Southern Belles – 20 grand venues to charm clients

When it comes to charm, there’s just something about the South. From genteel hospitality to a hospitable climate, the region knows how to host like a refined Southern lady. And it does so in some of the grandest venues in the country. Savor the flavor of these Southern belles whose opulence is equally matched by their welcoming spirit.

The Peabody – Memphis, Tennessee

The Peabody has been a legendary institution in Memphis, Tenn., for more than a century. First opened in 1869, The Peabody continues to celebrate its storied past while offering modern amenities. Often called the “South’s Grand Hotel,” the current 1925 structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With 464 renovated guest rooms and suites, the block-long building includes 80,000 square feet of event space. The Peabody Rooftop, with Mississippi River and city skyline views in the glow of the iconic Peabody neon sign, had a cameo in the Tom Cruise film The Firm. But there’s one sight that cannot be outdone: The daily Peabody Duck March, in which five resident ducks waddle out of an elevator, across a red carpet, and into the lobby fountain—to the tune of a John Philip Sousa march. When not performing the nearly 90-year-old tradition, the ducks live in marble-and-glass structure on the roof that includes a small replica of the hotel.

The Seelbach Hilton – Louisville, Kentucky

Rich history meets indulgent luxury at The Seelbach Hilton in Louisville, Ky. It all began in 1903 when two Bavarian brothers started construction of the hotel, sparing no expense bringing in materials from all over the world. Two years later, the graceful giant opened its doors. Since then, The Seelbach has welcomed the rich and famous, including President Harry S. Truman, The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, Al Capone (visitors can dine in a small alcove in the room where he used to play cards), Billy Joel, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose novel The Great Gatsby is said to have been inspired by visits to the hotel. Many believe a mysterious “Lady in Blue” haunts the hallowed halls. The property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America, cemented itself in Hollywood history as the setting for scenes from iconic movies, including The Hustler. On a lower level is a hidden treasure: an ornate Rathskeller based on a German beer hall and constructed of Rookwood pottery and adorned with pelican statuettes. So storied is the property that the hotel has its own historian.

The Brown Hotel – Louisville, Kentucky

A few blocks from the Seelbach, another distinguished doyenne beckons: The Brown Hotel. With its Georgian-Revival façade, the downtown Louisville, Ky., landmark blends iconic elegance and modern comfort, with close proximity to renowned attractions like Churchill Downs, the Louisville Palace, and the Brown Theatre. Opened in 1923, the hotel boasts the coveted AAA Four Diamond rating and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But the historic hotel isn’t mired in the past; it has embraced initiatives supporting sustainability and environmental responsibility. The award-winning 294-room property offers more than 30,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities. The stately space oozes opulence right down to the hand-polished Spanish Ramora marble floors in the bathrooms. But it might be best known for its culinary claim to fame: The Hot Brown. The open-faced turkey-and-bacon sandwich was created by the hotel’s chef in 1926 and still is served today at the hotel and elsewhere.

Lord Baltimore Hotel – Baltimore, Maryland

The Lord Baltimore Hotel has a long and storied past. Originally a 700-room hotel opened in 1928, its architectural significance has been meticulously restored. Guests entering the lobby are greeted by a grand piano, oil paintings, polished brass, and a vaulted fresco ceiling sporting a Murano glass chandelier. Renowned visitors include Babe Ruth, Amelia Earhart, and Martin Luther King Jr., who held a press conference at the hotel in 1965. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the award-winning hotel underwent renovations in 1985 that took the guest room count down to 440. Today, the iconic 23-story property continues to offer guests the grandeur of years past, living up to its billing as a merger of Old World elegance and modern sophistication in the heart of downtown Baltimore. Highlights include the Versailles Ballroom based on the design of the French Palace of Versailles and the Speakeasy flaunting a coffered-ceiling and stained-glass light fixtures.

Hotel Crescent Court – Dallas, Texas

Step into Hotel Crescent Court and you’ll feel much farther from downtown Dallas than a five-minute drive uptown. Built in 1985, Hotel Crescent Court is a newer urban classic, now part of a 1.3-million-square-foot mixed-use development. Conceived by oil heiress and hotelier Caroline Rose Hunt, the landmark crescent-shaped building is said to have broken a record for the amount of limestone used in its construction. The hotel recently underwent a $33 million renovation, and luxury is everywhere, from 10 types of imported marble to 10-gallon-hat
Texas charm. Among its 17,000 square feet of meeting space, 186 guest rooms, and 40 suites, The Conservatory offers dining in a glass sunroom overlooking the property’s garden. The Crescent Club adds an ultra-exclusive feel; guests can use the private dining club on the 17th-floor of the complex’s central tower. The hotel’s posh offerings include afternoon tea in the Great Hall, more than 30 types of bubbly, and artwork from Hunt’s personal collection, including a 2,000-year-old marble sculpture of the Greek god Asclepius.

