Hotels

Night at the Museum :: Why We're Obsessed With 21c Museum Hotels

Remember that Ben Stiller movie in which he plays a security guard at the Museum of Natural History, who discovers that the animals and exhibits come to life due to an ancient curse? It’s called Night At The Museum, and I (Alli) loved it (Not so much the sequels, but that’s for another day). Since that movie came out in 2006, I’ve always thought it would be cool to stay overnight in a museum. Sure, maybe not a museum filled with taxidermy and war scenes, but a museum filled with pretty pictures, whimsical sculptures, and art pieces that make you think. It’s a concept that I didn’t think existed… until we recently discovered the 21c Museum Hotels. And it’s as though all of my Night At The Museum dreams came true!

21c Museum Hotels were founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, two art collectors and preservationists who have a heart for contemporary art and global culture. Every 21c property has a multi-venue museum that is not only free of charge, 24 hours a day (say what?!), but also boasts curated rotating exhibitions and site-specific installations by local artists. From watercolor, to animation, to still life like you’ve never seen before, the museums are as modern and contemporary as they are powerful and challenging. And the fact that they’re open 24 hours a day, and FREE of charge is absolutely revolutionary. But that’s only the beginning...

During our cross-country roadtrip we had the chance to stay at three of the eight 21c Museum Hotel properties, Bentonville, Nashville, and Durham. Beyond the mesmerizing and engaging contemporary art museums at each location, is the chic and luxurious boutique hotel that’s as beautiful and captivating as the museums! The rooms are spacious, elegantly designed (would you expect anything less?), and all of them perfectly capture the energy and culture of the city that they’re in. Plus, every 21c Museum Hotel has their own signature mascot(s) that float around the property - big plastic penguins, in varying colors. You might come across one at check in, or when you walk into your room, or even next to your dinner table. The staff is constantly moving them around, and it’s absolutely hilarious. They may be our favorite thing about 21c!

Let’s talk about the three 21c Museum Hotels we visited during our roadtrip...

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS

In Bentonville, Arkansas, the 21c Museum Hotel is a welcoming mix of Southern hospitality and thoughtful, contemporary amenities that will instantly make you feel at home. From the in-room original artwork, to the Nespresso coffee machines, to our favorite Malin + Goetz bath amenities, we could’ve easily stayed in our room all day and been totally content. Oh, and did we mention that all 21c Museum Hotels are dog friendly, too? 

Each 21c Museum Hotel has a stylish and acclaimed restaurant that serves modern dishes with a local flair, and The Hive in Bentonville is no exception! We sipped on seasonal cocktails, shared fresh salads with produce from local farms, and filled our bellies with locally caught fish and meat. And of course the surrounding artwork and decor was as elegant as the food! We’d go back to The Hive in a heartbeat!

So many fun pieces!

Downtown Bentonville is like a Hallmark movie

Sally was obsessed with the view in Bentonville!

Our favorite piece in Bentonville!

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE

Located in the historic Gray & Dudley building in Downtown Nashville, just steps from Bridgestone Arena and the honkey tonks on Broadway, the 21c Museum Hotel in Nashville couldn’t be in a better location. The guest rooms are stylish and posh, with striking wood floors, high ceilings, and large windows with floor-to-ceiling drapery. We stayed in a Terrace King that featured a spacious outdoor patio with breathtaking views of the downtown. It was incredible!

We enjoyed breakfast (with the 21c signature penguins, of course) at their onsite restaurant, Gray & Dudley. And in true 21c fashion, most everything was sourced from Nashville area producers and craft purveyors. We even saw the mayor of Nashville enjoying his breakfast a few tables down from us - and if that’s not a sign of a good local restaurant, we’re not sure what is!

Sally felt right at home in Nashville

Incredible video art exhibit in Nashville

Obsessed with these views!

Breakfast with the blue penguin in Nashville

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA

We rounded up our 21c tour at the 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina. Situated in the center of downtown Durham, in the historic Hill Building, it just might have been our favorite of the three! This 17-story art deco skyscraper is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as it was built in the 1930’s by the same NYC architecture firm that built the Empire State Building! The architecture is spectacular, and the way the team at 21c has modernized and renovated the building is really impressive. We stayed in a Terrace Suite, that had a separate living area, bedroom, and a large terrace with gorgeous views of downtown Durham. We joked that it was bigger than our house (and it almost was)!

