By Mikal McLendon, Travel Correspondent
Oh, thats pretty, says the well-dressed new arrival, nudging her companion and nodding at a large jade sculpture of galloping horses. Thats our centerpiece," the concierge chimes in. "From China. Its really rare. The horses are the most vibrant piece adorning the marble-floored lobby of Hotel Providence, whose collection encompasses French steel engravings, centuries-old murals, and gilded Swedish mirrors. Situated in an area of downtown Providence listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the AAA Four Diamond Awardwinning hotel has been painstakingly restored to reflect its turn-of-the-20th-century origins after a busy 100 years during which the building also served as a college dormitory, a department store, and a grain silo.
The contrasting dark walnut and light amber hues of the lobby's furniture are echoed in the headboards and continental armoires of the guestrooms. Bottles of bubbly are popped in the junior suites, where artwork hangs over beds bedecked with egyptian-cotton sheets and cushy down comforters. In premier suites, floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the adjacent park and historic Grace Church, whose melodic tower bells chime regularly. A whirlpool tub and a granite wet bar provide varying forms of liquid relaxation. In both suites, separate living rooms come equipped with queen-size pullout sofa beds.
Just off the lobby, in the hotel's Aspire Restaurant, buttoned-down businessmen dine on contemporary American cuisine next to a table of chatty, denim-clad art students. A backlit bar glows with cocktail options, and servers present an international wine list in the candlelit courtyard. Like many restaurants in Providence, Aspire uses ingredients from local farms complemented by herbs grown in the hotel's own rooftop garden.
"The art scene is incredible here," raves Tricia Carter, Hotel Providences marketing manager. "Every day there's something new." It's this multifariousness, along with the city's active support of artistic endeavors, that has earned Providence a reputation as the Creative Capital. Hotel Providence sits in the heart of the downtown arts and theater district, where a host of galleries enlivens the streetscape with vibrant storefront displays. Just around the corner from the hotel, dazzling stagecraft and cathartic drama thrives at the Tony Awardwinning Trinity Repertory Company, and just a few blocks west, the Providence Performing Arts Center hosts touring Broadway shows, such as Les Miserables (November 1November 6), The Nutcracker (December 11), Cirque Dreams Holidaze (December 13December 18), and Henry Kissinger's one-man comedy show.
The city's thriving food culture rivals the art scene in creativity and vigor, from the enclave of Italian eateries on Federal Hill to the delis dotting downtown. An abundance of regional farms bordering the city aids local chefs, who use nearby produce in their culinary creations and gather downtown on Fridays to shop for ingredients at the farmers' market. About 10 minutes south of downtown, the Culinary Arts Museum celebrates Providence's love of food with more than 250,000 artifacts, ranging from antique cooking gadgets to elaborate wedding cakes.
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