Here we are with another installment of “365 Things to do in Cincinnati” and today we’re featuring the newly opened downtown hotel, The 21c Museum Hotel.
The 21c Hotel is located right across the street from the Aronoff Center on Walnut Street. The 21c has 156 rooms, loads of gallery space, a GORGEOUS restaurant – Metropole, a spa, a rooftop patio with a hot tub… and yellow penguins!
Cincinnati is just the second city to have a 21c Museum Hotel. The 21c Hotel started with a museum hotel in Lousiville. Their signature “mascot” (if you will) in Lousiville is the big red penguin. So when they decided to restore a downtown building in Cincinnati and turn it into their second museum hotel, they decided to bring the penguins to Cincinnati too. The penguins are lightweight and easy to move. They stand about 3′ tall (?) and you’ll find them all over the hotel. It’s just one of the fun and quirky elements you’ll find at the 21c.
The 21c is more than just a hotel. Actually, I believe they think of it as an art gallery first and a hotel second. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see some sort of art. Whether it’s the check-in table (above) which has hundreds of little people supporting the glass, or the art gallery on the first floor, or the bathroom tiles (see below), you’ll be treated to an artful display in each and every space.
Edited in January, 2014: The art featured in this post is no longer on exhibition in the 21C Hotel Galleries. They swap out their exhibitions a few times a year.
Seriously, can you see how creepy that guy’s eyes are? When you get to one side of the “figure”, the eyes connect and he looks so real. In the picture above you’ll see one of the life-sized pieces that are all over the first floor lobby’s gallery. The walls also host many images to admire. The gallery pieces do change periodically so you never know what you might find there. A word of caution, as a parent, I would suggest that you preview this exhibit before taking your children in to see it. The gallery space can be viewed at any time (24/7) and the gallery charges no admission.
The second level also offers open gallery space. Most, if not all, of the pieces in the upper gallery are hung on the walls. The pieces range from photographic prints to a wall full of turtles to a bicycle built for two.
And the art doesn’t stop there. We took a walk up to see some of the hotel’s rooms. We found one spot where we had an interior cube of windows that went all the way up to the top of the building. Within that space, they had illuminated strings of lights that “dance” and turn colors. It really is something cool to see. My picture (below) does not capture it very well – stop in and take a look for yourself. I’ve heard it’s gorgeous at night.
Each floor of the hotel has its own gallery display as you exit the elevator. The floor we stopped on had a tribute to Madonna. Where else can you find a yellow penguin next to Madge?
And the art continues into the hotel rooms. The bathroom is tiled with some quirky art, custom made just for this hotel by our local Rookwood Pottery. I am just going to give you a little sneak peek with this image. I would hate to spoil the surprise for you!
Travel up to the rooftop and let the view be your art…
When you walk into the building, you can go left to see the gallery space and/or check into the hotel. But if you go right you’ll enter the Metropole restaurant.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous setting for a special night out, this is the place to go. The decor is simply amazing. Meats are roasted over an open hearth and they offer housemade charcuterie. The bar offers craft beers on tap as well as a full assortment of cocktails.
When you’re at Metropole, be sure to admire the building’s original flooring. The hotel owner’s were very careful to keep many of the building’s original details. And also notice the exterior and admire the limestone and carved pieces they uncovered and restored when they did the renovation.