I slept in a train station and loved it: A review of The Crawford Hotel in Denver

Apr 13, 2022

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While it’s not uncommon to find hotels attached to airports, hotels attached to train stations are another story. This is especially true in the U.S., where many once-grand stations have been stripped down to their bare function. They are few and far between, but they are out there.

Among them: The Crawford Hotel. It’s located directly inside Denver’s Union Station, which is over 100 years old, and is a bucket list hotel for rail fans and history buffs alike. It opened as a part of the Beaux Arts station’s transformation in 2014 and seamlessly blends its lengthy history with the amenities and comforts of a modern hotel.

It’s not a points hotel but I still decided to stay there before catching Amtrak’s early morning ski train. And boy, am I glad I did.

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In This Post

Quick take

The Crawford Hotel is a destination in and of itself. Think of the TWA Hotel at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, but at an active train station. The hotel’s “lobby” is quite literally the train station’s Great Hall.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Denver’s Union Station isn’t your ordinary train station, either. It’s a stunning space furnished with plush couches and coworking tables, and home to over a dozen locally owned restaurants, bars, coffee shops and boutique stores. This is a place where even non-travelers hang out.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Not only does the hotel have an unparalleled location, but it has a unique charm you won’t find at other hotels. Each of the 112 rooms is distinctively decorated and has a specific theme, representing a different era of the train station’s history. All of the art in the hotel is by Colorado artists and there are a lot of unique amenities that give guests a truly authentic experience.

Getting there

The Crawford Hotel is located right inside Denver’s Union Station, just steps away from the train tracks. If you’re coming from Denver International Airport (DEN), just hop on the Regional Transportation District airport rail for $10.50 each way.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Alternatively, the drive from Denver Airport is about 25 miles and can take anywhere from 30 to 50 minutes, depending on traffic.

Related: The best way to get to DEN

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The front desk area is small and fits in with the rest of the train hall so well that if you didn’t know it was there, you could easily miss it.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Booking details

Unfortunately, The Crawford Hotel is not a part of any major hotel loyalty program, so there aren’t many ways to redeem points for a stay here. It is a part of The Hotel Collection by American Express, though, so eligible Amex cardholders can enjoy elite-like perks, such as an on-property credit and a room upgrade, when staying two or more nights.

My nightly rate was about $300 for a “Superior Loft,” though rates creep up to around $400 in the fall. The hotel also tacked on a nightly destination amenity fee of $25. While I’m normally not a fan of these fees, I felt like I got great value from it. Here’s what it provided, with some of my favorites highlighted in bold:

  • In-room Nespresso machine.
  • In-room iPad with digital magazines and newspapers.
  • High-speed Wi-Fi.
  • Tesla courtesy transportation within a 2-mile radius.
  • Access to the gym and fitness classes at the Oxford Club.
  • Access to 24-hour business center.
  • Access to e-bikes.
  • One daily scoop of ice cream per guest at Milkbox Ice Creamery.
  • One daily cup of drip coffee per guest from Pigtrain Coffee Co.
  • One daily craft beer per guest from the Terminal Bar between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.
  • Priority seating at Snooze.
  • 20% to 25% discount at most dining and retail outlets at Union Station.
  • Discounts at various neighborhood bars, restaurants and retailers.

Standout features

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
  • Location, location, location. Even if you aren’t coming for the train station, you’ll be in a central location with easy access to the 16th Street Mall, Coors Field, Larimer Square and the River North Art District (RiNo).
  • Nothing about this hotel feels cookie-cutter — there are nods to the train station’s history and its locale at every turn.
  • The hotel offers three distinct accommodation options, including Pullman sleeping car-inspired rooms, providing a room style for every type of guest.
  • The shell of Union Station might be old, but the hotel rooms are up to date with iPads, Nespresso machines, Bluetooth speakers, fast Wi-Fi and bedside power outlets.
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
  • The public spaces offer plenty of comfortable seating areas for co-working or socializing.
  • Although the train station is a very public space, the hotel itself is not — you need to scan your key to use the elevator and then again to access the hallway.
  • Dogs are welcome for $50 per night and are spoiled by amenities like doggie beds, toys and locally made treats.

Drawbacks

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
  • This is not a points hotel and cash rates can be on the pricier side.
  • While being located inside the train station is one of the hotel’s main selling points, it also means that the “lobby” is always very busy. There’s no quieter common area exclusively for hotel guests.
  • There’s a $25 nightly destination fee, but at least you can get a lot of bang for your buck.
  • Parking is valet-only and quite steep at $47 per night.

The vibe

Union Station is known as “Denver’s living room,” and that’s the exact vibe I got. The Great Hall was buzzing all day and night. You could enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, work from the communal tables during the day and meet friends for drinks and maybe a game of shuffleboard in the evening.

The common spaces were tastefully furnished while paying homage to the station’s history. Details included signage reminiscent of old departure boards and long benches evoking the glory days of train travel. Every corner was a photo opportunity.

