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Set Adrift on Budget Bliss at the Driftwood Lodge at Zion National Park

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  Site Where: 1515 Zion Park Blvd. [map], Springdale, UT, United States, 84767
April 11, 2014 at 2:47 PM | by | Comment (1)

Serene mountain views and the rush of a Virgin River at Driftwood Lodge; a HotelChatter Review

When visiting Zion National Park, many choose to experience this majestic slice of the Great Outdoors, well, outdoors. There are three campgrounds to choose from and, during the height of the summer, reservations are typically a must. Even the "off" season can get quite crowded given the right circumstances.

If your idea of roughing it, however, is staying in a budget motel, there are many to choose from in the adjacent town of Springdale, Utah. Dubbed "The Gateway to Zion," the town's main road, which leads straight to the national park, is dotted with name-brand motel chains, independent lodges and quaint inns. Many are located one right after the other. A bit of Internet sleuthing caused us to choose the Driftwood Lodge for a two-night weekend getaway.

Check-In

Arriving on a Friday evening as the sun set, the Driftwood Lodge made a postcard-worthy first impression. The lodge, actually a collection of newer and older stand-alone buildings, was aglow in the last rays of light as a majestic mountain ridge and endless blue sky towered in the background.

The main building, right on Zion Park Boulevard, serves as the lobby and check-in was effortless. Renovated in 2013, it fit within the lodge theme, however, a very sanitized version. Wood floors, brick walls, brightly colored area rugs were all present but lacked a lived-in rustic appeal. A completely nit-picky observation, we know, and nothing a few throws and some random chotskies couldn't overcome.

A cheerful representative greeted us promptly and quickly imparted the lay of the land (how to get to our room, where to find the passcode for the free WiFi and a reminder to turn in our room keys at the end of the stay or face a $5 per card fee) before sending us on our way. No bell service was offered, but none was needed. It should also be pointed out that the front desk isn't staffed round-the-clock, however, someone is always available via telephone for emergencies.

Room Reaction

As mentioned, Driftwood Lodge is a hodgepodge of separate buildings. We were told we had one of the best rooms on the property; but, as we were just 'regular guests' for all they knew, that was taken with a grain of salt. A quick drive around the corner had us pulling into the Court of the Patriarchs which serves as the parking lot for Driftwood's newest units, 10 rooms split between two 2-story buildings constructed in 2012.

Collecting our luggage, we trudged up the wooden staircase (there are no elevators here) to room #515. Stepping inside, we found a neutral room that was clean albeit sparse, offering two beds, two dressers, two leather armchairs flanking a small end table, a small kitchenette (sans table and chairs) and an unexpectedly spacious bathroom.

The sheers were drawn and obscured the real showstopper -- enormous picture windows flanking two of the room's walls. When the drapery was opened, the view was stunning. Craggy mountains painted in red and pink hues and dotted with greenery enthralled and made it clear this truly was one of the best rooms not just at Driftwood, but perhaps in the whole town. Stepping out onto the balcony only made the scene that much more incredible by adding glimpses of the Virgin River which rushed by with a dull roar.

The kitchenette -- located in the entryway -- featured cabinets for groceries, a microwave, a mini-fridge and a Keurig with (controversial) pods while the bathroom offered a walk-in shower, a separate tub, double sinks, and a hair dryer. A bathroom window allowed for lots of natural sunlight (so much that we didn't turn on the lights that much) and could be opened to enjoy breezes or the sounds of nature.

Amenity Madness

Driftwood offers a swimming pool and jacuzzi as well as laundry facilities. The banks of the Virgin River are a short stroll away no matter which building you're assigned.

Guest bathrooms are stocked with Olive Branch Botanicals in a white tea & ginger scent. The products are not tested on animals and are free of sulfates, parabens, and the like. The soap was not overly drying and the lotion had a refreshingly creamy consistency (there's nothing more disappointing to this writer than a 'watery' lotion) that did not leave any residue.

Internet Connect

It quickly became clear that Springdale and Zion were phone-free zones. Not necessarily because we were too busy exploring, but because there were more dead spots than hot spots. Driftwood Lodge's complimentary in-room WiFi meant smart devices were fired up as soon as we crossed the threshold. The signal was strong and reliable, even when on the balcony. We used two iPhones and an iPad simultaneously without issue. The log-on information is kept in the guest room directory and is easy to remember once read.

Dining In

There is a dining spot on-site just off the lobby for breakfast, however, it is only offered during the high season and late March (the time of this writer's visit) wasn't it. The front desk was quick to offer $5 vouchers for a cafe just down the street, Oscar's, as an alternative. My group's visit to Oscar's yielded painfully slow service, a meal that didn't arrive as it was ordered, another interminable wait for the missing items, a breakfast that turned out to be pretty bland when we were finally able to dig in, and a coffee refresh that had filled our mugs to the brim with a brew that, we assume (hoped?), had once been hot.

As Oscar's is among the more highly rated dining experiences in Springdale, perhaps, we caught it on a bad morning. But, since we had a series of underwhelming dining experiences around town including a bad case of food poisoning from one establishment (not Oscar's), you may need to temper your expectations.

Location, Location, Location

At Driftwood, not every building faces in the same direction so the view will vary. We saw some rooms right along the highway so, in our case, we really did have one of the best accommodations with a location tucked away at the very rear of the property right along the river. Definitely submit a request to stay in one of the Court of the Patriarchs buildings. Even if you don't score a second-story room, the ground-level accommodations offer walk-up patios to enjoy. And, each building in the Court is designed so that each patio and/or balcony is private and out-of-sight from your neighbor's.

As far as proximity to Zion, it's less than five minutes down the road by car as are restaurants, cafes, and gift shops. Many are within walking distance so, as long as you're not planning to explore the park along with the town, your wheels can easily be left behind.

What We Liked

The view was everything here. Even if our accommodations had been among the oldest on the property, it would have been easy to overlook quite a few transgressions in exchange for that picture-perfect backdrop.

What We Didn't Like

The biggest bummer was the lack of on-site dining, however, it was easily overcome with a bit of forethought. Planning for hunger instead of waiting for it to hit is key.

Bottom Line

Driftwood Lodge was a delightful find in a town filled with the sameness of well-known budget chains like Quality Inn, Best Western, La Quinta and Hampton Inn. It might be easier to go with a name you know, but Driftwood proves that the unknown doesn't mean unremarkable, too, and can yield the most unbelievable of experiences.

This writer's two-night stay at Driftwood (Fri-Sat) cost $368. My party of three resided in a Signature Double Queen accommodation in the Court of the Patriarchs.

[All photos: HotelChatter]

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