The stories that surround decades (even centuries) old hotels can be fascinating. The countless guests – whether a celebrity, your average wealthy traveler or a war veteran passing through – each left behind a legacy or memory.
Historic hotels once had elevator attendants (if they had elevators), phone operators, gas-lit rooms and shared bathrooms. There was a time when families “dressed” for dinner or actually attended a ball in a hotel’s ballroom. Staying in a hotel was often considered a luxury, as well, and guests often received royal treatment.
Many of these hotels from another era are still welcoming guests today and while the amenities may have changed over the years (Wi-Fi instead of candlelight), the impeccable details, service and stories surely remain the same. Here are our favorite historic hotels for families in the United States.
Written by Courtney Elko
Hotel del Coronado - Coronado, Calif.
Located just outside San Diego, the Hotel Del was built in 1888 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1977. When this historic hotel first opened, guests could enjoy the music and billiard rooms and garden patios. Electricity and telephone service were available and still considered rare in 1888. Room rates started at $2.50 per day and included three meals a day! Today's rates are a bit higher.
Several United States presidents visited The Del (as far back as President Benjamin Harrison), along with numerous celebrities like Charlie Chaplin. The Marilyn Monroe movie, "Some Like It Hot," was filmed here in 1958 and "Wizard of Oz" author L. Frank Baum is said to have written three books in the Oz series while staying there for extended periods of time.
Today, Hotel del Coronado boasts beach bonfires and dive-in movies by the beach, water sports, a kids' club, bike riding and sandcastle making. But this "living legend" quietly remains the same.
Historic Davenport - Spokane, Wash.
Opened in 1914, the history of the Historic Davenport was nearly destroyed in 2000 when it was set for demolition after sitting vacant since 1985. Thankfully, Walt and Karen Worthy saved this historic hotel and restored it to its ultimate glory, allowing it to reopen in 2002. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this hotel features Spokane's oldest and most opulent ballrooms. When the hotel first opened it was the first hotel with air conditioning, a pipe organ, a central vacuuming system and housekeeping carts.
Just a handful of the famous guests who have stayed here include Bing Crosby, John F. Kennedy, Babe Ruth, Bob Hope, Amelia Earhart, 50 Cent, Taylor Swift, Tony Hawk, Cher, Debbie Reynolds, BB King, Kid Rock, Tracy Morgan and Ringo Star, among many others.
The Greenbrier - White Sulphur Springs, W.V.
Dubbed "America's Resort," this historic hotel located in the Allegheny Mountains is a National Historic Landmark that has been welcoming guests since 1778. It also has significant American history. Twenty-six of America's presidents have stayed here, along with numerous celebrities and royalty. During the Civil War, both sides occupied the property as a hospital and military headquarters. During World War II, the government used the hotel to relocate diplomats and as a 2,000-bed hospital. In the 1950s, the U.S. government again sought the historic hotel's assistance and asked them to secretly construct an emergency underground bunker or bomb shelter to be occupied by Congress in the case of war. The secret bunker sat at the ready for more than 30 years until it was uncovered by the press and decommissioned in 1992.
The Greenbrier sits on 11,000 acres and features 10 lobbies and 710 guestrooms and suites. The activities are endless here. Families can enjoy golf, tennis, archery, falconry, bowling, swimming, aerial ropes courses, biking, fishing, carriage rides, horseback riding, kayaking, paintball, whitewater rafting and so much more. Tours of the former bunker are also available so families can witness the history for themselves.
The Peabody Memphis - Memphis, Tenn.
The Peabody first opened in 1869 but a grander version of the historic hotel opened in 1925 at its current location at Union and 2nd streets in Memphis. A night at the hotel cost travelers $4, which included meals, and it featured gas-lit rooms and private bathrooms.
The tradition that the hotel is most well-known for began in 1933 when live mallard ducks were placed in the hotel's lobby fountain as a prank by unsuccessful duck hunters. Today, the March of the Peabody Ducks continues daily. Families are welcome to join the Duckmaster on an hour-long tour of the hotel, where they can learn all the stories of the ducks and the historic Peabody.
The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, Colo.
At the foothills of Rocky Mountain National Park, this historic hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and first opened in 1909. Inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley was from the East Coast and is said to have wanted a sophisticated hotel located in this small community, so he constructed it. The Stanley Hotel opened with electric lights, telephones and private bathrooms within the guestrooms. Automobiles were also available for guests to use. But it was Author Stephen King who brought the hotel back to life when it was fading in the 1970s. King was inspired to write the best-seller "The Shining" after staying at The Stanley for just one night. Today, families can stay in one of the 140 historic guestrooms or dare to stay in one of the haunted rooms. But have no fear, all of the guestrooms feature free Wi-Fi!
