Olympia – Jan/Feb 2018
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Omni Parker House, Boston, MA: History and Luxury

Lobby of Omni Parker House

If you’re visiting Boston, one of the most historic and walk able cities in the United States, you want to be right in the middle of things. And the Omni Parker House Hotel, one of the city’s iconic landmarks offering gracious hospitality for more than 150 years, is just about as centrally located as you can get.

The 551-room luxury hotel is located right on the Freedom Trail, the red bricked walking trail that leads to some of Boston’s most significant historic landmarks, such as the Old State House, the Old South Meeting House, Paul Revere’s House, and Faneuil Hall (site of America’s first Town Meeting). It’s directly across the street from King’s Chapel (built 1686) and America’s first public school. It’s also just four blocks from the beautiful Rose Kennedy Greenway and the Wharf area with activities like whale watching, harbor cruises, and the New England Aquarium. It’s also the only hotel just a block away from Boston’s well-run subway system.

Room in the Omni Hotels & Resorts

The Omni Hotels & Resorts has done a great job of removating the Omni Parker House and keeping the historic feel.

The hotel is not just close to historic sites, it embodies history itself. Opened in 1855 by Harvey D. Parker, the Omni Parker House Hotel is the longest continuingly operating hotel in the United States. Located in the heart of Boston’s exciting downtown district, the hotel has long attracted presidents, kings, politicians, actors, and literary figures. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Nathaniel Hawthorne all met regularly in the hotel’s dining room. Charles Dickens often stayed at the hotel for months at a time while on tour and delivered the first reading of “A Christmas Carol” there.

The hotel has seen its share of major political characters. John Wilkes booth stayed at the Parker House Hotel the week before he shot President Lincoln. Ho Chi Min, Marxist Revolutionary and prime minister and president of North Vietnam, worked there as a pastry chef and his marble baking table is still being used. Malcom X, the African American activist, worked as a waiter in the hotel’s restaurant. President Ulysses S. Grant stayed at the Parker House Hotel. It was also a favorite of the late President John F. Kennedy. JFK gave his first public speech in the hotel’s Press Room, announced his first bid for the senate here, and even proposed to Jackie in Parker’s Restaurant (at table 40).

Shelf full of whiskey

The Omni Parker House’s Last Harrah Bar features a terrific selection of whiskeys.

The hotel has made its mark on the culinary scene too. Parker House chefs invented Parker House Rolls, those square, soft-as-pillows dinner rolls, as well as the famous Boston Cream Pie, the official state dessert. Parker House chefs also invented the term “scrod,” for catch of the day. Well-regarded chefs like Emeril Lagassse and Lydia Shire launched their culinary careers in the Parker’s Restaurant kitchen.

Historic and Luxurious

At the Omni Parker House Hotel, all this amazing history comes in a luxurious package. The Omni Hotels & Resorts ranked as the highest upscale hotel brand in a 2010 Guest Satisfaction survey conducted by JD Power & Associates and, judging from Boston’s Omni Parker Hotel, it is a well earned honor. When Omni Hotels purchased the legendary property, they completely renovated the hotel while preserving its historic look and feel.

Entering the hotel’s grand lobby, guests are immediately impressed by the soaring ceilings and ornate wooden carvings on the ceilings and wall trims. The lobby is home to several collections of Parker House memorabilia like pieces of original Parker House Restaurant china and Parker House Script, “play money” Harvey Parker had printed up during the Civil War (cash was scarce) for his guests to use in the hotel and at local shops.

Two beds at Omni Parker House

The Executive Suites are spacious and luxurious.

The rooms are equally impressive. We stayed in an Executive Suite, a spacious (400 sq. foot) room with two double beds with ultra comfortable mattresses and luxurious linens. The seating area offers a full couch, two overstuff chairs, a coffee table, side table, dresser, and a full-sized desk and chair. There’s also a flat screen TV and safe.

Because this is a historic building, the bathrooms tend to be small, but the toiletries, towels, and robes are all elegant. They charge extra for in-room WiFi. However, WiFi is available for free in the lobby and plenty of guests gather there on couches and overstuffed chairs with their laptops. In the basement area, the hotel offers a full-service gym equipped with everything from treadmills and bikes to weight machines. .

sitting area at Omni Parker House

The suites feature a large sitting area, with writing desk, couches, and overstuffed chairs.

The hotel features Parker’s Restaurant, a full-service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We enjoyed their Seafood Benedict for breakfast, flaky, flavorful crab cakes on slightly smoky grilled sour dough bread topped with one or two eggs and a light, lemony hollandaise sauce. It’s served with country potatoes and is memorably delicious.

Parker’s Bar is a classic meeting place for a light meal or cocktails. The hotel is also home to the Last Hurrah, an iconic whiskey bar that was the subject of Edwin O’Conner’s novel, The Last Hurrah, a fictional, if somewhat accurate, account of Boston politics in the 1950s. As a tribute, in 1969, the Omni Parker House opened the Last Hurrah Bar and, with its deep leather upholstery and clubby atmosphere, personalized cocktails and light menus, it has become the meeting place for business and government movers and shakers.

Real bottom line: With its central location, elegant and historic building, colorful past, and luxurious amenities and service, you can’t go wrong staying at Boston’s Omni Parker House. — BH

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Bobbie Hasselbring

RFT founder and the website's former editor-in-chief, Bobbie Hasselbring has been a travel junkie her entire life. She's been an award-winning writer and editor for more than 25 years and author of the regional food-travel bestsellers, The Chocolate Lover’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest and The Chocolate Lover’s Guide Cookbook.