to visit. Sometimes it’s not the hotel or the room but the location that makes a place memorable.
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 the best Disney park anywhere.
From the lobby ceiling that depicts each of the themed lands of the park to the fountain outside the entrance. Everything is just perfect.
I think The Peabody in Memphis is one of the first “old” hotels where 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 was the ducks.
It’s really a farce. What began as a joke of leaving duck decoys in the fountain back in the 1930s has become the iconic event at this hotel. The ducks are paraded daily from the elevator, after leaving their Duck Palace on the roof, to the fountain where they swim the day away until they’re paraded back to the elevator and up to the roof for the night.
Our stay in Havana, Cuba at the La Casa de Concordia was special in many ways.
Our party of four had the entire three-bedroom building to ourselves. The structure was beautiful, and we really felt like we were staying in Cuba instead of just in a fancy hotel.
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!”
While I’ve stayed in several National Park hotels in Yosemite and Grand Canyon, Glacier Park Lodge is still the most memorable. It’s a fantastic building dating back to 1913. Now, the rooms aren’t the reason you stay here.
It also helps if you aren’t creeped out by hallways reminiscent of a certain movie.
However, you don’t come here to stay in the room. You stay here because of what’s right outside of the room.
When our family purchased Disney Vacation Club in 1992, it was the confirmation that visiting Disney World would be our primary vacation location for years to come.
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 from Walt Disney World. But it’s still going to be a place I’ll always consider “home.”
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.
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.
Our first stay there was so fantastic that we needed to go back. Fortunately for us, our trips bookended a total renovation of the hotel. For our second trip, the hotel upgraded us to one of their suites.
Once you get inside, the charm starts to envelop you. After the renovation, the hotel still kept real keys at the front desk, even if the locks now work with RFID keys
to the classically elegant (and a little cheesy) bar area:
It looks strange in pictures, but this place is just so cute. The colors didn’t seem to match. The furniture has all been refurbished and still smells like they’ve been there for 100 years. Finally, there was the view from the windows, If you’re a fan of The Sound of Music, you’ll recognize it immediately from the song My Favorite Things:
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, anywhere and it’s up to you to make them happen. Happy Travels!!!
Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and get emailed notifications of when we post. Or maybe you’d like to join our Facebook group – we have 12,000+ members and we talk and ask questions about travel (including Disney parks), creative ways to earn frequent flyer miles and hotel points, how to save money on or for your trips, get access to travel articles you may not see otherwise, etc. Whether you’ve read our posts before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!
This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary