Bucket List-Worthy Hotels
Everyone has a different idea of what quantifies a hotel as being bucket list-worthy, but what the hotels on this list share are unexpected, over-the-top or one-of-a-kind experiences that won’t be forgotten any time soon. From underwater bedrooms to snow igloos, these hotels offer something for everyone’s bucket list.
The Manta Resort, Pemba Island, TanzaniaManta Resort is a remote retreat off the east coast of Africa on the remote Pemba Island. What it lacks in 5-star luxury it compensates for in terms of providing a true Robinson Crusoe-type getaway. To be fair, personal butler service is included, so guests aren’t exactly roughing it. However, the true star is a 3-level structure that functions as its own private island. It may look unassuming from above ground, but its secret is an underwater bedroom where you can spot trumpet fish by day, and elusive squid at night. 960 1280
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, KenyaThis luxurious boutique hotel in East Africa is worth a visit in its own right, but the true lure is the herd of Rothschild Giraffes that roam freely on its 12 acres. Although don’t despair about seeing one: giraffes often stick their heads through the manor’s tall windows in search of treats. (Yes, you can feed them, too.) 960 1280
Ashford Castle, Cong, IrelandSet on 350 acres, this sprawling 13th-century castle is the place to channel Downton Abbey fantasies. On-site activities include a falconry school (the ancient art of handling and flying hawks) and an afternoon tea that would make the royal family proud. Ashford recently completed a $75 million renovation, which restored the interior, including 82 rooms and suites, to its original splendor. It also added a plush 32-seat movie theater and full-service spa. 960 1280
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai, UAEThe distinctive sail-shaped structure of Burj Al Arab has become synonymous with Dubai’s reputation for over-the-top luxury. It bills itself as the most luxurious hotel in the world, and lives up to the title with four swimming pools, nine restaurants and bars, a private beach, personal butler service, and use of a gold iPad for the duration of the stay. There’s also a 2-level spa, helipad and rental cars -- of the Aston Martin variety. Or simply opt to see the sights via a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. 960 1280
Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, IndiaFrom the traditional boat that transports guests across Lake Pichola, to the domed architecture that conjures Arabian Nights, Oberoi Udaivilas is as close as it gets to a real life fairy tale. The 50-acre grounds include a wildlife sanctuary, manicured gardens and an 18th-century palace. Many rooms are outfitted with private or semi-private pools, while activities include everything from yoga and cooking classes to a 4-hour elephant safari. 960 1280
Icehotel, Jukkasjärvi, SwedenKnown as the world’s first ice hotel, the Icehotel in the Arctic Circle is made entirely from snow and ice and rebuilt anew every December. All of the rooms include fur blankets and polar sleeping bags, while deluxe suites have the added benefit of a heated bathroom and sauna, along with a (non-ice) mattress on top of the ice bed. All suites are also individually decorated with ice carvings and sculptures by a small number of carefully selected artists. Depending on one’s needs, there’s also an ice chapel and ice bar on the property. 960 1280
Aman Venice, Venice, ItalyThe Aman Venice claims prime real estate on the Grand Canal, just minutes from the famous Rialto Bridge. This 16th-century palazzo is also where George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin got married, and you can even stay in the same suite they did. The romantic Alcova Tiepolo suite embodies old-world Venice, and is a wonderland of frescoes by 18th-century artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, marble fireplaces and silk wallpaper. The ornate hotel also features two private gardens and a spa, but the real highlight is the unbeatable view. 960 1280
The Shangri-La Hotel, ParisParis has no shortage of opulent hotels, but the 5-star Shangri-La distinguishes itself by offering Instagram-ready views of the Eiffel Tower -- which there are no shortage of on Instagram -- particularly from the top-floor suite. This Shangri-La property (the first in Europe) also boasts two Michelin-starred restaurants. 960 1280
Treehotel, Harads, SwedenChildhood fantasies of living in a tree fort are realized at this creative take on the tree house. There are only 6 tree houses to choose from, and each has a distinctive look, from a bird’s nest to a UFO. As one would hope, the only way to enter each one is by ladder or rope bridge. Creature comforts, including a bathroom, are part of each eco-friendly lodging. The Mirrorcube is especially fascinating since its mirrored surface functions as the perfect camouflage for a true tree house getaway. 960 1280
Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai, ThailandFrom a distance, Dhara Dhevi in Northern Thailand appears to be a temple village, sporting gleaming white buildings tipped with golden spires. Closer inspection reveals a 60-acre resort village, whose architecture is a careful blend of ancient palaces, traditional Lanna culture and the more recent colonial era. Its landscaped grounds offer a myriad of reasons to stay forever: a sprawling 33,000-square-foot spa; eight restaurants and bars; an extensive library; and even shopping and arts and crafts villages. 960 1280
Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland, CanadaGetting to this remote hotel off the coast of Newfoundland is part of the adventure. Its stark minimalist design is in keeping with the stark landscape, and the minimalism continues inside, with handcrafted pieces and floor-to-ceiling windows designed to showcase the landscape. There’s an award-wining restaurant on site, along with a gym, library and art gallery, but otherwise the hotel is meant for relaxing and enjoying nature. Depending on the season, guests can go berry picking or gaze at the crystal clear stars during a bonfire. 960 1280
Hotel Kakslauttanen, Saariselkä, FinlandLocated in the Arctic Circle, Hotel Kakslauttanen offers a variety of accommodations, from cozy log cabins with fireplaces and saunas, to snow igloos, to traditional Lapland-style houses. However, for a truly bucket list experience, and to guarantee a front-row seat for the Northern Lights show (which happens from August to April), opt for a glass-enclosed igloo. The temperature-controlled igloos sleep two to four, and best of all, come equipped with basic bathroom facilities and a sauna. 960 1280
The Plaza Hotel, NYCThe century-old Plaza Hotel has been featured in countless movies and hosted an endless parade of legendary guests and legendary parties. It also lays stake to one of the most exclusive addresses in the city at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South. Nowadays it has plenty of competition, and even though it’s a National Historic Landmark, The Plaza isn’t resting on its laurels. In recent years it’s poured $12 million into restoring the Grand Ballroom (where Truman Capote hosted his renowned “Black & White Ball”), and added a number of suites, including one devoted to all things Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald was a former resident). 960 1280
Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai, IndiaCompleted in 1903, the lavish Taj Mahal Palace is one of India’s most iconic hotels. Guests have included a who’s who of celebrities, royalty and political leaders. The hotel’s unofficial motto is “the guest is god,” and as such staff go out of their way to accommodate requests. In fact, rooms in the historic palace wing include access to round-the-clock butler service. 960 1280
Ladera Resort, Soufriere, St. LuciaAt this eco-friendly resort, all of the open-air rooms have just three walls, so as not to miss a minute of the spectacular Piton mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides the views, each luxurious room also has its own private plunge pool, while some suites even have a bench swing and two levels. 960 1280
Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, ThailandWhile it has the words “tented camp” in the name, this is not roughing it. Perched in the trees, these tented rooms in the middle of a bamboo jungle offer luxe bedding, hardwood floors, Wi-Fi, a copper bathtub, outdoor rain shower, and even air conditioning. Even better, Four Seasons Tented Camp works with an elephant sanctuary, so daily elephant interactions, such as bathing and feeding, are part of the experience. 960 1280
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, MaldivesThe Conrad Maldives is what many have in mind when they imagine overwater bungalows in a tropical setting. While the Conrad is indeed known for its upscale bungalows (including two overwater spas), visitors come in droves for Ithaa Undersea. The glass-enclosed restaurant, located 16 feet below the surface, is accessed via a spiral staircase. Make reservations well in advance. 960 1280
Ford's TheatreFive days after the Civil War ended, Abraham Lincoln arrived at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, to see an evening performance of a popular play. In the third act, John Wilkes Booth entered the president’s box and shot him in the back of the head. Today, see the restored theatre -- and hear a recounting of that fateful night -- by a National Park Service ranger.
Location: Washington, DC 960 1280
George Washington Memorial ParkwayThe DC area isn’t exactly known for recreational driving; the GW Parkway is the exception. From north to south (and vice versa), the parkway offers a scenic, nearly 40-mile drive alongside the nation’s capital. Enjoy the view of woods and forests, the same land that George Washington would have traveled on horseback.
Locations: Virginia, Washington, DC 960 1280
Frederick Douglass HouseBorn into slavery, Frederick Douglass went on to become the most influential abolitionist of his day. In 1877, with years of public service behind him, Douglass settled into this home in the Washington, DC, area of Anacostia. Douglass lived in the hilltop home, which he called Cedar Hill, until his death in 1895.
Location: Washington, DC 960 1280
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical ParkFor nearly 100 years, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal carried resources such as coal and wood to communities along the Potomac River – including Georgetown in Washington, DC. Today, enjoy a canal boat ride. Also hike, camp, kayak, bicycle and canoe in the surrounding national historical park, which spans nearly 185 miles.
Location: Washington, DC, into Maryland and West Virginia 960 1280
Harpers FerryThe town of Harpers Ferry is located at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers. But what really put the town on the map was John Brown’s raid: In 1859, the fervent abolitionist led a group of 21 men in a raid upon a weapons arsenal. See where the 36-hour raid began and ended, with Brown’s capture at the armory fire engine house.
Location: 50 miles from DC, 80 miles from Baltimore 960 1280
Hampton National Historic SiteFor 7 generations, the Ridgley family called this Georgian mansion home. Today, visitors can tour the 62-acre estate, located north of Baltimore, to see one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in America. Equally captivating is a tour of the slave quarters; Hampton was one of Maryland’s largest slave-holding estates.
