Hotel We Love: The Godfrey Hotel, Boston
The Freedom Trail runs around and adjacent to hotel's Downtown Crossing, a centrally located maze of mostly retail-lined streets, but the district, just up the street from Chinatown and Emerson College, is anything but fusty. The old-world architectural details of many of the buildings are preserved, but otherwise it's a thoroughly modern shopping area with "ambassadors" lingering on the partly cobblestone streets to guide visitors and outdoor tables for loitering in warmer months. In other words, it's a welcoming area for tourists visiting the city who want to stay in luxury just steps from American history.
The Godfrey, a small national boutique hotel chain, has its flagship property in Chicago. Boston, which has 242 rooms and opened in 2016, is the second property. Others include Tampa and LA.) It's located in two thoughtfully combined and renovated 110-year-old buildings that are listed on the National Historic Registry. Having once housed corporate textile and fabric trade offices on the upper floors and retail outfits on street level, they're credited with having had a historical impact on the city's once lively commerce.
Despite being located in a densely-packed urban center, the rooms, which are appointed in neutral shades of grey, beige, charcoal and green, with tartan headboards tossed in for good measure, get plenty of light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. Rooms range in size from a standard size to a slightly larger double queen (two beds) to a larger studio king, which features a pullout couch, to sprawling corner suites on the top floor. Mini-fridges are not set up in the standard rooms, but they're available upon request, a thoughtful way to cut down on energy, an underlying mission at the property. The hotel pulled out all the stops where technology is concerned. Each room has a 55-inch LCD televisions with smartphone-to-TV streaming capability for your own Netflix and Hulu accounts, Bluetooth-compatible Bose wireless speakers, and Keurig coffee makers. Spacious bathrooms have a luxurious feel, plenty of counter space, and neat design touches like deep basin sinks. High speed WiFi and bottled water are free.
Suffice it to say you can’t be more centrally located in Boston than Downtown Crossing, a mix of gorgeous historic buildings and lots of familiar stores. There’s a number of restaurants and pubs nearby, and Chinatown is a few blocks away, but it’s primarily a retail district, so it’s very quiet late at night. The hotel is walking distance from the sprawling Boston Common and a stone’s throw from all four subway lines. (They’re designated by color here: the Red Line, Green Line, Blue Line, and Orange Line.)
The Godfrey is certainly not a big property by hotel standards, but when you hear about its varied eating and drinking options, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First things first: coffee. A George Howell Cafe is connected to the lobby. Howell's name may not be as familiar as Howard Schultz's but it should be. In the 1970s, long before Starbucks, Howell founded the Coffee Connection and pioneered the specialty coffee movement, even coming up with the Frappuccino, which he based on the frappe, a classic New England milkshake. The drink became part of Starbucks' repertoire when the company bought Coffee Connection in 1994. Today the cafe features a range of specialty drinks and locally made pastries and sandwiches. Baristas explain the nuanced flavors of different single estate beans. The dinner option is Ruka, a creative Japanese-Peruvian fusion spot that features creative dishes and drinks in a lively, colorfully appointed space. And for a nightcap--or afternoon tipple--the lobby bar, helmed by forward-thinking barmen, offers seasonal cocktails amid the marble columns of the high-ceilinged space, which has tall windows facing the buzzy street. Belly up to the marble bar or hunker down on one of the stylish chairs or couches.
ALL THE REST
There's a 24/7 fitness center, but the hotel offers other outdoor options for getting active, too. You can borrow a bicycle for free or tag along with the "running concierge," who'll lead you on a fast-paced tour through the Boston Common or along the harbor.
