The centerpiece of the revitalized Blackstone District of Omaha’s city center, the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel is an impressive remake of a century-old classic hotel. Locals have plenty of special memories to share from this historic hotel (it’s obvious in the framed photographs that line the halls), and now that Kimpton is involved, younger travelers have a lot to be excited about, too.
The Cottonwood brings back the glory days of The Blackstone Hotel (as it was previously known) while infusing a cosmopolitan ethos into this exciting Omaha neighborhood. These are five of the best reasons to visit Omaha’s finest boutique hotel.
Following its many decades as a hotel, The Blackstone was converted to an office building before its latest incarnation. Dating back to 1916 and now a protected building reinvented to the tune of more than $75 million, architects and developers worked hard to protect the building’s authentic design while modernizing as much of its inner working as possible. An important push to become more eco-friendly was also a major focus, and the lead design teams LEO A DALY and DLR Group deserve major kudos for recreating a masterpiece ready for a new era of glamor.
Much of the original tilework floors and the main marble staircase have been maintained while design elements like the greenhouse-style tea room near the front entrance were restored. Other things were recreated just as they were before including the terra cotta columns that are exact replicas of their original heyday. The rooftop Schimmel Ballroom is famous among locals (many Omaha residents remember having special events here like weddings, proms and other social events). Past guests of the hotel have included former U.S. presidents like Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy (he and Jackie spent their fifth wedding anniversary here) and Richard Nixon who announced his presidential run from the rooftop ballroom. These days, it’s a popular spot for social events, especially weddings thanks to a bridal suite and outdoor terrace (complete with an herb garden for the chef).
While the guest rooms themselves are design showpieces with beautiful linens, sumptuous duvets and pillows up against designer fabric headboards, and tiled bathrooms stocked with Atelier Bloem toiletries, they vary in layout and size given the building’s historic nature. Those with walls of windows and views of downtown are coveted, and a tiny subset have balconies making them popular in warmer months.
Curated especially for the hotel by an Omaha resident, the artwork (all the talent of Nebraskan artists) is a sight to behold. Guests can spend hours looking into every corner of the property to discover something new and interesting. Even better, guests can scan a QR code at reception to enjoy a self-guided tour that outlines the inspiration and explanation of everything on display. While Omaha has the impressive Josyln Art Museum, a walk through Kimpton Cottonwood will certainly impress creative types.
The food and beverage
Start your day with a hearty breakfast from the Orleans Room, which adjoins the main bar and lounge. Back in the day, this was a decadent French restaurant that regularly ranked among the ten best in the country. Today’s menu is notably more low-key, but equally tasty and just the right balance for those wanting to explore Omaha’s varied dining scene while also enjoying a casual meal in the hotel.
Then, there’s the famous Committee Chophouse one level below the lobby. Diners will feel like they stepped back a few decades into a vintage and authentic steakhouse with banquette and booth seating, bespoke wallpaper, framed photographs and a menu that is incredibly delicious. It’s only fitting that an Omaha restaurant focuses on steak, and this venue delivers perfection in each dish. A guest favorite includes the garlic puree that comes with each cut of top-quality meat in addition to a long list of shareable side dishes, appetizers, salads and desserts.
There’s also a coffee shop with Archetype brews (a locally roasted favorite) and pastries plus the pool patio for light bites and drinks. If you’re a fan of the Reuben sandwich, you should know that it was invented here. Legend has it that a late-night, rat pack-style get together of some local bigwigs led to some hunger pangs where a chef whipped together an unusual concoction that we now call the Reuben.
The Cottonwood Room is the dimly lit bar on the lower level that mixes colorful cocktails with the hotel’s rich history. Sprouting up from the center of the curvaceous bar is a faux cottonwood tree, native to the central plains of Nebraska. Tasty beverages keep the mood lively as guests sip amid a room abuzz with history (photographic reminders are framed along the walls) and style.
The pool and patio
Speaking of the pool, there is no other hotel pool like this in Omaha. The resort-quality pool patio is ringed by cushioned lounge chairs and plenty of places to sit and relax. The terraced area also has small dining tables, a whirlpool and wading pool with sunken lounge chairs to enjoy on hot Nebraska summer days. A bar and lounge will serve tasty refreshments, and the option to rent the clubhouse for private events or get togethers gives Kimpton Cottonwood an edge over other hotels in the city.
There’s also a membership-quality fitness room open 24 hours a day and overlooking the pool plus the option to do yoga on the rooftop in season.
The Kimpton benefits
Kimpton regulars are almost fanatic about their love for the brand, which is now part of InterContinental Hotels and Resorts (IHG). Kimpton has always been known for chic perks that are often costly add-ons at other properties. As the brand spreads its wings, Kimpton continues to impress its fans with high-end amenities.
Kimpton Cottonwood is pet-friendly, and the hotel welcomes four-legged visitors with special amenities like beds and toys. Each morning, complimentary coffee helps guests perk up in the lobby while every day between 5 and 6pm, happy hour brings guests together over a glass of free wine in the lounge or bar area.
Guest rooms are stocked with yoga mats and umbrellas, and IHG’s most loyal guests are treated to a food and beverage credit they can use for the minibar or around the hotel. Forgot something? Kimpton goes above and beyond the standard hotel amenities. One phone call can deliver dental kits, shaving sets, lip balm, lint rollers and many other items.
Kimpton is among the most generous of hotel brands in a variety of ways, which helps garner strong loyalty from guests. The brand hit a home run with the Kimpton Cottonwood, a hotel that generated incredible chatter among locals and is the cornerstone of the cosmopolitan, city-center Blackstone District that is bringing Omaha to the next level of American cities worth exploring.
Photo credit: Dana Damewood Photography
Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.