Immerse yourself in the old-meets-new vibe at the 77-room Kendall Hotel (from $129). Tucked among the glass-and-steel tech firms of Kendall Square, this Queen Anne–style building started life in 1895 as the Engine 7 Firehouse and now stands as the square’s oldest structure. The firehouse was closed by 1993 and sat unused until 2000, when a local couple undertook a massive overhaul, including adding a new seven-story tower with a rooftop solarium. Rooms pair handmade quilts with crisp Ralph Lauren linens and prints by contemporary New England artists like Leonard Baskin and Jon Imber, while common spaces showcase ceramic pieces by Forsythe and collages by her son JJ. Pre-dinner, stop into the hotel’s Black Sheep Restaurant & Bar (named for the ragtag reputation of the Engine 7 fire brigade) for a pint of local Ipswich oatmeal stout and the New England artisanal cheese board ($14).
Discover your inner explorer at Kimpton’s sumptuous Hotel Marlowe (from $189). The hotel overlooks the Charles River, and nautical details are sprinkled throughout the 236 rooms, like a compass-rose-inspired chandelier in the lobby and telescopes in each suite (ideal for checking out the Boston skyline). It’s tempting to stay in: Closets are stocked with cozy, custom-animal-print bathrobes, and free nightly wine tastings focus on community- or eco-minded wineries from around the globe (this month’s selection, Australia’s Banrock Station, donates to conservation funds). But don’t get too comfortable inside: You’ll also have access to complimentary kayaks and bicycles, perfect for a jaunt to the nearby Museum of Science or for a glide along the river. After a day out on the town, head back to the onsite Bambara restaurant for a warming cocktail, such as Dances With Wolves ($13), made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, King’s Ginger liqueur, and blood orange.
Consider Harvard Square anew at the university-owned Harvard Square Hotel (from $179), which reopened in the spring of 2012 after a complete redesign. The functional brick facade may seem drab, but the newly remodeled interiors are bright and airy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows, fresh seasonal flowers in the lobby, and color-saturated, oversize photos of the Harvard campus (shot by local photographer Eric Roth) throughout. The 73 sleek rooms incorporate pops of Harvard’s trademark crimson (without all that dark-wood paneling) in accent pieces like desk chairs and geometric honeycomb-pattern duvets, while aquamarine tiles line the spalike bathrooms. It’s just a five-minute walk from the Yard, so book early if you’re planning a stay during any major university event (such as commencement or fall welcome week).