STAFF HOTEL REVIEWS
Wherever we go, we have to stay somewhere. And we're picky about our hotels. So in addition to all of our user reviews, we provide staff reviews to help you find the best (and avoid the worst) places to stay. We sneak in advice about tourist attractions and restaurants too. But we save advice on frequent flyer miles and hotel points, among other travel tips and news, for our Travel Tips blog
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Archive for the ‘Hilton’ Category
When I booked this trip – for a stag weekend trip from NY – I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Hilton Dublin looked nice, but standard, and perhaps a bit far from the main attractions. But the group really liked the attractive prices (we booked in for around 95 Euro per room) and as I’m a loyal Hilton Honors member anyway, I was pleased to see what they had to offer.
Turns out, it’s quite a nice spot to stay in Dublin. It balances out the whole price / location issue nicely. Simply put, it’s maybe a 10 minute drive to the Centre, but there is a tram called the Luas that stops literally outside the front door of the Hilton Dublin. For less than 2 Euro, it’s just two stops to the centre of town – St Stephen’s Park, Trinity College, Grafton St., etc. Nice.
Dublin’s also got a bike sharing program set up and, conveniently, there’s a slew of bikes right outside the front door of the Hilton along with some bike lanes. Nice again.
As for the hotel itself: it’s pretty standard Hilton. Moderately sized (read: Europe-sized) rooms, well decorated, and pleasant – nothing “special” and nothing lacking. Just watch out when you step out of the giant (yet oddly narrow) soaking tubs as it’s quite a drop to the floor! The staff were all quite friendly and the attached pub was a nice place to watch a soccer match.
Breakfast (included in some rates, or for Hilton Gold/Diamond members) was quite good. Lots of hot choices including eggs (scrambled and fried), Irish sausage and rashers, Irish potato bread, pastries, cereals, etc. Even worth the E10 if you’re paying outright.
Unfortunately no pool, but that seems quite common in central Dublin.
Overall, great value for money at the Hilton Dublin. Recommended.
Hilton Dublin on HotelMagician.com
Hilton Dublin on VacationMagician.com
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DoubleTree Surfcomber (by Hilton), Miami Beach, FL
February 2011, Dave Grossman HotelMagician.com
You are headed to South Beach. You want to be beachfront. You want to be in the heart of the action. You are looking for something moderately priced but not run down. The DoubleTree Surfcomber may be for you.
The DoubleTree Surfcomber is beachfront, located on Collins Avenue just north of 17th St. It’s also just a 5 minute walk from Lincoln Road – the main pedestrian (and admittedly tourist-centric) street lined with shopping and restaurants like SushiSamba, countless Italian restaurants and at least three Starbucks locations.
It’s a short walk to nearby hotels like the W South Beach (profiled here in 2010), the Delano, Shore Club, and the Setai (for restaurants and nightlife). Or, you can take a leisurely 20 minute walk down Ocean Drive or the beach to the upscale SoFi (South of Fifth) area. The location is a winner.
The staff, uniformly, was excellent – a term I don’t easily or often use to describe service! Everyone I encountered here was friendly, attentive, and helpful. Special requests were no problem. And I’m talking about everyone from the front desk to the guy handing out towels… friendly and helpful.
So we like the location and we love the staff. But what about the rooms? The amenities? This is where the proverbial one star gets knocked off. In exchange for everything mentioned – the location, service, and price – you will likely be in a very “normal” room. This is not a modern boutique hotel… The bed is very comfortable and it appears the beds and TVs are pretty new. But they are small, many with no view at all and almost none with a beach view. The bathrooms are easily the biggest shortcoming as they are small, dated, and lacking in upscale amenities (providing just standard soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion). The building is Art Deco in style and only 4 floors – in two nearly side by side buildings.
Outside the room, and past the nicely done lobby, we find the breakfast area serving up the almost ubiquitous hotel breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, french toast, waffles, cereal, fruits, bagels and toast. We did like the al fresco dining there each morning. It’s right next to the pool which shows its age. Just one row of fairly flimsy chairs on each side of a fairly small pool. Luckily you can just head straight to the beach where you can rent lounge chairs for $10 (as of this writing) and order food and drinks.
OK, so I wasn’t blown away by the room or the pool or the breakfast. But none of that really matters much when you are in the heart of SoBe – steps from the ocean and restaurants galore.
But given the price differential between it and, for example the W South Beach, along with the wonderful staff and the location, I’d happily return.
Click here to view our discount rates on the DoubleTree Surfcomber Miami Beach.
Click here for more hotel deals in Miami Beach, FL.
Hilton Garden Inn – Groton
By: Dave Grossman
We were looking to stay at Mohegan Sun (the casino/hotel complex) for a Saturday night concert. The $599 price tag for one night was a bit much, though.
The two nearest areas are south in Groton and Southeast in Mystic. If you want to be by the seaport, there’s no way to go wrong with the Hilton Mystic or the Marriott Mystic.
But we just needed something inexpensive, nearby, and clean/nice. The Hilton Garden Inn in Groton fit the bill perfectly. Friendly staff in this nearly new hotel combined with a rate of $123 made it the perfect rest stop.
The hotel has a nice small indoor swimming pool and a cold breakfast is included (or pay about $10 for a full hot made to order breakfast).
This hotel also has 3 “jacuzzi suites” which have a living area and a oversized tub with jacuzzi jets (not just a plain modified standard tub. While I’m not sure if it’s always the case, on this night both room types were the same price so, needless to say, I took the suite!
If you want to be near Mohegan Sun or even if the hotels in Mystic are a bit too expensive on your travel dates, the Hilton Garden Inn – Groton is worth a look.
Austin Hilton Airport
9515 New Airport Drive
Austin, TX 78719 US
Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
If you have a late flight in or an early flight of Austin, the Hilton inside Austin’s Bergstrom’s Airport is the best option going. While the rates struck me as about $30 higher than I expected, that was the last disappointment I had staying here.
The check-in was easy, Hilton Gold status was acknowleged without prompting and an upgrade was offered. The upgraded rooms only add a touch of space and a small couch, however, and all face the inner courtyard so I declined in favor of a room facing the outside so I could have the planes taking off and landing in the background (no, noise was not an issue at all).
The Austin Hilton Airport hotel is shaped in a circle which I liked, if only because I appreciate anything that makes a hotel something other than a standard-issue rectangle. The rooms themselves were quite similar to the rooms at the downtown Hilton Austin – which was perfectly fine for an airport hotel with the slight improvement of a rain showerhead (which I love). The TVs, however, are still old style CRT,
Breakfast has both menu and buffet options. The buffet, priced at $11 as of Dec 2008, ic complimentary if you have Gold or Diamond status with Hilton and was normal hotel buffet fare – eggs, bacon, sausage, french toast and pancakes along with cereal options.
It’s important to note that while the hotel is on airport grounds, it is still about a 3 minute shuttle ride to the terminal and the shuttles run every 15 minutes – so don’t cut it as close as you could in an airport hotel actually attached to the terminal – like the Sheraton Gateway in Toronto is. So not quite as convenient, but your best option in Austin’s airport.
Free wi-fi internet access is available in the lobby area; paid access in the rooms.
I would not hesitate to rebook this hotel if I had another morning flight out of Austin – however, I would suggest this only for a night before or after a flight; it is not convenient at all to downtown despite being relatively close in distance.
500 East 4th Street
Austin, TX 78701 US
Dave Grossman, HotelMagician.com
I chose the Hilton in Austin for its location and very reasonable rates for a full service hotel. Located just off Red River and 4th St, the Hilton is an ideal starting point for the Austin nightlife scene which centers around 6th St, just 2 blocks away to the north and extends to the Warehouse District, about a 7 block walk down 4th St.