The Biltmore – Coral Gables, Florida

Part National Historic Landmark, part beloved luxury resort, The Biltmore is a centerpiece of the Coral Gables landscape near Miami. Known for its iconic Spanish-style architecture, the 271-room resort is set among 150 acres of lush tropical flora, giving it the feel of a lavish Mediterranean villa. Its signature 93-foot central tower was modeled after the Giralda Tower in Seville, Spain. The property was built in 1926, and from its beginning, the elegant setting played host to politicians and celebrities, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property includes a historic 18-hole championship golf course, The Biltmore Culinary Academy, and the largest hotel pool in the eastern United States at 23,000 square feet and holding 600,000 gallons of water. Through periods of vacancy and serving as a military hospital during World War II, this grande dame has demonstrated staying power.

The Breakers – Palm Beach, Florida

The Breakers is a showstopping Italian Renaissance-style hotel situated on 140 oceanfront acres along the Palm Beach, Fla., coast. The resort was founded in 1896 by industrialist Henry M. Flagler and by the early 20th century was attracting prestigious guests, including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. The structure underwent reconstruction twice, after fires in 1903 and 1925. The 1926 iteration that stands today was modeled after the Villa Medici in Rome, and work included 75 Italian artisans. The massive AAA Five Diamond property features 538 rooms, 10 restaurants, a private beach club with four pools, and two 18-hole golf courses. Well known for its palm-lined driveway, twin towers, and Florentine Fountain, The Breakers is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; but the property has kept up with the times, implementing green initiatives such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and waste reduction.

Casa Monica Resort & Spa – St. Augustine, Florida

Oil and railroad magnate Henry M. Flagler also has a connection to this stucco stunner in “America’s Oldest City.” Flagler once owned the historic Casa Monica Resort & Spa, which was originally built in 1888 and is renowned for its lavishly beautiful Moorish Revival architecture. The 138-room property shines with a brilliant white exterior and red-tile roof, hand-painted Italian tiles, wrought iron, frescos, fountains, and chandeliers. Art takes center stage at Casa Monica, with original artworks throughout and the onsite Grand Bohemian Gallery containing works by local and international artists. Guests can enjoy the private Serenata Beach Club on Ponte Vedra Beach or stroll through the Historic District of St. Augustine, Fla. A member of Historic Hotels of America, the resort has welcomed Desmond Tutu, King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and President Bill Clinton. Casa Monica also has something in common with The Breakers: A victim of the Great Depression, the hotel sat empty and deteriorating for 30 years, and eventually became the county courthouse before re-emerging as a hotel in 1999, once again proving its mettle.

The Kentucky Castle – Versailles, Kentucky

If it’s in a town named Versailles, it’s got to be a castle. The Kentucky Castle may be small—15 guest accommodations, including four Tower Suites—but it offers visitors the chance to live like a king. The stone castle structure surrounded by a battlement wall rises incongruously in the middle of a central Kentucky farm field. A fountain welcomes visitors to a substantial main gate flanked by oversized torches and topped with a pair of griffins. Situated on 110 acres, the castle’s construction began in 1969, but due to various circumstances including a 2004 fire, it wasn’t completed until 2007. The property boasts an event center and outdoor space, farm-to-table dining, a luxurious spa, and a pool. Groups get the royal treatment with guided tours of the castle, the landscaped castle grounds, and the adjoining organic farm. Crown a visit to this unique and intriguing setting with a murder mystery dinner, bourbon-barrel painting class, yoga on the castle roof, and tea with Cinderella.

Old Edwards Inn and Spa – Highlands, North Carolina

Set in a southwestern plateau of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Edwards Inn and Spa blends understated elegance with luxurious living. The pristine natural environment offers breathtaking views and a tranquil setting amid meticulously landscaped grounds. The mountain resort is dotted with European-style stone architecture and includes guest rooms, suites, and storybook cottages furnished with antiques and Italian bedding. Individual buildings spread over several acres of downtown Highland, N.C., include the Historic Inn and a stately lodge. A sought-after event destination, Old Edwards is home to a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces including The Farm, The Barn & Pavilion, and a rooftop terrace. The resort offers unparalleled dining experiences with an award-winning culinary team. The Old Edwards Club features a Tom Jackson-designed 18-hole golf course—one of the highest ridges of golf on the East Coast. Other activities include live music venues, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, ziplining, and hiking.

