Chain Hotel in the Blog?
When Don and I travel, we shy away from chains, because we like surprises. Hotel chains are predictable and don't usually make it into the Notable Nights Blog.
I just love the idea. Refurbish an old building in an urban area. Fill it with a luxurious hotel, an upscale restaurant and a modern art museum. Along with that, throw in lots of curious stuff!
The first of its hotels opened in 2006 in Louisville, Kentucky. Soon they will have 11 of these artsy, city hotels. They aren't in hip NYC or trendy Austin, but in states like Iowa, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Tennessee. Love that.
When Don and I started planning our road trip through Arkansas, we were thrilled to learn that Bentonville had a 21c hotel. But, the hotel was in a new building, with no history. There would be no city vibe. Blog worthy? We decided to find out.
Before we got curious about the hotel, we were interested in the Arkansas town... which is known to some, as the Birthplace of Walmart.
Whether you're a fan of Walmart or not, the Walton name has a lot to do with Bentonville history. I've actually been sort of intrigued with Sam Walton, since my history prof in the '70's spoke of him...
Downtown Bentonville looked charming, when we arrived last November. It was easy to imagine locals strolling down the sidewalk, back when Sam and his wife first opened Walton's 5 & 10 Variety Store.
70 years later, the original 5 & 10 Store is still open on Main Street... and there are over 50,000 residents!
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
61 years after Sam Walton opened his store, his daughter founded Crystal Bridges. The town began to explode. Like many, Don and I were lured to Bentonville, because of the museum.
The 217,000 square foot museum opened in 2011 and began attracting tourists quickly. Obviously, they needed more hotels.
Now... About the Hotel
Don and I were eager to experience a little of this now popular town. We had one day & night, so we hit the museum early. (Wonderful!) Then we headed to the hotel, about a mile away.
As we approached, the hotel looked clean and modern against the blue sky. I hoped there would be some good surprises in the somewhat stark building.
The old downtown area was bustling with festivities, leading up to the town's tree lighting ceremony. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street, across from the skating rink. Wish we'd had time to skate!
We rolled our bags down the walk. As we got closer, the brick and glass building started to look more intriguing. We passed a lineup of windows, jutting out on the sidewalk. Odd!
Before reaching the entrance I spotted our first art surprise.
A sweet bee sculpture was clinging to the brick. He looked like he was heading up to the sign, that wrapped the corner. "The Hive Restaurant" Glad he pointed it out.
We walked past the entrance so I could take a quick hotel pic, without people around. A little later, the area was swarming with crowds, enjoying festivities.
The Fleetwood Cadillac limousine was a fun surprise. The green penguins, perched on the roof added a little extra amusement! They looked like they were guarding the place.
A chained off space beside the building, held a towering sculpture called, "Orange Tree". The balls and hoops tempted me to play, but it was obviously meant to be enjoyed with eyes only.
Two very friendly valet guys opened the entry doors, as we came through with our bags. They made us feel like we were entering a gracious old hotel.
The lobby looked nothing like a gracious old hotel. The airy space was more art gallery, than lobby. The registration desk was a simple table with stools and computers and a very welcoming staff.
Don checked us in and I checked out the art. I was drawn to the boats that floated along the white wall.
When I stepped closer to examine each piece, the art became eerier. Each boat felt like it was from a different dream. I really liked them, but I hoped I wouldn't dream about them.
Across from the desk was a snaking, couch. The divided gray pieces reminded me of cushy dominoes. They seemed ready for me to trigger some action, with a little tap. At the end of the curvy lineup was a treadmill... which was part of an art installation and not for running. Was the couch art? Should I sit on it?
Two years ago, Don and I stayed at another 21c, in Kansas City. We knew a bit of what to expect. The hotels all have permanent art galleries, as well as traveling exhibits that rotate through their hotels.
What a shame that the current rotation exhibit in Bentonville, was the same one we saw in Kansas City! I recognized most of the thought provoking pieces from the "Refuge" collection.
