One of Boston's most distinctive hotels, the 84-suite Marriott Custom House
(3 McKinley Sq., 617-310-6300) occupies the distinctive 25-story building that has for nearly a century stood as a beacon over downtown. The original foundation of the former customs house dates to 1847, and the handsome tower went up in 1915. Marriott converted it into a Vacation Club condo hotel in the mid-90s, and today its spacious suites have kitchenettes, microwaves, wet bars, broadband Internet, cable TV with DVD players, and plenty of other perks. There's a fitness center on-site. Located at 3 McKinley Square, it's a short walk from Quincy Market, the Old State House, Washington Crossing shops, the Boston Common, and the North End. Given that many downtown Boston hotels are modern, corporate-oriented, and lacking character, the Custom House is a wonderfully intimate and historic alternative - good if you want to be close to sightseeing, and don't mind being a 10-minute cab ride from most of the South End, Fenway, and most of the city's gay nightlife.