Hotel Reviews: The Signature at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada

I was in Las Vegas recently, and lodged in a hotel I haven’t been in before. Coming from the Venetian (where I’ve stayed a couple of times), this next hotel had big shoes to fill. We were in Tower 3 of The Signature at MGM Grand. This tower is the newest of the 3 towers, built within the past 7 years. I can’t speak on Towers 1 or 2, but I can say, with this one they did it right. From the gated entry to the friendly staff to the incredible view of Las Vegas, this hotel has a lot going for it.

The first thing you’ll notice is the gated entry which offers a sense of security. The next thing you’ll notice is the valet, which I’m personally not a fan of because I can park the car myself. However, having a valet is convenient and trouble-free. The folks performing the valet service were professional and courteous. Soon, if you haven’t already, you’ll notice that the towers are a few blocks away from the Vegas strip, which may or may not be a good thing. Being in tower 3, it was a long walk just to get to the MGM casino (I’m guessing half a mile, no kidding), an even longer walk and/or taxi ride to get to the heart of the strip. There is a monorail you can take from tower 2 which is inexpensive and as convenient as taking a monorail can be. What I liked about the towers of MGM are that when you want to sort of “escape” the Vegas lights, these towers offer that kind of feel. A retreat, if you will. And like I said, the views are spectacular and the rooms themselves are quite nice.

I’m a fan of the simple things when it comes to hotel rooms. Give me a good shower, a big bed, and a robe and I’m happy. The Signature at MGM grand did all those things and did them well.
You could essentially come to Vegas, get a room here and have a fantastic stay, without taking part in any of the typical Vegas attractions. The hotel offers a pool, a fitness room, and convenient dining in nearby restaurants. But you don’t come to Vegas to stay in your room, right? That’s the only drawback to this hotel: the distance to Vegas attractions.

All in all, a fantastic hotel that will meet or exceed your expectations and I recommend giving it a go the next time you’re in Las Vegas!

Hotel Reviews: Best Western Plus in Scottsdale, Arizona

In a recent trip to Phoenix, Arizona I had the pleasure of staying in the Best Western Plus in the nearby city of Scottsdale.This is a classy and upgraded version of the Best Western chain. Before you even step foot in your room, you’ll notice the upgrades, mostly in the details of the wall decor, the professional and friendly staff, and the suite feel of each room. This hotel is in nice location with easy access to great restaurants in the downtown Scottsdale area. The two restaurants we experienced were Majerle’s Sports Grill and Zipps Sports Grill. Majerle’s was hands-down the better of the two, offering great pizza, great burgers, and a sporty atmosphere. Zipps served what tasted like leftover microwave pizza, however the atmosphere was nice. Both had plenty of flat screen televisions to catch the game. That is, if you choose to leave the room, with it’s own large flat screen.There was plenty of closet space, including an iron and ironing board. Again, the drawback for me was there were no robes. I didn’t ask the front desk, so perhaps they were available upon request.The beds were quite nice. The king sized mattresses and multiple pillows were very comfortable and provide a good night sleep. As far as the view, there’s not much to see in the surrounding area so that’s not a reason to book this hotel. Another drawback was the outside room entrance. If you prefer the safety of an inside hallway entrance, this is not the hotel for you.The shower was acceptable. They didn’t try anything fancy (like a rainfall shower), but what they offer is comfortable and effective. Another “plus” to the rooms is the addition of a bathtub. Location might make you a bit uncomfortable, but if you like a hot tub, you will like these rooms.Overall, I give this hotel two thumbs up. The next time you’re in the Phoenix or Scottsdale, Arizona area, consider giving this hotel a try, I think you’ll enjoy it.


Hotel Reviews: The Millennium UN Plaza in New York City, New York

Another trip and another hotel, this time in the city so nice, they named it twice… New York City! My colleagues and I arrived on a Wednesday. On a late flight in, we checked in around midnight thirty. The hotel staff greeted us quite pleasantly. There was only one hiccup in the process, but I don’t imagine this happens to everyone (because this week was also Fashion Week in Manhattan, so the hotel was pretty full), the following day we were told we’d have to switch rooms. Could be an inconvenience, but for making us do this, they gave us passes to the buffet breakfast at the hotel on the main level. Score! With that said, there were a few decent restaurants close to the hotel, including a Sushi Time, a few pizza places and a number of grocery convenience stores. However, the breakfast was a fair and pleasant compromise. Plus, we didn’t even need to ask for any kind of compensation, they simply gave us the breakfast. They also promised a robe in my room, which leads to the next critique.

