Hotels in Boulder

Since meeting my husband 16 years ago, I’ve (we’ve) visited Boulder, Colorado several times because he has family there. Boulder is a great city in many ways: walkability, scenery, dining (fine and other), shopping, and overall vibe.

I believe that every time we’ve visited, we’ve tried a different hotel, based on what the planned activity was for the trip, or cost, or both. Below, then, is my completely subjective ranking of Boulder hotels, based on my recollections. Since I didn’t write these reviews at the time of stay, some memories are hazy.

1. St. Julien Hotel and Spa

This place is lush, is in the center of town, and is definitely a fantastic place to stay if you want to feel pampered and special. There is a beautiful bar in the lobby, and from what I recall, the food is great, but there is also a lot of great dining within a short walk. There is garage parking underneath. The staff know how to treat guests. This is the only place we’ve stayed in Boulder that is on par with a Vegas hotel. The only cons: not meant for long term stay (no “comforts of home” like fridges), and, well, it’s pricey.

2. Boulder Marriott

It’s a Marriott, which means it’s clean, convenient, and well-run. It’s situated in the “business district,” so it’s definitely less touristy, and better for folks like us, in town visiting friends or family. It shares a parking lot with McGuckin’s, which may well be the best hardware store on the planet. Even though it’s not tourist central, like most of Boulder, it’s still convenient, and there are good restaurants and grocery stores within walking distance.

3. Boulderado

A sentimental favorite, because this was the place my then my brand new boyfriend put us up on my first visit to Boulder, three months after we met. This is back when he was trying to impress me (that phase is long over ;-)). The Boulderado is an historical building, and has a long and storied past. Like the Julien, it’s in the tourist district, and is convenient to the Pearl St. Mall, and other attractions. In fact, last year, we took a bus tour of Boulder that left from in front of the Boulderado. The hotel is Victorian, which means ornate, and well, old. The only reason I have’t rated this higher is that I grew up in an old house, and while I can appreciate their charm, I also really love modern convenience.

4. Chautauqua

Chautauqua was an adult educational movement in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Go read about it at the site. Back? OK, now this is an amazing place to stay if you want to really get away and experience a bit of the sheer beauty of Boulder. We stayed as part of a family “reunion” of sorts. All together, we rented 3 cabins, and there were 8 adults and 3 children. Each cabin had a full kitchen, and was a lovely place to relax, read, and enjoy each other’s company. While we were there, there was an orchestral concert, and a Indigo Girls concert, and we could sit on our front porch and enjoy the music from afar. We also were able to walk down to the auditorium during orchestra rehearsals. It was just lovely.

There is a fantastic restaurant on site, but of course, you’ll probably want to cook meals as well. There are no TVs in the cabins, but there is WiFi. We would definitely stay here again, but it would probably be a planned family event as before, just because there is a certain remoteness you feel while here. Note: if you, like me, don’t handle high elevations well, this is even higher than the rest of Boulder. I found myself getting worn out just getting out of bed ;-).

5. Millennium Harvest House

Like the Marriott, this is part of a national chain, so if you’ve stayed in a Millennium property before, you’ll likely be unsurprised by this one. It’s a convenient location to the University, and when we were there (over Thanksgiving week), there was a Colorado/Nebraska game, so it was FULL of Nebraskans. Being a Jersey girl originally, I remarked that I had never seen a Nebraskan before, so this was a good exposure. In general, it was a pleasant stay, although we were on a ground floor room, and I do recall feeling as if the furniture on our little patio hadn’t been attended to in awhile. If I recall correctly, there may have been a dirty ashtray out there. That said, this is a good mid-range place to stay, particularly if you want to be near the University sports facilities.

6. Homewood Suites

Homewood Suites are a Hilton property, so again, a national chain with a certain level of reliability. This was our most recent stay, and regardless of the fact it’s in the middle of the pack, we may stay here again because the location is most convenient to my husband’s family, on the south side of Boulder, near Baseline (fun fact, “Baseline Road” is at the 40th parallel).

Since my memories of this place are most fresh, I don’t want to come across as harsh. It’s a fine place to stay, but I had some issues. After housekeeping cleaned on our first afternoon, the air freshening smell was overwhelming. It permeated the hallway and the elevator. We had to open the windows (pro: we *could* open the windows), and let it air out throughout the afternoon and all night. That turned out to be a bonus because the HVAC is so loud that it was waking us up the previous night. Although, the noise from the HVAC was nice because it did drown out the noise from the room above. It’s not that the person above us was loud, it’s the way the place is built. We literally could hear every time the person shifted in his/her bed, and or moved at all. So, bottom line, it’s not built very well.

That said, the have free breakfast and light dinner every day, and they are very nice people. Once I told them about the Febreeze problem, it got better (although, side note, on our second morning, housekeeping never showed up although we took down the privacy sign between about 9:30 am and 1:30 pm. At 3 pm, we got a note under the door that they were respecting our privacy and to let them know if we needed anything (um, thanks?).

There is a nice pool, and it’s a quiet spot within walking distance of a Safeway, several little lunch places, and a Rite Aid. The lobby, where the meals are served, is open and airy with a fireplace and a TV, and I believe there’s always coffee available.

