Southern Comfort: Richmond, Virginia

The Jefferson Hotel in Virginia’s capital city holds the rare distinction of earning both Five Mobil Stars and Five AAA Diamonds.The classic hotel is a veritable institution in Richmond, with over a century of history behind it. (No, the elegant staircase in the lobby is not the one in the infamous scene in Gone With the Wind, but it looks identical.)

The expansive, multilevel lobby has been—and remains—the place to be. Downstairs is the swanky TJ’s Lounge, staffed with friendly mixologists who, we are told, make the perfect margarita. TJ’s Restaurant serves traditional Southern cuisine, and is locally famous for its afternoon teas and Sunday brunches (You can’t miss the grits!). Upstairs, the hotel’s popular Lemaire Restaurant will reopen after an extensive renovation later this year making this high-end joint accessible to a new generation of diners. (The peanut soup at Lemaire is, apparently, a local institution in itself.)

The property’s 262 guest rooms and suites have been furnished in 57 distinct styles. The Jefferson Suite (No.156) and the Governor’s Suite (No.150 and No.250) have balconies overlooking the historic Franklin Street. The  most-requested room, we are told, is the Deluxe King with an ornamental fireplace (No. 458). The Executive Suites (rooms ending in -48 and -49) are also a popular pick. Room rates begin at $335 per night while suites fall in the $435 to $2,100 range.

While the bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, the marbled bathrooms—with Molton Brown bath amenities, lighted makeup mirrors and bath scales—provide an experience of their own. (Note: Don't try the scales after eating at TJ's or Lemaire. Instead, once you have indulged in the food, go for a morning stroll around the city.) Many feature step-in showers with rainforest faucets and Jacuzzi tubs that are ideal for relaxing after a long day of work or play. Nice touch: Flat-screen TVs are angled toward the tub, so you don't need to choose between Law & Order and a nice long soak!

Guest Services Manager Jeanita Harris (jeanita.harris@jeffersonhotel.com; 804-649-4615) has served as head concierge at The Jefferson Hotel for over 20 years, and has helped guests plan everything from weddings to hot-air balloon rides in the surrounding wine region. She has even helped business guests find open boutiques early in the morning for last-minute attire and accessories.

Speaking of shopping, the hotel provides transportation to the popular Carytown area, a nine-block district known as the "Mile of Style," with plenty of boutiques, shops and restaurants to explore. The Short Pump Town Center, the Shops at River Road and Stony Point Fashion Park can be reached with a private car service.

Where to Eat

For breakfast in Richmond, Perly’s is in the same league as The Jefferson but with a decidedly casual and relaxed flair. We are told that, ironically, many a business and political deal has been sealed here—over some tasty food and a coffee in mismatched cups. For lunch, the Patrick Henry Grille serves rustic American fare (try the mussels) and a delicious Penne Bolognese.

For an old-fashioned Italian dinner, try La Grotta (www.lagrottaristorante.com), which also serves meals the Italian way. Up to seven courses are available, from which guests can pick and choose depending on their appetite. An ideal starter is the chef’s pasta plate, which offers a sampling of three fresh pasta choices for the day (This option is only available for the entire table, so make sure, before ordering, that no guests are on a low-carb diet.).

For Francophiles: Can Can (www.cancanbrasserie.com) is a Parisian-style brasserie that offers a dizzying array of fresh seafood, including whole lobsters and just about every kind of shellfish out there. For a starter, try the toasted-corn bisque, a creamy and subtly sweet soup that doesn’t overwhelm the palate, rather teases it. The roasted lamb loin and braised lamb shoulder offer two deliciously contrasting cuts of meat with different sauces to enhance each flavor, while the root-beer ice cream is the perfect way to end a day in the city.