by Christine Koubek
Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston is part of a family-run Boston-based company known as Sonesta Collection. The company owns and operates additional properties in Miami, New Orleans, St. Maarten, Brazil, Peru, and Egypt, plus a handful of cruise ships sailing the Nile River.
Sonesta Boston (which actually sits on the Cambridge side of the river) is the company’s longest continuously operating hotel. The hotel consists of two towers connected by an interior lobby. The East tower (built in 1963) and the West tower (added in 1984) offer a total of 400 deluxe guestrooms. The most recent renovations to both towers were completed in 2016.
Sonesta was started, named after, and is currently led by members of the Sonnabend family. The company has a reputation in the industry for their passion for art, quality cuisine, and great service. The latter is evidenced by low staff turnover (not a claim many travel industry companies can make). Employees are developed and treated like family.
I know this first hand because I began my career in the industry, almost two decades ago, working for the (then) Vice President of Marketing, Stephanie Sonnabend. At the time, she was a mother of two young children herself and wanted to make sure all of Sonesta’s hotels had amenities that would appeal to family travelers, whether it was children’s programs at the resort properties, or seasonal family-friendly perks in Boston that included free boat rides on the Charles River, bicycles, and ice-cream.
As for the art, artistic expression is an integral part of the Sonesta experience and evidenced in its architecture, decor, food presentation and most notably, its world-class art collection. Guestrooms and public spaces are adorned with original works by many of contemporary art’s most respected artists. In addition, Sonesta commissions artworks that reflect the destinations and cultures in which their properties are located.
Our Editor Loves
- Family-run hotel
- Stunning city views
- Kids' menus and nearby food court
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Each guestroom and suite offers hypoallergenic down blankets, comfortable pillow-top mattresses, a coffeemaker, iPod docking station, a flat-screen TV, in-room movies, complimentary internet access, and 24-hour room service. The entire hotel is non-smoking.
In addition, the large dresser beneath the TV has three deep drawers and a mini-fridge for storing snacks and drinks.
The bathroom includes an elegant granite-topped furniture style vanity and is stocked with nice amenities (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, and sewing kit). A dental kit is available upon request. Moms will appreciate the full-sized hair dryer.
While a particular room assignment cannot be guaranteed, you can have the reservation agent note one of the following preferences. Request an East tower room if you want to be on the same side of the hotel as the Art Bar (morning coffee) and health club. West tower rooms allow for quicker access to your car, and, in general, rooms with two beds are outfitted with queens (as opposed to two full-size beds in East tower rooms).
In addition, the rooms ending in "01" and "02" in the East tower offer stunning views from their floor-to-ceiling windows, even in the bathroom. These rooms have showers with no tubs and one queen-size bed, and an alcove area with a desk that could also fit a crib or cot that is therefore away from the bed and bathroom.
Executive suites are large L-shaped rooms with a king-bed at the top of the "L" near the door and an expansive parlor area across the room's windows that includes a sofabed and space for a cot. Connect one of these suites to a room with two beds to form a larger suite.
Splurge on one of the 600-plus square-foot premier suites (known as the New England and Artist suites). These suites showcase artworks by Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein and Katherine Porter. In addition, you'll find Tibetan rugs, recessed lighting, remote control drapes, Bose CD-radios, a dining table for six, and two marble bathrooms -- one with a whirlpool tub, heated floor, and towel warmer.
This hotel has the most wonderful location and my room had a stunning view of the river and skyline. Everything feels brand new and the housekeeping was dependable and I felt like I was in a new room every day,
I was given a room on 3rd floor right above an event room. On the 1st night there was a wedding & DJ/ music started around 7. I presumed the hotel was full so I went to front desk to ask for ear plugs. The gentleman was kind but didn’t have ear plugs & said they would send some. He also said the music would stop at 10:30p.m. It stopped just before 11 p.m. 2nd night the same thing. I asked if there was a wedding the next night too & was told yes. I explained I needed to move rooms. Metushael stepped in and gave me a lovely, quiet room several floors away from the wedding room. She was very accommodating and has a very professional, calm disposition. I suggest the hotel not book the room I had when there’s an event with music. I’m not talking muffled music; I could hear all the lyrics etc. It was not fun. Thank you Metushael for the heavenly quiet new room & for the breakfast voucher. Much appreciated
Sonesta Club Health & Fitness Center
The Sonesta Club Health & Fitness Center includes an atrium-style pool, sliding glass walls, and an environmentally friendly Electrolytic sanitization system that is "chemical chlorine free." Noodles, kickboards and goggles can be borrowed from a poolside storage bin. The rectangular pool has lap lanes and a three-foot deep "shallow" end that slopes (rather quickly) to the nine-foot deep end. There is no lifeguard on duty and an adult must accompany children under 16. Swim diapers are required for young children.
