The Best Hotel Food Freebies Ever
The marriage of travel and food has been a long and happy one. For foodies, a destination isn't going to rank as a favorite unless its cuisine -- be it Mexican food in San Diego, seafood in Seattle, or the hodgepodge of deliciousness that is New York -- is something special. For us, that logic applies equally to the hotels where you stay within a city. We look not just for hotels with great restaurants, but for places that incorporate gourmet treats into the overall hotel experience. Below are our favorite hotels that offer awesome foodie freebies, from decadent a la carte breakfasts to free nightly wine hours. Talk about tasty extras.
Free hotel breakfasts aren't exactly a rarity, but they are usually comprised of cereals, fruit, and, if you're lucky, some moderately edible scrambled eggs. Not so at Gaia Hotel and Reserve in Costa Rica, where the free breakfast is a gourmet a la carte affair. Menu items include Eggs Benedict, Belgian Waffles, Italian Egg White Frittata, Vanilla and Mango Pancakes, a Costa Rican Breakfast, and more. And the freebies don't stop there: The room rate also includes a short spa treatment.
We adore the Andaz Fifth Avenue in New York for its bounty of foodie freebies, including the choice of Fat Witch Baby Brownies or C.O. Bigelow Peppermints at check-out. (There are other less delicious gift options as well: C.O Bigelow Lemon Lip Cream and a tube of anti-bacterial hand gel.) Other free treats include water bottles in the lobby, minibar snacks and non-alcoholic drinks (many of which are from local vendors), wine in the lobby from 6 to 9 p.m. each evening, and made-to-order barista coffee in the lobby lounge.
Seattle's Hotel Vintage Park's focus on wine -- particularly those grown in the 500 local vineyards -- is evident from the moment you check in: The front-desk staffer (sporting a name-tag that includes his or her particular favorite vintage) will explain the varieties you'll enjoy at the free reception that takes place every evening from 5 to 6 p.m.
The Rancho Valencia in San Diego serves up excellent freebies, including free minibar snacks, morning juice and newspaper delivery, and free breakfast that all contribute to the resort's experience of exclusive pampering. This 49-room luxury resort is located in Rancho Santa Fe, a wealthy residential community in the hills of Southern California, on 40 acres of lush grounds. The Spanish-style suites, all with fireplaces and patios, are located in 26 casitas spread across the sprawling property, creating a rare level of privacy for guests.
After a long day exploring, it's nice to come back to your hotel to find free refreshments waiting in the lobby. The Laurel Inn San Francisco, for example, has free lemonade and freshly baked cookies in the lobby each afternoon. But the Villa d'Citta takes the cake on this one: This tiny Chicago boutique has a fully-stocked communal kitchen where guests can prepare breakfast, snacks (such as sandwiches or hot dogs), and other light fare 24/7.
Many hotels are thoughtful enough to provide basic refreshments in the lobby -- ice water, coffee, and the like. Some properties take it a step further: The Andaz Fifth Avenue, for example, offers fresh barista-prepared coffee in the lobby, and the Westin Copley Place Boston has special seasonal drinks, like hot apple cider in the fall. The Copley Square Hotel in Boston, which offers free tea, coffee, and hot chocolate all day, is one of our favorites, partly because it's so pleasant to sit down and sip in its stylish, cozy lobby. (There's also a free evening wine hour if you prefer something a little stronger.)
Arriving in your room to find a delicious surprise waiting for you goes a long way toward making you feel like a guest, rather than a customer. Fifteen Beacon in Boston deserves a special mention for the miniature tarts and chocolate covered fruit prepared by the hotel's pastry chef that will be delivered to your room after check-in. But the Halekulani's impressive display of tropical fruit, chocolate, and flowers will always be one of our favorites.
It's not that uncommon to get a check-in drink at nice hotels in warm-weather destinations, but that doesn't make us like this refreshing freebie any less. The Caves in Jamaica is a romantic all-inclusive with locally-focused cuisine and a top-shelf bar, and its signature welcome drink is de-lish.
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