Royalty, presidents, and giants of industry have sipped champagne and danced the night away at America's "grande dame" resorts — those ornate, sprawling destinations that defined the golden age of privileged travel in the early 20th century.
In later decades many of those resorts faced extinction as the nation's travel tastes changed. But if the Rockefellers don't drop by as often as they used to, you might see the folks from down your street, looking for a taste of classic top-tier vacationing — thanks to bargain rates during the resorts' off-season periods (of course, all rates listed are subject to availability). Here are six classic destinations — many of them recently renovated — waiting to treat you like a king.
Hot Springs, Virginia
Presidents schlepped here: 23
A-list guests: J. P. Morgan, Sam Snead, Thomas Edison
Best rate: $175 to $300 per night, except in summer
When you breathe The Homestead's mountain air and soak in its natural springs, 200 miles west of Washington, D.C., you're joining a long line of company: Archaeologists say people have been visiting the area for some 17,000 years. The hotel's 483 rooms stretch along several wings. The imposing red-brick central building was erected after a fire in 1901; the towering clock spire was added in 1929. You can enjoy high tea in the same cathedral-ceilinged lobby that has welcomed millionaire visitors for more than a century, or drive a golf ball from one of the oldest first tees in North America (President William McKinley played the course in 1899, making him the first golfing president). The Gentlemen's Pool House, where Thomas Jefferson once bathed, dates from the 18th century. There's skiing and ice-skating in the winter, and skeet shooting and bowling year-round; to go really old school, take a class in falconry. Just over the mountains in Green Bank, West Virginia, the impossibly huge antennas of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory probe the heavens for the edges of creation. The visitor center is open year-round.