And there’s really one simple reason that I care first and foremost about lodging in any destination: I’m a hotel snob.
There. I said it. I’m a bona fide 4-star-absolute-minimum kind of gal.
I didn’t grow up this way; heck, no. The few times we travelled as kids, my parents put us up in the kind of motels that have those plastic orange chairs in front of each door. The kind that have only one floor. The kind that probably haven’t been remodelled in the 30 years since I first stayed there.
We were not a posh family and it was the BIG TIME if we got to stay in a Holiday Inn. Especially if there was a Denny’s attached to it.
How I happened into my distinct level of snobbery is anyone’s guess, but suffice it to say that if I have to sleep over somewhere, I want it to feel
like better than my own home.
So when the Hyatt Regency San Antonio offered to host my travel cohort (my mom) and me, I jumped at the opportunity. Because I’m always confident in the Hyatt brand, and because when I Googled it, the hotel sits right in the heart of the best stretch of the city’s famed River Walk.
Can we just start with the Hyatt Regency’s spectacular lobby? This is an aerial shot, which is possible to do from whatever floor on which you stay because the entire interior is more open concept than is even explicable in a short paragraph:
After you wrap your brain around the sheer gorgeousness of what greets you as you walk through the main doors, you note an elevator shaft near the check-in desks. It goes down one floor, and that’s your immediate access to River Walk. And being in a hotel set right along River Walk cannot be understated; it’s such a spectacularly romantic setting and it’s really the heart of San Antonio, so if you opt not to stay there, you’re missing out. So stay there.
Check-in was quick and easy. Our room wasn’t quite ready when we arrived, but the team asked for my phone number and provided a key to the lobby-level washroom so we could freshen up. I planned to change out of my plane attire, but the second I closed the stall door, my phone rang.
Up we went to the eighth floor, which may not seem particularly high (especially if you like to be on the higher floors, as I do), but you have to imagine that the room floors are already set so much higher than River Walk level that the eighth floor feels more like the 12th or 15th in the average hotel.
There are two prime views that you want to request: the Alamo view or the River Walk view. We got the Alamo view and, yep, there it was staring at us as soon as we opened our blinds.
The room itself was clean, modern, bright and spacious enough for two people. We had two double beds, which were really comfortable, a small bathroom, a closet, mini-fridge, safe and blackout blinds. Exactly what you need if you plan to use your hotel room simply for sleeping:
My mom was particularly excited at the lack of comforters. Like many of us, she’s haunted by the thought of comforters that never get washed and what might show up if you waved some black light wands over those puppies. The set-up at the Hyatt Regency San Antonio is more like a thick blanket in between two sheets (that were very clearly crisply washed).
The pillows were gobsmackingly comfortable. I’m also a pillow snob.
Elevator service was very fast. There are five elevator shafts for only 11 floors!
The rooftop pool is just lovely. While it’s a small, shallow pool (measuring only 3’6″ deep at its deepest point), the water is beautifully clear and the perfect temperature for a respite from the searing Texas sun. We were able to get loungers easily and there are more fresh towels available than people, so no need to drag them up from your bathroom.
The Q-bar on lobby level has a fabulous selection of cocktails (try the Hibiscus Royale), with fast, friendly service. And at night, boy does it get hoppin’! It may have been that we were there alongside a couple of conferences and a big family reunion, but that Q-bar had it going on both nights.
Aside from the easy River Walk access, the hotel is obviously also a short walk from the Alamo — it essentially sits right in the heart of downtown San Antonio, so you can walk to plenty of shops, restaurants, attractions and even the Alamo Trolley tour home base. You just can’t beat the location.
Our keys worked every time. Without fail. That may not seem like a big enough deal to warrant its own paragraph, but it’s rare to have two keys that work 100 per cent of the time throughout one’s stay. And they did.
Here’s another thing that deserves its own paragraph: amenities. Let’s say you’re like me and pack only carry-on luggage, in which case packing a razor is always a crapshoot because you never know what kind of security person you’re going to get who may take one look at you in your giant sunglasses and wonder if you might be a stealthy razor murderer waiting to pounce as soon as you’re in the air. Not that I’ve thought this through or anything. So if you’re always asking for a razor to be brought to your room, you know that you need to keep a stash of bills handy to tip the person who brings you said razor. Not at the Hyatt Regency, my friends! Here, there’s signage in your room that explicitly notes that any amenities will be tied to your exterior door handle in a bag. No need to even be in your room when your goodies are brought up, and therefore no pressure to tip or not tip on a 25 cent razor.
The hotel staff are all incredibly helpful. We encountered nothing but genuinely kind staff, from front desk to valet boys who were only too pleased to call a taxi. I do want to give a special shout out to the concierge, however. He was not only very interested in helping us with whatever we needed but sought us out each day to find out how the dinners were that we’d booked the previous night. It was an extra-nice touch just to know that someone remembers his guests so well, when there are obviously hundreds coming in and out of that lobby from morning to night.
Much below the sixth or seventh floor on the Alamo view side of the hotel, and you’re probably staring more directly at a high-rise parking garage than the Alamo. So ask for eight and above if you want the kind of view we had.
If you plan to bring your family, and spend a bit more time in your room thanks to naps or early bedtimes, book a much larger room (or two adjoining rooms) than the double. It’s too small for more than two people.
Especially the bathroom; it was really too small for my mom and I to get ready in there at the same time. Good thing she’s so much more low-maintenance than I am. I never had to wait long.
The rooms need more mirrors! There needs to be a second mirror in the main living space, and the bathroom needs one of those closeup mirrors so oldies like me with waning eyesight can put makeup on without leaning so far forward one might fall into the sink. (The hotel’s PR team did tell us that all of the washrooms are being renovated through 2015, so I really hope they read this and install old-person-friendly mirrors.)
The rooftop bar needs a blender. We would have loved to order fancy blender drinks and sip them poolside.