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
San Ysidro Ranch, A Rosewood Resort Santa Barbara, Calif. The honeymoon spot of Jack and Jackie Kennedy, Julia Roberts and Danny Moder, and Sandra Bullock and Jesse James marked completion of a $150 million restoration in June. The idyllic, 114-year-old ranch, encompassing rooms, suites and private cottages with views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez Mountains, is nestled on 500 acres featuring hiking trails and lush gardens. The property, owned by Beanie Babies tycoon Ty Warner and managed by Rosewood, is known as an exclusive and low-key celebrity getaway that has hosted Winston Churchill, Audrey Hepburn, Gwyneth Paltrow and other VIPs. Suites and cottages have private hot tubs and outdoor showers. Cottages — including the 1,800-square-foot Kennedy Cottage and the Gardenia Cottage with their ocean, garden and mountain views — have been updated. Pricey Pratesi linens from Italy and hand-stitched quilts from France swaddle the beds; gas fireplaces, original artwork and floor-to-ceiling French doors are San Ysidro hallmarks. Rates start at $795 a night. Information: 800-368-6788; sanysidroranch.com
West Baden Springs Hotel West Baden Springs, Ind. The former hot-springs health resort named after a famous mineral-water retreat in Germany dates to 1902 and boasts a six-story domed atrium. In its heyday, before the stock market crash of 1929 and Great Depression, the resort attracted Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. It hadn't been a hotel for 75 years until re-opening in May after a $90 million restoration. The 246-room West Baden is part of the French Lick Resort Casino, a $500 million historic restoration and casino project that also includes the restored French Lick Springs Hotel and the new French Lick Casino. The West Baden is a circular property with rooms and bathrooms that have been enlarged. Rooms feature custom furniture, as well as flat-screen TVs and WiFi. Forty rooms have balconies that overlook the atrium. There's already golf, but another course is due in 2008. Room rates start at about $180. Information: 888-694-4332; frenchlick.com