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A 235-room outpost of the trendy hotel chain offers a sleek, modern alternative to traditional Boston.
Cool lobby lounge with fireplace
"Boston Uncommon" reads the promotional signage wrapping its way around the base of the shiny glass tower that is the W Boston. It's a fitting slogan for the hotel since its location is just a few blocks from the Boston Common park and it strikes a significantly different note than most of the city's other hotels. In a historic town filled with both charming old hotels and charmless chains, the W is thoroughly modern and trendy. (It's not the only hotel that boasts these qualities, though; both the Mandarin Oriental and the Ames Hotel -- part of the same hotel group as Miami party hotels the Delano and Shore Club -- opened around the same time as the W.) Of course, while the W Boston feels like no other hotel in Boston, it feels a lot like many other W properties.
First and foremost, there's the stylish lobby, quiet by day, happening bar by night -- a hallmark of the W brand. Of course, this being Boston, the young, attractive crowd sips their pineapple martinis around a crackling fire that warms the cool, modern space with its sleek booths, oversize suede chairs, metal curtains, and trickling water panels. On past the lobby crowds, the hipness continues at Market, the hotel's hotspot restaurant helmed by celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who also has a restaurant at the W in Washington, D.C.. There are signature W touches throughout. Doormats and elevator rugs are changed throughout the day to read "Good Morning," "Good Afternoon," or "Good Evening." Rooms have sleek design, well-stocked minibars, and Bliss toiletries. And, of course, there's a full Bliss spa, a regular W partner.
All the expected W details mix with surprises, like artwork in rooms subtly emblazoned with Thoreau quotes and whimsical photo murals in the hallways. Fans of the W will find plenty to like at the Boston property. It's a more stylish, but not necessarily more expensive, alternative to traditional chains in nearby Back Bay like the Westin and the Hilton, although some may find the W's bar-lobby scene a bit much. An equally happening spot with a more mature crowd can be found at the Liberty Hotel, a stunning boutique set in an old jail that mixes new design with a bit of Boston history.
Good, but falls short of full luxury
Service at the W is both hip and helpful, but it's not the full-on luxury offered by more expensive hotels like the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental. The W's service philosophy is "whatever/whenever" and the hotel strives to be accommodating but casual; it's also a bit cutesy. Hotel staffers are called "talent," and doormen are called "door ambassadors." As a whole, the "talent" tends younger and more attractive than your average hotel staff. Door ambassadors, who are friendly and ever-present, forgo stiff uniforms in favor of pinstripe pants and gray V-neck sweaters. For in-room help, guests press a "whatever/whenever" button on the phone and are instantly connected to a friendly voice asking "what's your wish?" For the most part, my wishes were dealt with quite well, but when I inquired about using the pool at a sister property I was told they'd have to check and call me back, which they never did. They may still be working out some kinks, they had just opened when I visited; in the restaurant especially, there were service issues, but they sent out a free dessert in the end and all was forgiven.
- Concierge on duty during the day
- No turndown service (there is turndown at the Liberty)
- Free USA Today delivered to room each weekday
- Room service is available not quite 24 hours, but close.
- Ever-present doormen (I'm sorry, "door ambassadors") and porters
Centrally located in the up-and-coming Theater District
The W sits on the busy corner of Stuart and Tremont streets in the Theater District, a central, up-and-coming area in downtown Boston, just south of the Back Bay area. The portion of Tremont Street just outside the hotel is lined with old, restored theaters like the Wilbur, which regularly hosts comics and indie rockers, and the Shubert Theatre, home to local community arts organizations. The less bohemian Stuart Street features a number of chain restaurants, from Dunkin' Donuts to Rock Bottom Brewery. Though the area isn't as pretty, and as touristy, as say Beacon Hill, there's plenty to eat, drink, and do, and more on the way as it's further developed. It's also central for exploring other parts of the city. Boston's Chinatown is just a couple blocks to the east, while the tony Back Bay area, a haven for shopping, is a few blocks west.
- The nearest stop on the T (Boston's subway system) is a block away at the New England Medical Center.
- Faneuil Hall, a historic marketplace and modern-day mall, is less than a mile away, or about 10 to 15 minutes by foot or via public transportation.
