Forget NYC and LA... Venture away from better known paths to discover unexpected gems, which boast charm and style in spades
Yes, NYC has the buzz, San Fran is hip and Florida has the fun. But sometimes it’s good to go off menu. To seek out the less well-trodden roads of the USA. Just ask Jack Kerouac. We’d like to take you on a tour of the unexpected outposts of Stateside style. Such as Pittsburgh – because, where the Ace hotel group goes, it’s always good to follow in its slipstream. And who knew the city boasts an Andy Warhol museum? Or Austin, Texas, where Hotel Saint Cecilia serves up ol’ time charm, or New Orleans, where the Pontchartrain adds some sass to the Big Easy. For a southern stop-off with the most authentic mid-century accent, check into The Dwell Hotel in Chattanooga. Finally, for super-sized skies, coastline and blissed-out views, the Post Ranch Inn at Big Sur serves up nature amid luxury. Expect fewer tourists, but still plenty of bang for your bucks.
The lowdown The latest Ace outpost reworks local history for hipsters
Best for Pretending you’re a local, talking apps over artisan coffees
Pittsburgh is a mini American history lesson: boom industrial town goes bust, now seeks new identity. The city that was a steel giant has seen hard times, but is regenerating with local music, culture, technology – basically, your regular US melting-pot by-products.
The Ace Hotel group knows where the next party is going to be, so it bought up and renovated the old 1909 YMCA building in the East Liberty ’hood. The historic frame – marble floors, wrought-iron balustrades and giant windows – add gravitas to the refreshed, rebooted building. Then there are the Ace touches: sleek, student-hall-chic furniture and turntables and acoustic guitars in some rooms. The food is exceptional and the eating venues include the old gym – benches and squeaky basketball court floor still intact. It’s fun to stay at the YMCA all over again.
Book it Double rooms from approx £164
HOTEL SAINT CECILIA
The lowdown Rock star meets Texan beauty queen
Best for Anyone who’s ever said, ‘I’m with the band’
This southern belle of a boutique hotel serves up typical Lone Star hospitality with a touch of David Lynch drama. It consists of a Victorian house and several bungalows dotted around its lush gardens. The interiors are all different, erring towards either funky or more glam-rock ends of the design playlist.
In the most beguiling suites, woodwork is rechristened in glossy black, beneath tall ceilings, sparkly chandeliers and swathes of ruby red velvet curtains. Think Mick Jagger in Performance – or Johnny Depp and Kate Moss in their Portobello Hotel phase. Baths come claw-footed, or shower under the stars in an outdoor wet room wrapped in bamboo. A poolside neon sign beams out a welcome for clubbers who aren’t ready for bed just yet. Austin rocks with music venues and this is the perfect place for pre-drinks or the after-party. When you do crash, beds are by Hästens for all-out comfort.
Book it Double rooms from £454 per night
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The lowdown The Big Easy, done with style and grace
Best for High-rolling, Mardi Gras-loving literary types
This hotel was once known as the grand dame of New Orleans hotels and is all set for its revival. The architecture dates from the Twenties, but the Pontchartrain’s first heyday was in the decadent Forties. It’s the kind of hotel where Hollywood stars, musicians and writers, including Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, tended to take up ‘residences’ rather than checking in and out like ordinary folk.
As the hotel enters its next heyday, its public spaces – all palm prints, dark walls, tasseled tie-backs and smoked glass – still have a deliciously louche air. The bedrooms are less full-on style statements, but the mint green, peony pink and lacquered-black combo still feels very Blanche DuBois… This is where Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire – and a clanging streetcar still stops just outside the front door. Don’t miss cocktails at the Hot Tin rooftop lounge, where the American tin tile ceiling is painted fashionably black.
THE DWELL HOTEL
The lowdown Deep Southern comfort with added curves
Best for Musos with a penchant for mid-century style
Less than a three hour drive down Interstate 24 from music mecca Nashville lies Chattanooga, now a destination in its own right. This is the hotel to head to: a haven of mid-century originals, with the emphasis on the rare, offbeat and utterly covetable. Much of the furniture and lighting was sourced by the owner herself, Seija Ojanpera, who is a dab hand at sniffing out the cream of auctions and online sales, from the US and Europe. Wallpapers work as vivid backdrops, from intricate Fornasetti patterns to the classic Martinique lush-leaf motif, made famous by the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The range of suites is dazzling, from the zingy shades and Sixties art of The Tiki to the tropical and teal of The Palm Springs, where the mood is set by Slim Aaron’s iconic photograph, Poolside Gossip. The only way to start your evening is in similar style, tipple in hand at the in-house Matilda Midnight cocktail bar.
Book it Doubles from £185 per night
POST RANCH INN
BIG SUR, CALIFORNIA
The lowdown Woodsy hideaway with infinity pools et al
Best for Nature lovers who also adore luxury
From burgers to canyons, Americans have a propensity to big things up. But, to be fair, the Big Sur does deliver. This sweet spot of California has state parks, beaches and mountain panoramas that will send your Instagram feed into arty Ansel Adams territory. Post Ranch Inn scoops the best views (choose from ocean or mountain), while the rooms are luxe-natural, with mellow wood, sculptures, cosy wood burners and outdoor decks designed to drink in nature.
As an indication of the general vibe here, the hotel refrains from putting alarm clocks or TVs in rooms… But they do lay on free daily yoga and stargazing sessions with a resident astronomer. There’s no under-18s, so karmas remain unruffled by kids. When you tire of being blissed out by nature, San Fran is 150 miles up the coast for a re-energizing blast of city life and culture.
Book it Doubles from £640 per night