It’s rare for lodging to be the main draw when planning a vacation, but consider 21c Museum Hotels an exception. Setting down roots in up-and-coming, mid-size cities in the American South, the company specializes in all-in-one luxury boutique hotels, art museums and restaurants — spaces that are just as much community centers as they are places to stay. Founded in 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky, 21c Museum Hotels now has locations in Cincinnati, Bentonville, Durham, Lexington and Oklahoma City — with more on the way.

“What sets 21c apart is how we engage with the community,” 21c Museum Hotels President Craig Greenberg said, citing urban redevelopment and cultural revitalization as the company’s primary goals. “Each city has a special story to tell. We focus on discovering that identity and creating programming within our four walls that is responsive to that spirit.” That means hosting art exhibits featuring works by local artists, film screenings and book readings, and providing a home for award-winning restaurants rooted in local cuisines, powered by seasonal ingredients.

“We look for a building or area of town that needs new life,” Greenberg explained. “Many of the buildings we occupy have [a deep history and connection] to the communities we’re in,” like the former Ford Motor Company assembly plant in Oklahoma City and former tobacco and bourbon warehouses in Louisville.

Having garnered local praise and honors from Travel + Leisure, Monocle, Condé Nast Traveler and TripAdvisor, 21c Museum Hotels is setting its sights on larger cities. “As we grow, we believe that the 21c model is well-suited to catalyze this same change in emerging neighborhoods in larger cities,” Greenberg said, noting that locations in Nashville and Miami are in the works.

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