1. 21C Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky–
This uber modern, avant guard contemporary art gallery/ hotel MIGHT pass in San Francisco, but deep in the heart of the South?? I couldn’t believe the naked, anatomically correct statuary and puzzling installation pieces that abounded. Getting to the concierge desk meant stepping over the video of a couple in bed, and the chandeliers in the lobby made a kookie racket as they came to life at random intervals. Girl, I had to keep reminding myself which side o’ the Mason-Dixon I was on!

Centrally located downtown near several ‘other’ museums including ye olde Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, 21C is the building on the corner with all the giant red penguins on it. You heard me. Penguins. Red. My sweet suite had its own phabulous deck complete with, you guessed it, red penguins, and if I felt like it, I could let folks in the office building across the street watch me pee if I left the blinds up. I didn’t, of course, but it was nice to have the option…

2. Hotel Donaldson, Fargo, North Dakota–
My dear friend Lisa made this reservation for me when I came out to visit her. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this super chic oasis in the Dakotas complete with hip bar, gourmet restaurant and a suite of epic proportions certainly surprised. Like 21C, this hotel also takes art seriously and prominently features great pieces by local artists in the 17 suites. The suites have different themes, and mine was Japanese due to the low-slung platform bed and bathtub in the middle of the room that filled via a spout on the ceiling. Wow!

The restaurant was celebrating wild game one night and I ended up with some rattlesnake quesadillas. Delicious and quite well-paired with the ensuing wild boar…Yee-haw!

Stephanie Block on her balcony at 21C Hotel with red penguin