The New Guard

From voice-activated lighting to robots that deliver fresh towels, Boston’s hotels are no longer just a place to lay your head.

The lobby at the Verb Hotel / Coup D’Etat Photography/Stuart McLeod

The Seaport has morphed from an urban dead zone into Boston’s most Blade Runner–esque cityscape, and its new hotels are leading the charge into our future. At Aloft Boston Seaport, an app renders room keys passé, and visitors can adjust voice-activated mood lighting with a word to Siri. Meanwhile, at Yotel Boston, the city’s first micro-hotel, self-check-in kiosks greet guests in the lobby, sofas transform into beds with the touch of a button, and a robot—named YO2D2, naturally—delivers extra towels.

But it’s not just high-tech conveniences that define the new guard. As younger travelers forgo opulence in favor of immersive experiences, many hotels are shrinking guest rooms while upping the cool factor of common areas, creating buzzy coworking and social spaces and adding amenities that appeal to locals as much as out-of-towners. You’ll find both at Aloft’s Love and Mercy, a salon from longtime Shag stylist Patty Martin that recently opened on the ground floor. Ditto for the droves drinking in the views (and the cocktails) at Yotel’s Sky Lounge. And the same goes for the Seaport’s other hotel rooftop, Lookout, at the Envoy Hotel, which draws revelers even in winter thanks to illuminated igloos equipped with call buttons that summon servers so you don’t have to venture into the cold.

The Seaport may be the most dramatic example, but it’s hardly the only part of town where new hotels are luring locals and travelers alike with Insta-worthy sights, sips, and bites. At Downtown Crossing’s Godfrey Hotel, 9-to-5ers can get their single-estate espresso at local coffee pioneer George Howell’s flagship café; after work, Japanese-Peruvian eatery Ruka pulls in young professionals with Jonah crab pho rolls and elaborate pisco potions. And over in the Fenway, Hojoko’s tiki drinks and freewheeling izakaya fare bring throngs to the high-style Verb Hotel, a rock ’n’ roll–themed retreat that hosts concerts, offers record players in every room, and covers the walls with memorabilia from local archivist David Bieber’s storied stash. Hard to believe it was once a Howard Johnson’s.

See more from The Great Boston Hotel Boom.