Philadelphia Travel Guide
Philadelphia's Rittenhouse Hotel is known for its killer views and for honoring hometown favorite Grace Kelly with a cocktail in its new lobby bar, opened in the midst of a $10-million, 12-month refurbishment in anticipation of the hotel's upcoming 25th anniversary.
More upgrades aren't far behind, as the hotel announced that its new 15,000 square-foot spa facility, The Rittenhouse Spa & Club – Hair by Paul Labrecque, will open in late summer and contain a spa, health club, and salon.
Surprise surprise, look who's at it again.
The City of Brotherly Love confirmed this week that a third Kimpton Hotels will open in the 73-year-old Family Court Building in the Logan Square neighborhood, joining its already existing properties, the Hotel Palomar in Rittenhouse Square and the Hotel Monaco on Independence Hall.
Despite a traditional reputation as a blue-collar town, Philadelphia has proven that it knows how to pamper its visitors, especially in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, where most of the city's luxury hotels stake their claim. We've already told you about the big names that come with big views, and on our most recent jaunt through Philly, we decided to check in on one of the smaller properties in Rittenhouse, the Latham, which markets itself as a boutique hotel with 139 rooms.
The room you see in the cover photo above is the King Suite. It has a separate living room and two full bathrooms, one off the bedroom and one in the common area (both have mirrors on the ceiling!). Each room at the Latham comes with Keurig coffee makers, large writing desks, Gilcrest & Soames bath products, and fast, free wifi. The hotel guarantees the best rates via its website, and if you find a lower price, it will give you 10% off that lower price.
For those who have recently stayed at the FS Philly or who read our coverage about its killer view of Logan Circle, the word “upgrade” might come as a surprise. Currently, you can see all the way down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum from many west-facing rooms.
But sources within Philly tell us that the property has “grown stale” after over 30 years, and needs a boost to continue to compete with the city’s booming Center City hotel market, including its luxurious competitors, the Rittenhouse Hotel and the Ritz Carlton, as well as the up and coming midmarket properties in and around Rittenhouse Square and City Hall (like the Kimpton Palomar, for example).
It's that time of year again: the 2013 HotelChatter Awards! Today and tomorrow, we'll be showcasing the best (and worst) of hotels over the past year. But we couldn't do it without you! Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or shoot us an email. And the Award goes to...
With so much great hotel news to choose from, narrowing the entire year down to one city was by no means easy. The Big Apple is forever in the running with all its hotel activity year in and year out, and Denver made an awful lot of noise out west as this year came to a close, projecting large growth and several big projects for 2014. And we can't forget London and Paris too where there were not just new hotels opening, but plenty of renovations (several of which will be revealed next year.) Even Down Under in Sydney we saw a bit more activity than we have in past years.
But this year's shocking big winner is Philadelphia. The city's hotel scene sometimes gets lost in the mix behind busier cities like New York and Chicago, but Philly has really impressed us from all angles this year, from its line of luxury hotels (that all sport iconic views) to the way it spruced up Old City with a Kimpton property that overlooks the Liberty Bell.
While the newly-opened Rad Blu lived up to the hype, we are most pleased with how the city's plans are falling into place on a whole, and we feel it is now reaping the rewards of its good decisions the past two years.
[Photo: Visit Philly]
Yesterday, we highlighted three luxury hotels in Philly that have killer views, and one of them, the Rittenhouse Hotel in Center City, is currently in the midst of a $10-million, 12-month refurbishment in anticipation of the hotel's 25th anniversary next year.
The facelift will feature new 1,000 square-foot park-view suites (for some reason, people refer to Rittenhouse Square as "the park") and a new health club. Earlier this year, the hotel opened a lobby bar called the Library, which currently features a Grace Kelly cocktail.
Most are familiar with Grace Kelly as an actress, princess, and public figure, but Philadelphians remember her and her family for their influence on the City of Brotherly Love. Not only was Kelly grow up in Philly, but her mother was the first woman to head up the Physical Education Department at the University of Pennsylvania and her father was an Olympic rower and once ran for mayor of the city. Her brother, John Kelly Jr, was a Philly councilman and was memorialized when East River Drive was renamed Kelly Drive in the 1980s.
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When it comes to the upper echelon of hotels in Philly, there is a common denominator that goes beyond their luxe accommodations and service: Epic views of the city's top landmarks.
Three hotels in particular stand out thanks to their great locations: The Rittenhouse Hotel overlooks Rittenhouse Square (bottom); the Four Seasons Philly provides views of Logan Circle and down the Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum (top); and the Ritz Carlton Philly sits right next to City Hall and the infamous perch of William Penn (center).
