Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Midtown, Philadelphia
Hotel - 1305 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 - 2 Stars - 168 Rooms
1 reviews from the community
Review of "Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Midtown, Philadelphia"
As seen on TV
Holiday Inn Express Hotels in the UK, or at least the ones I've stayed at, are all pretty similar: low rise buildings, well located but often on the edge of towns, modern designs with good showers and nice free breakfasts. It was based on this experience that I booked to stay at the HI Express in Philadelphia during a recent trip. In the event, this hotel was not an exact replica of the UK versions, but as you can tell from the star rating, I still had a pretty good stay.I booked through Expedia, as it was offering a better rate than the hotel directly, and initially paid, up front, for a 3 night stay. At £70 per night including breakfast (and a room that could have slept 4 people) it was, I thought, a pretty good deal. It was one of the cheapest options I found for my dates in Philadelphia, but I could tell the location would be ok, and the free breakfast - quite rare in USA hotels - sealed the deal. I was all set for a fabulous mini-break, but the weather had other ideas and my flight was cancelled due to an insane amount of snow over the pond. Rebooked for the following day I wanted to let them know I would be arriving later than planned, so rang Expedia on their UK number, saving me the trouble of a transatlantic phone call. They spoke to the hotel for me and, despite having booked a non-refundable rate, I was immediately offered a full refund for my first night. I hadn't been expecting this, so it was a lovely bonus and once again had me looking forward to my trip.
Arriving in the early afternoon I decided to get the train from Philadelphia airport into the city centre, and walk to the hotel from there. It is quite an easy walk (when there's not 10 inches of snow on the ground, and you have a wheelie suitcase) and takes about 10 minutes. Because Philly works on a blocks system, you just walk 5 blocks down 11th street, then turn right and go 3 along Walnut Street to find the hotel. Simple.The hotel is a tower block located on a busy street and I could see as I approached that the location was even better than I'd imagined. A large deli / convenience store was directly across the street. Open from 7am until late it offered fresh food, a massive hot and cold buffet, a large range of drinks and snacks and so on. A few doors down there was an IHOP while on the other side I spotted the Naked Chocolate Café. Other restaurants and cafes littered the side streets, all within a minute or two's walk, perfect when you're in the middle of a winter storm, but still need to eat. The following day when I had my tourist hat on (my warm, woolly, winter tourist hat) I discovered that all the attractions I wanted to stop by were also walkable, from Independence Hall to the shops. Even the Art Museum wasn't out of the question, though this is a bit of a trek out of the centre (and would be from the majority of hotels). Also of note is the fact that many hospitals were right on the doorstep - and a number of patients from out of town and their families were staying in the hotel while I was there. I mention this as it surprised me a little to see so many bruised and bandaged people sharing my elevator rides. I wondered whether Philly was some super dodgy, dangerous place until I eavesdropped on a few conversations and figured it out.
I checked in easily and was given two electronic keys automatically which was slightly odd since I was travelling alone, but if that's their standard, is obviously handy for those staying with a partner or family. My room was on the 16th floor (the first time I've been about 1st floor in a HI Express) and I took one of the rickety lifts to get up there. My impressions at this point were that the hotel was in quite an old building that needed a bit of refurbishment. The lifts, for example, were wooden boxes with no mirrors, and one of the 3 also had two of its sides temporarily covered up with cloth for some reason. The reception desk looked like something from the 70s, and the décor in the lobby area matched.My room, however, was a different story. I unlocked the door (the key working first time) and literally stepped into a wonderful oasis, exactly what I needed following a weekend of aborted journeys and long-haul flights. As requested, I had a room with two double beds, on a non-smoking floor. The beds were made up with nice quilts (none of those dubious American-motel bedspreads that are always shiny and sometimes sticky) and looked comfy and inviting. I also had a chaise-longue with a foot stool which I thought was a nice touch - often in hotels your choices for sitting are limited to a solid desk chair or on your bed. I did have a desk chair too, though, and it was a rather grand thing that swivelled, much more impressive than the one in my office at work. The desk was over-sized giving lots of room for my papers, and there was also surface space on the unit the TV sat upon.
The bathroom set up was slightly odd, since I had a bathroom with bath and shower over, and a WC, but the sink was located outside at a sort of vanity station, where I also found a large mirror, and the hairdryer. This seemed to be designed so one person could be tarting themselves up while another was showering, but it meant that the bathroom was quite small. Having the hairdresser outside, in a section of the main room would also mean that you would disturb your companions more than if it were in the bathroom which had a door, but travelling alone this wasn't an issue for me.Toiletries provided included shampoo and conditioner, plus bar soap, and a shower cap. The bathroom was stocked with two large bath towels and two smaller ones, though with no bath mat I repurposed one of the latter to stand on. The room also came equipped with a number of things I didn't use - like an iron and ironing board, and a wardrobe (staying only 2 nights, I didn't bother unpacking properly).
The central location did not affect the peacefulness of the hotel. Most of the rooms don't face the street, so even though I had a lovely large floor-to-ceiling window, with a view of a snowy car park below, I heard no outside noise. You could occasionally hear the muffled sounds of other people in the corridor, but it wasn't disturbing, and the bathroom was also quite quiet - by this I mean if you went to the loo before bed or in the middle of the night you weren't then kept awake for hours listening to the post-flush gurgles you sometimes get.I slept extremely well both nights and found the beds super comfy and the bedding super soft. Although there were enough pillows on each bed, I took advantage of having spares and stacked them all up behind me to watch TV on my first night. The television was large and had an insane number of channels, plus pay per view films and adult movies. A TV guide would have been helpful (and the TV guide channel was either unavailable, or not tuned in) but I quickly discovered the numbers I was most likely to want (for TBS, ABC and NBC) and punched those into the remote rather than flicking through.
