When I took the whole family to Philadelphia for a visit while I went to the US Mint media tour, we stayed at the brand spanking new Homewood Suites in the University City section of town. What a beautiful hotel! It just opened May 2012, so everything is still shiny and new, and everything is super modern – the furniture, the amenities like the pool and fitness areas, and the whole building is a green one, with energy efficiency built into everything from the lighting to the climate controls.
Homewood is an all-suite hotel chain, and we had one with two double beds in the bedroom. It came with a small kitchen that had a two-burner stove, microwave, sink, dishwasher and a full-size refrigerator/freezer. Having a kitchen while traveling with kids is so incredibly convenient, and this one was sparkling clean and well furnished with dishes, cookware and cutlery. There is a small concession area in the lobby with basic snacks and food items, and the hotel staff will also take grocery orders and deliver them to your room. If you prefer to shop yourself, there is a 24-hour grocery store down about a block away that is friendly and clean.
The living room area has a pullout sofa bed, and my teenaged son claimed that spot. He was very happy, as that’s where the bigger of the two flatscreen TVs is located. He reports that the bed was comfortable, and easy to open and close. His coma-like snoozing backs up that he was able to sleep very well. The double beds in the bedroom were also very comfy, and had some of the best pillows I’ve ever used. I also liked the ceiling fan, it enabled us to keep the air conditioning at a higher temp, but still stay comfortable all night.
The hotel offers valet parking for an extra fee, just note that if your vehicle is a standard shift, not all valets know how to drive one! There are no self-parking options through the hotel, but you can opt to take your chances with trying to find on-street parking (not likely), or you can use another of the parking garages a block or so down the street. For the money, the valet parking was worth it for us, though my husband did have to drive to the lot himself when we checked in as the valet didn’t drive a stick. Luckily the valet on duty when we checked out could handle a manual shifter, so no sweat that time!
The area the hotel is in is full of students and professors affiliated with University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, and the hotel guests we saw during our stay were a range of families with kids and professionals on business. The layout of the suites is very conducive to an extended stay. The bedroom is private from the living area, and the kitchen is really well designed.
Homewood Suites offers a free breakfast buffet every morning, and a free manager’s reception evenings Monday through Thursday that includes a light meal and wine, beer, and sodas. Typical breakfast fare was a selection of 2-3 cold cereals, apple and orange juices, coffee, tea and pastries, along with a hot selection. One day it was cheese omelettes with hash browns and sausage links, and the next was sausage biscuits with gravy and tater tots. The fresh fruit offering was limited to basic apples and oranges. For my daughter, the main attraction was the DIY waffle iron, which she took full advantage of. The dinner the first night was a selection of basic cold cuts, rolls, garnishes and potato salad and the second night was baked tilapia, veggies and rice. If you have allergies or dietary restrictions for sodium, the food may not work for you as the selection is somewhat limited, and it is all pre made, but for the most part it’s a nice way to save a few dollars – especially when traveling with kids.
We did have some confusion as to the policy about taking a container of food back to the room, versus eating it in the dining room. The first night and morning that we were there, many guests were asking for, and getting, takeout containers and heading back up to their suites, but the supervisor on duty the next night said that it was not allowed when we asked. Awkward! The beer dispenser seemed to have problems both nights as well. There was also a some lag with keeping the items stocked, and for some reason it was particularly bad at dinner time. We found the breakfasts to be much more smoothly run in general, though.
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While this Homewood Suites is not in Center City Philadelphia, we found the subway to be more than adequate for getting us to and from all the sights we wanted to check out. Parking can be a dreadful nightmare in Philly, so we made it a point to avoid the need for it as much as possible. It’s a short walk from the hotel to the 40th street station of the Market-Frankford Line, aka the Blue Line, and it was quick, easy, and lots of fun getting to the sights. We found the trains to be clean, efficient and very pleasant to use. It took no more than 20 minutes, total with walking time, for me to get to the US Mint near the Old City from the hotel, and that was during morning rush hour!
Disclosure: The Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation picked up the tab for both nights at Homewood Suites University City, but all opinions herein are strictly my own.
Homewood Suites University City
4109 Walnut Street
Philadelphia PA, 19104
USA Phone: 1-215-382-1111
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Gina Martin | lives in Coxsackie NY with her husband, their two children, and an assortment of Rottweilers and cats. Gina has been a homeschooling parent since 2003, and is also proud parent of a Tech Valley High School student. Gina is the creator of ModSchooler, her blog about 21st -century learning and fun, and is a contributor to From Scratch Club writing on food and food policy. As lifelong learners, Gina and her tween and teen kids like to go off the beaten path to explore quirky travel destinations, unusual cuisine, and all things geeky. Email: GinaMartin@AlbanyKid.com, twitter: @GinaMartinBlogs