The World Best New Hotel Openings: Southern USA
We're kicking off 2021 by highlighting hotels that have opened under the shadow of a global pandemic. They did it against all odds (or to stick to long-held schedules), with full faith and fortitude. We applaud them and wish them all a long and healthy future, or at least one that's better than their inevitably rocky start.
You may notice that we are calling attention to the special initiatives, if any, that the hotels are doing around sustainability, inclusivity, and community-building. If we've learned anything this year, it's that we all need to be more accountable for and thoughtful about our behavior. To that end, we commit to being more responsible in our reporting, with the dual goals of helping us all make better travel decisions and to support the companies that do what they can to have a positive impact on the world.
Don't miss all our picks for the World's Best New Hotels in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. In the United States, we've broken down our favorite new hotels by region: the Northeast, the South, and the West.
White Elephant Palm Beach
Where: Palm Beach, Florida
Why We're Excited: In recent years, Palm Beach has gotten reams of press as the home of a certain presidential private club. Well, there's a new elephant in town, and this one is white instead of red, and it's definitely more welcoming and fun. White Elephant Palm Beach, the sister of White Elephant Nantucket, is located along main street two blocks from the ocean in a landmark hotel built in 1924. Its 32 rooms are spread on four floors around a central courtyard, designed in neutral tones and natural materials with pops of color. Modern art will be peppered throughout the rooms and in the private spaces.
Where: Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Why We're Excited: Whimsical and petite, Post House is a coastal tavern housed in a 17th-century building that was once a refuge for salty sailors returning into the ports of Charleston. The ground floor tavern and bar are paneled with wainscoting and vintage photographs, while the seven guest rooms are a cozy retreat for a weekend strolling the lazy streets and live oaks of the charming Old Village.
Feel-Good Factor: Post House opened in August as restaurants all over the city were struggling. The owners, keen to give back to the hospitality industry, launched their “A Night Off” campaign, offering local F&B leaders a complimentary — and much deserved — night stay and dinner on the house. They're continuing to implement the program throughout the winter on Monday evenings.
Where: Austin, Texas
Why We're Excited: Funky Texan hotel group Bunkhouse is at it again with a new hotel in Austin's popular South Congress neighborhood. The 89-room Magdalena pays homage to the local lake house ethos of the early 1970s, with lush grounds planted with native Texas flora and fauna and a series of elevated walkways, open corridors, treehouse-like structures, sunken swimming pool inspired by Barton Springs, and organic courtyards that float over sunken rain gardens. Photos from a '70s-era music venue owned by Willie Nelson will be displayed in rooms and common spaces, each with their own unique color palette. And while rock 'n' roll is on display in all Bunkhouse properties, Hotel Magdalena is the first with a dedicated outdoor event space with live music programming to come for future SXSW and Austin City Limits festivals.
Feel-Good Factor: Magdalena is the first hotel in North America constructed entirely from mass timber, a renewable and sustainable wood known for its lighter carbon footprint. The indoor/outdoor flow of the property utilizes the landscaping, and live oak trees to provide shade and manage the heat. "This approach is in stark contrast to the more typical approach in town of freezing cold air-conditioned spaces that sadly separate people from Austin’s fresh breezes, water elements, and beautiful live oak trees,” Bunkhouse's CEO Amar Lalvani tells Fathom. "Of course, the fact you can always be barefoot on the property and take a dip helps, too."
Where: Charleston, South Carolina
Why We're Excited: Nestled between the cobblestone streets and technicolor row houses in Charleston's historic district, this 212-room newcomer showcases the curiosities of its pre-Civil War mercantile history. Motown hints echo throughout in a sharable record collection (more than 500 and growing) and custom Crosley turntables in every room. An inner outdoor courtyard cozies up the space with a roaring fire pit and worn-in leather chairs arranged below trellises ripe with jasmine.
Feel-Good Factor: The hotel is partnering with Charleston Parks Conservancy to offer pop-up garden volunteering opportunities. The bar has a no-waste program, and each floor has complimentary sparkling and chilled water stations.
Where: New Orleans, Louisiana
Why We're Excited: Wrought-iron gates open onto the restored Victorian-era St. Charles Avenue mansion that's been converted into a 14-room boutique hotel in the heart of the city's charming uptown Garden District. The voodoo-chic atmosphere of New Orleans is on full display with dim lighting, dark wine-colored velvet, and an alligator-adorned red carpet that leads to the fourteen guest rooms arranged along winding corners. The hotel is full of surprises and curiosities: Armoires lead to hidden bathrooms; trick bookcases hide secret nooks. At nighttime, saddle up to the large horseshoe-shaped bar for pre-dinner cocktails, where the menu promises "libations for every occasion."