Finally, this is obviously designed for long term stays, because there is a kitchen and living room in all the rooms, so it is a nicer place to hang out if you are going to be there while. Note: we didn’t actually realize we had dishes, glasses, and silverware until our last night there, because they were in the dishwasher. One would think that housekeeping would put them away before a room was ready, or perhaps leave a note on the dishwasher. Also, we had no forks, only spoons and knives. Bottom line, I think the housekeeping staff needs some more training.

7. Boulder Outlook

This is a rehabbed former national chain hotel of some sort, and the main building’s rooms are all centered around the indoor pool. I hate this setup in hotels because it means everything smells like chlorine all the time. That said, it’s a clean place with friendly staff, and if you’re not really interested in whether your room is comfortable because you plan to be out and about the whole time you’re in Boulder, this is a fine place to stay. We actually stayed in a room on the outside, and because it was January, the wind was so loud it was almost alarming. There’s a free continental breakfast every morning, including one of those nifty waffle machines, so that will keep the kids entertained.

I am really impressed with this hotel’s commitment to sustainability and the outdoor living aspects of Boulder. You can rent a bike, and there is a lot of literature about hiking and the mountains available.

8/9. The Golden Buff and The Broker

Both of these hotels are currently closed, which is just as well, because I wouldn’t recommend either of them. The Broker had decor like an 1890’s brothel, and the Buff was really just a motel. That said, the Buff is being rebuilt across the street from it’s old location and may well be upgraded in the process.

Regardless of where you stay in Boulder, you should visit at some point. It can be just gorgeous, and has a lot going for it. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend *against* any of the places we stayed except for the last two, so go, and let me know what you think.


Quinault Beach Resort and Casino

Flights to Vegas were prohibitively expensive this year, and travelling to the East Coast is so exhausting on Thanksgiving weekend, it’s a non-starter. So, we decided to try something different and head to Quinalt Beach Resort and Casino (QBRC) in Ocean Shores, WA.

DSCF2191QBRC is all about location, location, location. The views are stunning, even, or maybe especially, during a stormy November. Unlike, say, the Tulalip Resort and Casino, which has almost nothing going for it location-wise, QBRC is a destination because it’s right on the beach. You could find yourself staring out at the ocean all day, which we did because we were lucky enough to be upgraded to an Ocean view room upon our arrival. This made the entire trip worth it.

If you take away the location, however, QBRC is really a mid-level hotel along the lines of a Holiday Inn or a Courtyard by Marriott. In other words, if you are a stickler for luxury, this is not the place for you. For example, the room décor: yes, we had a fireplace in-room (great!), but the wallpaper was faux Venetian plaster, the carpet was low-end, and the bed and pillows fairly uncomfortable (uncomfortable hotel pillows happen everywhere). Also, and this, I suspect, is a big deal to some, is that although we had a non-smoking room I could smell smoke coming from other rooms. I don’t mind this for a 3-day stay, but I know other people that get bent out of shape about such things.

The staff at QBRC is quite accommodating. Due to pre-Thanksgiving traffic, we were unable to reach the hotel in time for our 5 PM spa appointments, and so they quite easily adjusted to 6, which was perfect (normal travel time from Seattle is about 2.5 hours, we took 3.5). Dinner reservations were easily made, and questions were happily answered. Service at the restaurant was timely and gracious, and the bartenders were knowledgeable and funny.

The spa itself is small, but as we were the only patrons it was fine. My only complaint about the spa is that they use background music that includes Bach, Beethoven, and Vivaldi. As someone who sings classical music, I always find this the opposite of relaxing, and much prefer ambient noises or non-recognizable music. Otherwise, it was a pleasant experience, and a great way to start our trip. Heads up: spa services do not include any salon services like pedicures.

DSCF2195The food at QBRC is fine, nothing to write home about, but nothing awful. For two of the nights we were there we were able to go to their buffet dinners. The holiday dinner (on Thanksgiving) had a number of different main courses available (turkey, prime rib, salmon), and the sides were ample. On Friday, they had a “Land and Sea Buffet,” which subtracted the turkey and added Dungeness crab. Both nights had very good shrimp cocktail, which I always enjoy. The only thing I really missed from the holiday buffet was live music. As the buffet was served in the banquet room, a la an “occasion,” it seemed to be missing.

When not buffet-ing, you can choose to dine in Emily’s Restaurant, which is a table service room with great views of the ocean, or you can grab something quick in the Ocean Lounge. You can also order room service (which we did for breakfast one morning). There is also a small deli on the casino floor which we didn’t get a chance to visit.

The gambling at QBRC is standard. You’ll find the most familiar table games (blackjack, craps, pai gow, Mexican 21), and a good selection of slots, including a few progressive machines. There’s also a poker room which was bustling. I even hit a Jackpot on a quarter game (yay!).

