The Clarion Hotel and Conference Center on Fowler Avenue in Tampa is a study in contrasts. There are some great things about it and some which aren't. Overall though, it is a solid value for those traveling on a budget.
I stayed for 3 nights at the Clarion last week. It is located near a hospital where my dad had been admitted unexpectedly, had an exceptionally reasonable rate ($59-$69 per night during my stay) and most importantly had rooms available on short notice in Florida's winter tourist season.
Like many of the other reviewers, I found the resort-style lobby of the hotel to be quite grand, particularly for an inexpensive hotel. I was also pleased by the friendly desk clerk (Ms. Lopez) who welcomed me graciously to the Clarion. Great first impression.
I grew up in Tampa and remember "way back when" in the days that the Clarion was the Holiday Inn University (so named due to its location near the University of South Florida). It has a typical layout of a Holiday Inn of the 1970s, with exterior corridors. I got a room facing the courtyard--where the swimming pools are located. The pools and courtyard areas are incredible for any hotel and I enjoyed having a room in this part of the hotel.
The room itself was well-worn. The furniture was nicked and dinged and the bedspread was frayed. It had an older-style tube TV and the paint was peeling a bit in certain areas of the room. As to housekeeping, while my room was reasonably clean, quite frankly housekeeping could have done a better job. I noticed dust behind the dresser, for instance.
However, the Clarion got it right where it mattered most. It was comfortable and the linens and towels were quite clean. The bathroom was just fine--no problems with the plumbing whatsoever. The room did smell a bit like chlorine because of its location next to the pool--which is to be expected. My room contained a refrigerator and microwave, and the TV had a decent selection of channels.
Unlike many two star hotels, this place does have a couple of great extras. There is a TGI Friday's on site in one of the hotel buildings. I enjoyed having dinner and a couple of drinks there on one night of my stay.
The Clarion also offers a complimentary full breakfast "cafeteria style" in a breakfast room off of the lobby, which was another plus. The kitchen staff was very nice and the food (eggs, sausage, hash browns, fruit, bacon, coffee, and juice) beats the heck out of the lame "continental" breakfasts of plain bagels, cereal, and waffle maker that many similarly-priced places offer.
The location is convenient, even though Fowler Avenue is an older, humdrum commercial strip of buildings which saw its heyday when Jimmy Carter was President. Having said that, the hotel is across the street from the aging University Mall, which also dates from the 1970s but does still have a Macy's and a Sears (where I shopped) among other offerings. There's a decent supermarket across the street from the hotel and the location is near the University and Busch Gardens. The Clarion is also not terribly far from the airport, I-275 and I-75, and the Amtrak station. In short, it made for a good "base camp" for me.
I challenge those who have panned this place on TripAdvisor to find any hotel in the Tampa area that provides all of this for a similar rate. The area Hampton Inn, La Quinta, and others are charging $80+ more per night at this time of year.
In fact, I plan to return at the end of this week, enjoy the pool and the other amenities offered here, and deal with the somewhat worn-but-comfortable room. I think there is a lot of value to be found at this Clarion and believe that other travelers not seeking luxury digs will enjoy it and the savings which can be had by staying here.
Get a room poolside by all means. Due to the design of the hotel it means the difference between a v...
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.