The Savoy Hotel & Beach Club – Miami Beach, Florida

The Savoy Hotel & Beach Club is the quintessential boutique South Beach property with its Art Deco architecture and stunning oceanfront. The hotel was constructed in 1935, placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. The Southern charmer offers the best of both worlds: It’s near all Miami and Miami Beach, Fla., have to offer, but it features nearly two acres of secluded, private grounds with lush greenery. The unrivaled 200 linear feet of beachfront offer unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean. Just one mile from the Miami Beach Convention Center with plenty of outdoor event space, the property has two indoor areas in the works: a meeting room and ballroom. Its 31 suites are decorated in tropical colors. Restored in 2018, the property includes a lobby lending library and murals reflecting the history of Miami. Fun fact: One of the property’s two pools was designed by Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones.

Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens – Natchez, Mississippi

It doesn’t get much more Old South than Monmouth Historic Inn and Gardens, a National Historic Landmark. Built in 1818 by the Natchez postmaster, the inn’s architecture is everything you’d expect of an antebellum property. The 31 guest rooms and suites are appointed with period furnishings and antiques that speak to the site’s rich history. Monmouth, once the home of former Mississippi governor John Quitman, fell into disrepair, but a years-long project started in 1978 restored it to its 1830s glory—and also added modern amenities such as Wi-Fi. The lovely Restaurant 1818 in the main house sports chandeliers and wall sconces custom-made by Waterford Crystal in Ireland. The property boasts 26 acres of spectacular gardens where arbors drip with purple clematis and Spanish moss clings to tree branches. Several smaller structures dot the grounds, including a carriage house, sanctuary, garden room, and pond-side gazebo. The grounds even contain a historic cemetery.

Inn at Perry Cabin – St. Michaels, Maryland

The Inn at Perry Cabin is a premier resort on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but it wasn’t built to be. It originally was a house for a retired Navy veteran who built it in the early 1800s. Over time, it served as a plantation, riding academy, and small country inn before becoming a prestigious five-star hotel. The inn is located in a cove of the Miles River, which leads to the Chesapeake Bay. With 26 acres of gardens, orchards, and lawns, the property has an onsite horticulturalist and an herb garden; guests can reserve private waterfront dining spaces known as “houses.” The inn has three sailboats and two motor yachts that offer day trips, including sunset cocktail and dinner cruises, as well as the Pete Dye-designed Links at Perry Cabin. Guests at the inn can make an entrance: One of the hotel’s yachts picks up guests in Annapolis for a butler-serviced journey to the inn.

Primland Resort – Meadows of Dan, Virginia

Wide-open spaces perfect for stargazing welcome guests to Primland Resort, an Auberge Resorts Collection property. And that’s exactly what visitors can do at Primland’s Observatory, under the guidance of the property’s astronomer. Or view the night sky from one of three designer treehouses perched above the Dan River Gorge offering spectacular valley views and all the creature comforts. Set on a 12,000-acre estate in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland is the epitome of rustic glamour. Among the 51 luxurious guest accommodations are a lodge, mountain homes, and cottages, in addition to the treehouses. Outdoor event space abounds, and the indoors features a boardroom and 2,100-square-foot ballroom. An upscale spa combines Native American healing rituals with modern-day techniques. Learn to throw a tomahawk, ride a horse, tour the scenery in a recreational terrain vehicle, or enjoy golfing, fishing, yoga, and many other outdoor and water activities.