The room

Suites aside, there are three distinct room styles to choose from. “Pullman” rooms overlook the train tracks and are meant to recreate the feeling of a sleeper train car, “Classic” rooms are more traditional hotel rooms and draw inspiration from the building’s Victorian roots, and “Loft” rooms are in the former attic and characterized by wooden beams and vaulted ceilings. Pullman rooms are the smallest of the bunch, while Classic rooms are the most spacious.

I was assigned a partially accessible Loft room. Although it had a contemporary look overall, features like the wooden beams, exposed brick and dormer windows helped it maintain the historical integrity of the building.

Despite its age, the room had all of the modern amenities you would expect, including an in-room iPad for ordering room service and reading the news, a Bluetooth speaker, super-fast Wi-Fi and easily accessible power outlets. There was also a minifridge stocked with two free bottles of water.

I particularly appreciated the local touches throughout the room, such as mixed cocktail kits from Union Station’s Cooper Lounge ($18 per bottle), coffee from Colorado’s Strava Craft Coffee and art by Colorado artists. There was even an in-room Instax camera for guests to use while they explore the city ($15 for a box of film).

The king bed was comfortable and I got two great nights of sleep. The room was soundproofed so train noise was not an issue.

The marble bathroom was clean, modern and spacious. Because I was assigned an accessible room, the shower was roll-in and had grab bars. There was no seat in the shower, but they were available in fully accessible rooms.

Food and drink

While the hotel technically doesn’t have any restaurants of its own, guests have access to the 11 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Union Station. Better yet, hotel guests get 20% to 25% off at most outlets — and because the restaurants cater more toward the general public, menu prices aren’t inflated like they sometimes are at hotels.

From high-end to fast food and everything in between, there’s something for all budgets and tastes. Several of the restaurants were also available through room service.

One of the most prominent outlets was Terminal Bar, located in the old ticketing office in the Great Hall. It offered an extensive lineup of Colorado craft beers ($7 to $10), which were listed in the ticket window’s slot holders. Food options ranged from tempura fried cauliflower ($11) to crispy fried wings ($15), hamburgers ($13), grilled cheese dippers ($11) and more. This was also where hotel guests got their free daily beer between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m.

I also visited Pigtrain Coffee Co. and Milkbox Ice Creamery each day, where hotel guests could pick up their daily free cup of joe (normally $3) and scoop of ice cream (normally about $5).

Other casual options included Acme Delicatessen, Acme Pizzeria, ND streetBar and Snooze an AM Eatery.

Meanwhile, the more upscale options included the seafood restaurant Stoic & Genuine, Spanish-inspired restaurant Ultreia, New American restaurant Mercantile Dining & Provision and the swanky Cooper Lounge, which overlooked the Great Hall (the same bar that supplied the in-room cocktail kits).

Amenities and service

As a part of the destination fee, hotel guests had access to the gym and fitness classes at the Oxford Club, located just across the street. Given that this was a proper gym where locals could buy memberships, it was very well equipped and even had a Pelton bike. Hotel guests also had access to a steam room and could splurge on spa services.

However, if you didn’t want to walk across the street to the Oxford Club, there was also a small 24-hour gym in the basement of the train station. It had a few cardio machines, a cable machine and free weights, but overall, it was much more basic than the gym across the street. Unfortunately, there was no Peloton here.

The amenity I ended up using the most was the Tesla house car, which offered complimentary rides within 2 miles and saved me money on Ubers. I was particularly impressed that the service was offered until midnight on weekends. Had the weather been better, I would’ve also borrowed one of the hotel’s complimentary e-bikes to explore the city.

The service overall struck an ideal balance between casual and personable. The house car drivers, in particular, were always eager to share tips on what to see and do in the city.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Out and about

What’s so special about staying inside Union Station is that you can “go out” without really leaving the hotel. That said, the hotel encourages guests to explore the area and makes it easy to do so with the house car, bikes, cameras and partnerships with various local retailers.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The hotel has an ideal Lower Downtown (LoDo) location that offers easy access to sporting venues like Coors Field, Empower Field at Mile High and the Ball Arena; popular attractions like Larimer Square, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and Meow Wolf; lots of restaurants and bars; and up-and-coming neighborhoods like RiNo. In the summer and fall months, there’s also a Saturday farmers market right outside Union Station that’s not to be missed.

Accessibility

All of the hotel’s most important areas are accessible, including the entrance, check-in area, restaurants and meeting spaces. Accessing rooms and some amenities will require using an elevator.

You can book an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant room for features like large doorways, telephones reachable from the bed, roll-in showers, showers with seats and hand-held showerheads, grab bars in the showers and next to the toilets, lowered bathroom sinks, visual fire alarms and in-room telephones with audible signals to indicate messages.

Checking out

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

My stay at The Crawford Hotel was nearly flawless. While I originally booked it for its logistical advantages, this hotel is worth visiting in and of itself. It was historic, yet offered all the amenities of a modern-day hotel. It also had an ideal location for first-time Denver visitors like me. And while I’m normally not a fan of destination fees, I felt like I got my money’s worth here.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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