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The Lodge At Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel {US-AL}

The Lodge At Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel {US-AL}

Old Nov 12, 18, 7:38 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Gulf Coast
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Arrow The Lodge At Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel {US-AL}

The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel

This property had its grand opening a few weeks back. This property’s design is intended to be environmentally “low impact” and those design decisions permeate all aspects of the property. The property itself is beautiful, with the aesthetic of being part of the surrounding sand dunes, as opposed to being built on top of them.

The property has minimal exterior lighting to mitigate any affects on the nesting turtles in the area. The landscaping is negligible, opting to match the natural contours of the tunes and the foliage of the state park.




PRE-ARRIVAL

At time of booking, the “Request Upon Arrival” service for this hotel was not available. A couple of days before arrival, we tried again and found it to be operational. All items were delivered to the room prior to us checking in. Well done!

Prices were typical, where a bottle of wine that can easily be found for $6.99 at your nearest gas station was marked up to $25.00. Eight-ounce cans of Coke products were $4.00. A 12-oz bottle of mineral water was listed at $6.00. These prices were all subject to a 21% gratuity, 10% sales tax, and $6.00 delivery charge. We ordered a few complimentary items since we were planning to use the pool upon arrival.

ARRIVAL

Self-parking is $10.00 and valet parking is $20.00. The parking lot is designed with minimum impervious surface area, so the parking spaces themselves are sandy with an embedded plastic lattice structure. This is to allow maximum drainage of rainwater directly back into the sand. However, this lattice structure is rough on luggage wheels.

The parking lot is about 500-feet from the main entrance. There is no covered walkway which would help when the inevitable Gulf of Mexico thunderstorm pops up on a daily basis.

There seemed to be two doormen always at-the-ready at the main door. We were greeted with a “good evening!” and “how is your stay?” every time we passed by.

CHECK-IN

We were greeted warmly at check-in and our Diamond status was acknowledged. The agents at check-in were still getting used to the nuances of the computer system. No keys were pre-programmed and no upgrades were offered despite extensive availability. One agent gave us a ton of information on the property while the other had some difficulty programming an extra key. All of these issues will be ironed out before busy season next year.



We were offered two complementary bottles of “Just Water” and we were educated on the sustainable practices associated with bottling the water.

The check-in area is not centrally located. The walk from the check-in building to the rooms takes you outside, through the pool deck, and past areas that will be used in the summer for eating, bar service, etc.

ROOM

We were located in a 1-King, Gulf View room on a mid-level floor. This is a non-suite room with a single king bed. This room is categorized as a “premium” room which greatly inflates the cash/points cost of the room. A 16-oz bottle of water was available in the room for a charge of $6.



The room consists of mid-level Hilton brand accommodations. There was ample closet and storage space and the closet had interior, motion-sensitive lighting. There was a round table, about 3’ in diameter, that included one chair. There was a secondary smaller table with a larger chair. On the balcony were two small Adirondack chairs.


We could not find a single USB charging port anywhere in the room. While not a necessity, they have become ubiquitous in my travels.

The bedside lights were on dimmers which made for easy late-night reading. There were also light switches as bedside which turned on lights in other areas of the room. Very smart lighting design.

The balcony wasn’t huge, but had enough space for two adults to sit comfortably. Additionally, there was an option to open a small window to allow a breeze and ocean wave noise in. Unfortunately, opening any door/window shut off the HVAC in the room. View from the balcony, below.



HVAC is provided by an in-room mini-split system mounted in the ceiling. We were able to quickly heat up and cool down the room as needed. We slept OK through our stay, but the motion-sensitive HVAC controller cut off during the night. I understand installing these types of systems in an eco-friendly hotel, but this is 2018… can we find a system that understands a lack of motion doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of occupants?

The bathroom was quite large and offered a full-size walk-in glass shower. The shower was designed with white subway tile and black grout. An interesting design choice. The shower had three large dispensers; one each for shampoo, conditioner, and body soap. Water pressure was impressive as was the upgraded shower head.



DINING

There are two main restaurants. “Foodcraft” is on the main floor and offers a full menu of local entrees. This is where the daily breakfast is located, but we didn’t take part.


“Perch” is upstairs, located above “Foodcraft”. Perch has a huge bar and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over a balcony with amazing views of the Gulf. Both menus had surprisingly “normal” pricing with most entrees in the $15-$25 range. We arrived mid-afternoon and were invited to look around but were told Perch was closed until 4PM. Disappointed in the news, we went upstairs to see the view anyways. The bartender introduced himself while he was setting up for the evening. He asked us if he could get us anything and we replied that we told he was closed. He laughed and said “You look thirsty and I have drinks. Why would I be closed?” We ended up spending 3 hours at the bar, watching football, enjoying the sunset, and having a great time.




