Enjoy tales of yesteryear, inspired architecture, and a good night’s sleep in five hotels in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Jackson, and Honolulu.
San Francisco (1875, reopened 1909)
Everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to Whoopi Goldberg has slept here over the years. The 553-room grande dame rose phoenix-like from the 1906 post-quake firestorm that leveled its first incarnation. For the 1909 reopening, Maxfield Parrish commanded a fee of $6,000 for his 16-foot-long painting The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which still hangs in the bar but is now valued at $2.7 million. The site of the original horse-and-carriage entrance underwent a remarkable transformation: Now a restaurant known as the Garden Court, the vast space with marble columns, a soaring glass ceiling, and gilded chandeliers dripping in Austrian crystal is a favorite spot for afternoon tea and Sunday brunch.
George Heathman had already built one hotel named after himself, and he figured that the New Heathman Hotel (the original name of this 10-story take on a classical Italian palazzo) would wow a town flush with timber and rail money. He was right. Now an anchor of the downtown Cultural District, the Heathman takes its art seriously. About 350 works—from pieces by Portland artist Robert Calvo to Andy Warhol’s Endangered Species silk screen print series—grace the hotel’s public spaces and each of the 150 guest rooms. In the Tea Court, you can sip Darjeeling (or something stronger) amid richly polished eucalyptus paneling, crystal chandeliers, and 18th-century French landscape paintings.
Mayflower Park Hotel
Even cocktails come with a splash of history at this 12-story downtown beauty inspired by the Italian Renaissance and boasting ornate terra-cotta detailing. Seattle’s first hotel cocktail bar, the Carousel Room, opened here in 1949. And with the repeal of blue laws in 1976, the watering hole that replaced it—Oliver’s Lounge—became Washington’s first so-called daylight bar, whose sidewalk-level, floor-to-ceiling windows allowed minors a previously forbidden glimpse of drinks being mixed inside. Today, the hotel’s small but elegant lobby holds a 1780 grandfather clock and an 1810 English Regency mahogany breakfront, and the mezzanine boasts two stained-glass panels, one of which is emblazoned with B for Bergonian, the inn’s original name.
Jackson, Wyo. (1941)
Don’t be fooled by architecture reminiscent of Shakespeare’s England: This two-story, 59-room property is a true slice of the West. The red rocks of its exterior were quarried locally by the first owners—a pair of homesteader’s sons who helped introduce tourism to Jackson Hole—and its pine-paneled interior bursts with Western-themed art. Poker games with illegal gambling once convened in the Silver Dollar Bar, where you’ll find 2,032 Morgan silver dollars from the Denver mint embedded in the curvy, 46-foot-long counter. Pressure to end gambling drove the games underground to a now defunct basement room known as the Snake Pit.
Royal Hawaiian, Waikiki
Reigning over 11 acres of Waikiki beachfront once frequented by Hawaiian monarchs, the Spanish-Moorish “Pink Palace of the Pacific” was built in pre–air travel times for well-heeled passengers arriving by ocean liner. Strolling the tropical gardens or lanais, you can picture Shirley Temple strumming a ukulele while vacationing here in the 1930s or old-time guests pulling up in a Rolls-Royce with servants in tow. The royal connection endures, too: A trust founded by the Kamehameha dynasty’s heir owns the land beneath the hotel.
Photography courtesy of Palace Hotel (Garden Court and Pied Piper); by Robbie McClaran  (Heathman); Janine (Royal Hawaiian); courtesy Mayflower Park Hotel (lobby); courtesy of Wort Hotel (Wort bar)
For a list of historic hotels with must-see bars, check out Christopher's blog Historic Hotels: Belly up to the Bar .
This article was first published in July 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.