By offering local charms, access to adventure, and more intimate service, boutique hotels give luxurious chains a run for their money – especially among travelers in the know. From a two-suite lighthouse escape on a private island off the Maine Coast to an unexpected art haven in the Bluegrass State, here are the best small stays in the country.
21c Museum Hotel, Louisville
Open since 2006, the contemporary 21c Museum Hotel spearheaded by Louisville art collectors Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown would be equally at home in Brooklyn or Berlin as it is in the less-expected locale of a revitalized downtown Louisville neighborhood. Edgy art galleries housed here (free admission) are open 24/7, like the hotel, and docents who double as hotel staff lead guided tours on Fridays and Saturdays. Original exposed brick walls in many of the loft-like guestrooms hint at the building’s former life as a warehouse and taut white linens, high ceilings, and original art make the minimalist look warm. The hotel's restaurant, Proof on Main, was opened by a Nobu alum and is one of the town's hottest tables. [Rooms from $270; 21cmuseumhotels.com]