Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, GA
265 Peachtree Center Avenue
Diana, MaceVindaloo, BunchBox, Susu, Runt, VagBoy, WithKing, Ed

After our experience at C3, some of the Hutties decided to "cosplay" — "costume play" or make costumes and dress up — at DragonCon. That meant getting a hotel room connected directly to the convention venue. No one thought it was a good idea to go out into the elements of Atlanta in late August / early September. And though a few of the costumes were very practical and easy to wear and move around in (like, for trick-or-treating), some definitely were not. So we looked online and found the Marriott Marquis and the Hyatt qualified, being connected by a "HabiTrail" type of tunnel / covered bridge system.

Our rooms at C3 had been large with two queen beds apiece and an extra connected room that was sort of a den or lounge. For the same price ($169 per night, not including taxes, etc. — we were supposed to pay $150 for two beds, but got charged the "normal rate" instead of the "con rate" ... should've asked which version of "con" ...), this was definitely more a "salesman's hotel" in that there was one king bed, a smaller bathroom (with tub — tub is important), desk with phone (plus telecom charge of $10 a day for Internet, local, domestic calls), webTV, one comfy chair, iron and board. It was a nicely appointed and very comfortable, and a small box.

But the bed was really, really exceptionally nice, with a wonderful mattress, five half-size pillows, smooth, soft sheets and a duvet / comforter. And it was really clean — the staff did the utmost to make sure everything was clean and supplied. Daily, they vacuumed, scrubbed the tubs, changed all towels (the hotel provided twice as many as there was bedding), resupplied soaps, shampoos, etc., as well as dusting, making the bed, emptying the trash, tidying up the hotel-supplied books and magazines. And when we discovered we forgot out Ethernet cable to connect to the 'net, the front desk told us to look in the closet of a bag of "Internet cables" — how nice of them to foresee our absentmindedness! It also included a USB cable, for the others among us who forgot to bring them for photo downloads.

The views outside were so-so; Atlanta is not exactly a pretty city from above. So there is no real virtue in getting a higher-floor room, like it might be in other cities. Just so you know. The views inward were more interesting.

What TOTALLY sucked was the elevator situation. You know those decorative elevators that are covered in glass, and are mounted on the outside of the building so that riders can get a view and people on the street can see the pretty lightbulb-encrusted capsules gliding up and down? Usually, the hotels have real elevators (rectangular, decently sized, ventilated, etc.) on the inside of the building. We're not sure why, but the Hyatt (the other hotel of DragonCon) and the Marriott had an open-courtyard / atrium design that lined the hotel rooms along the outer perimeter of the property and the "outdoor" elevators in the center. All the way up the exposed concrete 41-floor building. And the elevator bays were divided into thirds, so that one elevator could only "do" a third of the floors; this was supposedly to cut down on the congestion of having a dozen elevators stopping on every floor (or potentially so). The results are:
  1. the rooms looked like they were mounted on outdoor concrete motel balcony walkways;
  2. the floors of the three lobby levels (yes, it was confusing knowing where to go) had cut-outs in them so they'd look pretty and/or interesting as you were peering off the balcony edges or the elevator but you ended up having to walk around the lenticular-shaped holes to get to the elevators;
  3. since the floorplans were roughly symmetrical, everything looked the same and one got lost a lot;
  4. the circular floorplan of the elevator guaranteed that a minimum number of people and luggage racks would fit;
  5. if you were on the, say ... 16th floor, you had to go downstairs, then catch another elevator to see your friend(s) on the 39th floor. And then go down again and take another elevator to see another friend on the 23rd floor ...
  6. the wait for elevators could be like 10 minutes; nearly half on hour on check-out day, or maybe more;
  7. we got to hear a LOT of whining;
  8. the climate control doesn't seem to work so well in such a huge open space, and within the elevators, the ventilation didn't seem to be working at all;
  9. upon getting home, those of us who live / work using elevators, discovered we'd brought home the "run run run get in get in GET IN" response when an elevator door opened. How embarrassing!
Okay, take a deep breath and calm down ...

