I think I’ve shared this before, but as many know, my sister currently lives in Fort Collins, Colorado while in grad school. It’s a truly great place, with proximity to the great outdoors the state is known for, an enviable number of breweries, and a perfectly walkable downtown that feels larger than its population. At the heart of it is the historic Armstrong Hotel, which opened its doors in 1923; it also housed the first chapter of AAA. Over the years, the property saw the booms and busts of the city, and in 2019 it was stunningly refurbished to rightfully become a jewel of downtown as the last remaining historic hotel.
We ended up at the Armstrong as part of a longer trip that would bring us to Boulder, one that we had planned and replanned and planned again due to the impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Finally, in late September, driven in part by a great rate at the Hyatt House in Boulder, we pulled the trigger and committed to the trip. Before continuing on to Boulder, my family decided we’d love a night in Fort Collins as it’s a city that we love to visit and hadn’t been in a while.
We originally booked this hotel through an online travel agent due to it displaying a lower rate, but upon mentioning to my mom that I’d rather the hotel get the full amount for the stay, we made a phone call to the property and they happily matched our rate. You can also, of course, book directly on the hotel's website at: www.the armstronghotel.com. Our rate was $149/night plus taxes and fees, a steal for this hotel - a sad indicator of COVID’s impact on its occupancy. We paid with my parents Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Card, earning 2x points per dollar spent at hotels.
Arrival, Check In & Lobby
We pulled up to the Armstrong in our rental car after flying into Denver International Airport and driving up I-25. The only thing different than usual was the smoke from the nearby wildfires - it obscured what was usually a stunning view of the mountains to the west - a strong indicator of the disaster bearing down on the state. Upon arrival, the loading pull off was clearly marked, but we were initially a bit confused as to where the hotel entrance was as the Ace Cafe, one of the restaurants, occupied a considerable portion of the street frontage; however, before long we found our way inside and were pleasantly greeted by every staff member we passed. The check in process was smooth and friendly, and oozing with hospitality. The agent made plenty of local recommendations as well, which immediately forged a connection with us as guests.
The lobby was equally as charming! It struck the perfect chord, for me, of quirky and refined as well as trendy and timeless. Great furnishing was thoughtfully placed throughout the space, much of it being used for the Cafe as well, and the scale of the room felt perfect. Although not a huge space, the variety of zones made it feel incredibly comfortable and welcoming. The array of artwork, textures and colors just felt right, not to mention somehow uniquely connected to the location. And I loved the staircase with the signature wallcovering that has worked its way into the hotel’s branding - seen on most print materials.
Then the TWA Flight Center first opened its doors in 1962, it was an immediate icon of the jet age, and a means to amplify the TWA brand at a time when each airline built their own terminal. Meant to evoke a bird in flight, the Flight Center was designed by renowned architect Eero Saarinen and is reflective of the truly modern, and often futurist, work of his career. The building itself was designed to increase efficiency of the airline’s operations. The result was a technologically advanced thin-shell concrete structure and a fabulously branded extension of the TWA identity. While progressive visually, the terminal was designed for smaller aircraft, but this was the dawn of the jumbo jet, and the Flight Center failed to adjust to these large birds and the number of passengers that came with them. The terminal shut its doors in 2001.
In 2015, the conversation of turning the Flight Center into the head house of a hotel had begun. By 2016, construction was underway to introduce a new hotel to John F Kennedy Airport and once complete would be the only hotel located on airport.
For this stay, we booked directly with the hotel at www.twahotel.com reserving a Standard King Room at the flexible rate for $239 + taxes and fees. Given that the TWA Hotel is not a member of any major hotel network, our only opportunity for earning points was by booking with my Chase Sapphire Reserve card, earning 3x points on travel, thus netting 865 Ultimate Rewards points valued at $13.
Arrival, Check In & Lobby
My journey to the hotel begins with my inbound Delta Connection flight from Toronto, leaving me to navigate from Terminal 1 where our little CRJ-900 arrived. The commute was easy enough, though, by following the signs in the terminal to the JFK Airtrain. Arriving on the Airtrain at Terminal 5, the route to the TWA is clearly marked both overhead and on the ground. I quite liked the routing provided because as opposed to entering the terminal, and thus the hotel via inside, we made the trek to ground level and approached as if we were a passenger arriving for a flight back in the glory days of TWA. This allowed me to take in this architectural wonder in all its glory, after all, this was a huge reason I was here. However, for those arriving in inclement weather, I’d recommend the indoor route.
Located in Toronto’s annex neighborhood, the Annex Hotel, is thought of as a reimagination of what a modern day hotel could be like. Designed by Toronto’s StudioAC, the hotel is chic, fresh, and inherently local - which is increasingly becoming a key driver in the hotel industry, and something that’s of high importance to me when I travel. With a philosophy of guests all of what matters and none of what doesn’t, this property is a standout among others in the city, likely a more comfortable competitor of Airbnb than, say, Hilton.
First described to me as the “un-hotel,” I was excited to get a feel for what this rethinking would look and feel like, and - as you’ll see - it had both it’s ups and downs.
As this is an independent hotel, we booked directly with the property at www.theannex.com - rooms in the hotel are also available on Airbnb and other sites. Given that we had a brief one night stay, we opted for a Medium room with one queen bed as we intended on being out and about in the neighborhood for the duration of our stay. Our total for one night, with taxes and fees, came out to a reasonable $135.98 US which we charged to my colleague’s Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card.
Arrival, Check In & Lobby
After landing at Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport from a flight in on Porter Airlines, we attempted to take public transit, but after getting on the wrong train and subsequently realizing they were cash or token only, we opted to call an Uber given its affordability and speed. Arriving at the hotel was a bit of a confusing process as the hotel’s address is off of what is essentially an alley - causing our driver to get lost. It was clean, and in the evening well lit, and also had a great sequence of street art leading up to it which we would spend time exploring later.