I recently had two stays at the Westin Denver International Airport hotel, a former SPG hotel, and think this is a very nice property. This was my first stay at an SPG brand and I was very impressed by everything save one aspect of my stay (the not quite complementary Platinum breakfast, which I have addressed in a separate post).
This is easy - you can just walk from the Denver Airport Terminal (Jeppesen Terminal) to the hotel. It’s only a short distance from the south side doors to the Westin, and it’s sort of under cover. There is a glass dome of sorts over the area that provides some protection from the weather, but the area is most definitely open to the elements. Why the designers of the terminal and hotel couldn’t get their act together to provide a covered entry to the hotel is a complete mystery. Why should patrons have to walk outdoors for a mere 150’ or so between the terminal and the Westin? The whole area is open to the weather … and during winter (think cold, blowing snow) the upward sloping walk can be quite uncomfortable, even treacherous. Just be careful!
And even when you get "to" the Westin there is no obvious entrance. When you exit the Terminal doors, the escalators that take you downstairs to the Transit Center are directly in front of you. At the far end of the plaza, on the right and left, hidden by large pillars, are glass doors only marked by frosted lettering that says “Westin Hotel.” You can't really see them until you're almost on top of them. That is, if you can even see them. And when you enter these doors you seem to be in a utility area with a couple of elevators. Who would expect that at this point you would be on the 4th level and have to go up to the 6th level to get to the Westin’s reception area? Well, we made it ok but this is a very poorly marked, confusing entry to the hotel.
Sidebar – there is also a way you can drive to the hotel. When you approach the airport, keep following the signs to the West Terminal. Mostly this means staying in the left lanes as the road divides a few times. But beware, just before you get to the toll booths you have to get into the far right lane to bypass the toll booths and reach the hotel (note this is poorly marked by a small sign that just says "hotel." You can easily miss it. We had no trouble finding it, but we had been forewarned by the concierge when we checked out after our first stay – “West, West, Westin” as she said … but more correctly, it should have been “West, West, hotel.”
Now for the hotel
As I said, the reception area is on the 6th level. This is confusing at first, but you get used to it. As you can see in the picture it’s a high, open area, all white and glass. There is a medium sized bar just off to the right of the picture, a waiting area and of course the front desk.
We were greeted right away and despite some problems trying to check in with the Marriott app earlier in the day, I was already checked in. We were upgraded to an Executive Suite, and what an upgrade it was! (Sidebar – I had called the hotel a week earlier to ask if they had a lounge. I spoke with a very nice young man named Brendan (or perhaps Brennan) who read between the lines that I was Platinum level and offered an upgrade right there on the spot. And as I said, what an upgrade it was!)
We were given room 1401, a corner suite on the top floor. As we entered there was a short hallway with a powder room off to the side and a living room with a couch, chairs, bar/refrigerator and very large screen TV. Then, through a sliding door, we entered our gigantic bedroom – king bed, desk, another large screen TV and enormous windows overlooking the airport. My wife soon discovered the button on the wall that lowered blackout curtains over the inward-sloping wall’o’windows (you can see the windows in the picture).
There were plenty of electrical outlets and the high speed wireless internet worked perfectly.
The bed was one of the Westin’s heavily advertised “Heavenly Beds” and it pretty much lived up to its billing - maybe not quite what I would have defined as “heavenly” but pretty close. You can even buy one yourself. The bedding materials (sheets, pillows, duvet) were premium materials - no CY/FF/RI materials here. Among the nice, thoughtful touches next to the bed were small, individual reading lights that popped out of the headboard and a small “Sleep Well” lavender balm. We did sleep well.
The bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom – with a separate tub and glass-enclosed shower, double-wide vanity and more space than one could possibly use. The soaps & toiletries were nicely laid out but the best thing was that the towels were heavenly – no cheap towels here, these were deep pile, soft and, as we quickly found out, dried you to perfection.
Our second stay
During our second stay the following week, I also tried to check in with the Marriott app but met with the same constant “Try Again” message every time I tried. But once again, when I got to the front desk, I was already checked in. This time a very friendly and talkative representative told me I was upgraded to an Executive Suite and, based on our earlier experience, I was pumped. But it wasn’t quite what we had on the first stay. This was room 724, on the west side of the hotel. It was probably a larger than normal room but not quite a suite as we had during our earlier stay in room 1401. (As I later figured out this was actually a handicap-accessible room, but don’t get me wrong, it was a very nice room, just not an “Executive Suite.”)
Sidebar: Rocky Mountain National Park
We had arrived later than intended, having spent the day driving back from Steamboat Springs to Denver via Rocky Mountain National Park. It was an awesome day and I can’t say enough great things about RMNP. We entered from the west side (Grand Lake) and the drive along Trail Ridge Road is breathtaking. From the west entrance you climb 3,000’ over multiple switchbacks to the Alpine Visitor Center. At 11,796' - well above the treeline - this is the highest visitor center in the National Park Service.
This stretch of Trail Ridge Road overlooks the Never Summer Mountains to the west and the aspens were just starting to turn color. There were bright patches of yellow and orange against an almost complete backdrop of dark green trees and the mountains (assorted conifers, lodgepole pine, spruce & fir dominating the vistas).
A patch of aspens in full color. Looking west from one of the switchbacks on the western side of the park.
As you leave the Alpine Visitor Center, driving east, you go over about a mile of the most white-knuckle part of the trip – there are no guard rails and it’s a long way down! I kept my eyes glued on the double-yellow line in the center of the roadway. A few miles further, we stopped at one of my favorite places, the Tundra Trail, and I hiked to the top of the trail, making it to 12,319’ elevation. The view is spectacular! I photographed the Roger Toll plaque up in the rocks at the top of the trail just to prove I was there.
Top of the Tundra Trail
View west from the top of the Tundra Trail. That zigzag line is Trail Ridge Road. Don't be fooled into thinking it just criss-crosses a flat meadow - those are precipitous dropoffs on the downhill sides of the road and there are no guard rails. The lens perspective from this distance is what makes it look flat.
Room service, anyone?
As I hinted earlier, we arrived at the Westin tired from the day and by the time we got into our room, returned the rental car and cleaned up, we were beat. Uncharacteristically, my wife suggested that we order room service instead of going down to the restaurant on the 5th level. At first I balked (it’s an extra $3.00 delivery charge plus 24% gratuity) but then got to thinking that we weren’t going to order much and I’d probably leave a 20% tip anyway, so it didn’t look like it would be too expensive … and I didn’t feel like going to the restaurant anyway). Stephanie, our room service representative, was very pleasant and helpful.
My wife ordered a BLT and I ordered to two kids’ items – salmon over soba noodles with ginger-lemon sauce and a fresh fruit salad. Too bad I didn't take any pictures of the meal - this stuff was made to perfection. Why it was on the kids’ menu is beyond me (how many kids would want salmon with ginger-lemon sauce?) In any event, it was a scrumptious meal of just the right proportions. The fruit was perfect with fresh pineapple, blueberries, a few chunks of luscious cantaloupe, some sweet red grapes and topped with a hefty sprinkling of perfect raspberries. We had also brought a bottle of Tavel rosé (from the northern Rhône valley, northwest of Avignon) with us and room service even provided the corkscrew we needed. It was a nice, quiet, relaxing end to our day’s adventure.
The Westin's restaurant is on Level 5. To get there from your room you have to take an elevator to Level 6 (reception level), then either go around the corner to change elevators to get to Level 5 or walk through the reception area to reach an escalator that goes down to Level 5. I'd say the restaurant is on the east side of the hotel.
The restaurant itself is a light, airy place and the food and service are quite good. On our first visit (a Friday morning) it was pretty busy; on our second visit (a Tuesday morning) it was pretty quiet. My only beef with the restaurant (actually, the Westin) is that the "complementary" Platinum breakfast wasn't actually complementary.
One more thing … the Transit Center Bag Drop
One of the nice features at this Westin is that if you are flying out on a domestic American, Delta, Southwest or United flight you can check your bags at the Transit Center on Level 1, right below the Westin. Yeah, you have to change elevators at least once to get there, but you don’t have to lug your bags all the way back to the terminal!
There are 24-hour kiosks where you can check in, get your boarding pass and if necessary pay for your bags – just like checking it at a kiosk at the ticket counter. The Bag Drop Center itself is open 6:00 am – 6:00 pm and you have to check your bags at least 90 minutes before your flight. And if you haven’t pre-paid your bag fees, you can do it right in the Center when you check your bags. There are no extra charges - only what your airline might charge. This worked out great for us and our bags were on our flight with us.