In an age of modern accommodation, hotels that cater to tradition are a rare breed. Even those which have been standing for a hundred years or more are constantly moving to cater to the trends of modern travel and the needs of the busy traveller. Though flat screen TVs in every room and plenty of the modern comforts we have come to expect are inclusive, there is a lot more going on when you stay at a hotel like The Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee: a hotel made famous for the ducks that live in and above its walls..
The Peabody Hotel opened in its current location – a 13 floor Italian Renaissance style building on Union Avenue in the heart of Memphis – in 1925, and from the minute you walk into the busy lobby (a tourist attraction of its own), aside from the relief of the air conditioning from the harsh heat outside, there is the feeling that you are stepping into a time machine. Every nook and cranny of the building preserved from a another generation of American accommodation. And then, somehow a part of all of this, are a group of ducks, who have found a home here at the hotel.
Though the hotel officially puts back this tradition to 1933, some have suggested its origins go back even further than this, when a General Manager let some ducks play in the fountain, which was surprisingly well received by guests. Ever since then, five Mallard ducks have lived on the roof in their very own “Duck Palace” (the Palace being a more recent addition), escorted down to the hotel by the world’s only “Duckmaster” through what has become the hotel’s most famous and endearing tradition – the Peabody Duck March. There’s pomp and circumstance, there’s a speech, there’s music and there are the ducks… waddling down a red carpet to the fountain or an elevator. Yes, tradition can be found in the most unique places, and with an impressive crowd at both the arrival and departure marches, you may as well be at Disneyland given the excitement around this fascinating and original ritual.
Their daily “duck marches” happen at 11am – when they’re brought down from the roof to spend the day in the lobby fountain – and then again at 5pm when they’re taking back upstairs via the lift and a red carpet.
Other than the ducks, the Peabody has all the trimmings of a traditional hotel, with a great slice of Southern hospitality (read: fantastic service) alongside the sorts of hotel services that you love, but you have no longer come to expect. It’s the little things here, even when staying in the smaller rooms, such as our Standard Queen (which was still larger than most New York apartments) – such as chocolates on the pillow every time they perform room service, comfortable seats in the room and a close attention to detail.
With their “Queen Peabody Dream Bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and dual-chamber down pillows”, it’s also fair to say that the bed was extremely comfortable. Both the linens and bathroom products were all of high quality – branded to their own Hotel’s name, though manufactured by Gilchrist & Soames. Everything had class and a place – and with rooms starting from only US$219 a night (going all the way to US$1665 for the Presidential Suite), this sits comfortably on the mid-range spectrum, making it accessible luxury for most travellers. Considering you would compare the accommodation to somewhere like the famed Waldorf Astoria in New York, it’s certainly worth the price tag. You’ll just have to do your best not to take the incredibly comfortable robes home with you.
The bath, though it may not look it in the photo, was also well above average – and keeping in the tradition of the hotel, you could even buy some rubber ducks to accompany you for about $10. Indeed, it’s the ducks that give this classic hotel its identity, and they push this just about everywhere they can in the hotel and in your room. And we mean everywhere…
Looking at their toiletries you’ll notice that their ducks feature permanently as part of their logo – and guests are even treated to a soap cast into the shape of a duck! Both kids and parents might fight over that one… and note the mouthwash and shoe mitt to file under the aforementioned “things you appreciate but have no longer come to expect from hotels”. It’s these touches that really make your stay feel like a luxurious getaway.
But as mentioned earlier, just because they sit on tradition doesn’t mean they haven’t made sure you will have everything you need for a comfortable, modern stay. All rooms have great air conditioning, with the hotel serving as a haven from the unrelenting heat outside. Staying at the hotel in the dead of Summer, believe me – it can be a furnace out there! Your room also has a 42″ flat screen TV with plenty of channels to choose from – as is the American way – and there’s motion sensor lighting on the floor, which is handy for when you need to use the bathroom at night.
The location is also unbeatable. Right in the heart of the city, you’re a short walk from the main entertainment strip Beale Street, and iconic BBQ joints like Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous (famous for its dry rub ribs), which is honestly worth the trip to Memphis alone. Anything you might need further away you can reach by Uber or Taxi, which in this city is pretty affordable and super fast. Be sure, too, to fit in a visit to Stax, Sun Records museum and the Civil Rights Museum.
And true to their love of animals, this is a hotel where your friendly pooch can stay with you, too, subject to prior notice and a $75 fee. Just make sure they’re not in the lobby during the Peabody Duck Marches! For more details about the hotel, head to their official website: http://peabodymemphis.com/
Photos by the author except for the headline image, which was provided by the hotel.