We also chose the place because it had a pool, but it was accessible through one of the lobbies and was outdoors. We have nothing against outdoor pools, but considering the size of this crowd and the long elevator waits and the amount of time it took to get in and out of some of our costumes, it seemed prudent to save the time and effort for seeing the many things on offer at DragonCon. So, alas, we didn't get to try that out, or the health and fitness center (despite the dieting and crunches some of us swore to do to look "good" in the costume!). We did get to admire the many pretty fountains tucked here and there outside the glass-walled lobbies, however.

(We didn't try the "turndown" service either ... we can't figure out why one would need one's sheets and blankets folded down, unless you really want the mint or chocolate they leave on the pillow ...)

The importance of a covered walkway to get from venue to venue could not be understated. Some of our costumes, though made to LOOK like armor, were in fact nothing more than paper or foam or hotglue and bubblegum in its various guises. So getting not wet and not wind-blown was kind of important. Also, due to handicap regulations, there are always ramps and/or escalators so that the more "vertically challenged" costumed ones could move about fairly easily. The Marriott and the Hyatt are connected to the Peachtree Center, a mall with the usual types of things within. But you mostly bypass the guts of the mall. Even though the two hotels are across the street from one another (the "shows" were in the Hyatt and the dealers, exhibits, some fan stuff in the Marriott), the enclosed skywalks were a nice feature.

In fact, the spiraling and curved staircases, escalators, and short run elevators did work well to get around the three lobby levels: LL which is the main lobby level, but it was the center one of three ... At the bottom was CL (for "convention level") which had all the exhibit halls, break-out rooms, etc., and above the LL was the GL for "garden level" which is where all the dining facilities were, as well as "habitrail" entrance.

It was actually nice to stand in the GL and look down onto the LL and CL and see all the con-goers walked under the floor cut-outs, and watch the cosplayers negotiate the escalators. Hmn, so that wasn't all bad as an architectural feature.

And when you are staying within the confines of your hotel, it's important to have access to food. Yes, you can go to the mall, but there were decent restaurants on-site. We imbibed in Allie's American Grill for brunch daily, at The Marquis Steakhouse for luxurious dinners, the Atrium Express for deli-style sandwiches and snacks, and at the Grandstand Lounge for a nightcap. There was also "Champion's Sports Bar," but none of us, surprisingly, had any affection for sports bars, so we skipped that. The only thing missing was a decently priced dinner place serving cooked food; Allie's doesn't serve dinner.

Which brings us to another complaint; the literature about the hotel in our rooms said that the breakfast buffet at Allie's was $14.95, but when the bill came, it was $17 (not including gratuity or taxes). And it said they serve dinner, but when we went there, the restaurant was closed. Seems like the elevators are not the only things needing updating.

The driveway up to the front door was often a mess in terms of foot and/or vehicle traffic. It was circular, encompassing a big fountain, and was maybe 3 cars wide. So at check-in or check-out time, it was often a morass of confusion. Also, the "valets" only go as far as within the door of the hotel; after that, the bellman takes over. So you have to tip two people instead of one. This is a gripe, and rather confusing when you just arrive. But you really do need a porter to help when you have big boxes of costumes and have no clue how to negotiate the weird elevator system. So it's money well-spent, at least upon coming in. Going out, there was a 90 minute wait for this service, so either call them early or do it yourself and save the aggravation and the tip money.

The air conditioning controls were older, but the cooling system did work once you figured them out. One of our rooms was a handicapped room, which had bigger bathroom, etc., but the closet had a rail hung halfway down, so we couldn't hang dresses or long robes in there (we used the hook behind the door in the bathroom ... now why is there a full-height hook in a handicapped bathroom??), and we had to move the ironing board, which didn't fit in there either. And the handicapped adjustable-height shower head kept sliding and twisting till one of us figured out how to make it stay put, but then it was a wonderful shower.

Okay, it sounds like a litany of complaints, but the good things were really good, and the bad things were annoying but not hysterically bad. See, things were generally good, just vaguely annoying ... especially considering our cosplay requirements. We got the feeling the hotel was born in a hurry (specifically for the 1996 Olympics, probably), and it just didn't age well. But they do very well with what they have, and that's more than enough for us. So would we return? Yes, and we'll be wiser about the stuff that doesn't cut it; like anything, there is a system to get around stuff like this.

Besides, we haven't yet figured out that weird pink ribbony sculptury thing in the midde of the atrium. And we heard the elevators at the Hyatt are even worse!

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