Walking into one of the best party hotels for the first time is like getting behind the wheel of your first sports car: Your pulse quickens and your palms get damp as you feel the power and potential for endless fun surging through you. The ideal chic party hotel is a place that effortlessly blends fashion and fun, luxury and a certain louche decadence. Maybe it's the rooftop bars, the designer lounges, the private cabanas and exclusive clientele; maybe it's the thrill of receiving top-notch service in such a hip, exciting environment.
Perhaps you saw the headlines recently about the powerful politician who was brought down by a scandal involving a beautiful young lady? The fact that she got her start as a cocktail waitress in one of the hotels on our list is not altogether surprising. The classy but permissive ethos—a unique blend of fantasy and possibility—is so strong at the best chic party hotels that they sometimes play host to some unlikely bedfellows, both literally and figuratively. These are places where service meets sexy in an environment that’s both youthful and ageless. They are havens that appeal to celebrity spotters and solitary sybarites alike.
While the chicest party hotels enjoy a reputation for tolerating a certain amount of hedonistic excess, don't mistake them for party-'til-you-drop bacchanalias. Take, for example, the recent decision by the Beverly Hills Hotel to turn away troubled pop star Britney Spears on the grounds that she brings too much "trouble" with her.
For Libby Keatinge, a writer for the New York Post’s Page Six, the ideal party hotel “is trendy and fun but also a very welcoming place." For those reasons, the Hotel Gansevoort in New York City tops her list. It's her first choice "whenever I have friends in town,” thanks to warm service and exceptional personal attention. And, she adds, "the quality of the items in the mini-bar is important.”
The mini-bars at the Little Nell in Aspen have something that might surprise the discriminating traveler: Oxia Personal Oxygen dispensers. While they’re actually for those guests who have trouble adjusting to Aspen’s mile-plus-high altitude, they might also come in handy after a long day of skiing and unwinding in the Nell's elegant Terrace Bar or Montagna restaurant. The Pfeifer Suite at Little Nell is an annual tradition for Brandy Navarre, co-owner of X17, Hollywood’s largest celebrity photo agency, and X17online, their Web site for celebrity news, photos and videos. At 2,000-square-feet, the sprawling Pfeifer might not be for everybody, but it’s ideal for Narvarre. “I look for location, size and service," she says.
At Chicago's recently remodeled Allegro Hotel, living the good life is part of the deal. Besides being home to the hip Encore Liquid Lounge and Lunch Club, the Allegro offers experiences with whimsical names such as "High Road to Hybrid Happiness"—with special parking for fuel-efficient visitors—and "Lil' Celebrities," which treats younger guests to their own swag bag, sunglasses and a child-sized animal print robe.
Being treated like a star is important to people of all ages, including Melissa Pracht, a former model who now works for humanitarian causes. Pracht, too, had nothing but praise for New York City’s Gansevoort. For her, the difference between exclusive and snobbish is key, especially at a chic hotel. "I like being somewhere that not everybody can get into, a sense of exclusivity," she says, but adds, "what turns me off is snootiness of any kind."
It's a balance that the ideal party hotels work very hard to achieve. Susan DeAngelis, director of sales & marketing for the Hotel Gansevoort, agrees. "The hotel captures the energy of the neighborhood," she says, "but also provides a very comfortable, chic atmosphere in which to relax and just get away.”
Chic hotels are not only places where anybody can feel like a star; increasingly the hotels themselves are stars. Popular Web site Hotelchatter.com dishes the dirt on both the hotels and what goes on in them (recent headline: "Do Politicos' Rendezvous Hotels Mirror Their Personalities?"). And a tell-all memoir, by two former concierges at Chicago's Four Seasons hotel, caused enough controversy and consternation among its well-heeled guests that the book was recently pulled by the publisher.
When Page Six’s Keatinge returns home to Los Angeles, she often stays at the decidedly stylish and party-friendly Beverly Hills Hotel. "It has a more classic feel, but I've definitely been to some fun, young parties there. They have an amazing salon, pool area and the Polo Lounge for dinner. It's guaranteed that there is going to be great service, they're not going to mess up, you're going to have great food. If you want to feel like royalty, whether you're 17 or 77, you're going to have a great time.”
These are just a few of America’s most chic party hotels.