There's this family-owned hotel up in Anchorage that Nate and I love. We took one of our first vacations up there in the dead of winter (you read that right: Alaska. Winter. It was very cold) and were amazed at the hospitality we received. The hotel has a crackling fireplace in a spacious sitting area by the lobby, there are little refrigerators and microwaves in each room, laundry facilities on site, and an office with free computer access, free internet access and free printing (none of this “dollar for five minutes and 25 cents per page” stuff we encounter elsewhere). One day we even stumbled in from the cold bearing about a dozen fish we'd reeled in from a hole in the ice. Instead of looking at us like we were looney tunes for tromping out onto a frozen lake, the manager kindly offered to stick our fish in the freezer! Best of all, the hotel had the best Belgian waffle maker on the planet.
There's one problem, though: the family that owns the place only has that one hotel. And it's in Alaska. I love Alaska and all, but sometimes I want to go somewhere else on vacation. Nate's pretty adventurous and likes checking out new places with me, but we both find ourselves comparing hotels to that early vacation experience. “This place is nickel-and-diming us,” he'll say. “I bet they wouldn't put our fish in the freezer.”
So the other day when I told Nate that Marriott asked me to check out their family-friendly Residence Inn properties, he immediately reminded me of all the amenities at the place in Alaska. “‘Family-friendly,' huh? I bet they don't have waffles,” he teased. Nevertheless, I went to check out the Residence Inn Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego.
The minute I walked in the door I was impressed with the spacious seating areas all throughout the hotel. No need to run back and forth to the room if I were to bring the family and, for instance, need a place to sit and feed the baby after a visit to the pool or workout area. Better yet, the hotel had its own restaurant, outdoor BBQ and complimentary buffet breakfast. If guests happen to get sauce on themselves while taking advantage of the grill, no worries! A laundry room provides everything you might need, including a dispenser with soap and softener. A big touchscreen monitor in the lobby is there to help guide guests to nearby attractions if they develop some sort of weird wanderlust (hard to imagine, with all this stuff packed into one building) and want to actually leave the hotel.
As if all that isn't enough, the hotel offers free local grocery pickup services. That's right; They will go pick up your groceries (if you can't find something you want in the hotel's own 24-hour market) and bring them to you to help your family take full advantage of the in-room kitchen. This isn't a mini-fridge or kitchenette, this is a full-on kitchen with a stove and everything. For guests looking to get work done, there's a nice little office area in the room with free Wi-Fi or a large business center in the hotel with free computer access, internet, printing and faxes. No nickel-and-diming here. There are also meeting rooms available for business travelers.
I learned that Marriott hotels are family-owned, too, with a sweet old man named Bill Marriott steering the ship. He's a hands-on guy who works in the executive offices, has lunch in the cafeteria with all the other employees, and actually writes his own posts on the Marriott Blog that he runs. I love that kind of authenticity. And the absolute cherry on top?
The Residence Inn has waffles.
Marriott provided me with a complimentary one-night stay at their extended stay Residence Inn hotel to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own.