When ShermansTravel editors deployed our bargain-hunting antennae to find the best city hotels at recession-busting prices in popular locales across the U.S., we tuned in to some refreshing results: not only can you bed down for under $100 a night, but you can do so in style. Ranging from eclectic boutiques to charming B&Bs to chic budget chains, our picks for affordable city hotels left the non-descript franchise digs on the cutting room floor (ahem, no Super 8s gracing this list). Granted, what $100 buys you varies from city to city, but even in pricey places like New York City, reasonable rates abound at hotels that are heavy in personality and light on pretentiousness. What’s more, many of these city hotels pride themselves on not nickel-and-diming you after check-in, throwing in plenty of extras, like breakfast, WiFi, parking, and more. For good measure, we’ve also included an under-$200-night great-value pick, where you (and not your bank account) can take a load off . . . in just a bit more luxury.
Editors' Note: While rates for all of our hotel picks stay under $100/night or $200/night for the majority of the year, they may bump above those benchmarks during high seasons.
Great-Bargain Atlanta Hotel (Under $100):
LAUREL HILL B&B
You’d do well to kick back after a day of sightseeing at this five-suite retreat spanning two Tudor-style houses atop a tranquil laurel-lined hillside, just 5 miles east of downtown Atlanta. Each unique, spacious room in this city hotel is outfitted with cable TV, free WiFi, and full- to king-sized beds dressed in Ralph Lauren sheets, while some also contain deep Jacuzzi tubs, double showers, balconies, and flat-screen TVs. A computer and portable DVD players are on hand for complimentary guest use. Owner Dave Hinman serves triple-course, made-to-order breakfasts each day, as well as afternoon desserts. Nightly rates start at $90 single occupancy ($119 double; less for students or longer stays).
Great-Value Atlanta Hotel (Under $200):
HOTEL INDIGO ATLANTA MIDTOWN
Steps away from the Fox Theatre, it’s hard to beat Indigo for style, prime location (on Peachtree Street), and terrific value for your money. The 140 units feature airy décor, bold colors, and plush furnishings like oversize pillows and Adirondack chairs; spa-style showers are replete in bathrooms. Free WiFi is available in the bright lobby (as well as in guest rooms), with a 24-hour fitness studio upstairs. Hungry? Give room service a go from in-house café, The Golden Bean, or try out one of a slew of restaurants nearby. The Canine Cocktail Hour on the patio each evening proves Indigo’s friendly to Fidos, as well as pockets, of all shapes and sizes. Rates start at $139/night.
Great-Bargain Boston Hotel (Under $100):
Location, location, location. Boston’s tiny Milner Hotel is smack dab in the middle of the theater district and only a few blocks from Boston Common. Its address is definitely its most enviable asset – some may say its only enviable asset – but you’d be hard pressed to find rooms in the center of the action for this price (most in the same range are located outside the city in suburbs like Lexington; check out Aloft Lexington if you don’t mind the commute). The five-story city hotel has a small lobby with a teensy elevator. Rooms are no-frills standard with cherry-red comforters, dark carpeting, and dated furnishings. But, they all offer air-conditioning, coffee maker, complimentary high-speed Internet access, plus rates include complimentary continental breakfast and access to laundry facilities. Rates start from $79/night, though they can spike as high as $159/night during the summer months.
Great-Value Boston Hotel (Under $200):
Just a few blocks from Beacon Hill and a 10-minute walk from Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market, the boutique Bulfinch Hotel offers the best bang for your buck in Beantown. The unique flat-iron-shaped building is composed of 79 contemporary rooms and eight suites. All are done up in muted taupe colors with fluffy white beds (Serta Perfect Sleepers, actually) with damask sheets and leather headboards, marble bathrooms, little work areas (complimentary Internet access included), and flat-screen TVs. Order up room service or head down to the ground-floor Flat Iron Tapas Bar for tasty treats like empanadas, blackened scallops with chili pineapple salsa, and Kobe sliders. Rates start from $179/night and include local calls and continental breakfast (note, however, that rates can increase to as much as $259/night during the summer months).
