Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Few Days at the Charming Providence Biltmore Hotel

After spending a chilly week in New York City, I flew to Providence, Rhode Island for some colder weather and even more snow. Living in Southern California for the past 18 years I've grown accustomed our mild climate. My definition of winter includes "...the need to wear a sweater at night." Of course I knew what to expect being in the north east in February but nonetheless it was a shock to my system. NYC was cold. In Providence I encountered negative degrees on a few evenings...Brrr! Fortunately I had plenty of layers, including my long underwear, turtlenecks, multiple sweaters, a long heavy coat, scarf, gloves and hat. Yup. I looked like a fool. But at least this Southern California boy was warm. 

I have always found Providence to be a charming city. It was particularly interesting to go from a week in Manhattan to a week in Providence. Very different urban experiences, yet both enjoyable. Providence has some beautiful architecture, including a visually pleasant little skyline. In the photo above you can see part of the Biltmore Hotel, where I stayed. 

The Providence Biltmore is an historic property, built in 1922 in the
 neb-federal Beaux-arts style. Over the years it has gone through several iterations, including multiple changes in ownership. Through it all, it has retained much of its charm. Today it is part of the new Curio Collection, by Hilton. I am a fiercely loyal Hilton Honors member and cherish my Diamond Member status, so when the Biltmore became part of the Hilton Curio Collection I was elated. This is a true landmark, grand-daddy type hotel in the heart of downtown Providence. In fact it is registered as one of the Historic Hotels of America.
Throughout the hotel there are interesting and unique areas to discover. Growing up in Providence, I clearly recall coming to the Biltmore with my family for various special occasions. While I miss some of the more grand days this hotel has seen, I was delighted to find it in excellent condition, well maintained and very much in a phase of renewal. The ground floor has numerous photos of the hotel through its history- worth seeing if you have the time to check them all out. One fun find is the brass water mark level in the main lobby, indicating how high the flood waters rose during the devastating Hurricane of 1954. Look for that marker on one of columns near reception.
The Providence Biltmore also boasts having " of the most elegant Starbucks in America" including a fireplace in the Starbucks sitting area. The hotel also has a McCormick & Schmick's Steak and Seafood restaurant and bar, who also provide room service to the hotel. I didn't have time to check out The Spa at the hotel, but it looked very nice. It doesn't have a sauna or steam room, perhaps something they should consider adding at some point. The hotel does have a full fitness center, which is good. I felt the hotel needed some other things for guests, perhaps a gift and sundry shop, some high-end vending machines, and some music. I wanted to linger more in the common areas but it was so quiet.
I had a very nice suite, with two Queen beds, lavishly appointed. The beds were exceptionally comfortable, with nice linens and ultra-clean, crisp bed spread. The bedroom had a huge flat screen wall mounted TV. The suite had a comfortable sitting area, with another huge flat screen TV, sofa, desk, wing chair, etc. The suite was quite comfortable and I was pleased with my accommodations.

The bathroom was small, but adequate. The bathroom amenities (soap, shampoo, etc) were very nice. That being said, it was devoid of any other amenities, such as cotton swabs, cotton balls, etc, but I got by with my own fortunately. (Mind you, I had just spent a week at the Waldorf=Astoria in NYC so I was used to being spoiled). As a Hilton Honors Diamond member, I had various guest perks that were nice to have. I do think the Curio Collection should think about upgrading some of the in-room goodies, such as a Keruig coffee maker, mini bars, etc. Also the main lobby and mezzanine need more comfy chairs and areas to sit, gather and enjoy the common areas a bit more. All in all, the Providence Biltmore is a wonderful hotel that I highly recommend. I almost wish I had an occasion to rent out the Grand Ballroom or Garden Terrace someday. Maybe one of my nieces will get married when they grow up and I can host the reception there!
The view from my 15th floor window was over the Kennedy Plaza Ice Skating Rink. The view is stunning- looking toward the east side of Providence, with views of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), among other historic buildings. Providence is a very nice little city, a gem of New England really. Lots of character, history, great restaurants and plenty to do. I had a great time visiting Providence. I just want to go back when it is warm next time!
One note: I wrote these remarks about the Biltmore on my own with no affiliation to compensation by the Biltmore, Curio, or Hilton. It is true that I am a loyal Hilton Honors guy, but this was written out of passion for the property and nothing else.

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