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10 once-in-a-lifetime U.S. hotel experiences

At these 10 spots, guests enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from butler-drawn baths to oyster-stocked après-ski hours.
Image: Mandarin Oriental in New York City.
/ Source: Forbes

At the White Barn Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine, you can have a butler draw your bath while you linger on dessert in the Inn's gourmet restaurant.

For $50, the butler will fill your soaking tub with spa bath salts and scatter rose petals and lightly scented candles throughout. All this will be choreographed, of course, so that when you walk through the door and kick off your shoes, your bath will be at the perfect soaking temperature.

Stuart Barwise, the Inn's general manager, says that typically, one guest orders the service as a surprise for his or her traveling companion. It's not the only attractive amenity on the menu; the Inn recently acquired a 44-foot Hinckley Talliari yacht for the exclusive use of its guests.

Clearly, "business is booming," says Barwise. Even with the weakening dollar, "in the high-end leisure-travel world, we seem to be recession-proof."

Indeed, the luxury end of the U.S. hotel market is thriving. Construction of swank new hotels is seemingly relentless. And forecasts show that occupancy rates in the luxury market are projected to stay steady at 70 percent next year in the U.S., with the average luxury-room rate climbing a whopping 6.6 percent to $309, according to PKF Consulting, which analyzes the worldwide hotel industry.

What's more, luxury hotels are pouring their profits into "in-room" technology features like flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations. The popular Peninsula Hotel in Chicago has implemented all sorts of cool electronics in its stunning, sound-proof rooms. This luxury chain is known for its impeccable taste, so naturally, electronics, such as fax machines, are hidden from view.

Decadent destinations
We selected 10 of the best 'luxury" lodgings in the country that stood out for a particular feature, such as a butler-drawn bath, or, in the case of the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah, ski valets who greet chilly skiers with hot cider after their last run of the day.

One thing's for sure—from the beachside hotels to mountain retreats to dude ranches and edgy boutique hotels, America's luxury lodging comes in all shapes, sizes and sensibilities.

In New York alone, there are at least a dozen high-end hotels to choose from, from the Four Seasons to the St. Regis to the hipper SoHo Grand and Mercer Hotels downtown. We picked the Mandarin Oriental for its quiet elegance, sweeping views of Central Park and its close proximity—just an elevator ride away—to some of the best restaurants in the world.

By no means do you have to be in New York to live well. At the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, guests enjoy strolls among ancient trees, fragrant flowers and gurgling fountains. The hotel is known for its impeccable service and its French-country rooms, which are fancy without being precious. Some rooms have Jacuzzis, and most have private patios and wood-burning fireplaces.

Those seeking incomparable views might head to the Post Ranch Inn along California's Pacific Coast Highway. Literally built into the cliffs of Big Sur, this resort's organic architecture embraces, rather than detracts from, the rugged beauty of the coastline. The hideaway specializes in laid-back luxury. Rooms whose glass sliding doors open right onto the ocean-view decks combine modern sleek with rustic warmth. Hard to imagine a more perfect place for quiet meditation.

And isn't escape the point of any vacation?