Great-Bargain Chicago Hotel (Under $100):
The duo of newly renovated (in 2009) studios found in this intimate inn, run by a husband-and-wife team from England and tucked away on a residential street in Chicago’s historic Andersonville/Edgewater neighborhood, are second to none for bargain pricing in the Second City. The generous just-like-home amenities found here would hardly be expected of rooms triple their price: Magnolia’s guest rooms come with fully equipped kitchens, in-unit washing machines, and tricked-out technological goodies like laptops with free WiFi and plasma TVs with DVD players. A more spacious – albeit pricier – apartment unit (which can accommodate four) is also available (from $149/night). Hop the nearby L train for convenient access to the city center (30 minutes), or access Chicago’s picturesque lakeshore on foot, just a few blocks away. Rates start at $99/night, year-round.
Great-Value Chicago Hotel (Under $200):
This landmark Lincoln Park-area residential hotel (set just across from the zoo and a short walk from the lake) has offered refined lodging to guests at affordable prices since 1922. Common areas include an opulent lobby, which unfolds underneath a dangling gold chandelier and hand-painted ceiling depicting a sky motif; two restaurants, including the charming Mon Ami Gabi French bistro; a full-service spa; and a spacious sundeck with cityscape views. Guests additionally have access to a fitness center and free continental breakfast in the hotel's coffee bar. The 60 airy rooms (half of which are suites) feature high ceilings and kitchenettes – be sure to request one with your preference of lake, park, or city views. Rates range from $89 to $229/night throughout the year (though they’ve been known to spike even higher during the peak summer months).
Great-Bargain Las Vegas Hotel (Under $100):
It’s easy to blow your budget in Vegas. Happily, we can at least help you out in the accommodations department. There’s no need to sacrifice the fantastical, larger-than-life spectacle that is Vegas when looking for low-cost lodgings in this city. Case in point: The Golden Nugget. Yes, it’s downtown on Fremont Street but it has all the fancy trimmings – its own casino, health club, spa, a dozen restaurants and bars, a new $30-million-dollar pool complex surrounding a shark-infested tank and 3-story waterslide, oh, and the world’s largest gold nugget (61 pounds and change) – of its flashy Strip contenders. In fact, prior owner Steve Wynn (mastermind behind Sin City hotels like the Bellagio, Wynn, and The Mirage, to name a few) was responsible for jazzing up the property and elevating it to its current four-star status. And as of November 2009, guests can check into the all new Rush Tower, boasting bigger and better rooms, the new Chart House restaurant with a 75,000-gallon aquarium, and another smaller pool with six cabanas and lounge areas. Rates for lowest category rooms in the Carson Tower go for $39/night and up; Rush Tower rooms go for $69/night and up.
Great-Value Las Vegas Hotel (Under $200):
THE SIGNATURE AT MGM GRAND
The MGM Grand’s baby sister, and the first non-gaming condo-hotel on the Strip (technically, it’s tucked away a block off Las Vegas Boulevard and is accessed by a long driveway), is a trio of high-rises positioned between the MGM and Paris Las Vegas. The vibe is relaxed and the rooms are refined, with dark-wood furnishings, carpets and couches in milk-chocolaty hues, kitchens or kitchenettes, marble-and-granite bathrooms, and balconies with killer Strip views. There’s a private pool with cabanas and poolside cocktail service, a fitness center, business center, and gourmet in-room dining. For everything else, hop on the moving walkway to the MGM Grand. For the bulk of the year, standard rack rates at The Signature at MGM Grand range from $129 (week night) to $189 (weekend night). In the high-season months, March through early May and September through October, weekend rates hover around $249.
Great-Bargain Los Angeles Hotel (Under $100):
No surprise that most of the budget properties in car-crazy L.A. are motels – throughout Hollywood, chains like Days Inn, Super 8, and Motel 6 mingle with trashy-cool Sunset Strip standbys like the Saharan. In Little Tokyo, however, downtown home of the Museum of Contemporary Art at the Geffen and the Japanese American National Museum, “budget” gets you a taste of Japanese style, service, and comfort (and we’re not talking capsule-size rooms!) at the 174-room Miyako Hotel. Spa facilities, free in-room Internet access, and unexpected amenities (including an electronic bidet toilet) round out the value. Priced from $99/night, not that rates can spike to as high as $169/night during busy periods (i.e. conventions and awards season).
