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When navigating an unknown city, it’s reassuring to have a home-base that really feels like home. That’s precisely the role that Hilton Inn at Penn played for me during a recent visit to Philadelphia.
Since I was touring colleges with my daughter, I chose the Inn at Penn because of its location, hugging the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) campus. According to sales and marketing director Nancy Barag, I wasn’t alone.
“Our location on the campus of an Ivy League school definitely makes us stand out,” Barag told me. “We get lots of people who are coming to look at Penn with their children.”
For leisure travelers, the 238-room hotel sits within easy access of the city’s tourist highlights, from the zoo and art museum to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. It’s a five-minute cab ride away from the classic 30th Street Station, where Amtrak comes and goes.
The Inn at Penn also appeals to business travelers who take advantage of its 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space while enjoying the hotel’s home-away-from-home ambience.
From all types of travelers, “we get a lot of favorable comments about our residential feel,” Barag noted.
Service With A Smile
From the moment we arrived, we felt a genuine spirit of hospitality from the Inn at Penn staff. Throughout our stay, they seemed to anticipate our needs and take care of them promptly.
The doorman greeted us like old friends, even though we had never met him before, and the gentleman behind the front desk welcomed us with some fun jokes that set the tone for a lighthearted yet thorough check-in process.
A bellman named Teddy ushered us to our room while asking us about our trip, and he shared information about the neighborhood to help us get our bearings. Before leaving, he made sure we knew how to navigate our way around our guest room.
We were equally impressed with the congeniality of the staff during our meals. One morning, a waitress -- without even being asked -- made me a cup of coffee-to-go so we wouldn’t be late for our tour of the campus.
Apple iPads In Every Room
Fresh from a multi-million dollar renovation completed in March 2011, the Inn at Penn’s guest rooms sport a design at once contemporary and comfortable. There are edgy touches like a sleek work desk and ergonomic chair, while the art on the walls -- scenes from around Philadelphia and the Penn campus -- create an appealing sense of place.
Our room was chock-full of sustainable features, like a water-saving shower head. The sophisticated Evolve system monitored our lighting and temperature, which were activated only when we were in the room.
The renovation also brought about technological upgrades that made our in-room time entertaining. We easily accessed the hotel’s free wireless Internet, and we played our own music and movies through an in-room media hub that connected our laptop directly to the high-definition LCD television.
But our favorite touch was the in-room Apple iPad, a new amenity providing an array of information about the hotel’s services and highlights of the area. The Inn at Penn is the first Hilton -- and the first hotel in Philadelphia -- to provide such a luxury.
Barag told me that earlier this year, the front desk staff started wearing new eco-friendly uniforms that are manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The uniforms look and feel like fashionable business suits, but it takes 66 percent less energy to manufacture them, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
DIning In Style
On the last night of our stay, my daughter and I chose to dine at Penne Restaurant and Wine Bar, the Inn at Penn’s signature restaurant and a lovely setting for Italian cuisine made from fresh local ingredients.
From our vantage point we had a good view of the open kitchen, source of delectable dishes masterminded by executive chef Roberta Adamo. Taught to cook by her Sicilian grandmother, Adamo is a wizard with homemade pasta. I could practically taste the love she puts into her craft as I savored my linguine with shrimp, asparagus, carrots and tomatoes with saffron and a lemon olive oil sauce.
My daughter gave high praise to her dish of delicate capellini pasta with tomato basil sauce parmigiano. It sounds simple, but its flavors were rich and complex.
Adamo’s food is duly complemented by a wine list crafted by master Italian sommelier Marco Avigo, who oversees a large inventory of fine varietals.
Our mornings started equally deliciously thanks to the hotel’s breakfast buffet, presented in a stylish room called the University Club. It’s well worth the additional $16 per day for the Full American spread, an upscale affair with hot entrees, made-to-order omelettes, cereals, breads, gourmet cheeses, fruit, yogurt and other a la carte options.
Worthy Of Its Awards
Open since 1999, the Inn at Penn became a Hilton in 2001, and since then it has earned high praise within and outside of the hotel brand.
In May 2011, it received the Hilton Circle of Excellence Award for best sales team of 2010, besting all other hotels with less than 500 rooms.
And, for the past ten years it has earned the AAA Four Diamond Award. The Inn at Penn’s general manager Greg Stafford gives credit, in large part, to the dedication of the hotel’s employees.
“Our highly-skilled and caring team of service providers have been together for many years and bring a big smile and a ‘yes’ attitude to work every day,” said Stafford. “Because of the scale of the Inn at Penn, the atmosphere we have created and the team we have developed, the customer experiences a sense of being welcomed into magnificent home and attended to by a generous family.”
The Inn at Penn is worthy of all the accolades, and then some. It’s a place I’ll be happy to call home any time I’m in Philadelphia.
Hilton Inn at Penn215-222-0200www.theinnatpenn.com
Best Available Rates: From $209-$499 per night.Commission: 10 percent.