Travel Tuesday: Conrad Indianapolis Hotel Review
Last week, after years and dozens of times driving through it, I finally had the chance to spend some time in Indianapolis, Indiana. What brought me to town was Gen Con — a gaming convention that I was covering for my other work. But, of course, this also gave me an opportunity to stay at one of the nearby hotels and share my review. So what did I pick? The Conrad Indianapolis.
Reviewing the Conrad Indianapolis
I have to say that I severely underestimated Gen Con before attending. Thus, it was quite a rude surprise when I went to book my hotel room and learned that several in the area were already fully booked. This also meant that the rooms remaining were coming at quite a premium. In the case of Conrad, I was looking at between $450 and $700 per night depending on the length of my stay.
Luckily, however, my boss had plenty of Hilton Honors points on hand. Because of this, he was able to book the room for 70,000 points per night. Plus, since you get the fifth night free when booking with points, he spent a total of 280,000 points for my 5-night stay.
Incidentally, when I checked out, they provided me with a folio that displayed the cash price for my stay. Had we not used points, the total for my five nights would have come to $1,970. In other words, this was definitely a worthy point redemption — but, in most cases, this hotel won’t cost nearly that much.
Meanwhile, Conrad Indianapolis can also be booked via the American Express Hotel Collection program. Looking at a random couple of weekdays in September, the rate is $272 per night with this option, but includes a $100 property credit. This option would have been my plan if the rates weren’t so astronomical for this particular weekend. Of course, you can also book directly through Hilton or via third party sites.
The Conrad Hilton sits at Washington Street and Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis. This puts it directly across from the Circle Centre Mall and is attached to the Artsgarden. You’ll also be around the corner from the gorgeous Monument Circle.
As you might expect given the context in which I booked it, it’s a short walk from the Indiana Convention Center as well as Lucas Oil Stadium. I’ll talk more about this feature in the Sky Walk section — but, rest assured, it is a big selling point.
Arrival and check-in
One downside to the Conrad is that there’s no self-parking available. Instead, you’ll need to valet your car at a rate of $59 per night. At least in and out privileges are allowed — although I didn’t bother.
Like with my stay at Home2 Suites in Chicago, I suspect I actually could have found self parking at a local lot had I wanted to. But, rather than risk making a mistake like I did elsewhere in Chicago, I decided to just valet my car. While I was nervous about this process being a shy driver in busy downtown areas, there was a sizable area in front of Conrad where I could easily pull over, grab my stuff, and take my ticket from the valet. A nice gentlemen even grabbed my roller bag for me and escorted me to check-in — which, of course, just made me feel awkward when I realized I didn’t have any cash to tip him with. Sigh.
Anyway, when I arrived, it was still about a half hour before the check-in time of 3 p.m. Despite this, I had no problem getting my key and heading up to my room. Funny enough, when I came down a few minutes later (on a quest to go get some food), the line for check-in had exploded as did the valet area. I guess I get points for good timing.
First, since we booked when the hotel was near sold-out, I ended up in an accessible room that probably has a few differences from the standard version. With that out of the way, I had a Deluxe room with two double beds. Yes, double beds instead of a Queen. Since it was just me in the room, this wasn’t an issue at all — but it did strike me as an odd choice. The beds themselves were comfy, but definitely on the soft side as I could feel myself sinking into them after a while.
Before I even got to the beds, though, I was excited to discover that the room was equipped with a Lavazza coffee maker. This operated similarly to a Nespresso and made coffee of a similar texture. In the drawer in front of the maker, there were also regular and decaf pods provided (which were also restocked when they made up the room). The one downside was that the machine itself was a bit noisy, but the product itself was tasty.
Accompanying the coffee maker was another surprise: an electric kettle. Honestly, this may be the first time I’ve stayed in a domestic hotel that offered an electric kettle standard. Being a fan of tea, this delighted me greatly. English Breakfast, chamomile, and green tea bags were also provided, making me a happy Kyle. The kettle also came in handy when, not wanting to wake my neighbors during my early departure, I decided to brew two shots of espresso the night before and warm them up in the morning by adding hot water to make an Americano.
Oh but it got even better. Although I didn’t realize it until I was considering ordering food and pondering what to do with the leftovers, I soon found that there was a mini fridge located in the cabinet under the coffee maker. This cube-shaped fridge probably wouldn’t hold a whole lot, but it met my needs just fine. And, as I’ve indicated, these were all surprises to me as I didn’t see these amenities listed on the Conrad site (this doesn’t 100% mean they weren’t — it just means I didn’t see them when I went looking).
Heading to the window, the view I had wasn’t astounding but did provide a look down Washington Street. Unfortunately, that location also meant I could hear noisy engines and other annoyances pretty well into the night. This isn’t exactly the Conrad’s fault, but perhaps some upgraded windows could help?