- The Boston Common, the country's oldest park and the start of the Freedom Trail (a 2.5-mile path passing through 16 Boston landmarks) is about a 10-minute walk away.
- Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, is a 10-minute drive.
- Harvard Square is across the Charles River, about 20 minutes via public transportation.
- Newbury Street, a lovely shopping and dining area, is a seven- to 10-minute walk.
- Copley Square, the end of the Boston Marathon and a beautiful public square with an interesting mix of architecture, is seven blocks away.
- Logan International Airport is a 20- to 25-minute taxi ride away.
Sleek and thoroughly modern, with huge windows and up-to-the-minute electronics
Peek-a-boo art panels in the bathroom
With huge windows along the entire back wall, sleekly modern furnishings, and a bright color scheme, rooms at the W stand apart from the subdued, often historic, elegance that pervades most of the city's hotels. At 360 square feet, the standard rooms, called "Wonderful Rooms," are a bit bigger than average, and they feel especially airy thanks to the large windows and clean design. Small touches throughout range from cutesy -- a telescope on a stand that reads "wish" -- to cheeky -- a minibar with the requisite intimacy kit, emblazoned with the words "get lucky." Combine that with bathrooms that look into the rooms through a bit of artwork on a translucent canvas, offering a bit of a peep show, and well, this is no hotel room for grandma. Still, there are also useful details, like a charging center with jacks for seemingly every kind of cell phone, and power strips with AV jacks for hooking computers up to the TV, making the room particularly well suited to business travelers.
- Decor is clean, bright, and minimal in either shades of blue (navy, ultramarine) or green, and stark white, grey, and black. Entire walls are painted a single color, creating a soothing effect. The only art in my room was a blue canvas panel emblazoned with a Thoreau quote separating the bathroom from the room.
- The canvas panel is slightly translucent, allowing a bit of a peep into the bathroom; sexy for some, an invasion of privacy for others.
- Bathrooms have oversize showerheads, Bliss toiletries, and above-counter sinks; standard room baths have shower/tub combos or standalone, glass-enclosed showers and no tubs; only suites have separate showers and tubs.
- Great electronics: Sonora iPod docks, a phone charging station with jacks for nearly a dozen different phone types, 37-inch LG flat-screen TV, and a Sony DVD player.
- TVs broadcast about 40 cable channels, including HBO and ones you don't typically get in hotels like Bravo and BBC America; five or so of the channels are in HD.
- DVDs of over 100 classic films are available for rental for a fee per night (they're free at the pricier, nearby Mandarin Oriental); dozens of recent films in HD, "just missed TV," and DirectTV sports are available for purchase via LodgeNet.
- The above-average minibar features unique items like Scarpetta red pepper spread and lollipops and chocolates from Dylan's Candy Bar, along with an intimacy kit
- Beds are good, not great -- mattresses are topped with thin down featherbeds and down pillows and duvets, but their 400-thread-count sateen sheets aren't quite Frette.
- Rollaways available for a per night charge in rooms and suites with king beds
A beautiful gym and top spa
Brand-new, 24-hour fitness center
The hotel has some, dare I say, "w"-onderful amenities. When I visited just after the hotel had opened in late 2009, both the fitness center and the business center were up and running (Bliss spa had not yet opened but did in August 2010). An underground nightclub called Descent opened in October of 2011.
- The 4th-floor, 24-hour fitness center, or "Sweat" as the W calls it, is bright and modern. It has three TechnoGym treadmills, three ellipticals, two Cardio Wave machines, two bicycles, a handful of weight machines, and a selection of free weights and fitness balls as well as yoga mats and blocks; cardio machines have individual TVs. Water, fruit, headphones, and Bliss "tidy towels" are provided.
- The business center is limited to two Macs and a printer out in the open on the mezzanine level; pricey, but boarding passes can be printed for free. The hotel also offers free Wi-Fi in common areas, so you're better off bringing your own laptop.
- There's no pool, or any plans for one, despite some guidebooks saying otherwise.
- Room service is available not quite 24 hours, but close.
The W Boston opened in late 2009 in a shimmering glass building. The rooms and public spaces are spotless.
Not geared toward families, but able to accommodate them
Minibar has lollipops from Dylan's Candy Bar.
With its hip aura, peek-a-boo bathrooms, and a lobby that literally turns into a bar each evening, the hotel is not family focused, but it can accommodate children.
