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Best hotels in the USA

A hotel is no longer just a place to lay one's head while traveling. Even the nicest and most luxurious accommodations have to tender something more than an in-house steakhouse and a high thread count in the bed linens — they also have to give their guests an unforgettable experience. This year, U.S. News Travel combed the entire country to find just this sort of hotel.

There are legions of guidebooks, magazines, and websites aimed at helping you find the best hotel. Some rely on in-house experts while others gather guest reviews. To compile the U.S. News list of Best Hotels in the USA 2012, our editors analyzed recommendations across many of these sources. Using this approach, we found the hotels that consistently come out on top.

The properties reflected on this list are winners not only for their luxurious amenities, fine service, and lavish décor, but also for the way they showcase America's diversity. These properties range from major hotel brands to independent boutiques, and you'll find them in states from California to Montana to South Carolina—truly from "sea to shining sea."

Best hotels in the USA

The Elysian Hotel Chicago (Photo: The Elysian Hotel Chicago)

10. Waldorf Astoria Chicago (Chicago, IL)

This elegant hotel is positioned just a short stroll from Chicago's Magnificent Mile. But while its location is great, the interior of the Waldorf Astoria Chicago (formerly the Elysian Hotel Chicago) is even better. Even as you open the doors, you'll step foot on gleaming Carrera marble, lit by a gorgeous chandelier and guarded by mixed-media sculptures by Mexico City artist Javier Marin. Upstairs, the guest rooms feature fireplaces, deep soaking bathtubs, Italian linens, and the same sort of swanky décor found downstairs. Dining here is also rave-worthy: The in-house restaurant, RIA, has earned two Michelin stars for its local cuisine.

Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort (Photo: Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort)

9. Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort (Calistoga, CA)

You'll find the Calistoga Ranch, An Auberge Resort burrowed in a northern Napa Valley canyon. The luxuriously rustic resort features everything from a spa with organic treatments to The Lakehouse restaurant, which is defined by its "land to table" cuisine and a wine list that includes some of
Calistoga Ranch's own vintages. The accommodations are equally idyllic, consisting of 48 separate lodges with fireplaces, original artwork, Italian bed linens, and even a private outdoor shower. And when you need to stretch your legs, you'll find rolling hills, private lakes, shaded woods, and sunlit patches of grass across the property's 157 acres. As you enjoy the natural surroundings, you can also appreciate that the resort's design "was carefully laid out around the existing landscape in order to not disturb any natural footprints," says Mike Moran, director of sales and marketing at the ranch.

Triple Creek Ranch (Photo: Triple Creek Ranch)

8. Triple Creek Ranch (Darby, MT)

The adults-only Triple Creek Ranch is picturesquely situated on Trapper Peak, Western Montana's tallest mountain. Interspersed among the mountain's soaring pine trees, guests will find private guest cabins, fishing lakes, tennis courts, a pool, an inviting main lodge, and an upscale restaurant with an enviable cache of labels in its wine cellar. Deborah Schara, sales and marketing director at the property, says the resort's location is one of its main perks. "At Triple Creek Ranch, guests get involved in the unique 'cowboy culture' of the West while our staff inspires guests with an infectious passion for wildlife and the surrounding area. ... You can't help but fall in love with Montana's Rocky Mountain West."

Rancho Valencia Resort (Photo: Rancho Valencia Resort)

7. Rancho Valencia (Rancho Santa Fe, CA)

The Rancho Valencia Resort, nestled among 45 acres of hills and gardens, lures guests with three accommodation types: There are suites, private villas, and even the über-luxe 5,000-square-foot Hacienda. The Rancho Valencia also provides for other basic needs quite well, with a spa, fitness center, and a restaurant that serves SoCal cuisine. Simon Chen, the resort's general manager, also says that "Recreation is abundant onsite with 18 tennis courts, world-class spa, swimming pools, fitness programs, cycling trails, and the Pacific Ocean nearby." But before you get too excited, keep in mind that much of the resort is currently undergoing a $20-million facelift that is due to wrap up in summer 2012. Some of its more marked improvements will include a larger al fresco dining area and an expanded fitness center replete with a yoga pavilion.

