Spontaneous Trip to the Waldorf Astoria Buckhead in Atlanta, GA for Election 2020

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In late October we were trying to plan a trip to get away and distract ourselves from all of the election day madness. I had mentioned Atlanta a few times in the past because I had never been. However, Marshall had been before and was not thrilled about going back…..until I mentioned that we could stay at the Waldorf Astoria Buckhead at which point he was completely in. 

The outside of the Waldorf Astoria Buckhead

Hotel:

For this reservation I wanted to use a combination of points and my free night certificate provided through the American Express Hilton Honors Aspire card. Since that was my plan, it required a call to the Hilton Diamond Desk which I made on October 30. The representative understood exactly what I wanted to do and overall the experience was great and done very quickly. The reservation did require that I use 56,000 Hilton Honors points (which was for a Deluxe King Room). The stay was for November 2-4, again such a close in booking probably would not have been possible in pre-COVID circumstances. 

King size bed in the upgraded terrace room.

We left for Atlanta, on a 3 hour drive, after I got off from work on November 2. I did do online check-in and we had already been upgraded by the hotel staff to a Premium King Room. I chose a room on the 15th floor. Apparently the room I chose was also connected to the Presidential Suite which I was not aware of at the time of check-in, but the app allowed me to choose it anyways. 

We arrived at the hotel at about 12:30am. Our first impression of the hotel when we pulled up was that the entrance was so low-key that we were unsure if we were at the right place. I understand that because of the time and the pandemic that it was not as fully staffed as it normally would be but there was not even a sign above the entrance that we saw. Finally after a few mins of waiting in the car a front desk hostess came outside to help us with our luggage and to show us to the front desk to confirm check-in details. 

The Hilton Cleanstay sticker on the outside of the room door.

As we walked through the lobby to the front desk, my impression of the lobby was that it was very understated and underwhelming, to be honest. At the front desk, the hostess thanked us for being Diamond members and told us that breakfast would be served in the restaurant and we would get a $15 credit per person since during the pandemic the buffet was not being served.  I requested late check-out of 4pm which she immediately granted. She also told me that the guest that was booked in the Presidential Suite had decided to extend his stay so the room I chose in the app was no longer available. Since it was 1am at this point we took the room that she assigned to us and went to it.  

Once we got to the room she could tell that I was not exactly happy with the room assigned to us (she came to our room to bring our luggage). I asked her if there were any available terrace rooms. She ran downstairs to check but when she returned she said they did not have any. She said she would leave a note for the next day’s staff to check and she also offered to leave a note about a complimentary bottle of champagne.

The bathtub in the bathroom in the terrace room.

The next morning we got up and got ready (Marshall enjoyed taking a bath while watching TV in the bathroom). We went downstairs for breakfast which was really great. Due to the pandemic, they had a QR code available on each table so that the menu could be pulled up on each guests’ phone as opposed to handing out physical menus. I was a little worried about the breakfast, as usual, because Marshall is very picky about hotel breakfast options but he and I both really enjoyed this one. When the bill came, I charged it to our room so that I could get all of the Hilton Honors points offered (I have learned my lesson from our stay in Washington, D.C.). The $15 credit per person per day for breakfast was taken off the bill at the end of the stay.

The desk and chair in the terrace room.

After breakfast we walked across the lobby to the front desk to ask about the room situation from earlier in the morning. All I did was introduce myself by saying my name and the host immediately said that he and the concierge had been discussing our room accommodations. He offered a room on the 10th floor which was a terrace room and said that it was available immediately for us to move into. We jumped at the opportunity to go ahead. He also asked what time we would like for the champagne to be delivered and at first I had forgotten about it. I requested it be delivered at 7pm since it was election day and that is what time the polls were set to close and later that evening it was delivered to our room right on time. The champagne was a small bottle (enough for two glasses worth and it was definitely not top shelf champagne but it was drinkable and we definitely appreciated the gesture). 

Dry Bar and coffee machine in the terrace room.

Overall, our hotel experience was great! We definitely enjoyed our stay and look forward to returning. The staff was very friendly, accommodating, attentive and detail-oriented (which I very much appreciated). The hotel was very clean and everyone was abiding by Hilton’s mask policy. The toiletry items provided by the hotel were from Salvatore Ferragamo and unlike in most hotels, these were very good quality.  I do wish that the hotel would have been identified a little more clearly though as it was a little odd driving up to it and not seeing a Waldorf Astoria sign. One other downside was that valet parking is the only option for parking on the property and it costs $49 per night. The staff said there were other public parking options nearby but valet was the only option on the property.

The redemption value for this award stay was about one cent per point. Since the cash value of the stay would have been about $1,175 (including taxes) means that our free night certificate was redeemed for about $588 and the 56,000 points for the second night were redeemed for a value of about one cent a piece. This is a great redemption considering that the consensus is that Hilton Honors points are typically valued at about 0.004 to 0.006 cents per point.

Sightseeing/Entertainment:

Once again this was a weekend trip that was kind of last minute and so we did not make any sort of plans of what to do or where to eat. We did know that two shopping centers were within walking distance of our hotel. 

