Grandma’s Marathon weekend is kind of a big deal in Duluth. Because we anticipated area hotels would fill to capacity, my girlfriends and I booked our two night stay at the Sheraton Duluth Hotel months ahead of our June 2012 visit.
This downtown hotel boasts a good location within a mile or so of most downtown attractions. The convention center can be reached by a fifteen minute walk (possibly longer if the drawbridge is up) while the Canal Park area is slightly closer. The walkable radius also includes a number of interesting shops and restaurants. We ate at Fitzger’s Brewery and Grandma’s Saloon, both of which I would recommend.
We paid a premium nightly rate due to visiting during the marathon. Normal nightly rates for a standard room seem to be in the $150-$250 range, with more expensive club level and suite options also available.
A Bad First Impression
Official check-in time was at 3:00 p.m. One of my friends arrived several hours early after a morning plane flight, but the unfriendly front desk staff refused to take her name or otherwise notify her when a room became available. By the time I arrived around the designated time, the lobby was a mob scene with lines of marathon attendees stretching to the entrance.
We were eventually given room keys (without a smile) but when we reached our floor, I noticed that housekeeping staff was still frantically bustling around. It became apparent that we had been given our keys prematurely when a housekeeper and manager barged into the room without knocking for a final check of some sort. The room was clean and they were apologetic, but I’m amazed that this hotel was so completely unprepared for check-in on the eve of a major Duluth event. I just hope everyone got a room who was depending on one.
Since I was merely spectating the marathon, I spent quite a bit of time relaxing in the room during our two day stay. The room was sufficiently clean and modern for my needs, if a little threadbare in places. We had two adequately comfortable double beds, a cozy corner chair with footstool, and a desk/table lining the window. While our street view didn’t look like much at first glance, it turned out to be ideal for watching the elite runners pass by early the next morning.
The bathroom had a cool old-fashioned vibe thanks to its white tiled floor and interesting fixtures. Unfortunately, it was less appealing from a functional perspective. The sink allowed very little space for toiletries, while the door had swelled and couldn’t be opened or closed without substantial effort. We eventually learned to keep it cracked at all times. There were of course free toiletries provided, but they were uninteresting enough that I’ve already forgotten them.
Housekeeping on the second day of our stay seemed to be as slow as first. When we returned from the hotel following the race, our room hadn’t been cleaned yet. Since my friends were exhausted we opted out of a full cleaning and I just tracked down some towels. No biggie, but again I was surprised that the hotel didn’t bump up staffing or start the cleaning process earlier to accommodate a hotel full of racers all following a very similar schedule.
While the lobby was nice enough with its leather couches and wingback chairs, it was always far too bustling for us to consider relaxing ther. Since there were so many great dining options within walking distance, we avoided eating in the hotel restaurant. The room service dessert my friend ordered was overpriced even by hotel standards and reportedly not very good. Along the same lines, I paid a whopping $2.00 for a basic package of M & M’s at a small snack stand adjacent to the front desk.
The Sheraton Duluth offers a standard roster of amenities for a hotel in this price range including a small indoor pool and fitness center. Self-parking is available in an garage which is located on site but takes a little bit of effort to get to. Surprisingly, valet parking is not an option.
Overall . . .
The Sheraton Duluth met our needs but didn’t feel particularly cozy or welcoming. Our experience illustrates that it’s tough to get over a bad first impression, and I expected more for such an expensive hotel. There are many hotels in downtown Duluth and on a future visit I’d stay in a different one instead.
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