Our final meal in Durham was enjoyed at the 21c’s Counting House restaurant, which highlights North Carolina’s fresh seafood and high-quality seasonal ingredients. The contemporary design of the restaurant, paired with the fresh and creative menu made it a meal to remember. And of course, the penguins joined us there, too!

Checking in in Durham

Views from our room :)

Sally started to love the elevator - but not alone

Play time in Durham

Can you see any similarities to the Empire State Building?

Sally loved the hotels, but was terrified of the penguins. This photo took awhile to get :)

We’ve now been to three of the 21c Museum Hotels, and we can’t wait to visit more. They have other properties in Cincinnati, Kansas City, Lexington, Louisville and Oklahoma City, and Chicago, Des Moines, and St. Louis are opening soon. And you better believe it’s our goal to visit them all. 

A Pampering "Pupcation" in Newport Beach

These days, a calendar packed with travel is bittersweet. Sweet, because we get to see more of this beautiful world we live in. Bitter, because it (usually) means we’re away from our pup. She’s our baby. Our “firstborn”. When we’re home, we take her everywhere, and when we’re gone, we spend hours scrolling through photos and videos of her on our phones. Yes, we know we’re obsessed.

We jump at any chance we get to bring Sally with us on our adventures, and we’ve gone as far as taking her to Canada and back with us. She LOVES traveling, and we love seeing the world through her cute little eyes. We’re hoping 2019 brings more Sally-friendly adventures - and it’s already off to a great start!

Since we’re mentally (and emotionally) preparing ourselves for a month without Sally, we decided the best thing to do is take her on a little “staycation”. Somewhere luxurious and dog friendly, somewhere all three of us can be pampered, and somewhere close to all of Sally’s favorites spots (the dog park, the beach, and Sprinkles cupcakes - pupcakes, hello!)... The Fashion Island Hotel!

Checking in at the Fashion Island Hotel

Nestled in the heart of Newport Beach, across the street from the iconic Fashion Island Shopping Center, is the Fashion Island Hotel. The decor is coastal-modern, it’s chic and elegant without feeling stuffy, and everyone that works there couldn’t be friendlier. From the moment we checked our car in with the valet, we knew we were staying someplace special. Sally was warmly welcomed by everyone - even the guests! And our ROOM. Let’s talk about our room.

We stayed in a Coastal View Corner Suite, which features a spacious living room, seperate bedroom, a furnished private patio, and a roomy marble bathroom. Plenty of space for all three of us, and an ocean view too! The neutral, beachy tones were warm and inviting, and the Fashion Island staff greeted us with one of the best cheese plates we’ve had in awhile. Did we just check into heaven?!

We spent the rest of our day enjoying the amenities of the hotel (a stylish pool area, a well appointed fitness room, the lavish Island Club Lounge), and took Sally for a walk around the Fashion Island shopping center. We ended the night with dinner at the Fashion Island Hotel’s on-site restaurant, Oak Grill. Their menu consists of fresh, local ingredients coupled with one of the most extensive wine lists in the area - they have over 50 wines by the glass! Those of you that are local, this is a great date night spot. Bobby had their signature Prime Rib Eye, and Alli had the Roasted Chilean Sea Bass, and both were spectacular. (Don’t worry - we gave the leftovers to Sally!)

Sally is always the first to claim the bed

Welcome treats!

Sally loves the Koi fish at Fashion Island

Cheers to sunsets from the Island Club Lounge!

Sunset views from the Island Club Lounge

Fashion Island views from the Island Club Lounge

Quinoa Garden Salad at Oak Grill

We woke up to the glorious Newport Beach sunrise… and what a sight it was! We’re pretty sure even Sally was in awe! We took our time getting up, took Sally on a leisurely walk around the property, and then made our way up to the 20th floor for breakfast at the Island Club Lounge*.

Honestly, we’re not sure what we loved more - the breakfast or the views! We stayed up there for several hours, taking advantage of the quiet work space and endless cups of coffee. When we got back to the room, we found Sally sleeping in our bed, and we couldn’t help but laugh. She appreciates a big, plush, hotel bed just as much as we do!