The first was Lenox Square, and upon walking up to the entrance we noticed that part of it and windows on the Cheesecake Factory were boarded up but everything still appeared open. I did not think anything of it really until later in the day. 

One of the anchor stores was Macy’s which is one of our favorite big retailers to find a bargain on clothing. And this trip was no exception, we each found a pair of shoes, some shirts and other clothing items. However, we did not realize that the pair of shoes I bought did not have a right and a left shoe, it had two of the same side. Once back home after realizing this I called the store and they sent the correct shoe and gave me a credit to pay shipping to send the incorrect shoe back. 

Double vanity sink in the bathroom of the terrace room.

The other shopping center was called Phipps Plaza, it was a little bit further of a walk from the hotel but still reasonably within walking distance. It was a little more upscale with its decor inside and its store selection, such as Saks 5th Avenue and Nordstrom. It was definitely not as busy as Lenox Square. It was later in the afternoon when we were in Saks 5th Avenue when an associate informed us that they were closing early because of threat of potential riots over the election results. 

It was about this same time that Marshall got a message from a local friend that confirmed that she had also heard the same news. It all made sense that the stores in Lenox Square would be boarding up windows, because apparently earlier in 2020 there had been riots in Buckhead and a lot of damage was done to some of those stores and buildings. It was also reported that our hotel was potentially one of the targets for these riots. We wasted no time getting back to the hotel before nightfall and staying in for the rest of the night. The staff at the hotel did not say anything to us and did not seem to be worried about this reported threat. Thankfully, no riots happened at either shopping center nor at our hotel.

The second day after breakfast and before check out we decided to shop and walk around Buckhead a bit more. We did not do a whole lot on the second full day because Marshall was pretty exhausted since he stayed up well into the night and woke up early hoping to see some election results. 

Restaurants/Food:

For breakfast both days we ate in the restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. As I mentioned above there was a QR code on each table that could be scanned to reduce physical menus from having to be handed out. Both mornings there were not many people in the restaurant. 

As a creature of habit, both mornings I ordered the same thing: two eggs any style with a side of seasonal fruit/berries. It was also served with crunchy potatoes and a tomato salad. I ordered the eggs sunny side up and they were a little overdone for my liking but still very good. 

Marshall had the two eggs any style for breakfast the first day and enjoyed it. The second morning he had the buttermilk pancakes which came with a fruit compote and maple syrup. I was surprised that he liked this because he typically does not like sweet food items especially for breakfast but I may have had a taste and agree it was done very well. 

Sitting area in the terrace room.

For dinner on the first full day in Atlanta we ordered Cheesecake Factory through Doordash. We used the remaining portion of our Doordash credit through the Chase Sapphire Reserve. By using this card, we also were able to use our Dash Pass benefit of free delivery. We decided to have it delivered to the hotel because of the potential threats of violence in the area. We ordered the dynamite shrimp appetizer which were fried shrimp tossed in a spicy sauce, which we both really liked. Marshall had the club sandwich and fries for his entree which he described as “moderately okay”, the fries were a little soggy because of delivery and there was nothing special about the sandwich. I had the tomato basil pasta and it was good, I would probably order it again. For dessert we each got a piece of the tiramisu cheesecake. I enjoyed the cheesecake but Marshall did not like the mashup of the two classic desserts. He likes each one individually but was not a fan of the combo. 

Expenses/Savings:

Hotel Valet Parking: $98.00

Breakfast at Waldorf Astoria (after credit): $129.50

Dinner at Cheesecake Factory: $63.27

Shopping: $598.19

Other Food: $44.23

Gas Stations: $39.76

Total Expenses: $972.95

Savings/Hilton Diamond Perks:

Hotel Room/Upgrade (Points and Certificate): ~$1175.00

Doordash Credit: $0.98

Dash Pass no delivery fee: $4.00

Champagne: ~$10.00

AMEX offer Sunglass Hut Credit: $30.00

Waldorf Astoria Breakfast: $60.00

Total Savings: $1280.00

Points Earned/Spent and Value:

Chase Sapphire Reserve: 189.81 points worth $3.80

Chase Freedom Unlimited: 146.96 points worth $2.93

Chase World of Hyatt card: 143.51 points worth $3.59

American Express Platinum: 459.33 points worth $9.19

American Express Hilton Honors Aspire Card: 3,192 points worth $15.96

Hilton Honors Points: 8,384 points worth $41.92

Hilton Honors Award Night: -56,000 points worth $280

The Waldorf Astoria Buckhead building in Atlanta, GA.

Conclusion of Our Trip to The Waldorf Astoria Buckhead:

Overall, we had a great getaway to Atlanta. Even though, Marshall was not super excited to go before he heard where we might stay, now he is ready to return. We had a little bit of a rough start at the Waldorf Astoria Buckhead but the staff and service were great and they more than redeemed themselves and we would return to that property again in the future. The food offerings and service at the Waldorf Astoria Buckhead were definitely what you would expect. Our shopping was a success except for getting mismatched shoes that had to be returned which turned out to be something we could laugh about after the fact. 

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