Upscale, newer, 9-story Residence Inn (RI) with hints of wear in (150+) suites. Receive a suite with an accumulation of peculiarities, become irked; receive a trouble-free suite, have difficulty parting.
Hotel borders tree-lined, historic Freemason area -- lovely side-walk friendly neighbourhood for tranquil, after-work or after-dinner strolls. Easy-to-walk-to eateries, shops, & harbour sites. You won't lack places to roam.
In nice weather, bypass routine treadmill tedium (in on-site gym) & opt for exploring the city & waterfront sights on foot. Spot cheerfully decorated mermaid sculptures along way.
1 Bedroom Corner Suite, Mid-Level Floor
If staying days, weeks, or months, rooms are convenient, fully equipped suites -- mini-condo-like living with perk of prepared breakfasts each morning.
Interesting how each time you visit a hotel (based on your suite's unique features, quirks, condition) how much that 1 room affects your entire stay & influences your perception of the hotel as a whole. (This go-round, the suite was a trouble-free W o W.)
• Uniquely spacious living room & bedroom. (Space a claustrophobe can revel in.) Abundant for 1 or 2 people, roomy for 3 or 4 -- even comfortable for 5. (Don't get sense of walls coming in on you or being cramped by furnishings.)
• Spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows (in living room & bedroom) increase sense of open space -- allows in full sunlight. From mid-level floors facing York St./ harbour side of hotel (not W. Brambleton Ave. side), view nearby buildings (Monticello Antique Shop), rooftops, parking garage, & top of ship, USS Wisconsin. (Scenic city views from higher floors: stone church (Epworth United Methodist) at corner of Freemason & Boush streets....)
• Suite properly cleaned & re-supplied. (No unpleasant surprises, no hunt for basics or need for re-cleaning.)
• Air conditioning worked properly -- quietly (without repetitive clicking that drives you to turn off AC).
• Didn't hear a bathroom fan -- grateful for silence.
• Perk of additional closet in living room (in addition to closet in bedroom) keeps luggage out of way & sight. Living room closet lacks clothing rod, but good for storing large/ bulky items (suitcases) on floor. Didn't miss not having luggage rack.
• Kitchen table (with 2 seats) for dining & a separate desk (with office chair) for work. Handy having 2 separate designated dining & desktop spots to allow enough area to s p r e a d out. Enough electrical outlets for numerous electronic gadgets.
• Convenient full-size fridge with icemaker & ice tray in freezer. (Thankfully, no roaming halls daily for ice machine.)
• Countertop microwave (instead of wall- /cabinet-mounted) eats up kitchen counterspace -- not whine-worthy considering abundance of other niceties.
• Comfortable king bed -- not too hard, not too soft -- perfect for restful sleep.
• Both flat-panel, swivel HD TVs appropriately (height) mounted on bureaus -- not on wall. (Wall-mounted TVs can be neck-achingly high in some suites.) Enough TV stations, good reception/ image quality.
• Free Internet/ WiFi. (No connection difficulties.)
• Bathroom shower/ tub combo had 2 wire mesh soap dishes mounted on corner wall (furthest from shower head spray) -- allowing soap to thoroughly air dry by not sit in non-draining soap-dish puddle. (Wish all hotels would mount wire soap dishes on far side of shower spray. Seemingly insignificant detail but appreciate not having to bathe with tiny, meltingly soft bar of disintegrating soap.)
Minor Moans to Grumbles
• No longer provide dishwashing liquid, even after requesting. Inconvenient/ impractical -- especially if you've only a few items to wash & don't want to waste water/ electricity running dishwasher. [If a cost-cutting measure, savings is probably illusory. Guessing energy/ water expenses to run dishwashers (with few items) are costlier overall than price of dish liquid.] This RI was like others -- freely supplying dish liquid in tiny bottles; hope hotel re-evaluates decision & brings back miniature Palmolives. (In meantime, shampoo works till you've a chance to purchase dish soap. Paul Mitchell may be delighted his rich shampoo lather thoroughly cleanses any dish type -- balancing moisture & adding volume to cookware -- serving as a luxurious cutlery wash....)
