Is this a hotel or is it an art gallery?
When you walk into the high-ceilinged lobby of the Hotel Murano, filled with fanciful glass sculptures, it’s understandable that you might be confused. But wait, there’s the reception desk, the bellman’s station, and the lobby bar.
Yes, this 25-story Tacoma, Washington property is a hotel after all. And as a fan of culturally interesting places to sleep, I loved my brief stay here.
Hotel as Glass Art Gallery
This former Sheraton Hotel reopened in 2008 after a $28 million renovation, with much of the budget going for art.
These “Viking Boats” made from colorful glass are suspended from the lobby ceiling and glow in the sunlight.
The hallways on each guest floor display the work of a particular glass artist, greeting you as you step off the elevator, along with details about that artist’s creations.
Overall, the Murano displays works from more than 45 artists. I wanted to stop on every floor to check out the art!
After the drama of the artwork in the lobby and hallways, the 319 guest rooms in this hotel tower feel simpler and more sedate. But they still mix creative design with all the creature comforts you need.
Rather than generic city tourist magazines, the rooms are stocked with publications that focus on the local arts and entertainment scenes.
Modern amenities include flat-screen TVs and iPod docking stations. Wi-Fi is available throughout the building, but (boo, hiss), there’s a $9.95 daily fee.
The bedside lamps, handmade in Portland, glow with changing colors.
Brightly colored upholstery — on the chairs or sofas — and cheerful throw pillows accent the white bed linens.
Like other properties in the Provenance Hotels group (which includes Seattle’s Hotel Max and Portland’s Hotel deLuxe, among others), the Hotel Murano has lots of slightly tongue-in-cheek features, from its spiritual menu (offering guests the Koran, Scientology texts, and other “great books” along with the Bible) to its “Tidy Up/Tied Up” housekeeping/do-not-disturb signs for the door.
You can also press the “Help Me” button on the phone to request service or get your questions answered.
Double room rates start in the $159-199 per night range, with suites starting at $249.
Facilities and Amenities
On the 4th floor, the hotel’s Bite Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or you can get a drink in the lobby bar. The small fitness center is open 24/7, but there’s no pool; if you want more extensive workout facilities, request a $5 pass to the adults-only YMCA nearby.
You can park your car in the adjacent lot for $15/night. Valet parking is available for $20 per night.
The Hotel Murano is about a 15-minute walk or a quick cab ride from Tacoma’s Union Station, the hub for Amtrak trains that connect Tacoma with Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver.
What to Do in Tacoma
Located about 35 miles south of downtown Seattle, Tacoma is carving out a niche as an emerging arts center, particularly for glass arts. Renowed glass artist Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, and you can see many of his fanciful creations around town.
Be sure to visit the Museum of Glass, a short walk from the Hotel Murano, which exhibits works by regional and international glass artists. I could sit for hours in the museum’s “Hot Shop” studio, a theater-style space where you can watch glass artists spinning and blowing their new creations.
Connecting downtown Tacoma with the Museum of Glass, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass (pictured above) is an outdoor gallery that showcases works by Tacoma’s native son.
It’s also worth checking out the exhibits at the small Tacoma Art Museum. In addition to the exhibitions in their galleries, take the self-guided “Ear for Art: Chihuly Glass CellPhone Walking Tour,” which leads you through Tacoma’s Museum District while offering up commentary on Chihuly’s works that you’ll encounter en route.
Of course, you don’t even have to leave the Hotel Murano to see striking glass works. And that’s the beauty of this Tacoma hotel that’s also an art gallery.
Hotel review by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller, author of the books, Moon Handbooks: Ontario and Living Abroad in Canada. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Hotel Murano hosted my stay for review purposes.