The other day I watched a video of a Holiday Inn in Virginia being imploded and realized I actually stayed there on three separate occasions. It made me wonder what’s happened to some of the other Holiday Inns I’ve stayed at in the past. If you’re interested in reading my rambling recollections, feel free to read on.
When you do one of those online surveys where it asks you to name some hotel brands, my first answer is usually Holiday Inn. It’s been around a long time and I like its implicit message to potential guests: here’s an inn for your holiday. No mystery or pretension. IHG’s new brand names like “voco” and “avid” (note the lower case first letters) reveal an attempt to capture the travelling public’s interest using cool sounding monikers. I guess some might argue that the Holiday Inn brand is dated (like many of its hotels, unfortunately), but I don’t really feel that way.
“Holiday Inn” vs. “Holiday Inn Express”
I wonder why they chose the name “Holiday Inn Express” for a new limited service brand back when it was introduced. It was so similar to the long established “Holiday Inn” that confusion was inevitable. I’ve heard lots of people refer to a Holiday Inn Express as a Holiday Inn. As a result, people are occasionally annoyed to discover there is no complimentary breakfast at the hotel, not realizing that it’s only a standard offering at an Express. Conversely, there are probably a few guests surprised to discover their hotel has no onsite restaurant which is a common feature at a Holiday Inn. Adding the word “express” may be intended to invoke notions of no-frills and convenience, but the distinction likely flies over the heads of many prospective guests.
Having stayed at many of both types, in my opinion the hallmark of the Express is the consistency. I suspect if I could be beamed around to different hotel rooms, I’d have a pretty good chance of correctly identifying the Expresses. There are exceptions, of course. The Holiday Inn Express in Mont Tremblant is one example, especially if you can score an upgrade to one of its suites with a fireplace and kitchen.
Holiday Inns, however, have been a mixed bag. My varied experiences with this brand underscore why it’s so important to do your research and read reviews before you book. Anyway, here’s a little walk down memory lane. I’ll sort these geographically rather than chronologically because that’s just easier.
Holiday Inn Select Halifax (Rebranded)
This large Holiday Inn on Quinpool Road in Halifax was a fixture in the city for many years. I never stayed there myself but my parents did back in the 80s after they won some sort of award. They don’t recall exactly what the award was for but they remember they liked the hotel and enjoyed their meal in the restaurant with the big windows. As a child, I always considered it to be the hotel to stay at in Halifax. I was aware of the higher end ones like the Lord Nelson or the Prince George but I had never actually laid eyes on those places while the Holiday Inn was very hard to miss. In 2009 it became the Atlantica.
Holiday Inn Dartmouth (Rebranded)
It was disappointing to see this hotel leave the IHG fold. It was often cheaper than staying across the harbour in Halifax and the CAA rate included a full breakfast. Like many Holiday Inns, it was beginning to show its age and after a renovation it turned into a DoubleTree.
Holiday Inn Toronto Downtown Centre (Still Open)
I believe I read this hotel was once a Days Inn. I stayed here with my brother on a quick trip to Toronto about ten years ago. Although rooms were small, it was fine for our needs. I remember if you prepaid for breakfast at check-in you got a discount and the food was terrific. I would stay again.
Holiday Inn Montreal Airport (Rebranded)
Our stay at this Holiday Inn was just for sleeping during an overnight layover on the way home from Vancouver. This hotel apparently held the distinction of being the first Holiday Inn in Canada. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it was updated much since its grand opening. (Truthfully, my assessment is probably tainted by the fact that we had had just left a wonderful week at the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver.) Anyway, I just checked and this place is now a Best Western and reviews are not good. There are a few rage-filled comments at the horror of discovering that the Holiday Inn they booked is now a Best Western. I find that puzzling because I view Holiday Inns similar to how I view Best Westerns – you must do your due diligence to ensure the hotel is up to your standards before you book. Unlike some other brands, you can’t rely on the name alone in light of the considerable variation between individual properties.
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort Lake Buena Vista (Still Open)
This stay was a very long time ago but it appears the hotel still exists although it has dropped the “Sunspree” from its name. I don’t have much memory of this place; it was a standard issue family-oriented Orlando hotel and fades into all the other chain properties we stayed at in central Florida in the 80s and 90s. One hotel firmly imprinted in my mind was where we stayed on the first trip: the Court of Flags Resort. It later became the Delta Orlando Resort and was eventually demolished to make room for a Lexus dealership according to its wikipedia page.