• Squeaky bedroom door easily remedied with oil.
• Ironing board cover/ pad due for replacement. (Appreciated fully functioning new iron.)
• TVs' HDMI inputs are disabled here, so set-top boxes (Xbox, Roku, Apple TV, ...) can't output their displays via HDMI. Use last century technology, a VGA cable, as workaround. (Although hotel is aware of disabled HDMI inputs, they've said there's nothing they can do.) Norfolk RI is the only hotel in travels (so far) where HDMI inputs are disabled.
• Occasional hit or miss housekeeping. Most times service, once in a while not -- no apparent rhyme/ reason. No biggie, just odd. Either call or go down to front desk for requests -- helpful, prompt fulfillment.
• 1st-floor exercise room: 2 ellipticals, 2 treadmills, bicycle, & weights. Towels, water, equipment wipes provided. (Don't recall if earbuds provided for built-in TVs; good to bring your own just in case.)
• 1st floor laundry room down same corridor as gym/ pool rooms. (Exercise during wash & dry cycles -- going between laundry room & exercise room.) 5 washers ($1.50); 5 dryers ($1.50). Deep basin washer held full load & dryer completely dried full load.
• 2 computers & printer (by lobby front desk in comfortable seated area) to print documents, boarding passes.
• Minimal elevator wait. Two speedy elevators deliver you in 2 shakes of lambs tail. Brief morning/ evening rush hour wait. (Female elevator voice announces in a high intonation, "Going up" & lower intonation, "Going down." May provide a giggle to little ones.)
• Sturdy, solid trolley/ luggage carts easily moves heavy equipment/ suitcases. (Seemingly minor point, but appreciated if you've used a rickety/ flimsy cart laden with equipment/ baggage.) Wish all RIs would migrate to robust trolleys.
• Still $18 daily self-parking at York Street Garage (above ground) directly across street from hotel's door. Costly (6 days = $108) but convenient. [In perspective (perhaps rationalisation), parking fee can balance out with 'free' daily breakfasts plus 2 to 3 'free' weekly dinners. If traveling with several family members/ friends, recoup the $18 by dining-in on RI's cost-included meals rather than dining out at local eateries. Save significant out-of-pocket $, €, £, ¥ if traveling as couple, family, or friends.]
• Proximity to enjoyable walking areas. Charming, tree-lined Freemason historical district -- dripping with rows of beautiful flowering trees (fronting homes & buildings) along both sides of cobblestone streets. A step back in time. Excellent for relaxing after-work or after-dinner strolls. Return to genteel, serene beauty: old historic buildings, wrought iron fences/ gates, attention to architectural detail & landscaping -- visual treats. If simple pleasure is 'your thing,' you might enjoy peacefulness of Freemason. (Won't regret bringing camera.) An official-looking historical plaque mounted on a home (down Bute St) notes: "On this site in 1897 nothing happened." A welcomed chuckle.
• Local transport, Norfolk's light rail (The Tide) goes around the hotel, & the station (York Street/ Freemason) is a brief walk (couple minutes) from hotel door.
• Mermaid iconography/ sculpture throughout city. Youngsters & adults may enjoy "mermaid spotting."
6:30 - 9am (Mon - Fri)
7 - 10am (Sat, Sun)
Hot Breakfast Foods
• Standard HOT EGG/ MEAT DISHES (*rotation* improved): spinach, egg, ham English muffins; egg, sausage, cheese biscuits; biscuits & gravy; in addition to standard scrambled eggs. (Hope for additional options: breakfast burritos/ wraps, sausage hash, french toast... Saw sign for breakfast burritos, but didn't see any.) MEAT rotations: thin round-sliced ham/ Canadian bacon; small sausage patties (particularly flavourful).
• POTATOES: potato pancakes; seasoned potato wedges (or cooked in some way that made them tasty). (If you've had dry, unseasoned, flavourless wedges at some RIs -- you'll appreciate these); potato with veg (onion, green & red peppers). [Several sequential days, the typical 'potato pan' was filled with solely chopped/ cooked veg (onion & red/green peppers) -- think potato was missing. (Don't recall seeing sole veg mixture served elsewhere.) Noticed the potato-less veg pan was typically full/ untouched -- as few guests scooped mixture on plate. Not complaining; ideal for us veg lovers -- not necessarily everyone else.]