When you enter the hotel, which is only a few years old, you’ll find a very large and open lobby that houses a coffee shop (serving Starbucks branded beverages) and offers free wi-fi access (there is a charge for use in the room). Plenty of space to lounge around and read or wait for friends.
Check-in was easy, thanks to an earlier call to warn them I’d be arriving after midnight, although I had to specifically remind the clerk that as a Hilton Gold member, I should be entitled to an upgrade. It’s always nicer when it’s automatic. Service was very friendly, however, as it normally seems to be in Austin.
Up to the room I go. Located on the 25th Floor, the Club Room I was upgraded to was perfectly fine but nothing “special”, though very modern and clean. While you hear that everything is “bigger in Texas”, that doesn’t really apply to the room sizes here. While I thought perhaps I was given a small-ish room, I confirmed with the desk staff that most are that size. Not that it was cramped, but it was little bigger than a room you’d find in New York or London – and I somehow assumed that the Hilton Austin would have larger rooms because it is a new hotel in a city with a far lower cost of building than the bigger cities like NYC. Still, a minor complaint – not a deal breaker at all.
The bathroom was standard Hilton issue and the club floor did not appear to offer any upgraded amenities. The room was equipped with a very nice Flat Panel TV which definitely enhanced the experience.
The Club Lounge (available to people staying on the Club Floors) was average. While it was spacious and had a free computer for internet use, the continental breakfast spread was small and uninspired.
One thing that really impresses in the Austin Hilton is the Spa and Fitness area on the 8th Floor. With a full range of spa treatments at reasonable prices and in a very modern looking facility, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this hotel to spa lovers. The included workout areas had all the standard equipment – treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights, etc. There is an outdoor pool in season.
Overall, the best things about the hotel were the location, price (rooms start at about $109), and the staff, who were always very friendly. The hotel is also 100% smoke-free (a big plus for me). Parking is either self-park or valet with self parking at $16/day and valet at $25/day as of Dec. 2008.
Some tips on things to do in Austin:
1) If you are looking for the “college bar scene”, 6th St is it. Just walk the two blocks and select a bar. For a more mature crowd, ask your concierge for recommendations in the Warehouse District – an up and coming area day and night.
2) For outdoor recreation in warm weather, check out Zilker Park. Ask for directions and a map. It’s only about a 10 minute drive from the Hilton.
3) For BBQ, the Iron Works is highly respected and two blocks from the hotel. But for a more “Hill Country” experience, take a drive over to the Salt Lick BBQ (pictured at right) about 20 minutes from the hotel. Expect to wait as this place is something of an institution in the Austin area. But it’s worth the wait.
4) San Antonio is another great city only about an 90 minute drive from Austin. It could be done as a day trip, as I did, which gives you time for the Alamo and the Riverwalk – SA’s main attractions. You could also overnight in San Antonio. If you did, I’d suggest one of the hotels right on the Riverwalk such as the San Antonio Hyatt Riverwalk (in a more bustling part of the RW) or the newest hotel on Riverwalk, the Westin Riverwalk, which is in a bit more quiet section.
If you are a huge BBQ fan, it’s not hard to detour about 30 minutes out of the way to Lockhart, TX en route to San Antonio. Proclaimed the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, you can choose from 4 places in this tiny town, including Blacks – open since 1932. You won’t be disappointed.
Have a recommendation on what to do in Austin? Please post in the Comments below…….
1919 Connecticut Avenue NW,
Washington, District of Columbia (DC)
By: Dave Grossman, Hotel Magician
We checked into the Hilton Washington on a prepaid rate of $119 + tax – not bad for a weekend rate in April in the heart of D.C.
Unfortunately, $119 was about what the hotel was worth – which is to say that while the hotel was completely “acceptable”, it was not at a level of luxury I’d expected when booking and, thus, seemed more appropriately priced than a “deal”.
Check-in was not very smooth. While we’d booked a room with 2 Queen Beds, at checkin we were told that (as a Hilton Honors Gold member) I’d been upgraded to the 9th floor. However, that room was not ready (at 8:30 pm no less) and we could either wait “an hour or more” for the room or accept one on the eighth floor with two double beds. The clerk was anything but apologetic and after a 5 hour drive, we accepted the downgrade so we could get on with the trip.
Further, the Executive Lounge was closed early due to a water leak issue and, while we were told we could still go up and ask for beverages to be brought to us, there was nobody at the lounge desk and when I walked in, I was treated to a surly “we’re closed” while I was mid-explanation about how we were told we could still come up for beverages.
Not a great start.
The room itself was perfectly fine – nothing very modern but not very aged either. No flat screen TVs in these rooms but an adequate selection of cable stations were offered along with the usual selection of pay movies.
The next morning, the Executive Lounge was open and, I’m happy to say, the service was very good. When I asked for a newspaper, the lounge attendant promptly offered to go downstairs and get me one – which he did. That is the kind of service that should be given throughout a 4 Star hotel. Free wifi in the lounge is also a nice touch.
One thing the Hilton Washington has going for it, regardless of service, is its location near Dupont Circle. Convenient to the subway, restaurants, bars, lounges, and area attractions yet just off the beaten path enough to not feel trapped in tourist land, the hotel is very well situated.
I’d stay here again, but only on a sub $120 rate. I wouldn’t pay a premium to stay here. The hotel does also offer an outdoor pool, fitness center, and a nice looking restaurant/bar option. We did not have an opportunity to sample the fare.
Other Hilton family Hotels in the Washington DC area include:
Homewood Washington DC Downtown
Doubletree Guest Suites, Washington DC
Embassy Suites, Washington D.C.
Capital Hilton- Washington DC
Hilton Washington DC – Embassy Row
Embassy Suites, Washington DC Convention Center
Hilton Garden Inn, Washington DC Downtown
Hampton Inn – Washington DC Convention Center
Embassy Suites at the Chevy Chase Pavillion – DC
Doubletree Hotel – Washington DC
Hampton Inn Washington DC
Hotel Roanoke (A Doubletree Hotel)
110 Shenandoah Avenue NE
Roanoke, VA, US 24016
By Dave Grossman, Hotel Magician
When I found myself heading to Roanoke, Virginia for a weekend, I knew there was but one option: the Hotel Roanoke.
The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, now operated by Hilton Hotel’s “Doubletree” brand, is the most storied hotel in the area.
First opened in 1882, when the city of Roanoke was called “Big Lick”, it has always been upscale. Even during the depression, the railroad that then owned it spent $225,000 on renovations. It was around that time that the hotel evolved from its origins into the Tudorean building we see today (minus the Conference Center that wasn’t added until the more recent 1989 renovations after the railroad gifted the hotel to Virginia Tech).
Staying at this hotel today is a wonderful experience that combines the charm of the old hotel with the recent renovations that bring it into the 21st century.
The staff was friendly at all times, from check-in to special requests. The room we received was one of the recently renovated ones. It was small but contained a flat panel TV, a remarkably comfortable bed, and upscale furnishings with a classic touch. Very nicely done.
For Hilton Honors Gold and Diamond members as well as those choosing a room on the Executive Level, there is a nice lounge on the 1st Floor offering coffee, pastries, and chicken and biscuits for breakfast in addition to a nightly happy hour with snacks, beer and wine from 6:30 until 8:30pm. The staff in the lounge was very friendly and the atmosphere is nice as well, albeit a bit small. They also have a computer for personal use in the lounge.
Out front is a nice porch, complete with about a dozen rocking chairs. Whether waiting for the valet to bring your car or just relaxing in the sun, it’s a real nice touch.
Restaurants in the Hotel Roanoke include the fabled Regency Room with very upscale fare and the Pine Room Pub with moderate fare, a lively bar at night (sometimes with a live musical performance) and a pool table. In the basement, they’ve recently opened a dance club for the younger set. I’m told it can get busy in there although it was fairly empty on our visit.
