Attention, romantics, or anyone who just likes to keep warm on the road: There's no time like the present to seek out a nice, warm, cozy, hotel-room fireplace.
Restrictive fire codes, expensive firewood and fireplace-cleaning have contributed to making the search elusive, however.
But it's not impossible. Dozens of hotels still offer rooms with fireplaces.
The Park Hyatt, Washington, D.C., and the Beverly Hills Hotel feature working fireplaces in presidential suites.
They're in Most Rooms
Hotels such as the Highlands Inn, Carmel; the Meadowood, St. Helena; the Ventana Inn, Big Sur, and the Sprindrift Inn, Monterey, offer fireplaces in most of their rooms. Many old B&Bs and small inns also have fireplaces in rooms.
Generally, if you want a fireplace you should know which room contains one when you make your reservations.
At the Westin Hotel in Vail, Colo., ask for room 532, 534, 536, 538, 512, 514, 516 or 518. The rooms are not advertised, but each has a wood-burning fireplace.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel, Montreal, has working fireplaces in 30 of its suites, along with plenty of maple wood.
"Even though we have gone through extensive renovation," said Fernand Roberge, the hotel's executive vice president, "we fought hard to keep the fireplaces." The hotel's best-kept secrets are regular rooms 301 and 601 with working fireplaces.
Expensive to Operate
"We still have them," Carol Adams, spokeswoman for the Savoy Group of hotels, said. "They're expensive to operate, but so many guests ask for them that we keep them operating."
At Claridge's in London, 35 of the hotel's 200 rooms have operating fireplaces. Often a hotel staff member will have the fire burning in the fireplace when the guest arrives.
But Claridge's is the exception in London. Although you still can find many old hotels with fireplaces, few fireplaces work. You'll find large marble fireplaces at the Ritz, but the London fire brigade doesn't allow their use.
In Denver the wood-burning fireplace is being challenged by air-quality officials who claim that homeowners using their fireplaces are major contributors to pollution. As a result, construction of new wood-burning fireplaces has been banned.
The same problem is true in New York City, although many hotels there claim fireplaces in guest rooms.
For example, the Waldorf Astoria (Hilton) has 30 fireplaces with antique marble mantles imported from Europe by the Astor family for the original hotel.
And the recently restored and reopened Royalton claims fireplaces in 49 of its 205 rooms. The mantles feature green-gray slate and are accessorized with large andirons.
One small problem, however: The fireplaces at the Waldorf Astoria and Royalton don't work. For years, fireplaces have been blocked and made unworkable because of the age of the buildings and restrictive fire codes.
(Management of the newly opened and restored Royalton say that the fireplaces will be working soon, but it will be an expensive proposition. Even if fire marshals do allow the hotel to use them.)
One exception is the Lowell Hotel in New York City. It's in a terrific Manhattan location, and the 60-suite hotel has wood-burning fireplaces.
For guests who request it, the hotel staff will have the fire stoked and burning upon arrival. For special occasions the staff will add pine cones or scented kindling to the fire.
Each morning at the Riverhouse Motorlodge in Gatlinburg, Tenn., fires are built in guest-room fireplaces and continental breakfasts are taken to the rooms.
At the Inn at Mystic in Mystic, Conn., a wall panel lifts so guests can watch the fire in the bedroom fireplace while relaxing in the bathroom Jacuzzi.
At the 17 Hundred 90 Inn in Savannah, Ga., when guests switch on room lights, gas fireplaces come on automatically.
Stouffer Cottonwoods Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz., features Southwestern-style fireplaces in its 34 Phoenix suites.
Wood lovers might prefer the new Scottsdale Princess. "Having working fireplaces with real wood in the rooms adds just the right touch," said Judy Blatman, spokeswoman for the Princess.
Starting From Scratch
Before using any hotel fireplace, beware: Some are gas-operated, others need to be started from scratch with kindling.
In either case, always ask hotel staff members to start the fire the first time. Have them check that the flue is open and that the right amount of wood is added.
In case of gas fireplaces, make sure the gas is turned off after the fire has started. Then double-check that the gas valve has been firmly turned off before leaving the room.
Finally--always leave a window slightly open to provide adequate ventilation.