Travel & Leisure
updated 11/16/2011 3:51:56 PM ET 2011-11-16T20:51:56

New York has bright lights, busy streets, and as of two years ago, the 86-room Crosby Street Hotel, where cheerful design touches include portraits of local dogs. In a city filled with marble-and-glass skyscrapers, it stands out for unexpected amenities: a sunlit back patio, oversize warehouse windows, even weekend movie screenings.

And Travel + Leisure readers have taken note. For the first time, the Crosby Street Hotel ranked as one of America’s top 20 best hotels. These properties aren’t just places to rest your head—they are transporting retreats that deliver just the right mix of comfort and curiosity, in addition to standout location and service. Every year, when Travel + Leisure asks readers to rate their favorite places in the annual World’s Best Awards survey, one thing remains the same: the winners may be located across the country, but each adds a unique touch to an experience in a city.

Though four are new to the list this year, the No. 2–ranked Little Palm Island (up from No. 10 last year) is a perennial favorite, set on a private island in the Florida Keys. Colorful sunsets are de rigueur in the area, but at this getaway, accessible only via boat or seaplane, there are also Sandbar Session concerts, which have featured bands including the Indigo Girls and Stephen Marley. The other winner in Florida, the Ritz-Carlton, Naples, delivers the kind of resort experience (two pools; a spa; a new small-plate restaurant) readers love—especially as they gear up for winter.

Like Florida, three other states ( California, New York, and Utah ) also had two winners each in this year’s survey. Elsewhere, in Rhode Island, the Chanler at Cliff Walk (No. 14) is set in an 1873 mansion along a promenade in Newport. Each of the 20 rooms and suites has an unexpected design sense: the Mediterranean Suite, for example, has a bathroom with a tiled nymph mosaic. The perks? All guests have access to the hotel’s vintage fireplaces and a six- or nine-course tasting menu at the New England–inspired Spiced Pear restaurant.

On the West Coast, the trump card is clearly the setting. The Resort at Pelican Hill, in California’s Newport Beach, surrounds an enormous, circular outdoor pool, inspired by Rome’s Colosseum. And the resort’s oversize rooms—which start at 847 square feet—open onto patios for views of the Pacific Ocean.

But which hotel is ranked No. 1? It’s none other than Montana ’s Triple Creek Ranch, an adults-only mountain escape with a full roster of activities, from horseback riding to snowshoeing. Read on for all of this year’s winners.

Long a favorite of the East Coast establishment, the 1928 Mediterranean-style mansion is set on 1,000 acres of a barrier island south of Savannah. The design is romantic Mediterranean, a nod to the Spaniards who discovered and settled this coast long before the English arrived. During the day, guests hike, bike, or horseback along five miles of private beach.

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