Niagara Falls, NY
April 13-15, 2017
Room Rate: $113 USD
Easter weekend is a funny one, because not all companies give off an extra holiday for it. Even so, airline tickets are remarkably expensive for that weekend, but since Brian had the Friday off (I didn’t), we were itching to make an escape from the city. That’s where Niagara Falls comes in. Buffalo is only a quick 50 minute flight away (though every airline itinerary will tell you otherwise), and plane tickets were fairly reasonable considering the holiday weekend, and living in New York, Niagara Falls is one of those things that might fall on the to do list, but you never really accomplish. So, long weekend(ish), cheap tickets to Buffalo, and a pang to get out of the city pushed me to head upstate.
Sheraton at the Falls
Make a Green Choice: Yes
Bar and Restaurant On-Property: Yes – Fridays, Rainforest Cafe, and Starbucks
Room Rate Range: $100-$300
We arrived late Thursday night, having caught the last flight to Buffalo from New York. The drive from Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) to the hotel is about 30 minutes. We pulled into the huge uncovered parking lot next to the property ($10/day parking fee, but waived for hotel guests if you get your parking card stamped) and wearily dragged ourselves into the hotel.
The lobby was brightly lit and felt warm and homey as we walked in. The building looked a little old and underwhelming, but the lobby had at the very least looked like it had undergone a refresh in the last few years, which was nice. There was one staff member at the front desk, who promptly checked us in – and I do mean promptly. This was possibly the quickest check in I’ve ever had – we were there no more than two minutes.
No upgrade, no inquiry about which platinum benefit I would like (I wasn’t sure if there was no breakfast option other than the Lounge, but I checked my points and they did credit me the standard 500 Platinum Amenity points, so there’s that. As I waited, she handed me a small booklet of coupons, most of which would probably be more useful if you were traveling as a family (offers like a free appetizer with a purchase of a main course), but for Brian and I, we simply had no use for most of the coupons in the pack. It’s worth noting the property charges a $25/day fee on top of the standard room rate – similar to a resort fee, though I’m not sure that you’re getting quite the amenities you might get at a resort here. A quick exchange of credit card and ID for a couple of room keys and we were on our way up the elevator to the 6th floor.
Unlike the lobby, the 6th floor was dimly lit and done so with white lighting (my least favorite) – so the hallways felt damp and uninviting. It didn’t help at all that the elevators smelled like rotting fish on the way up – and by the end of my stay, I found that they all did so – I’m not sure what’s being stored in the elevator shaft but it made my stomach churn.
It was a bit of a walk down the hallway till we finally reached our room, which I’m sad to report did not face the falls.
The dim lighting from the hallway unfortunately carried into the room. It’s odd, because I always thought hotels always use warmer lighting to create a feeling of warmth and comfort – the white light felt clinical and cold. The room was no doubt spacious, though honestly, I was surprised it wasn’t larger. If we were in a city, I’d find the sizing to be average, but considering the location, I was expecting more space (or well, at least hoping).
Walking into the room, there was an oddly placed overstuffed chair right by the door. I never walked into it, but it was an unusual spot for the chair.
The centerpiece of the room was of course the bed, which was nicely comfortable (and probably the most redeeming quality of my experience). The kind sized bed was just the right balance firm and soft and I slept pretty well on it.
The bed had a couple bedside tables next to it which, though looked dated, had my favorite thing – an outlet built into it! This was located right on the lamp base!
Off to the corner was an overstuffed chair that matched the one by the front door. Bonus – this one came with a pull-out ottoman that was otherwise tucked underneath the chair. Great to melt into after a day of walking around the park.
The room came equipped with a large desk, which I used the next day to get some work done on. I was able to easily spread all my papers across the desk and get my work done – though I’m not sure how many people come to Niagara and bring their work with them. That being said, the internet connection was pretty terrible – I could barely get my computer to connect to it. This is probably because there is no fee or limitation to the number of devices per room that can be connected, so everyone on the hotel was on it. I ended up using my cellphone as a personal hotspot to get work done.
While the desk was well-sized, I was hoping it would have some easy access ports on its front of the desk, which it unfortunately did not (meaning I had to crawl under the desk to plug in my computer).
The desk came equipped with a phone would charge only when laid on its cradle in a very specific spot, and some Sheraton stationary. Speaking of the phone, I tried to call the front desk during my stay by pressing the “Service Express” button, which gave me a busy signal. I decided to just dial the hotel’s main number, which connected me to a hotel associate who mentioned the Service Express shortcut isn’t set up right now, and that I should dial “0” to get the front desk. A pro tip from me to you 😉
The room came equipped with a large flat screen TV, a refrigerator (no snacks), a microwave, and a coffee machine with Starbucks coffee. I’m noticing more and more that some brands are moving away from the minibar business model to having a centrally located shop in the lobby for people to pick up snack at (as was the case here). At first I found it to be a bit annoying, but in retrospect, they had more variety at the shop than they would have had in a mini bar, so I’ve quite warmed up to the idea.
While the room was nicely sized, the bathroom was oddly tiny and cramped. I couldn’t take two steps without walking right into something – whether it be the toilet, the shower, or the counter.
Speaking of the sink, (which had plenty of counterspace – it took up 1/3 of the room!), one oddity was how high up it was… or perhaps how low the toilet was in comparison. Either way, I chalked it up to an excessively tall sink area. In addition to the large, brightly lit mirror, the bathroom had magnifying mirror, which though useful, didn’t have a particularly great light on it, so I couldn’t see quite what I was looking at. The sink came fully stocked with the standard Sheraton toiletries, which are the same you’ll find at most Sheratons. I don’t love the conditioner they supply, so I always suggest bringing your own. The sink area also had a couple shelved below the counter, which housed towels and a hair dryer. The hair dryer was, as most hotel dryers are, pretty weak and underwhelming, but I had some trouble using it because the outlet by the sink area was a little loose and the dryer would come unplugged if I moved it just a bit.
