Royal Hawaiian
Lipstick pink is the color of this Old Waikiki landmark. Today, the famous strand is lined with high-rises, but the historic Royal is still favored by Hawaii aficionados.
updated 2/16/2007 7:06:05 PM ET 2007-02-17T00:06:05

New hotels open all the time. Some stay. Some go. And some -- through a combination of ambience, service, history and sheer survival -- become legends. We visited six romantic landmarks that have withstood the test of time and still offer singular appeal to classic-minded couples. Here’s why.

The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina
The Setting: America’s largest home rises majestically in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. George Vanderbilt opened “the house” in 1895. The estate took more than six years to build and comes with 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 baths and 65 fireplaces.

Famous Couples Who Checked In: The Vanderbilts, of course; Bill and Melinda Gates

Historic Appeal: The first time George’s bride, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser, saw her new home was upon return from their honeymoon in Paris. Although never a formal hotel, guests stayed for months and were treated like hotel guests. Plaques with their names were placed on bedroom doors, and personal servants (the precursor to modern-day hotel butlers) were assigned to attend them. Both the Vanderbilts’ daughter Cornelia and niece Adele Sloane married on the property.

Modern-Day Allure: While the estate is open to the public for touring, the Inn on Biltmore (built in 2001) provides the opportunity to live like a Vanderbilt. The newest accommodation, the Cottage, is actually old; the cozy restored residence was the former home of the estate’s gardener. (More recently, it was used in scenes from The Last of the Mohicans.) Blazing fireplaces, butler service, afternoon tea and guided tours of the main house and gardens are just some of the available amenities.  Cottage from $2,800; rooms from $189.

The Fairmont San Francisco
The Setting: Immortalized in the 1970s TV series Hotel, this 591-room European-style palace sits regally atop Nob Hill, offering breathtaking Bay-area views.

Famous Couples Who Checked In: John and Jackie Kennedy; Bill and Hillary Clinton; HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall

Slideshow: San Francisco: City by the Bay Historic Appeal: Celebrating its centennial in 2007, the hotel was originally scheduled to open April 18, 1906 -- the day of the Great Earthquake. When the hotel opened on the one-year anniversary of the event, it symbolized the rebirth of San Francisco and has continued to woo visitors ever since. It was here in the Venetian Room supper club (now closed) that Tony Bennett first crooned “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

Modern-Day Allure: Originally built as a private residence, the penthouse (a popular small-wedding reception venue) spans the entire eighth floor and commands $12,500 a night for 24-karat bath fixtures, secret passageways, a private butler, a formal dining room for 50 and killer city views. But the regular rooms are lovely as well, with Asian accents and marble baths. Book one with views of the skyline.  Rooms from $289.

Biltmore Estate
America’s largest home rises majestically in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego
The Setting: Set on the tiny isle of Coronado and connected to San Diego by bridge, this circa 1888 Victorian seaside resort, familiarly known as the Del, has hosted Hollywood gentry for more than a century. It’s been featured in many films, but most impressively in Marilyn Monroe’s Some Like It Hot.

Famous Couples Who Checked In: Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz reportedly honed their “Ricky and Lucy” personas here; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor -- King Edward VIII, who gave up his throne in 1936 to marry former Coronado divorcee Wallis Simpson -- are said to have met here.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

Slideshow: Fun in the sun

Historic Appeal: In 1887, one year before the hotel officially opened, wedding vows were exchanged here, and the tradition has since continued. Despite ghost sightings of 20-something Kate Morgan, said to have taken her life after a lovers’ quarrel (guests report flickering lights and mysterious breezes when windows are closed), the Del has repeatedly been named one of the top places to marry in the U.S.

Modern-Day Allure: Hollywood still checks in here, as do honeymooners, who are treated with perennial favorites like his-’n’-hers massages, breakfast in bed and chocolate-covered strawberries. The hotel underwent a pricey facelift in 2005, adding hip amenities like plasma TVs and an infinity pool that overlooks the Pacific. Rooms from $295.

Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda
The Setting: Hugging a sandy crescent in Virgin Gorda, this 100-room cottage-resort is ultra-private and ultra-exclusive. Guests wouldn’t have it any other way.

Famous Couples Who Checked In: George and Olivia Harrison, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, and Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) and wife Blythe.

Little Dix Bay
Hugging a sandy crescent in Virgin Gorda, this 100-room cottage-resort is ultra-private and ultra-exclusive.

Historic Appeal: Inspired by his “discovery” of Virgin Gorda while sailing by in the late 1950s, philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller purchased the land, then cultivated it into an eco-friendly vacation hideaway. His 36 cottages, all fronting the beach, purposely excluded phones and televisions. When the property was sold off, new owners Rosewood kept the tycoon’s vision intact while expanding and modernizing. Eventually, air conditioning and butler-stocked pantries were slipped into every room, but TVs are still taboo. The new luxury hilltop villas were reportedly added after a request from Robert De Niro.

Modern-Day Allure: A decadent new spa and private island dine-outs attract honeymooners. But for many, family tradition plays a bigger role. One recent Connecticut groom says his parents and grandparents both honeymooned at Little Dix. His grandfather buried a time capsule on the property containing mementos of their stay. His father added to it, and this groom returned with a tattered “treasure map” to find it, and add keepsakes of his own.  Rooms from $525.

The Royal Hawaiian, Honolulu
The Setting
: Lipstick pink is the color of this Old Waikiki landmark. When the “Pink Palace of the Pacific” first opened in 1927 on 10 beachfront acres, there was only one other hotel on Waikiki Beach. Today, the famous strand is lined with high-rises, but the historic Royal is still favored by Hawaii aficionados.

Famous Couples Who Checked In: Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks; Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan.

Slideshow: The heart of Hawaii

Historic Appeal: King Kamehameha I was first to use the land as his royal playground. During the 1920s and ’30s, the rich and famous followed -- including tiny Shirley Temple, for whom the bar man invented her now-famous eponymous cocktail. Originally catering to ship passengers who arrived for the season with steamer trunks, servants and even Rolls-Royce cars, the Royal Hawaiian remained in its heyday until WWII, when the hotel was leased to the U.S. Navy. Tourist mania returned in the 1950s and turned into Beatlemania in the 1960s when John, Paul, George and Ringo showed up for a visit.

Modern-Day Allure: Historical walking tours offer insight into the hotel’s rich past, and its weekly luau is one of the best in the islands. Other amenities include the plush garden-style Abhasa Waikiki Spa (bamboo and diamond-studded treatments are especially popular with new brides), and live weddings can be broadcast over the Internet.  Rooms from $420.

The Waldorf-Astoria, New York City
The Setting: If ever a hotel was synonymous with a city, this is the one. Set on Park Avenue in the heart of midtown, this world-renowned art deco landmark has been host to numerous fairy-tale weddings, proposals and honeymoons.

Slideshow: The Big Apple

Famous Couples Who Checked In: Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco held their engagement party in the Conrad Suite; Star Jones and Al Reynolds married in the Empire Room; Frank and Barbara Sinatra took up residence in the Cole Porter Suite.

Historic Appeal: Word is that only Buckingham Palace has hosted more heads of state -- the Waldorf has seen Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, the Dalai Lama and every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover. Epic love stories like Weekend at the Waldorf have been filmed here too, but it’s the hotel’s real-life love story that tugs heartstrings. When the Duke of Windsor relinquished the throne for the woman he loved (see Hotel del Coronado), they came to live in the Royal Suite.

Modern-Day Allure: The Starlight Roof, recently returned to its original splendor with gilded chandeliers and white damask silks, remains New York’s top venue for weddings and charity balls. It sits on Park Avenue, just steps away from the shops on Fifth and Madison.  Rooms from $299. 

Destination Weddings & Honeymoonsis your ultimate resource for planning a destination wedding or honeymoon. Discover amazing places throughout the world to tie the knot as well as the perfect spot for your honeymoon. In every issue, you get coverage of real-life lovebirds and their nuptials, expert advice for planning your big day, and the hottest styles in wedding attire to take you from wedding to honeymoon.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments