Monday, March 14, 2011

A Night Exploring Sheraton Hotels with Travel Onion

Note: this is a repost of an piece written for Dining in DC called "New Travel Website, Travel Onion breaks into DC Market".

Travel Onion, a new website that aggregates the best travel and hospitality blogs in the world, indexed across approximately 50 top cities, teamed up with Starwood Hotels and Resorts to offer an executive level guided tour through the Sheraton Suites Old Town, Sheraton Crystal City Hotel and the Sheraton National Hotel. The event would allow the hotel company to promote their three premier northern Virginia properties in today’s most exciting and popular editorial form: the blog.

It was cold outside, but it was nice and warm at the Sheraton Suites in Old Town Alexandria. A slight crowd had gathered at the Finn and Hoof restaurant for the Travel Onion media event . Cal Simmons, founder of Travel Onion, welcomed the group, which he called “DC’s most influential bloggers,” and gave some instructions in anticipation of an extravagant hotel tour which was to begin.

As a bartending and mixology blogger, I hadn’t taken many opportunities to write about hotels. In fact, I never actually considered evaluating the hotel industry at all. However, I quickly realized that my intuitions regarding food and drink would naturally translate in other areas of hospitality and service. So, I threw myself at the chance.

In Old Town, the bartender at the Finn and Hoof shook up a refreshing mixture of elderflower liqueur, chardonnay, and a twist of lemon as a complimentary cocktail. The attendees sipped their drinks while the friendly sales and marketing staff of each respective hotel escorted the group through the impressive conference facilities, club lounge, and amenities.

Each escort focused on the sense of community that Sheraton wanted to convey. We explored the open and convergent layout of the lobby, restaurant and internet café (the Sheraton link). We also looked at rooms, perfectly arranged, with a view of the surrounding metropolitan landscape. At one point, with encouragement from our guides, I embraced the marshmallow-like bed in one graceful jump backwards.

In Crystal City, as we wandered into the lobby, the hotel staff reinforced the communal atmosphere in the design. The kitchen staff served us sliders, buffalo-style wings, quesadillas and more. For an additional fee, hotel guests could experience the Mystery Dinner Playhouse which is staged in a room near the bar. The Playhouse, which performs on Fridays and Saturdays, combines the thrill of an interactive theatre performance with a four course meal.

In Arlington, our guides led us through an elegant dining area decorated with a variety of historical images of the commander-in-chief. From Truman’s jubilant face after defeating Thomas Dewey in 1948 to Reagan’s confident grin while sitting with Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, each image overlooked diners as they enjoyed their meals.

Guests looking for an even more presidential experience could dine in the stunning White House rose garden section. Slightly secluded from the rest of the venue, this verdant motif seemed perfect for a family brunch or a wedding rehearsal dinner.

In the end, Sheraton’s energized staff and welcoming hotels made reviewing the event a straightforward task. These three hotels are suited quite well to the Washington DC metropolitan area and certainly reflect the community and magnetism of Northern Virginia. The staff was unquestionably professional and gracious. Travel Onion and Starwood Hotels and Resorts delivered a very warm event on a very cold evening.

Update: check out my guest post at Dining in DC!

1 comment:

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