For most of us, vacations in the modern era consist of decent, cookie-cutter accommodations that end up being afterthoughts to the adventures we’re chasing. Sure, that Holiday Inn is nice, but it’s just a Holiday Inn. Every so often, however, you get surprised by a hotel that somehow manages to be as much an attraction as the places you’ve come to visit.
The Oxford Hotel in Denver is such a place. An historic, stately building sitting in the heart of the city’s revived LoDo neighborhood (lower downtown), the Oxford has been housing travelers since the 19th century, offering top-notch amenities since the days of gas lamps, horse-led carriages, coal-faced miners, and separate water closets. Flash forward 122 years (The Oxford opened its doors in 1891), and it now sports a cushy new lobby that retains its old-world charm (as seen above), Bose stereos in every room, and of course, gender blind service. And from those turn-of-the-century beginnings, when it was the only hotel on the block in all of Denver, The Oxford has gone on to house such dignitaries as the Clintons, Huey Lewis and the News, and the Dalai Lama.
Unlike most of today’s hotels, the Oxford doesn’t use key cards. Instead—get this—you enter rooms using actual keys, something you don’t realize you missed until the front clerk drops a pair into your hand. Another quirk that sticks out at the Oxford are their luxuriously wide hallways, which we’re told were built to accommodate the wide dresses worn by women back then.
The Oxford an award winner featured on Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2013 as one of the “World’s Best Places to Stay.” The New York Times called the seafood-centrick McCormick restaurant housed inside its doors, “One of the city’s best restaurants.” (We ate there—it is.) And the hotel’s Cruise Room Martini Bar, the city’s first cocktail establishment, was opened the day after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and features some of the most talkative and friendly bartenders in town.
Denver, with its proximity to the Rockies, is a gateway to America’s Great West and the frontier towns it was founded upon, and the Oxford—a National Landmark itself—is the perfect hotel to get travelers in that spirit.