This was my first trip to Philadelphia and I was pretty excited. My wife and I had just spent more than a week in Washington, D.C., and when I told her that The Independent had a particulalrly high rating on TripAdvisor, she was excited to check it out. Even the hotel's Web site, with it's "detective mystery" theme music was pretty cool to us.
After spending the day at Hershey's Chocolate World, we pulled into Philadelphia around 9 p.m., so it was already dark. At first, as we were driving our way through the city, I thought... man, these neighborhoods are pretty run down and somewhat sketchy. Certainly The Independent is in a nicer neighborhood?
Well, not really. I mean, it might be a nice neighborhood for Philadelphia, but it kind of gave my wife and I the creeps. We're both native Oregonians, but we've both traveled extensively to cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, D.C., New York, etc., and honestly, I debated even getting out of the car. Most big cities I've been to, when you pull up to a nice hotel in the early evening, you'll see people walking to restaurants, clubs, chatting with friends, etc. (aka The normal "hustle-and-bustle" of a big city).
And we DID see people doing this... but right below The Independent was a large number of people who were just... there. They didn't appear to be doing any of the above activities... they were just hanging around. It was unsettling, to say the least.
We basically did a "on the count of three!" move and grabbed our bags as fast as we could, locked the car... and made our way up to the second floor lobby of The Independent.
Maybe we were paranoid, I don't know. I've stayed all over and have never felt that way before. Just be aware of your surroundings, and you'll be fine. When we checked out, we had to leave around 4:30 a.m. to catch a plane... and there was STILL a mass gathering of people outside... just hanging out. Maybe that's normal for Philly. I have no idea.
Now for the review of the hotel. This place is quite charming and nice. Here are the details I saw during our three-night stay.
* The elevators must be activated by a key. If you are not staying at the hotel, you can go up to the lobby and down to the first floor elevator alcove... and that's it. To go anywhere else, you must insert your room key, wait for the little "chirp" and then push a button to one of the other floors. I appreciate that kind of security.
* The outside of all the rooms have a lit panel that can be set to "Do Not Disturb" or "Maid Service Requested." You push a button next to the door inside the room to activate it. Quite nice.
* The rooms are very nice, with comfy beds, firm pillows, a microwave and refrigerator. Our room also had a 32-inch flat-screen TV with a DirecTV satellite box, which I believe is standard in the hotel (It wasn't working when I came in, but after I called the front desk, they sent someone up to fix it. It took him a while and a few remarks of "WTF?"... but he finally got it working after leaving, and then coming back a couple of times and resetting the box. Who knows what was going on with it, but it was all fixed within an hour.).
* The bathroom was fairly large with a decent-sized sink area, heavenly dual showerheads and a scale (probably so you can figure out how much you've gained after eating a few of those delicious Philly cheesesteaks!).
* Breakfast is quite good and rather unique. Each day, you are given a paper doorknob hanger that lists all the items you can request for breakfast. You get to pick one item per category, per guest. These included:
** Beverage - Orange Juice or Apple Juice
** Fruit - Banana or Apple
** Oatmeal, Special K. Cereal or Nature Valley granola bar
** Blueberry Muffin or Yogurt
* On the fourth floor, there is a business center with two computers. Printing is free (there's also a soda vending machine in there too). I used this twice: Once to print off a coupon I found online for a local restaurant, and then later to print my boarding pass for our flight home. This was a great amenity.
* Parking is pretty simple. It's located at the E-Z Park at 1309 Locust. You tell them you're staying at The Independent, and the pre-pay for your stay (I was staying for three nights... the guy tried to charge me for four at first, but I said, "Nope... just three." ) You get 24/7 "in and out" privileges, which is nice. Before I left the parking lot, the attendant told me "Don't leave the good stuff in the car" (Not that I would, but I take it that cars have been broken into frequently). I made sure to clean it out and my car was fine. One thing to remember: During the day, they double park the cars so they can fit more vehicles in the lot; they assured me that whenever a car is blocking others, they hold onto the keys so they can move it. If your car is against the wall, you keep the keys. That said, my vehicle was never double parked whenever I needed it or when we passed by the lot.
* The neighborhood. Like I said above, this might be pretty good for Philly... I have no idea (I'm sure there are much worse neighborhoods, but can this really be one of the best?!?!). It left me feeling unsettled and not wanting to go out after dark (a week before, I walked around my hotel room in D.C. at 1 a.m. and felt very safe. I wouldn't go outside of this hotel after 9 p.m. for anything). Some reviewers might thing I'm crazy, but I'm just being honest. Like I said, I've traveled all over the place and I've never felt that unsafe somewhere so early in the evening.
* There is a nightclub close by that might disturb some people. We were on the third floor and I could only feel slight vibrations; nothing that would prevent me from falling asleep, though.
* The air-conditioning unit in our room never seemed to cool it down sufficiently, even after I put it on the lowest temperature. It was a bit stuffy at times, but not terrible.
* I placed several items in the refrigerator, including several cans of soda. After a few hours, NOTHING was cold (it was, at best, slightly above room temperature). I tried defrosting the fridge and chiseling out a ton of packed ice inside by the vent... and it got better... but the fridge never got really cold. Truly disappointing.
* The morning after our first night, I got up to get something and the supports of the bed cracked, causing my wife's side of the bed to fall downward. The mattress was left at an angle. I talked to the front desk and they sent up some repair guys to fix it. They didn't seem surprised, as one of the wooden supports under the mattress had cracked. They left the room to get some extra tools, came back, lifted the mattress off the bed and did some drilling and nailing. Everything was back to normal in about 20 minutes.
Overall, I'd recommend this hotel. I'm not sure I'd recommend Philadelphia, though, at least not at night. We had a good time, and this hotel is close to all the things you'll want to do (Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, etc), but it just felt like a different place at night.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Independent is a 24-room boutique hotel located in a fully restored Georgian-Revival building located at 1234 Locust Street in the vibrant Midtown Village area of Center City, Philadelphia. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Independent is ideal for tourists and business travelers looking for a grand feel in a boutique, personalized hotel experience. Our guests experience luxury accommodations in the heart of Philadelphia, and are able to walk to theaters, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Rittenhouse and other Philadelphia attractions. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- The Independent Hotel Philadelphia
- Independent Hotel Philadelphia
- Independent Boutique Hotel Philadelphia