RATES & DEETS
Starting at $199
505 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 6494500 / thegodfreyboston.com
Hotel We Love: Hotel Santa Fe, Santa Fe, NM
As soon as you step foot in the lobby at Hotel Santa Fe, it's clear you're somewhere that takes its location seriously. From the rough-hewn vigas, posts, and lintels—hallmarks of the signature Santa Fe Style—in the lobby to the heavy leather furniture, southwestern textiles, and Native American art featured throughout the property, that sense of place permeates every corner. Closer to the Railyard than the hustle and bustle of Santa Fe's historic central Plaza, it makes a good base of operations for exploring both areas. And, as the only Native American-owned hotel downtown, it provides guests with an opportunity to learn a bit more about an underrepresented culture and history, all while supporting the local economy. THE STORY Hotel Santa Fe opened in 1991, but its story begins in 1988, when the idea of a collaboration between local business folks and the Picurís Pueblo, one of 23 tribes in New Mexico, was first floated. At that time, other Pueblos in the area were looking to casinos to provide revenue streams, but given its remote mountain location, that wasn’t an option for the Picurís, so the Bureau of Indian Affairs suggested looking to Santa Fe and its robust tourism industry for opportunities. That partnership produced the only property in the city’s downtown area that’s majority Native American–owned, and it offers guests a unique glimpse of Picurís Pueblo art and culture, from sculpture and storytelling to drumming and dance. THE QUARTERS Though its adobe exterior lends an air of antiquity, Hotel Santa Fe’s accommodations are anything but. Each of the 28 rooms and 90 suites is kitted out with crisp white sheets, down comforters, granite bathroom vanities, and southwestern-style pine furnishings, while the 35 rooms and suites in the Hacienda, a separate building with a more exclusive, upscale feel, come equipped with remote-controlled fireplaces, professional butler service, and walk-in showers. All rooms have WiFi and fully stocked minibars. THE NEIGHBORHOOD A few years before the hotel’s partners acquired the land upon which they’d eventually build, the city announced plans to revitalize the Railyard. It would take more than 20 years for then Mayor Montaño’s vision to be realized, but after the project finally debuted in 2008, Hotel Santa Fe was literally in prime position: a five-minute walk to avant-garde art at SITE Santa Fe in the Railyard, with its galleries, shops, and fantastic farmers’ market, but still only 15 minutes from the historic Plaza and its surrounding museums, restaurants, and bars. Not up for the walk? The hotel has a free shuttle that will deliver guests door to door within a certain radius, so you can leave your car parked in the lot (also free!) without fretting about trying to nab one of those elusive spots downtown. THE FOOD The City Different is known for its chile and its margaritas, and there are enough of both here to keep even the biggest diehard happy—and more. Within a couple of blocks of the Hotel Santa Fe, there’s a brewery, a hard-cider taproom, and a distillery, not to mention coffee shops and cafes, so guests should have no trouble quenching their thirst; nearby snack options include a hot-dog spot and Sage Bakehouse, known for its green-chili cheese bread and flaky almond croissants. For a more substantial meal, venture a few blocks north to Cowgirl BBQ for smoked meats and chiles rellenos, and a few blocks further for legendary breakfast burritos at Tia Sophia’s, blue-corn pancakes at La Fonda on the Plaza, crowd-pleasers like queso, guac, ground-beef tacos, and margaritas at the Shed, and four-star modern Mexican moles at Sazón. At the hotel itself, Amaya serves a seasonally appropriate menu combining local Pueblo and northern New Mexican cuisines; between Memorial Day and Labor Day, private family-style dinners are also available in a teepee that comes complete with traditional hides and blankets. If you’ve opted for a room in the Hacienda, you’ll have access to an “afternoon reception” (otherwise known as happy hour) on the sixth floor, with complimentary drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and city views from the terrace. ALL THE REST Santa Fe’s art scene is justly renowned, and you don’t have to step foot off the property to see why. (Though you should!) The hotel is home to a multimillion-dollar collection of Native American art, and paintings, pottery, and sculpture are interspersed inside and out. There’s live music in the lounge on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as a spa, a heated pool (closed from about Thanksgiving to Easter), and a hot tub. The spa menu features the usual suspects—massage, reflexology, facials, and the like—but even if you’re not going to spend time on the treatment table, it’s worth a trip to upstairs just to gawk at the gorgeous wall of crystals at the entrance. RATES & DEETS Starting at $129. Hotel Santa Fe1501 Paseo de PeraltaSanta Fe, NM 87501(855) 825-9876 hotelsantafe.com
How to Have a Fun, Low-Key Weekend in San Francisco