- At 360 square feet, the standard rooms, called "Wonderful Rooms," are a bit bigger than average.
- Free cribs
- Rollaways available for a per night fee in rooms and suites with king beds (but not two queens)
- Adjoining rooms available
- Kids' room service menu includes items like a short stack of buttermilk pancakes and chicken tenders with French fries and fresh fruit
- Lodgenet pay-per-view programming with Disney On Demand and PBS Kids shows available for purchase.
- The above-average minibar features chocolates and lollipops from Dylan's Candy Bar.
- Market restaurant features a children's menu, but is a bit sceney for children in the evening.
One restaurant and one bar, two hot spots
A plate of sweets at Market by Jean-Georges
With a restaurant from famed French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and a lobby that literally transforms into a happening bar at night, the hotel's eating and drinking options are hip but casual, attracting a steady crowd of both hotel guests and good-looking locals.The hotel restaurant, Market by Jean-Georges, serves cuisine with French, Asian, and American flavors in a warm, modern setting. Even on a Tuesday night, the place was nearly full. Despite the fancy French chef, it's relatively affordable.
- Market dinner entrees range from Casco cod with Shimeji mushrooms in miso-yuzu broth to a New York steak with gingered mushrooms and a soy caramel glaze. There's also a six-course tasting menu.
- Market also serves breakfast and lunch, though it's far more popular for dinner. Breakfast includes standard a la carte items (no buffet).
- The entire lobby transforms into a hotel bar, loosely known as the "W Lounge", come nightfall. Even on a midweek night, young guys in suits and girls in tight jeans and black tanks crowd up to the bar. Cocktails include pineapple mojitos and ginger margaritas. There's also a menu of small plates.
- Room service is available not quite 24 hours a day, but close to it. There are typical menu options like Caesar salad and a grilled cheeseburger, as well as an assortment of items from Market that can be ordered during the restaurant's operating hours.
Dogs and cats up to 40 pounds allowed, but it'll cost you
- Nonrefundable cleaning fee per stay for four-legged guests, plus an additional reasonable charge per day
- Pet amenities are offered at check-in.
- In-room dining pet menu with options like IAMS brand lamb and rice kibble for dogs; cat food; splurge for the six-ounce grilled sirloin and vegetables or fresh flaked salmon
- The Westin Copley Place, the hotel's less hip sister property, allows pets for no additional fee.
Simple yet snazzy options, and a lot of them
Even the hallway outside the reception space looks hip.
- Wedding Size: Up to 150 guests; only one wedding at a time
- Ceremony Location: The Great Room
- Extra Fees: In addition to the ceremony fee, there's an extra chef fee (per every 50 guests) and a bartender fee (per every 75 guests). On top of this, there's a service charge, administrative charge, and the standard sales tax. In addition, there are extra fees for color-coordinated linens and napkins and chiavari chairs.
- Wedding Package: The standard Wow Vow package includes the basics -- four passed hors d'oeuvres, one display station, a three-course plated dinner, a wedding cake, and a one-hour open bar -- plus the help of a wedding coordinator, a bridal suite, and discounts parking and nightly room rates.
- Food: With the standard Wow Vow package, dinner selections range from roasted chicken with fava beans, king mushroom, and an artichoke emulsion under the "Glitz" category to filet mignon in the "Glamour" package. Kids' meals are also available, as are kosher, vegetarian, and gluten-free menus.
- Spa Treatments: The on-site Bliss Spa offers the standard set of spa services, but it's not a salon -- for hair and makeup you'll have to make an appointment elsewhere.
- Honeymoon Suite: Many newlyweds like to upgrade to a Wow Suite, which has a deep tub and stunning views.
With large, stylish rooms, a Jean-Georges restaurant, a happening bar, and a Bliss spa, the sleek, 235-room outpost of the trendy brand offers a striking, modern alternative to Boston's historic hotels and traditional chains. Too bad it lacks the unique charms of smaller boutique properties.
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Things You Should Know About W Boston
- 100 Stuart Street, Boston, MA
- Cool Corner
- Extreme WOW Suite
- Marvelous Suite
- Mega Room
- Spectacular Room
- Studio Suite
- Wonderful Room
- WOW Suite