Manhattan's legendary The Plaza hotel just turned 100 and is due to reopen in January after a two-year, $400 million renovation, which has yet to be unveiled. It's just one of dozens of grande-dame hotels around the USA that are ready for their close-ups in 2007 or early 2008: upgrading faded guest-rooms, gutting and spiffing up old-fashioned bathrooms and updating public spaces, restaurants and spas.
Today's grande-dame visitors include comfort-craving baby boomers and growing numbers of "younger families and travelers. The Gen-X market is really booming for the luxury travel industry," says Lynn Swann, spokeswoman for West Virginia's The Greenbrier resort.
Here's a look at four historic lodgings that have received face lifts:
The Greenbrier White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. Reopened in April after a $50 million renovation, all of the 721 rooms, suites and cottages at this sprawling rural retreat visited by 26 U.S. presidents have new mattresses, linens and plasma flat-screen TVs. Sixty-three deluxe rooms have marble bathrooms and softer, more contemporary décor. An old lounge has been converted into an upscale new restaurant, Hemisphere, with a global-cuisine tasting menu; the beloved Tavern Room has become a lounge called 38°80, the approximate latitude and longitude of the resort. The "Old White" golf course, opened in 1914, has been restored. WiFi and cellphone reception has been expanded. Historical touches such as the Cold War-era bunker remain; it now has a museum and tours are offered. Daily rates start at about $275, plus a $25 resort fee per room, which includes the traditional daily tea as well as culinary demonstrations. Information: 800-624-6070; greenbrier.com
Bedford Springs Resort Bedford, Pa. Closed for two decades, the 203-year-old hot-springs resort in the Allegheny Mountains of south-central Pennsylvania reopened July 12 after a $120 million restoration. One of its partners is Mark Langdale, U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica who has been named president of the George W. Bush Presidential Library Foundation. The 216 guestrooms and suites at the 2,200-acre resort have flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and updated décor that respects and reflects the resort's lineage. Vintage photos line the halls and public spaces. You can stay in a separate spa wing, play on a historic 18-hole golf course, swim in one of the nation's oldest indoor pools and still soak in mineral springs. The resort's guest list has included 10 presidents; one of them, James Buchanan, received the first trans-Atlantic cable here in 1858. Rooms start at about $189, plus an $18 nightly resort fee. Information: 866-623-8168; bedfordspringsresort.com