WHERE IS IT? In the heart of downtown and busy Granby Street, the hotel is near Norfolk’s historic district and restaurant row. The building dates back to 1912 and sits along the historic Cannonball Trail, which winds through town. It is within walking distance of office buildings, great dining, NEON Arts District, and active waterfront area. The Nauticus museum and science center, which houses the USS Wisconsin battleship, is a two-minute walk from the hotel. It sits next to the modern cruise terminal where passengers can board just minutes from downtown. Narrated river cruises leave from near the hotel, which are a great activity for sunset.
WHAT’S IT LIKE? Due to COVID-19 precautions, there were changes in the dining options and a ramp-up in cleaning protocols to follow Marriott’s brand guidelines. This included a glass partition on the reception desk, and everyone is encouraged to wear masks. Service from housekeeping to restaurant staff was top-notch in what is sure to be a strange time for hotels. The most striking feature of the hotel is the glass art from celebrated artists like Dale Chihuly and Peter Bremers at every turn. Just down the street is the Chrysler Museum of Art and Perry Glass Studio if you want to explore further. By the end of the year, part of the lobby will be turned into another glass art gallery adding to the collection. A lot of the art on display in the hotel is also changed regularly so repeat visitors will always have something new to experience.
ROOM FACILITIES Accommodations here are anything but cookie cutter with more glass design pieces found throughout the rooms. There was a playful glass carrot on the side table and intricately designed glass pieces on the wall in my room. My corner suite had a separate living room and enormous bathroom with soaking tub and glass shower. The four-poster bed with fluffy duvet and pillows made for a dreamy sleep. Each side of the bed had a long row of power and USB outlets for fast charging. I must have turned off a master switch though, because mine stopped charging in the middle of the night. It was great to have a refrigerator and Illy coffee machine in the room, and the wireless Internet was speedy everywhere I tried to use it in the hotel. Each floor also has a pantry stocked with complimentary bottled water and fresh fruit. A leather armchair and long leather sofa were both great places to work while enjoying the city skyline through tall windows. In the building’s renovation, the original windows had a protective layer added to keep out unwanted noise. Exposed brick, white tiles and polished wood complete the modern design. The bathroom was stocked with Sicilian orange-scented Nest toiletries and featured decorative glass sink bowls that had fancy motion sensors to illuminate when you approach it. There was plenty of storage space in large closets with robes, slippers and a clothes steamer.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The restaurant, like the rest of the hotel, displays colorful glass art; my favorite is the reclining pink bunny behind the bar (it’s one of two in the hotel and is said to represent the husband-and-wife owners). Soaring ceilings, an exhibition kitchen, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the street add to the urban look. A few lucky diners can grab seats at the countertop facing the kitchen. The menu is designed by a Michelin-starred French chef who has been making waves across Norfolk for his inventive cuisine. Crispy octopus, butter-poached lobster tail, lamb shoulder in rosemary jus with Johnny Cake, and seared foie gras with a grilled peach are just a few of the tasty choices. As an Autograph Collection property, Marriott Bonvoy elite members with top status are treated to perks like Continental breakfast and welcome amenities, which is a nice touch. There’s also a rooftop bar with panoramic city views.
LEISURE FACILITIES A gym is open 24 hours a day with beautiful city views from its high-floor location. I opted for a walk along the waterfront and through the Pagoda and Oriental Garden park, which had plenty of shade for a hot summer day. I had wanted to tour the USS Wisconsin battleship nearby, but it was temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES One floor above the lobby are the hotel’s meeting rooms, which sit between gallery walls of beautiful glass sculptures. Small group functions will find the modern public areas and artwork to be a different take from the standard meeting room.
VERDICT Part hotel and part art gallery, the Glass Light offers a blend of history and design that few other hotels downtown can match. Its Marriott Bonvoy affiliation and center-of-it-all location make it a great option for visitors to town.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 117 rooms and suites
PROPERTY HIGHLIGHTS Colorful and whimsical glass art, prime downtown location, and a Michelin-starred chef menu
PRICE Internet rates for a traditional room start at $175.
CONTACT 201 Granby Street, Norfolk, Virginia, 23510, Phone 757-222-3033. glasslighthotel.com