Rates from $319.
Where: Des Moines, Iowa
Why We're Excited: When your ambitious US road trip itinerary has you driving hours through the corn belt states, the 1913-revived Beaux-Arts bank-turned-boutique hotel shines like a beacon of light and a promise of a better night's sleep than a roadside motel. With original vaulted coffered ceilings, leather couches outfitted in greens and burgundy, and a dramatic 12-story main staircase, the 137-key hotel preserves the fashion and nostalgia for 1920s American opulence with a mid-century twist. An in-house tavern with rich wood walls and leather banquets serves a meat-forward menu that can be washed down with a flight of whiskey and local brews. Outside the tavern, a large outdoor courtyard glows from a bespoke neon sign reading "City of Certainties," Des Moines' early 20th-century nickname that heralds good things for the 21st.
HALL Arts Hotel
Where: Dallas, Texas
Why We're Excited: This newcomer arrived in grand Texas style at the hands of owners and local philanthropists Craig and Kathryn Hall, who bought the land decades ago and spent years perfecting the plan and developing the surrounding Arts District, the largest contiguous arts district in the US. The rooms and public spaces here are at once high-tech and art-filled, with room furnishings and fixtures in many shades of white, the better to let the art stand out. Two curators (one of whom Kathryn met when she served as President Clinton’s ambassador to Austria) oversee a rotating collection from emerging and established artists. Ellie’s, the primary in-house restaurant, was named for Craig’s mother and serves Napa cuisine, including their HALL Winery wines.
Rates from $215.
The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park
Where: El Paso, Texas
Why We're Excited: Before Hilton became a global chain, Conrad Hilton had to open his first hotels. In 1930, this was his eighth, and his first high-rise. Today, after an extensive twelve-year renovation at the hands of a local businessman, the 130-room hotel has been thoroughly modernized with many references to its history: The brass elevators are still inscribed with the Hilton motto "Across the Nation," and the leather seen throughout give nod to the fact that the hotel was built during the Great Depression when the cattle trade kept the hotel alive. Striking visual accents include the restored stained glass in the ceiling on the mezzanine, a chandelier in the double-height lobby, ceramic plates made by contemporary artists in the style of pieces from the 1500s-1700s. The menu at Mexican restaurant Ámbar reflects the cuisines of twin cities El Paso and Ciudad Juarez and serves 650 tequilas. La Perla, the rooftop bar, was named for the pearl Elizabeth Taylor, who lived in this space when it was the penthouse she shared with Nicky Hilton.
Rates from $209.
Quirk Hotel Charlottesville
Where: Charlottesville, Virginia
Why We're Excited: There's nothing old-fashioned about this 80-room boutique newcomer in Charlottesville's historic district. What does abound is contemporary artwork, everywhere from installations in the public space to custom hand-painted headboards in the rooms to the two-level in-house gallery that will showcase local and national artists. The pastel game is strong here, lending a serene and relaxing feel throughout. Also on site are a gym, a restaurant, a cafe, and a bar specializing in barrel-aged spirits.
Rates from $179.
The Kimpton Pittman Hotel
Where: Dallas, Texas
Why We're Excited: The first hotel to open in the buzzy Deep Ellum neighborhood is a smart re-imagining of the 1916 Knights of Pythias Temple building that was designed by the hotel's namesake, African-American architect William Sidney Pittman, and served as a cultural center for the African-American community at the time. Rooms are minimalist in design with occasional orange and green accents, the better to showcase the artwork. The seasonal American restaurant Elm & Good is overseen by award-winning local chef Graham Dodds.
Rates from $210.
Highlander Mountain House
Where: Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina
Why We're Excited: The cozy 18-room inn's deep cultural ties to nearby Black Mountain College shed light on its electric design perspective and art collection — Josef and Anni Albers, the de Koonings, Robert Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, and John Cage are just some of the creatives who studied there. HMH resides on sacred grounds of the Cherokee Nation, and a vast network of woodsy trails, streams, and waterfalls provide an opportunity to connect with the land. Other Appalachian influences include rustic cabin bunkhouses (separate from the 150-year-old house) and an all-day tavern showcasing regionally influenced dishes and ingredients from Blue Ridge growers.