Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge
Additional photos courtesy Country Inn & Suites
Country Inn & Suites by Carlson
2221 Killebrew Drive
Bloomington MN 55425
Reservations: (800) 830-5222 (US/Canada Toll-free)
Telephone: (952) 854-5555
Sometimes luxury is a combination of simple pleasures. While its pricing and surroundings might be no-nonsense and economical, a stay at Country Inn & Suites at the Mall of America outside Minneapolis can measure up to the comforts and conveniences of a top star hotel.
The flagship of a Carlson brand which originated as a nod to bed and breakfast lodges, the Country Inn & Suites has been recently renovated in a sophisticated decor, all taupe and cream with jolts of bright orange-red showing up in a chair in each room and stripes in the carpeting.
The convenient reception area is directly to the right of the front door in a lobby with comfortable couches beside a cozy gas fireplace and a counter serving free coffee and tea all day. Proceeding to the quick, efficient elevators, guests can grab to-go plates of ingredients for "Angels on Horseback" i.e. graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows which can be toasted in the guest room microwave oven.
I stayed in a Business Class Suite. Guests enter a seating area with a leatherette pull-out couch flanked by that one red chair. Facing the seating area, a well thought out work space centers on a wide desk with a mini table below that pulls out to serve as a computer shelf. A ledge above keeps chargers and cords out of the way right beside a bank of outlets. Wi-fi is free and the electrical switches are straightforward and non-perplexing throughout. Both the desk and the bed face wide screen TVs. A bar area provides a Keurig coffee maker with packets of coffee and tea, a micro-wave oven, and a mini-fridge. While there is no stock of mini-bar foods, soups, candies, snacks and beverages are sold in the "Inn Case" shop off the lobby and are priced far below the going rates in rooms.
Walking past the bathroom and a convenient closet with an ironing board, one enters the bedroom with a wall of windows which can open to admit fresh air. The bed is flanked by a console with both shelves and drawers. Tucked onto one shelf is an exercise mat and stretch springs for exercise. There is a terry cloth robe that can be worn downstairs to the Jacuzzi and two indoor pools which overlook a courtyard with a fire pit that blazes a welcome every evening.
Hot water spurts instantly at the shower tub and at the bathroom sink which is raised to avoid runoff onto the wide counter. The 1875 watt hair dryer plugs conveniently into a socket beside the lighted magnifying mirror. New "White Water" products being developed for the company by lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802, will soon replace the current amenities which are supplied in very convenient slender flat bottles. A translucent strip across the top of the shower curtain enables bathers to see out into the room -- no chance of a "Psycho" surprise.
Served in a room off the lobby, breakfast is a buffet offering omelets, pancakes or waffles, oatmeal or cereal, fruits and three types of juices with the combinations varied from day to day. The hotel interconnects with a TGIF Friday restaurant, and other dining options include several dozen cafes and restaurants steps away at the Mall of America. Just next door in the hotel's sister Radisson Blu, expert chefs at the FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar transform local fare into culinary magnificence. Starting with the signature Blue Cube cocktail, blueberry vodka with a sphere of Curacao flavored ice, clever combinations of seasonal soups and vegetable dishes complement pork, bison, pheasant from nearby farms. Several dishes on the menu feature honey harvested from beehives on the roof.
Above all location, location, location is one of the hotel's great features. Barely ten minutes from the airport, it can be accessed by both express bus and light rail which also carry on into the twin cities in less than an hour. Parking in the outdoor lot is free for guests and so convenient to the city and airport that many travelers chose to stay at the Country Inn & Suites and "commute." Air travelers may spend a night and leave their cars behind to take advantage of the hotel's special long-term parking rate.
And steps away is the country's largest shopping center, the Mall of America, 4.1 million square feet enclosing around 500 retail shops, restaurants, and amusements. Coupon books or special packages at the hotel may offer discounts to shoppers who can purchase clothes and shoes -- with no sales tax -- at shops ranging from Michael Kors and Tiffany's to the Gap and J.Crew. A new upscale culinary area has just been added to augment the standard food court. And under the roof is a seven-acre Nickelodeon Universe amusement park with a merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, and roller coaster. Adults can try the indoor zip line or flight simulator, and for hikers, window shopping four circuits around the Mall adds up to a mile of exercise.
After recent stays in posh hotels with my clothing laid out on the floor and my computer juggling on my lap for lack of drawer and work space, after failing to decipher complex in-room electric switch systems, after losing my way in multi-level meandering palatial corridors, after lengthy waits for costly taxis, the straightforward comforts and convenience of the Country Inn & Suites add up to priceless luxury.
© November 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.