The shower area was fairly standard sized, with descent water pressure, though the water had a tendency to run too hot. I was a fan of the sliding doors, which allowed one to exit and enter the space from either side.
Overall, the room was for the most part fine. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the lighting and the bathroom was a weirdly small size, but that was all fine. What wasn’t fine was how paper-thin the walls were. I could hear my neighbors next door – the mother yelling expletives at her kids to hurry up and get dressed or quiet down because she’s on the phone. Brian woke up once in the middle of the night to the sound of loud chatter. While everything else can be overlooked, this was easily the worst thing about the room – it really impeded on how comfortable we felt in the space, and frankly, put a bit of a damper on our stay.
As I mentioned earlier, the lobby looked updated and newer than the rest of the hotel. The furniture and design looked more modern yet comfortable, and the lobby was flooded with sunlight during the day. There was plenty of sitting areas, most of which were occupied during the day by families or large groups traveling together. A small business center was located at one side of the lobby, which offered guests a free 45 minute web session and 5 free black and white prints daily (though free printing for boarding passes). While I understand limit on printing, the timed internet sessions was a little odd – I’m fairly certain most Starwood Hotels don’t charge for use of the business center computers for basic web surfing.
This hotel caters more so to large groups and families, and the on-site dining options were no different. Unlike most Sheratons, this property did not have its own restaurant, instead, there was a Fridays, a Rainforest Cafe, and a Starbucks on the ground floor. Since these were not “hotel restaurants’ per se, bills couldn’t be charged to your room and had to be paid directly to the restaurant. All could be accessed without exiting the hotel.
As I mentioned earlier, the rooms didn’t have stocked minibars, so there’s a small convenience store-type setup in the lobby where you can pick up snacks, drinks, sandwiches, and a few non-food items like Advil. Items were fairly priced in terms of hotel pricing – we picked up a couple of chocolate bars that cost less than $2 each.
I normally wouldn’t write about this for a Sheraton, because typically there aren’t many. But I felt compelled to add this section because I noticed a sign for the Reef Beach Club & Pool, so I was naturally compelled to pop in and check it out. It’s an indoor pool area with plenty of lounge chairs (which looks like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s), but I need to mention that there was a small SHARK TANK in here. It wasn’t a crazy large one, but it’s definitely a random thing for this property to have… There’s also an arcade next to the Rainforest Cafe.
On the more as-expected side, the property also has a small gym, shuttle service to the airport, oh, and an enclosed underground walkway to the casino across the street… if that’s your thing.
The lounge was located on the sixth floor, right across from the elevator bank and is accessed with your room key card. A breakfast buffet is served every morning from 6:30 to 10 am, while hors d’oeuvres are served from 5-7 pm. The lounge area is fairly small, and as a result, is almost always crowded during food service hours, though is empty in between.
The space offered a small couch area by the flat screen TV, and a communal table to dine at. It was nearly impossible to find anywhere to sit during meal hours, and to go containers weren’t offered, though the staff didn’t mind if I took my plate to my room and returned it later.
Breakfast was your standard continental breakfast – breads, cereal, yogurt, fruit, and bagels – with a few hot items. When I stopped by they were serving an omelette-type egg dish and pancakes.
During happy hour, complimentary wine and beer was served, along with veggie sticks and nuggets (I think).
The crowd was more intense at night – not sure if it’s because the service time is shorter or because people are hungrier, but they were running out of food regularly. Tip: if you are going to pick up some food, try to stop by right when it starts to make sure they’re fully stocked!
The hotel is located a quick 5 minute walk (maybe less) from Niagara Falls Park. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. There are plenty of the hotels in the area (most walking distance), though the one located closet to the park (right across the street) is the Comfort Inn. If you’re staying at the hotel, you’re probably in town to see Niagara Falls, so the location is convenient.
Overall, I’d say the hotel was fine for what it was – a place to crash after spending a day at the falls. Anything more than that though, I’d say this property falls flat of SPG expectations – and they probably don’t need to try very hard. No doubt they pick up a steady stream of guests who stay at the property solely for convenience, so why go the extra mile? If I were to visit again, I’d probably skip this property and check out the Canadian side. We ended up checking out early and heading to Buffalo for our last night in the area – we just never felt comfortable in the hotel.
Check In: 8/10 – Quick and very much appreciated considering my late arrival.
Elite Recognition: 6/10 – None, other than being given a room on the club floor.
Room: 6/10 – While the bed was comfortable, the paper-thin walls really put a damper on my stay.
In-Room Technology & Entertainment: 7/10 – Decent overall, but the internet was terrible – could barely get it to work.
Staff: 8/10 – Friendly and helpful, though honestly they didn’t have much to work with.
Location: 7/10 – Great location if you’re trying to head to the falls on the American side, but there’s not too much else in the area within walking distance.
On-Site Dining: 7/10 – Convenient to have restaurants at the hotel, but nothing fantastic.
Amenities: 7/10 – Surely the families enjoyed the swimming pool area, but for me, this was a pass. Was great that there was a lounge (was honestly not expecting one) but it was always packed and hard to enjoy.
Hospitality Services: 7/10 – There was a tour desk on-site if you needed help, though no other extra services were available.
Hotel Appearance: 5/10 – The lobby was nice, but the rooms and hallways felt dark and uninviting.
Overall Rating: 68/100 (68%) ★★★★★