To build a quality list of the top Six Dallas Boutique Hotels Worth a Staycation, I was seeking not just to experience nice boutique properties, but also notably quality hospitality from the staff. I spent eighteen years in the hospitality business and have been running a Hotel and Restaurant Program at a local community college for the last two years. Regularly, I share with my students that it is the people who make the difference for each guest. At one time, Disneyland was a customer of mine. What I witnessed in my interactions behind the scenes at Disney was that their magic begins with hiring caring people who naturally provide a high level of hospitality as part of their DNA.
My process began with a list of eleven Dallas boutique hotels for unannounced visits. If the hotel offered quality hospitality and a reasonable amount of amenities for a staycation, I went back for another visit. Below is the list of the top six Dallas boutique hotels ranked by the amount and degree of hospitality that I experienced throughout the unannounced and announced visits. In this article, I will be sharing with you some of the unique amenities that made these particular boutique hotels worth a staycation for me, as well as what might make each of these six hotels worthwhile and interesting to you.
#1 Warwick Melrose | 3015 Oak Lawn Avenue, Dallas, Texas 75219 | (214) 521-5151
Our Visit: I visited the Melrose, unannounced, for lunch. This boutique hotel is home to The Landmark, a restaurant that is rated AAA Four Diamond. I ate at the Landmark Restaurant about three years ago and it was great! Being a teacher now, I made a bee-line for The Library Bar that is located just to the right of the entrance. The boutique hotel's bar feels like something out of NYC with many authentic touches (no faux here). I later learned from general manager Larry McAfee that the bar had undergone a $500,000 renovation with $50,000 spent just on the beautiful blue lapis stone bar top. Everything was unique at the Melrose and I found the Melrose staff exemplified caring in reams.
From the doorman to the bartender, who also served us lunch, the Melrose employees could not have been any kinder. The bartender was great with my young son and genuinely seemed to carry the caring gene. The food was great and service was seamless! At a subsequent visit with the GM, I shared the best part of the visit was my son’s meal. The GM smiled, but watching my son manage to move the six-inch strings of cheese from crust to mouth while eating his three-cheese grilled sandwich was funny! The employees throughout the hotel are “real.” Many times we visit expensive restaurants and/or hotels and the caring comes across as artificial and trained. Not at the Melrose. The front desk associate and I spoke about our children. On my way out I ran into one of the Melrose associates who greeted me as he crossed the street from the pharmacy. Overall, the Melrose set the standard for caring on my short list of boutique hotels in Dallas.
Cool things about the Warwick Melrose: Built in 1924, this Dallas boutique hotel received a multi-million dollar renovation in 2009. Larry McAfee described the design of the rooms perfectly in their press release, “It's luxury, glamour and comfort. Hollywood of the 1920s seemed the era that best represented that blend, and it ties to the time-frame in which the hotel opened.” Celebrity guests from Elizabeth Taylor to Martin Sheen have stayed at the Melrose. The Library Bar features some very special entertainment as well. For example, Pat Peterson, who has been a backup singer for Ray Charles, John Mellancamp and others plays every Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Also, D Magazine's 2009 Best of Lounge Singers performs at The Library Bar every Saturday from 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Admission is free but make sure you get there early to avoid the line. The hotel is pet friendly and they have biscuits for your best friend as well as a real easy neighborhood to walk your dog around.
Insight for your staycation: You pretty much need to drive to this hotel. Once there, you will find many great retail establishments within walking distance to create a special stay at the Melrose. I would choose to land there on a Friday afternoon (to catch the entertainment mentioned above) walk up to Eatzi’s Market to grab some of their wonderful artisan bread and other comfort food. On the walk back to the hotel, I would stop by one of the of the fine wine stores and grab a little something to stock up the room to make my staycation a little more enjoyable. At some point during my stay, I would probably head out for at least one dinner at Green Papaya, within walking distance as well.
#2 Belmont Hotel | 901 Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas 75208 | (866) 870-8010
Our Visit: It started with breakfast next door at Smoke and ended with listening to guests share their pleasant experience with the Belmont front desk attendant, saying “This was another great getaway.”A walk around the property told me this is not your average hotel and though it feels like one because it's just outside downtown Dallas, it's not such a well-kept secret. Most of the license plates in the lot are from Texas, featuring the likes of Jaguars, Mercedes and Cadillacs. The setting of the hotel is similar to those motels you see along the side of the road on a drive up California’s Pacific Coast Highway with that small town feel. This sense of small town feel is exactly what the staff at the Belmont Hotel reflect as well. This is truly a boutique hotel with only 64 rooms, each room uniquely decorated. If you are looking for a relaxing staycation just outside the boundaries of downtown Dallas, this is a bargain. They have a pretty unique pool setting (discussed below), cool bar and great food. A friend of mine thought the rates would be in the $200 range after visiting, but in fact they start around $109 per night. Interestingly enough, a hotel manager whose property did not make this short list said, "I do not charge $200+ for a room so how can I be expected to provide the same service?" Take a look at the Belmont is what I would do.
Cool things about the Belmont Hotel:
As I shared with the Belmont's general manager, I was so disappointed with myself because I have been driving to Rockwall to watch the sunset over downtown Dallas for years. Now, I found BarBelmont, which is so much closer and cooler. The bar's patio deck sits high off of street level and provides a great panoramic view of downtown Dallas. Even better, there is live music played on Friday evenings.
Every Sunday during the summer months I discovered they have a pool party. On a regular basis, the Belmont Hotel schedules a Dive-In movie event for free with a cash bar. Watching a movie on the lawn while sipping drinks sounds pretty relaxing!
The food for the Belmont Hotel is provided by Smoke, right next door. I was blown away by the food at Smoke because I had not done my homework on Belmont’s food before visiting. It was literally the best breakfast I have ever had. What that means is I had something that I would not/could not make at home and it some really unique flavors. As soon as I got home, I searched online for Smoke and came to learn that the co-owner is Tim Byres who previously worked at The Mansion and Stephen Pyles. You foodies will certainly know what that means! Definite credibility and quality. However, you will not see the Heavy Handed Blueberry and Ricotta Pancakes with Vanilla Apricots and Cream for only $9 at Chef Byres previous places of employment. Portion sizes are large and can be shared or brought up to the room/pool for some all-day grazing. I overheard one guest say to the waiter, “I would love to come back and finish the plate off – it was greaaaat!" The restaurant has a very cozy atmosphere (like the Belmont), with a fireplace at the back wall. To me, this place feels like the Five Point Café in Seattle where it was rumored we could see Pearl Jam show up but with higher much quality food and cleaner. You can feel the true casual comfort at Smoke.
Insight for your staycation: You will need to drive to the hotel, but parking is provided. This is a great launching pad to enjoy many of the sites in the area. If it is a trip to the Dallas Zoo, Arts District or American Airlines Center for a game, the Belmont is a great place to begin and end your day. It is the most casual of all the hotels mentioned in this listing and the only one that is literally outside the Dallas confines. You can depend on the food from Smoke for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I did find that food takes quite a while to get up to the bar from Smoke, but if you are not in any rush then no worries. Be sure to look up the hotel’s event calendar for art, music and dive-in movie schedule. There is an interesting story about the Belmont’s heyday during the 40’s that is posted in their conference room. It was fun to read something from such a different time in Dallas. I love this place!
#3 Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa | 901 Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas 75208 | (866) 870-8010
Our Visit: As I walked up the east side of building under the long awning, the music playing overhead definitely set the mood. Having been built in 1923, entering the Stoneleigh is like walking into 1920’s luxury. After walking through the lobby, which had been renovated beautifully, I headed over to Bolla, the hotel’s restaurant. The design is beautiful and simple. Each gorgeous sitting area of Bolla is separated by beautiful sheer curtains that hang down from the high ceilings. Sitting down at my table, I felt like I was outside New York City’s Central Park. My chair sat just low enough that I could not see any traffic go by, but could view the trees outside the windows. My meal was excellent and service in the restaurant was a natural continuation of my experience walking around the hotel.
Cool things about Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa:
Even though I am not a lush, I could possibly lean that way at the Stoneleigh’s Reverse Happy Hour. It runs from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. It is a pretty unique bar with mini-chandeliers hanging over the curved bar top. The seating and design are all updated with plush coverings that provide a real warmth – perfect for socializing. It was fun to see all the signed photos of the stars up in the Bolla Bar. Everyone from Bob Hope to Elvis Presley to Andy Warhol has stayed at the Stoneleigh. The sales manager shared that Oliver Stone and Tom Cruise had an extended stay during their filming of The Fourth of July. It is that kind of place – luxurious! The Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa features a full-service spa located on the property. We walked down to the contemporary, 5,200 square foot spa. I was told that they use only the best organic products. There are duet rooms for couple’s massages, and seven rooms for private treatments.
Insight for your staycation:
You will need to drive to the hotel, and valet is provided. The hotel rests in a beautiful neighborhood, so if you are looking to feel away from the city or your own home for a staycation, this place may be it. A park is just down the street and it appears you could walk onto the neighborhood tennis courts just west of the hotel, if you so desired. A pool is the only amenity The Stoneleigh lacks, but I have to tell you, I could lounge all day very easily between the beautiful lobby area, bar, patio and my room. The rooms are well-appointed and reflect perfection in design. If you can swing it, I would ask for a tour of the penthouse. It is just magnificent and as we walked through dining and shared areas we saw something preserved perfectly from a different time in Dallas' history. Absolutely beautiful!
#4 Hotel Palomar | 5300 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas 75206 | (214) 520-7969
Our Visit: I am not one to pay for parking if I don't absolutely need to, so upon my visit to Hotel Palomar, I was able to fine some free parking on the south side of the hotel (valet is $20 bones). It appears that you will need to valet your car at The Palomar if you desire to stay the night, however, penny pinchers will note that the hotel is located across the street from DART’s Mockingbird Station. The exterior of the Palomar does not do justice to the beautiful design inside. Its lobby offers a very open space with a number of seating areas perfect for intimate or large social interactions just inside the entrance. There is a noticeable amount of light and energy throughout the hotel. There is even an open patio in the center of the hotel. My Kobe beef hamburger and wine were perfection! Central 214 features a great menu. As I ate lunch, a couple of feet away from me sat a couple who appeared to be enjoying a tasting in preparation for their wedding day. Every dish looked absolutely delicious. I could hang out between the restaurant and bar areas all day as there is no distinct separation between the two and the bar/lounge has the most comfortable sofa to just kick back upon to do some sipping and people-watching.
Cool things about Hotel Palomar: Spa services are provided by Exhale, a renowned spa that provides luxury treatments in your room or inside their adjoined 10,000 square foot building connected to the hotel. Exhale Spa also features fusion and yoga classes. One of my family members who is really into yoga could not say enough good things about the instructors at Exhale. They also provide acupuncture and other healing treatments. This is not your average spa by any means!
Insight for your staycation: You can take the DART to Mockingbird Station and just walk across the street to the Palomar or pay $20 for valet. I love this particular DART station because it feels like walking up into another city with all the restaurants and the Angelika theatre near the escalator. Since this location is located so close to the Mockingbird Station, it is a great launching pad to head downtown and meet some friends or head over to enjoy an event at the American Airlines Center. Then I recommend heading away from the chaos back to Central 214 to sit in the lounge and enjoy some cocktails. Keep in mind that the hotel offers complimentary wine in the evening to guests. I could definitely see myself enjoy another meal at Central 214 and then catching an indie film across the street at the Angelika. Perhaps afterwards I'd stop at Trinity Hall to enjoy a cold beer and stroll back over to relax along the Palomar’s infinity pool before it closes at 10 p.m.
#5 Aloft | 1033 Young Street, Dallas, Texas 75202 | (214) 761-0000
Our Visit: We started our tour by driving down to the Aloft, located near the Dallas Convention Center, and entering through the sliding glass doors at the front. The immediate feeling that I had when I walked inside was confusion about where to find the front desk. At first, I was thrown off by the large cement pillars and the island that represents the front desk. The design is definitely different, and it appears that much of the old warehouse terminal design was utilized in the renovation. Once I figured out the layout of the hotel, I did a quick look-see around and found the place to be very cool. Everything is on the first floor; the pool, fitness room, eats and a bar.
There are some great sitting areas to just kick back and either watch the big screen television, grab a morning coffee or sit with a dozen friends in the back of the bar. The Aloft is very open as would be expected by the name, with minimal barriers to the eye. Furniture is very comfortable even though it is retro. I like the idea of visiting the Aloft for a different setting to sip coffee and play pool.
The food is very inexpensive and you essentially serve yourself. We tried their food twice on two different visits and found it basically continental. The cook will make items that are roughly one step up from the breakfast foods at McDonald's. Nothing special, but the prices are kept low which I appreciate.
Cool things about Aloft: If you are looking for a staycation with the kids, this may be your place. Games are sold in the lobby and the lounge area is a great place to sit around with the family to play. The pool area lends itself to watching children and the because the food is simple at the Aloft, the bill will not rise too high before checkout. Also, Union Station is only a couple of blocks away, heading directly to the Dallas Zoo, which could be a fun family excursion. Directly across the street is Pioneer Plaza, a nice place to walk your dog if you decided to bring your best friend along. Aloft offers complimentary wireless Internet throughout the hotel. You are not likely to get nickel and dimed while staying at the Aloft.
Insight for your staycation: If you are a walker, you can take the DART to Union Station and walk to Aloft, but it could be a killer if the temperatures are nearing 100. It's not a bad jaunt from Union Station – maybe ten minutes once you step off. Driving to the Aloft is not a bad idea either. Again, the hotel keeps costs down; parking is only $8 per day with in/out privileges. If you are not accustomed to city life, I would recommend taking a taxi or car in the evenings. I did not feel concerned for my safety during my stay, but some suburban visitors might feel a little more comfortable traveling by taxi.
#6 The Joule | 1530 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75201 | (214) 748-1300
Our Visit: I walked up to The Joule unannounced the first time and could not find it. The only noticeable sign that there was a hotel nearby were the valet attendants. This was my first indication that there is nothing usual about The Joule. The hotel features unique art throughout from the lobby to the penthouse. Long shimmering art hangs down from the walls to simulate rain and create an interesting divider between the elevators and the lobby. The hustle and bustle just outside really makes you appreciate The Joule's quiet, modern lobby. A large artistic structure that resembles a large mechanical cog is just one of the fascinating architectural touches that somehow just fits in this perfectly designed hotel.
I came back for a third visit late in the afternoon to have lunch at Charlie Palmer. Connected to the hotel, guests can charge all their meals to their room. Charlie Palmer provided a tasty meal, but it is not a place to lounge for breakfast or share loud stories from last night over lunch. But if you are looking for excellence in cuisine and a formal dining experience, Charlie Palmer will surely fit your bill. Additionally, there are a number of more casual restaurants just steps from the hotel.
Cool things about The Joule: The hotel is very well known for its Poule. Yes, it is spelled that way by the hotel, and rightfully so because it is a very unique swimming pool that extends eight feet beyond the hotel's boundaries. The end of the infinity pool has a see-through wall that hangs over Main Street's sidewalk. When I viewed the Poule from down below I saw some guests up there smiling as if to say "We're on vacation and you're not."
The visit to the PM Nightlife Lounge that is located in the hotel was something special to tour as well. You can enter it right from the lobby. The art collection you see as you walk down into the bar area is very unique, almost indescribable! Even if you do not see yourself taking time to enjoy a few sips at the bar, I would suggest you take a little walk around to see the design – it's like a set designer from Cirque du Soleil gave it their two cents.
Insight for your staycation: Valet parking is $27/day – something to consider. Most likely you will not need a car if you are staycating at The Joule. Anything you could want is located within the hotel or walking distance (e.g. your morning Starbucks). DART’s Akard Station is very close as well, which could take you to anything you want to see at the American Airlines Center. This seems like the perfect place for a staycation for the person who wants to enjoy Dallas nightlife into the wee hours and then recuperate at the Poule to prepare for another night of fun!