Kids Crew program provides children with a backpack filled with activities upon check-in
Rooftop ballroom and 18 conference rooms
No pool or spa
Service can be spotty
Valet parking is pricey
Free in-room Wi-Fi only available for Omni members
Steeped in history and Old World grandeur, Boston's longest continuously operating hotel is the place to stay for a taste of the city's literary and political past. The surprisingly affordable 551-room Omni Parker House's heart-of-downtown location -- right on the Freedom Trail and one block from Boston Common -- is a huge part of its appeal. Other draws are the grand lobby, famous whiskey tavern, and iconic restaurant (the setting for JFK's proposal to Jackie and the birthplace of Boston cream pie). But manage your expectations when it comes to service and rooms. The actual accommodations are a tad disappointing when compared to the rest of the property; vintage-inspired rooms and suites feature flat-screen HDTVs and duvet bedding, but their overall feel is decidedly less luxe than the hotel's common areas. For an equally grand experience with a few more upscale services thrown in, try the , with its stylish, sophisticated rooms with marble bathrooms and award-winning bar overlooking Copley Square.
An impressive history and a grand lobby elevate an otherwise standard property to mythic status
In a city that wears its historic pedigree like a badge of honor, even the hotels boast storied lineages. And none is more impressive than that of the Omni Parker House. Opened in 1855, the 551-room landmark is the longest continuously operating hotel in the country, and the first in Boston that offered running water and elevator service. The hotel's famous guests -- and former employees -- read like a laundry list of the political and cultural elite: Charles Dickens did the very first reading of "A Christmas Carol" on American soil for the Saturday Club literary group, a salon led by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and whose members included the likes of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau. Decades later, Ho Chi Minh worked as a baker in the basement kitchen, likely churning out the hotel's deservedly famous, eponymous Parker House rolls. JFK proposed to Jackie at table 40 in Parker's Restaurant, where Malcolm X once worked as a busboy. In fact, you can't walk two feet without stumbling over some historical artifact or site of a ghostly encounter at the Parker. The concierge frequently regales guests with tales of the ghost of a 19th-century whiskey salesman who lives in the closet of room 303 and plants booze-soaked kisses on slumbering female guests. (Ghosts supposedly reside on the 3rd and 10th floors.)
Much of the original building was razed and rebuilt in the 1920s, but portions of the hotel -- including some guest rooms towards the back of the building -- date back to the 19th century. The hotel's 2008 $30 million renovation maintained the building's architectural integrity. This is particularly apparent in the spectacular lobby, with its ornately carved oak paneling, elaborate ceilings, and hammered gold elevators. On the flip side, tiny bathrooms also serve as (cramped) reminders of the hotel's notable heritage.
With its grandiose legacy, opulent gilded lobby, and uniformed valets and porters waiting to greet guests, the Omni Parker House projects an image of Old World luxury and white-glove treatment. But the first word in the hotel's title sums up what you can expect once you've checked in. The Omni chain provides decent, but by no means extraordinary, service, and sometimes a lack of professionalism mars the hotel's luxe veneer. In general, service is about what you'd expect from a mid-tier chain hotel -- perfectly fine, but not overly impressive.
In the heart of downtown Boston, just one block from Boston Common
Located on the corner of Tremont and School streets, Omni Parker House is in a historic district of Boston, right along the Freedom Trail. The hotel is directly across from King's Chapel, the Old Town Hall (now a Ruth's Chris steakhouse), and a block from Granary Burial Ground, where Paul Revere, Sam Adams, John Hancock, and Mother Goose were laid to rest. The blocks surrounding the hotel are lined with bars, Irish pubs, and restaurants that characterize much of Boston's food scene -- steakhouses and seafood joints. Omni Parker House is just outside Beacon Hill, a historic and wealthy residential neighborhood known for its Federal-style row houses, brick sidewalks, narrow streets, and dozens of antique shops.
Three-minute walk to Boston Common, the country's oldest park and the start of Boston's 2.5-mile Freedom Trail, which passes through 16 historic landmarks
Three-minute walk to Government Center stop on the T (Boston's subway)
Eight-minute walk to Faneuil Hall, a historic marketplace and modern-day mall
15-minute walk to TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics
15-minute walk to North End (site of The Paul Revere House and Little Italy)
15-minute T ride to Harvard Square and Harvard University
20-minute T ride to Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox
26-minute T ride to Boston Logan International Airport
A homey hybrid of old and new -- room furniture and decor blend well with the hotel's charming turn-of-the-century vibe
Unlike some historic hotels, the Omni Parker House has successfully updated guest rooms to suit modern travelers' needs without forfeiting Old World charm. Their level of luxury is a noticeable notch below that of the hotel's common spaces, but they display decorative nods to the hotel's 19th-century heritage: cherrywood headboards, floral bed runners, mirrors with old-fashioned molding, wallpaper with a subtle brocade print, vertically striped window treatments.
