Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., was a Pennsylvania grande dame in the heyday of Bethlehem Steel and now stresses its historic background.
Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, Pa., was a Pennsylvania grande dame in the heyday of Bethlehem Steel and now stresses its historic background. (Zofia Smardz)

There's nothing like a grand hotel in the city when you're looking for a true escape from the humdrum of daily life. Here are some of our favorite urban -- and urbane -- selections:

Hotel Bethlehem, Bethlehem, Pa.

Leave it to a big-time steel magnate to build a fancy, big-city-style hotel in a smallish town to entertain his many important guests and clients in the manner to which they were accustomed. This Pennsylvania grande dame from the heyday of Bethlehem Steel stresses its historic background, and with good reason -- it stands on the spot of the first house built in town (in 1741) and housed a speakeasy during Prohibition (check out the once-hidden door on the ground floor) and has hosted countless high-profile guests over its 90 years. The dining-room floor made of original Moravian tile is a must-see.

437 Main St., Bethlehem, Pa. 610-625-5000. www.hotelbethlehem.com. Rooms from $139.

Hotel Brexton, Baltimore, Md.

Sleep like a duchess at this turreted Historic Hotels of America property in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood. You won't find a pea under the cushiony mattress or elsewhere in the understatedly elegant room, a style befitting onetime resident Wallis Warfield Simpson, a.k.a. the Duchess of Windsor. But you will discover free breakfast in the basement dining room, a sweeping spiral staircase that leads to two suites named after the duchess and her duke, the former king Edward VIII, and plenty of space beneath the guestrooms' 15-foot-high ceilings to toss your tiara into the air.


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868 Park Ave., Baltimore, Md. 443-478-2100,www.brextonhotel.com. Rooms from $99, including breakfast.

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, Dover, Del.

The Latham Hotel in Philadelphia is an apartment building turned hotel perfectly situated for playing tourist without feeling as though youâ  re surrounded
The Latham Hotel in Philadelphia is an apartment building turned hotel perfectly situated for playing tourist without feeling as though youâ re surrounded by chaos. (Becky Krystal)

What's that noise you hear? Silence. The din from the casino downstairs doesn't drift north, thankfully. Though you must cut through the gambling space to reach most of the restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, you can log time in the spa, fitness center and pool without running into a posse of one-arm bandits. Rooms overlook the city and the harness track; choose the latter, which glows under the evening sky. If the track pinches your gambling nerve, keep the jammies on and simply bet on in-room horse races. That way, no one will see your tears.

1131 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover, Del., 800-711-5882, www.doverdowns.com. Rooms from $135.

Donovan House Hotel, Washington

Le Meridien Hotel in Philadelphia used to be a YMCA fitted out like a robber baronâ  s mansion, with elaborately carved woodwork and the high ceilings of
Le Meridien Hotel in Philadelphia used to be a YMCA fitted out like a robber baronâ s mansion, with elaborately carved woodwork and the high ceilings of haute living. (Zofia Smardz TWP)

This Kimpton hotel in Washington breaks the chain of uninspired downtown hostelries with whimsical decor, such as swinging bubble-shape chairs in the lobby and stylin' guestrooms that include leather canopy beds, spiral cocoon showers and minimalist linens that whisper, not scream, for you to come to bed. For an escape from your close confines, head south to Zentan, the Asian restaurant, or north to the rooftop pool bar.

1155 14th St. NW, Washington 800-383-6900, www.donovanhousehotel.com. Rooms from $161.

The Dunhill Hotel, Charlotte, N.C.

Just 10 stories high in a downtown dominated by gleaming, overpowering skyscrapers, the Dunhill is small in size and ultra-cozy in feel -- and the only remaining historic hotel in Charlotte, N.C. That would be reason enough to visit, except that it's also a charming and gracious hostelry adorned with original paintings by a prominent North Carolina artist and served by a fabulous farm-to-table eatery.

237 N. Tryon St., Charlotte, N.C. 800-354-4141. www.dunhillhotel.com. Rooms from $219, including breakfast.

The Latham Hotel, Philadelphia

After a day exploring Philadelphia's Revolutionary War sights, check in to this historic yet of-the-moment retreat. The recently renovated apartment building turned hotel is perfectly situated for playing tourist without feeling as though you're surrounded by chaos. If only the Continental Congress members could have had such stylish, restorative digs, that whole declaring independence thing might have gone much faster.

135 S. 17th St., Philadelphia. 215-563-7474.www.lathamhotel.com. Rooms from $150.

Le Meridien Hotel, Philadelphia

Would you believe that this gleaming modern hotel in the heart of Philly was once the local YMCA? And what a Y -- fitted out like a robber baron's mansion, with elaborately carved woodwork and the high ceilings of haute living. Today the Gilded Age grandeur is lightened with sleek contemporary decor and furnishings. The rooms can be small, but just head to the spacious lobby to stretch your legs and study the quirky furniture over a drink before dinner in the excellent restaurant.

1421 Arch St., Philadelphia. 215-422-8200. www.starwoodhotels.com. Rooms from $195.

Linden Row Inn, Richmond, Va.

Yes, there's a vague Edgar Allan Poe connection, but don't go looking for ghosts in this gracious, antique-filled boutique hotel carved out of a row of seven antebellum Greek Revival townhouses right in downtown Richmond. Just enjoy the historic Southern ambience, complete with large, airy, high-ceilinged rooms, charmingly listing staircases and a long, romantic back veranda where you can rock the evening away before bed.

100 E. Franklin St., Richmond, Va. 800-348-7424. www.lindenrowinn.com. Rooms from $109, including breakfast.

Night Hotel, New York

The midtown Manhattan hotel is shadowy night to Times Square's blindingly bright day. The dramatic black-and-white theme wraps itself around the 72-room property like a skunk stole, appearing in the furnishings, the linens and pillows, and the risque photographs on the walls. Hanging in the lobby on the speckled cowhide couch, you may feel like a spy in a film noir, even if your most subversive plan is to visit M&M's World.

132 W. 45th St., New York, 800-336-4110, www.nighthotelny.com. Rooms from $279.

NYLO Warwick/Providence, R.I.

This boutique hotel 10 miles south of the Rhode Island capital is hardly an overstuffed softie; it incorporates a hard industrial edge with bare cement floors and walls, exposed brick, and silvery insulation tubes that rest like fat caterpillars on the ceiling. But the riverside property also has a silly and irreverent side, expressed in playful nautical-theme furnishings and egg-shape swing chairs in the lobby and restaurant.

400 Knight St., Warwick, R.I., 401-734-4460, www.nylohotels.com. Rooms from $79.