Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks – Hotel Review

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Fairbanks for three nights during our recent visit to Fairbanks, in March 2015.  We were in Fairbanks to see the northern lights, and the lights did not disappoint: we were able to see them every single night we were there.  Unfortunately we had waited to long to book accommodations outside of Fairbanks proper, which is why we ended up staying at the Hampton Inn.  It was all in all a nice place to stay, but if it’s the northern lights you are after, you don’t want to stay anywhere in town.  There is just too much light pollution, and you need to drive at least 15 minutes out to be able to see them properly – which we did every night.

The Hampton Inn was a nice and comfortable place to stay.  The rooms were pretty standard, but the beds and pillows were comfortable and we appreciated having control of our own thermostat.  The rooms are nicely furnished and large enough for our family of four.  There was a mini-fridge and a microwave, which came useful for leftovers and drinks, and a fairly fast wireless internet connection (though it didn’t work our first night there, and then we had to authenticate at least daily).  The kids were happy enough with the cable channels.

The bathroom was large enough and clean.  There was good water pressure and the Neutrogena toiletries were OK.  Unfortunately, they were very stingy with them. They only left us a small bottle of shampoo and conditioner for the four of us.  Sure, I got more at the front desk, but not before I had to go conditioner-less after a shower.

The hotel itself has nice common rooms. The main room has a plethora of easy chairs as well as high central tables for having breakfast.  There is a pool, a gym and a business center, but despite the fact that I booked this hotel, in part, because of the pool, we never used it.

Breakfast was very good and the hot items were made in house.  They had the usual hot and cold drinks, small and not very good pastries, and bagels and bread.  They have two waffle makers and syrup, fresh raspberries, chocolate chips, slivered almonds and whipped cream as toppings.  I combined all the toppings on my waffles, and they were heavenly – better than what you’d get at a breakfast joint.  The hot items changed every day and included sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits with gravy and small omelets.  They had cereals and hot oatmeal.  All in all, a very good hotel breakfast.  They had the local newspaper for reading and hot coffee and tea available all day.

All in all, the Hampton Inn is a very comfortable place to stay, though not a prime location for the northern lights.

Hampton Inn & Suites Fairbanks
433 Harold Bentley Avenue
Fairbanks, Alaska
907-451-1502

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Las Vegas Hotel Review: The Signature @ the MGM

The Signature suites at the MGM hotel is one of the best places for families to stay in Las Vegas.  The suites are large and fairly well maintained, they have full kitchens, comfortable and stylish furniture and great bathrooms.  We have stayed there twice already, in August 2012 and 2014, and my kids want to go back already.

The Signature is a condo-hotel. That means that most of the units and individually owned, mostly by investors but there are some people who actually live in their units.  Unit owners can chose to rent out their units through the MGM management, through another company or on their own.  The first time we went, we reserved our unit through VRBO, though the second one my husband’s company travel agent made reservations directly with the hotel.  Both have their advantages/disadvantages, which I’ll discuss below.

Most rooms come with standard decorations and they include a king size bed with incredibly comfortable and high quality mattresses, pillow and bedding.  There is a sofa which turns into a queen size bed, which is not too uncomfortable either.  There is a table/desk with a couple of chairs and a full kitchen area.  If you reserve through the hotel, you will need to ask for any plates/pans/utensils you may need for cooking – though private units may come fully equipped.  There is a closet with a dresser, another small bar area, and the bathroom.  The bathroom is my kids’ favorite place. It’s large, it has a huge jet tub, a separate shower and a small TV which you can watch from the bathtub.   Some rooms come with balconies, which I would fully recommend as you can use them to dry out your swimwear.

Like most hotels in Vegas, the Signature charges a resort fee, which includes fast internet. There are also plenty of outlets in the unit.

The hotel itself doesn’t have much in the way of frills.  Each building (there are three) has a swimming pool. These are large, rectangle, kept at a nice temperature (neither too hot nor cold), appropriate for swimming, and not very busy.  One of the pools is designated for adult use only, which I appreciate as a parent.  Each pool has an attached hot tub, also very nice and relaxing.  The pool bars are not too ridiculously expensive, and the whole pool atmosphere is just relaxing.

One of the building has a small restaurant, which serves pizzas, soups and sandwiches.  The food is excellent and reasonably priced.  Unfortunately, they don’t take phone orders, but it’s not too inconvenient to go and get the food.  There is a bar and a Starbucks at another of the buildings also serving excellent food and drinks.

The Signature is located in the back of the MGM casino & resort.  It’s a 10 to 15 minute walk, depending on how much of a hurry you are in.  There are people movers, but it can still be challenging to get there for those who have mobility problems.  While the walkways to the MGM are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, the MGM itself is very crowded and I don’t think too comfortable for wheelchair users.

When you stay at the Signature, you can take advantage of the MGM pools.  There are pretty amazing, but they get very busy during the weekend – so it’s really good to be able to use the private Signature pools as well.

There are a couple of cons about staying at the Signature.  The main one is that it’s really far away from the strip.  It’s a long walk getting there, and at the end, you have to go through the casino – which means exposing yourself/your children to cigarette smoke and crowded areas.  We usually just took taxis, even to hotels a couple of blocks away (but this was August and we were there with my 80-yo dad).

