Location, Location, Location
One of the BlogHouse 2016 sponsors was the Sonesta Philly Hotel, conveniently located downtown on Market Street near Rittenhouse Square, which provided our accommodations (at special rates) and our conference needs. Although we barely had time to venture away from our blogging “studies” during the day, early morning and late night escapes were easily accomplished by just walking out the door and a few blocks in any direction. Great restaurants, bars, nightlife, world-class museums, lovely parks, extensive shopping, access to the Convention Center, the train station, and the historic district are literally at your doorstep, or within easy walking distance of the Sonesta.
Casual Sophistication at the Sonesta Philly
The Sonesta has recently undergone a major renovation, resulting in a chic urban lodging that reflects both the rich cultural history of Philadelphia as well as the “new Philly”: an artistic feel with stylish rooms and public spaces, and contemporary food options found at the trendy Art Bar. (There is also a brand new beautiful Ruth Chris’ Steak House adjacent to the lobby.) In true Philadelphia fashion, artistic expression is an integral part of the Sonesta experience, as I discovered throughout the hotel in the architecture, décor and even their food presentation at the Art Bar.
Being an art lover, I found it especially enjoyable to be surrounded by visual artistic creations, both freestanding sculpture and on the walls. Inside, the Sonesta Philly has partnered with the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, which provides a rotating crop of original artwork on display. It felt good to be in the company of such creativity (reminding me of my former museum days), while passing through to the elevator or on the way to the conference room where our BlogHouse sessions took place. If my pocketbook had been a bit fatter, I might have even purchased one of my favorites, a gilded and blingy delightful abstract that I always stopped to admire on my way through the lobby.
In fact, the conference rooms are named after modern artists such as Calder, Pollock, Whistler, Eakins, Wyeth and O’Keefe. I knew this, but didn’t make the connection in my mind, every time Lisa Lubin, the managing BlogHouse mentor would mention our conference room by name. I thought she was being facetious calling it The War Room because it was where we were toiling away in the trenches, doing our blog work. Only on the last day did I realize she was saying the “Warhol Room.” Oops.
Outside, not surprisingly, there is a huge 22-story abstract mural on the side of the hotel building. Philadelphia is home to more murals than any city in America. It is known as the “City of Murals,” boasting almost 4000 different large art installations around town, due to an anti-graffiti initiative going back to 1984. A striking visual against the backdrop of history, the Sonesta’s mural masterpiece by American artist MOMO is a result of their partnership with Open Source on a citywide exhibition that is bringing 14 extraordinary international artists to Philadelphia, to create a new series of public artworks that explore and illuminate Philadelphia’s diverse urban identity.
Drinks Poured with a Side of Art
Our first night at the Sonesta, our group enjoyed a delicious reception in the Art Bar, just off the lobby. Fortunately for us, it was National Gin Day, so the mixologists at the Art Bar were particularly inspired with their drink offerings, including Whistler’s Mother, Calder’s Circus, O’Keefe Summer Day, and my favorite — Homer’s Berry Picker, a pretty-in-pink concoction made with Cabo Wabo Resposada, fresh lemon juice, and house-made Blueberry Thyme syrup. Now, that’s what I call liquid art! We were treated to a more-than-ample cocktail buffet including mini crabcakes, sliders, dips with pita and chips, and a generous antipasti platter. The Art Bar also offers grab and go breakfast, and a handful of lunch options featuring salads and sandwiches that arrive quickly after being ordered, making it ideal when you’ve got a limited amount of time to grab some sustenance during a busy day spent doing business or sightseeing.
Business catering done right
During BlogHouse, the Sonesta provided us with wonderful – and completely different – breakfast buffets each day. Banana Maple French Toast, Eggs Benedict and Florentine, fresh French pastries, yogurt parfaits, piles of crispy bacon, and no less than 4 different fresh squeezed juices, along with beautiful fresh fruit displays garnished with orchids were the norm every morning.
Lunch one day was a creative display of Caesar Salad in sexy martini glasses, individual mini-cast iron pans with savory salmon and chicken entrees, risotto primavera, individual arugula/radicchio/pinenut salads, fresh tomato soup, and heaps of roasted veggies and a creamy penne pasta salad. Dessert (which we barely had room for) presented us with three platters of tiramisu, cannoli and decadent chocolate cake. Rest assured, if you want to have an event or business meeting at the Sonesta Philly, they will exceed your expectations when it comes to your catering needs.
Helpful hotel staff and especially kind housekeeping made my stay particularly pleasant. I received friendly greetings every morning as I left my room, and the desk clerks all seemed to anticipate my needs. The rooms and bathrooms were on the small side but adequate, expected for an older hotel. A few outlets and/or USB connections by the desk would have made things a bit more convenient for the modern traveler. Upscale bath amenities are provided, along with the usual in-room safe and refrigerator for those half eaten cheesesteaks you may still want the next day.
Book wisely at the Sonesta Philly
Inasmuch as the Sonesta is an older hotel, but having spent millions on a renovation, some things are the same… such as room size. I’m glad I did not share my room with another BlogHouse attendee, or bring my beau, – it would have been difficult for two people to navigate that small space getting ready in the morning, or allow a person to work with someone else in the room. The room was comfortable for just me, but my desk chair was backed up against the end of the bed whenever I needed to work at the desk. Looking at some of the other bloggers’ photos since then, however, it appears not all the rooms are the same size, so if you are booking there, just be sure to ask for a larger room especially if you are a traveling twosome.
In addition, the Sonesta offers a beautiful (and sizeable) rooftop pool to be enjoyed (alas, I didn’t have time). A parking garage and a well-equipped gym round out the hotel amenities. I think you’d agree the comfortably chic Sonesta, with its almost 450 rooms and expansive meeting and event space, is a perfect place to stay for business or pleasure.
I stayed at the Sonesta Philly while attending BlogHouse. I did receive special discounted rates while staying there with BlogHouse, but that in no way influenced what I’ve written here. As always, the opinions expressed here are my own.