In real estate, one thing rules: Location, location, location. In hotels, sometimes a second thing rules: Room rate. On a recent trip to Philadelphia, we found these rules met at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown.
While we typically look at location first, let’s talk a bit about room rates. For those familiar with Starwood properties, Sheratons are generally mid-priced between the lower tier aLoft and Four Points, and the more luxurious Westin and W brands. You may also be aware of SPG’s Hot Escapes, where you can often find substantial savings on a variety of properties, which is how we came to score two nights at this Sheraton for a rate lower than the nearby Four Points by Sheraton City Center. We don’t consider ourselves “budget travelers,” but this rate was too good to pass up.
As mentioned, we typically look at location first. On this trip, we were looking forward to seeing Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell on one side of downtown, and the Barnes Foundation and Philadelphia Museum of Art on the other. Right smack-dab in the middle of all of those attractions is the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown. The very nice Westin Philadelphia is just down the street, and nearby are the swanky Sheraton Society Hill and Le Meridien. Adding to the plethora of hotels, a variety of Marriott properties (which we also like) take up most of the block adjacent to City Hall, and are also about midway between Independence Hall and the Barnes. Any of these locations would be perfect for a sightseeing weekend in the City of Brotherly Love. Scoring the Sheraton at a rock bottom price was a double win.
After a late arrival (spring break air travel…’nuff said), we were eager to just check in and get something to eat. Arriving at the hotel, the lobby was busy but check-in was quick and easy. Our friendly desk agent greeted us promptly, upgraded us (status counts!), gave us the scoop on where to go for light night nibbles, and even wished me a happy birthday. (I still think the fact that was flagged is both cool and a little creepy.) So far, so good.
Our upgrade was to a room on the Club Level, which we appreciated; even though we missed the evening hors d’ouevres, there was an espresso machine in the lounge that would become my best friend. The room was unremarkable, in that it is a typical Sheraton room, but comfortable and very clean. The television and furnishings were in good condition, and tasteful (but sparse) artwork featured architectural motifs we would see again in the buildings around downtown. According to their web site, the hotel underwent a “multi-million dollar transformation” which likely accounts for the good condition.
The bed was comfy-cozy with big fluffy pillows, but appeared hastily made. I have noticed recently a trend towards more loosely made beds rather than tight corners and smooth bedspreads. I can’t say I’m a big fan of this “shabby chic” approach to bedding. The desk was large and clutter-free, with outlets at the lamp and on the desktop itself – enough to charge most of the gazillion gadgets we seem to travel with. (Ed. Note: Actually, we plugged in three devices plus a laptop on the desk, two more on each bedside table thanks to an outlet on the lamp plus nearby wall outlets.) A comfortable chair, ottoman and side table rounded out the room, but the best feature was outside: The view of a snow-dusted Logan Square was perfect.
Two things we found missing were an in-room safe and refrigerator. There was an ironing board and blow dryer, which worked well. The coffee maker was easy to use, but the short walk to use the espresso machine in the Club Lounge was well worth it. We also noticed that room service trays seemed to sit in the hallways for a long time.
The room was stocked with the standard amenities, but two things we always seem to need more of are towels and shampoo/conditioner. The desk was quick to send up extras when we asked, and the staff was super polite about everything. One amenity that we surely appreciated was free in-room Wi-Fi, which was easy to connect to and reasonably fast. We did have trouble attempting to stream movies on a tablet, but no problems streaming music on a phone, or transferring files on a laptop, so we’re not so sure where the issue was. (Note that free Wi-Fi was the result of staying on the Club Level and is not included in all room rates; a policy we believe hotels everywhere should re-examine.)
Downstairs, the hotel was busy, hosting a couple of fairly large convention/meeting groups. However, it was easy to find a table in the bar for drinks and eats, though service was a little slow. Despite the crowd, there seemed to be a wait staff of one. After that, we relaxed in the comfortable lobby sofas and took advantage of the free Wi-Fi there, as well. We did not visit the restaurant, opting to have breakfast daily in the Club Lounge. This was the one thing we thought could be done better. The options were limited to scrambled eggs, oatmeal, a few pastries and some fresh fruit. The espresso machine I had befriended was good but time consuming, taking a few minutes to pour out a latte or Cappuccino. It wasn’t long before a line formed and started backing people up. Having a pot of brewed coffee available would have helped.
The closest we came to a complaint was in the shower. Given the cold weather, we were extremely thankful to have plenty of hot water! But, once you switched from faucet to shower, the water stream seemed to dwindle. We are far from plumbing experts, but it seemed to us that there was a lot of water pressure, just not a lot of water coming from the shower head.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay. The staff was excellent, and that far outweighed the few areas that could use improvement. In fact, I wouldn’t even say there was a negative element, just a little room to improve an already good experience. The hotel is rated between 3 and 4 stars on most sites. Based on our experience, we give it a solid 3.5 out of 5 and would definitely consider staying here again when next in Philadelphia.
Feature Image of Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown © 2015 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.