Review: Providence Biltmore in Providence, RI

Historic charm in spades and perks that are the bee's knees

Providence Biltmore

The grandest hotel in the Creative Capital, the Providence Biltmore opened in 1922 and has been wowing guests ever since. Designed by the architect firm behind New York's Grand Central Station, the hotel has a dramatic Art Deco lobby, a rooftop garden, and stories galore from hosting U.S. Presidents and celebrities over the years. In its heyday, the Biltmore was known for doing everything big. The Garden Room swung to the sounds of the Benny Goodman and Jimmy Dorsey orchestras. The dance floor was once turned into an aquarium, complete with live fish, for a performance by Esther Williams. And then there was the time when the floor was frozen solid so that Sonja Henie could take a spin in her silver skates.

Every guest room at the Providence Biltmore was recently renovated to bring back the authentic 1920s character of the hotel, so you'll find Art Deco mirrors, neatly upholstered sofas, and glittering chandeliers, along with modern conveniences such as flatscreen TVs, coffee makers, iHome accessories, good lighting, and modern bathrooms. There's also at least one signature king-sized Biltmore Bed in every room.

The Biltmore's central location in downtown Providence is as good as it gets, within walking distance of Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Johnson & Wales, as well as scores of downtown museums and galleries. Like shopping? You're a stone's throw from the cool boutiques and cafes of Westminster Street in the arty "downcity" area.

Historic Providence contains scores of immaculately preserved Colonial, Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian houses throughout the city. Families can walk the Independence Trail, a 2.5-mile self-guided walking tour that identifies and educates about historic landmarks throughout downtown, including the Providence Biltmore itself.

Families will love the free wi-fi access at the Biltmore. Valet parking costs $28 a day, which is in line with other downtown Providence hotels charge. The Biltmore is the only hotel in Providence with a full spa and there's also a fitness center and a Starbuck's just off the lobby.

Another perk to love is the hotel's complimentary house car service, which will take you anywhere within a five-mile radius for free, Monday to Saturday, 7am-11pm. This is a fabulous value-added benefit, since Providence is so compact that pretty much anywhere you'd want to go is within a five-mile radius of the hotel, including the Roger Williams Park Zoo.

Best rooms: At over 625 square feet, a junior king suite is perfect for most families. The bedroom area has two king-size beds and a 40-inch flatscreen TV, while the living area has a sofa, desk, and a second flatscreen. There's also a refrigerator in the room. Ask for a room on a higher floor with a west-facing view that skips across the church steeples of old Providence.

Best season: The city is beautiful year-round but try to visit on a weekend between May and November when there is a Waterfire event. During these weekend art installations, over 80 small bonfires are lit in the city's river and canals just after sunset, while musicians play, dancers perform on the sidewalks, and the water is dotted with gondoliers and costumed kayakers. It's a unique artistic spectacle on par with Cirque de Soleil.

Visited: May 2014

As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for review purposes. While it has not influenced this review, believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our Ethics Policy.

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