As a traveler, when I think Old Hollywood romance and indulgence, I think dinner at the Pump Room in Chicago or hitting California’s Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible, not two nights at a revamped hotel in Omaha’s Blackstone District — until this past weekend, that is. If you’re Omaha bound and love a bit of glitz and glamor (think original marblework, a French-inspired bistro, a chophouse, and a very sexy bar on site, and stories of celebrity visits to match), you won’t want to miss your chance to check into the Kimpton Cottonwood.
|Morning coffee service in lobby||Fitness center|
|Espresso bar, French-inspired bistro, bar, and chophouse on site||Outdoor pool & resort-style poolside restaurant, open seasonally|
|Indoor fireside and atrium seating areas||Outdoor hot tub|
|Live music and complimentary wine on select evenings||Pet-friendly|
205 guest rooms and suites (including some adjoining and some accessible) in 3 towers.
How To Get To The Cottonwood
The Cottonwood is extremely easy to reach: We flew into Eppley Airfield, Omaha’s airport, and the hotel was a 10-minute drive. It is just north of Farnam and south of Dodge, two of Omaha’s major streets, meaning it’s straightforward to get wherever you want to go in your own vehicle or a rental car or via ride-share or public transportation.
The Cottonwood doesn’t have a dedicated parking lot you can pull into, and we had trouble with the meter at the lot across the street where we attempted to park before deciding we should go for the hotel’s valet parking, which was $30/night at the time of our stay.
Why We Chose The Cottonwood
While my husband and I typically stay in Airbnbs for longer trips, The Cottonwood was a big yes for us because we were flying in town to meet my sister (who came up from Dallas) for an event, the annual Wambli Sapa Memorial Powwow at the University of Nebraska Omaha, and only staying for 2 nights.
For shorter trips, we like the opportunity to enjoy the best of the best and knew we wanted to be centrally located and wouldn’t need a lot of space to spread out.
The Cottonwood’s location, luxury, and on-site dining options checked all the boxes for a fantastic weekend getaway. Strolling down for coffee in the morning and wine in the evenings, a dip in the hot tub, a chophouse dinner, and Sunday brunch 100 percent delivered on resort vibes.
History Of The Cottonwood
The Kimpton Cottonwood, originally opened as the Blackstone Hotel in 1916, has a juicy history that’s half the fun of staying there. According to the official history of the hotel, it “achieved icon status in the roaring twenties, when it was known as the premier stop-off between San Francisco and Chicago.”
It’s also known for its celebrity guests and role in American politics. After our dinner at The Committee Chophouse (more on that below), one of the servers took us down the hallway that flanks The Cottonwood Room bar (not to be missed!) to show us pictures of President John and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy (who spent their fifth wedding anniversary there), Nixon (who announced his presidential candidacy from the Blackstone’s rooftop ballroom in ’67), and Ronald Reagan, who stayed and played at the Blackstone before launching his political career.
Activities At The Cottonwood
The Cottonwood Pool Club
While The Pool Club wasn’t in full swing during our visit (it’s seasonal), we took an evening dip in the hot tub, and I could easily imagine enjoying myself in the resort-style pool or sipping and snacking at the poolside restaurant.
Like everything else at the hotel, The Pool Club is swanky. This isn’t your average hotel pool situation. Think resort, get ready for semi-submerged lounge chairs, and retro cocktails, and know that The Pool Club is a thing to the extent that it offers a full-on membership program for locals who want to soak up rays in the Blackstone District, too.
Wine (And Music) In The Lobby
Treat yourself to a glass of wine and the chance to hear live music in the lobby between 5 and 7. If you’re not eager to get back to your room, find a spot to take a load off in the foyer or atrium before or after dinner at the hotel or out on the town.
Your Morning Coffee, Two Ways
If you want a quick cup of joe, stroll down to the lobby and serve yourself some free coffee from the very large buffet in the atrium starting at 6:30. Or, if you need an espresso drink, wait until The Petit Orleans opens at 8 to get your latte, Americano, or double shot.
Restaurants At The Cottonwood
The Committee Chophouse
The Committee Chophouse is more than just steaks, though the Blackstone Strip my husband had was perfectly cooked. The atmosphere is intimate and the menu is just the right size for every diner to find something indulgent. The kitchen was also ready to prepare a vegan entree, though we’d requested that for Sunday brunch at The Orleans Room (more on that below).
