Families the focus at Athenaeum in London

By Kate Rice

Athenaeum Hotel kidsNot only my easy-to-thrill 10-year-old but my much-harder-to-impress 16-year-old gasped with delight over our adjoining rooms at the Athenaeum Hotel in central London's Mayfair district.

It wasn't just the welcome tray of cookies adorned with miniature trains and a tiny London phone booth. It was also the rooms themselves: bright and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows, Juliet balconies, contemporary furnishings and beds that looked like little clouds with their fluffy comforters.

In front of us: Green Park and the adjacent Buckingham Palace. Down the street, Hyde Park, with its blooming roses, swans and equestrians. Nearby: Bond Street, Regent Street, Leicester Square and the West End. Along narrow side streets, picturesque (and, during rugby and soccer tournaments, gratifyingly raucous) pubs as well as an Indian restaurant or two and quaint shops.

In short, if a family is looking for a kid-friendly way to experience the essence of Mayfair, the Athenaeum delivers.

The Athenaeum won the Tea Guild's "Top London Afternoon Tea 2012," thanks in part to the fact that it has its own pastry chef. Guests can enjoy it three times each afternoon: at 12:30, 3 and 5:30 (when there's a champagne option, as well). It also has a luxury restaurant and whiskey bar.

Its rooftop suite comes with panoramic views of major sights like the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

Families can book adjoining rooms, a three-bedroom suite or one of 18 one-bedroom apartments that can be easily configured into two bedrooms. The apartments are in recently renovated Edwardian buildings that are around the corner from the hotel but connected to the hotel. That means guests in the apartments can let themselves in from the street or through the hotel. They get all the hotel services they want, but can also have breakfast in their own apartment, particularly convenient for families traveling with small children or babies.

Kids love the apartments' double bunk beds. And no matter where families stay, the Athenaeum sends guests a questionnaire before they arrive, asking them children's ages, their favorite games, movies and other likes and dislikes. Upon arrival, kids find age- and taste-appropriate videos, toys and soft toys awaiting them.

The Athenaeum offers a variety of packages aimed at families. One current special includes a Warner Bros. Studio tour about the making of the Harry Potter films. It includes the tour, breakfast (although kids under 12 eat free) and WiFi.

The Athenaeum takes care of grownups, too, with a spa, hot tub, gym, business center and WiFi. Its whiskey bar is stocked with 270 whiskeys, but its bartender will happily serve you champagne, cocktails, fruit smoothies, anything you want.

About 40% of the Athenaeum's business is from the U.S. It is a preferred hotel with the Signature Travel Network. It works closely with travel agents, said Stephen Fox, the hotel's director of sales, and its staff visits the U.S. frequently to meet with travel agents.

Visit www.athenaeumhotel.com.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly. 

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