"Sudden Gust of Wind"
Before heading up to our room, I peered down this hall. I could see the narrow windows, that we had passed earlier on the sidewalk.
A glance at the walls and ceiling, made me feel like a sudden cyclone had just busted out all the window glass. It looked like the wind had scattered a huge pile of papers! Those "flying" pieces of paper, were really 400 pieces of metal.
Clearly, our hotel didn't restrict art to the galleries. We passed a light fixture, that was a work of art. It didn't need a spotlight, since it was one.
While we waited for the elevator, I noticed movement behind us. The wall-like structure, suddenly seemed aware of us. Our movement sent the fan-like discs whirling. The shadow on the wall also came to life! Hard to capture in a still photo.
4th Floor Walls
We asked for a room on an upper floor and got our wish. We headed up to the 4th floor, which is the top floor. That's high for Bentonville.
When the elevator doors opened, we colorful surprise.
Even though I was excited to get to our room, I had to stop and stare at the wall. I was fascinated by the green design, that surrounded the emergency info panels. Were those faces? The patterns below, looked like intricate rugs, perfect for an elaborate dollhouse!
Who's in the Hall?
We turned down the hallway and I spotted one of the hotel's mascots!
I crossed fingers as we headed closer. Please be next to our door! Yep! He seemed to be guarding our room, #405.
Fun With Penguins
I love the 21c Penguins! Each hotel has their own colony. Guests are encouraged to interact with them.
I welcomed our Green Friend into the room for a visit. We checked out the view and looked through some books.
The whole penguin thing started as a temporary exhibit with the opening of the first hotel in 2006.
People fell in love with the red penguins in Louisville, so they stayed. Now, all the hotels have them. I loved our green guy. He looked perplexed when I talked into the receiver, which plugged into my cellphone. (another room perk)
Don and I met our first penguin at the Kansas City hotel. They had sky blue penguins there, which seemed to all disappear into guest rooms, later that evening. Staff claimed that the penguin kidnappings were due to the large number of "kids" staying that night.
That memory kept us from hogging our green guy for too long. After a while, Don took him to the elevator and faced him towards the doors, so he could properly await new guests. An hour later, he was riding the elevator...
More Room Perks
Our room wasn't cheap. Over $300. in a small town, is a lot to me. But the room was hip and spacious and scattered with animals. There was a hen pillow and dog pillow and a mighty fine hippo collage.
In the bathroom, there was another critter. The rubber ducky in the shower would have preferred a tub... like me. But the bathroom's sleek design, glowing mirror and soft robes made up for the lack of tub!
The hotel's Hive Lounge was super crowded, so we enjoyed our own happy hour with a view. I'm sure the lounge wouldn't have been as generous with olives, as Don!
We sat near the window and let it entertain us. We peered down at the orange, "Hoop Tree" and out towards the water tower. Later that night, we gazed down at the lit trees, on the square.
Around 8:00, we headed down to the restaurant and surrounded ourselves with honeycombs, bees and vines.
I also missed the meaning. I read that there was a serious element, to what I thought was whimsical art. The hidden treasures were more sobering than fun. (hidden skulls etc.) The bees looked cute, but there was a message, reminding us about current concerns, with honeybees and environment.
Waiting for a Table
We were told the wait could be 30 minutes for a table, so I made a quick dash while Don did the waiting.
I trotted down a block, with my camera and caught the last of the festivities. The live music had ended at 8, but Santa was still seated in his sleigh outside of Walton's. The trees looked like they wore glowing hairnets! I felt like I had stepped into a Hallmark Christmas movie!
I returned, just as a table opened up in the back corner. It was a fun spot, for taking in the beehive art and watching diners interacting with penguins.
Jessica was our very energetic server. Her black lipstick, colorful glasses and stories, made everything more entertaining. We worked up an appetite while Jessica raved about the chef's specialties.
I was cautious about saving room for the special treat, that I'd observed other diners enjoying.
Cotton Candy With Our Friend!
