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The historic Fairmont Copley Plaza may very well be my new favorite hotel in Boston. Pros: gorgeous décor, stellar location and tremendous savings by booking through Chase LHRC. Cons: lack attention to details, small bathroom.
Boston, Massachusetts has no shortage of hotel options for travelers. It has everything from historic and traditional to modern, cutting-edge properties. Recently, I had a free weekend in the city and decided to split my time between two very different hotels: the old-world opulent Fairmont Copley Plaza and the budget-friendly extended-stay Element Lexington. First up was the Fairmont, which opened in 1912 in the heart of Back Bay. The hotel has 383 rooms and suites, a restaurant, rooftop gym and arguably Boston’s most glamorous ballroom. If you grew up watching the former Disney Channel sitcom “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” like I did, you might recognize this hotel as The Tipton, the home of the Martin twins.
Rooms here typically range between $300 and $500 per night. Although this may seem pricey at first, these rates are pretty common for the Boston area — especially during peak times. I was able to score a pretty good deal by booking through Chase’s Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection program, which I have access to thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Perks of booking through LHRC included daily breakfast for two, complimentary Wi-Fi, a room upgrade (subject to availability), early check-in and late checkout (subject to availability) and a unique property amenity — in this case, a $100 food and beverage credit. I usually prefer Amex’s Fine Hotels and Resorts program over LHRC because it guarantees 4pm checkout (as opposed to being subject to availability), but this Fairmont wasn’t a part of Amex’s portfolio.
I originally booked a standard Fairmont king room, which came to $343 for my one-night stay. As you might have guessed, I paid using my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, which earned me 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on travel purchases — in this case, 1,029 points, or a return of about $21, according to TPG’s latest valuations. Although the Fairmont brand is now a part of the Le Club AccorHotels program, I didn’t earn any loyalty points because I booked through LHRC.
Like “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”‘s Tipton Hotel, the Fairmont was at 138 St. James Ave. The hotel sat on the original site of the Museum of Fine Arts at Copley Square, alongside the Boston Public Library, Trinity Church and Hancock Tower.
Back Bay was central, close to both the waterfront and Fenway Park. Copley Place mall was across the street, and Newbury Street’s high-end shops and restaurants and the historic Freedom Trail were just steps away.
I landed in Boston around 6am and arrived at the hotel shortly after that. The gilded lobby’s marble busts and sky-and-cloud ceiling mural impressed me right away.
Although I was expecting to drop off my bags and return to check-in a few hours later, the staff was more than happy to accommodate my very early arrival. Not only that, but I was told that I got a two-category upgrade and would be staying in a studio — double score! The check-in process took only a couple of minutes, and I was well informed of the perks I’d be receiving for booking through LHRC.
Assuming you check in at a more normal hour than I did, you can expect a warm welcome from Carly Copley, the hotel’s “canine ambassador.” (FYI, you can schedule walks with her through the concierge.)
I could tell immediately upon entering that I’d made the right decision by booking through LHRC. Despite being considered a studio, the 415-square-foot room I was upgraded to felt much more like an actual suite thanks to double doors that separated the living area from the bedroom.
The living room was outfitted with a comfortable workspace, sofa, TV and Keurig coffeemaker.
But there were noticeable flaws I didn’t expect from a hotel of this caliber. For instance, there was no refrigerator, and the coffee mugs still had stains from when they were last used.
The bedroom opened up to a comfortable king bed and a lot more space to move around. The nightstands on either side of the bed had built-in power outlets, but it was annoying having to manually turn off all of the lights in the room, as there wasn’t a master switch.
There were two spacious closets. One had a safe, bathrobe, slippers, ironing board and iron.
The room overlooked a courtyard, so there wasn’t much of a view to speak of, but facing away from the street helped eliminate any traffic noise from outside.
The bathroom was nice, but, not going to lie, it didn’t impress me as much as the rest of the room. For an otherwise big room, I found the bathroom to be somewhat small and was surprised that there weren’t double vanities or a bathtub. Finding hairs in the sink didn’t help either.
The overhead shower head wouldn’t have passed TPG’s shower test, but there was a handheld shower head to remedy that.
I was a huge fan of the Le Labo Rose 31 toiletries. Le Labo is standard for Fairmont hotels, and I consider it to be one of the best hotel toiletry brands.
Food and Beverage
Perks of booking through LHRC included daily breakfast and a $100 food and beverage credit, so I got to eat at the hotel quite a bit over the course of my one-night stay.
The hotel’s restaurant, OAK Long Bar + Kitchen, was, in a word, gorgeous.
There were several types of seating options, including outdoor.
The restaurant didn’t offer a buffet for breakfast, but as a part of the LHRC benefit, my travel companion and I were able to order anything on the menu. Read: as much food or drinks as we wanted with no spending limit.
I had the vegetable omelet, and my travel companion had the avocado toast with smoked salmon added. Both dishes were hearty and delicious.
For lunch, I tried the halibut, which came with cauliflower, brown butter, capers and almonds. It was prettily plated and tasted great.
Despite room service also being an option, I decided to use up the rest of my dining credit by going back to the restaurant for a snack before dinner. My travel companion and I shared the mushroom flatbread, tuna tartare and heirloom-tomato salad with burrata. The flatbread and salad were both incredibly fresh and tasty, but I might skip the tuna tartare next time. Although the staff at the bar was very friendly, service overall was a mixed bag for all three meals.
Set on the top floor of the hotel was the 24-hour fitness center. The 3,000-square-foot space was well-equipped and never too crowded during my two visits.
Besides the usual fare of water and towels, on offer were disposable headphones, fresh fruit and coffee and tea.
There was a ton of natural light and a fantastic view, thanks to a row of windows overlooking the city.
Step outside and there was an outdoor deck that offered views of downtown Boston, Copley Plaza and Back Bay. This would have been a great spot for morning yoga.
You could also borrow the hotel’s BMW bikes. Spoiler alert: The BMW branding on the bikes was more of a gimmick than anything.
On the fourth floor was the Fairmont Gold lounge. My room rate didn’t include access, but I was still able to get a tour of the space.
There was an extensive breakfast buffet consisting of hot and cold items in the mornings and hors d’oeuvres in the evenings. Although it was much nicer than the average executive lounge, it wasn’t worth the additional expense for me, since I already had breakfast included.
I typically don’t pay much attention to hotels’ event spaces, but I also peeked inside the grand ballroom — and it was stunning. Dim the lights, dress up the tables, and you’ve basically got yourself a fairytale wedding. Just remember to use the right credit cards for maximizing wedding expenses.
The Fairmont Copley Plaza offers a grand setting in an ideal location. The only downside was that the service was a bit spotty. The front desk was amazing, but there were housekeeping snafus, and I didn’t get turndown service after requesting it. Still, I’d stay there again in a heartbeat — especially considering the savings I was able to get by booking through the Chase LHRC. In all, just by booking through LHRC, I saved about $160, was able to check in extremely early and got a two-category room upgrade. That’s a big win in my book.
All photos by the author.
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