Whether you’re visiting a city for the first time or the tenth, it’s easy to find yourself scrambling to fill every moment with must-see, can’t-miss stuff. There’s a time and a place for trips like that, but once in awhile, it’s refreshing to go somewhere and just...hang out. That's how I spent a recent weekend in San Francisco, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here’s how I did it. Day One: Start Off Strong. Cappucino at Ritual Coffee. (Maya Stanton) After a late arrival the night before, I was desperate for caffeine, and my friend had hopped an early flight that morning, so he was in the same boat. (We were really lucky to be staying with friends who live in NoPa, but even without our awesome hosts, I’d recommend a hotel or Airbnb away from the usual touristy zones, just like I’d recommend that visitors to New York stay somewhere other than Times Square.) We walked a few blocks to Ritual Coffee (ritualroasters.com), a white-walled, light-filled space on Haight Street, where the beans are consciously sourced, roasted on site, and turned into quality cups of brew. Sitting outside in the sun, we plotted our next move. Dim sum extravaganza at Hong Kong Lounge II. (Maya Stanton) Confession time: I like to organize my time around the meals I want to eat, and I don’t go anywhere without a list of restaurants to try. Priorities! We tossed around a few ideas, settled on dim sum, and made our way over to Hong Kong Lounge II (hongkonglounge2.com) in Laurel Heights. We got there just ahead of the lunch crowd, snagged a table, and stuffed ourselves silly with soup dumplings, pork buns, crispy tofu-skin rolls, pea shoots with garlic, turnip cakes, and salt and pepper calamari. (And maybe more dumplings.) The Conservatory of Flowers at Golden Gate Park. (Maya Stanton) After that feast, a nap would've been in order, but we opted for a long walk instead, wandering to and through Golden Gate Park (goldengatepark.com) and basking in the perfect 70-degree weather. Hidden Garden Steps, on 16th Avenue between Kirkham and Lawton. (Maya Stanton) Exiting the park, we meandered toward the Inner Sunset, where we stumbled upon a set of staircases leading up toward Grandview Park. The 15th Avenue Steps were steep and plain, so we kept walking until we hit the Hidden Garden Steps (hiddengardensteps.org), which were steep and beautifully tiled, and then a little bit further, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps (16thavenuetiledsteps.com), which were steep, with a sea to stars–themed mosaic. We opted for the last one, and it was a punishing climb, but the views from the top were worth it. At that point, we figured we’d earned ourselves a beer, and happy hour at Finnegans Wake (finneganssf.com), a classic pub in Cole Valley, proved to be just the thing. We spent an amiable hour or so catching up over cheap cans of Founders on the shady, muraled back patio, then headed back toward home base via Haight-Ashbury, the iconic, now kinda seedy birthplace of ‘60s counterculture. Piedmont Boutique in Haight-Ashbury. (Maya Stanton) We caught up with our hosts and decided on a late dinner at Tartine Manufactory (tartinemanufactory.com), the newish offshoot of the much-renowned Mission bakery and a carb-lovers’ paradise in its own right. The bread is the point here, and it’s amazing and a must-have—we ordered three or four rounds to go with a couple of generously proportioned salads and a few spreads, and it was the perfect way to round out our Friday. Day Two: Take It Easy. Ocean Beach. (Maya Stanton) After logging nearly 22,000 steps the day before, we had something a little more relaxing in mind for Saturday: The weather was perfect, once again, and the beach beckoned. We made a quick stop at Trouble Coffee Co. (trouble.coffee), the tiny storefront that originated the $4 toast craze, then rolled down to Ocean Beach. Under clear blue skies, surrounded by happy, playful pups and pick-up games of football and ultimate frisbee, we strolled by the water’s edge, watched the surfers, and gave thanks for cheap airfare. Pints and parmesan-truffle fries at Park Chalet. (Maya Stanton) Then it was time for lunch, and we didn’t have far to go. Just across the road from the beach is Park Chalet (parkchalet.com), a beer garden in Golden Gate Park that’s tailor-made for sunny afternoons, with low tables and Adirondack-style plastic chairs sprawled across the lawn for optimal lounging. It took a few minutes of hovering and scoping out the scene—families with babies and dogs, groups of friends downing pints and eating bread bowls brimming with clam chowder—before we could find a table, but once we got one, we settled in for the long haul for burgers, salads, and baskets of parmesan-truffle fries. Next time, I'd order the fish tacos, but other than that, I wouldn't change a thing. On our way out of the park, we stopped for a quick peek at the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden and its authentic Dutch windmill, donated to the city in 1902, then swung by the Sunday Roller Disco Party at Skatin' Place (cora.org/skatinplace.htm), where skaters of all stripes get down to DJ-spun dance tunes. Despite not doing much of anything all day, those hours in the sun wore us out, so we opted for dinner delivery and camped out on the couch to watch the Olympics in comfy pants. Another super-strenuous, successful day, in the books. Day 3: Wind It Down. Wave Organ in San Francisco Bay. (Pius Lee/Dreamstime) With my mid-afternoon flight fast approaching, there wasn’t much time on Sunday, but we managed to squeeze in a bit of fun before takeoff. First stop: Wave Organ (exploratorium.edu/visit/wave-organ), an acoustic sculpture on a jetty in San Francisco Bay that channels the flow of water through a network of PVC and concrete pipes to subtle, musical effect. (We missed high tide, which is when it's at its best; make sure you check those times before you go.) Brunch at Presidio Social Club. (Courtesy Presidio Social Club) We were already in the Marina district, and from there it’s just a quick scoot over to the Presidio, where we had a reservation for brunch in the former barracks now known as the Presidio Social Club (presidiosocialclub.com). The service was painfully slow, but if you have to wait 20 minutes for a Bloody Mary and a cup of coffee, there are worse places to do it. In the airy, grown-up dining room with its big windows, white tablecloths, and dark wood, we chowed down on quiche and salad and ahi tuna poke, but the best thing we had was a selection of pastries from the bakery section of the menu—the churro-like beignets, with hot-chocolate dipping sauce, and the cinnamon roll, a special that day, were the highlights of the meal, hands down. Finally, sadly, it was time for the airport. My wallet was a little lighter on the return leg, but after a low-key weekend filled with good friends, good food, and good weather, my state of mind was a little lighter too.