Robes: No robes! I won’t say this is a deal breaker, but it’s up there close to the top. They may offer robes, but you definitely need to ask at the desk to make sure your room includes them. Neither of the two rooms I stayed in had robes.

The beds, one of the most important features of any hotel, were quite comfortable. I read many reviews of area hotels about the comfort of the beds they offered, so when you go to NYC and beds are important to you, the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel should be at the top of your list.
 The view from the rooms was good. One room’s view was almost completely taken up by the building next door, but the other room had an amazing river of the Hudson (I believe that’s what river it was).
Another important factor in your choice of room is the shower. This shower was quite nice. The water pressure was good (better in the second room I stayed in), and the shower head was the detachable kind (see picture) so that was an added bonus if you’re caring for a small child and need to wash their hair. The water stayed hot for as long as I needed it. There was no bathtub.
Internet was not free in the hotel. You could pay by the hour or by the day, and I believe it was available only in the lobby.

As far as size goes, the first room I was in must of been a suite, because it was very nice and extremely roomy. You’ll notice in the pictures it even had a spiral staircase up to the next level which included the bed, another bathroom (no shower) and another entrance door. The second room was not as big, but still had plenty of room to spread out. Given the choices you’ll have in New York, these rooms were quite big and for the price, were better than 90% of what you’ll find at that size.
To sum up, I was pleased with my stay at The Millennium UN Plaza. Something that should be mentioned is what one of my colleagues informed me of upon our return to Nashville. Throughout the stay in his room, he consistently heard a pitter patter of little feet. I assumed he was going to say he could hear the people in the room above him, but he clarified by saying it was the sound of the four-legged nature. Yes, mice. So that is a major issue. If you are looking at this hotel, be aware this might occur, but my guess is that if you mention it to the front desk they will be more than happy to make you comfortable during your stay.

As always, if you have stayed at this hotel and care to offer some feedback, it’s much appreciated!


Hotel Reviews: The Venetian in Las Vegas, NV

(for more hotel reviews, click here)

March 2011

Our plane touched down in Las Vegas Thursday early afternoon. Myself and a few colleagues were in town for a 4-day, 3-night stay in The Venetian Hotel. It was not a vacation, but I don’t know how anyone can go to Las Vegas for any reason and not think it’s some variation of a vacation.

My last hotel review was for The W in Chicago, that hotel not earning many points with me, so this hotel had some ground to make up. We left the airport after haggling with Hertz for longer than anybody wanted (I don’t do car rental reviews, but Hertz would get a 1 out of 10 on this trip). The Venetian started gaining points right off the bat, with free parking. A real nice touch when you expect to be spending money for a space to park. We checked in with no problems. The staff were quite helpful. For those needing internet or access to the fitness room, there’s a daily charge for that, but it was less than $20 per day.
I dropped my gear off in my room expecting to give the whole room a once over, but it was so big I didn’t have time to explore. The smallest rooms (what I was in), there are over 600 sq. feet so you’ll never feel cramped in these rooms.

Over the course of the next 4 days, I weighed the pro’s and con’s of the suite, and the attractive parts far outweigh any drawbacks. Let’s start with the most important offering, robes. Two big thumbs up for two complimentary robes: clean, large and soft.

Rooms: The rooms are large, the smallest suite boasting over 600 square feet. Navigating through the hotel can be a bit difficult due to the number of floors, rooms, and the large casino on the main floor. Expect a day or so of getting acclimated to the layout of the casino and hotel stairs and elevators.

Drapes: Yes. Not only did the drapes effectively block outside light, they were powered by a remote control. Very nice when you don’t want to cross into the second room to close them.

Bed: King-size bed with plenty of pillows. Real good.

Shower: Thumbs up. I like the idea of the shower in The W, but for me it just didn’t work. The shower here was simple, but all that was needed. The restroom also featured a separate bathtub, so that’s a bonus.

To sum up, this is a great hotel and I recommend staying here the next time you plan a trip to Las Vegas. Let’s be honest, if you’re coming to Vegas, you’re not coming simply to find a nice hotel, you’re there for the entertainment. Whether it’s gambling, shows, or people watching, the Venetian is in a prime location. It’s across the street from an affordable casino (The Mirage) or you can spend your time and money in the Venetian casino (general higher minimum bets than the Mirage). The Venetian is also host to restaurant row offering lots of good food choices that aren’t over-the-top expensive. There’s also a 24-hour Walgreens located conveniently between The Venetian and The Palazzo Hotel.