• HOT FOOD TOPPINGS (self-add): salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, fresh chives....
• HOT OATMEAL with self-add toppings: raisins, walnuts, brown sugar.
• WAFFLE MAKER with self-add toppings: strawberry (in syrup), blueberry (in syrup), chocolate chips...
Cold Breakfast Foods
• COLD CEREALS: Special K, Fruit Loops, Rice Crispies, Frosted Flakes.
• CUT FRUIT: CANTALOUPE fresh most/ all times (except 'off'/ spoiled just 1 time), PINEAPPLE, HONEYDEW. Sequence of several days where just cantaloupe was out, then sequence of several days where just pineapple was out, etc.. (Didn't see *daily* alternating/ rotating amongst the 3 types of cut fruit.)
[Clarification: *DAILY* ROTATION, a small, seemingly petty point, but deeply appreciated by guests who steadily breakfast at same hotel (or same brand (RI) of hotel, which serve *identical* breakfast foods) for days/ weeks/ months at a time. Short-stay, periodic guests may not notice or experience 'identical food fatigue' because RI's selections may be sufficiently varied for their length of stay(s). 'Food fatigue' can be experienced by frequenters of brand breakfasts who solely eat the same limited food options repeatedly over lengthy, sustained periods of time. Routine, long-term RI guests (dining primarily on finite options) aren't ungrateful or persnickety -- merely 'fatigued' from unwavering, limited food choices provided at each & every hotel across brand. *Anything* brands can do to ROTATE/ VARY their menus is genuinely appreciated. (Because not all long-stay RI travelers have time/ budgets to shop & prep their own meals (or breakfast out each morning), they come to know brand food choices intimately.) A glimpse of *any* variation from the routine -- a fresh blueberry or a real strawberry -- brings a tear of joy.]
• WHOLE FRUIT: Appreciated abundant ORANGES & APPLES, but didn't see BANANAS for nearly a week. (Can't help but hum, "Yes. We have no bananas. We have no bananas today," while approaching the whole fruit/ oatmeal nook. Little do you realize how much you miss the humble fruit till it's no longer there.) Eventually, bananas appeared & earth resumed rotating. Having all 3 choices out at once is greatly appreciated variety & an easy to grab 'to-go' fruit when rushed.
• YOGHURT PARFAITS: Saw only couple times. Wish they were available daily. Or, leave out bowls of granola, PLAIN UNSWEETENED YOGHURT, & strawberries/ blueberries (preferably fresh) for guest to make their own parfaits. Sugary/ sweetened single-serve fruity yoghurts (Yoplait, Activia) are available, but no alternatives for guests who can't handle that much sugar. (Wish plain, unsweetened yoghurt became a routine option.)
• WHITE FLOUR BREADS/ PASTRIES: Same faux, whole grain, carmel-coloured bread, & lots of white-flour carbohydrate-laden bagels, English muffins, sugary mini-muffins (breakfast "desserts"), white flour tortilla, as served at many RIs. Always hope for real WHOLE GRAIN breads/ bagels etc. that are served at upscale RIs. (Sign notes 'whole grain' bagels, but did not see one (ever) -- only white flour & raisin.) Available spreads: Jellies, peanut butter, butter....
• No hard boiled eggs -- not problematic, but would be nice additional option.
• BEVERAGES: Regular COFFEE, decaf, various TEAS, hot water, COCOA, creamers, sweeteners... Great varieties of teas displayed in tall dispenser boxes. [One day, 1/3 of boxes empty; 2/3 boxes had tea bags. Another day, 1/3 had tea bags, (some with only 1 bag); 2/3 were empty. Toss or refill empty & near-empty boxes.] JUICE fountain machine: orange, apple, water, tea. (No cranberry.) MILK in single-serve containers.