Jekyll Island Club Resort – Jekyll Island, Georgia

Step into the Gilded Age at Jekyll Island Club Resort on Georgia’s Golden Isles. Originally an ultra-exclusive private club for the upper echelon of America’s rich and famous, the site now is open to everyone. The Jekyll Island Club, made up of about 50 of the country’s wealthiest people—including J. P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, and the Vanderbilts—bought the island in 1886 to create a winter getaway. The iconic Clubhouse opened in 1888 with all the glamour of the time, but closed in 1942 in the wake of World War II. The property was restored to its original splendor and reopened in 1987. The resort has 157 guest rooms in four historic settings, including the iconic Clubhouse, where whispers from the past echo across the croquet lawn. Guests can access the beach and Atlantic Ocean at Jekyll Ocean Club, right near the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

The Elms Hotel & Spa – Excelsior Springs, Missouri

The Elms Hotel & Spa has a colorful history that began in a rather unique way. The 1880 discovery of a mineral-water spring that a local farmer claimed cured his daughter of tuberculosis led to the founding of the town of Excelsior Springs. As the story spread, people flocked to the area. In 1888, the grand hotel was constructed to accommodate visitors seeking a cure for their ailments. Though the hotel building was twice destroyed by fire, a third incarnation—constructed of native limestone—was completed in 1912 and still stands today. President Harry S. Truman stayed at the hotel on election night in 1948, and the hotel became a go-to destination for national conventions in the 1950s. Though it no longer offers fox hunts with hounds or an in-house orchestra, the 16-acre property features an upscale spa, 153 rooms, and 11,000 square feet of meeting space. A true survivor, the storied hotel that has undergone closings, renovations, reopenings, and ownership changes still remains vibrant.

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek – Dallas, Texas

Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek exudes luxury. Now the site of a world-class hotel and restaurant, the property’s historic structure was completed in 1925 as a private estate. The original owners traveled Europe curating materials and fixtures for the property, and no expense was spared in constructing the Italian Renaissance-inspired home, which included the first private elevator in Dallas. Social visitors to the extravagant estate included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Tennessee Williams before the property began a two-year, $21 million transformation to a restaurant and hotel in 1979. The 142-room hotel echoes the 1920s grandeur of the original estate. The Mansion Restaurant in the original home features marble floors, stained-glass windows, and hand-carved fireplaces. Event space includes a private dining room, ballroom, and unique spaces in what were the second-floor bedrooms. Outdoor space is available on the mansion lawn and in the garden.

Big Cypress Lodge – Memphis, Tennessee

Ever hold an event in a pyramid? You can at the pyramid-shaped Big Cypress Lodge, where guests also get an after-hours peek at Bass Pro Shops unique Memphis, Tenn., location. Guest rooms at the 535,000-square-foot pyramid overlook the ground-level outdoor-enthusiasts store with its bayou theme. This Bass Pro Shops is a destination where visitors are immersed in 100-foot-tall artificial cypress trees and can view a swamp with live alligators and follow the fish-inhabited streams that wind through the store. At the center of the store, the Sky High Ride—touted as the nation’s tallest freestanding elevator—takes guests up 28 stories to The Lookout restaurant, the open-air Mississippi Terrace, and an observation deck with incredible views of the Mississippi River and the city. The 103-room rustic luxury retreat has a mountain-lodge feel with 21st-century amenities in the heart of downtown. Big Cypress offers a variety of meeting and event spaces, along with underwater-themed bowling and an interactive museum dedicated to wetlands conservation.

Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center – Grapevine, Texas

The Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center proves everything is bigger in Texas. Located on Lake Grapevine, the resort includes the 10-acre Western-themed Paradise Springs Water Park, four-and-a-half acres of indoor gardens and waterways, four award-winning restaurants, a spa, and fitness center. Then there’s the 1,814 guest rooms, 127 suites, and 490,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 32,000-square-foot ballroom. Sheer size isn’t all that makes this resort grand. The climate-controlled, glass Lone Star Atrium is an impressive sight, with Spanish-style architecture, water features, and lush greenery, topped by a golden star that shines big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. Group activities include escape rooms, live music entertainment, and dancing. Located minutes from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, it’s a Texas-size howdy welcoming attendees to bring the family and stay a while.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Hollywood, Florida

If staying in a guitar-shaped hotel strikes a chord, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will rock your world. The Hollywood, Fla., property hits all the right notes with three hotels: the iconic 638-room Guitar Hotel, the 465-room newly redesigned Hard Rock Hotel, and the 168-room Oasis Tower, which includes swim-up suites. The 120,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 38,000-square-foot exhibition hall and new 7,000-person auditorium, give planners the rock-star treatment. The lyrical resort features three pool areas, multiple dining options, and a casino. The unique Sound of Your Stay program provides the soundtrack of your visit with an in-room collection of records and a turntable, a curated playlist, and an opportunity to check out a Fender guitar and rock out in your room. A spectacular nightly show choreographed to music lights up the Guitar Hotel exterior, making the Hard Rock music to the ears.

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