10 Resorts for Under $100 a Night
Have you ever seen those "best of the best" or "gold" lists in other travel magazines? Year after year, they're top heavy with Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton hotels and resorts, the kind of super-luxury places that are apt to charge $400 or more (much more) a night. No wonder they rate "best." At those prices, they ought to be.
But does the best always mean expensive? Not at all. For years I've toured America, keeping my eyes open for terrific inns and lodges that also are affordable. And so I've compiled my own "Platinum" List-ten great places to stay for under $100 a night. They are solid proof that you don't have to spend big bucks for a first-class vacation.
The lodgings on my list differ somewhat-no surprise-from a typical Ritz- Carlton. You won't find chocolates on your pillow at night. Don't expect to get your shoes shined if you deposit them outside your door. And, no, room service won't come running if you crave a burger at 3 a.m. You will have to make do without these extras.
But this doesn't mean my bests are any less inviting. Each of the ten is unique-not a chain motel among them-and both appealing in appearance and well kept. And, as important, they all enjoy magnificent views-the finest anywhere in the country. No Four Seasons, no matter how expensive, can boast any better.
With maybe one exception, a European-style inn in Wine Country, these bests will appeal most to people who enjoy the outdoors. Two lodges stand in national parks, another two in state parks. Opportunities abound for hiking, fishing, swimming, and scenic sightseeing activities that won't put any pressure on your wallet. At any of them, plan to stay for three or four days, even a week. With a million bucks, you couldn't hope for a more memorable trip.
(All lodging rates below are the total for two people during summer peak period.)
Boulder Mountain Lodge, Boulder, Utah
I discovered Boulder Mountain Lodge in 1996, just after President Clinton declared a large chunk of southern Utah's most spectacular canyon country a national monument called Grand Staircase-Escalante. The 20-room lodge, sitting just outside the new parkland, served as my base as I explored the region by foot and car. I was so impressed by the immense beauty and quiet emptiness of the landscape that I brought my wife back to show her.
Surrounded by panoramic views, the lodge edges an 11-acre lake, a nesting area for yellow-headed blackbirds and other bird life. Beyond it soars Boulder Mountain, where black thunderclouds frequently race across the heavily forested slopes. Here and there, massive white and pink sandstone ridges thrust into the sky, and at their feet cattle and horses graze in rolling green pastures. Once quite remote-and still well off the beaten path-little Boulder (population 100) is thought to be the last town in America that got its mail by mule.
Cozy guest rooms are located in three separate two-story structures designed in an eclectic Western style. The exterior-rose sandstone blocks and massive timbers-mirrors the scenery, and the interior's white plaster walls and exposed beams seem as fresh as the pine-scented air. The inn's restaurant, called Hell's Backbone Grill, can be pricey. But cheaper dining is a five-minute walk away.
$79 (queen bed) to $139 (a two-room suite); $5 for each additional person; 800/556-3446. Fly into Salt Lake City or Las Vegas.
Lodge at Blackwater Falls, Davis, West Virginia
West Virginia's Lodge at Blackwater Falls is wrapped in the quiet isolation of Blackwater Falls State Park-a rugged expanse of woodland ridges and valleys cut by the impressively deep canyon of the Blackwater River. You approach the lodge on a long, winding road that carries you deeper and deeper into the forest. Suddenly, a clearing appears, and you see the lodge clinging to the brink of the canyon. The river races far below, the thunder of its crashing white water clearly audible.
The two-story, 54-room, dark-wood-and-stone structure is appropriately rustic- looking. But the rooms are entirely comfortable, and a new, glass-enclosed heated swimming pool and hot tub have added a luxurious touch. A large sitting room off the lobby, furnished with clusters of chairs and couches, makes a cozy place to read before dinner. The dining room, which serves budget-priced meals, is ringed by large windows that face the canyon.
You can view the 65-foot plunge of Blackwater Falls from the canyon rim just upriver from the lodge or descend 214 steps to its base. Miles of hiking trails meander through the woods, horseback rides are scheduled from the park stables, and bicycles can be rented to tour the road. Chilly Pendleton Lake boasts a small swimming beach.