• At times, Gatehouse eatery bustles with guests & food gobbled quickly; attentive kitchen staff replenish timely. Even if you have to request an item, you're not left waiting endlessly. (Much appreciated improvement: multiple coffee dispensers out, increased rotation, & increased variation in types of hot foods.) But, replenishments *uneven* over various days -- sometimes prompt refillings, sometimes lagging. (For guests on a schedule, waiting isn't an option, so you go without.)
• Uneven also best characterizes breakfast service as the morning progresses. (Understand uneven fits & spurts of guests coming & going throughout morning challenges predictability/ pacing/ quantities of foods.) Can worsen later into morning as crowds ebb & flow. At worst, delays in keeping up with replenishment, sparse remnants left to pick over, messy/ unclean areas from previous guests, hot food lids left open, no cut fruit, no milk, no featured hot food item, etc. (You'll either find what you're looking for or you won't. They'll either be a crowd or there won't. Everything will be clean & in its place or it won't.)
• Adding another hand or 2 to kitchen staff might help with consistent service *throughout* breakfast, and training/ guiding existing staff (meandering as if at a loss). Attentiveness of varying/ alternating kitchen staff determines replenishments -- some (busier than a 1-armed paper hanger) attuned to monitoring & refilling dwindling foods -- another wandering aimlessly (repeatedly passing by empty bowls/ containers apparently unnoticed).
[Proactively lifting hot food lids to see what remains, noticing & promptly refilling empty fruit bowls, missing milk cartons, etc. are seemingly self-evident tasks, but may need to be explicitly explained. Oversight/ 1-to-1 training could gently guide uninitiated staff towards attentive/ proactive behaviour. Replenishing 'as you go' rather than waiting until a particular item is thoroughly depleted might be a more manageable, guest-friendly approach in keeping all foods *consistently* available *throughout* mealtime. Nonetheless, overall breakfast service is improved from previous stays. Can't go without note: routinely observed an extremely efficient, bustling kitchen staffer continually in motion, re-filling, re-checking, alert & good-naturedly attentive to guest needs, continually sliding in & out of kitchen with something in one or both hands -- apparently doing the work of 2 people. Astonishing, amazing, awe-inspiring.]
• For onslaught of weekend crowds, additional tables with waffle makers are placed in dining area to allow waffle-lovers to indulge. Guests have room to make their waffles in an uncongested area; helps relieve traffic jam in (smallish) food dispensing area as well. (Brilliant layout. Hope other hotels follow suit.)
• Typical gathering/ clustering of pre-6:30 am guests who need to hit the road early. Maybe hotel will consider modifying opening breakfast time (or at least open eatery doors a few minutes earlier, say 6:15) for those who need to grab something & get out the door pronto & simply don't have time to stand in the morning queue.
• Minutia but important: serving spoon *with holes* belongs in cut fruit bowl where fruit liquid can drain through slits before scooping fruit onto plate. Serving spoon *without holes* belongs with breakfast gravy so gravy doesn't leak through holes, splatting on counter.
• Signs need to represent what is *actually* present ('no' breakfast burrittos, 'no' whole grain bagels) or be removed/ modified. Empty containers (tea boxes, food bowls,...) should be removed or replenished -- not sit out endlessly.
Sometimes 2 days per week (Tue, Wed)
Sometimes 3 days per week (Tue, Wed, Thu)
• Hours vary between: 6-7:30 pm & 5:30-7 pm.
Calendar menu on fridge notes specific times for particular days. If dinner is a priority, be attentive to VARYING TIMES, so you don't arrive too early (sit & wait) or too late (miss out entirely).
• Good VARIETY & ROTATION -- not stuck in rut of predictable sameness. (Repeat/ long-stay guests are grateful for full balanced meals with variety & rotation.) Subjective tastebuds: surprisingly flavourful meals many times, standard quality other times, occasionally/ rarely a dud (attribute to poor-quality source ingredient).