If you do drive, there is no self-parking.  That means having to tip a couple of dollars every time you get your car – but also having to wait for your car.  This makes it harder to go in and out of the hotel.   Ultimately, I think these inconveniences are what keeps the suite prices so low.  You can usually get a suite here for the same price than what a regular room would cost you on the strip.

If you do stay here, there are both advantages and disadvantages about booking directly with the owner or a representative.  The advantage of going with an owner is that you will probably know exactly which unit you will be getting – that means, you’ll know in which building it is, how high up and what sort of view.  So if you want to make sure that you have a high-up room, with a balcony, a fully stocked kitchen and a view of the strip, a private booking may be the way to go.  We did that during our first stay, and we really got a great room.  Privately booked rooms can also be cheaper – though don’t count on it.  These rooms usually don’t include daily maid service, and during our first stay we noticed that we really missed it – in particular, the changes of towels.

The big advantage of booking through the hotel is that if there any problems, the management is there to help you.  When we checked in during our second visit, their computer system was down so they couldn’t actually check us in and take us to our room.  Instead, they comped us $75 for food/beverages at the The Lounge, and made sure we were comfortable while we waited.  I don’t think they’d had done the same if we had booked privately


The Signature at MGM Grand

145 E Harmon
Las Vegas, NV 89109
http://www.signaturemgmgrand.com/

Marga’s Hotel Reviews

Las Vegas Hotel Review: Palms Place

For the last four years, the kids and I have joined Mike in Vegas for the annual Defcon conference.  He goes to the conference, we hang out.  That means that I want to stay at a comfortable hotel, with plenty of room and amenities, that is also centrally located.  Though it’s off the street, the Palm Place is a pretty good alternative.

The Palms Place is a condo hotel, built before the Las Vegas real estate market collapsed in 2008.  Many of the units are privately  owned, though they are available to rent as hotel rooms through the hotel management.  They are identically decorated.  It follows closely the model of the MGM Signature Suites, where I’ve stayed twice, but the Palms Place has a cheaper look.  Still, it’s a very comfortable place to stay with a family.

The studio room features a king size bed, an L-shaped Italian sofa that converts into a queen size bed, a comfy chair, a large desk/counter area and two wall mounted TVs, one facing the bed and the other the sofa.  Only one of the TVs worked during our stay.  There is a kitchen area by the door, which comes with all the basics for keeping/cooking your food.  It had a desk, but it was somewhat uncomfortable to use.

The bathroom featured a beautiful, large and deep jet bathtub in its own enclosure, next to a floor shower. The walls are translucent so anyone in the room can see you bathe.  The tub is very noisy, so it’s not the best place to relax, and it’s literally impossible to hear the TV from the tub, but it’s still a very fun tub.

The room was all in all very relaxing and comfortable. It felt utilitarian rather than luxurious, but it was large and stylish enough.  One big minus, however, is that you cannot open the windows or go into the balcony (if your room has one).

The hotel didn’t have too many amenities itself, but it was also comfortable.  The hotel pool is on the 6th floor, along one side of the hotel. This high up, it can get pretty windy and this may be the one spot in Las Vegas where you can actually feel chilly outside in the middle of an August day.  It usually doesn’t get too crowded, and the kids and I had fun playing there.   Bear in mind that the pool hugs Simon, one of the restaurants, so you cannot really swim in privacy.

Palms Place gives you access to the facilities at the Palms next door – which you can access via a covered walkway.  Unfortunately, we never found the swimming pool at the Palms’, so I can’t report on how it was.  We did take advantage of the cheap but top-quality buffet restaurant and the movie theater – which is conveniently located near the walkway to the Palms Place.   We also went to the Palms to take the free shuttle to Caesar’s Palace.

All in all, the Palms Place provides and affordable and relaxing alternative to the strip.

Hotel Review: Overleaf Lodge & Spa, Yachats, OR

For almost a decade, we’ve been spent every Thanksgiving week driving from California to Washington state and back.  We usually do this on I-5, and spend a couple of days getting there, and a day back.  We have pretty much stopped everywhere along the way, so when Mike suggested that we find a place to stop this year, I actually ventured to look beyond I-5.  Behold! Oregon has a long and drivable coast, which we have missed altogether!

It turns out that there are practical reasons to miss the Oregonian coast in November.  It’s cold, rainy and foggy – but the day we spent exploring it left us wanting for a more thorough trip, probably in the summer.

The Overleaf Lodge & Spa is one of a myriad of high-quality hotels that spot the Oregon coast.  It offers amazing views and quality accommodations at a price.  Even the day before Thanksgiving, a night there was around $150.

The hotel itself was both comfortable and nice. The room was simple, but the beds were comfortable, there were plenty of pillows and we slept well.  They had nice toiletries.  Our room was in the first floor, and had a door onto a path to the beach.  The weather wasn’t great when we were there, but the kids enjoyed spending time by the seashore.  It was pretty messy, however!

The hotel has a beautiful lobby, with a small giftshop, a comfy fireplace area and a well appointed breakfast room.  Breakfast had plenty of choices, and focused on whole-grain/natural foods.

When we stayed, guests seemed to be mostly retired people, even though we are in our 40’s, we felt a bit young for the hotel.

Overleaf Lodge & Spa
280 Overleaf Lodge Lane
Yachats, OR 97498
800-338-0507