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...
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!
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!
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!