Disclosure: Hotel package was provided by C. Baldwin Hotel and Buffalo Bayou Partnership, but the opinions belong solely to the writer.
With the weather heating up, everyone’s looking for more adventures to embark on—and fast. Houston’s robust landscape leaves a lot of room for those who love the great outdoors; after all, we were recently named one of the nation’s most bikable cities.
Though Downtown Houston may not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think of parks and recreation, you’ll find yourself surprised with a nature-filled staycation at the C. Baldwin Hotel. The trendy downtown hot spot joined forces with Buffalo Bayou Partnership to give Houstonians—and visitors—a new outlook on the city. The result: the Buffalo Bayou Park Exploration package, which comes with a hotel room with an unobstructed view of the park, tickets to The Cistern and plenty of Buffalo Bayou Park swag, with 5 percent of package booking profits going back to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership.
With just 24 hours to spare, I indulged in the full Buffalo Bayou Park Exploration package experience (and enjoyed some of the hotel amenities!).
As eager as I was to get to the park, I couldn’t resist luxuriating a bit in the C. Baldwin’s lobby. The boutique hotel, part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, was originally named after Charlotte Baldwin Allen, a woman who wore many hats—businesswoman, cattle rancher, philanthropist, and trailblazer—and who’s also heralded as the Mother of Houston, and the hotel’s design reflects the aesthetic one might expect from this pioneering woman.
Upon walking inside, I was met with a friendly staff, from the valets to the check-in desk, as well as with a blast from the past. The hotel possesses a ’70s-esque aesthetic: muted colors like beige and brown cover the walls, and on one wall a sign reads, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” That seemed fitting, so I took it as a cue for the perfect photo op. After checking in, instead of immediately heading upstairs, I chose to tour the first floor—which, to my liking, was complete with a sunken lounge area, a bar, the hotel’s vibrant Italian eatery, Rosalie, and what I consider the hotel’s best-kept secret—a hidden speakeasy bar.
Upstairs, my suite aligned with the rest of the hotel’s rustic-yet-feminine theme, and it boasted floor-to-ceiling windows with 180-degree views of downtown from the living room, bedroom, and bathroom; sliding partitions for extra privacy; and a kitchenette equipped with a refrigerator and a coffee maker. Outside of the gorgeous views of the city, the king suite had TVs in the living room and bedroom so I could catch up on some of my favorite shows while taking in the glorious view.
Things to Do at Buffalo Bayou
After getting settled in, my next journey was heading to Buffalo Bayou Park. Since it’s located only a stone’s throw from the hotel, guests can take a 10-minute stroll to the park—but since I can’t bear Houston’s heat longer than a few minutes, I took a Lyft.
As one of Houston’s premier green spaces, Buffalo Bayou is more than just a park. An amalgam of gardens, hike and bike trails, and picnic areas, visitors can explore however they see fit. I started with a tour of the cistern, the decommissioned water reservoir housed underground at the park. In a curious reflection of the hotel’s retro aesthetic, the cistern—one of the City of Houston’s first underground drinking-water reservoirs, originally built in 1926—carries a natural-history-museum vibe that reverberates throughout. Spanning 87,500 square feet, the underground cove includes rows of 25-foot-tall concrete columns that touch the bottom of the reservoir, filled with roughly two feet of water. Though now out of commission, the cistern is still worth a visit if only for the superior acoustics that allowed my voice to carry for what felt like miles, as well as for the beautiful reflection of the building on the water, which made me think I was seeing double.
After the cistern, I took in the beauty of the park on a leisurely stroll, taking a gander at the skate park and the Bud Light Amphitheater before surrendering to the shade. The open space includes a dog park, public art exhibitions, and, if you’re lucky, food trucks! As a foodie, I’ll never pass up an opportunity to dine, and the park has several options on deck: tacos, snow cones, and ice cream were available, along with much-needed shaded seating. I tried some quesadillas and finished off with a cup of ice cream while enjoying the breeze under one of the park’s shaded benches.
I already mentioned my fraught relationship with Houston’s heat, and as lovely as the park visit was, I found the heat to be draining. So after spending a few hours at the park, I retired to my suite for a few hours to recuperate before dinner at Rosalie. To really kick off the relaxation, my room had a sweet surprise of a charcuterie board, and after pampering myself with cheese and crackers, I got a chance to catch a few winks.
Entering the restaurant, I was struck by the greenery adorning the walls, a vibrant pink sign with the restaurant’s moniker, and, oddly enough, a horse’s butt mounted on the wall. The hotel restaurant was an intimate setting, definitely a great place for date night with your significant other or a night out with the girls—it takes its Italian theme to the next level, not only through the menu and wine list but simply through the ambience. The ’70s vibe from the rest of the hotel extends to Rosalie as well: I quickly forgot that I was in the heart of downtown amid the trappings of a retro living room, TVs with rabbit-ear antennas included! The open-concept kitchen gave me a view of chefs making fresh pizzas, risotto, and rigatoni.
Perhaps the most impressive feature at Rosalie was the extensive wine list, with plenty to choose from. I stuck with my usual prosecco and had a lovely, bubbly glass, but the meals were even tastier. I started with their extra cheesy arancini, while eagerly anticipating my main course (possibly the biggest item on the menu), the chicken parmesan. I’m typically guilty of the decades-old proverb about “my eyes being bigger than my stomach,” and this happened to be another one of those situations. I heartily recommend the dish, but if you order it, have a friend tag along, because the chicken parmesan was as big as my face.
Needless to say, I walked away with a full stomach and a to-go plate.
As if this mecca of hotel indulgence could get any more luxe, I knew my night wouldn’t be complete without ending at the lobby bar. I was greeted by two very cheerful bartenders, who can make a lemon drop that is a force to be reckoned with.
I found plenty of open couches and seating both inside and out (with a view of Allen Acres) to enjoy my drink—it was the perfect evening wind-down to an eventful summer day—before heading back up to my cozy king-size abode for the evening.
After a restful evening in my suite, I was able to extend that relaxation a little bit more for breakfast at the hotel’s breakfast nook, Good 2 Go, my final trip to the lobby before I hit the road. A quick breakfast sando was the tasty finish to 24 hours at the C. Baldwin.
For more information on C. Baldwin Hotel and the Buffalo Bayou Park Exploration package, visit the website.