A good hotel provides travelers with access to nearby attractions. A great hotel makes travelers want to skip the attractions altogether. When visitors check into these 20 hotels, which ran the gamut from luxurious to anarchic, they never want to leave. The reasons range from glorious views to glorious linens, but there are a few universals. Each of the hotels is a self-contained world entirely apart from reality defined by a set of unwritten laws that maids, bellboys, and, yes, guests, seem to innately understand. These hotels are someone else's fantasies, but they seem, on second glance, as though they might be your own.
Big Cedar, Missouri
The Kevin Costner cabin at Big Cedar lodge, as with all of the cozy Adirondack-style cabins on the lushly forested 800-acre property, has a wood-burning fireplace, hand-crafted furniture, stained-glass windows, and views of Table Rock Lake. It is covered with pictures of the 'Field of Dreams' star, who is a fishing buddy of Johnny Morris, the rustic resort's owner and the founder of the Bass Pro fishing shop empire. Morris has an impressive roster of fishing buddies for a simple reason: His love of Ozark simplicity is completely contagious.
Big Cedar also has cabins named after Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ernest Hemingway, President George H.W. Bush (whose Secret Service agents were told it was sold out when they called to make a reservation), Waylon Jennings (he and his wife renewed their vows at Big Cedar), and many of the conservation partners that Morris has worked with in the 40-some years since he started Bass Pro in the back of his father's Brown Derby liquor store. Each of the 81 cabins has an impressive deck, as well as enough taxidermy to give even Teddy Roosevelt pause.
Johnny Morris originally bought the property so that customers of his Springfield store could test fishing boats, but he soon became intrigued with the two long-abandoned resorts, built next to the lake in the 1920s by Jude Simmons and Frisco Railroad executive Harry Worman. He decided to restore them. Today, those old wilderness mansions serve as two of four restaurants on the property.
There are also natural-fed swimming pools, hiking trails, a golf course that doubles as a certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary, two spas, a cooking school, and an about-to-open Natural History Museum, complete with a skeleton of a wooly mammoth. As if that weren't enough, a cookie lady leaves fresh gingerbread treats (shaped like cedar trees) on guests' pillows. They make a good pick-me-up for the guests who participate in the kick-ball competitions and wheelbarrow races held on the Truman Lawn, which also hosts a nightly bonfire.
It is no wonder Morris calls Big Cedar Lodge his "little slice of heaven on earth."
More information: Big Cedar, tucked alongside the 43,000-acre, bass-filled Table Rock Lake, is 10 miles south of Branson, Missouri. Play your cards right and you can even hitch a ride in the green vintage 1948 Chevy pickup that Costner used in his wedding to handbag designer Christine Baumgartner.