Friendly, Quirky and Comfy: A Review of the Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South - UAB
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Hotel Indigo is my favorite brand within InterContinental Hotels Group because of the brand's friendly staff and unique, neighborhood-inspired themes. After stays that I reviewed at the Berlin Wall-inspired Hotel Indigo Berlin Alexanderplatz and Hotel Indigo Austin Downtown-University, I was excited to try out the apothecary-inspired Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South - UAB location on a recent trip to Alabama at the end of last year.
When I saw the Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South - UAB on the recent winter IHG PointBreaks list, my husband, JT, and I quickly booked and planned a four-night trip to Birmingham to visit his sister and her family. This Hotel Indigo normally costs 30,000 IHG points per night, but it was on the 15,000-points-per-night PointBreaks list. So we paid 45,000 points for our four-night stay. since we had the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, which provides a fourth night free on award-night stays. Based on TPG's latest valuations, the 11,250 points we spent per night were worth $68. Cash rates frequently start around $120 for a standard king room, but usually the cost to upgrade to a suite isn't much more.
This Hotel Indigo is in the Five Points South neighborhood of Birmingham, close to the University of Alabama at Birmingham and a short ride from the Birmingham business district. It's a neighborhood that's seen a lot of change recently, and it's home to some of the city's most popular restaurants, shops and places to hang out. The friendly front-desk staff was always happy to make suggestions in terms of things to do, see, eat and drink around the hotel.
Although I felt comfortable enough in the area surrounding the hotel, it's worth noting that there is a noticeable homeless population in the Five Points South neighborhood.
A small black binder in our room contained two pages about the history of the hotel and Five Points South area.
In 1931, the building that is now Hotel Indigo was built to serve as a medical-arts building for the doctors of Birmingham. The building was renovated and renamed the Pickwick Hotel in 1988 and became an independent hotel in 2007. Ten years later, it reopened as Hotel Indigo after renovations to incorporate subtle hints of the medical theme using an old apothecary and pharmacy as inspiration.
Hotel Indigo locations always take design inspiration from their local neighborhoods and history, but this location did a particularly nice job incorporating the medical theme throughout the hotel, from the lab coats worn by the front desk staff to the Rx Lounge and room design.
We booked this stay through JT's IHG account, since he's a Spire elite and hence more likely to get an upgrade -- plus he arrived into Birmingham a few hours earlier than me after his unnecessary Frontier flights. I've gotten some nice upgrades with the Platinum elite status that comes with the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card, and now that JT is a Spire elite, he's had even better luck.
At this property, our upgrade chances were pretty good, since the hotel has just 63 rooms and 28 of them are suites. When 44% of the rooms are suites, it's easy for the front desk to say yes to an upgrade request -- especially from an IHG elite. The front-desk agent was willing when JT asked for an upgrade at check-in, but said he wasn't sure if the system would allow him to upgrade us on a award stay. He tried and the system did, so he gave us a top-floor corner king suite.
We were given Room 803, a king suite on the top floor overlooking the Five Points South intersection and the Vulcan statue.
Vulcan — the Roman god of the forge — is the symbol of the onetime steel town that was once dubbed "The Pittsburgh of the South." The world's largest cast-iron statue, it was used for decades to announce whenever there was a traffic fatality in Birmingham — if his lantern shone green, it meant no one had died, but red signaled a traffic death. That morbid display ended with the statue's 1999 renovation.
The door opened directly on the living room, which had a sofa, a table with two chairs, a nine-drawer dresser and a lounge chair with a large reading light. I found the table comfortable for working on my laptop and the couch firm and supportive.
A large flat-screen TV that measured 48 inches along its diagonal was in front of the couch and above the dresser.
Near the table was a wet bar with a Keurig coffeemaker, a sink and a wine refrigerator under the counter.
Back near the room's entrance was a hallway leading to the bedroom. Along this short hallway was a closet on the left. The closet contained an iron and ironing board as well as a safe, a couple shelves and plenty of hangers.
To the right along the hallways was the bathroom. The space itself was large, but there wasn't much counter space or places to hang towels.
The shower contained an overhead shower head as well as a handheld shower head. You could toggle between the two shower heads using a knob. Hot water didn't come to the shower immediately, but perhaps this was due to our suite being on the top floor.
Aveda-branded soap bars, shampoo, conditioner, bar soaps and liquid soap were on the bathroom counter, and a hair dryer was in a bag hanging on the wall. I'm happy to report that the hair dryer was one of the best I've used in my last year and a half living on the road.
The bedroom was easily the most impressive room in the suite. With four windows, a large king bed and a chaise lounge, this room made every family member who visited our room envious.