The Island Club Lounge comes with a great breakfast and these views!

This quick little trip away was exactly what all three of us needed. Everything about it was relaxing and easy, and we can’t wait to do it again. Maybe for Valentines Day? ;) The Fashion Island Hotel is running a special “Suite Love Package”, where guests can stay in a suite, enjoy $100 credit to Oak Grill, and a bottle of bubbly. Sounds like the perfect Valentine's Day getaway, don’t you think?

*When booking a room at The Fashion Island Hotel, you have the option to pay an extra fee for access to the Island Club - and we highly recommend it. There are so many perks and ammenities included - like continental breakfast, a nightly wine hour, snacks, soft drinks and coffee all day, nightly turndown service, and more. Learn more here.

Roadtripping through the Scotch Mecca of Speyside

This past July we had the opportunity to visit Scotland after an epic adventure in Ireland with Adventures by Disney. We never like being away from our fur-baby Sally for too long, so we figured that after 8 days in Ireland, our little bernedoodle could manage another 6 days without us (a BIG thanks to our puppy sitters, Alli’s parents!).

We decided to blitz through Scotland by car, and in 6 days we did just that. We drove over 700+ miles, stayed in three hotels, we (mostly Bobby) tried over 20 different unique scotches, drove on countless slow, windy roads, we saw highland cows (Alli’s dream!), and we oo-ed and awe-d over breathtaking scenery.

All that to say, we’re going to break this recap blog into three chunks… this one will be focused on Speyside (where much Scotch is made and was drank), another will focus on Edinburgh, and the third will share all about the Isle of Skye (no doubt one of the most underrated places we have ever seen). We hope you enjoy them both!

 

Our journey in Scotland started and ended in Edinburgh. We always rent a car wherever we go, because we like the freedom of exploring on our own. We rented through Auto-Europe, (they are AWESOME because they scan all the companies for you and find the best deal!) We ended up with a small wagon from Europcar, and after a quick check-in we were on our way!  

**NOTE TO THOSE AFRAID OF DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD - DON’T BE! If you don’t know how to drive stick and you get a manual, then maybe you should be afraid. But driving on the left is no big deal… just pay attention and take it slow for the first couple hours. You’ll be fine.**

Before driving out into the country, we made a quick stop in a small area of Edinburgh called Leith. Alli’s dad is named Leith, so we figured we should probably check it out... And we were blown away at how cool Leith is! This little port town is full of hip restaurants, cute shops, and picturesque streets. If you have a few days in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Our first destination in Scotland (and the focus of this blog) was the Speyside region. Speyside is a lush, fertile valley situated along the River Spey, and it has the greatest number of whisky-producing distilleries of any region in Scotland. (Basically, Bobby’s HEAVEN!) Balvenie, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenfarclas, Aberlour, Benriach, Glen Moray, Craigellachie… they’re all here (plus 20 more!). If you love whiskey and you love beautiful scenery, move Speyside to the top of your bucket list.

It goes without saying that the drive to Speyside is beautiful. Many people day trip there from Inverness or Aberdeen for tastings, but we would encourage you to stay in the heart of it all. We stayed at the Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside, and it was the very definition of charming. The Craigellachie is like a countryside home with a warm, welcoming staff and modern touches. It also boasts the best pub in town in The Copper Dog, as well as one of the best whisky bars in Scotland in The Quaich Bar (Over 800 single malt scotches!).

Note from Bobby: If you’re adventurous, you should try some of the cuisine that is traditional to Scotland. The most famous is Haggis, and I won’t tell you what it is or you probably would stop reading. (I WILL say that we both had it, and I actually liked it.) Then there is Black Pudding, aka Blood Sausage, which is made from pork blood, oats, and some other miscellaneous ingredients. (But it’s mostly blood.) I ate it (feeling quite invincible from enjoying Haggis), but when the waitress told me it was mostly blood, I definitely turned green. Ha! Regardless, their worth a try if you’re up for it!

 

We spent our days exploring the local distilleries. We visited Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenfarclas, and Aberlour. If you really want to visit a specific one, be sure to book an advance. Balvenie, one of our favorite scotches, books out MONTHS in advance! (We’ll try again next time!)