On the bright side — or, actually, not — the blackout curtains provided worked wonders. With just a bit of overlap, I was able to turn day to night easily and took full advantage of this power. This also helped cool the room a bit when the sun started to shine in.
As for in-room entertainment, the TV had plenty of channels available, including multiple HBO options. Oddly, there wasn’t a way to view my folio. I didn’t end up needing this feature, but it’s such a staple of hotel rooms that I found the absense a bit strange.
Next, we come to the desk. Since I needed to write up articles in between my events, I definitely appreciated having a nice desk and chair to work at. The pad on the desk also happened to make the perfect background for photos I needed to take of the trading cards I acquired during the convention. A tablet also called this desk home, although I didn’t end up using it much. After initially trying to use it to view dining options, I ended up docking it and turning it off for the rest of the week. But I suppose it could be helpful if you want to explore what else there is to do in Indy.
Lastly, let’s talk about the bathroom. This is where it became more obvious that I was in an accessible room as the shower has no step in and was closed off only by a curtain. It also contained two shower heads that could be handheld. Overall, the bathroom was nice but also wasn’t really anything to write home about. I will say I could have used a trashcan in there though, rather than relying on the one in the main part of the room.
I’ll say that the elevators at the Conrad Indy were… pretty good? This is to say I didn’t have a strong opinion either way (which I guess is a positive overall).
First, if you’re staying at the hotel, you’ll need to be sure to use the three interior elevators as the ones closer to the entrance only service certain floors. These elevators seemed to operate pretty quickly for the most part, although there were some instances where it felt as though I had to wait a few minutes for one to arrive at my floor. However, I later realized that was partially because one of the three cars was out of order during my stay. So, if all three were functioning, I’m sure it’d be fine — especially considering that the two managed to mostly keep up even with the hotel near capacity.
When I originally consulted the Gen Con site to look for hotels, I thought it listed the Conrad as being a few blocks away and not as one of the Sky Walk hotels. I guess that may technically be true — but, in reality, getting from the Conrad to the convention center and beyond via the Sky Walk is remarkably easily.
Your journey starts on the second level of the Conrad, which exits to the Artsgarden. From there, you can either enter the Circle Centre Mall or cross over to the Hyatt Regency. Side note: there’s a Starbucks in that Hyatt lobby, but if it’s busy, there’s another one just a block away that accepts mobile orders. Pro tip.
Continuing your journey, past the Regency, you’ll walk a couple of other hallways before landing right inside the Indiana Convention Center. Plus, the Convention Center connects to Lucas Oil Stadium, which is home to the Indianapolis Colts.
All in all, I found that I could get from my hotel room at the Conrad Indy to the convention center in 10 minutes or less! This was fantastic as I didn’t even have to go outside the entire time. So, while there may be hotels that are even closer to the ICC, I think the Conrad is perfectly convenient for convention goers.
There are three official dining options at the Conrad Indianapolis: A wine bar called Tastings, a Capital Grille, and in-room dining. Incidentally, I didn’t have a chance to try any of those on this trip. Instead, I relied on the numerous off-campus dining options near the property. Stepping into the mall, there’s a food court with several counter-service locations along with some table service options as well.
Personally, I had a couple of meals in the food court and also ordered takeout from P.F. Changs one night. Elsewhere, within a block or two, there was a Qdoba, a Chipotle (yes, they really were right around the corner from each other), a Chick-fil-A, a Five Guys, and many others. All this is to say that, while the on-property dining picks at Conrad may be pricey, it’s close enough to several affordable eateries that this didn’t present any problem for me.
While I didn’t actually have in-room dining for myself, I do want to mention one thing about it: it could be vastly improved if they had more ordering options. Silly me thought that having a tablet in the room would mean that they’d utilize it for more than simply displaying the same menu page that was on the website. Heck, it still didn’t even list the number to call to order nor did it have pricing. Sure I could have just called the front desk and been transferred but these unknowns prevented me from placing an order. I assume most people aren’t as neurotic as me in this regard, but you never know.
Final Thoughts on the Conrad Indianapolis
Despite a couple of small annoyances, I think the Conrad ended up being the perfect place to stay while attending Gen Con. The easy access to the convention center as well as the proximity to numerous dining options made for a mostly stress-free experience. Plus, had the hotel not been located around the corner, I probably wouldn’t have seen Monument Circle or even known it existed.
Meanwhile, the downsides of the property are obvious — starting with the asking price during this popular time. Also, the need to valet and pay $59 a night to do so isn’t great. Still, if you can use points or book a stay during a less in-demand time, I think the Conrad could well be worth it. So, if you’re headed to a convention, a Colts game, or just want to explore downtown Indy, I think this pick is worth a look.