Outside of the rooms, the hotel offers a breakfast restaurant on the ground floor where the free breakfast buffet is served. Previous reviews I'd read, and even the hotel's own information, rather under-sell this, so I was overwhelmed by the choices actually on offer when I went down. Available from 6.30am until 11.30am, the buffet is set up in a large room with plenty of tables and chairs - it was never even a quarter full while I was there, and I lingered both mornings.The buffet always includes warm cinnamon buns ("the HI Express signature recipe") and a choice of warm dishes, something like scrambled eggs and sausage gravy, which alternates depending on the day. In addition to this, they provide a massive choice of breads (biscuits - the American version, more like scones - and bagels and sliced bread to toast and English muffins) which jostle in besides cakes (muffins and donuts - both cake and yeast), yogurts, hot and cold cereals and porridge, hard boiled eggs and fruit. Drinks, like everything else, are help yourself - coffee, tea, hot chocolate, plus a number of different juices. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the food, which was always being replenished, but also by the selections: there were 4 or 5 different kinds of donuts, for example, and you could top your toast or bagel with peanut butter or cream cheese as well as the usual butter, margarine and jams. If you can't stay and eat, you are encouraged to grab something 'to go' - in fact, the breakfast staff were also encouraging those of us who were eating in to take something as well. This was perhaps aimed more at those hospital patients who might need to keep their strength up, but I stuck a banana in my bag to eat on the plane, deciding back to back flights (and the horror of being in Miami but not able to leave the airport) was probably on a par with the trauma of surgery...
I ate until I was stuffed, and then ate some more, and really struggle to understand the criticisms others have made. Yes, it didn't include the likes of pancakes or waffles, but when you get those on any buffet (including those you are paying extra for) they are often below par because they are something you really need to cook fresh each time. The HI Express have kept it simple, but I thought they delivered an outstanding choice and had cleverly chosen options that could sit out for a while without deteriorating on slow days. The only thing I didn't really like was that they have chosen to go with disposable tableware, so you are eating off polystyrene plates, drinking from polystyrene cups, trying to spread still-quite-chilled butter with a plastic knife and so on. This eliminates their washing up costs (as people just throw things in the bin when leaving) but isn't very green, and, as I discovered, polystyrene plates start to go a bit funny and, well, melt when you place very hot items on them...No room service is available, but the hotel kindly provides menus for local eateries in the comprehensive in-room information pack. These are all within walking distance of the hotel, and some even deliver. Alternatively, there is the aforementioned deli across the street, and drink and snack vending machines on a number of floors, along with ice machines (ice buckets are provided in each room). I decided to picnic in my room one evening and really appreciated being able to cool my drinks and food in this until I was ready to eat.
The hotel doesn't have a massive range of facilities, but does have an outdoor pool on its roof, though this was understandably closed during my visit (it's normally open May to September, I think, weather permitting). What was more important to me, though, was the fact they offered free gym passes. Not having a fitness centre on site, they hand out day passes to the Bally Total Fitness about 2.5 blocks away along Walnut Street. Unable to sleep thanks to jet lag (and excitement!) I collected one of these from reception at 5.30am on my first morning, and dutifully set off in the snow to find the place. The gym is a members' only place, part of a large national chain, and spans 3 floors. It was much better than any hotel gym I've ever been in, and to have free (rather than just discounted) access was a welcome bonus. I went both mornings and felt I was justified enjoying the breakfast I subsequently did. Two things to mention about the gym (which the hotel don't tell you): they don't provide towels, so either take one from your hotel room, or make do, and they don't provide padlocks for the lockers so if you are taking stuff with you, you have to take it onto the gym floor with you unless you travel with your own one stashed in your bag.During my short stay in the hotel I came across a number of members of staff, all of whom were exceptionally helpful and friendly. On my first morning, the maid knocked at 9am to see if I wanted my room cleaning, but happily came back later as I was still getting ready for my day (having, I hasten to add, already been to the gym, washed and straightened by hair, and had breakfast). The women in the breakfast room was exceedingly chatty, but good at taking the hint about who was or wasn't in the mood for a natter, and one even came out with a map for me on my first morning since she'd noticed I was new. The hotel itself had a bit of info in the room pack, but didn't have racks of leaflets like some do, so this was especially welcome. (If you do like leaflets - and I really do - you can also pop into the Hampton Inn on the opposite side of the road, as they have a ton in their lobby which I helped myself to).
The hotel offers internet in-room which you pay for, but also has one free terminal on the ground floor which I made use of a couple of times, letting people know I had, finally, arrived. I wasn't travelling with my laptop so cannot comment on the wifi, but this computer anyway was very fast and I had no trouble sending a few emails from it. Car parking on site is also available, but managed by a different company and a charge is attached. Although check out is by noon, the car parking runs until 3pm which is a nice touch.While it wasn't exactly the Holiday Inn Express experience I was expecting, I was extremely pleased with my choice of hotel, and it really made my (whirlwind) trip. The hotel was extremely well placed, very well priced, and comfortable, and the facilities (gym, pool, internet) were significantly better than other hotels I looked at in the same price bracket.
1305-11 Walnut Street
Product Information : Holiday Inn Express Philadelphia Midtown, Philadelphia
Manufacturer's product descriptionHotel - 1305 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107 - 2 Stars - 168 Rooms
Rating: 2 Stars
Address: 1305 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Listed on Ciao since: 10/02/2006