aloft Minneapolis: A Nice Hipster Hotel

Front entrance of aloft Minneapolis

I don’t know Minneapolis at all, so I had no idea where to stay when I was planning my trip for MinneBar. I posted a question on Twitter asking for hotel recommendations and got two for aloft Minneapolis; one from Ben Edwards (one of the MinneBar organizers) and from @aloftMlps, the person or persons behind the aloft Minneapolis Twitter account. I’d never stayed at an aloft before, but I knew they were the hipper, more casual, less pricey cousins of W Hotels and was curious about them, so I went along with the suggestions.

@aloftMlps asked me when I would be checking in and out via Twitter, telling me they’d take care of the reservation for me. Better still, they got me the “Friends and Family” rate of USD$89 a night! Score one for aloft, and I hadn’t even set foot in the place yet.

Many alofts are near the airport, but the Minneapolis one is in the Downtown East area. As the cab drove into the neighbourhood, my hipster senses started tingling. This area is a former industrial zone, full of old factories and warehouses converted into offices, shops and places to live, new condos, and many other signs that spell the early stages of gentrification. Given that Minneapolis is on the verge of out-hipstering Brooklyn (just visit Uptown to see), it’ll be interesting to see what this area will look like in five years.

My room was on the third floor and split into two sections. The main section was the bedroom area, shown below:

The main part of my hotel room, as seen from the head of the bed

That’s a mini-couch or mini-chaise lounge below the TV set. The box on the left side of the desk is a “jack pack” bristling with power outlets, usb chargers and audio and video inputs of all sorts (composite, VGA, HDMI) so that you can plug your computer, video and audio players and have them play on the TV and in-room sound system.

Here’s the main section as seen from the other side of the room.

The main room, as seen from the foot of the bed

The bed and sheets were comfy. We’re talking almost-Hyatt comfy, and at a Four Points rate, that’s not bad.

You can’t see it very well in the photo above, but there’s a storage niche to the right side of the bed. That’s where the iron and ironing board are tucked away.

The smaller section of the room is the bathroom and closet area. It’s just to the left as you enter the room, with the passageway leading to the main section on the right. The closet doesn’t have a door; instead, it has a curtain:

Closet area of the room, featuring curtained-off closet, magazine rack, coffee maker, ice bucket and safe

Here’s the other side of the small area. It’s your standard hotel bathroom except for the designer sink (the sort that’s always in the bathroom of restaurants where they stack food vertically and do “sauce painting”) and the “spa style” shower with built-in dispensers for shampoo and soap.

That glow you see in the shower is actually coming from the main room. The shower has a translucent window facing the bedroom. It’s clouded enough so the show you get from the bedroom is PG-13 rather than R. It’s the kind of feature that makes this place a good one to spend the night with a “special friend”. I suppose I should go find one.

Sink and shower

Here’s another look at the closet, this time with the curtain drawn aside. No, the jacket doesn’t come with the room.

Another look at the closet, with the curtain drawn aside to show my stuff hanging in it

Here’s a closeup of the magazines, safe and other goodies. The “what’s going on locally” magazines are typical for a hotel; SPIN and dwell are not.

Closeup of the magazine rack, beverage shelf and safe in the closet

The 1950s-style alarm clock beside the bed was my favourite hipster detail in the room.

Closeup of 1950s-style alarm clock

Here’s what the lobby looked like on Friday night from the bar. It was happening:

The lobby and front desk, as seen from the bar

…and there was a DJ spinning some pretty good mashups. I give her bonus points for the Polaroid leggings:

The Friday night DJ, spinning tunes in the lobby bar

Here’s the bar as seen from the far side of the lobby. It seems as though the designers wanted to make the lobby a place where people — well, aloft’s intended audience, anyway — would want to hang out. I like it — during the day, it’s got a sort of “cafe” feel to it, and at night, the feel become more lounge-y:

The lobby bar, as seen from the far end of the lobby

Here’s a closer look at the bar:

The lobby bar, closer up

I didn’t get a photo of the re:fuel cafeteria on the other side of the lobby. It’s a self-serve deal that’s open 24 hours and features sandwiches, salad, soups, drinks and snacks. It’s decent and convenient. To the side of re:fuel is a hotel shop that has stuff you may have forgotten at home (toiletries and all that) as well as stuff you might not have even though of (mini-board games, for example).

The staff were friendly and helpful, and as you’ll see in a later post, tolerant of late-night accordion-driven carousing in the lobby.

All in all, I enjoyed my stay at aloft Minneapolis. I’d gladly stay there again!


New Wheels

Devinci stockholm

I went down to The Glebe this afternoon to pick out a new bike at Kunstadt Sports, an Ottawa chain with a good reputation. After trying a number of “road” and “city” type bikes, I went with the one that felt the best: a deVinci Stockholm. Kunstadt has a deal where accessories are 30% off when bought with a new bike, so I also bought a bell, a rack and twin pannier bags for groceries or hauling stuff when I have the accordion on my back. Add to that a “Starship Troopers”-looking Fox helmet and matching shades, and the bill came to just under $900 (Canadian, of course — that’s $941 US as of this writing).

The staff at Kunstadt were friendly, helpful and really cool with me taking about 10 bikes out for a spin (“Carbon fork? I need to see what that’s like.” “Disc brakes with hydraulics? Let me ride!”). I’d recommend them to anyone in the area looking to get a new two-wheeler.

The deVinci is quite different from my bike back in Toronto, a Trek Calypso cruiser: a good deal lighter, 27 speeds as opposed to 7, and a rocket in comparison. I’m going to have fun exploring Ottawa on this baby.


Where to Stay in Minneapolis (May 6th–8th)?

minneapolisCreative Commons photo courtesy of Sri Dhanush.

I’m helping out with BarCamp Minneapolis, a.k.a. MinneBar, which takes place on May 7th. The event takes place at Best Buy’s headquarters out in Richfield, and we out-of-towner helper-outers are staying downtown. If you know any good and reasonably-priced hotels in an interesting but not sketchy part of downtown, please let me know in the comments or drop me an email!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.