12 Best Hotels Around the South | Listen

By: The Local Palate

Some new, some renovated, all style: These are the hotels we’re checking into around the South

Best Recently Renovated Hotels

The Mills House one of 12 best hotels in the South

The Mills House | Charleston

Charleston’s famed pink hotel is back to its original 1850s grandeur thanks to a sweeping, multimillion-dollar renovation completed in 2022. Check in near the front entrance inside the library-like lobby before scoping out the all-female roster of artists that now grace the walls throughout the building. Near the entrance, the Black Door Café provides an all-day cafe and market for lattes and chicken biscuits in the morning or grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps throughout the day. The new Iron Rose sports a lounge-like bar space and seating on a stone patio—head here for upscale American fare and expertly mixed cocktails. Upstairs, the rooms have seen a serious upgrade, with clean, modern lines and black-and-white decor; the rooftop pool feels like a garden oasis—large, second-floor cabana rooms open directly to the pool deck.

Don’t miss: The hotel hosts a “Casual Crabbing with Tia” amenity during which groups of 10 can venture into the Lowcountry waters to crab alongside with local expert Tia Clark; the “Cook Your Catch” add-on allows you to feast on the day’s haul.

Hotel Washington, one of 12 best hotels in the South

Hotel Washington | Washington DC

First opened in 1917, the newly rebranded Hotel Washington reclaims its original name while showing off swanky modern interiors against a backdrop of beaux-arts architecture. Guest rooms feature original art along with Brooklyn artist/designer Amit Greenberg’s cherry blossom headboards; premier suites boast his stunning floor-to-ceiling murals. Enjoy productivity in the lobby’s work spaces or relaxation in its cocktail seating areas under the signature arches and mirrored ceiling that echo the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. From a new open-fire-kitchen restaurant, Fireclay, to outdoor dining on the Patio and breathtaking views of the White House and the Washington Monument from VUE Rooftop bar, Hotel Washington offers a stay of national sophistication.

Don’t miss: The Latin-inspired menu at VUE Rooftop offers dishes like lobster, mango, and avocado salad with mango tajín dressing or Maryland crab cakes with basil cream and a shallot vinaigrette.

The Gibson Inn one of 12 best hotels in the South

The Gibson Inn | Apalachicola, Florida

Siblings Katharine Etchen Couillard and Steven Etchen grew up vacationing in Apalachicola at the Gibson Inn. On a family trip as adults, they learned that the circa-1907 property was for sale, and they purchased it in 2018 with the goal of restoring it. Despite setbacks from Hurricane Michael and a temporary closure due to Covid, during which all servers and staff were kept on the payroll and helped with renovation, the Etchens have outfitted the entire establishment to reflect what they term “mid-century colonial eclectic,” and the overall result is an embodiment of the hotel’s catchphrase: “The New Old Florida.” They added 15 rooms and suites, for a total of 45, with unique touches in each, from a marsh-side mural to an original steamer trunk. The updated Parlor Bar, featuring a custom oyster-shell-quartz bar top, serves handcrafted cocktails and rum flights to go with the seasonal, seafood-focused menu from the hotel’s restaurant, the Franklin Café.

Don’t miss: The entirely new billiards room is presided over by the taxidermy alligator, Jean-Pierre.

The Carolina Inn

The Carolina Inn | Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Known as the University’s Living Room since 1924, the Carolina Inn provides warm and refined hospitality in the heart of downtown Chapel Hill. The Georgian-style building blends right into the surrounding campus—the only way you know it’s not meant for students is the age of those coming and going through its doors. (Valet service is another good indication.) Step into the foyer to be greeted by the scent of fresh-cut floral arrangements and warm chocolate chip cookies served to guests upon check-in. Antique fixtures and art from the inn’s early years complement the breezy decor of its latest renovations, which were completed in spring 2023. Settle into one of the 185 guest rooms or hang out in the Carolina Blue (it’s Tar Heel territory, after all) armchairs surrounding the fire pits on the terrace. On any given day, you’ll find hotel guests and folks from around the community gathered at the on-site restaurant, Crossroads, for elevated presentations of regionally sourced Southern fare served from breakfast to dinner and all points in between.  

Don’t miss: Sunday brunch features a weekend feast to combat whatever fun you got into on Franklin Street the night before, from an omelet bar and waffle station to spreads of fine cheeses, pastries, and other brunch goodies.

