Category: US hotels

Review: Giacomo hotel, Niagara Falls NY

We’d always wanted to visit Niagara Falls during the quieter season, when the area wasn’t clogged with day-trippers and summertime visitors.

DSCN0383And the chance to stay at The Giacomo – a great American landmark building – was intriguing to say the least.

We had heard a lot about this place, which is commonly described as the ‘premiere luxury boutique hotel’ on the US side of Niagara Falls.

Friends who stayed at the Giacomo a few years ago were full of praise, saying that the building had to be seen and experienced to be believed.

And they certainly weren’t exaggerating.

Now that’s ‘Wow Factor’

Giacomo Hotel dominates the Niagara Falls skyline, along with the nearby Seneca Niagara Casino.

The hotel is true elegance encased in a striking art deco skyscraper.

800px-Niagara_Falls_HighrisesFormerly known as the United Office Building, the structure is 20 storeys of terra cotta facade designed in the Mayan style and with stunning views across the falls.

Built in 1929 on the eve of the Great Depression, the building is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.

The United Office Building was abandoned in the 1980’s, but fortunately, it was later restored and became the Giacomo in 2010.

And now for our experience.Giacomo

Pre-arrival

Communication with The Giacomo in the run-up to our arrival was efficient and courteous.

After booking, I checked by email to see if we might be able to get rooms with a view of the falls. This was arranged promptly and cordially, along with information about taxi availability in central Niagara Falls.

I also contacted the Giacomo on Twitter for a final catch-up before setting off.

Arrival

We arrived mid-afternoon and were warmly greeted by the reception team. Addressed by name we were told that our rooms were ready.

the-giacomoCheck-in was fast, efficient and friendly and our bags were promptly taken to our rooms.

Without asking, we were given a map of Niagara Falls, including directions to the main attractions – and Giacomo staff also provided advice on local restaurants.

The friendliness and warmth of the staff continued throughout our stay and really made us feel at home.

Wifi was free of charge and was easy to use. However, the reception staff still explained its operation and were extremely helpful.

Rooms

First impression was one of luxurious decor, elegance and comfort on a par with the best of Europe.the-giacomo-2

Our room boasted pillow top mattress beds with sumptuous linens; work desk with wired or wireless internet; refrigerator; iron and ironing board – and views to die for.

The en-suite bathroom was large, ultra-modern, functional and contained fluffy robes.

Window drapes, chairs and general furnishings reinforced the sense of elegance that we found throughout the Giacomo.

And there was also adequate wardrobe space.

Welcomethe-giacomo-1

Giacomo chocolates and cookies at turn-down were an appreciated touch.

There was also special coffee and bottled water, both of which were particularly welcomed.

Power points

This is a small point, I know. But, hotels that don’t provide enough points to recharge phones, iPads, iPods etc are a pet hate of mine.

This certainly wasn’t the case at the Giacomo. There were sufficient points located exactly where you want them – by the bed and at the working area.

Bar and loungeDSCN0360

After dinner at a nearby restaurant, we retired to the Giacomo lounge for a glass of wine before bed.

The lounge is located on the first floor and contains plenty of seating, as well as an eye-catching granite bar.

Breakfast

Our room rate included a European style  breakfast – and the food was excellent – eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, juices, various types of bread, fruit and yogurt.

The breakfast room was as good as any I have found in the US.

Centrally located

DSCN0334It was tempting to spend the day in luxury at the Giacomo, but Niagara Falls is all about the outdoors and there is plenty to see and experience at one of the world’s greatest natural attractions.

Fortunately, the Giacomo’s location – at 220 First Street, Niagara Falls – is within walking distance of the falls and its picturesque attractions.

The hotel is literally within a stone’s throw from America’s oldest state park.

It is within five minutes walk of Prospect Point and the American Falls and is also close to Goat Island.

Would I recommend this hotel?

Certainly. Our experience at the Giacomo was faultless. If you appreciate luxury, elegance and outstanding service, don’t go past it.

Check the hotel’s website for accommodation costs.

 

Ian and Sue Roberts

Review: the Hilton Chicago

Holding court in the heart of America’s windy city is a remarkable icon – the famous Hilton Chicago hotel.

Chicago is one of our favourite destinations. And the Hilton Chicago is  a memorable attraction in itself.

For a start, the hotel is a distinctive landmark of Chicago’s South Loop neighbourhood, with 29 floors and more than 1,500 rooms.

Overlooking Lake Michigan

The location couldn’t be more scenic – overlooking Grant Park and Lake Michigan yet sitting squarely in downtown, not far from the Chicago River.

A stay at the Hilton Chicago combines all the luxury and amenities you’d expect, with an extraordinary sense of history.

DSCN0244And, if the history of a hotel seems a trite boring, believe me, in this case, it certainly isn’t.

There’s a good reason why guests are following in the footsteps of every American President since the late 1920’s.

Once the world’s biggest

When the Hilton Chicago opened in 1927 as the Stevens Hotel, it was the largest on the planet, with 3,000 guest rooms; a bowling alley; miniature golf course; movie theatre; ice-cream shop and drug store.

The hotel is said to have cost more than $30 million to build and the first registered guest was the American Vice-President.DSCN0251

After failing in the Great Depression, Stevens Hotel was used during World War II as barracks and classrooms for the Army Air Force, housing more than 10,000 air cadets.

As the war drew to a close, the hotel entered a new era when it was purchased by American hotelier, Conrad Hilton.