I had the hotel’s signature cocktail, Plush Horse; the shrimp cocktail (hands down the best I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of shrimp cocktail); and, because I don’t eat pork or beef, the Market Catch Oscar (halibut the evening we were there), which was absolute perfection. My husband upped the ante on his steak with the tallow compound butter but reported it was cooked so well the butter wasn’t needed.
The Orleans Room
My sister and I reserved a two-top for Easter Brunch at The Orleans Room, The Cottonwood’s take on a French bistro. The space is lovely and the menu fantastic; however, the service and kitchen’s creativity when it came to accommodating dietary restrictions felt lacking, especially after our five-star experience at The Committee Chophouse. More on what I would have changed below…
Types Of Travelers At The Cottonwood
During our time at The Cottonwood, we saw families, couples of all ages, and a few groups of women around the hotel. We chatted with a family who came into Omaha from South Dakota to take their two teenage daughters shopping — apparently malls and outlets abound!
The Cottonwood is pet friendly at no extra cost and does not enforce any size or weight restrictions. Pet beds, bowls for food and water, and other pet-friendly offerings are available on request.
Tips On Booking Accommodations
I am a big fan of booking directly with hotels and resorts. Because The Cottonwood is owned by IHG, technically, you can book direct through ihg.com or thecottonwoodhotel.com. Whichever you choose (and even if you book through a third party), I strongly recommend you check out The Cottonwood’s Featured Experiences.
This is how we learned about Easter Brunch at The Orleans Room. Upcoming events include Wine & Vinyl (we learned that records are hot in Omaha as my husband perused lots of shops downtown) and a cake tasting. Yum!
What Is Near The Cottonwood?
The Cottonwood’s situation in the Blackstone District makes it easy to get to everything by car, and lots of great spots are within walking distance, too. If you want to stock up on snacks, don’t miss Wohlner’s Neighborhood Grocery & Deli — “helping to feed Omaha since 1918 and proud to be the city’s oldest grocery store, family-owned and focused on exceptional service since day one.” Its only location is a 2-minute drive or 10-minute stroll from the hotel, and it has an extremely satisfying selection and exceptionally friendly staff.
My sister, who’s vegan, recommends nearby Modern Love restaurant a few blocks down Farnam, and my husband enjoyed checking out KAMP Blackstone, a bar-plus-food-vendors concept just across the street from The Cottonwood. Learn more about things to do in the Blackstone District here.
Downtown Omaha is just a 5-minute drive. If you want to go further afield, take heart! Nebraska drivers seemed friendly, and getting outside Omaha to spots like Juke’s Ale Works in Elkhorn and Holy Family Shrine off I-80 in Gretna, both of which we visited during our weekend, is a breeze.
One Thing I Would Change About The Cottonwood
The hotel’s website didn’t make some of its amenities particularly clear. For example, we assumed we would not have mini fridges in our rooms because they weren’t listed (and furthermore because the site outlines an On-Demand Family Fridge program that involves putting in a request). We were pleasantly surprised when we found fridges in our two adjacent rooms, but being clear on that before our arrival would have been helpful.
I also expected better service at The Orleans Room, where we were not waited on promptly, the vegan offering was less than exciting (even after we’d given the staff advance notice that they’d have a vegan diner), and I never got the Easter special Sweet Pea Tart I ordered. The atmosphere and salmon board were delightful, but unfortunately, the experience here was less five-star and more all-inclusive resort breakfast (in a not-so-great way). I don’t discourage booking here but hope The Cottonwood will invest in better staffing and/or preparation for future special event brunches.
One Thing You Absolutely Can’t Miss: The Cottonwood Room Bar
Do not miss The Cottonwood Room for wine, beer, or a cocktail. It is arguably the most romantic spot in the hotel (downstairs from the lobby), and you will love the speakeasy vibe and one-of-a-kind illuminated tree centerpiece.
Would I Stay Here Again?
Absolutely! I am already considering our family’s next visit to Omaha (maybe driving in when our little one is ready for a road trip) and would love to stay at The Cottonwood during the summer months when The Pool Club is in full swing.
302 S 36th St
Omaha, Nebraska 68131