Great-Value Los Angeles Hotel (Under $200):
THE STANDARD – HOLLYWOOD
OK, so maybe that mod-Hollywood motel vibe is exactly what you want. Set on the sexier, more-stars-per-square-foot West Hollywood stretch of Sunset Boulevard, the original Standard Hotel (precursor to outposts in Downtown L.A., Miami, and now New York) is as hip as it ever was. Or rather, when you lounge on its Eero Saarinen-style furnishings, walk (yes, walk) to nearby clubs, and join the tan 20-somethings around its always-sceney, blue-astroturf-ringed pool, the Standard still makes you feel as hip as you ever were. Rates range from $165 to $225/night.
Great-Bargain Miami Hotel (Under $100):
THE LOFT HOTEL
With its Art Deco District locale, bargain rates (from $99/night year-round, though they can increase during busy periods), free WiFi, and a propensity for handing out VIP passes to area nightclubs, The Loft Hotel caters to a young, hip fan base. The 20 basic but spacious apartment-style rooms have a certain understated elegance, with queen-sized beds, hardwood floors, chaise lounges, down comforters, and gleaming, white-tile bathrooms. They also come with TVs, VCRs, and fully-equipped kitchens (laundry’s available on-site). It's a two-block walk to Lummus Park, the beach, and the tourist chaos of Ocean Drive's outdoor cafes and shops. When you’re ready for a quiet retreat, head to the Loft’s relaxing courtyard, surrounded by lush tropical greenery.
Great-Value Miami Hotel (Under $200):
THE NEW HOTEL
A refreshing newcomer to Miami’s distinctly excessive city hotel scene, this stylish, yet economical, option opened in August 2009 as one of Miami's first “green” boutiques – offering all the indulgences of its high-end brethren at a cut-rate cost. Set within a revamped deco-style building just a block from the beach in the MiMo architectural district, the 10 brightly-lit rooms are caped in white, with Italian-tiled wood-colored floors and eco-chic touches like low-flow showerheads, organic cotton sheets, and key cards that turn off the electricity for you when you leave. The spa boasts an all-natural, ocean-based product line along with in-room services, while the outdoor bistro (helmed by an ex-Setai chef) serves up fresh-daily Mediterranean fare. After check-in, hit up the poolside bar for a free cocktail, and live music on weekends. Rooms, typically $130/night, can go even lower in off-season (though they can go a wee bit higher, too, during winter high season).
New York City
Great-Bargain New York City Hotel (Under $100):
Built in 1908 as a refuge for sea-weary sailors, this red-brick Georgian-style landmark on the banks of the Hudson (restored in 2008) houses 160 hip little guestrooms decked out like cabins aboard a yacht. Starting at $99/night year-round for singles (if you don’t mind sharing a pristine bath house), the price for these pint-sized accommodations (from just 50 square feet) is minimal – but the list of amenities isn’t, including 23-inch LCD TVs, DVD players, free WiFi, and iPod docking stations. The property’s genteel lobby boasts brass chandeliers, emerald-colored tiles, and a bellman bedecked in classy period attire. The Victorian-style bar serves as a trendy destination for thirsty creative types, and a location in the heart of New York’s fashionable Meatpacking District means the hottest nightclubs are all within stumbling distance. Double bunk rooms start at $125/night (they go up to $300/night when inclusive of private bath).
Great-Value New York City Hotel (Under $200):
Branching from West Coast roots (the Ace Hotel chain has outposts in Portland, Seattle, and Palm Springs), New York’s new nerdy-hip hotel opened in May 2009 near the landmark Flatiron building (on the site of the former Breslin Hotel). The Ace has painstakingly restored the building’s 1904 floor tiling, fine moldings, and the lobby’s towering round pillars, and wows guests with features that include a handsome library, a funky array of taxidermy, and coffee tables and chandeliers fashioned from defunct telescope lenses – all of which play into its oddball, eclectic style. The Ace’s 262 rooms tout one large piece of commissioned art each and cutesy touches like clothing hangers that read ‘you look good in that.’ Some units even flaunt acoustic guitars, record players, and vintage SMEG fridges stocked with beverages like Vitamin Water and Jack Daniels. Bunk rooms average from $169 to $189/night (though they can go as high as $219 during busy periods). Other room types, with full- to king-sized beds, average more than $200/night, though we've found units with full-sized beds posted from as little as $189/night.