If you’ve been to the Venetian and agree/disagree with this review, please feel free to share your feedback. Thanks for reading! For more about The Venetian Hotel Resort & Casino, check out this blog.

The Bachelor Brad Womack, Episode 2: Energy Suck.

Episode 2 (01/10/2011)

This episode was a doozy! I had no idea Monday night would be filled with so! much! drama! Between this show and the college National Championship between Auburn and Oregon, I could hardly contain myself. I should say, “We could hardly contain ourselves,” but my friend who watched both events with me wishes to remain anonymous. He’ll deny it, but he’s hooked on The Bachelor. I may quote him from time to time because of his insight into the show, the male mindset and his expertise in the… oh, who am I kidding, he just loves Emily.

I’m assuming you’re familiar with the rules of the show, so I won’t bore you with the same info Chris shared. The first date card arrived at the bachelorette mansion and it was for Ashley H. (Dentist from Philly). The clue: “The road to love is a wild ride.” Brad picked her up in a convertible Aston Martin and they eventually ended up on a dark dirt road. They parked and walked by lantern to a dark field. Ashley flipped a switch to discover carnival rides, all for her. She and Brad did all the things people do at carnivals: ate cotton candy, rode the ferris wheel, took photos together, more cotton candy, whirly doo, vomit behind the ticket booth. Oh, they also had a deep conversation about their past, and if it weren’t for Ashley saying “perfact” instead of “perfect” more than once, I would kinda like her.

Meanwhile the second date card arrived. The clue: “Let’s share something from the heart.” Awwwww, every bachelors dream. It might have well said, “Let’s just talk.” This date was for 15 of the 19 remaining girls. Michelle (Hair Stylist from Utah) was included on this date and revealed she’s got some crazy running through her veins. Even if she’s got a heart, it’s pumping crazy juuuuiiiiiice! She wanted the group date to center around her and her 30th birthday. Well, guess what Crazy Juice, there’s 14 other girls so just calm down. Thank goodness there’s the cool, calm, and collected Melissa (Waitress from Lake Worth, FL) to teach and guide young Michelle. Oh wait, Melissa is crazy too. Darn. Just because you look like the lesser-liked older twin of Gwyneth Paltrow (Actress from Los Angeles) doesn’t mean Brad is going to like you, Melissa. So! much! drama! On the date, the group recorded a few Public Service Announcements for the Red Cross. Notable moments from this date: Britt “Me Kiss You Long Time” Billmaier (Food Writer from Washington) kissed Brad… for a long time. Kimberly (Marketing Coordinator from North Carolina) said about Michelle, “It’s her birthday, she can cry if she wants to.” Kimberly, you would cry, too, if it happened to you. Yes! Great follow up by me.

After the PSA’s were finished, they all partook in a rooftop dinner. At one point, Michelle got Brad away from the other girls. She is so strange. She admitted she wanted to dissect Brad and peel his layers. I don’t know if it was because she frightened him or because she threatened to inject him with crazy, but Brad gave her a rose.

The final date card went to Jackie (Artist from NYC). The clue: “Let’s get our love on track.” The date started when Brad picked her up in a Bentley. They arrived at a swanky hotel and put robes on. Have I ever mentioned how much I love hotel robes? Here’s where I mention it, actually. This date was all about pampering Jackie. She got to choose a dress from a large selection and was allowed to wear a beautiful expensive-looking necklace. The Bentley then brought the couple to the Hollywood Bowl for a private dinner, serenaded by the band Train. Dancing. Kissing. Brad offered Jackie the rose, she accepted. Let’s be real, though. In that situation, Screech could’ve offered her a rose and she would’ve accepted. Am I right or am I right, ladies? Of course Zac would’ve swooped in and kissed her before Screech did, like in that episode where Zac swooped in and kissed a girl before Screech did. Don’t act like you don’t remember.

If you’re curious about the songs performed by Train, the first was “If It’s Love” and the second was “Marry Me.”

Just before the rose ceremony, Crazy Juice stole Brad away from the rest of the girls to ask him if he prefers Starbucks or The Coffee Bean. She already has a rose, what was she doing??? And why did she say “stalked” when asking about Brad’s refrigerator contents? She meant “stocked” but that’s not was she saaaaiiiiiid. Girl is crazy.

