It’s news to no one that the pandemic has changed the way we think about travel. While Americans have become more comfortable getting back on the road this year, many now place a greater emphasis on ensuring some level of protection from a certain dreaded virus.
This is certainly the case when it comes to selecting a hotel, and many travelers seem to be focusing less on traditional considerations, like loyalty programs and location, and more on the hotel as the destination itself. So how are hotels meeting these requests? By switching things up and offering unique amenities, expanded facilities and personalized experiences that allow guests to stay put and avoid most crowds. Here’s a sampling of what’s out there these days – beyond the bed.
Graffiti artist Defer at The Thompson Hollywood — Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea
To celebrate the brand’s 20th anniversary, Thompson Hotels kicked off their "Culture Lives Here" program in late 2021, showcasing local creatives – or culture shifters, as they call them. These brand ambassadors are selected based on their meaningful impact on the local cultural landscape and include graffiti artists, such as the L.A.-based Defer, as well as tattoo artists, musicians, fashion designers and others. Installations take place at select Thompson properties and dates and artists vary by location.
Hesitant to go gallery hopping? Book a stay at The Langham Boston where you can peruse the work of local artists at the hotel’s newly opened Artists’ Lane, located in the foyer on the first floor. This gallery-in-a-hotel features pieces from Copley Society of Art, the oldest artistic non-profit in the United States, with the intent of providing a new platform for local artists.
“There are a lot of talented artists in our city,” says Michele Grosso, managing director of the hotel. “This new installation of rotating art is another way we can invest in the livelihood of the Copley Society artists.”
Further west, Hotel Clio, A Luxury Collection Hotel in the Cherry Creek area of Denver also takes pride in its art collection. It has been revamped to convey a “River of Hope” theme, reflecting on the time when prospectors streamed into the area to strike it rich in Colorado during the Gold Rush. Their collection includes custom furnishings and art pieces, and the hotel also partners with nearby local galleries where guests can learn about the neighborhood's rich history.
Rossano Ferretti Hair Spa at Park Hyatt New York — Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea
Enhanced spa and wellness offerings
Hotel spas are a dime a dozen, but some are now moving towards offering more unexpected services and treatments. The Park Hyatt New York recently converted a portion of its spa space into a Rossano Ferretti Hair Spa, bringing the world-renowned Italian salon to its top floor, complete with stunning, sweeping views of Central Park.
In Hawaii, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea is focusing on holistic health and recently partnered with Next Health, a California-based health optimization and longevity center. Resort guests can book treatments that include ozone therapy, stem cell therapy and exosomes therapy. They also offer IV therapy drips, vitamin shots, biomarker wellness testing and more.
Next Health IV drips at Four Seasons Resort Maui — Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea
Is it possible to learn about and taste wine without moving between vineyards and tasting rooms? It is in Sonoma. The Lodge at Sonoma, an Autograph Collection Hotel, has launched a “Women in Wine Country” series for the 2022 harvest season. Held on property every other Thursday, the series will allow guests to learn about and celebrate women winemakers, creatives, artists, chefs and other notable locals. The events run through November. Cheers to that!
"Just for You" at Hotel Metropole — Photo courtesy of Hotel Metropole Monte-Carlo
Private tours and personal experiences
Sure, the hotel concierge can book you a dinner reservation or direct you to the nearest museum, but more high-end hotels have recently been raising the bar for concierge services. The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston is now offering to arrange “Uniquely Post Oak” private experiences for guests, such as a being flown by helicopter to Johnson Space Center for a private behind-the-scenes mission control tour (with an astronaut, no less). Or, for the well-off sports fan, they’ve created a Houston Rockets package that includes floor seats, special VIP lounge access, signed jerseys and more.
Similarly, Monaco’s posh Hotel Metropole in Monte Carlo boasts a signature program called “Just For You” that is tailored to guest preferences and could include anything from arranging to meet prestigious French leather maker Berluti or having a private portrait painted by French painter David Djiango.
Kitchenette suites at Mandarin Oriental Boston — Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Boston
Home, meet hotel
For travelers who prefer to keep to themselves but still long for a refined and pampered hotel experience, Mandarin Oriental Boston has come up with a solution: a stunning suite designed with a small but functional kitchenette. Conveniently located in Boston’s Back Bay, the rooms and suites are impeccably designed, and the kitchenette includes a cooktop, microwave and small sink.
Even better: if you’re not in the mood to prepare a meal, you can pop down to Ramsay’s Kitchen which has a private entrance off the lobby for hotel guests. One of the newest ventures from celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, the contemporary restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner – the latter menu featuring Ramsay’s famous beef Wellington.
Relax at the 10 best hotel spas across the US, according to readers
Relax at the 10 best hotel spas across the US, according to readers
If you want to find a warm, cozy nesting space while on the road, grab a book and cup of tea and hunker down for the afternoon in the library of The Jefferson in Washington, D.C. History buffs love the hotel’s ode to Thomas Jefferson, with its presidential busts and original signed documents. But the piece de resistance is the Monticello-inspired library on the first floor. Guests can page through vintage tomes and imagine they’ve traveled back in time.
Bookworms might also enjoy a stay at Oregon’s The Nines, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Portland, where they can hang out in the Library with floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books or engage in a game of billiards while enjoying a drink from the Library’s cocktail menu.
The private beach at the Pelham House Resort — Photo courtesy of Pelham House Resort
Sure, staying outside will help limit exposure to viruses, but maybe not so much when heading to a beach that is packed with wall-to-wall people. For a more secluded escape, book a hotel or resort that offers a private beach, such as Cape Cod’s Pelham House Resort.
Pelham House guests could mosey over to popular Sea Street Beach, adjacent to the property, but why should they when they have access to lounge chairs, a fire pit and food and drink service at the Pelham’s private beach directly in front of the property? And here's an insider tidbit: guests staying at the resort’s more affordable sister properties, Pelham on Main and Pelham on Earle, also have access to the private beach, as well as the resort’s other amenities (including the pool and two restaurants). A free shuttle between the properties is provided at no charge.
Self-care at RESET Telluride — Photo courtesy of RESET Telluride
Private wellness retreats
Wellness has never been more important than it is now as we emerge from the pandemic and seek new ways to manage our wellbeing. A number of properties are investing in dedicated self-care suites, such as Los Angeles’ Hotel Figueroa that now offers a “Rest & Recovery Suite.” The suite includes things like a mattress that adjusts for body temperature, customized pillows and a Forme personal strength fitness mirror for personalized workouts.
Or go all in on your wellbeing and book a six-night stay at Colorado’s newly-opened RESET Telluride. This private, ultra-luxury wellness and trekking retreat features three personalized pathways that empower guests to “challenge and indulge in equal measure.” The REACH pathway is a high-impact path for goal-setters seeking heightened athletic performance; ROAM centers around adventure and emphasizes freedom to wander and uncover fresh perspectives. And RECHARGE encourages guests to pause and unwind to awaken new energy.
Balconies for stargazing at ADERO Scottsdale — Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea
I love the idea of being able to stargaze without even leaving the hotel, and I was able to do this recently at ADERO Scottsdale, an Autograph Collection hotel. The Fountain Hills region of Scottsdale is one of only 37 Dark Sky Communities around the world and, depending on what room category you book (go with the “celestial suite!”), a telescope may be ready for use on the balcony or terrace of this hotel set high above the Sonoran Desert. You can also inquire about various stargazing equipment upon arrival.
The daytime views are equally as stunning with sweeping desert landscapes, views of the McDowell Mountains and plenty of desert hiking trails to discover.