Starlight Motor Inn one of 12 best hotels in the South
Image courtesy of Lizzy Rollins

Starlight Motor Inn | North Charleston, South Carolina

The Starlight had the character; Ham Morrison and Walker Lamond had the vision. They enlisted the talents of local designer Alyssa Demilio, and the result is a revitalized 51-room motel minutes away from both downtown Charleston and Riverfront Park. Added touches like Justina Blakeney wallpaper, vintage poster prints, photos of retro celebs, or turquoise appliances are unique to each room, with an offering of king or double queen options, some adjoining for traveling families, plus five luxury-hostel-style, four-bunk rooms overlooking the outdoor pool. The hotel offers a contactless check-in, but for added personality, manager Hank Wharton makes sure guests are welcomed with The Johnny Carson Show on their in-room TV. Plans are underway to bring in a kitchen program for room and bar service, but for now you can enjoy food trucks and the newly opened King BBQ just up the street.

Don’t miss: Even if you’re not a guest, day passes are available for the pool, and Wharton lines up live music every Thursday night in the upstairs Burgundy Lounge, which gives off old school pool hall vibes.

Hillbrook Inn one of 12 best hotels in the South

Hillbrook Inn | Hillbrook, West Virginia

This Bavarian-style house sits on George Washington’s first land purchase, just a short drive from Harpers Ferry. Built on a sloping hill, the house “climbs” with the terrain, with rooms leveling up as you move across the premises. The property boasts a variety of stays. Settle into one of the six suites within the main house, each boasting views of rolling hills and manicured grounds (you’ll likely see the neighboring horses pony up to the fence in the mornings). Or follow the gravel path that leads away from the main house to the newly renovated suites within the Hillbrook’s Cottage and Gatehouse, each outfitted with a gas fireplace, living room, Keurig, and secluded porch and patio. The Hillbrook also has two off-property spots, the Hawthorn House and the Hillbrook Farmhouse, each with a few suites and corresponding on-site kitchens and dining rooms.

Don’t miss: Each guest’s stay includes a full breakfast. Pick a cozy spot in the dining room, and order one of the assorted Dammann Frères teas to go with a warm quinoa bowl or bananas Foster-style crepes.

Crossroads Inn exterior
Image by Sera Petras

Crossroads Inn | Charlottesville, Virginia

Tucked away in the rolling hills just 20 minutes from the University of Virginia, the circa-1820s cottage and inn lets you stay at a working farm and winery. In 2022, the Easton Porter Group acquired the inn, making it the official on-site accommodations at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards. French farmhouse feels run deep in this hillside retreat with a foot-trodden trail leading to the nearby vineyards, bench swings under the massive oak trees, and a henhouse neighboring the rustic inn. Colonial elements accent the five rooms and two-storied guest house—exposed wooden beams in the ceiling, brick-lined walls, and neutral linens matching the cream-and-mahogany color palette. All rooms are outfitted with Nespresso machines, mini refrigerators, and plenty of wine glasses (are you sensing a theme here?), but the kitchen is well-stocked with additional coffee, hot tea, fresh juices, and other refreshments.

Don’t miss: Enjoy free rein of the property. Mosey through vineyards toward the main house and take a seat overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains with a glass of Wild Acre Reserve cab franc blend in hand.

Secret Garden at The Kimpton Brice

The Kimpton Brice | Savannah, Georgia

The building that houses the Kimpton Brice was many things before becoming a hotel—a livery stable and a Coca-Cola bottling plant among them—and the latest redesign, which wrapped up in spring 2023, honors elements of that history. The complete refresh has given the guest rooms, lobby, and public spaces a new look and feel, meant to draw you in with moments of Southern hospitality. Cozy seating, iron rod artwork, and books and objects on display fill the now-intimate lobby with places to linger and socialize—a mobile beverage cabinet comes out and transforms the space each day for Social Hour. All 145 rooms, including 25 suites, were newly outfitted with a gray-and-white color palette that pops with bits of fuschia and green against natural wood-like flooring. The on-site restaurant Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar is where to head for craveable dishes like Mediterranean flatbreads and spaghetti carbonara.

Don’t miss: The pool terrace is a private escape with chaise lounge chairs and striped umbrellas, but we also love the Secret Garden just beyond the lobby for a place to sip and snack between meals.

