Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Pleasant Stay at a Hotel in Houston

I received some compensation for writing this post, but it is an honest review and all opinions are my own.

My family had a pleasant stay at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks Hotel in Houston last week. Houston did not feel as "Texan" as I expected, perhaps because we spent most of our time at an event that could have occurred in many other places.

Crowne Royal Houston River Oaks Hotel in Houston, TX

My husband, son, and I flew to Texas to watch my daughter and her college team compete in the Western Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championship meet.

The U of Houston Natatorium is beautiful

Swim meets can be exhausting (whether you are a swimmer, coach, official, or spectator) and a good night's rest is important. Fortunately, our hotel was both quiet and comfortable.

We knew that if we all stayed at the same hotel, we might get a few extra minutes to spend with our daughter, who wouldn't have much free time. As soon as the team reserved at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks, I booked a room for us there as well.

We remembered to take a family photo

Our reservation was upgraded to a suite on the 18th (top) floor, as part of my compensation for writing this review. 

Our suite was huge and included: 

  • a spacious sitting room with a desk and a pull-out couch, both of which were used by my son. The sleeper sofa was as comfortable as you can expect from that sort of bedding.
  • a coffee bar/wet bar area with a fridge, coffee maker, and microwave.
  •  a good-sized separate bedroom with a king-sized bed. 
  • 2 flat-screen TVs and speedy Internet service. 
  • a big bathroom with a hair dryer and a makeup mirror. The only entrance to the bathroom was through the main bedroom.
Pictures of our hotel suite

All the appliances and the Internet service worked well. The shower head in our bathroom had various settings, although the water pressure was not as forceful as I usually prefer. When I mentioned this to the staff, I was told that they "want all of their guests to be 100% satisfied" and a maintenance person was sent up to look at it.
The hotel provided dinners for the 40 athletes, 3 coaches, and the bus driver of my daughter's team, in a private eating area. My daughter said there was an ample amount of good food served to them each day, by very friendly staff. Overall, this was a very satisfactory hotel stay for the team.

The bus was able to park right in front of the hotel for the kids to get on and off.

I heard repeatedly from our athletes and family members how accommodating and friendly the staff were. I found this to be true as well. 

One person mentioned that their room was not very clean, but ours was satisfactory. When two women reported an issue with their bathroom, the hotel took their concerns seriously and moved them to a different room. 

I heard comments about how nice the pillows were, and how much someone liked the hair conditioner provided by the hotel. I loved the scent of the soap and the texture of the lotion.

I loved the toiletries provided by our hotel

Our room looked down on busy Houston highway traffic. Being from Montana, we found it entertaining to watch the huge volume of cars that were on the road all the time! At first, I was worried we would hear a lot of road noise, but (at least from the 18th floor) that was not the case at all. Our room was very quiet all of the time.

Houston skyline and highways were visible from our room

Although the hotel is older and some people said the carpets should be updated, the lobby is very pretty and has lots of sitting areas. I especially liked the decorative lighting.

I loved the decorative lighting in the hotel lobby
The hotel had a well-stocked gift shop and a popular bar area, which was crowded for several nights with guests visiting for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The hotel had a little store

We enjoyed the full-service/buffet breakfast (an add-on price to room rates) in the on-site restaurant, which provided hot and cold breakfast foods. I am a coffee snob - so we skipped the Folgers coffee and made a stop at Starbucks most mornings on the way to the pool.

The hotel had a nice dining area and a good breakfast buffet

For an additional fee, guests can park in the hotel garage, and there is an option for valet parking. We never had any trouble finding a spot in the garage.

The parking garage at our hotel

The hotel has an outdoor pool, business center, and fitness room.

A phot of the hotel outdoor pool

The Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks is about four miles from downtown, but this was not really an issue for us. The swim meet was held at the University of Houston Natatorium, and it typically took us 20 minutes to drive there from the hotel.

GPS map of our hotel location

I was told that Houston has been nicknamed "the cement city." While I could find no facts to back this up, the name does fit. The maze of highways and ring roads is mind-boggling, and driving in the traffic is not for the faint of heart! We had to allow extra time to arrive and park on the campus Friday afternoon, as it was also the location of the Republican Presidential debate that day.

A Republican Presidential debate was being held at U. of Houston while we were there.

I'd never visited Houston before, except when switching planes at the airport. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to explore the city as the swim meet consumed most of the four days we were there. 

Houston has a very metropolitan feel, with a population of over 2 million people. The days were mostly sunny and warm during our stay. Of course, most of our time was spent in a natatorium that was quite warm, as all pool facilities are!

The University of Houston Natatorium is beautiful.

Despite being in a huge and urban city, we did see a couple things that felt quite Texan, such as several cowboy boot sculptures and lots of "Lone Star" decorations. Twice we had to stop our car and wait for a parade of horses and chuck wagons from the Livestock Show and Rodeo to pass by.

A parade in Houston

My son wanted some good Texas barbeque, and our lunches at Goode Company Barbeque and Gatlin's BBQ were both excellent.

This place had good food - and character!

Taking advantage of the ethnic opportunities of being in a big city, we went to the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant one night and had an amazing meal.

After the final event of the meet, the team and families gathered at El Tiempo Cantina to celebrate the hard work and achievements at the meet. We enjoyed Tex-Mex cuisine in a large party room; paid tribute to the athletes, coaches, and seniors; and began thinking about gathering again next year.

Swimmers were pretty evenly matched in this heat.

It is still to be determined where the WAC 2017 Swimming and Diving Championship meet will be - but if it is at the University of Houston, I would not be surprised if the team considers staying at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks hotel again.

The Crowne Royal Houston River Oaks lobby is very pretty.

It was a fun trip to Texas, and now I am counting the days until we see our daughter again!

 Have you ever been to Texas?

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  1. It looks like you guys had a great time! I'm glad you got some Texas BBQ while you were there. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant in Chicago once and it was so much fun. We don't have stuff like that in our small town either.

  2. Sounds like you had a great time. Between the hotel upgrade and the time spent watching your daughter's team compete, you clearly had a great mini vacation!

  3. Great review Susan! We've always had good luck with Crowne Plaza hotels. I visited Houston once to stay with a friend. It poured the entire time I was there! Looks like you had great weather and a fun time. Congratulations to your daughter!

  4. That sounds like a wonderful trip - and isn't it lovely (and too rare) to find a business who responds so rapidly to feedback.

  5. It all looks so fabulous! I'm swooning over the breakfast buffet and king sized bed.
    The gift shop looks like I could happily spend an hour just browsing before choosing something to buy.

  6. What a great trip! I have only been to Houston once many, many years ago I have always wanted to go back and spend time traveling around Texas. I'll have to remember this hotel when I go. Thanks for the great review!


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