Location: Baltimore County, MD 960 1280
Antietam National BattlefieldThe bloodiest 1-day battle in US history happened in Sharpsburg, MD, in 1862 when Union forces began a 12-hour artillery bombardment of Confederate positions. For a time, a small number of Confederate soldiers held their ground on this bridge, far past the predictions of Union General Ambrose Burnside (for whom this bridge would later be named).
Location: 65 miles from Baltimore, 70 miles from DC 960 1280
Captain John Smith Historic TrailGlide along the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, the nation's largest estuary, just as English explorer John Smith did between 1607 and 1609. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail extends 3,000 miles along the bay and its tributaries in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.
Location: Delaware, Maryland, Virginia & DC 960 1280
Oxon Hill FarmExperience farm life at Oxon Cove Park and Oxon Hill Farm. The 289 acres, located in Prince George’s County, MD, include a barn, stable, feed building and livestock buildings for cows, horses and chickens. The farm’s centerpiece is Mount Welby, a 2-story brick structure built in the early 1800s by Irish immigrant Dr. Samuel DeButts. The farm was entrusted to the National Park Service in 1959.
Location: Less than 1 hour from DC, 1 hour from Baltimore 960 1280
Old Stone HouseThis house has been standing longer than America's been a country. Built in 1765, this 3-story home was constructed in several phases during the 18th century. Today, the home, which belonged for a time to an upper-middle-class family, endures in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood as the oldest unchanged building in the nation’s capital.
Location: M Street in DC's Georgetown neighborhood 960 1280
Baltimore National Heritage AreaAs the name implies, Baltimore National Heritage Area is rich in history. Encompassing the Baltimore area, NHA attractions include the star-shaped Fort McHenry (pictured here), best-known for its role in the War of 1812, as well as Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods such as Federal Hill, Fell’s Point and Mount Vernon (to the north of downtown Baltimore).
Location: An hour's drive from DC 960 1280
Who knew? The president of the United States lives in a national park. Every president since John Adams has called the White House home. The 6-story, 132-room home, in the style of an Irish country manor, is part of the 18-acre grounds we know as President’s Park. Want to tour the White House? Make your request to your member of Congress 6 months in advance.
Location: View of Truman Balcony and Ellipse from Constitution Avenue960 1280
Kenilworth Park and Aquatic GardensDiscover nature in the heart of the city. Encompassing 700 acres, Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens is located in the northeastern corner of Washington, DC, and the Maryland state border. Its position by the Anacostia River provides fertile ground for a variety of flora and fauna, as well as ponds topped with water lilies and lotus flowers. The park also contains DC's only remaining tidal marsh.
Location: Northeastern corner of Washington, DC 960 1280
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic TrailPay a visit to Dumbarton House, a Federal-style house in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. The home, which was completed around 1800, is part of the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. The 290-mile route connects key sites and players in the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812, including forts, battlefields and nature preserves.
Location: Visit any of 60 Chesapeake Bay Gateway along the trail 960 1280
Clara Barton HouseAmerica’s most famous nurse lived here. The Clara Barton House in Glen Echo, MD, is where American humanitarian and Red Cross founder Clara Barton lived the last 15 years of her life. The large wood-frame house sits on 9 acres, and includes more than 35 rooms; it also served as the early headquarters of the American Red Cross.
Location: 2 miles northwest of Washington, DC 960 1280
Located in Miami's business district, the Four Seasons is known for its expansive rooftop terrace. Escape from the heat in one of the 2 rooftop pools, which take up about 2 acres of space. Guests also have free access to the Sports Club/LA in the building. Read the Four Seasons Hotel's review 960 1280
Located in the heart of downtown Miami, the Hyatt Regency is a great value for business travelers. The hotel has an adjoining convention center, a 24-hour gym, a small pool and plenty of meeting rooms. Read the Hyatt Regency's review 960 1280
The JW Marriott, located in the financial district, features spotlessly clean rooms, a new fitness center, great service, a large pool and a business center. Read the JW Marriott's review 960 1280
The Mandarin is located on gorgeous Brickell Key, a tiny island off the coast of Miami. The hotel has incredible 360-degree views of downtown, South Beach and the Atlantic ocean. Although the pool is nothing to write home about, the hotel has an upscale spa and a state-of-the art fitness center. Read the Mandarin Oriental's review 960 1280
The Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay tends to be less expensive than other hotels in the area but still has the amenities business travelers are looking for. The hotel has a modern business center, free Wi-Fi in the rooms, a large heated pool and a brand-new fitness center. Read the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay's review 960 1280
Amenities, amenities, amenities! The Viceroy has just about anything a business traveler could want. The hotel provides guests with free in-room Wi-Fi, kitchenettes in every room, a luxury spa, a fitness center with Pilates and yoga classes, and a rooftop pool (complete with poolside service). Read the Viceroy Miami's review 960 1280