07/19/2012 07:25 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2012

America's Most Charming Inns (PHOTOS)

When travelers recount experiences at their favorite inns, their memories usually come down to one detail: a fresh-from-the-oven blueberry muffin, a hot water bottle tucked between the sheets on a cold night, a well-timed umbrella before the rain. For Will Carlson, executive director of Select Registry Distinguished Inns of North America, it was a recent midnight snack.

"I was running really late at a conference, and by the time I got to the inn, the kitchen had been closed for two hours," he says. "The innkeeper realized that I hadn't had anything to eat. He opened up the kitchen and put together an outstanding Caesar salad. I didn't even ask. They just brought it to my room."

It's that level of attention that separates small-scale, owner-operated properties from the rest. "Every innkeeper you talk to is someone who, by nature, wants to provide a pleasing experience that is, in and of itself, special," he explains. "People really care."

The ten boutique properties on this list deliver top-notch service, delicious food (marquee chefs, on-site cooking schools and organic gardens are commonplace) and doses of Americana. Take the Hob Nob Inn, a quintessential Martha's Vineyard inn whose family history and ultra-welcoming style has permeated the surrounding area. Or Big Sur, California's Post Ranch Inn, which is perched on a cliff top high above crashing waves and offers some of the most gorgeous sunsets around. For a remote wilderness destination, head to Tutka Bay Lodge in Homer, Alaska, and its ten acres of land that provide numerous opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Our favorites will take you across the country in the most personal, spectacular of ways--and no doubt make for a slew of new memories to share.

--Marnie Hanel