If you're flying into or out of Seattle's SeaTac Airport, you may not know that the No. 1 hotel in the world is just a few blocks from the terminal. In fact, even if you know it's there, you still may be hard-pressed to find it without knowing the address.
That's because the Cedarbrook Lodge is tucked into a residential area where the general mood and feel is light-years away from the hustle and bustle where you find most of the area's major hotels along the Sea-Tac Strip. We're guessing this unusual location has something to do with the accolades that have been showered upon this unique hotel.
The Cedarbrook Lodge has been named the No. 1 hotel in the world on the Expedia® 2011 Insiders Select™ List and No. 1 in the U.S. on TripAdvisor® 2011 Travelers' Choice® Awards. When you think about all the fine hotels they beat out for this owner – more than 53,000, but who's counting – the natural assumption is that the Cedarbrook has to be a very special hotel indeed.
And it is. It's not huge – just 104 rooms – but the first thing we noticed upon arrival was the secluded campus feel to the property. It's as if you were going off to college to learn how to have a good time – yes, we know, many college students do have a similar focus – and the “college” was designed to offer you every possible amenity to be as active or docile as you desire.
The spectacular lobby with its cathedral ceiling, lofts, wood floor, fireplace and comfortable easy chairs might just as well be a big Northwest-style cabin – which we think probably is what they had in mind. But don't confuse Northwest with rustic; everything here is ultra-modern in design with touches of luxury in every direction. The lobby, for example, devotes a separate loft to a shiny new grand piano so that guests below can enjoy live classical music and see where it's coming from just a few feet above them.
Interesting, the hotel's signature dining room, the Copperleaf Restaurant, is located pretty much out in the lobby – or at least it's difficult to see where the lobby ends and the restaurant begins. Accordingly, the restaurant is quite small with only a few tables, but quite big on quality. It's popular enough that we were unable to get seating on a Saturday night, no matter how long we were willing to wait – so be sure to make reservations ahead of time.
We did, however, get a good idea of the restaurant's quality by having our dinner in the Copperleaf Bar. Also small and offering a more limited menu, this lounge area is a comfortable gathering place with bookshelves full of spirits and wine bottles and, surprisingly, a pool table right in the middle of the room. This kind of Billiards is considerably more upscale than your Daddy's pool bar, and our bartender assured us the pool table does, in fact, get a lot of use. If a quiet upscale bar is to your liking, this is your kind of place and we found the food unbelievably good, including what we would rate as the No. 1 hamburger in the world, a creation so tender and delicious it actually gives a whole new definition to the word hamburger.
Our room at the Cedarbrook was in one of the buildings near the lobby and, like everything else at the Cedarbrook, was full of Northwest flair. Wood is used throughout the room from closet doors to the two desktops to the bed boards to the ceiling to window frames, and the natural brown and tan tones add to the overall sense that this is about as far away from a Big City “plastic” hotel as you can get. Yet everything is modern, tastefully designed and relatively spacious. A giant flat-screen television was centered on the wall, with original artwork displayed on both sides. In fact, artwork seems to be everyplace you look throughout the hotel.
We took a little walk to explore the rest of the hotel and it does indeed offer a few surprises.
For starters, there is a living room kind of space at the entrance to the building where our room was located that is sure to beckon most visitors – not so much because of the comfortable seating, but rather the treats waiting on the counter that included several sizes and types of malt balls, fruit and Tim's potato chips. The nearby freezer was loaded up with individual servings of Hagen Daz ice cream – all for the taking. You will have to be super-human to resist.
The view from our room had revealed a lush park-like campus and we took a few minutes to stroll the many walkways and trails through cedar trees, lawns and ponds – all perfect for getting away to gather a few of your thoughts without going too far from your hotel room. Look closely and you'll even come across the vegetable garden where the Copperleaf Restaurant gets fresh ingredients for its menu. Walking the property is serene, yet invigorating -- the landscaping takes full advantage of the hotel's 18 acres of natural restored wetlands.
If walking the grounds is not quite enough exercise for you, fear not. We stumbled upon the Cedarbrook's indoor fitness center that is chock-full of the latest exercise equipment. Whether it's vigorous exercise or quiet moments of reflection, the Cedarbrook offers guests a whole range of experiences in a quintessential Northwest setting. If your goal while visiting the Cedarbrook campus is to learn how to have a good time, we guarantee you'll graduate with honors.
WHERE: Cedarbrook Lodge is just a few blocks from Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport and, surprisingly, is located in a residential area with no other hotels or businesses nearby. There is no large flashing sign directing you off the main roadway – just be sure and get directions before you go.
WHAT: Cedarbrook is a special experience and would be a good choice for a short getaway before or after your Sea-Tac flight, or for business conferences. If you're sightseeing in Seattle, it's a 15-minute drive to downtown or you might even consider using the new high-speed rail system that goes from the airport to downtown.
WHEN: Seattle residents will tell you the only time to count on REALLY good weather is the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August. But no one goes to Seattle for the sunshine so the area's temperate climate makes for comfortable visits almost any time of year. It's a little cool in the winter, but then you will also get occasional sunny days that can make it seem like spring.
WHY: Cedarbrook is certainly la cut above your average city hotel – if it wasn't it would not be getting so many favorable customer reviews on Trip Advisor and other travel sites. So this is the place to stay in Seattle if you want a special, unique experience rather than just a place to lay your head for the night.
HOW: For more information on the Cedarbrook Lodge, please visit www.cedarbrooklodge.com or phone 877-515-2176.
Photos, from top: Cedarbrook's amazing natural setting; trail feels like you're far from the city; lots of treats available anytime including malt balls, potato chips and ice cream; pool table in Copperleaf bar is popular with guests
Photos by Cary Ordway, Tara Wilkins
OTHER DESTINATIONS: If you're looking for other Northwest travel ideas, be sure to check out other Northwest Travel Advisor articles on Northwest zoos, Northwest water vacations, Port Townsend and Seattle attractions.