Best Hotel

Hotel Monaco

Some of the most upscale hotels make for a stay that feels more stuffy than pleasant. But Hotel Monaco is that unique beast that balances swank with fun. Celebrity sightings have included Britney, Fergie, and, in the bar, Sean Penn in an intense conversation with Eddie Vedder. But we digress. It's Monaco's dedication to creative detail, not potential A-list encounters, that turns so many first-timers into return guests. Family- and pet-friendly, the hotel provides kids with toys and accepts animals without size or weight restrictions. The standard rooms are as grand as the suites, featuring striped walls, animal-print bathrobes, and, upon request, a goldfish to keep you company. And in the lobby, guests can enjoy complimentary morning coffee and evening wine daily, as well as partake in fortune-teller readings and Guitar Hero III weekly. Full of charm and surprise, Hotel Monaco provides a playful escape that makes its downtown peers look mundane in comparison. ERIKA HOBART 1101 Fourth Ave., 621-1770,

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