Chicago’s Hilton was a backdrop to two further wars, when it hosted a public gathering in 1951 for General Douglas Macarthur to discuss the Korean conflict and when anti-Vietnam War protestors clashed with police in the street outside during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The hotel’s deserved reputation for luxury accommodation was enhanced by massive renovations in the 1980’s and in 2012 – 13.CHICHHH_lobby

A popular culture icon

With its extensive and remarkable history, the Hilton Chicago, unconsciously, has become well known to people worldwide through its use in many popular movies, including ‘The Little Fockers’; ‘Road to Perdition’; ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’; ‘The Express’; ‘Unconditional Love’; and ‘Love and Action in Chicago’.

The hotel was also used as the scene of the popular television series ’ER’.

Our visit

On arriving for a stay at the Hilton Chicago in the past year, we were immediately struck by the grand size and opulence of the main foyer and the Boulevard Room.DSCN0303

The hotel was busy and there was slight confusion about our booking, but the friendly and efficient reception staff immediately upgraded us to a double sized room with two bathrooms, as well as adding a complimentary breakfast.

This welcoming attitude by the hotel staff was to prove a highlight of our stay.  For example, without hesitation or cost, the Hilton Chicago kept our luggage secure for several hours after we had checked out of the hotel.

This allowed us to carry out final sight-seeing, while our bags were kept safe.

Our room at Hilton Chicago was elegant and luxurious and decorated in a sophisticated style, with a HDTV, in-room concierge computer and high-speed internet access.

The facilities at the Hilton Chicago are everything you would expect at such a famous hotel, including two lobby restaurants;exceptional hotel dining; a traditional Irish Pub; a ‘pack-your-own’ breakfast outlet for visitors making an early start; fitness centre; indoor running track, complimentary foyer wifi and a gorgeous heated pool.

Close to attractions

Centrally located at 720  South Michigan Avenue, the Hilton Chicago is within walking distance of many of the city’s outstanding attractions.

You can walk through Grant Park to the shores of Lake Michigan; the Field Museum; Shedd Aquarium, Adler Planetarium or Soldier Field.

Millennium Park, Navy Pier and Chicago Children’s museum are also close at hand.

History at a glance

Another interesting aspect of the Hilton Chicago is the ground floor museum celebrating the hotel’s fascinating past.

Those interested in such things are able to view photographs and information about the hotel through the decades; its many celebrity guests; and the various milestones that have made the Hilton Chicago famous throughout the US and beyond.

Would I recommend it?

Wholeheartedly. A stay at Hilton Chicago is memorable indeed.

See how to get to the hotel; what rooms and suites are available; and facilities in detail.

Review: The Belnord Hotel, West 87th Street, NYC

Manhattan’s upper west side is truly the New York City of the movies – attractive tree-lined streets, grand buildings and families walking their dogs.

The Belnord is on West 87th street, three blocks from Central Park and amongst the restaurants, community stores, supermarkets and cafes that line Broadway and Columbus and Amsterdam avenues.

Zabar’s, NYC’s famous food emporium, is about seven blocks away and it’s a short stroll to museums and similar attractions.

Hotel decor

DSCN0506The Belnord does not carry the luxury tag, but this hotel is squarely in keeping with its surroundings; neat, tidy and understated. It is definitely NYC.

The hotel’s foyer is unpretentious, clean and no-frills.  The hotel is in a particularly quiet area of NYC, largely free of wailing city sirens and general street noise.

How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?

Staff are friendly, efficient and service oriented, without intruding.

Sign-in was quick and pleasant and we are given a map of central Manhattan and directions to the 86th Street subway station, which is located close to the hotel.

Did we feel welcomed by the Belnord staff?

DSCN0578Certainly.  The Belnord is relaxed, but the staff team is willing to go that extra distance to ensure your stay is as enjoyable and smooth as possible.

We were at the hotel for 19 days and found the staff so helpful that we even left a small travel gift to show our appreciation.

When we used a nearby laundry, the hotel staff delivered our freshly-pressed clothes back to our room.

Were we offered help with our luggage?

Yes, but the hotel lifts were so roomy and efficient that we chose to handle our bags  ourselves.

Did the hotel offer wifi – and how did it work?

DSCN0519The Belnord has an excellent free wifi for guests. On arrival, we were given the password and it was clearly explained when it would change and how to maintain the service.

The system worked without a hitch throughout our stay.

This was a huge plus, as we were not forced to seek out wifi at coffee shops, restaurants etc.

The room experience

Our double room was ready when we arrived and was the perfect size for a city stay where you are unlikely to spend much time indoors.  Again, it was understated and finished in true NYC style.

DSCN0439There was a comfortable double bed with individual readings lights;  a flat screen TV set;  large wardrobe; ensuite and breakfast bench. .

The cable TV worked perfectly and there were no problems with the en-suite shower room. Extra heavy drapes kept out any street light.

Power points

This is increasingly becoming important, with phones, iPad, iPod and the like all requiring charging, as well as the usual requirements for electric razor; hair dryer etc.

Our Belnord hotel room had  numerous points – all in handy positions, so there was no problem charging devices.

Room service

DSCN0542Room service was prompt each morning, but again was not intrusive.  If it was obvious that you were still in the room, service staff would wait as long as possible and then eventually knock on the door to check when it would be suitable to enter.

Towells and bathroom accessories.

These were soft and fluffy and were left daily, if you needed them.  It was a similar story with bathroom/shower accessories.

Food

Like many NYC hotels, the Belnord does not have a restaurant, but is located right in the middle of an ‘Eat Street’ section of Broadway.  Restaurants and coffee shops offering an array of meals are scattered throughout the area.

Cost

Our room cost about $250 a night.

Would I recommend it?

Yes. Undoubtedly.

Would I stay again?

Yes, without hesitation.

Have you ever visited this hotel? How was it for you?