Room service was quite good. Our order was delivered sooner than anticipated. Oddly, it was packed as a to-go order, delivered in a paper bag with plastic utensils. Straws are biodegradable “hay straws” that make a coffee-stirrer look huge. The menu fails to indicate the automatic 21% gratuity, $6 service charge, etc.





OTHER ASPECS

The pool looks like it will be the center of activity during high season. There is room for an outside bar/restaurant with seating overlooking the pool. The pool has stair entry at one end and zero-entry at the other. They describe it as an “infinity pool”, but the drop off is about 3’ and (right now) overlooks a hurricane fence.








We didn’t note any resort fee on our reservation, but the resort fee is likely coming.


OVERALL

This property is a great addition to the Hilton portfolio along the Gulf Coast. There are some interesting design choices motivated by the eco-friendly concept. Hilton appears to be aiming towards an upper-middle-tier getaway property as opposed to a family-friendly beach-front resort.









aww3583 is offline  
Old Nov 12, 18, 11:19 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Thanks for the great report! However, I must not be their target demographic. Also, no decent upgrades for diamonds, requiring additional points for standard rooms classified as "premium," $6 water, and a lecture on water bottling practices??!
Airfan is offline  
Old Nov 12, 18, 11:52 am
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Airfan View Post
Thanks for the great report! However, I must not be their target demographic. Also, no decent upgrades for diamonds, requiring additional points for standard rooms classified as "premium," $6 water, and a lecture on water bottling practices??!
I didn't ask for an upgrade. I checked the app before check-in and lots of rooms were available. During check-in, the agent did say its a "soft" opening and about half the rooms are still going through a quality check. No big deal though, it was just two of us and we got the view we paid for.

The standard rooms are priced very competitively. I'm looking at Spring Break rates for a 1K non-Gulf view around $160 or 43,000 pts. However, premium rooms are definitely pricey. A 1K Gulf-view room for the same week is $225 or 73,000 pts. Suites are north of 100k pts/night.

I chuckled when the front desk agent doted on Jaden Smith (son of actor Will Smith) who is an "actor, musician, fashion icon, and bottled water magnate" leading the 'Just Water' initiative." Ounce for ounce, the water was more expensive than the beer.
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Old Nov 13, 18, 11:44 am
  #4  
 
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Side note...disappointed in the lack of local beer on their menu ha! Lots of good breweries in the Panhandle nearby and up the road in Fairhope/Mobile that they could carry.

Must have missed it, but what was the Diamond benefit for breakfast?

Also, I second the disappointment in the motion-sensored HVAC. I hate waking up in a sweat because they can't keep the room cold. There has to be a better way.
dmarge18 is offline  
Old Nov 13, 18, 12:46 pm
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Looks like a nice property.

But why does corporate allow new builds to deviate from the established "Hilton [Locale]" naming convention? I could see retaining a well-known name upon reflagging to Hilton, but it makes no sense for an unknown new build like this one. If the developers wished to relegate the corporate brand to an appositive, isn't that what Curio is for?
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Old Nov 13, 18, 4:38 pm
  #6  
 
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Originally Posted by dmarge18 View Post
Side note...disappointed in the lack of local beer on their menu ha! Lots of good breweries in the Panhandle nearby and up the road in Fairhope/Mobile that they could carry.

Must have missed it, but what was the Diamond benefit for breakfast?

Also, I second the disappointment in the motion-sensored HVAC. I hate waking up in a sweat because they can't keep the room cold. There has to be a better way.
Re: beer. I noticed the menu lackluster as well but one of the photos had a set of tap handles, can the OP report on whether the menu only showed bottled beers and there was perhaps some rotating taps? I as well would find that disappointing if they didn't even have something from the southeast.
BLazarus22 is offline  
Old Nov 13, 18, 4:58 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by BLazarus22 View Post
Re: beer. I noticed the menu lackluster as well but one of the photos had a set of tap handles, can the OP report on whether the menu only showed bottled beers and there was perhaps some rotating taps? I as well would find that disappointing if they didn't even have something from the southeast.
The bar at Perch had some craft-style beers on tap. If I remember correctly, there were 4 selections...1 saison, 2 IPAs, one other. Nothing local to the Gulf Coast, though.

To answer another poster’s question, a breakfast buffet was offered but we declined and headed out for a local breakfast.
aww3583 is offline  
Old Apr 22, 19, 6:48 pm
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
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We just came back from staying at this property and can't say enough wonderful things about our stay. Only complaint is that there is not a single microwave in the entire property!
A few things that have changed:
Self-parking is $5.00 and valet parking is $10.00, Valet is in covered parking garage which is very helpful when a hail storm is being predicted.
Lots of USB ports in the room both sides of the bed, the wall side of bunk beds (top one also).
Diamond breakfast was buffet with lots of choices and made to order eggs/omelette. We also had a 12 year old with us and 2 of the 5 days they did not charge for his breakfast, the other times it was 10.95.
No executive lounge and no resort fee.
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Old Aug 25, 19, 4:48 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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We just finished a stay here, and I wanted to add a few details.