SPAGHETTI & MEATBALLS, toasted/ buttered bread (no grated cheese); HAM, mashed potatoes, broccoli; CHILI DOGS & CHEESE; SOUP & CRACKERS (a flavourful concoction of rice, veg, tomato base.); MEAT STRIPS & taco shells; RAVIOLI; FAJITAS; HAMBURGERS full-size & tiny with matching size buns. Tiny ones fun for kids. [Didn't care for type/ brand of burger meat. Can't explain in meaningful way other than it's unlike any burger meat have had anywhere else -- ever. (Maybe poor quality; couldn't finish burger (not in habit of wasting food). Maybe palatable to others.) Everything else was good: baked beans, sliced tomatoes, cheese. Condiments: mayo, ketchup, relish, mustard. (Didn't see pickles.)]
FULL FRESH SALAD:
at each meal, a much appreciated option for non-meat eaters. Lettuce (with shredded purple cabbage & carrot), small round tomatoes, cucumber, onion, broccoli, green pepper, jalapeño peppers, shredded cheese, bacon bits, Caesar & Italian dressing packets. [Noticed inordinate amount of water at bottom of huge salad bowl. Once top layer of lettuce removed, remaining lettuce sat in pool of cool water. Grab lettuce with tongs & drain/ shake off water. (Grateful lettuce is thoroughly rinsed, merely needs to drain more before serving.) At times, excessive seeds were in chopped green peppers. (Seeds need removing before pepper is chopped.) Maybe rushed? Short-handed?]
Either chocolate chip COOKIES or BROWNIE bites. When they're gone, they are gone. Maybe a crumb or 2 to hint at what you've missed. (Didn't see dessert refills.) Choc chip cookies appear freshly made -- 1 warm cookie piled atop another in a tempting semi-molten mound. Humorous to watch little one attempting to pluck a single cookie out of melded mound only to struggle prying it away from its hot-chocolate glued neighbours.
Mini Shasta half-size cans: cola, diet cola, lemon/ lime... [Didn't see ice tea, lemonade, punch, beer, wine. Saw soda fountain machine (Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Mist, water), but didn't see anyone using it. Maybe out-of-order; no sign indicating out of service.]
Dinner Food for Thought
• If you want a complete meal (with entree, sides, salad, dessert, drinks) best ARRIVE EARLY in dinner hour for full selection. Further into dinner time, foods dwindle & may or may not be replenished with same item or an alternative. (Appears both replenishments/ substitutions are limited; once they run out, that's it. Empty bowls disappear 1 by 1 & eatery doors shut.) Don't recall many upscale RIs like Norfolk, not having food up until closing time. Disappointing.
• Wish hotel would either INCREASE QUANTITY of entrees or PROVIDE SUBSTITUTES for all missing foods up until scheduled closing time. Finding little to nothing 30-45 minutes before scheduled closing is disappointing. Perhaps indicator of chef's ability to cook appetizing meals, which are gobbled as quickly as served -- just need *enough* tasty entrees *throughout* mealtime. (After seeing empty bowls, having to make alternative, on-the-spot meal plans is disheartening -- especially after a long, tiring day; you just want to sit, relax, eat & not have to go back out for food or settle for a frozen dinner.)
• If fortunate enough to partake in a full dinner, you can SAVE $ (recoup $18 parking fee) -- especially if feeding several dining companions & enjoy *convenience* of 2 to 3 weekday dinners.
• If you've a discerning palate, this isn't haute cuisine, but some meals are surprisingly good (ham/ mash, soup... ). Suspect cook's doing something non-typical/ non-standard (for RI brand) to make some meals unusually FLAVOURFUL; don't know if it's cooking method, seasonings, talent. [Hope chef shares techniques (train cooks at other RIs) to improve taste of meals brand-wide. Can't overstate how much a tasty, satisfying meal is anticipated (& appreciated) by weary, hungry travellers. A bright spot in a long day.]
• Having dinners a steady *3* days a week *every* week would be ideal -- along with maintaining consistent, non-fluctuating dinner hours.
• Spacious gatehouse eatery with abundant tables/ comfortable seating can fill at peak times. If overflow of diners, can bring meal back to room to dine/ work in peace or eat while watching your shows or in the company of loved ones.