Other goodies:

  • Lots of coupons for people over 50. Join the Q-Club for details.
  • Lots of special chances/games to win just by playing and/or entering drawings (again see club for details).
  • Build points through the Q-Club and you can make enough money to take some off of your stay.
  • Enjoy QBRC’s own boardwalk out to the beach!
  • Take a drive through downtown Ocean Shores – quite a few small shops with interesting wares.
  • Live music in the Ocean Lounge on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • We had a small refrigerator and coffee machine in our room.
  • There is an indoor pool, hot tub (both of which have great ocean views), and workout room.
  • Toiletries include makeup removal wipes.

Other things of which to be aware:

  • There is only ONE elevator near the lobby (I think there are others at the ends of the hallways). This means that if you are on an upper floor, you might have quite the wait to go up and down.
  • Smoke pervades most spaces in the hotel.
  • The primary clientele during the week are locals who appear to be hard-working blue collar folks. In other words if you want to play dress-up, you’ll feel overdone. Good news: it’s a comfortable place, not hoity-toity.
  • The craps dealers may or may not be learning while on the job, and so you may find yourself waiting for pay-outs.
  • A single friend of ours thought about joining us. He’s glad he didn’t. I didn’t see anything resembling a singles scene here. Guests tended to be families or older couples.
  • Our TV was a small, older, tube-type.
  • There are no robes in the guest rooms.
  • Hotel room soaps and lotions are made by a company in NY. With so many great Washington based natural soap companies, this was surprising.

Bottom line: for us, this was a fun trip and we will do it again. Thanks QBRC for your hospitality.

Bette, Obama, Ghosts, and that damnable Ipod ad

  We just returned from one of our regular (2x year usually) trips to Vegas. We stayed at the Rio this time – our first time at this hotel, and our first time staying “off-strip.” The price couldn’t be beat – free! We upgraded to a strip view suite for only $20 a night.

We were a bit disappointed when we got to the room, though. It was a long walk, naturally, because to have a corner room, you have to walk all the way to the corner, and the hall still had dirty room service dishes and looked as if it hadn’t been vacuumed. Moreover, there were two bulbs out in our room, and during the course of our stay, the towel bar and the faucet in the bathroom broke. It looked as if they had taken some effort to upgrade the room by putting in new wallpaper and granite, but it had been installed sloppily. Eh, whatever, $20 is $20 right? And, I should say, that the staff at the Rio was quite nice, and we had good service throughout.


We saw “Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On” the first night. Here, too, we experienced another disappointment with the Rio, because the last time we were in Vegas you could catch a shuttle from the Rio to Caesars, but for some reason, they have eliminated  that shuttle, and now you can only get to Paris/Bally’s and/or Harrah’s. So, we had to walk to get to the show. Luckily, it was lovely weather, especially compared to the nightmare that Seattle’s climate has been lately.

The show itself was just amazing. It’s great to see a performer who just knows how to do this stuff, and kicks ass at it. Bette sings, dances, and as she says “tell(s) the same jokes (she’s) been telling for 40 years.” She still has the “Harlettes” as well as the “Caesar’s Salad Girls.” And yes, of course she sings “The Rose,” and “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” along with some of her other hits. It’s all the more fantastic when you realize that she’s in her 60s!

On our first morning there, we made our traditional trip to the spa. We feel that getting a massage really makes the rest of the trip that much more enjoyable. The Rio spa is fine – not great/not bad. I was all alone most of the time, which is really fine with me. We decided to go shopping that afternoon, and as we made our way over to the Fashion Show Mall. Outside the mall, on giant screens, they play a stupid Ipod ad over and over that makes you want to kill yourself. We asked one of the vendors about it:

Phil: “You tired of hearing that song?”

Vendor dude: “I’m tired of hearing all this shit.”

We wandered over to the new Wynn hotel, the Encore. It was lush, and beautiful, of course. Wynn casinos even smell good. Perhaps when we’re feeling flush, we’ll stay there one day.

Back at the Rio, we stopped at the I-Bar, with the sole intention, because we are geeks, of seeing the “Surface” tables they have there. Of course, the Sweetie was better at manipulating the thing than I was, but I was busy drinking, so can you blame me?

The next morning, as had been the plan, we ordered room service for breakfast and stayed in the room most of the day watching the Inauguration. I wept most of the time, which, you know, doesn’t sound like a vacation, but it was quite wonderful, all of it.

Once recovered, we headed out to the Haunted Vegas tour. We’ve gone on these haunted tours in quite a few cities now. If nothing else, it’s a great way to see parts of the city that you might not otherwise see.

We did not see nor photograph any ghosts, but we had a good time, and we got to see Bugsy Siegal’s monument, Wayne Newton’s gate, and Liberace’s and Redd Foxx’s house. We also saw the light pole next to where Tupac’s car was when he was shot (wow, huh?). The tour guide was very funny – he’s a former undertaker, so he has a special perspective on it all. 

When we checked out, we told the clerk about our broken stuff in the room, so she took off the cost of the room (the $20/night we were paying), so the room itself did turn out to be free. Like I said, the staff were nice, but it will probably be awhile before we stay there again.

We walked over to the Palms and did some minor slot playing before returning. I love the Palms, but I’m not nearly hip enough to be there. It does make for some great people watching though.

More pics from the excursion here.