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Our All-Time Favorite Hotels

By Christian Roemer

I’ve always enjoyed staying at hotels. There’s something that feels so exotic about them. Even though hotels seem to be popping up on interstate exits everywhere like weeds in my backyard after a particularly wet spring, I still hardly ever stay in them anymore. In the old days, the only way you could find a clean bed while on the road was by staying in a hotel.

These days, cool places to stay are more diverse.

That’s why I’m going to interpret “favorite hotel” as “places I’ve paid to stay overnight” instead. That way, I won’t be limited by cookie-cutter rooms with two queen beds and a built-in armoire. Besides, if I didn’t, I’d just be talking about sleeping at random hotels like the Holiday Inn in Marion Illinois on my way home from a marathon drive to visit my sister in Omaha. Instead, I can brag about some of the really neat places I’ve stayed that definitely weren’t hotels.


A couple of actual hotels do make the list, because they’re amazing. But some of the other places on this list are a little more creative, sometimes cheaper, sometimes way more expensive, and almost always more awesome.

  1. Yosemite Yurts - My favorite place I’ve ever stayed overnight wasn’t a hotel at all. It wasn’t even close. It was basically a canvas shell with a cot inside, but it was incredible. In the middle of Yosemite valley are these green yurts. They put you directly in the middle of one of the most splendid landscapes in the world. Plus, you have to lock everything with a scent up in bear lockers to keep the Yogis and Boo Boos out. Pretty awesome.

  2. Cosmopolitan Las Vegas - One of only two actual hotels on this list, the Cosmopolitan is amazing and very off brand for me. This gambler’s paradise is complete indulgence. From the two story tall chandelier in the entranceway to the fancy restaurants, this is the kind of place I would never stay...except when I’m in Vegas. Right in the middle of the strip, the Cosmo provides easy access to everything. I love this hotel.

  3. Ponderosa Ranch - Another national park special, the Ponderosa Ranch lies just east of Zion National Park. It actually borders on the park, teetering on some of the giant sandstone cliffs so emblematic of the region. The ponderosa is a mixture of old-time ranch and new-time amenities. You can also go on 4-wheeling adventures and horseback rides. It’s rad, and so much better than a regular hotel.

  4. Steinbeck’s Writing Cabin - Seated on the hills above Monterey, California, the place where Steinbeck wrote some of his greatest novels is available to rent on Air BnB. Staying here was especially incredible for me, because I wrote my thesis about Steinbeck’s Monterey novels. This cabin really brought those rich stories to life for me.

  5. Romantik Alpenhotel Waxenstein - At the base of the tallest mountain in Germany lies a sleepy Bavarian blip on the map called Grainau. In this town is the amazing hotel Romantik Alpenhotel Waxenstein. It’s within walking distance to some amazing restaurants, plus you can open your windows to incredible views of the German Alps. This area is one of my favorites, and I’ll always remember this hotel fondly.

*Bonus* Wilderness at the Smokies - Not everything can be high class and adventurous. Occasionally, you have to submit to the kitsch. That’s what this hotel is. It’s half hotel and half water park, which is my favorite type of theme park. You literally walk out of your hotel room to slides, a lazy river, and cabanas. If it’s cold outside, just walk over to the indoor water park instead. Yes, I said indoor water park.

When I go on trips, I try to stay in places that are cool and interesting. Of course, that’s not always possible. Peppered between some of these more notable destinations have been countless La Quintas, Holiday Inns, and Red Roofs. Even though they’re not notable, they’re still there for me when I need them, so I feel they deserve at least a little bit of a shout out.

What’s your favorite hotel you’ve ever been to?

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