A bi-weekly staff review of East Coast and regional lodgings.
The only thing wrong with staying at the Aloft Richmond West is that, well, it’s not in Richmond. Not technically, anyway. It’s in Glen Allen, a community northwest of the city that, as Richmond has grown, has become a suburb.
This isn’t exactly nowheresville, though: In fact, surrounding the Aloft is the burgeoning West Broad Village community, a Disneyesque collection of new homes and retail. It’s a nice enough place to live, I’m sure, but I don’t exactly want (or need) to visit for any reason other than the one that brought me and my traveling companion here. We were spending the weekend in Richmond and wanted a stylish-without-being-pretentious, affordable-without-being-down-market, friendly-without-being-intrusive place to stay.
On all those counts, the Aloft delivered.
A Starwood brand, the Aloft aims to be a brighter, more family-oriented version of the W, and it succeeds. No chill-out music, dim lighting or black-clad, headset-wearing staff members here. Instead, the lobby is colorful and bright, with an almost-Kimpton playfulness (and a nice pool table). Yes, the kiddos are welcome. We saw no fewer than four families with youngsters under 10, at least one of them dripping wet as he scurried from the on-site (but small) pool through the lobby, presumably to his family’s room.
If the mere thought of that sends you scurrying, too — to book a different hotel — so be it. But if you want a large, comfortable room that costs barely more than $100 a night, you might reconsider. The walls, just so you know, are nicely soundproof.
And everything works, the first time around. When we wheeled our bags down the looooong hallway, our key cards swiped open the room on the first pass; for the life of me, I can’t think of the last time that has happened. And inside, there was no hunting around for outlets to plug our smartphones and tablets into; they abounded, one on each side of the bed and several on the little desk. Wait a minute; where’s the iron? A moment of panic set in as we rushed to get ready for dinner, but when I called the desk to inquire, the clerk cheerfully said, “Just look to the left of your bed, in that little cubby.” Sure enough, it was smartly tucked away, with the little ironing board.
Our high-ceilinged room, with a recurring striped pattern and big picture windows, could have used a little refreshing; the shades were a little thread-worn, and the wall next to the desk has been so badly (and frequently) scuffed that it needs a paint touch-up. But the WiFi is free, the TV is 42 inches, and the bathroom, with its walk-in, glass-enclosed shower, is particularly comfortable and well designed.
Even that just-over-$100 rate included breakfast for two, which you should definitely consider even though one glance at the lobby’s Re:Fuel bar and its energy bars might make you think that the place doesn’t pay that much attention to food. In fact, it does; the breakfast burritos we ordered in the morning were griddled and hot, with expertly made (read: creamy) eggs in addition to the roasted vegetables inside.
After that, we strolled around West Broad Village for, well, not too long. You can pick up some freshly made kombucha at Whole Foods Market or climbing gear at REI, you can get a quick Brazilian at Bombshell salon or you can spend a distracting couple of hours (if you are or have a toddler) at an outpost of the Children’s Museum of Richmond. Of all those things, we were interested only in the first.
We could have headed to more stores in nearby Short Pump, but what we really wanted to see was Richmond. So we got in the car and, 15 minutes later, we did.
Aloft Richmond West
3939 Duckling Dr.
Rooms for upcoming weekends start at $113.