Somehow Brad escaped and spent time with Emily (Hospital Event Planner from North Carolina). Clearly emerging as the fan favorite, Emily and Brad remind me a lot of Ali and Roberto. Ali was giddy from the very beginning, and Brad admitted he can’t find the right words to say when he’s with Emily. She’ll be on this show a long time. As will Ashley S. (Nanny from NYC) who showed a lot of maturity when she attempted to diffuse the cat fight between Melissa and Raichel (Manscaper from California). Niether of them could let it go and the Needy Juice flowed. Yes, yes… they cried. Melissa confided in Madison (Model from Brooklyn). One thing I’ve learned, never trust a vampire (Model from Brooklyn). I’ve also learned more about what an energy suck is.

Quote of the episode
Melissa: “She’s just like, such an energy suck. I’m sorry, I had onions in my pizza… and I had four slices.”
Brad: “Sounds good.”

In the end, roses went to (Ashley H., Michelle, Jackie, Emily) Shantal O., Sarah P., Alli, Kimberly, Shawntel N., Stacey, Ashley S., Madison, Lisa, Marissa, Meghan, Lindsay and Britt.

Melissa, Raichel and Keltie were sent home without a rose.

Hotel Reviews: The W in Chicago, Illinois

January 2011

If you have the opportunity to visit Chicago, do it. Even at the start of a cold January, the city was great. I’m a warm weather kind of guy, so I need to visit in the summer, as well, but from the food to the sights to the history of the city, I was impressed with all it had to offer. If you’re looking for a good burger, try Kuma’s Corner. Another good restaurant is the Weber Grill Restaurant (little known fact: Weber brand grills began in Chicago). If you’re looking for a great tour, try Chicago Trolley Company. They offer a 15 stop tour on a double decker bus all around Chicago. Ask for Lance Romance to be your tour guide, he’s great. If you’re looking for a great view of the city, try the Sky Deck in the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). You won’t be disappointed. However, if you’re looking for a pleasant hotel, I would not recommend the W on Lake Shore Drive, near the Navy Pier.

I arrived on Thursday afternoon to begin a four day work trip in Chicago. After unpacking my gear, I was ready for a short siesta. I went to close the drapes and learned there are none. Only transparent shades that block maybe half the light coming in. There’s no way to make the room completely dark. Overlooking that and still attempting to rest a bit, I climbed in the king size bed and it was comfortable for the most part. I like having a lot of pillows and the bed offered me plenty. Unfortunately, I found a few strands of hair on the bed. I chalked it up as the maid’s and I overlooked that, too. What I couldn’t overlook, or more specifically, overhear was the sound of construction across the street. To me, there’s nothing worse than the shrill clang of hammers hammering, large drills drilling, and big trucks backing up when I’m trying to sleep. Beep beep beep… and on it went. I’ll give the W the benefit of the doubt, since it was out of their control.

After my short nap, it was time to get ready for the events of the evening. What does that mean? A visit to the shower fairy. My room offered a walk-in shower (no door) and a rain-style shower head. While I like the idea of warm water falling all around me, this shower was not that. If warm rain was a great dane, this was a min pin. The water fell in an eight inch radius and the best way I can describe it is this: if your right side was warm, your left side wasn’t. If you’re front was warm, you’re backside wasn’t. It was impossible for your whole body to be comfortable all at the same time because there wasn’t enough water to make it happen. And if you’re like me, I wash my hair and face with a cooler temperature than I wash my body, but with the water coming straight down from above, I either had to duck my head out or keep the water on a cooler temp. Neither idea was enjoyable. There was no bathtub. Free internet was not offered in the rooms, however it was offered in the hotel lobby.

To be fair, there were some attractive things about my stay in the W. My room offered an mp3 plugin to play my iPod through the room stereo, which helped drowned out the sound of construction. They had a complimentary robe for me to get comfortable in, which I did. While showering took some effort, the water was pleasantly hot. And they offer a complimentary service called “Whatever/Whenever.” This service included free rides provided by Acura to anywhere within 5 miles of the hotel. “Whatever/Whenever” also included free movie rentals (using the in-room dvd player). The hotel also extended a free printer service for all your document printing needs.

mp3 plugin
walk-in shower
“Whatever/Whenever” service
hot water
free printing

construction noise
walk-in shower, no door
rain water shower head
free internet only in lobby
no bathtub
no window shades

To sum up, if all you’re looking for is a large bed to sleep in, the W should be just fine. However, if you’re looking for an escape, a place to relax and forget the troubles of “the real world,” the W is not the hotel for you. Too many little frustrations that won’t sit well with you. Thanks for reading and let me know if you agree/disagree or have a different experience at this hotel in Chicago.