The Speyside region is a great place to be lazy, especially if you’re staying at the Craigellachie. Have a slow morning with breakfast at the Copper Dog, do a distillery tour or two along with some tastings, and then spend the afternoon in your room reading a book. The views are spectacular, so definitely rest and enjoy them. But if you’re like us and you can only sit still for too long, go explore! Overall it’s not too large of an area, so you can day trip in any direction and be back in the afternoon.

We loved our time in Speyside and plan on returning with reservations at Balvenie, as well as a few extra days to relax. And maybe (obviously) drink a little (a lot) more scotch…

A Luxurious Waldorf Weekend in Chicago

A couple weeks ago we went on a weekend adventure in one of our favorite cities, Chicago. We’ll start off by saying that a weekend is simply NOT enough time to explore this beautiful, friendly, and intriguing city. But boy did we make the most of those 48 hours!! (We’re working on a blog post with all that we did and saw… so more on that later.) We’re already dreaming about our next trip to the Windy City. Partially because we weren’t able to see everything we wanted to, and partially because we absolutely ADORED where we stayed! In two short days it truly felt like home to us, which says a lot about this stunning property!

If you’ve ever stayed at a Waldorf Astoria before, you know the high level of luxury, detail, and comfort you can expect at every location. The staff is attentive, friendly, and knows everything about the city. They upgraded us to the most beautiful suite, the "Astoria Suite" that had panoramic views of the downtown, a living room and the coziest little balcony! When we arrived, we found some tasty chocolates and a bottle of red wine waiting for us. It was so picturesque with the fire place in our room that we didn't want to eat the chocolate (hehe that didn't last long). Once we popped the bottle, we spent our time between our cozy fireplace and watching the hustle and bustle of the city below from our balcony. 

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Speaking of hustle and bustle - the location of the Waldorf Astoria is beyond ideal. Located in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood, we were surrounded by tons of amazing restaurants, incredible shopping, as well as Lake Michigan. We walked EVERYWHERE and were just a few blocks from the water. For us, location is incredibly important when picking a hotel, and finding a spot that’s just right in a big city can be overwhelming. The Waldorf definitely did not disappoint! 

We’re big critics when it comes to hotel beds. Let’s be real - there’s nothing better than a fluffy, comfy, hotel bed. And boy did the Waldorf Astoria deliver!! This bed was GOALS. The perfect amount of fluff and firm - and that balance is hard to find! We could’ve spent all day right there!!

Another bonus - They have 2 delicious restaurants, both curated by one of our favorite chefs, Michael Mina! Petit Margeaux is a french patisserie located in the lobby, great for coffee, cocktails, pastries, and savory baked goods. Margeaux Brasserie, which gives off the vibes of a Parisian cafe and combines it with delicious french cuisine and a fantastic bar. One we gauge the quality of a restaurant/bar is the bartender. You know you're at a good spot if the bartender can whip up a custom concoction based on what you say you like - which is exactly what we experienced here. If you stay at the Waldorf, you must go to Petit Margeaux for your morning coffee and pastry, and start your evening with a whiskey cocktail from Margeaux Brasserie. You're welcome.

We could really go on and on about Chicago’s Waldorf Astoria, but you truly have to experience it to believe it. Next trip to Chi-town give it a try… and take us with you. ;)

Terme Di Saturnia - Maybe Our BEST 24 Hours in a Hotel

Last time we were in Italy we had the opportunity to stay with Terme Di Saturnia, a Leading Hotels of the World property. While we were only there for 1 night, it may have been one of our favorite hotel experiences ever. In Alli's words, "If I ever get very ill later in life, please bring me here to relax and recover." We are going to let the photos speak for themselves, but here is what you need to know: 

-Terme Di Saturnia sits surrounded by thermal springs that have been used for thousands of years, arguably the first spa and wellness retreat location!

-You are encouraged to wear a robe the whole time.

-The rooms are simple, have everything you need, including a super comfortable bed. 

-The restaurant at the hotel is AMAZING!

-If the natural springs aren't enough, they have a wonderful spa where you can receive a variety of pampering treatments :) 

Keeping it short... we will be back. 

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