Photo: The Barnsley Resort/Facebook

These Complimentary Hotel Happy Hours Will Make You Want to Skip the Bar

Georgia Chicago New York City Denver Portland Restaurants + Bars Epic Stays
by Mariette Williams Dec 3, 2021

On a summer trip to Denver with friends, we endured a five-hour flight after two long delays. When we landed, our rideshare driver announced that his air conditioner had just stopped working. And this was during the middle of a summer heatwave.

When our group finally arrived at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver — sweaty, exhausted, and a bit cranky if I’m being honest — we were handed a complimentary glass of wine. Over the next few minutes, I felt my shoulders drop, and I started getting into vacation mode. A complimentary happy hour, I concluded, should be a requirement for all my future hotel bookings.

If you’ve enjoyed a complimentary happy hour at a hotel, you can likely thank Bill Kimpton, the founder of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. The luxury boutique chain of hotels has been offering a complimentary happy hour for 40 years. The brand claims it was at the vanguard of hotel happy hours. Kimpton’s nightly wine hour started at its first hotel in San Francisco in 1981 to help guests relax at the end of the day and feel a sense of community. A lot changed over the ensuing decades, from new boutique hotel upstarts to waves of new technology to a focus on sustainability in the travel industry. The happy hour has gone through some upgrades, too. But after all this time, it’s still one of Kimpton’s signature perks.

Other hotels across the country have joined in. It’s not just a matter of picking up whatever is available at the closest liquor store, either. Many properties offer specialized and regional drinks, live music, or hosted activities during happy hour. And as complimentary happy hours become more commonplace, hotels have been getting more creative in an effort to stand out.

The next time you’re looking for a hotel that has it all, don’t forget about happy hour. These five properties are taking happy hour to the next level with a local focus, innovative approaches to entertainment, and, of course, great drinks.

We hope you love the stays we recommend! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay.

1. The James New York NoMad

james hotel lobby happy hour

Photo: The James New York Nomad/Facebook

Since 2017, The James New York NoMad has been offering a complimentary wine hour from 5 to 6 PM in the hotel’s lobby. During the early evening hour, guests are invited to unwind with a glass of wine on the lobby’s sleek gray couches or on one of the cool, geometric shaped armchairs. The hotel also recently partnered with Bourke Street Bakery, an iconic Australian bakery, to offer guests fresh-baked bites along with the happy hour wine selections.

The hotel’s location near Madison Square Park and the Flatiron District means that there’s plenty to do when happy hour ends, but you’ll want to consider staying at the hotel to get at least some of your entertainment fix. The James New York NoMad also has a program called Underground Sounds that highlights local favorite artists through live happy hour performances. In addition to local talent, there’s a rotating list of DJs to serve as the soundtrack for your evening.

2. Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver

While every Kimpton property has a hosted wine happy hour, the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver stands out. For starters, the hotel offers wine and beer from Panzano, the hotel’s onsite Northern Italian restaurant. The four-star, Zagat-rated restaurant is a favorite with Denver locals, and the complimentary wine hour is hosted in the hotel’s living room lobby, which offers plenty of comfortable couch seating along with a high-top dining set. From 5 to 6 PM, guests can sit back with a glass of wine in front of the oversized fireplace or watch sports highlights on the large television.

The downtown Denver property is pet-friendly year-round, but the hotel also has an annual Puppies and Prosecco package where guests can sip on Mionetto Prosecco and play with puppies from Lifeline Puppy Rescue (and depending on your goals for your trip, the puppies are available for adoption, too). The event coincides with National Dog Day, and the event is ideal for those who like a little furry companion along with their glass of bubbly.

3. Virgin Hotels Chicago

virgin hotels chicago hotel bar for happy hour

Photo: Virgin Hotels Chicago/Facebook

Virgin Hotels Chicago is a cosmopolitan hotel in downtown Chicago with a generous all-inclusive happy hour. From 4 to 5 PM every day, guests can choose any wine, beer, or cocktail from the hotel’s indoor-outdoor rooftop bar, Cherise (the usual happy hour spot, The Commons Club, will reopen in 2022). One of the signature cocktails at Cherise is The Evening Sunshine, which is made with bourbon, cherry liqueur, and Angostura bitters. On the weekends, the rooftop bar stays open until 2 AM with DJs and live bands taking the stage.

Both Cherise and The Commons Club have the signature Virgin Hotel playful design with plush jewel-toned seating, funky tables, and eclectic artwork. Great for a weekend visit with friends, the hotel is within walking distance to popular Windy City attractions like The Bean and shopping on Michigan Ave’s Miracle Mile.

4. Hotel Lucia in Portland, Oregon

hotel lucia portland happy hour

Photo: Hotel Lucia/Facebook

Portland, Oregon, is one of the country’s great craft beer cities, and it has one of the highest brewery per capita ratios in the world. It’s also where you’ll find Hotel Lucia, a boutique hotel in downtown Portland. Fittingly, the hotel has a complimentary craft beer happy hour that’s a great welcome gesture for out-of-town visitors looking to dive into the beer scene. From 5:30 to 6:30 PM, guests are invited to the lobby to indulge in a pint from one of Portland’s local craft breweries.

The lobby seating area includes tufted velvet couches and armchairs positioned around a reclaimed tree trunk coffee table. Staying true to the rest of the hotel’s eclectic decor, the lobby and common areas are also outfitted with oversized artwork by Pulitzer Prize-winning Oregonian photographer, David Hume Kennerly. Portland is also well known for its friendly, laid-back residents and its impressive food scene, which makes a beer happy hour a perfect pastime before exploring the city.

5. The Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Georgia

the barnsley resort hotel happy hour whiskey tasting

Photo: The Barnsley Resort/Facebook

Happy hours aren’t limited to just beer or wine. The Barnsley Resort, an upscale resort in northwest Georgia, offers a “Bourbon Infusion Ritual” Thursday through Saturday nights, and the happy hour includes a flavored bourbon tasting with house-smoked pecans prepared on-site by Barnsley Resort chefs. The entire bourbon infusion process takes 8 to 12 hours and uses Woodford Reserve Bourbon and pecans from local growers. The result is a bourbon that has a smoky, nutty flavor.

The signature bourbon tasting is hosted at 5 PM in the hotel’s English countryside inspired lobby. The lobby space has polished hardwood floors, a grand fireplace, rustic exposed beams, and stately leather couches. The hotel’s cottage-style accommodations and location on 3,300 acres of wooded land, is an ideal setting for a refined bourbon tasting.

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