February 19, 2008

Healthy Hotel Review: Hilton Boston Back Bay

I stayed at the Hilton two weeks ago, and wrote most of this then, but have been slow to post it. I’m staying at the Westin right now, and I find that I keep adding to this review as I compare it to the Westin. For the record, I like the Hilton much better… but the Westin has a treadmill/spinning bike in my room, which is the only reason I stay here. If they ever kick me out of this room, I will kick them out of my trip itinerary and hightail it back to the Hilton.

Working out at the hotel:
The gym is on the 7th floor and is really beautiful, but for some reason, they like to blast the air conditioning really hard. I mean, they really blast it! The door to the gym seems to be permanently jammed ajar (note to Boston area readers: that means you don’t need a card to get in, so feel free to go check it out). The gym is open 24 hours, which is phenomenal and a huge perk – I actually worked out between midnight and 6 AM three times while I was there, so I was thrilled that they were open at those hours. I really hate when gyms do the lame 6 AM to 10 PM thing, because of those hours, I’m usually only at the hotel from 6-7 AM, so it’s harder to fit in.

Speaking of which, there is a pool that is only open during those limited hours. Additionally, it’s one of those types that’s more for hanging out and throwing a pool party, meaning it’s pretty short, so it’d be tough to do laps (though I did see someone attempting it). There is a hot tub next to the pool as well. According to the Hilton’s announcement of their $1.7 million upgrades to the fitness center, the pool is 25 feet, but I’m really not sure I buy it. Also, interesting to see the angle at which that picture was taken: it makes the pool look HUGE, but it’s definitely not.

The gym has a really fantastic Poland Spring fridge in the corner, which is fully stocked with free waterbottles. While I was in there, people who weren’t working out came in on several occasions just to get the water. Simultaneously, housekeeping kept coming in to make sure it was full, so I didn’t really care if non-gym goers were taking the water. Heck, I took two bottles up to my room to make my dumbbells by topping them with coffee cups. (I figured that was better than taking the actual dumbbells up to my room to do my fitness DVDs, but real dumbbells probably would have been a much better workout. I need to get brave enough to bring my laptop down to the gym so I can use the dumbbells while I do my 8 Minute Arms).

Working out in the area:
I stuck to the hotel because it was raining most mornings. However, I did walk back to the hotel from a dinner about a mile away on Tuesday night, and I felt completely safe in the area, with plenty of people around. An evening run would probably be fine if the weather cooperated.

Eating healthy at the hotel:
The first night when I checked in, they had a big bowl of apples and oranges on the check-in desk. I wanted one for breakfast but didn’t take one, figuring I would grab one on my way out in the morning. However, I never again saw that bowl. Where did it go? No one knows.

The room service menu at the Hilton is pretty decent, and has some very healthy selections as part of their “Hilton: Eat Right” program. The first night, I tried the Beef Tenderloin Steak Salad. It’s described as “fresh baby greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, bleu cheese, caramelized onions,” but I actually didn’t see cucumbers, and instead, I saw two kinds of tomatoes (red and yellow). It was very filling and very tasty, and was only 360 calories – not bad for all the protein you get from the steak.

The next morning, I ordered the Oat Bran French Toast, which was incredible. It was also 460 calories, which is more than I typically eat for breakfast, but still not breaking the bank. I originally planned to eat half, but couldn’t bring myself to throw the rest away because it was so delicious and really not that bad for me.

Eating healthy in the area:
Tossed is in the Prudential Center across the street, which is supposed to have amazing (if overpriced) salads. Unfortunately, there is no nutrition information available on the Tossed website, so you’ll have to do the calculations yourself.

There is a lot of fast food in a block or so radius (Burger King, McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wendy’s), so if you want to be able to check calories before you eat, those aren’t bad bets. Everyone rails on fast food, but there are some healthy choices on the menu if you take some time to research the food beforehand and then stick to what you plan. And sometimes, I like getting fast food – it’s so mass prepared that you know exactly what’s in it and how many calories you’re having.

There is a Trader Joe’s one block away that is open from 9 AM to 10 PM. I didn’t stop in, but if it’s like the one in New York, there is probably a decent assortment of ready-to-eat food that is fairly healthy.

Beware of the Summer Shack seafood restaurant next to the hotel. I didn’t go there, but a colleague who did said it was pretty good but loaded with all kinds of fried and fatty foods that will definitely put you off your diet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Update: I went to the Summer Shack, and chose the “be good to yourself special: chefs choice of a grilled fish that is high in omega 3 acids – 6 oz. portion with salad and brown rice.” It may have been healthy salmon, but it was coated in a lot of unhealthy oil. Ew.

General hotel stay kind of stuff:
Top three best things:
1. I ended up on a high floor (23), so my view looked out over the river and the Fenway, which was kind of neat. The room was fairly spacious, and was laid out in a way that made it seem even more so. In particular, they didn’t scrunch the entry to the room, which I feel like always has the effect of making the room seem much smaller than it is.
2. The hotel is really pretty and new looking. I hate old-style hotels with the 80s look, so I was really happy with how modern this was (modern in a good way; not in the scary space-age way).
3. The service people were very quick and responsive to my requests, whether they be for a yummy steak salad or a razor and shaving cream. For the latter, they were at my door in about 2 minutes flat. (For comparison’s sake, it took the Westin staff 24 minutes to bring me the same two items. No, I don’t bring my own – razors are too chancey for my carry on bags at the airport – sometimes you get caught and it doesn’t look good).

Top three worst things:
1. For some reason, the heat wasn’t adjustable. I like my hotel room to be hot, so I usually set it to 72. Unfortunately, when I tried to crank this heat from 68 to 72, it didn’t work. Also, there was no robe in my closet, so it made coming out of the shower a bit cold.
2. I got stuck with two double beds instead of a king – not really sure why, but I booked late, so I can’t really blame the hotel. It was probably my travel agent’s fault. I didn’t bother changing though, because I didn’t care that much. And it was actually kind of nice: I used one bed to throw all my stuff on and eat in when I got room service, and one to sleep in 🙂
3. It was hard to find a place to plug in the iron. The outlets on the desk were taken by my computer and cell phone, and there weren’t really any on the wall. I ended up using the ones on the lamp on the bedside table, and doing my ironing on the bed (just like home!) because I was too lazy to get out the ironing board. However, accessing the outlets on the lamp required pushing the phone out of the way, and it had those little rubber feet to make it difficult to push around. Three times out of four I pushed too hard and the phone would fall behind the bed, creating a big production to get it back. On the last morning I just left it there – apologies to the maid who has to dig it out of there still beeping.

I really loved the Hilton. It was really easy to stay in shape thanks to the 24 hour gym and healthy options on the room service menu. Honestly, it is unheard of these days for room service to list the nutritional information for their food, so I’m really impressed – bravo!

If it weren’t for the WestinWorkout program (and the fact that the Westin has a crazy promotion going on where you get 1,000 bonus points per stay [yes, I have become a points-whore, like so many of my fellow traveling consultants]), I would totally be back at the Hilton. If anyone from the Hilton reads this, please institute a workout in your room option! You’ll have at least one loyal customer every week. Just buy one treadmill, put it in my room, and we’ll call it a deal 🙂


1 thought on “Healthy Hotel Review: Hilton Boston Back Bay”

  1. Sounds like the Hilton I stayed in whilst in Chicago a couple weekends ago. Except they were in the middle of their fitness center re-do so the cool workout center was in a makeshift area in the mezzanine. Good equip and free water (although, a bottle of water in the room was $6.50).

    Thanks :-)! I really want to get out to Boston sometime soon and it sounds like a great place to burn some HH points!

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