The opening of the 21c Museum Hotel in late 2012 drew all kinds of buzz in and around Cincinnati. Truly, the Queen City has no other property like it, and for the most part, that's a good thing. Its location—across the street from the Aronoff Center for the Arts, next door to a British gastropub, across the street from upscale Mexican restaurant Nada and three blocks from Fountain Square—makes it an easy base for a Cincinnati stay.
Anyone is welcome to come look at the art exhibitions in the common areas, but it isn't for the faint of heart. 21c stands for 21st century, and the contemporary pieces on display range from thought-provoking to almost disturbing, including the sculptures of nude children and an aroused man in the lobby.This isn't a place to come admire pretty watercolors. More whimsical? The twenty-three 3-foot-tall yellow plastic penguins staffers move around the building, including into some of the guest rooms.
Modeled after the 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky, this 156-guest-room hotel lives in a 100-year-old neoclassical Revival building that once housed the Metropole Hotel; the on-site restaurant takes its name from that piece of history. The building's renovation preserved mosaic tile floors in the dining room and a sweeping ballroom staircase; the guest rooms, in contrast, feel fresh and sophisticated, with soft mattresses, iPhone charging stations on the bedside tables, big flat-screen TVs and granite counters in the baths. (The white subway tiles in the bath also boast touches of art, with some tiles shaped into an ear, a nose, a belly button and nipple.)
We stayed at this property on Saturday and Sunday nights, and the experiences were quite different. On Saturday, a dance club across the alley pumped music into the wee hours of the morning that we could clearly hear, eight floors up. Both days, the housekeeping staff came to clean the room before 9 a.m., which struck us as early. And the bellmen talked about a previous guest's tip in front of us, which was unprofessional. We shared these concerns in a guest survey after checkout. Overall, for $99 a night, it's worth a stay. It certainly will be a memorable one.