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There is Nothing Like a Dame: America’s grandest hotels, and their pet policies

This post was inspired by an article in the November 2011 issue of Vanity Fair, entitled “Americana Resorts: Revisiting America’s historic grand hotels.” They’re pricey — oh, heavens, yes — but they’re fabulous, and many of them open their doors to pets (generally small ones, but The Point, The Broadmoor and the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa have no weight maximums, and The Grove Park Inn and The Stanley Hotel welcome fairly big dogs). Here’s the list:

The Point (Saranac Lake, NY): The former summer home of William Avery Rockefeller, The Point is an Adirondack camp dialed to 11. It is open to “well-trained and well-behaved pets” (p. 23) When I called for more details, I learned that The Point has an exemplary pet policy: There is no pet fee, there is no limit on the number or size of pets a guest brings, and pets other than dogs are welcome (they’ve had cats and birds stay with them, for example). The only restriction? No pets in the kitchen or dining room.

Photo by The Point

The Ahwahnee (Yosemite National Park): No pets, dammit. Your best dog-friendly alternative is the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, but it’ll be a much different experience.

The Breakers (Palm Beach, FL):  No pets. For a different kind of Palm Beach elegance and history, try The Brazilian Court, which does welcome pets up to 25 lbs. Multiple pets are okay, but there is a non-refundable fee of $100 per pet, per stay.

The Cloister (Sea Island, GA): This place is certainly glamorous, but it may be hard to find its historical roots — the original main building, built in 1928, was replaced about 10 years ago. Dogs up to 35 lbs. are allowed (a maximum of two per guest room). There is a non-refundable fee of $175 per stay.

The Homestead (Hot Springs, VA): The resort was founded in the 18th c.; the current main building dates from the beginning of the 20th c. It’s grand, it’s fab — and it no longer welcomes pets (its policy changed last summer). But who cares? The pet-friendly Greenbrier (see below) is just as grand and just as fab, if not more so.

The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, CO): The Broadmoor wins points from me for making it clear on its overview page that the resort is pet-friendly. When I called for more details, I learned that there is a non-refundable $50 per pet, per day fee (with a maximum of two pets per guest room). You will stay on a “pet-friendly floor.” When you make your reservation, the resort will want to know your pet’s name, size and breed, but the customer service rep I spoke to said that there is no weight limit, and she was not aware of any dog being turned away because of its breed. Guests with dogs will be greeted with a dog bed, dog treats, and a map of dog-friendly resort areas and trails. Dogs are not allowed in the resort’s restaurants.

Grand Hotel (Mackinac Island, MI): You saw Somewhere in Time, you swooned, you swore to visit with your own sweetie. It’s not going to happen if your sweetie has four paws, because the Grand Hotel is not pet-friendly. The only alternative on Mackinac Island is the Mission Point Resort, which has a very appealing pet policy ($50 one-time fee; no limit on number, kind or weight of pet; rooms in the Straits Lodge, not the Main Lodge; an attractive “Pooch at The Point” travel package) but alarmingly mixed reviews.

The Gasparilla Inn & Club (Boca Grande, FL): A glorious feature of Florida’s Gulf Coast since 1913, the resort allows pets in its cottages and villas. There is a $25 per pet, per day fee — multiple pets are okay, if they’re not too huge (call to work out the details with the reservations staff). They’ve welcomed cats and birds as well as dogs, and they do not have issues with a dog’s breed.

The Hotel del Coronado (Coronado, CA): I’ve been in love with this hotel since I was in college, but the tragic fact is that it’s not pet-friendly — and there’s no alternative on Coronado that compares to it. Your best nearby option for a hotel with history and style is the U.S. Grant in San Diego’s Gaslamp District, which is pet-friendly.

The Greenbrier (White Sulphur Springs, WV): Long before Chloe was a spark in her sire’s eye, I spent a weekend here with a group of friends, and loved it. It’s huge, and formal, but also friendly and quirky. How can you not love a place that was decorated in eye-popping colors by the fearless Dorothy Draper? That gave comfort, post-war, to General Lee? (We stayed in the cottage he summered in, and this Yankee was thrilled.) That was chosen to house the secret bunker for the U.S. Congress, in case of nuclear disaster (now open to the public)? When I add that the spa services are splendid and the resort’s exclusive bath salts are so awesome I’m still ordering them five years later, I know you’ll be reaching for the phone. Three cheers to the Greenbrier for having an on-line pet policy that’s easy to find and answers all the questions I normally have to call to get.

Other contenders

That’s it, you’re asking? The list stops there? Well, it did, but I agree that it should have included at least a few more properties. Those of you feeling dubious about The Cloister, on Sea Island, might be wondering about the Jekyll Island Club Hotel (Jekyll Island, GA), but alas, it doesn’t allow pets.

From the D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections & University Archives

Happily, The Grove Park Inn, an Arts & Crafts-style masterpiece in Asheville, NC, is pet-friendly ($95 per stay, 60 lbs. max, max of 2 pets per rooms, cats and dogs both welcome), as is The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, CO (pets are welcome in the Manor House, which is “a smaller replica of our main building and opened in 1910, and was used primarily for Bachelor Housing in the early 1900’s”). In the middle of the country you’ll find the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs, AK, which is not only set in a sweetheart of a Victorian-era town but also has an easy pet policy: $25 per pet, per day fee; no maximum weight; no maximum number; and they’ve welcomed cats, birds and snakes as well as dogs.

And finally, when you’re talking about grande dames, you have to talk about The Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu. Sadly, only service animals are allowed past its gorgeous pink portico — and the same goes not only for the Moana Hotel (now the Moana Surfrider, a Westin property) but for a slew of other Hawaiian hotels. Dang. Your best option for style and history in the islands turns out to be the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historic Kaʻupulehu, on the Big Island’s Kona-Kohala Coast. It’s not old, but it was built in a style sympathetic to traditional local architecture, and it shelters the Kaʻupulehu Cultural Center (offering exhibits and classes in Hawaiian culture and history). Its pet policy? Guests may be accompanied by one pet under 15 lbs. (typically a dog, but other types of pet are potentially possible), and there is no pet fee.