Where Is the Best Pie in America?
Key Lime pie. Boston cream pie. New York cheesecake. We’ve noticed that some of our favorite baked goods share the names of some of our favorite travel destinations. As National Pi Day rolls around (March 14... 3.14, get it?), we figured we’d ask: What’s your favorite slice of pie in the U.S.? PIE + VACATION = HEAVEN One of the joys of being on vacation is saving room and time for a spectacular dessert you've never tried, and a slice of pie just seems to hit the spot whether you’re in the mountains, at the beach, or exploring a big city. As for favorites, I’ll go first. When I take my family on an epic road trip across western Montana, we basically turn handstands over the incredible array of huckleberry pie available just about everywhere. Sure, the huckleberry season is short up there in the Rockies, and grizzly bears do their best to clear out the bushes before we humans can harvest the berries, but I vote for huckleberry pie as my favorite. TRADITIONAL VS. FANCY? When we say the word “pie,” unadorned with an adjective, most of us tend to picture an apple pie, maybe with traditional crust punctured with a fork, or a more ambitious latticework of pie crust. When it comes to naming your favorite pie, some of you fall on the traditional side (my huckleberry pie vote definitely leans toward the traditional), while others may prefer what I think of as a little “fancy”: I’m thinking Key Lime, New York cheesecake (which, let’s be honest, even though it has the word “cake” in its name, is totally a pie), lemon meringue, those pies that take a bit more, let’s call it alchemy in the kitchen. Then, of course, there’s the whole question of whether cobblers and crumbles count? (I tend to think: Why the heck not?) TELL US: WHERE CAN WE GET THE BEST PIE? Finally, because we’re all about travel, we’d like to hear the region where you particularly enjoy eating pie. Upstate New York may have an edge on fresh apple pie, Wisconsin’s Door County sure knows how to do cherry pie, and, of course, the Florida Keys may produce the finest Key Lime pie for obvious reasons. But tell us about the coolest bakeries, the funkiest restaurants, or sweet little shops where you’ve made fabulous pie discoveries. We want to know: Where is the best pie in America? Your answers may appear in an upcoming story on BudgetTravel.com.
These Spots Win the "Travel Oscars"
Film location scouts spend a lot of their time on the road zeroing in on the most drop-dead gorgeous, or creepy, or sophisticated places for film crews to work their magic. Each year, devoted travelers play "location scout" themselves by evaluating some of the top Oscar-nominated films for vacation-worthy destinations. Here, three of this year's winners. ASHEVILLE & SYLVA, NC The title Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri might suggest to you that the film was not shot anywhere near North Carolina. But the town of Sylva, NC, near Asheville, stood in for the fictional Missouri town in Martin McDonagh’s compelling movie, with local buildings given new facades bearing signs such as “The Ebbing Herald” and “Ebbing Police Department.” And those “three billboards” were shot east of Asheville, near Black Mountain. Local lodging is reliable and affordable, including the Cambria Hotel & Suites Downtown Asheville, which represents what we love about the Cambria brand: its’ devotion to distinctive contemporary design and great service. NEW YORK CITY & WHITE PLAINS, NY Another dose of cognitive dissonance: The Post, Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed film about the Washington Post newspaper was shot, in part, in New York. The old AT&T building in White Plains stood in for the old Post headquarters in DC (which was demolished), and Washington’s streets were re-created, complete with vintage automobiles, on a street in Brooklyn. While the NYC area is notoriously pricey for hotels, good deals are available, and we like The Look Hotel, Red Hook, an Ascend Hotel Collection member (the Ascend brand always delivers freshly designed yet homey properties), and the Cambria Hotel & Suites White Plains Downtown. ATLANTA, GA Baby Driver was shot in the streets of downtown Atlanta, including a car chase on the Buford Highway Connector southbound, and the historic Pullman Yard. Atlanta lodging includes Inn at the Peachtrees, an Ascend Hotel Collection member, a good base of operations for exploring the city’s historic sites.