If you get gulf front for the view from the balcony, avoid floors 2 and 4. These have horizontal boards that obstructs your view. To compensate, they have put bar height chairs on the balcony to get your head above the rail height that have to be the most uncomfortable seating I have used. They were almost unusable for me. A better option is the decks on every floor that have comfortable seating and good views, but it is not private. To be honest, the balconies are not private either. There is a cloth barrier between the balconies that stops zero noise and has large gaps at the edges. The balconies are semi-private at best.

I was first assigned a premium room that was gulf front on 2nd floor - the only room available at check in. It was right over the bar/pool area. I traded down to a 4th floor away from the noise. Better, but still those lousy chairs and the blocked view that I would have had in the original room. They charged me an extra 1000 points/night for the downgrade for a total of a whopping 74,000 points per night. I did not consider this a good value for my points. .

Breakfast in the restaurant is good. Service is fantastic and food is fresh. They will print out a bill with an automatic gratuity of $2.50 per person that you sign to charge to room. That might be common, but it is the first I have seen.

Bathroom lighting is terrible. If not for the lighted portable mirror, it would have been hard to shave.

Room had only a straight back chair at the much too small desk. The desk came precluttered with stuff like coffee maker, phone and ice bucket leaving little room for our own clutter.

The previous poster mentions ample USB outlets. My room had zero. There was not a usable outlet at the desk except for a dual that both outlets were used and was up and behind the immovable desk. The desk lamp was not working and I had to crawl up under the desk and contortion myself to plug it in. Yes, a non-functioning lamp was because it had not been plugged in behind an immovable desk. To get everything on charge, I had to charge my phone in the one outlet in the bathroom My wife and I are unusual. We had two tablets, two phones, activity tracker and I had my hearing aids and accessories. But, there is more. Some of the outlets are wired through the wall switches. If you turn them off, you might wake up to dead batteries. Make sure your chargers are working when you turn everything off for the night. We got in the habit of only turning off lamps by using the switches on the lamps.

Bottom line, the standard room is barely adequate.for two people and their stuff. The hotel is beautiful and the beach is great, but I like to sit on the balcony and enjoy the view. This was not enjoyable with the obstructed view and the uncomfortable seating.

One thing to note. This may be good or bad, but the hotel is in the middle of the state park beach. There are no high rise condos or development for about a mile in either direction. When you go to the beach, it is just the hotel guests and the people visiting the state park. The chairs and beach umbrellas are a hefty $30/day for the set of two chairs and umbrella. If you are there for several days, take your own or buy some at one of the many local stores. A set of usable ones that will last the week will be about $70 in the stores.

You will likely need to get in your car to go to anything except the state park and the hotel. There used to be a golf course, but no more. It was closed in December. I played three times at the Gulf Shores Golf Club, a good choice but it was a 10-15 minute drive. If you want to eat anywhere other than the hotel, it will be a drive.

They really undersell the state park. The park charges for many of its features such as many miles of trails and the pier. When you stay at the lodge, these are included. The online trail map is not up to date. The maps on the walls at the hotel show many more miles of new trails that are not on the published on line maps.

Finally, if you use self park, the lot is a 250 yard hike from the elevators to the rooms. It is not too bad for the first day or two, but it gets tiresome. The hike goes past the pool area, through the lobby, past the restaurant and through a corner of the convention center. You quickly learn to make sure you have everything you need when you leave the room.
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InkUnderNails is offline  
Old Aug 25, 19, 9:26 pm
  #10  
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Thank you for that informative report, InkUnderNails, That certainly dropped my expectations about our upcoming stay. It's not what I wanted to read but I'd rather know in advance.
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Old Sep 26, 19, 9:09 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Lots of good info in this thread. I have to go there the day after thanksgiving for a wedding. Staying at this property since that is were it will be. Should I make the 1 hour drive to Pensacola for a day trip? I was wondering how many restaurants would be shut down there at that time of year. FYI I have never been to GS, AL.

I have to say the motion sensor HVAC is one of my biggest pet peeves. I despite those things. I need a cold (not cool) room to sleep well in. I wonder if there is a way to have them by pass that for us. I can't imagine staying there in the summer with that stupid crap!

Any off site recs for good fresh seafood and by that I mean its higher grade freshly caught and not deep fried. Love tuna, swordfish, grouper and shrimp.
1readyset2go is offline  
Old Sep 27, 19, 2:42 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
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Originally Posted by 1readyset2go View Post
Lots of good info in this thread. I have to go there the day after thanksgiving for a wedding. Staying at this property since that is were it will be. Should I make the 1 hour drive to Pensacola for a day trip? I was wondering how many restaurants would be shut down there at that time of year. FYI I have never been to GS, AL.