The king bed had four large king-size pillows and a comforter sandwiched between a flat sheet and a decorative cover sheet with script at the bottom. I slept well in the bed, although my temperamental back was mildly sore each morning.
Nightstands on both sides of the bed had a lamp, shelf and a pullout table. A bench at the end of the bed was great for sitting while tying shoes but was also a handy place to put bags or suitcases.
A large, three-drawer dresser directly in front of the bed provided plenty of space for clothing. Another large flat-screen TV that measured 48 inches along its diagonal was on top of the dresser.
In the corner of the room was a small desk. Although the room description online said the desk had an ergonomic chair, we both found that the desk chair promoted slouching and wasn't particularly comfortable. While I appreciated having a working space not in the living room, the table in the living room was more comfortable for working.
The king suite was well-decorated. It fit the medical theme of the hotel while still being comfortable and livable. However, you may struggle if you're a light sleeper, as nearby church bells rang frequently, road noises were noticeable, and even some yelling from people on the street could be heard. Hotel Indigo realized this and provided ear plugs and eye masks upon request, though.
Our stay was excellent overall, but there were a few small areas for improvement: The toilet seat was wobbly, the bottom drawer of the dresser in the bedroom wouldn't completely close, one of the bedroom windows leaked during a storm, and housekeeping ignored our "Do Not Disturb" sign on our checkout day even though we'd been granted a late checkout the night before.
Food and Beverage
There are many restaurants and bars within walking distance, and we tried a few of the nearby restaurants. Surin West was a great option for Thai food and sushi, and there was a popular local diner known for its pancakes. We also tried out the nearby ramen bar, which served reasonably priced poke bowls and decent but Americanized ramen.
The on-site Rx Lounge served breakfast from 6:30am to 10:30am during the week and from 7am to 11am on the weekends.
The Rx Lounge also served assorted snacks and small meals throughout the day.
But the Rx Lounge was most popular for its drinks.
The Smoked Old Fashioned wasn't cheap at $14. But it was a treat to watch it being prepared.
The lounge also offered an assortment of cocktails, some of which had themed names that required the bartender to reference a sheet to remember the drink's ingredients, and beers. I tried the Last Word cocktail, which contained gin, green chartreuse, maraschino-cherry juice and lime juice, and found it to be surprisingly easy to drink.
The small lounge could only hold around 40 customers at a time and only had one bartender, so it could easily change from quiet to busy while you were enjoying your drink.
As an IHG elite, JT received a welcome-drink coupon when he checked in. The coupon didn't say that it was only valid for particular types of drinks, but when he tried to use the coupon to pay for his Smoked Old Fashioned, he was told that the coupon was only valid for wine and beer. When he noted that the coupon didn't say this, the bartender offered to speak to the front desk, which confirmed that the coupon was only for beer or wine but decided to honor the coupon for his drink due to the miscommunication.
This Hotel Indigo allowed pets up to 40 pounds. Up to two pets could stay in each room, and food and water bowls were even provided in the lobby. But the $75 per night pet fee wasn't exactly pet-friendly, and we didn't notice any guests with pets during our stay.
A small conference room was on the ground floor.
Wi-Fi was provided to all guests free of charge and was fast enough for me to work and stream videos. A speed test at 10am one morning showed 22 ms ping, 15.3 Mbps download and 18.1 Mbps upload. You could connect using IHGConnect with your IHG account or by using a password provided by the front desk.
A small but well-equipped gym was on the floor beneath the lobby. There were two elliptical machines, two treadmills, one exercise bike, free weights, a weight machine and a stretching area.
The stretching area had an exercise ball, a high-density foam roller, a balance trainer and stretching bands.
In the lobby near the check-in desk was a 24-hour pantry and business center. There were two computers and a printer in the business center.
One of the best "amenities" at this Hotel Indigo was the friendly and helpful front-desk staff. They always greeted us when we returned to the property and provided many good recommendations for food and walking routes. Hotel Indigo is known for its friendly staff, and the staff at this Hotel Indigo didn't disappoint.
The Hotel Indigo Birmingham Five Points South - UAB is a comfortable place to stay in Birmingham. The medical theme is fun, and the Rx Lounge is particularly cute. The property is near bars and restaurants as well as UAB and downtown. The staff is friendly and have plenty of recommendations for things to do and places to eat in the neighborhood. Plus, since the hotel has 44% suites, it's feasible to score an upgrade -- especially with the Platinum elite status that comes as a benefit of the IHG Rewards Premier Credit Card. It was particularly affordable on the PointBreaks list, but cash prices are often reasonable as well.