I've been to a restaurant or two that offered free popcorn, but never cotton candy! I was giddy when Jessica brought our complimentary bags to the table.
As we nibbled, I saw the table across from us leave. I asked Jessica if she could grab their penguin for us. She whirled around and delivered the green guy right to us. Then when I asked her to take our picture she got serious. "Oh we need to stage this!" She cleared our dirty dishes and moved our friend to a better spot. Oh I do love to play at dinner!
The rest of our evening was lovely and we headed out happy the next day.
Our hotel could have been floating at sea and we'd have been content exploring and relaxing inside. But the location in Bentonville was a huge plus. My memory will be a combination of our hotel, the colorful town square and of course the Crystal Bridges Museum.
But let us not forget the penguins! I was afraid I might tire of the fun, but no. Yay for green penguins!
1929 Hotel in Harrison, Arkansas
We found this dandy little Spanish Revival building, just a block from Harrison's town square.
The smooth brick facade was decorated with all sorts of fun stuff.... tile, terra cotta, wrought iron, arches and colorful paint!
Since its beginning in 1929, the building has had many uses.
After closing down to hotel guests in the '60's, the building was purchased by Christian Faith of Wichita and used to house and feed the elderly. In 2008, the hotel reopened after a 3.5 million dollar renovation.
Finding the Door
There were 3 impressive entries to the hotel. The entrance that opened to the lobby was tucked into the corner of the building, away from the street.
We pulled right up in the drive and walked past two striped columns, towards the arched doorway.
Just inside, the 2-story lobby greeted us with huge squares of floor tile and a glowing chandelier.
A lobby desk window was off to the right. A very pleasant staff member, was waiting to check us in.
There was a Old Spanish flavor to the sweet hotel.
Lots of arches and ironwork! I loved the painted birds and flowers on the walls.
Looking down from the mezzanine, we had a good view of the birds and chandelier.
All we needed was a little Flamenco guitar, echoing in the space.
I like a renovation that doesn't clear out all the old. The wooden telephone door looked mighty sweet, with the white curtain. I just had to peek! Instead of a phone in the cozy space, I saw a chair, desk and computer. Nice perk for hotel guests!
The double writing desk was an amusing reminder, that people once wrote postcards from hotels. There was an old style radio sitting on one half, playing some music from the 40's.
We followed the carpeted hall to our room, # 321.
The room was pretty darn small, but so was the price! For around 80 bucks, we got a newly remodeled room in a charming hotel.
The queen bed, bathroom and flat screen TV, gave us some modern comforts. The exposed brick and an odd little bathroom door, were fun reminders of the past. Brown painted, metal door knob... I love it!
John Paul's Bar & Grill
The restaurant and bar at the south end of the hotel had a totally modern face lift.
We returned later in the evening and grabbed up the sleek, blue sofa in the back of the room.
Food and Music
We were relieved to have a comfy place to hang out, since the downtown was quiet and weary looking, on that Friday evening.
We ordered some appetizers for dinner and enjoyed some good people watching. The crowd was made up of locals rather than travelers and everyone seemed to know the deep voiced singer who entertained us with country ballads. The singer's young wife and baby occupied one table. A local artist seated nearby, introduced himself to us, so we didn't feel like total outsiders.
In the morning we were entertained by a club of Fiat Mini drivers, who had all parked their sweet little cars in front.
The cute cars added to our car fun, since the day before we had shared the road with numerous Corvettes. Corvettes and Fiats , enjoying the annual Corvette Arkansas Weekend. Lots of fun cars in Arkansas!
We sampled some of the complimentary breakfast that was served in a small diner area, on the north end of the hotel.
The food options were fairly typical, but the setting with columns, painted beams and tile work, made my coffee taste better than typical.
The term hidden gem is overused, but it fits for Hotel Seville.
Ugh. Maybe I shouldn't have shared that. That's a notable piece of information that is not fun. But travels should open your eyes to good and bad. Our hotel was great... that bit of knowledge was not.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is a pretty unique town with lots of unusual options for overnights.
We're talking 22 hotels!
