21c Museum Hotels is a boutique hotel chain. It has six properties throughout the US with plans for more coming soon. It was launched in 2006 by Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown.
21c Museum Hotel Lexington has 88 rooms. Each floor holds 6 or 7 rooms. There is also a contemporary art museum on the first and second floor with art scattered throughout the hotel, most of which comes from Wilson and Brown’s personal collection. It occupies Lexington’s first skyscraper (First National Bank Building) which was built in 1913. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980.
The mascot of the hotel is a blue penguin which you see often when walking around the hotel. The 21c has a thing for penguins. I’m not sure of the story behind it.
Located at 167 w Main St, it really couldn’t be in a better spot. With tons of downtown food options, being within walking distance of Rupp Arena, and proximity to two Universities (University of Kentucky and Transylvania University), I can see this property doing very well.
They do not have a parking lot so you either find a spot on the street or valet with their staff. $20 for overnight valet is a no-brainer. That’s about as cheap as valet parking gets in a downtown location. If you do park on the street you have to move it by 8am or put money in the parking meter. Luckily for me it was a Friday and the city of Lexington doesn’t charge you to park on the street after 5pm and throughout the weekend. I opted to park my own because I knew I didn’t have to worry about putting money in the machine at 8am.
I’ve been wanting to stay here since it opened earlier this year. When I found out I was coming back to Lexington I immediately checked the rates on their website. 21c was showing a room rate of $181 for a deluxe queen room for Friday night. I really wanted to stay here but I didn’t want to spend that much money for a Friday night, as I knew I needed to stay another night in Lexington on Monday night to catch a flight early Tuesday.
So I went back to my roots of booking hotels and went to Priceline to check prices. Priceline was showing a rate of $154 plus tax/fees and on their Express Deals I saw it was only $96 plus tax/fees a night. Now, if you are familiar with Priceline you know that on Express Deals it doesn’t show you which hotel it is until you book it. You just pick your area you want to stay in and which star level you want. There are only two four-star hotels in Lexington. 21c Museum Hotel and Griffin Gate Marriott. Marriott offers free parking, 21c does not. So when looking at the Express Deal on Priceline it didn’t show it had free parking, I knew it had to be 21c and not the Marriott. I took it one step further and named my own price, another feature of Priceline. I put in the area I wanted and the star level. I bid $89. I honestly wasn’t expecting them to accept the bid but they did. So with taxes and fees I ended up paying $109 compared to $181. Heck of a deal if you ask me.
I normally book directly with hotels because I value having status with hotels and collecting points. I usually pay more up front doing it that way but in the long run I think I come out ahead with free nights and upgrades. 21c doesn’t have a loyalty program so I didn’t feel obligated to book with them.
As soon as you enter the building you walk into a foyer and this beautiful design of stained glass (or I think it’s glass) is above your head.
Once you walk through the foyer the Lockbox (Restaurant) is on the left, elevators are in front of you, and the reception desk is to the right up a couple steps.
As you make your way up to the reception desk you can’t help but notice all the beautiful art. Everywhere you look, there is a painting or some kind of sculpture.
The receptionist was great. She greeted me as soon as she saw me walking up and asked if I was checking in. I told her my name and gave her my ID and credit card. We chatted for a bit and she asked if I had stayed there before. She was eager to tell me about the hotel and what art they were showcasing at the time.
When booking through a third-party website like I did here, your chances of getting upgraded are slim-to-none. But it must have been my lucky day as she informed me they upgraded me to a corner king room on the 6th floor. I was already excited about staying here but getting a corner king was icing on the cake. Check-in lasted about five minutes and I was on my way. The receptionist was great, not because she upgraded me, but because she really was very personable and a pleasure to speak with.
I was staying on the 6th floor.
One thing I noticed was how they incorporated the original Greek key tile work from the original design at each elevator landing.
The hallways leading to the rooms where very minimalistic, in a good way. By doing this, whether or not they meant to, it really made the room entrance pop.
Entering the room the first thing I noticed was the color scheme. You go from a bare minimal look in the hallways to a room entrance filled with color. The small entryway houses the closet and the mini bar.
The closet had extra pillows as well as a robe.
Next to the closet was this impressive mini bar with a metal gate.
On the top shelf was a Nespresso machine with two free waters.
Below that was the fully stocked mini-refrigerator. This thing was loaded full of soft drinks, beer, wine, and liquor as well as snacks. Only people from Kentucky know about Ale8. Its one of the best ginger/citrus sodas I’ve ever had. Its made about an hour away in Winchester.
The prices in the mini bar were reasonable.
One thing I’ll always point out is the intimacy kit. Most hotels, you never see this so I always get a kick out of it when they do have something like this. The only other place I’ve seen this is the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach
Past the mini bar is a long hallway to the left with the bathroom located at the end to the left.
The seating area is in the corner, facing the bed. It could also be used as a desk because the couch had outlets attached to it at the bottom, with a small, round table in front.
Just to the right of the couch was the dresser with the TV on top.
The king bed was extremely comfortable with nightstands on each side. There were also light switches attached to the headboard, on each side of the bed.
Each nightstand had outlets and a lamp. The safe was located in the drawer of the nightstand.
I had about a 90-degree view of downtown Lexington. I had a nice view of the Fifth Third Bank building as well as the old Fayette County Courthouse.
When I arrived to my room there were dark chocolates on the pillow.
Instead of getting a newspaper delivered to your room each morning, they give you a card with a code to access a free, digital New York Times.