Holiday Inn New York City 57th Street (Rebranded)
This former Holiday Inn is now known as the Watson Hotel which is presumably an independent property. I do not have particularly fond memories of this one. I remember the wifi did not work at all and the toilet was strangely smack in the middle of the bathroom. And there was also some kind of convention going on that involved people dressed in very unusual outfits. It was only a one night stay but I was glad to be out the door. Sometimes hotel hopping works in your favour.
Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge (Imploded)
As mentioned above, this is the hotel that sparked the blog post. I initially booked it for a trip to Washington because of the very low rates over US Thanksgiving and its convenient location for both Reagan National Airport and downtown DC. It ticked all the boxes so I stuck with it for the next two trips to the city. Although the hotel was dated, the rooms were fine and it had a nice rooftop restaurant. I was kind of surprised to see it be demolished (here’s a video). And according to local news, part of the nearby Key Bridge Marriott (the oldest Marriott still in operation) faces a similar fate.
Holiday Inn Across From Universal Orlando (Still Open)
I’ve stayed at this hotel a couple of times. It’s walking distance to Universal Studios Orlando which makes it convenient if you don’t have a vehicle. You can also walk to the Orlando Premium Outlets. The first stay was better than the second. The property really needs refurbishment and I just read that renovations are now underway after a delay due to the pandemic. Until finished, I’d choose the Best Western Universal ahead of the Holiday Inn because, although quite dated as well, the room was in somewhat better shape and breakfast was complimentary. But, if feasible, I’d recommend the DoubleTree over both. It’s the closest to the parks and is definitely the best of those three options, in my opinion.
Holiday Inn London Mayfair (Not Rebranded/Not Imploded)
This Holiday Inn sadly closed permanently about a year ago. I don’t know what’s in store for the building or if it’s even going to remain standing. The hotel was perfect for sightseeing in London with a location right by Green Park tube station and for many years was an excellent redemption option. It certainly wasn’t fancy but rooms were larger than average for London and you could get one with two double beds on points – something quite elusive in hotels across the pond.
Holiday Inn Frankfurt City South (Rebranded)
Now known as the Leonardo Royal Hotel, this Holiday Inn served its purpose as a one-nighter prior to a flight home. It was back in the PointBreaks glory days when all hotels on the (now non-existent) list were only 5000 points and you didn’t need to be right at your computer when it went live to snag the popular ones. I booked this while in Europe a few days into the trip and it worked out great.
Holiday Inn Warsaw-Jozefow (Still Open)
I selected this hotel for my last night in Warsaw in 2016 because I needed it for an IHG promotion and it had excellent reviews. It turned out to be a wise decision because although it was out in the ‘burbs, it was a really nice property and the rate was very low. My room was well appointed and spacious and there were a number of recreational activities available onsite and in a nearby park. I took a pleasant walk along the river through a forest behind the hotel and enjoyed a good meal in the restaurant.
Holiday Inn Krakow (Still Open)
My expectations were fairly high for this hotel based on reading trip reports on the blog Loyalty Traveler. I was not disappointed. The only downside was that my room faced an interior courtyard and was on a lower floor so natural light was limited. However, the room was of a high standard and the hotel was in a terrific location. When I stayed there it was 15,000 points per night which was a great redemption value. It subsequently went up in category but has since been available for 15,000 points again or even less under IHG’s new dynamic reward pricing structure.
Holiday Inn Gdansk (Still Open)
My mother and I had a wonderful stay at the brand new Holiday Inn in Gdansk in 2019. The room was comfortable and the hotel offered a very reasonably priced and extensive breakfast buffet. It was easy walking distance to various sites of interest in the city and we both would happily return.
I recall once reading on a travel forum about an American couple planning a trip to London with their young niece. Multiple people recommended the Holiday Inn Mayfair with its ideal location and large rooms with two double beds. When the person finally came to a decision they chose a different hotel because they said they just couldn’t bring themselves to stay at a Holiday Inn…
I can’t be completely certain that the above list includes every Holiday Inn at which I’ve stayed but it must be close. There have been a few duds, but generally speaking, the hotels have been fine or in the case of the European ones, better than fine. Holiday Inn is not your brand if you prefer luxury accommodation, but if you’re a more frugal/practical traveller and don’t mind some dated decor, it’s a brand you should consider.