Step Inside the World of the “Great American Songbook” for less than $250 a night
Note: We are not encouraging travel beyond your region now, but we can plan for future travel.
It’s a sunny September afternoon in the lobby of Hotel Carmichael in Carmel, Indiana. Light gleams against the black-and-white diamond checkered floor. An engaged couple strolls up to the wooden bar of Adagio Lounge and orders cocktails. The self-playing grand piano belts out classics, then a medley of 2000s-era love songs.
I sip a glass of Chardonnay inside the Library, which I chose for its isolated location tucked behind the double-sided Adagio fireplace. The hotel’s jazz-inspired art and interior are at odds with the stark sun rays glaring against the arched window.
This feels like a place that comes alive in the evenings. It’s not hard to envision a cozy romantic evening here. I imagine couples sinking into navy velvet chairs or wandering up the grand staircase from the still-under-construction cabaret supper club downstairs.
The Hotel Carmichael opened for business on August 27, 2020. I visited less than two weeks after the grand opening. There was an air of unfinished business about the place — the smell of new carpet, construction downstairs — but it was also full of quiet promise.
This is not an easy year to open a hotel, let alone the first boutique lodging in the city. Carmel, Indiana, has made a name for itself with boutique shops, nationally renowned Cake Bake, and upscale subdivisions separated by perfect little roundabouts.
At first, it seems more of a place to raise a family than to spend a vacation. But downtown Carmel is less than a 30-minute drive into the heart of Indianapolis. It’s an ideal basecamp for a Hoosier staycation or a long weekend in the heart of Indiana.
A stay at the Hotel Carmichael
There’s no avoiding the fact that my stay at the Hotel Carmichael took place during a pandemic. I live a mere 2 ½ hours from Carmel, so I was able to drive my car. I self-parked in the hotel’s own lot (a welcome reprieve from city parking) and carried my luggage inside.
Interactions with staff were intentionally minimal. I checked in through a plexiglass barrier. I shared an elevator with a masked employee. And I received a quick, masked tour of the event spaces from General Manager Jamie Hopwood.
I stayed in an elegant king room. The hotel offers 122 rooms, eight of them deluxe suites. For me, a single business traveler, the king room offered plenty. A dazzling chandelier hung above the bed. I could work from the desk or the blue velvet couch by the window.
Boutique lodging like the Hotel Carmichael is enchanting because each room is distinct. Nearly every room has a chandelier, but not all. I imagine each room is fitted with the massive gold-rimmed mirrors that made mine feel even bigger.
There was music everywhere, of course. As part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the Hotel Carmichael must have a designated “Mark of Craft.” This property, based on the “Great American Songbook,” is marked by melody. To match the jazzy atmosphere, I asked the in-room speaker to play from the American Songbook. It obliged.
My bathroom shined with aged brass fixtures. The large walk-in shower included refillable toiletries — an appropriate move for sustainability, though some guests might prefer individual bottles during a pandemic. It’s also worth noting that the bathroom was set up European-style, with a door between the toilet and vanity.
Exploring the halls
The Hotel Carmichael is replete with meeting spaces. From the Dresser Meeting Room to the Noble Sissle Boardroom, business executives can take their pick from sophisticated spaces that reminded me of a set from AMC’s “Mad Men.”
For social events, the glamorous Cole Porter Grand Ballroom sets the scene for weddings or holiday parties. The grand windows look out onto Carmel’s Palladium, an elegant performing arts center.
Though it was still under construction during my visit, Feinstein’s, a dinner club developed in partnership with Michael Feinstein, is scheduled to open before the end of the year. Designers modeled the intimate cabaret venue after New York City’s iconic Feinstein’s/54 Below.
Vivante French Eatery: Creative & Fresh
My party ate dinner at the Hotel Carmichael’s signature restaurant, Vivante French Eatery. For safety (and to enjoy the late summer weather), we dined outdoors.
Vivante bills itself as “a warm and welcoming culinary experience inspired by the French countryside.” It is indeed different from urban French bistro fare. The menu was approachable while still including indulgences like Wagyu beef medallions and truffle frites. I had the pasta du jour, a savory vegetable medley nestled in al dente fettuccine.
Vivante French Eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. While not ideal for a late nightcap after a show as it closes at 10 p.m. most nights, there’s always Feinstein’s and the Adagio Lounge upstairs. Guests will not want for nibbles or drinks at any time of day.
As I left the Hotel Carmichael in the rearview mirror, I called my fiancé and suggested we return together. An elegant retreat for business travelers, the Hotel Carmichael is especially tempting for couples. From its sparkling chandeliers and a woodburning fireplace to the French food and cabaret, this property is a gem in Indiana.
In these uncertain times, staycations and regional travel are all the rage. When it’s safe for you, I recommend a long, relaxing weekend in one of Indiana’s newest establishments: Hotel Carmichael.
Thank you to the Hotel Carmichael for hosting me during my stay. My opinions, as always, are my own.
– Leandra Beabout is an Indiana-based travel journalist and content writer who contributes to publications such as The Travel 100, Fodor’s Travel, and The Everygirl.