I have to say the motion sensor HVAC is one of my biggest pet peeves. I despite those things. I need a cold (not cool) room to sleep well in. I wonder if there is a way to have them by pass that for us. I can't imagine staying there in the summer with that stupid crap!

Any off site recs for good fresh seafood and by that I mean its higher grade freshly caught and not deep fried. Love tuna, swordfish, grouper and shrimp.
The HVAC is not motion, it is switches on the window and door. Keep the door or window open and the cooling dies not work. Close them, and you will get cold. My wife loves the sound of the ocean when she sleeps, so we discovered this the first night. In November, it gets cool at night.

For restaurants, check out Orange Beach instead of Gulf Shores. The restaurants tend to be less beachy. It is a right turn out of the parking lot. Gulf Shores is left. The park is between the two towns. We liked Gulf Shores Steamer. Casual atmosphere and good local shrimp. My wife had fresh grouper. For something different, there is Lartigues Fresh Seafood. It is a buy it fresh market and they cook while you wait place. We got steamed local shrimp and steamed veggies and took it back to the hotel. We had a picnic on the common area balcony.

At Pensacola, the Naval Air Station Museum is worth the drive. It is about 30 minutes from the lodge. If you like airplanes and military aviation, it is a great museum. Allow 4-5 hours to see everything and take the 1+ hour guided tour for some of the highlights. It is free.

One thing not mentioned earlier, every town has their own speed limit and I saw a lot of enforcement. That may be a tourist thing and not so much in the off season, but watch the signs. The roads inside the state park are 25MPH if I remember correctly.
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Last edited by InkUnderNails; Sep 27, 19 at 3:13 am
InkUnderNails is offline  
Old Sep 27, 19, 5:25 am
  #13  
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Originally Posted by 1readyset2go View Post
Lots of good info in this thread. I have to go there the day after thanksgiving for a wedding. Staying at this property since that is were it will be. Should I make the 1 hour drive to Pensacola for a day trip? I was wondering how many restaurants would be shut down there at that time of year. FYI I have never been to GS, AL.

I have to say the motion sensor HVAC is one of my biggest pet peeves. I despite those things. I need a cold (not cool) room to sleep well in. I wonder if there is a way to have them by pass that for us. I can't imagine staying there in the summer with that stupid crap!

Any off site recs for good fresh seafood and by that I mean its higher grade freshly caught and not deep fried. Love tuna, swordfish, grouper and shrimp.
In Pensacola, go to Joe Patti’s. It’s where all the other restaurants get their seafood. Everything is caught fresh daily. You can buy raw, steamed, frozen, whatever. We typically buy whatever we’re going to cook that night, and then we buy a pound of Royal Red Shrimp that they’ll steam for you. We eat the reds on the way home.

Sunset Bar and Grill in Perdido is off the beaten path and quite good.

Fish River Grill in Foley is awesome, too.

In Pensacola, some of the better, high-end restaurants include Union Public House, Iron, and The Grand Marlin.
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aww3583 is offline  
Old Sep 29, 19, 8:47 pm
  #14  
 
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Many Thanks for all the restaurant suggestions!
1readyset2go is offline  
Old Sep 29, 19, 8:50 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Dec 2013
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Originally Posted by InkUnderNails View Post
The HVAC is not motion, it is switches on the window and door. Keep the door or window open and the cooling dies not work. Close them, and you will get cold. My wife loves the sound of the ocean when she sleeps, so we discovered this the first night. In November, it gets cool at night.

For restaurants, check out Orange Beach instead of Gulf Shores. The restaurants tend to be less beachy. It is a right turn out of the parking lot. Gulf Shores is left. The park is between the two towns. We liked Gulf Shores Steamer. Casual atmosphere and good local shrimp. My wife had fresh grouper. For something different, there is Lartigues Fresh Seafood. It is a buy it fresh market and they cook while you wait place. We got steamed local shrimp and steamed veggies and took it back to the hotel. We had a picnic on the common area balcony.

At Pensacola, the Naval Air Station Museum is worth the drive. It is about 30 minutes from the lodge. If you like airplanes and military aviation, it is a great museum. Allow 4-5 hours to see everything and take the 1+ hour guided tour for some of the highlights. It is free.

One thing not mentioned earlier, every town has their own speed limit and I saw a lot of enforcement. That may be a tourist thing and not so much in the off season, but watch the signs. The roads inside the state park are 25MPH if I remember correctly.
Thanks for the clarification on the HVAC, good to know. Gulf shore steamer looks good! We will give it a try
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