Hyatt at The Bellevue - Philadelphia, Pa.
Located in Philadelphia's Center City, this historic hotel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, opened in 1904 as the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. It was considered a luxury hotel with 1,090 guestrooms and lighting fixtures designed by Thomas Edison (which still exist today). Socialites, presidents and celebrities, like John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn and Theodore Roosevelt, were guests here over many decades. Today, there are 172 guestrooms at the Hyatt at The Bellevue, most of which still feature the high ceilings of yesteryear that would be unheard of in modern hotels. There is an indoor track and basketball court, numerous shops and a salon and spa inside this historic hotel, today.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel - Jekyll Island, Ga.
Jekyll Island was first established as a hunting club around 1879 and The Club, which was considered a retreat place for wealthy families, opened in 1888. Additional buildings and cottages were added a few years later. In 1915, the first transcontinental telephone call took place at Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The game of golf was shaped here in the 1920s when the use of a lighter ball was introduced and Great Dunes Golf Course was designed and is still considered one of the best courses in Georgia. The island was evacuated during World War II for fear of a coastal attack, but the opening of a new drawbridge in the late 1950s helped Jekyll Island to return to its glory. After years of neglect, The Club reopened in 1987 as a grand hotel with guestrooms, suites and cottages. Movies like the "Legend of Bagger Vance," "Glory" and "Live by Night" were all filmed on Jekyll Island. Today, families can easily enjoy time at the resort pool, the beach, the croquet lawn or bicycling around the grounds, much like the club members enjoyed decades ago.
The Majestic Yosemite Hotel - Yosemite National Park, Calif.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered a National Historic Landmark, The Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee) was commissioned in the 1920s to draw visitors to the majestic views of Yosemite National Park. Half Dome, Glacier Point and Yosemite Falls are all visible from this historic hotel. Families will delight in the stone fireplaces, handmade stained glass windows and hand-stenciled wooden beams. Kids will love checking out the old photographs of the vintage winter sports that fill the Winter Club Room, which happens to be open all year. Families can cozy up by the fire in the winter or swim in the rivers, lakes and outdoor pools in the summer, making this historic hotel an ideal place for families to stay. Historic hotel tours are also offered.
The Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island, Mich.
It is easy to be transported back in time when staying at The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, an island situated in Lake Huron in the north of Michigan, because no vehicles are permitted on the island. Guests walk, bike and take horse-drawn carriages when staying at this historic hotel for families. Grand Hotel, a National Historic Landmark, opened in 1887 when rates ran between $3 and $5 a night. But by 1919, rates had increased to $6 a day per person! However, the historic hotel was not fully air conditioned until 2007. Mark Twain gave a lecture at The Grand and movies "This Time for Keeps" and "Somewhere In Time" were filmed there.
Today, there are nearly 400 guestrooms and suites and no two rooms are alike in d?cor or theme. Children under 9 years old get to stay and eat free, too. One of the best traditions and perks to this historic hotel is that a full breakfast and a five-course dinner are included daily in most guestroom rates (sadly, for more than $6 a night). But that's an amenity that guests of any era would delight in.
Historic Anchorage Hotel - Anchorage, Alaska
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this historic hotel is located in downtown Anchorage. The Anchorage Hotel Annex was constructed in 1936 and connected to the original Anchorage Hotel by a skybridge across an alleyway. For decades the historic hotel was the only place in town that served meals on fine china. While the original hotel structure was eventually torn down, the Annex building remained until it too became neglected. However, new ownership in 1989 brought the Historic Anchorage Hotel back to life and it remains a landmark today. Will Rogers and Wiley Post have stayed there and Artist Sydney Laurence stayed in an apartment at the hotel and painted his Alaska scenes from a studio in the hotel lobby.
This historic hotel is also said to have an unwelcome guest who enjoys haunting the hotel. Former Anchorage Police Chief Jack Sturgus was shot in the back with a bullet form his own gun just outside the hotel in 1921 and the crime was never solved. According to hotel lure (and guest sightings), Sturgus is said to revisit the historic hotel seeking justice.
Our team of parents and travel experts chooses each product and service we recommend. Anything you purchase through links on our site may earn us a commission.