Book a room in one of the costliest hotels in the country, and you'll get the most desirable, most exclusive, most luxurious amenities along with it. Usually.
The Point, a Relais & Chateaux property in the Adirondacks that was once a Rockefeller Great Camp, has just 11 rooms, each with lake views and a chiseled-stone fireplace. Included in the room rate, which starts at $1,250 a night and puts it on our list of the priciest hotels, are activities such as fishing, horseback riding and golfing. All meals and alcoholic beverages are covered; guests fill out a dining survey weeks in advance of their stay to ensure that their desires are catered to.
Another high-priced all-inclusive hotel is Blackberry Farm in Tennessee's Smoky Mountains. Blackberry Farm is renowned for its "foothills cuisine," which incorporates Southern staples like grits into modern presentations, as well as for its "Epicurean Experience" weekends, which attract chefs and vintners from as far away as Germany. At Blackberry Farm, all meals are included, but alcoholic beverages and activities like fly fishing are not. Still, with room rates starting at $795 per night, guests get some excellent meals for their money.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule.
The Mansion at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the most expensive hotel in the U.S. for the past several years, runs $5,000 a night for a one-bedroom villa. What's included in that four-figure room rate? Access to the hotel's fitness center, board room and screening room, the chance to stare at the Picassos on the walls, and the cachet that comes with being able to afford the country's priciest hotel.
But if the Mansion is expensive, at least it's consistent. That property has remained solid at $5,000 a night for the past three years. Meanwhile, the prices of the hotels at the bottom of our list have crept slowly but surely upward.
In 2004, the tenth-ranked hotel on our list was the $600-a-night Inn at Palmetto Bluff. This year, it's Casa Palmero, a 24-room property on the Pacific coast, which starts at $745 per night, an increase of 24% at the bottom of the list.
The list is getting more expensive not just at the bottom, but overall, as individual properties increase their room rates. Casa Palmero's rates went up $60 between 2004 and 2006, while Amangani, a sleek Jackson Hole, Wyo., ski resort and the only outpost of the prestigious Amanresorts brand in the United States, rang in at $700 a night in 2004. This year, it's $900.
Hospitality industry experts we talked to didn't find these increases surprising. "In the first five months of this year, the rate increase for luxury hotels, 8.7%, was basically double inflation," says Jan Freitag, vice president at Smith Travel Research, based in Hendersonville, Tenn. "It's a straightforward supply-and-demand story. Now that hotels are full, they increase rates, because they know the demand is there."
And because the demand exists, luxury hotels have less incentive to offer all-inclusive deals or special amenities to high-end travelers.
The newest hotel on our list, Casa Casuarina in South Beach, Miami, is the former home of designer Gianni Versace, and a private club that counts Oliver Stone and Jon Bon Jovi as members. The Moroccan-themed property opened as a hotel just four months ago, featuring Versace's own Italian suite; the bed alone, two California kings sewn together, cost $100,000. Rates at Casa Casuarina start at $2,500 a night during high season; those rates include nothing more than the chance to eat your continental breakfast next to a rock star. To some, that may be reason enough to go.
To compile this year's list of the most expensive hotels in the U.S., we looked at high-season room rates for properties all over the country. Unlike in past years, we didn't include any spas or hotels with minimum-stay requirements. And unlike with our list of the Most Expensive Hotel Rooms in the U.S., which took you inside the most decadent and costly suites, we based our rankings on the rates for a standard double room, i.e., the hotel's cheapest, not priciest, available digs.
While one might think these hotels would be concentrated in a few parts of the U.S., they are, in fact, spread throughout the country, from Las Vegas to New York to Vermont. Just one less excuse not to visit.