At the lower end of the room inventory spectrum are 90-square-foot Economy Petite Single Rooms (one twin bed) and 125-square-foot Traditional Rooms (one full bed). The mid-range, 210-square-foot Deluxe Rooms (two double beds or one king or queen bed) are this Omni's standard-room equivalent. Higher-level rooms include 400-square-foot Executive Rooms (two full beds or one king bed) and the one-bedroom Freedom Trail Family Suite, which has bunk beds, beanbag chairs, a chalkboard wall, and dress-up costumes. At the top of the line is the 1,000-square-foot Harvey Parker Suite. The palatial suite has a master king bedroom, master bathroom with Jacuzzi, dining room, wet bar, living room, half bath, and sweeping city views from its 14th-floor corner spot.
All rooms come with flat-screen HDTVs, coffeemakers, bathrobes, minibars, and safes. Beds feature pillow-top mattresses and goose-down duvets. Aside from the economy category, rooms feature wood work desk with data ports for laptop plug-ins. Guests might feel vestiges of the old hotel in a less pleasant way in the cramped bathrooms, where maneuvering in front of the sink without coming up against the heavy fabric shower curtain is difficult. The teeny bathrooms feature shower/tub combos, pedestal sinks, and Omni Hotel brand toiletries (including mouthwash). Another reminder that you are in an old hotel? Room walls are so paper-thin that light sleepers should bring earplugs.
In-room Wi-Fi costs a fee, but is free for Omni members (it's free to sign up for the rewards program). Adjoining rooms are available. Cribs are free, and rollaways are charged nightly.
Many features centering around hotel's historical pedigree, including an iconic fine-dining restaurant, an upscale tavern, and a whiskey bar
Parker's, the stately, full-service restaurant, is as historically significant as the hotel itself. Not only did Ho Chi Minh, Malcolm X, and Emeril Lagasse all work there, but it is where the famed, buttery Parker House rolls were invented. Ditto the Boston cream pies, though the restaurant's contemporary rendering is virtually unrecognizable from the traditional dessert (it more closely resembles a Little Debbie Zebra Cake in looks and taste). Slightly less famous, but a signature dish nonetheless, is the bland, beige New England schrod, the etymology of which allegedly once referred not to the actual type of fish but the acronym "Special Catch (Haddock) Received of Day." (Nowadays it's just plain haddock.) With the exception of delicious, piping hot rolls, the food at Parker's (including its mediocre breakfast buffet) is much less impressive than its environs and history, so it's best to enjoy a crock of New England Clam Chowder with a basket of warm bread, take a quick peek at the corner table where JFK proposed to Jackie, and retire to the upstairs Parker's Bar for a nightcap. The bar has a timeless tavern-like decor, with dark wood floors, a pressed-tin ceiling, and framed silhouette portraits on the wainscoted wood walls. In one corner, round club tables and chairs are clustered in front of a marble fireplace, and in another sits a midnight-blue velvet settee with gold trim. The Last Hurrah is a well-known whiskey pub that serves small bites and hearty American fare (lamb loaf, sirloin chili) during the week.
The free 24-hour gym is a 1,200-square-foot space with mirrored walls, hardwood floors, and up-to-date Precor and Cybex equipment (cardio machines have their own TVs). In-room "Get Fit Kits" are also available; these include stretch cords, free weights, a floor mat, towels, and water. Omni has 23,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space, including a rooftop ballroom that can accommodate up to 450 people. The business center has two desktop computers and two printers (one a laser-jet printer/scanner/copier). On the lobby level, Morsel's gift shop and newsstand sells T-shirts, mugs, and other souvenirs, and houses a Starbucks coffee counter.
Omni Kids Crew program provides coloring books, crayons, and rolling backpacks filled with puzzles, games, and books for kids upon check-in. Parents are presented with safety/first-aid kits that include night lights and outlet covers. Service -- with the exception of a few charismatic staffers -- is nothing special. Room service is available 24 hours, and valet parking has a pricey daily rate that is normal for downtown Boston. The Omni Parker House allows pets under 25 pounds for a one-time fee. Pets can be left unattended in rooms as long as they don't cause disruptions. Wi-Fi is free throughout the hotel for members of Omni's loyalty program.
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