The Club's fitness room has Cybex cable weight machines, stationary bikes, and Precor elliptical, treadmills, and Stairmaster machines (children under 15 not permitted).
Jogging Courses and Bike Rentals
Stop by Sonesta Club (or Guest Services) and pick up the jogging course card (even if you're not a runner). Kids love this great little map of the river area that lies between Harvard Square and the Museum of Science, and that lets you know the mileage for various loops depending on what bridges you use. A wide selection of bikes (and helmets) is available in the summer, including tag-along attachments, infant seats, and bikes with training wheels.
Bike, or take a long stroll, to a fantastic playground on the Boston side of the Charles River, located just before the Harvard Bridge. Here you'll find two separately fenced and nicely shaded playgrounds overlooking the river. One is for ages 2 to 5 with infant swings, a Flintstones looking car, xylophone, slides, and mini monkey bars. The other, for older children, has tall slides, tire swings, climbing bridges, and a jump and touch where kids can see how high they can jump.
The Art Bar
The Art Bar (art + eat + retreat) offers small plate cuisine for lunch and dinner, art-themed specialty cocktails at night, and an elaborate continental breakfast with bagels, freshly baked pastries, muffins, fruit, meats, artisan cheeses, and good (albeit pricey) coffee.
The restaurant has a mixture of low and high-topped tables, plus a long community buffet table for big groups (both inside and out). They are hard to reach for some little kids in terms of them fixing there own plate, but the food itself is kid-friendly. The outdoor patio seating is a little riverside oasis that will leave you lingering over meals. And not worrying if the kids get a little noisy since you're outside and there is plenty of space for them to move about.
The Art Bar offers special food experiences, too, such as Lobster Fest Fridays and Half-Priced Burgers and Beer on Wednesdays.
The Children's Room Service menu includes things like "Mrs. Cluck" chicken fingers and fries and "Old Yeller" PB&J sandwich with fresh fruit.
The food court, located across the street at CambridgeSide Galleria, opens before the rest of the mall, and offers inexpensive breakfast options like Au Bon Pain (egg sandwiches, bagels, fresh fruit, etc.), Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. For more substantial fare, the mall also has a California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
At check-in, each children receive special welcome amenities. For a nice treat, you can also order cookies and milk from room service for delivery before bed. The selection of CD sized cookies, served with mini-jugs of milk, is a huge hit with kids (and sweet-loving grown-ups, too).
There are no children's programs at this Sonesta property, however, babysitting can be arranged through the concierge. Stop by the desk for a list of licensed babysitting agencies by city (look for ones located in Boston, Cambridge or Brookline, which are closest to the hotel). Rates vary by agency and by ages and number of children.
The Art of Smart Timing
The hotel does a brisk meeting/convention business especially in spring and fall. The most expensive times are typically in May/June when many local colleges hold graduation ceremonies, as well as in the fall during special events like the Head of the Charles Regatta. Summer and winter weekends are the best time to find low rates.
The hotel also offers seasonal family-friendly perks. For example, Autumnfest includes chilled apple cider, cookies and apples each evening; while guests traveling during SummerFest receive complimentary boat rides on the Charles, free use of bicycles, plus ice-cream in the lobby during designated hours.
The hotel is 3 miles from Boston's Logan International Airport. Taxi rates are pre-set and run roughly $30 during peak times (7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.), and $25 off-peak, per party.
Save on cab fare and use the complimentary daily van service with stops at popular Cambridge attractions at MIT and Kendall Square, as well as jaunts to Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall Marketplace and the Prudential Center/Copley area, both located just across the river.
For Mom and Dad
Complimentary wine hours are hosted from 5 to 6 p.m. daily for members of Travel Pass, the hotel's program for frequent guests.
If you have time after wine, dine on modern Italian cuisine, riverside, at the award-winning dante Restaurant onsite. Owner and chef Dante DeMagistris has received recognition in Bon Appetit, plus other major accolades.