Great-Bargain Phoenix Hotel (Under $100):
ZENYARD GUEST HOUSE
Amidst the mega-luxe resorts and non-descript chains that define the Phoenix hotel scene, this tiny gem provides a true money-saving oasis in the desert. Touting just four individually decorated guest rooms (some with a kitchen), each boast queen-sized beds, free WiFi, and iPod dock alarm clocks (though some have shared bath); WiFi access and continental breakfast (including organic foods and fruit grown in the inn’s yard) is included in the rate. The grounds include a private courtyard with solar-heated saltwater pool, a hot tub, and a koi pond; the friendly owners, who have prided themselves on creating a haven of tranquility, also offer massage therapy and yoga on the premises. Note that no children are allowed. Rates range from $65 to $115/night year-round. www.zenyard.com
Great-Value Phoenix Hotel (Under $200):
THE CLARENDON HOTEL
This value-packed, stylish Phoenix mainstay (opened in 1974, it was fully renovated in 2004) offers lots of enticing extras, including complimentary room upgrades upon arrival (if available), plus early check-in and late checkout (at 1pm). Those extra hours of sleep are bound to come in hand at this magnet for rock-and-roll stars (the Rolling Stones and Black Eyed Peas have counted among their guests), the likes of whom have been known to linger by the buzzworthy rooftop deck and lounge area, with its stellar views of the city skyline and surrounding mountain ranges, or by the swimming pool, with its underwater speakers and massaging jets. Who knows? You may even rub shoulders with one of them in the 50-person hot tub. The 106 spacious rooms come equipped with large flat-screens and Aveda bath products, and freebies like high-speed Internet and local and international phone calls. Rates average about $109/night, but can dip as low as $69 in off-season, and run closer to the $200 mark during high season.
Great-Bargain San Francisco Hotel (Under $100):
“Great” is a much better name for the Good Hotel, a perky little “hotel with a conscience” located in San Francisco’s artsy SOMA (South of Market) district. Made with recycled materials, this eco- and pet-friendly property is one of the best bargains in the city, offering fun freebies like loaner bikes, treats and water/food bowls for pets, and a city tour with a Golden Gate Greeter – not to mention free Internet access and all the other mod cons (iPod docking station? Check). And the super-low rates at this green godsend will let you keep more green for other pursuits (stash it in your eco-friendly wallet, made from FedEx envelopes and available at a vending machine in the lobby). Priced from $89/night, note that rates can increase during high season (between May and October).
Great-Value Hotel (Under $200):
Splashed with the Kimpton hotel collection’s signature bold colors and audacious patterned prints, the Serrano Hotel’s 236 rooms inhabit a 17-story restored Spanish Revival building just three blocks from Union Square and the Theater District. Pet-friendly (the hotel stocks everything from clean-up bags to gourmet puppy food), people-friendly (expect Aveda bath products, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary shoe-shine service), and earth-friendly (with its pioneering EarthCare environmental program), Serrano exceeds expectations for its relatively modest price. Priced from $119/night, note that rates can go as high as $329 during the summer months.
Great-Bargain Washington, D.C. Hotel (Under $100):
A 2006 Today Show shout-out boosted the popularity of this brick-clad Victorian B&B – a staid haven for young travelers looking to enjoy D.C. on a budget – and demand remains high. The affordable price (nightly rates start at $109, less if you book by the week or in low season) isn’t the only draw: located on a quiet tree-lined block in the unpretentiously hip Adams Morgan hood (near a wealth of cafes and boutiques), the 26-room inn features useful spaces like a communal kitchen, garden patio, and laundry facility. Most rooms can sleep four guests and have private baths, while free WiFi and cable TV are available in the multiple lounge areas (complete with cozy couches and fireplaces).
Great-Value Washington, D.C. Hotel (Under $200):
WOODLEY PARK GUEST HOUSE
Just 2 miles from the White House and skirting the National Zoo, bedding down at this quaint B&B affords you free WiFi (with laptops on hand to borrow), gobs of good conversation and reading material (TVs are nonexistent), and a bountiful (complimentary) breakfast of homemade pastries, 12-fruit salad, and breads from the local farmer’s market. All 16 individually decorated rooms feature antique wooden furnishings and ample sunlight; most have private bathrooms (though showers-only). Airport shuttles and taxis park just across the street for quick zipping downtown. Rates start at $130/night.