New Orleans, Louisiana
Urban Eclectic, $ ($119)
"Go big or go home" is the kind of philosophy visitors live by when they're in New Orleans for the weekend. It's also an apt exhortation for the International House, a 117-room hotel a few blocks from the French Quarter in a Beaux Arts building that was once the first world trade center in existence (1906) and then the first boutique hotel in NOLA (1998). The hotel's design is a wild mix of influences from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean: Swarovski crystal chandeliers, Byzantine brocade, Italian tile mosaics, a Walga throne from the Ivory coast, a Senegalese fertility bed, and a whole lot of tufted velvet.
Oh, but there's more (of course), in the form of a ten-by-ten, 1,600-pound wall with a BANKSY mural from when the graffiti artist tagged the city during a 2008 visit. It took a Herculean effort to salvage and move the mural, which was found on the exterior of a dilapidated warehouse owned by the hotelier. Today, anyone visiting the city can check it out up close.
Additionally, the hotel celebrates seven local rituals throughout the year — Mardi Gras, St. Joseph's Day, Summer Dress, St. John's Eve, Winter Dress, and All Souls' Day — which the hotel brings to life through lavish lobby displays and themed happenings, proving the International House's determination to root itself deep into New Orleans' core.
At a Glance
Vibe: A little bit of everything for everyone from everywhere.
Standout Detail: The ten-by-ten, 1,600-pound Banksy wall mural is a unique acquisition. But the Seven Rituals really takes hotel lobby culture to the next level. Find mirrors and portraits of deceased celebrities draped in black sheers for All Soul's Day; on St. John's Eve, the holiest of Voodoo days, a priestess performs sacramental offerings with head washings in the lobby, where there is also drumming, spiritual chalk drawings, and a papier-mâché altar.
This Place Is Perfect For: Design maximalists and street art enthusiasts on a budget.
Rooms: 117 rooms, suites, and penthouses are all over the pop culture spectrum, celebrating the rich and varied style of contemporary New Orleans and its inhabitants. Some are subdued, quiet, and face the sculpture garden. Others have patios, Mississippi River views, and theatrical decor. There's a lot of wrought iron, velvet, and over-the-top chandeliers. Other notable details include Apple TVs, soaking tubs, wide plank pine floors, extravagant ottomans, Fortuny panels, and wraparound terraces.
On Site: 24-hour concierge, fitness center, a cocktail bar, and the Banksy mural.
Food + Drink: In Voodoo, "loa" translates to "spirits" — and bar Loa has every intention of summoning the cocktail deities. A big, hand-sculpted light fixture, made to look like a nocturnal garden filled with fireflies, hangs over velvet settees and a sofa in the round. Cocktails devised by "spirit handler" Alan Walter are mixed behind an apothecary-like bar (there's even a butane camp stove for making proprietary syrups and potions).
Covid Notes: Masks and social distancing are in the house. All cleaning practices follow CDC guidelines and include EPA-approved materials. High-performance filters increase air circulation.
Go big or go home, right? Check out all the live music that you can, all the museums that you can (you're right in the neighborhood), and all the cocktails that you can. Sazerac House does fun tours and tastings. Willa Jean's gorgeous breakfast pastries are worth every extra calorie. (You can always load up on veggies at the Saturday Crescent City Farmer's Market beforehand.) Eat a sandwich from Cochon Butcher. Get a reading of your past and future at Island of Salvation Botanica. Book tix for a jazz show at Little Gem Saloon. Put on your dancing shoes and go marching in.