Generic Hotel Gripes Morphing into Wishes
• At times, guest-room hallways overheated -- shvitz to & from room. A touch of AC in halls would be suitable for high-heat of summer -- not refrigerator cold, just a minimum of coolness, so you don't think you're outside sweltering in 90+ temps. *Consistently* cool hallways (keep air circulating/ breathable) at minimally cool temp for everyone's comfort.
• Placing non-slip rug(s) along smooth/ slick corridor floor outside pool room & along past laundry room. Non-skid rugs absorb water dripping off pool guests who apparently haven't dried off. (Good reason to ensure a towel's available for you poolside.) The trail of puddles & wet footprints along the length of corridor are a hip-break slip waiting to happen.
[Not talking small drips, dribbles, & a few delicate footprints -- talking sloshing puddles trailing full length of corridor & into elevator. (Do guests really need to be reminded to dry off.) Not a 1-time occurrence. Impractical to have staff (mop-in-hand) at-the-ready, standing in hall waiting to swoop behind dripping swimmers. Non-skid rugs seem reasonable alternative considering an unwary guest can slip in the blink of an eye -- well before staff has a chance to notice (never mind mop up) puddles.]
• Having trash receptacles by elevators (on each floor) minimizes guests leaving unsightly empty bottles/ rubbish by elevators. (Seeing trash leaves poor impression -- especially to newly arrived guests. Having elevator door opening onto empty bottles lined along window sill doesn't scream 'nice' hotel.)
• Don't remember from previous visits, but on recent afternoon arrival, no coffee/ tea available at Gatehouse across from lobby. (Could have used an instant 'grab & go' quick pick-me-up; ended up making coffee in room.) Disappointedly discovered standard, convenient, throughout-the-day, beverage service is not available here. (Most RIs typically have Gatehouse coffee/ tea available *throughout* day -- not just at breakfast & dinner.) Hope all-day Gatehouse beverages will be instituted here for future guests.
• Can periodically hear "ding ding" of light rail around hotel, but depending on where you're situated in building, depends how faintly or loudly you hear it. (If sensitive to sound, request quieter room at check-in.) After awhile (or several visits), you can get used to "ding ding" to the point of no longer hearing it.
Nearby Groceries/ Eateries
For evenings when RI isn’t serving meals or if you’ve time/ inclination to prepare food in your furnished kitchenette, drive to grocery or get takeout/ dine at eateries:
• 5-10 minute drive (1 mi/ 2 km) to Harris Teeter grocery (on Colonial Ave.).
• 5-10 minute walk (0.2 mi/ 0.3 km) to Freemason Abbey Restaurant (excellent soups/ salads) on W Freemason St. (kitty corner from stone church at corner of Freemason & Boush St.).
Pick up "Downtown Norfolk Dining Guide" (& menus) at front desk for list of nearby eateries to walk or drive to; many options to suit various tastes & budgets.
Approx. D R I V E Time (Depending on Traffic)
• 25 min. (11 mi./ 18 km) to Norfolk International Airport (ORF); no RI airport shuttle.
• 35 min. (20 mi./ 32 km) to Virginia Beach (I-264E).
• Minutes to Rt 58/ 337, Rt 460, I-264, I-64,...
Comfortable for short or long stays whether traveling with family, as a couple, or alone on business. Room spaciousness, floor-to-ceiling window views, & downtown location trumps any petty or egregious suite quirks or hotel disappointments.
Hits home how luck-of-the-draw room assignment -- subtle room variations (layout/ design) -- truly affects your day-to-day stay. Get a room that seamlessly fits your needs & you're content, get one peppered with nit-noid quirks & you're irritated.
[Downside of 'striking it lucky' with room assignment: once you receive an outstanding, trouble-free suite that suits you perfectly, you'll inevitably compare other (lesser) rooms to it, and bemoan why *all* rooms aren't like that bit of heaven. (O, the woes of being spoiled.) Grateful for the occasional treat.]
(Numerous interesting & scenic places to walk to/ explore noted previously.)
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- Also Known As:
- Residence Inn Norfolk Downtown Hotel Norfolk