By Laura Sutherland, Taking the Kids correspondent.
The animal crackers and lemonade looked really good sitting there by the front desk in the lobby. But I knew they really weren’t meant for me, and that in just minutes, the Kimpton staff would pull out the wine and cheese and the adults staying in the hotel would gather ‘round for another free happy hour. It’s the same scene in every Kimpton hotel around the country – every night between 5 and 6 p.m. it’s complimentary wine hour.
In certain Kimpton’s, like Alexandria Virginia’s Hotel Monaco, there is also a happy hour for the kids between 4 and 5 p.m. It’s a chance for them to meet and greet, and it doesn’t hurt that a video game console is within a few feet of the snacks and there are board games scattered throughout the lobby.
Kimpton certainly leads the charge when it comes to boutique hotel chains that throw out all the stops for families. Some of them have the kids’ happy hour, plus child-size animal-print bathrobes, live goldfish in your hotel room (thankfully cared for by hotel staff), and extras like easels with chalkboards and chalk in your room so the kids can amuse themselves while you unpack.
All 59 Kimpton Hotels have toys at check-in, cribs, baby-proofing supplies (with outlet covers, toilet latches, and night-lights), and high chairs and booster seats that are available in their hotel restaurants or for use in your room when you want to order room service. If parents want to go to the gym for a quick workout, they will always find hula hoops to amuse the kids.
Other boutique hotel chains are realizing that making young guests and their parents happy is good business. Take Tryp Hotels, the Wyndham chain’s entry into the boutique market. Many of their hotels, especially throughout Europe and in particular, all over Spain, have family rooms that feature a bunk bed in an adorable alcove in a regular double room. In the US, you’ll find one in NYC in the Times Square area.
San Francisco’s Diva Hotel on Union Square has a special two-room “Little Divas Suite,” with colorful décor that celebrates famous child actors, actresses and characters. The room is complete with bunk beds, poufy cushions, a computer, karaoke machine, Wii game system, drawing table and lots and lots of toys.
Sometimes it’s not so obvious what a boutique hotel offers families when you first look at their website. But call the concierge and ask a few questions. Take the Ace Hotel chain with its cool, hipster vibe. While you won’t find a link that describes special offerings for kids, they absolutely welcome children, and their New York City hotel has an enchanting kid’s map of the city drawn by NYC artist Kate Neckel.
Boutique hotels tend to make a point of connecting their guests to their neighborhoods, and to each other. And increasing numbers of them are including the youngest guests in this approach to creating a homey and welcoming atmosphere.
Laura Sutherland is a travel writer based in Santa Cruz, CA.