There is a pool and hot tub, but they are outside and are therefore seasonal.
Hot Tip from the Hotel Magician: As of September 2007, only half of the guest rooms have been renovated. It’s advisable to call the hotel the morning of the day of your arrival and ask if they can block you into a renovated room. They are not sold as such.
One of the best things about the Hotel Roanoke is its location. From the lobby, it’s about 30 feet to a connector overpass right into downtown Roanoke, dropping you across the street from Market Square. If you want to check out the local bars, this would be the spot and no car is required.
While in the area, don’t miss out on a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and, if you have the time, a hike up one of the many trails in the mountains. We went all the way to Bedford to hike the Sharp Top trail in the Peaks of Otter (1.5 miles nearly straight up the mountain!) but there are a wide range of trails to choose from in the area.
For food in the Roanoke region, we can recommend the Home Place in Catawba (ask for directions) which serves real country food (fried chicken, roast beef, and country ham with a bevy of sides for under $15 – all you can eat). They don’t serve any alcohol in the interest of preserving Christian values and it doesn’t hurt business one bit. Of course, being the only restaurant in town doesn’t hurt either!
Closer to the Hotel Roanoke is the BBQ joint “Henry Memphis” which has outstanding pulled pork, ribs, and mac and cheese. See the site for directions.
Hot Tip from the Hotel Magician: The Hotel Roanoke is ideal for group hotel reservations and conferences in Roanoke.
North America > Canada > Quebec
1100 Rene Levesque East
Quebec, Canada G1R 4P3
By Dave Grossman, Hotel Magician
The AAA 4 Diamond Hilton Quebec provided very nice accommodations for a recent weekend in Quebec. Located just outside of the old city, and just a 2 minute walk from the Quebec Observatory, the location was quite nice.
If you want to be IN the old city, you might prefer the historic (and more expensive) Chateau Frontenac, owned by the Fairmont chain. But from the Hilton you have an excellent walk into and through the old city, down to the Chateau and to the lower city. Bring good walking shoes and be prepared for hills, though, as Quebec is one steep hill after another.
The hotel rooms at this Hilton Quebec are very standard. Standard furnishings and a standard bathroom (marble sinks but standard faucets, old style bath/shower combo, and amenities). Nothing wrong, nothing to really wow either. Standard. It appears to have been last renovated sometime in the 90′s.
The service was quite good. Everyone was eager to help us plan our activities and all were very polite. Do not worry if you speak only English as everyone there was perfectly fluent in English and happy to speak it.
There is a pool on the 3rd floor which is heated and also has a portion of the pool inside so that in slightly cold weather you can make your entrance to the heated water without having to venture outside in a bathing suit
As Hilton Gold members, we were given an upgrade to the Executive floor. The rooms didn’t seem that special although a bathrobe was provided. The real benefit was access to the Executive Lounge on the lobby floor which provides a continental breakfast each morning, Hors D’oeuvres from 5-7pm and complimentary drinks from 5-10pm each evening. It has a very inviting atmosphere in which to plan a day or unwind. Non-Gold/Diamond members can gain access by booking an Executive Room type.
Hot Tip from the Hotel Magician:
If you really want to venture off the beaten path, take a ferry from Quebec City across the river to Levis. Walk about a mile straight uphill from the ferry terminal (walk right from the terminal, look for stairs on the left, take to top and then keep walking uphill until you get to Avenue Begin). Walk left on Begin until you see a swarm of people that seem to have appeared from nowhere (there’s no much else going on in this part of town) and then order the best ice cream with homemade chocolate sauce 9which hardens on the ice cream) you’ve ever had. It’s called La Glacerie a l’Europeene and is adjacent to The Chocolate Favoris chocolate factory. The standard order seems to be a large vanilla soft-serve with milk or dark chocolate sauce. It’ll take you about two hours to take the round trip ferry and make it to the place but if you have the time, it’s an adventure and a treat! Plus, you walk off the calories trying to get up the hills to the ice cream!!