Way Up There
After entering town, we detoured on a narrow, scenic road that wound through some tiny neighborhoods.
We pulled over to take in the view from a pretty, little roadside gazebo. Across the valley and perched on the highest part of Carroll County, we spotted our hotel. It looked more majestic than the photos.
Balconies and Chimneys
I was glad it was a nice fall day, because rain or ice would have made the drive up to our hotel tricky.
We parked and moved towards the entrance, sort of gasping at the enormous structure. There was no way to capture the whole building in one photo. "So many chimneys and balconies!" I noted with a grin.
They do not want you to forget this hotel was built in 1886.
It's written on every sign.
They also answer the phone. "1886 Crescent Hotel!"
1886 is on the website. It's sort of silly, even if it's part of their name. Then again, it helps people like me, who can never remember dates!
Of course it would help if the 6 on their sign, didnt look like a zero.
I love historic hotels, especially when they've preserved the old structure. The Crescent has some cool stuff, like an old safe and the original lobby desk.
But when we arrived, all the wonderful features were hidden behind cotton cobwebs and haunted house banners. That is so irritating. It made the place look a funhouse or a stage set. On the other hand, I don't have to waste time trying to remember that our visit was in the month of October.
I found myself questioning the massive fireplace, that divided the lobby into two sitting areas. It looked like it could have been part of Disney World's Haunted House. After some study, we determined the stonework was most likely from 1886. It was the nearby cluster of noisy tourists, that brought me back to 2015.
My photo makes the lounging space look rather peaceful and grand. But when we arrived, the sofas and chairs were taken over with very loud and colorful tourists. I'm usually pretty open and cheery with fellow travelers, but it was 19th day on the road. I was tired. So were the noisy loungers who spread their bodies and luggage and Big Slurpee cups, all over the furniture.
What's the Story?
The Crescent opened 129 years ago, as a grand Victorian resort, catering to wealthy guests year round.
But that only lasted 15 years.
Eerie Stairs and Hallways
We didn't spot any ghosts when we climbed the stairs and wandered to our room, on the second floor.
Eerie Stairs and Hallways
We did encounter one of the 2 hotel cats. He was taking a bath and wasn't a bit impressed by us. The black woodwork and dark, orange-y walls seemed to fit into the Halloween theme quite well. Black trim and black banisters and black radiators. So many lumpy coats of shiny paint!
Black was covering our door and even the window glass in the transom, above the door.
Our room was quite decent, for a 127 year old hotel.
I never even hope for a king bed or flatscreen in an old hotel. But there were some odd renovations going on, with exposed brick and beams. Again, it felt like a not quite finished, stage set.
I haven't gotten quite old enough to be bothered by levels. In fact I really liked the idea that part of the bathroom, was down a few steps. The toilet was behind a door (with frosted glass windows) on the upper level.
So in the night, I paid a call and avoided the light switch, which might wake sleeping Don. When I stepped down to the lower level, to find the sink in the dark... I forgot there were 3 steps, not 2. I took a tumble and suddenly became that old woman who complains about levels.
The entrance to the veranda, was from the lower bathroom.
It was a charming idea to bathe while enjoying the view through the pulled back velvet curtains. But we actually shared the veranda and you couldn't be too sure when someone might wander down our way.
We had no complaints about the view! I wonder how many rockers they have, for the 76 rooms that are still in use.
At one time, the hotel had horse stables on the property. There were 100 horses available for those who liked to ride! I can't even imagine.
And Another View
On the upper level, we found the Sky Bar & Gourmet Pizza Cafe. It's hard to find a better view, for enjoying a glass of wine in the evening.
The distant view of The Ozarks was lovely, with just a hint of fall color.
We also had a little blue and green directly below, with the pool and gardens.
After returning from dinner in town, Don and I made good use of the empty veranda.
Don doesn't have the delicate touch that I learned from years of slumber parties. I had to lecture him to ease up... so I could secretly move the pointer towards yes.
