Not my normal trip, but I just had an opportunity to sample a trio of greater Denver-area hotels.
Stayed at the (classic) Brown Palace hotel (part of the Autograph collection) for the first time. It's a very different experience from the Denver downtown Marriott, which, frankly, I probably prefer. The downtown Denver Marriott is much taller, and, for that reason, it offers some terrific views; the staff is great, and the concierge lounge is one of the better run lounges I've enjoyed.
At the Brown Palace, I was warmly greeted as a platinum member, and the guest staff made clear they're still new to the Marriott regime. My (somewhat upgraded) room in the Brown Palace was both comfortable and unique. It's an attractive art deco look, the bed and bedding are up to Marriott standards, and the furniture is both comfortable and plentiful, including the two-sided desk (and the iHome docking station is a plus, although it's becoming more common). The positives include a nicely appointed bath room with a very deep/wide tub, and terrific amenities (including comfy robes and splendid towel/bath sheets). In addition, the nicely mirrored and laid out closet/dressing area makes the room feel like a mini-suite, and the full-size Keurig coffee and tea machine is a nice touch. Alas, as an Autograph, the lack of a concierge lounge is frustrating, and the $16 breakfast credit - while better than nothing - only half-covered my not-terribly-extravagant, but quite pleasant and tasty breakfast (although I must say, I thought the breakfast room was beautiful and comfortable - a splendid window seat started my morning off nicely). Wall Street Journal AND USA Today at my door in the morning was nice, but feels like overkill. An in-room printer, however, is a very welcome touch. My biggest criticism, however, is the lack of any opaque window shading options. (?!??!?!?) So, in terms of quality of life, if you want to block folks from looking in (which is an issue since street level is not far below), you have to fully block the windows, which is a shame. Anyway, I can understand why this place - with its spa and flower shop and atrium - does a robust wedding business. Nice conference facilities and excellent catering made for a pleasant stay. Definitely worth a try....
Next, a brief stay at the Colorado Springs Marriott, a far more normal (and familiar) Marriott experience. Received a (mini) upgrade to a slightly larger than normal room, but, fortunately, enjoyed the top floor with a very nice view of the mountains. The weather was clear, and the visibility was endless (we're talking 20 miles, give or take....), as was the mountain range. Two weddings that evening kept the place hopping, which was a bit of a surprise. A surprising number of deer and magpies made the grounds interesting, even though the hotel is in what is basically an office park. The high point of the stay, however, was the desk staff’s unequivocal recommendation to visit the nearby Garden of the Gods, which I'd never heard of, which is one of the most remarkable collections of stunning natural rock formations I have seen anywhere. (The fact that it was free was icing on the cake. I went twice: driving the loop once, and then again to hike. Exquisite.) And, of course, if you have never toured the US Air Force Academy, and I had not visited for years, it is well worth the drive. I cannot recommend it enough. Well, I couldn't resist - I had to post some photos of both - wow! See here for photos: http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/photoAlbums/1343#3443
Finally, I’m much less sanguine about the Denver Renaissance, which touts that it's "the closest hotel to Denver Airport with a free airport shuttle." The room was nice enough (and I do like Renaissance robes), the concierge lounge was smallish, but comfortable (with a nice view), the concierge lounge staff was splendid, and the desserts were perfect. But - and these are not small buts - two things ensured I will never return. First, it is a joke to suggest that this an airport hotel, as the (free) shuttle trip basically takes half an hour, and, having looked more closely (now, alas too late), it appears that the hotel is more than 10 miles from the airport. The fact that, when I arrived, the shuttle did not arrive as scheduled meant that I waited nearly 40 minutes for a shuttle (meaning it was more than an hour from stepping onto the airport sidewalk to the hotel) got me off on the wrong foot. Alas, the final straw was that train tracks run alongside the hotel and so, well after 10 pm, guests were serenaded by a thunderous series of sustained train whistles. That may be great for train aficionados, but it is anathema if one needs to wake up really early to budget an HOUR just to get to the airport from what this silly traveler thought was an “airport hotel” – really frustrating!
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