The Madison one of 12 best hotels in the South

The Madison | Washington DC

The capital city’s first luxury hotel (when it was built in 1963) pays homage to both President James Madison and his wife, First Lady Dolley Madison. Its 2019 renovation brought in details like a wall that mirrors the crack of a painting, highlighting the moment when Dolley saved several pieces of art when the White House was attacked by the British. Other touches can be found throughout, including nods to her favorite pet, a parrot. The colonial-style rooms are elegantly contemporary now, and many feature terraces looking out over the city’s presidential sites. Lady Madison is the on-site restaurant, revamped with a strong cocktail program (Dolley was known to throw a good mixer) and regional dishes like Maryland-style crab cakes and wings doused in mumbo sauce.

Don’t miss: The elegant, modern lobby is set with plenty of both communal and private seating space; for a quick bite, pick up snacks and drinks from the on-site Market Place and park yourself in a corner for some discreet DC people watching.

Best Newly Opened Hotels

The Manchester one of 12 best hotels in the South
Image courtesy of Matt Kisiday

The Manchester | Lexington, Kentucky

On the site of the first registered distillery in Kentucky now stands Lexington’s first true luxury accommodation. Hoteliers Nik Feldman and Hank Morris wanted to offer a sophisticated experience to match what they love most about Lexington—horses and bourbon. Dining from husband-wife chefs Karl and Paula Lowe, formerly of Roots in Jonesboro, Arkansas, includes elevated Appalachian cuisine at Granddam on the main floor. Expect items like biscuit benny with Kentucky trout lox on the breakfast menu and confit rabbit ravioli at dinner, with local culinary partners identified on each menu. Then there’s the cocktail list, which includes the most sophisticated julep you’ve probably ever come across. The entire space is a glorious curation of bold clean lines and dramatic, moody luxury with details that reference the history of the Bluegrass State. In addition to the usual king and queen guestrooms, they’ve added the quad: a room that sleeps four in full-sized bunk beds, perfect for a long weekend with your besties.

Don’t miss: Take the elevator up for drinks and a seafood tower at Lost Palm, the art deco rooftop cabana inspired by Kentucky’s racing connection to South Florida.

Inside a suite at the Fire Station One Boutique Hotel

Fire Station One Boutique Hotel | Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke’s original fire station opened in spring 2023, reimagined as a chic, Scandi-inspired destination in the heart of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. While the hotel now looks more like a design darling of Architectural Digest, each of the seven rooms and communal areas align with the style of the historic fire station. Three of the original brass fire poles extend from the ceiling (and no, you can’t use them), and the front staircase still wraps tightly in an angular spiral, a design originally meant to deter the station’s horses from coming upstairs. Black-and-white framed pictures of the station’s crews hang on the walls, a tribute to the people who served Roanoke’s community for more than a century. Plush beds, a workstation, and armchairs designed by locally based upcycle-design brand Txtur pair well with the rooms’ soaring ceilings and cozy lighting. The first floor is home to Txtur’s showroom, which shares its space with Stock Café & Bar, a Nordic-influenced kitchen helmed by chef Jeff Farmer who whips up mountain trout, locally raised beef steaks, and desserts like lingonberry profiteroles.

Don’t miss: The Stock board, a seasonally changing smorgasbord of house-smoked, pickled, and cured fish; cheeses; shatteringly thin bagel crackers; housemade cornichons; and whole-grain mustard.

The Restoration one of 12 best hotels in the South

The Restoration | Asheville, North Carolina

Downtown Asheville’s newest boutique hotel pays homage to the mountain city in a luxe, art-driven space outfitted with three dining options. From the library-esque communal area to the rooftop restaurant and bar and underground speakeasy, the Restoration provides plenty of communal space. The team behind the sister concept to the Charleston-based property worked with a local artist to fashion each floor in the likeness of one of the city’s neighborhoods—just look for the artwork on the walls. Catch golden hour from the Observatory Bar on the rooftop. If the mountain chill sets in, retreat downstairs to the fire pits. Come dinnertime, feast on seasonal, locavore fare at the Exchange Restaurant + Bar: End with a nightcap at the prohibition-inspired the Draftsman Bar + Lounge before heading upstairs to bed.

Don’t miss: Breakfast treats come delivered in petite blue picnic baskets left outside each guest’s room.

On the Road

12 Historic Southern Hotels

From eighteenth-century mansions to swanky, Prohibition-era hotels, all of these destinations have been refurbished and updated with plenty of amenities for a modern-day traveler.

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