The Aladdin Hotel was built in 1926. At the time, it was probably huge (sixteen stories, I think they said), and luxurious. It is still luxurious, but now blades and cylinders of glass and steel tower over it. It doesn’t look majestic, it looks charming.
It is right across the square from the Convention Center, and there is an underground tunnel from the lobby through the parking garage, so if there is a thunderstorm you can make it to the Convention Center (or the Little Theater, theoretically, at least) without getting your fancy duds wet.
Inside, lots of red, black and gold. The floor has marble tiles and there are those pillars. My room had black and red furnishing against a neon-lime-green wall. “What? Yikes!” you say. Well, first of all, that high-contrast thing was a big part of art deco, and secondly, since it was the wall behind the bed, I wasn’t constantly being reminded LIME GREEN! LIME GREEN! The bed was tall. This hotel offers a “pillow menu” and the bed had four pillows, a sampler, ranging from soft to very firm.
When I checked in they offered me a complimentary glass of champagne. I didn’t say no to that! My room was on the third floor, and they upgraded me to a corner room just because they could. My view due west was stunning; my view south was blocked by the parapet of the Budget Rent-a-Car roof and a large air conditioning unit, but above that, both the Crown Plaza tower and the Power and Light building were visible.
They’ve redone the place recently, probably as part of the whole downtown refurbish. So the room was not huge, but it was well laid out, and the bathroom was not “quaintly” genuine 1930s bathroom, but fully modern, done in a black and white style that looks 30ish.
The hotel has a spa somewhere on the premises and a ballroom, probably on the top floor for the view. It is a long narrow building and the stairs (I like to use stairs) were a bit strange. From at least the seventh floor down to the third, they ran down one staircase; on the third floor
that staircase ends. You must walk to the other end of the building, to a flight of stairs that look more like they were meant for kitchen and housekeeping staff, and it goes down to the second floor. To get out onto the second floor, which includes the Martini Loft, the hotel bar, you walk through the employee locker area. Then there is one more fancy flight of stairs that takes you into the lobby.
The Aladdin also has a restaurant called the Zebra Room. Guess the color scheme! Go on, guess! It has a limited menu which is the same as the room service menu, of course, but the food is well-prepared and tasty. Breakfast is part of your room cost, and you get a voucher to take with you into the restaurant. The voucher is good for up to $15 worth of breakfast (if that makes sense); if you are going to order enough food to go over that you pay the difference. I never came close. In addition to a straight breakfast menu, the hotel offers a breakfast buffet with eggs, meats, cold cereal, fruit and pastries and a customized omelet station with an assigned omeletteer (I just made that up). I usually ordered off the menu. My personal favorite was the mini-malted waffles.
The kitchen was slightly understaffed for the number of guests they had, I think. Food was slow, particularly in the morning. The server would usually bring out toast first if you ordered it, so that you had something to nibble on while you waited. The morning I ordered the waffles, when they came out, decorated with strawberry slices and fresh blueberries, I said, “These look wonderful!” My server said, “I made them myself.”
Lunch and dinner entrees are not California cuisine. Kansas City is meat country, although there was chicken (I can’t remember if there was a fish option). Our reviewer Bill who is a vegetarian was able to put together a dinner of starters, basically hummus and pita bread with a quesadilla. The hummus was pretty good. The last night I was there I had the hamburger sliders in my room and they were good.
There were a few limitations. The building is old; even though the bathroom had been modernized and redesigned, I do not think they re-plumbed the entire building. I can’t imagine the cost of that. At the height of the Con, when they place was full, I noticed the toilet flushing a lot more slowly. It did flush, but it was a noticeable slow down. Fortunately, this part of Missouri was not in a water crisis and has a great aquifer, so I didn’t feel bad about multiple flushes. And by Sunday, my last night there, the problem had disappeared.
The rooms do not come with mini-fridges, but if you request it they will bring one in for you.
The biggest lost opportunity I saw for the Aladdin, though, was its bar, the Martini Loft. The place really is a loft, a mezzanine on the second floor looking down onto the beautiful art deco lobby. The views from the tables near the windows are nice; there are comfy couches and overstuffed chairs along one wall. The bartender who was working both nights I tried out the bar was untrained and not inspired. I asked for a sidecar and he asked what was in it. When I gave him the ingredients he improvised and has the distinction of giving me the first bad sidecar I’ve had. I thought maybe he just didn’t know that drink, which would still be odd, but would be an explanation. Kat asked for a Cape Cod, which is vodka and cranberry juice with a lime slice, and it came with no lime. She said it was all right, but I suspect the proportions weren’t quite right. This is sad because it’s a glamorous little bar.
Other nights we went over to the big fancy Marriott which has a huge bar that pours out into the lobby, with a water feature and alcoves; lovely but modern… and they had a squad of bartenders who knew their drinks. The difference was immediately noticeable. I think the Aladdin is missing a bet; they’ve got an historical building, why not specialize in glamorous cocktails? Or at least invent a signature drink. “The Aladdin?” What could be in it?
Last, and best, was the staff. From the housekeeper to the concierge to, well, everyone, everyone was friendly, cheerful, knew what they were doing, and helpful.
At least twenty-five percent of the fun of WorldCon was seeing parts of Kansas City, and half of that was this vintage hotel. Holiday Inn did a good job with this one.