Contemporary luxury in Madison, Wisconsin


By Hope S. Philbrick

There are times in a frequent traveler’s life when all she really wants and needs is a great hotel.

I arrived in Madison, Wisconsin at the end of a nine-hour drive preceded by a full week of travel hop-scotching across another state. Compounding my exhaustion, I had been so sick that previous week that one morning I was genuinely surprised that I’d woken up.

So I stumbled into my room at HotelRED, took one look around, and felt like I’d booked a room in heaven—which is ironic, given that the hot color scheme in this place has more in common with popular images of a different eternal destination. The design is über contemporary hipster cool. Slick. Spacious. Spotless. After a string of one-night sleeps at sub-standard national chains, I felt like I’d won the travel lottery with two nights here.

My glee at discovering that my room was a Premier Studio Suite cannot be overstated. It had a bed—not just any bed, but one big enough to flop across it at any angle, dressed in crisp yet soft sheets—a bathroom—not just any bathroom, but one with a vessel sink, separate toilet closet and a shower equipped with so many heads its cousin must be a carwash—a workstation, mini-kitchen, deck and sectional sofa. This was a retreat, not just a room.

premier studio at HotelREDfreshen up at HotelRED

HotelRED is the sort of hotel that makes you feel welcome and yet the staff leaves you alone rather than fuss all over you. It has everything you need plus some unexpected luxuries that you didn’t even know you needed until voila! there they are—like a full-size dishwasher, huge outdoor patio, on-site bar and restaurant. It’s a place where you can get more than a good night’s sleep and truly retreat for however long it takes to recharge; the human equivalent of letting your battery reach 100%, not just the usual 68% or whatever is enough to get by until the next plug-in station.

HotelRED claims to be the first true independent boutique hotel in Madison, Wisconsin—and it sets the bar very high for any other entrepreneur planning to open another independent boutique hotel in the college town.

exterior HotelRED

This was my first visit to Madison, so while the explanation that it’s across the street from Camp Randall Stadium may mean something to folks familiar with the city, it was a useless landmark to me. Still, I recognized HotelRED immediately upon approach, and not just because my GPS announced, “You have reached your destination.” As the name suggests, the four-story building has bold red accents. It’s hard to miss.

Parking is free, always a pleasant “welcome.” Check-in is a breeze: The friendly 20-somethings at the desk happily answer any questions, and after handing over the room key offer a complimentary red cocktail, which on the night of my visit was made of rooibos tea and vodka. (Yes, there was a non-alcoholic option, but we @21plusTravel aren’t known to pass up a free cocktail.)

HotelRED is located at the corner of Monroe and Regent Streets, Madison’s hipster, progressive, high-energy neighborhood. The vibe was laid-back and quiet during my visit, but I was not visiting during football season. I suspect the mood is more vibrant on game days.

One of the cool things about HotelRED is its commitment to local. The hotel features custom Wisconsin-made furnishings and original artwork. The Wise, the on-site bar and bistro, serves Wisconsin classics with a twist and showcases products from dozens of local food suppliers including several in the immediate neighborhood. Local artisan brews are also available. So, even if you never leave the hotel, you’ll get a genuine taste of current Wisconsin culture.

As an amuse-bouche of its community, HotelRED will have you craving a full course exploration of Madison, Wisconsin.

pet friendly HotelREDfront desk at HotelREDlobby at HotelREDpremier studio balcony at HotelRED

  • Free high-speed wireless Internet
  • HotelRED has 48 guest rooms and suites; 30 have a furnished balcony and living room area
  • Pillow-top beds are dressed in luxury linens
  • Aveda Salon Products plus robes and slippers in all rooms
  • 42″ HD LCD flat screen TV in all rooms, 50″ HD LCD flat screen TV in the 2-bedroom suites
  • On-site dining includes The Wise, an urban bistro on the lobby level that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a full bar. Whether you’re very or a wee bit hungry, the menu’s eclectic mix of fresh picks and preparations are sure to satisfy.
  • Shuttle service to local attractions and the Kohl Center for sporting events
  • One-of-a-kind shops, galleries and restaurants plus Trader Joe’s on Monroe Street are all within walking distance
  • HotelRED is near the University of Wisconsin, Camp Randall Stadium, The Kohl Center, Chazen Art Museum, State Street and the State Capital Building and more
  • Use of a local fitness center is complimentary to hotel guests
  • Handicap accessible rooms are available
  • Most rooms have showers only, some have bath tubs
  • In-room coffee makers with basic supplies
  • HotelRED guests get complimentary B-Cycle membership and helmet for bike rentals. Madison B-cycle is a new Go Green transportation option: Pick up a bike at any one of the 35 B-cycle stations throughout Madison’s downtown ride to where you need to go, and park it at the closest station to your destination.
  • HotelRED is pet friendly

Odds of Encountering Children… College students, 100%. Other ages, varies. I saw one young child during my visit, which occurred during the summer (so it wasn’t football season and school wasn’t in session). If you were to visit during football season or when the University of Wisconsin hosts a parents’ weekend, odds would likely be higher. In general, we bet that HotelRED sees fewer children compared to national chain hotels. In any case, concrete floors and walls help minimize sound in guest rooms.

More Information…

1501 Monroe St
Madison, WI 53711

-Photos courtesy HotelRED

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. She became a freelance writer and editor because she believes that work and fun should not be mutually exclusive. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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