Room service Breakfast menu.
The bathroom layout was standard, besides the shower which was great. I much prefer a stand-alone shower over the bathtub, probably as most people do. I mean, who really takes baths in hotels anyway? And I’m not taking about jacuzzi tubs.
The toiletries, I loved. It’s the first time I’ve seen a hotel use Malin+Goetz. If you are familiar with Delta airport lounges, it’s the same soap they use for their hand soap. I almost bought some on my way out at their little store near the reception desk.
The shower had an adjustable head with immediate hot water and great pressure.
It’s the little things. How do you not appreciate a rubber ducky? Kinda takes you back to your childhood. Just one of the little details the 21c continues to do to stand out from all other hotels.
In addition to the one in the closet, there’s also a robe in the bathroom and its a T-Y Presidential Collection. One of the best robes I’ve put on.
1st/2nd Floor Art Museum
I did take a brief tour through the museum on the first two floors. It’s open to the public but wasn’t crowded at all. They rotate different art themes throughout the year and on this occasion the theme was “Dress Up, Speak Up: Costume and Confrontation”.
This was as well done as any museum I’ve been to. Each art work had a description beside it on the wall, detailing the artist and meaning of the piece.
There are several rooms to walk in with some of them being available to rent for private parties.
Honestly my favorite piece of art in the whole museum wasn’t in the museum part at all, but the print on the “Do Not Disturb” sign. It made me think of the scene in Goodfellas when they kill Billy Bats in the bar, then they go over to Tommy’s mother’s house and she painted this picture of a man and his dogs in a boat. Tommy mentions the guy is thinking, “Hey, what do you want from me?”. Thats the first thing I thought about when I saw this picture. Of course if you don’t remember that scene this doesn’t make any sense to you.
The gym was a little small in the hotel but they do offer an alternative. They have partnered with Proof Fitness across the street, which is a full fitness facility. So if the hotel gym is too full you can easily go over to Proof and find what you are looking for.
I suppose I was lucky because when I visited the hotel gym there wasn’t anyone in there. I suspect, though, with only having 88 rooms, it ever gets too full.
I loved the look of the gym with mirrors all around, outlined in purple.
There are several cardio machines, one weight machine, and free weights on the back end, so there’s plenty to do to get a good workout in. One thing they did have is a rowing machine. It’s rare to see them in hotels but its one of my favorite things to do.
I don’t normally take pictures of my meal when I’m eating but figured since this place was spoken highly of and I was by myself, I might as well.
Lockbox is focused on heritage ingredients with a somewhat creole flare, from what I had, and is led by Executive Chef Jonathan Searle.
I figured I’d get a seat at the bar and have a drink and some apps but on my first attempt the bar was packed full, so I waited about an hour and went back down. I was fortunate to find one bar seat available.
There were two or three bartenders working behind the bar when I sat down but it took a solid eight minutes to greet me. Mind you, they were busy but that’s not acceptable. After I was finally greeted, everything went great. The light drinker I am, I ordered three different cocktails. A sazerec, a bourbon Manhattan and a dirty vodka martini. When in Kentucky, or really any state, for that matter, you must order a bourbon cocktail. Jack Daniels and Crown Royal are not bourbon but that’s another discussion.
The Sazerec was made properly and it was delicious. Probably my favorite bourbon cocktail.
After that, I saw the bartender making a Manhattan so I told her to make two. I enjoyed the Manhattan just as much as the Sazerec.
Being the Kentucky boy that I am I can’t tell you the last time I had a bourbon and didn’t like it. Perks of being from Kentucky. You get started on bourbon at an early age. I had my first bourbon when I was seven. Just kidding.
Finally, I ordered a dirty martini before dinner was served. Something about a martini before dinner just does it for me. Bleu cheese stuffed olives, of course!
For my meal I had house made Toulouse sausage on a bed of pickled ramps, white beans, and a creole Mustard. I highly recommend.
Final thing I had was a tough choice; I really wanted the crispy octopus but the bartender suggested I try the pimento cheese fries. The fries were topped with pimento cheese, creole gravy, crawfish, green onions, and hot sauce. The fries were great but, man, were they heavy and rich. They were delicious, of course, but I would recommend splitting them with someone.
I took a tour of the dining room once they closed. It’s a wide open dining room with pillars down the middle.
To the back right you have a semi private area for bigger groups or it’s used for communal tables.
In the main back, where the old vault is from the National Bank days, is a fully private area.
I loved the floor in this area. The design was empty shell casings. The detail this hotel put in is noticeable at every turn.
I really only interacted with two receptionists and two bartenders. The receptionists were great: friendly and accommodating. The morning I woke up I was curious to see if she would extend my check-out by an hour so I called down when I woke and she had no problem giving me the extra hour. The receptionist who checked me in was one of the most friendly I’ve encountered in a while.
The bartenders were super slow to greet me and offer a drink but once they did they were great. Drinks came fast and they were well made.
So overall I’d give them an 8/10 for service.
I’ve stayed at every good hotel in Lexington and I can say without a doubt this is the best hotel in the city. It has personality like no other hotel in Lexington. They were very thorough in the details they gave this place. From the moment I arrived till I left I was impressed with every aspect. The staff was great, the hotel is gorgeous, the little bit of food I did have at Lockbox was delicious, and how often can you say you stayed the night in a museum?
I would highly recommend this place to anyone. I just hope they come out with a rewarding loyalty program and hope they take notes from Hyatt and SPG when they do.