In the morning, we enjoyed a complimentary buffet breakfast in the Crystal Ballroom, with a view of the drizzly garden.
The piano was playing on its own, so I'd like to assume that was one of the hotel's well known ghost guests. We sipped our coffee and discussed our luck at staying at one of the most haunted hotels in America... on a night with a thunderstorm! Too bad the storm hadn't been loud enough, to drown out the partiers in the hallway. Or maybe they were ghostly guests?
I was impressed by the grand scale of this place.
It reminded me that you can never really bring back the old. It's just too costly to do it properly. I wish I could just go back in time, to 1903. I'd pack up an old steamer trunk and pay a proper visit! That would be the way to experience The Crescent!
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Don and I started our 22-day road trip with a stay in this fabulous historic hotel!
A Grand Place, in 1924!
This hotel is enormous. When it was built in 1924, (Replacing 2 others from 1875 and 1892!) it had 560 rooms.
Now there are about 500 rooms and suites. It's the largest hotel in Arkansas.
We climbed the front steps, walked across the veranda and came through the front doors, into this grand space.
It was fun to imagine socialites and celebrities of the past coming through these doors. Even though Barbara Streisand and Tony Bennett might have good memories of this place, I'm afraid the dated furniture and carpets might not lure them back in this day and age.
At night, it all looked a little more pleasant from the second floor mezzanine. You could still smell the popcorn from the lobby/bar, near the colorful mural.
We took advantage of the complimentary popcorn in the early evening and enjoyed it with drinks, on the veranda. So did the sad looking woman who sat on a nearby bench. I had the feeling that she comes daily, for free popcorn. Hot Springs has some interesting characters.
Hotels always get big points from me when they have curious things to play with. The mineral water fountain was pretty fun... even if you had to drink warm water!
The mailbox and elevators were mighty impressive. I imagined Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, Clinton and Bush rumbling up inside one of these, when they stayed. But I read later that these were installed in 1969. The originals required an elevator operator.
We didn't dine in Arlington's Venetian Restaurant, but it looked like it must have been quite the place with the grand piano and chandeliers.
I'm afraid I didn't see a single diner on that Sunday night.
My Kind of Staircase!
We definitely tried out the staircase, which took us down to the basement. I wonder how many different feet over the years, wore down those marble stairs?
Maybe they should install a nice, cushioned pit at the bottom, for all the people who admire the lovely railing but don't use it. I have a feeling that a ride down the banister would have been slow, compared to sailing over those smooth, rounded steps.
We almost got to know our 7th floor neighbors very well. We we messed with their door for about 5 minutes before realizing our key went to a different room.
Our room wasn't even close to Al Capone's favorite room, 442. He used to book the entire floor for his body guards and other VIPs.
Our room was actually pretty darn good, for $89.00!
We wanted one of the historic rooms, and they happened to be cheaper. Although, maybe we could have afforded the top dollar room, at this hotel. The bathroom was pretty small and cramped with only a shower. Too bad, since I could have soaked in mineral water if we'd had a tub!
Room With a View
Our window looked down on the very lush hill and park below.
I'm sure this pool area was quite the thing, when it was first built. The entrance to the pool is on the 7th floor... which is odd.
There were 2 levels of pools, one had a slight water feature that spilled into the other. There was also a hot tub and lots of Astroturf. Don thought about doing some laps, but decided against it.
From the hotel you could go lots of directions. From the pool you could hike up some stone steps to a sitting area, or continue up on some amazing trails.
Across the street (as seen from the raised pool area) we found some very good food. We tried the Pancake Shop and Rolanda's, with a great chef from Ecuador.
Near Bathhouse Row
Best of all, we could just stroll down Bathhouse Row, from the hotel. You can see the twin towers in the photo.
What an amazing history to this town, where people came to soak in the healing mineral waters! I wish we'd had time to experience that as well, but we absorbed plenty in the moist air!
If we'd made use of the baths, I'm sure that would be the notable part of our stay.
There is no separating the hotel from the curious town that surrounds it. What a interesting place!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!