When I travel, I like to pack in as much in as possible, which often means spending very little time inside my hotel room.
After all, there are so many attractions to see. So many restaurants to try. So many people to meet.
But recently I've had the pleasure of staying at a few hotels that truly showcase the style, personality and hospitality of the cities where they are, hotels that reminded me that sometimes it's OK to sleep in or spend a day lounging by the pool.
Here are four hotels I've visited in the past few months that are well worth a stay.
MARRIOTT MARQUIS HOUSTON
If you love our state, here's something that has to be on your bucket list — swimming in a lazy river that's shaped like Texas.
During a one-night trip to Houston in September, I got to do just that, and I can tell you that floating atop a clear inner tube and taking in the views of the sprawling city below was an experience like no other.
From artistic astronauts that greet you in the elevators to a restaurant by one of the city's most acclaimed chefs in the lobby — Hugo Ortega's Xochi — this hotel oozes Houston cool in the best possible way. It's also perfectly positioned within easy walking distance to Discovery Green park, the Toyota Center, the George R. Brown Convention Center and Minute Maid Park.
Even if you're not staying at the hotel, you can experience the pool thanks to the new Second Saturdays series, which features live music by Mango Punch!, drink specials and more. Admission is $5, which can be used as a credit toward a drink at the bar; the series runs through December.
Info: 1777 Walker St., Houston. 713-654-1777, marriott.com/hotels/travel/houmq-marriott-marquis-houston
CHASE PARK PLAZA ROYAL SONESTA ST. LOUIS
My husband is from St. Louis, so our family travels there frequently and delights in the many activities the bustling city has to offer. From the City Museum and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard to Cardinals games at Busch Stadium and visits to Grant's Farm, there's no shortage of things to do.
During a recent visit for a family wedding, we decided to book a room at the Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis, a beautiful hotel perfectly positioned across from Forest Park that has hosted everyone from Frank Sinatra to Jimmy Carter. As we would learn, there's no better place to get a taste of St. Louis than at this hotel.
Among the highlights is the delightful aroma of popcorn that greets you as you pass the lobby — the hotel has an on-site movie theater that shows new releases. Whether you catch a flick there or simply buy a box of popcorn to take upstairs to enjoy with a Netflix movie as we did, it's a fun treat for families. We also loved the deep, sprawling swimming pool, which is flanked by sculptures and fountains and conjures visions of Italy.
Info: 212 Kingshighway Blvd., St. Louis. 314-633-3000, sonesta.com/us/missouri/st-louis/chase-park-plaza-royal-sonesta-st-louis
HILTON SAN ANTONIO HILL COUNTRY
As the last days of summer began to slip away and our minds were turning to back-to-school shopping and meet-the-teacher appointments, we decided to have one final fling in San Antonio with the family. Although we visit San Antonio frequently, we had never stayed at the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country, which we booked because of its proximity to SeaWorld San Antonio, which is just a mile away.
During our stay, we enjoyed amenities such as s'mores at the outdoor firepits (kits are available for purchase), shooting hoops into the goal perched above one of the outdoor pools, giant tabletop games and a family-friendly evening movie, which during our stay was "The Secret Life of Pets" and was viewable from our balcony.
While the property may not have as wide a list of activities as some of its neighboring Hill Country resort-hotels, the tradeoff is that it is a budget-conscious traveler's dream: There's no resort fee, there's free parking, and rates for rooms, which are spacious and well appointed, start as low as $90. It also offers a free shuttle to SeaWorld. Our family, which very frequently is straggling in late to things these days, was the first group in the park to snap a photo with mascot Shamu and his friends, who greeted us at the entrance.
If you're heading to San Antonio for the holiday lights on the River Walk, going to sample some of its famous tacos or simply seeking a budget-friendly getaway, consider this property.
Info: 9800 Westover Hills Blvd., San Antonio. 210-509-9800, hilton.com/en/hotels/texas/hilton-san-antonio-hill-country-SATHCHF/index.html
PALAZZO LAS VEGAS
The first thing you need to know about the Palazzo in Las Vegas is that there is a hidden lounge that offers a Champagne call button. As in, you press a button and someone will bring you Champagne.
The lounge, Rosina, is a tantalizing, 65-seat art deco bar that feels a universe away from the casino that whirs and chimes just steps away. The bar also has deep commitment to classic cocktails, as evidenced by its secret menu dedicated to old fashioneds, where you'll find everything from the classic to the Oaxacan, which incorporates mezcal, reposado tequila and agave syrup.
Rosina was just one of the surprises we uncovered during a whirlwind August girls' trip to Las Vegas, during which the recently renovated Palazzo was our home base. The dining scene in particular was a standout on this trip, from the varied and innovative offerings at SUSHISAMBA, where Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese cuisine combine, to the spectacular dinner we enjoyed at Chica, which opened last year and features Latin American cuisine. The shrimp and quinoa entree, made with sauteed Argentinian red shrimp over red quinoa and beluga lentils and topped with marinated corn poblano pico and Guayanes cheese, has now joined my list of favorite dishes.
Info: 3325 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas. 702-607-7777, palazzo.com
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