As you walk into the lobby, passed the slick waterfall wall, you definitely get the feeling that you are actually inside one of those Second Life aloft scenes, I kid you not. This place feels digital.
The open layout is a bit non-intuitive as far as where to check in goes, there is one circular desk off to the right that looks to be check in central, but it also serves as the cash out register for the serve yourself food court -- so the circular desk ends up being pure madness during high traffic times.
Believe it or not, sagging economy and all, the aloft Lexgington, MA was hopping during our stay. Check in did take a while, and it appeared that the two girls working the circular desk were doing their best, but dealing with down computers and a Starbuck's like rush hour.
At first, seeing "WXYZ" bar at an off the highway hotel in Lexington made us chuckle a bit, but in time, I think the ubiquity will be expected instead of chuckle-inducing.
Furthermore, the pool table, all the board games, and the plethora of seating really does make the area "traveler type agnostic."
If you are a business traveler you will no doubt head over to WXYZ for the flat screens and the booze, however, if you are traveling with your kids you will end up playing some of the board games, checking out the pool table, or heading across the outdoor sitting area (complete with fireplace) to the pool area.
The rooms have a quasi-luxury dorm room feel. They are a bit dark and drastic, and yes, sadly, when you enter the room for the first time you practically fall into the bathroom area -- or at least the sink area. It is reminiscent of many 80s-era side-of-the-road hotel rooms, but it gets better.
aloft completes the room with super comfortable mattresses, flat-screen TVs, and current pop culture magazines. We read the latest issues of Spin, Wired, and Dwell during our stay -- nice touch.
If you are traveling with a little one, aloft will offer you the opportunity to turn the stay into a semi-camping event for your smaller half. We told you about this the other day.
Basically, housekeeping sets up an air mattress, tricks it out with colorful caterpillar sheets, and lets the child choose a sugar snack for bed (they offer healthy options as well, but most kids won't fall for that trick).
$129 a night -- all in.
Ok we have mocked aloft quite a bit along their path to opening. Their pension for small letters and terrabytes of press releases (years before they opened) left them wide open to mockery. Furthermore, we also sort of questioned the whole "let's bring the boutique experience to the highway hotels" idea, but you know what? It kind of works.
For one thing, it give you a nice nostalgic feeling. Highway hotels are, for the most part, old and unattractive. Walk into any old run-of-the-mill highway hotel and the boredom is palpable. But at aloft, you really get a "Great American Road Trip" kind of experience. Granted we only drove like an hour from our house but still.
So if Starwood and aloft want to remake the highway hotel experience into some sort of commoditized boutique hotel experience, we say go for it.
The result is something anyone of any age or traveling background can enjoy for a night, and after all, wouldn't you rather have slick repackaged urban experiences in your highway hotel than stodgy, shady nights sleeping with one eye open?