During the pandemic, we spent much of our vacation time trying to find locations where we’d be socially distanced from other travelers. That led us to spend time at Airbnb cabins in the mountains, which, while not our preferred vacation pre-pandemic, we’ve learned to appreciate and might continue to use in the future.
The situation is currently improving because of COVID-19 vaccines, and we started looking at other trips that would have us being around larger groups of people. When we were planning this trip, we still weren’t ready to fly, so our destination had to be within driving distance. One of our favorite pre-pandemic road trips was to spend an extended weekend in Key West. From Orlando, it’s about a 7-hour drive (or longer with stops.)
We found dates for a Friday-Monday getaway and looked for hotels. Even under normal circumstances, finding a hotel in the Old Town area of Key West in the spring is difficult. The last time we made a similar trip, we stayed at the Hyatt Centric and paid way too much for a mediocre room.
When looking for a place to stay this time, I discovered many new properties under the Kimpton Key West banner that available for 60,000 IHG points per night. While not cheap, it was a good value considering the cash prices for rooms during our stay.
Kimpton Key West Ridley House
601 Caroline St
Key West, FL 33040
The most recently opened Kimpton Key West property is located on the corner of Caroline and Simonton Streets, just one block off of Duval St. The property is made up of three buildings. The main building has 9 guest rooms over three floors, a building directly behind that one with 8 rooms and another house down the block with 6 rooms.
It took a while for us to figure out the map of the property.
We found street parking down the block from the main building and went to the check-in desk. This is located in a side building that I think used to be the garage.
The check-in agent was delightful. He said that we’d be staying in the back of the house, down the block, on the second floor. This would mean we’d avoid the noise of partiers walking down the street from Duval St. at all hours of the night, which can be annoying if you’re trying to sleep.
It felt more like we rented from Airbnb than a hotel. There were only six rooms in this part of the property (four in the main house and two in the back). We had to walk along a path and through a gate to get to our room.
There were several seating areas in the space between the house and the back rooms. We headed up the stairs to room 22.
It was adorable, albeit a little small.
Walking in the room, you’re at the bed. There’s a bathroom to the right and a closet. That’s the only desk in the room, with a single bench seat.
There were two nightstands, plenty of plugs and USB outlets on each side of the bed. There were also sufficient pillows for a king-size bed (although we brought our own). That is an in-wall AC unit, if you were wondering. The thermostat was by the front door. It did a great job keeping the room cool but it was very loud and cycled every 15 minutes.
The room lacked much in the way of storage. You did have the closet but there were no shelves. They did try by putting drawers under each side of the bed, but one of them held the in-room safe.
The bathroom was also small but functional.
When we were checking in, I asked about the Kimpton wine hour. I was told this property does not offer this service because they do not have a bar. He said that the Kimpton Key West properties are more like bed and breakfasts than full-service hotels, which I think is a fair statement. The desk agent also said that he hoped that Kimpton and IHG would make this clearer on the website so that people are not surprised when they arrive.
The complimentary continental breakfast, which is part of the $35 Daily Amenity Fee so it’s not really complimentary, was underwhelming. However, the kitchen area was beautiful (pictures below are of the same table, but from opposite corners of the room).
You had a choice of cereal, yogurt, wrapped muffins or fruit, with coffee or tea.
The seating area was a covered patio just behind the check-in desk. It looked out over the pool.
While our building felt like a typical Key West home, the main building was more typical of the older Key West buildings of the rich residents from the 1890-1910 era, with long hallways and extra tall ceilings to keep the heat away from the living areas. It was quite a hike to walk to the third floor.
The final thing I’d like to mention about the Ridley House is the lack of any on-site parking. Caroline St. has metered parking for $3 per hour. If you arrive later in the day, you can get away with only paying for a few hours, as they don’t charge for overnight parking (make sure to check the meter for rules where you park). This is what we did the first evening. I asked the desk and he said that most guests park in the lot around the corner from the hotel.
Not the most appealing place to park. There’s a shack at the back of the lot, which is where you pay. They only take cash.
The cost changed depending on the day. Saturday was $25 and Sunday was $20. When we left on Monday, the price dropped to $10. Parking overnight is allowed but you need to move your car by 8 AM. If you’re staying an additional day, you need to pay by 10 AM.
The lot does allow in & out privileges and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be a place to park when you return. If that happens, you have to wait for someone to leave. The lot did fill up in the afternoon but tended to empty after sunset.
We enjoyed our stay at the Kimpton Ridley House. It really did feel more like we were renting a room in a house than staying at a chain hotel. We took a look at the other Kimpton properties and it looks like they were all renovated using the exact same design (same furniture, etc.) so there won’t really be a difference in character from one hotel to the other.
We’d definitely stay here again if cash prices are high and we can use IHG points. IMHO, it’s a better choice than staying at the Crowne Plaza La Concha on Duval St.
The Ridley House has a great location and it’s only a few minutes walk to Mallory Square to see the sunset or to get to many of the restaurants and bars. Just know going in that you’re not staying at a resort hotel and there are not many amenities available.
For us, it was the perfect place to stay and unplug for the weekend and that’s what we like to do when we visit Key West.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary