Sure, you've used the standard hotel amenities that crowd the bathroom counter and dot your guest room's monogrammed pillows. But these days, miniature toiletries and stale mints just won't cut it for the pleasure-seeking traveler. Ten properties from around the country are taking their guest services to the next level, wooing visitors with everything from a personal tanning butler to free bike rentals for exploring the city. These A-list amenities prove that some of the best things in life really are free.
Tanning Butler: The Ritz-Carlton South Beach, Miami, Florida
The Ritz-Carlton in South Beach, Miami, knows how to please its high-end visitors. Miguel Pando, the hotel's current Tanning Butler, spends his afternoons strolling the pool deck and beach area, obliging sunbathers with refreshing Evian facial sprays, personal sunglasses-cleaning services, and a variety of suntanning products. And if you're in town for the eye candy, this modern-day Jeeves isn't bad to look at either.
Lending Library: The Heathman Hotel, Portland, Oregon
From John Updike to Alice Walker, many famous authors have rested their imaginative heads on The Heathman's pillows and thrown back whiskeys at the hotel bar. It's no surprise, then, that the property's on-site library, which holds more than 2,000 catalogued works by the register of authors who have stayed at the hotel, is one of the few of its kind in the country. Guests are free to browse the stacks and enjoy signed first editions in the library's well-loved plush chairs. Or, they can take a book back to their room if they just can't put it down.
Record Player: Ace Hotels, various locations
If you're a hipster on the hunt for quirky accommodations, step into the vintage-inspired Ace Hotel and prepare to be impressed. No in-room iPod docks are needed here—most rooms at the Ace come with turntables and a carefully curated selection of vinyl for your listening pleasure. So once you and your friends have exhausted yourselves with witty banter, put the needle down on a record and get the dance party started.
Remington Typewriter and Polaroid Camera: Hotel San Jose, Austin, Texas
Hotel San Jose in Austin, Texas, boasts amenities that satisfy the nostalgic trend for pre-Digital Age media. Guests can dial the front desk and order room service—that is, if they want a vintage Remington typewriter or a Polaroid camera delivered to their door. Both are available on loan for an hour or for the whole day. And for a few extra bucks, photogs can purchase the snaps and keep the evidence of their Austin adventures.
Fender Guitar: Hard Rock Hotel, Chicago, Illinois
According to the Hard Rock Hotel Chicago, "serious guitars are the new in-room amenity." The lively hotel offers musically inclined travelers the opportunity to pick from a selection of 20 Fender guitars, including iconic Stratocasters and classic Telecasters, and rock out in the privacy of their own room. Whether you pull an all-nighter with your axe of choice or make music for just a few hours, the Hard Rock will provide a floor amp and top-of-the-line headphones so the neighbors won't call the cops on your party of one.
Bike Rental: The Jane, New York City, New York
Biking a city is a great alternative to seeing the sights through the dirty window of an overpriced tour bus. The Jane in New York City's West Village provides complimentary bike rentals, offering guests the chance to cruise the neighborhood on two wheels instead of four. Spend all day on your Brooklyn Cruiser City Bike, exploring hidden streets and popping into vintage boutiques. Then load up your bike's wooden basket with a food-truck treats for a picnic and cycle to nearby Christopher Park, or feel the cool breeze while lunching alongside the Hudson River.
Pet Goldfish: Hotel Triton, San Francisco, California
Hotel Triton in San Francisco is known for its funky decor and under-the-sea-themed lobby. But if the furnishings aren't enough to give you that home-away-from-home feeling, Hotel Triton (and most Kimpton Hotels, for that matter) provides guests with a traveling companion of the aquatic kind. Your goldfish friend can stay in your room for the night, but don't worry about the details—hotel staff is on hand for daily feedings and care. And since research has shown that watching colorful fish can calm nerves, reduce anxiety, and lower blood pressure, your new buddy will be a source of wellness as well as companionship while you're on the road.
Lava Lamp and Art Kit: Hotel Preston, Nashville, Tennessee
Sometimes, instead of a night on the town, a quiet evening in your pajamas is just the trick. Hotel Preston in Nashville takes a cozy night indoors to the next level, offering guests lava lamps and art kits at check-in. Turn down the lights, switch on the mood-altering lamp, and let the '60's spirit inspire your creativity. And if the artistic endeavor leaves you hungry, call down for milk and cookies, available for a small charge until 10 p.m.
House Rolls-Royce Phantom: Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, California
For high-class travelers staying at the Beverly Wilshire, only the best will do. That's why the hotel offers complimentary use of its luxury house car, a Rolls-Royce Phantom, on a first-come, first-serve basis—with chauffer service included. Just make your request to the doorman, who will see you in the timeless car and on your way to the destination of your choice. Perhaps an afternoon shopping the legendary boutiques along Rodeo Drive? You might catch a glimpse of a celebrity—or, better yet, be mistaken for one yourself.
Book Butler and Sudoku Sleep-Ins: The Commons Hotel, Minneapolis, Minnesota
This boutique hotel in Minneapolis' university district calls itself "industrial schoolhouse chic," and the amenities prove it will go the extra mile to make geeks feel at home. When The Commons Hotel opens in October, start off your visit by ringing up your Book Butler, who is on hand to provide a classic or bestseller on loan. After a late night of partying (or reading under the covers), you'll want to order the breakfast in bed, served with a side of brain food in the form of complimentary Sudoku number puzzles. Your sharpened wits will thank you for this educational stay.
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--By Julianne Lowell