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Some hotels are just a place to lay your head, or a room to throw down your luggage while you explore a city or spend hours in a conference room. And then there are destination hotels — those where check in and don't want to leave. The Umstead Hotel and Spa is the epitome of such a property. Situated just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, in the picturesque suburb of Cary, it's a place where locals come to eat and spa, and where visitors celebrate special occasions. It is, in a word, special. Here's what we found during our recent stay. 

THE BASICS

Budget Level: Luxe ($300+/night)

Lodging Type: Large Hotel (100+ rooms)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

The Look
At first glance, the the hotel itself doesn't look all that impressive. But its surroundings — a 3-acre lake, 12 acres of wooded land, and lush gardens — certainly are. Inside, the property feels like grand mansion, with towering flower arrangements, stunning original artwork, and a roaring fireplace where you'll want to sit and have drinks. The rooms boast luxuriously appointed beds, soaking tubs, and many have balconies with views of the lake. The guest shop feels like an exclusive boutique, with carefully curated items like Alexis Bittar jewelry and local ceramics (which are also used in the hotel restaurant), and there's an unbelievable spa. Arrive early to take advantage of the steam room, sauna, hot tubs (indoor and outdoor), along with lounges that have snacks and tea — all included with a treatment. 

The Vibe
You'll feel like staff almost outnumber guests here; there's always a helpful employee ready to open a door, whisk you to the elevator, or help you with a bag. Upon entering, one often finds the lounge buzzing with with live piano music, a fire roaring in the fireplace. There's lots of seating and it's often filled with guests sipping a signature harvest cocktail or glass of wine. Throughout the property, you'll see couples celebrating a special occasion and those coming in for a ladies-only spa getaway. 

Who Will Love It
Those who appreciate fine dining or a day at the spa, or who want to chill out in luxury will appreciate this hotel. 

Who Might Not
If you're looking to stay in the heart of Raleigh, you'll need to move to a less luxurious chain hotel. 

Best Amenity
The hotel's restaurant, Herons. One of only 62 Forbes Five-Star restaurants in the world, the restaurant is a destination for foodies that's helmed by James Beard Semifinalist chef Steven Greene. Guests can choose from the 3- or 4-course prix fixe menu or indulge in the Chef's Kaiseki tasting menu, which we highly recommend for a splurge. This tasting menu begins with a ceremonial tea service followed by 10 small, but incredibly special (and very Instagram-worthy) courses. 

MONEY MATTERS

What’s Included
Coffee courtesy of your in-room Keurig coffee maker, afternoon cider and hot chocolate in the lobby, nightly turndown service with custom Barry Callebaut chocolate on your pillow, and bicycle and trail maps are all included. You're also welcome to use the spa facilities free of charge from Monday-Thursday, including relaxation lounges, locker rooms, steam room, sauna, whirlpool, co-ed current pool, and meditation gardens. 

Fees and Extra Costs You Should Know About
Valet parking costs $14 per night.

How to Get a Deal
The hotel offers a variety of packages, including dining packages, spa, or romance — each with a savings bundled into the stay. 

GETTING THERE

In the Neighborhood
Despite being a suburb of Raleigh, there's a lot to do in Cary, including breweries, local coffee shops, and great dining. But downtown Raleigh is a quick 15-minute Uber ride (about $10-$15).  

Nearest Airport

The Raleigh airport is about 5 miles from the hotel. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

Stay (and don't leave) and eat, drink, spa, and relax — in style at this cozy-upscale hotel in Cary, North Carolina. 

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