This is a year of “big birthdays” for us. While some ignore the date, others plan big celebrations, as did our friends in Newport, R.I., this spring. While searching online for accommodations, I avoided traditional bed and breakfast options (my personal definition of torture) and looked instead for something grand, with a spa, something befitting the momentous occasion. I found the Hotel Viking.
Those with a knowledge of Newport — at the time, not me — know the property opened to much acclaim in May 1926. Located at the top of the Historic Hill neighborhood, the hotel has gone through many transformations through the decades as it hosted dignitaries and celebrities. The latest $6.2 million restoration aims to honor the hotel’s historic roots while adding up-to-date technological amenities, such as flat screen TVs offering Netflix in each room.
We arrived in Newport on a cool and rainy day. From outside, the five-story, red-brick structure with multicolumned portico was imposing and formal. Stepping inside the spacious lobby, the stiff-upper-lip first impression melted into a welcoming embrace.
To the right of the grand entrance, an open living room-style lounge with double-sided fireplace faced a sleek, contemporary check-in desk. Low-slung couches and cozy chairs in a blue, gray, and taupe color scheme are designed to honor Newport’s maritime heritage. Guests lounged with newspapers near oversize, multipane windows as small children marveled at the fire. (Based on observations of many guests with children, the hotel is extremely kid-friendly.)
Opposite the lounge/check-in area, a marble-topped bar and all-day lounge (with sports on the TV) leads to the hotel’s restaurant, One Bellevue. The smaller garden room, a great spot for breakfast, overlooks a patio that I imagine is hopping on warm summer days. Speaking of hopping, the bar was bustling on both Friday and Saturday nights with live music entertaining the mixed-age crowd. Thankfully, in our second-floor room, we couldn’t hear a thing. Because of the weather, we also missed experiencing the open-air rooftop bar, a popular place for cocktails and light bites.
The hotel is much larger than it appears from the street, offering 208 rooms and suites. As in many older hotels with added-on wings, its hallways meander in quirky routes, interrupted by random flights of three or four stairs. Of course, that is all part of its charm. For example, after check-in, we left our room to find the swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and spa. We descended in the elevator to the first floor, and walked down a long hallway to another elevator where we learned we were (once again) on the second floor, and descended to another first floor, and another hallway that led to our destination. (We later discovered a more direct route down a wide grand stairwell.)
This lower-level wing’s décor is a throwback to the Gilded Age. On damask-papered walls, gilt-framed prints and landscape paintings evoke an elegant time. Blue and gold carpets and brocade curtains line the hallway past a series of ballrooms that one night hosted a wedding, and another a high school prom. We followed crystal ceiling fixtures to the Spa Fjör, an oasis of relaxation within the busy hotel. Open seven days a week, the full-service spa’s menu of treatments include Thai, Balinese, and Javanese traditions. Coming off two stressful weeks of moving and travel, we opted for simple deep-tissue massages (50 minutes, $125) that left us restored and ready for the weekend.
The thought of never leaving the premises is a tempting one. Guestrooms, from 150 to 325 square feet, feature sumptuous fabrics and bed linens, pillow-top mattresses, and ornate headboards. Some even have electric fireplaces. Mansion Suites boast ornate décor, including Chippendale and Queen Anne furnishings, and tapestries. There’s a $25 per night resort fee that includes s’mores on the patio, a poolside ice cream social, and yoga classes. The classic ($17.95) or royal ($26.95) afternoon tea would have been divine, especially for the advertised scones with lemon curd. Happy birthday to us.
Hotel Viking Newport , One Bellevue Ave., Newport, R.I., rooms from $199; suites from $279; 800-556-7126, www.hotelviking.com