Looks like SLS isn't the only new hotel coming to the City of Brotherly love. Philadelphia is getting two brand new luxury hotels -- a W and an Element -- thanks to a $33 million tax break measure passed last week that will allow for construction to begin on a $280 million building in Center City. (W Hotels had hoped to open in Philadelphia way back in 2006 but the project was later scrapped in 2008.)
The measure was opposed by a group of the city's hotel owners, but Mayor Michael Nutter and the city council saw things differently. "It's a big winner for the city," Nutter said. "1,800 construction jobs over a three-year period of time, 450 permanent jobs and a signature headquarters hotel right in the heart of Center City."
The site for the project at 15th and Chestnut, which has been vacant for years, is between City Hall and Rittenhouse Square and a half-mile from the convention center. Competing hotels in the area will be Kimpton's Hotel Palomar, the new Rad Blu (which we dished on a few weeks ago), the Four Seasons on the Ben Franklin Parkway, and the Rittenhouse Hotel, among others.
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Something lovely's starting in Philadelphia--an SLS Hotel.
We first heard mention that hotelier Sam Nazarian's SLS brand would open in Philadelphia over the summer when SLS announced expansion plans in China and subtly dropped a list of future U.S. locations that included Philly. Today, the company is going public with the plans, partnering with Dranoff Properties to open the 47-story SLS International Hotel and Reisdences at the intersection of Broad and Spruce Streets in Center City, directly across from the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.
(Apparently, there's already an SLS Philadelphia, a Spanish Language School, but Carl Dranoff told the Philadelphia Inquirer the International name is also an homage to the Philadelphia International Records building, home to the birthplace of Philadelphia Sound and the site of the new SLS hotel.)
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Black Friday and Cyber Monday always brings out the crazy in people. We've all seen the reports of people fighting at the store for discounted merchandise and of people staying up until midnight in front of their computers to drop items into their virtual shopping carts. But today's Cyber Monday promotion offered by the Radisson Blu Warwick in Philadelphia has people up in arms for a very good reason.
The hotel's Cyber Monday deal, one of our favorites in our ultimate guide, promised "newly redesigned business class rooms for just $19.26, the year the historic hotel opened." The deal would only be available for 24 hours or until the deal sold out. But when many folks signed on to get the deal at midnight, it was already sold-out. So what in the world happened?
A tipster let us know that the hotel had put up an incorrect auto-populated code of STEAL when it was really CYBER, thus not allowing people to book the rooms. The hotel's booking link is now saying CYBER but an upset Facebook fan posted a screengrab of the wrong code on the Radisson Blu's Facebook page. Oops. You can read more of the angry Facebook reactions if you dare.
The good news is that the deal is still very much valid.
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The 301-room Raddison Blu Philadelphia just put the finishing touches on its lobby last week (they were literally pressing the letters on the wall during our stay), finalizing its $20 million conversion and celebrating its full opening. Looking for a new hotel to check out in Philly? Here are five things to know before you check in:
2. It's the first repurposed Radisson Blu property in the States: While the aforementioned properties were all new construction, the Rad Blu Philly was the first conversion project, originally opened as the Warwick Hotel in 1926. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means that the exterior and structure of the building could not be altered. The top few floors of the hotel have remained as private residences.
On a recent jaunt to Portugal, we discovered what we thought was a great split-hotel package that allowed guests to experience two sides of the country: A few days in Lisbon and a few days on the south coast soaking up rays. For travelers who are adventurous but still desire structure, the concept takes out a lot of the planning but still leaves you more independence than, say, a full-on "put your bags outside the door before you go to sleep" tour operator type of thing.
Since being introduced to the idea last month, we've been thinking about where this "best of both worlds" partnership might be a good fit in the States. Despite driving distances and train services being what they are in our country in general, we were able to come up with a bunch of places where this type of package could go over well (some of which have tried it at times in the past). Think San Francisco with Napa or Sonoma, Denver with Breckenridge, Park City with Salt Lake, New York City with the Finger Lakes/Hamptons, or Philly with Atlantic City.
We focus on the latter in this column for two reasons: 1) While visitors to San Fran or Denver most likely already have their sights set on wine country and the mountains, we're not sure many realize how close Philly is to the shore and 2) Atlantic City could certainly use a little love these days, and a package that gave city dwellers the chance to check out Atlantic City, a place they've certainly heard about given all the press Revel has attracted the past two years, could help boost tourism.