Amangani (Photo: Aman Resorts)

6. Amangani (Jackson, WY)

At Amangani in Jackson, Wyo., you might have a hard time discerning what's more exquisite: the resort or the landscape on which it sits. Amangani rests 7,000 feet above sea level, yet it's still shadowed by the stunning Teton Mountains. And lucky for guests, all of the suites afford spectacular views from their floor-to-ceiling windows; even the deep-soaking tubs in the bathrooms sit before pristine natural scenery. The modern design of Amangani's rooms and facilities are certainly worth noting. But Stuart Campbell, the general manager at Amangani, says that more than anything else, the staff makes the resort experience most memorable. He says, "Amangani is our home and we treat everyone who walks through our doors as a guest in it."

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu (Photo: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka'upulehu)

5. Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Ka’upulehu (Big Island, HI)

Standing majestically on the Kona-Kohala Coast of Hawaii's Big Island, this resort preserves a laid-back Hawaiian ambiance while not sacrificing a bit of the Four Seasons' impeccable elegance and service. Guests enjoy the expected down comforters and plasma TVs, but also private lanais and the nearby Pacific waves. A lush golf course, a number of pools—including a special ocean pool that is chiseled out of lava rock—and a handful of dining establishments like the oceanfront Pahu I'a round out the resort. "But what drives this experience home is the fact that the people here at Hualalai are absolute ambassadors of the Aloha spirit and deliver a guest experience like nowhere else in the world," says Brad Packer, director of public relations.

Four Seasons Hotel Seattle (Photo: Four Seasons Hotel Seattle)

4. Four Seasons Hotel Seattle (Seattle, WA)

The Four Seasons Hotel Seattle—located in the heart of the Emerald City near top things to do like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum—is 10 floors of decadent luxury. Accommodations are plush and comfortable, featuring down duvets, iPod docking stations, and marble bathrooms. When it comes to relaxing, guests will find that the spa offers everything from a hot lava massage to an anti-aging Brazilian body scrub. And environmentalists will surely appreciate the fact that the ART Restaurant plates in-season Pacific cuisine and pours Washington wines. The general manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, Ilse Harley, says that it's not just one thing that differentiates this hotel from other properties, but rather the sum of its parts. She cites the hotel's personalized service, its location, its amenities, and its awe-inspiring views of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains.

Wentworth Mansion (Photo: Wentworth Mansion)

3. Wentworth Mansion (Charleston, SC)

The Wentworth Mansion is one of Charleston's grand old properties. Designed at the height of the Gilded Age, the mansion is filled with details like hand-carved marble fireplaces and Tiffany stained-glass windows. Common areas like the Rodgers Library and the Harleston Parlor recall a slower time in which genteel folk could peruse the evening paper or sip wine at their leisure. But that's not to say the amenities are stuckin the late 19th century. For instance, the Circa 1886 restaurant menu takes its cues from classic Southern dishes, but Chef Marc Collins is sure to use local ingredients and to prepare them in a way that is less detrimental to the waistline. And the spa, though decorated with historic artifacts, offers modern treatments like hot-stone massage and detoxifying body wraps.

Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele (Photo: Four Seasons Resorts)

2. Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, The Lodge at Koele (Lanai, HI)

Take an exclusive tropical island and add a luxurious resort, and you've got a winning duo. But when you consider that this resort is a Four Seasons and offers its guests rooms with private lanais and original artwork, a spa with Hawaiian treatments like "lomi lomi," a Greg Norman-design golf course, and a handful of delicious dining experiences, you've got a match made in heaven. Tom Roelens, the general manager of the resort, also gives the near-divine scenery and the friendly service staff credit. "The stunning landscape of Cook Island pines and vibrant gardens, combined with the genuine warmth of our staff and meticulous Four Seasons service, offers guests an authentic experience."

Inn at Palmetto Bluff, An Auberge Resort (Photo: Inn at Palmetto Bluff, An Auberge Resort)

1. Inn at Palmetto Bluff, An Auberge Resort (Bluffton, SC)

Off of a road called Old Palmetto Bluff, about 30 minutes west of Hilton Head, you'll find the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, in other words, what many have found to be the ultimate Lowcountry escape. Marty Wall, general manager at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff says, "The property truly speaks for itself, the four-mile drive with the oaks over arching the road, our village square and the river front, captures all that is unique to the Lowcountry and our resort." Just 50 cottages and cottage suites dapple the landscape of forests and meadows, making the luxurious resort feel intimate and cozy. But amenities like an award-winning spa with treatments like the Palmetto Pluff Mud Wrap or the Organic Fruit & Pumpkin Peel facial are as sophisticated as they come. And as you might imagine, the dining choices are also sublime, from the upscale Lowcountry cuisine at the River House Restaurant to the tasty casual fare at the Buffalos. A scenic 18-hole golf course is also at guests' disposal.

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