Great entertainment options: 55-inch flat-screen TVs with HBO in HD, DVD players
Well-equipped fitness center
Happening lobby bar
Bliss Spa with a variety of treatments
Wi-Fi free for Starwood Preferred members (free to join)
Falls short of full luxury: no turndown service; good, not great, bedding
No pool or full restaurant
Pricey valet parking
With large, stylish rooms, 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 a full restaurant and the unique charms of smaller boutique properties.
A 235-room outpost of the trendy hotel chain offers a sleek, modern alternative to traditional Boston.
"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. 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.
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?"
The W sits on the busy corner of Stuart and Tremont streets in the Theater District, a central 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.
Sleek and thoroughly modern, with huge windows and up-to-the-minute electronics
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: iPod docks, a phone charging station with jacks for nearly a dozen different phone types, 55-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
The hotel has some, dare I say, "w"-onderful amenities. There's the well-equipped fitness center and the business center, as well as the Bliss Spa with a variety of treatments available. The 4th-floor, 24-hour fitness center, or "FIT" as the W calls it, is bright and modern. It has treadmills, ellipticals, Cardio Wave machines, 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 full restaurant, but guests can get breakfast, like an omelette or a muffin, in the Breakfast Lounge. 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.
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.