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.
Barnsley Gardens Resort, Georgia
While only 60 miles from Atlanta, Barnsley Gardens Resort feels worlds away from the congestion and hectic pace of Georgia's capital. Set among 3,300 acres of rolling hills in rural Adairsville, the property once belonged to Godfrey Barnsley, an Englishman who married a Savannah belle and built her a luxurious 16-bedroom manor on the property.
The estate was ransacked and vandalized during the Civil War and nearly destroyed in a 1906 tornado. It eventually fell into disrepair and was forgotten for decades until Prince Hubertus Fugger Babenhausen of Augsburg, Germany, bought it in 1989 and brought it back to life.
The ruins still stand as a fascinating backdrop to this distinctly Southern destination in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With temperatures averaging in the low-80s and the ornate and meticulously landscaped gardens in full bloom, the spring and summer months are the best time to get the most of the resort's outdoor activities.
Guests here can explore more than 12 miles of hiking and biking trails (rentals available), which wind through hardwood forests and past stocked ponds and a 10-acre lake – a perfect excuse to make a pit stop and throw a line in the water. Canoe and kayak rentals are also available.
At the resort's 1,800-acre Springbank Plantation, you can test your aim on a 12-station clay-shooting course or embark on a guided quail and pheasant hunting trip through rolling hills and flat landscape filled with Georgian plantation pines. Other activities include tennis, a Jim Fazio-designed championship golf course, as well as a luxury spa with pool and fitness center.
For accommodations, Barnsley Gardens has about a dozen multi-bedroom country cottages as well as 62 smaller guest rooms and suites. Dining options range from the Woodlands Grill, which has a hunting lodge ambience with a pool table, fireplace, and cozy bar, to the more formal Rice House, a historic structure with a sunporch, and exterior walls still bearing bullet holes from the Civil War.
When the sun sets, head to the centrally located Beer Garden or gather around one of the property's many wood-burning stone firepits, kick back in an Adirondack, and enjoy the cool night breezes. [barnsleyresort.com]