For an Ohio business traveler and longtime Hunter fan, she sang “Southern Cross,” by Crosby, Stills and Nash. “This one’s for you, Ed,” she called out to a grinning man at the bar. For a small boy with ants in his pants, she belted out “I’m a Believer” from “Shrek” and the tongue-twisting “Proper Cup of Coffee.” He wiggled to the beat. For me, she performed the Dar Williams tune “The Babysitter’s Here.” Rather than psychoanalyze her song selection — in that set, she also covered music by Edie Brickell, the Cranberries and Jimmy Buffet — I sank deeper into my plumped-up chair and embraced my coziness.
Only half the hotel, about 12 miles from Philadelphia, lends itself to such deep relaxation: the den-like cocktail lounge; the spacious outdoor pool orbited by chaise longues; and the guestrooms flecked with the deep reds and golds of autumn. The other half is much more hyper.
Accessible by a long hallway on the second floor, CoCo Key Water Resort features a jumble of slides and tube rides, plus a giant bucket that drops 300 gallons of liquid on unsuspecting heads. In the adults-only Palm Grotto Spa, a husband and wife drifted into the outdoor portion of the hot tub, momentarily escaping childish squeals and screams.
When the attraction started to shut down in the early evening, I moved to the video room adjacent to the water park. I was too late to play any of the Chuck E. Cheese-style games, but made it in time to watch a gaggle of kids collect their windfall of plastic key chains, cheap sunglasses and other Made in China trinkets. I reminded myself to check under the bed for any lurking SpongeBob SquarePants-es.
The property, once a Marriott, became an independent boutique hotel in March. A catchy new name followed — like J.C. Penny becoming JCP — as did a seasonal buffet that you can’t not hear about: Signs promoting the feast greet guests at check-in and en route to the lounge and restaurant. (For summer, the eatfest was seafood and prime rib; for fall, expect harvest ingredients.)
After exploring the two personalities of Hotel ML (I clocked more time in the tranquil spaces than in the others), I retreated to my double-bed bubble. Accustomed to the anodyne rooms of hotel chains, I was struck — in a good way — by the decor: boudoir-red walls covered in black graffiti-style scrawl and lamps coated in a cracked-eggshell pattern. The room felt very edgy-snug, like a Lou Reed song performed by a mother of four.