by Lisa Meyers McClintick
Few things delight children quite like a beeline to a hotel breakfast first thing in the morning. With the unique BEST WESTERN PLUS St. Paul in Minnesota, you can follow the vintage railroad rails right into the hotel’s lobby and the atrium’s centerpiece: a replicated depot station where breakfast is served each morning.
While most of St. Paul’s hotels are concentrated in the heart of downtown or near outer suburbs, this BEST WESTERN PLUS stands out for its creative reuse of a former Northern Pacific locomotive shop.
Large and spacious, the upper part of the historic building is left rustic with big exposed timbers and skylights to let in the light. The skylights are important, with a lack of outside windows. The historic exterior of the building still includes lines of train-sized doors where railcars would slide in for repairs.
The building’s considered part of the historic Bandana Square complex, a collection of railroad buildings built in 1885 and used through the 1970s. Redeveloped in the 1980s, Bandana Square was once filled with a children’s museum, model train museum and dining, the neighboring historic brick buildings are now used as health clinics and urgent care or private businesses.
The hotel may seem oddly located within the larger Energy Park area — a quiet blend of offices, townhomes and apartments — but it’s the closest place to stay for families heading to the popular Como Park Zoo and Conservatory less than a mile away. Technically free (volunteers do hope you donate $3 to $5 per person), the zoo and surrounding park rank as the Twin Cities’ most affordable attraction, and is an easy place to spend a half- or a full-day by adding amusement park rides at Como Town or bike riding or water sports along Lake Como.
The hotel does offer shuttles within a 5-mile radius, which includes downtown St. Paul with additional attractions, along with the State Fairgrounds, which are only a mile away. To get a room during the Minnesota State Fair — always the last week before Labor Day — you need to book a year in advance.
Kids who enjoy history and trains can spot rails throughout the 110-room hotel, look at historic photos on the walls, and find some artifacts, such as trolleys with vintage luggage, tucked into public areas. It’s unfortunate the model railroad museum next door moved to a new location in early 2016, but it’s still within 2 miles in its new home at a former Amtrak transfer station.
Our Editor Loves
- Indoor pool
- Unique historic train building
- Close to Como Zoo, State Fairgrounds
- Theme Park
- Water Parks
- Water Sports
- Free Breakfast
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The smoke-free rooms all come with free wireless internet (and a strong enough signal to keep video-making tweens happy), flat-screen satellite TVs with 70 channels, larger-than-usual mini-fridges, a microwave, business desk and lounge chair. Bathrooms have shower/tub combinations and a separate sink and granite vanity area with shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion. Connecting rooms are not available.
These rooms have two double queens. They don't have enough room for a rollaway, but can fit a small child-sized cot if needed.
The rooms with a king bed have room for an extra rollaway if needed.
These double queens or king-bed rooms have sliding glass doors that open toward the pool area. In addition to a few places to sit inside the gated pool area, there also are sitting areas with cushioned wicker furniture in the open courtyard area. Pool towels are provided, and there is a shower, sauna and restroom next to the pools.
The hotel's three suites are the biggest rooms with about 400 square feet. They include a wet bar and larger bathroom and can sleep five people with a sleeper sofa and rollaway. One of the suites includes a kitchen.
The hotel does have two pairs of adjoining rooms, but they're often booked. One is popular for weddings and the other one typically reserved for guests with handicaps.
The hotel has accessible tables in its eating area and rooms that feature accessible doors, bathrooms and showers, along with communication devices such as visual notification devices for telephones and visual smoke alarms.
Clean room with very nice in room and hallway carpet. Lots of choices for breakfast. Very friendly staff. Room was on the warm side but very comfortable bed. Our area was quiet. Nice size room. Will stay again.
We’ve stayed here twice in the last few years and while it was overall a good stay there are a few things that could make it better. The pool hours are 930 am-10 pm. Because we had kids with us we planned to use the pool before we left in the morning, I was surprised to find out the pool didn’t open until 930 am on a weekend. Other guests commented on that being odd as well. They do have a nice little pool area with a small pool that goes to 5 feet deep in the center, a hot tub, small kids pool and a sauna. The exercise room is available 24/7 but we did not take advantage of that this time. The one thing I did notice with the pool is there appeared to be paint chipping off and there were chunks of paint in the pool. Overall the pool was clean but finding paint chips at the bottom was a bit of a surprise. Our group had two rooms and both rooms only had one garbage can, this is something we had noticed in our previous stay as well. I’m used to most hotels having a bathroom garbage and one in the room as well. I would think it would be easier on the staff to have two partially full garbage cans instead of one overflowing one. We had a poolside room which had a little seating area outside, I picked this room on purpose because we had small kids and wanted to be able to let the kids go to sleep and then relax on the chairs outside our room for awhile.
Our room was decent but very warm and the poolside rooms (at least not ours) do not have any outside access so you could not open a window to let in any fresh air. We tried to turn the heat down but it did not seem to help.
The free breakfast is typical of a hotel of this price range, eggs, sausage, waffle and pancake makers, cereal, yogurt,oatmeal and donuts/muffins. Our kids did enjoy the yogurt options because they had toppings you could add. There is a small bar in the hotel that also has a few appetizers and pizzas. The prices seemed reasonable.
The parking across the street is free but for some reason the entire lot/ramp is not accessible. During our previous stay we had parked on the surface level but those spots were blocked off except for the handicapped spots. We had to park down one level. The lower levels seemed to have low ceilings for a parking ramp. One of our suv hatches was fairly close to hitting the top of the ramp when the hatch was opened.
Overall bed was decent and they provided extra pillows without needing to ask which I appreciate.
If you are attending an event at the xcel energy. center this is a great choice. It’s not within walkisng distance bu if you plan to park at the xcel or take an Uber/lyft it’s a pretty short ride. They do offer a shuttle I believe but it only ran M-F during the day.
I’d stay again but I hope they make a few changes to make a decent stay a better stay.
While half of the two-story hotel's rooms surround the depot near registration, the other half is mostly clustered around the indoor pool. It's gated so wandering toddlers don't go for unauthorized swims, but they do have their own small octagon-shaped pool that's only a foot and six inches deep. The hotel's main indoor pool is 3 feet deep on either end, gradually deepening to 5 feet in the middle. The pool is open from 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Stroll the Grounds
Kids will want to see the railroad engine that's parked in front of the Bandana Square complex just outside the hotel. Pay attention while walking on the sidewalk, which can be uneven for strollers and newly walking toddlers.
The hotel serves a hot continental breakfast in the hotel's open courtyard that includes a mock train depot. There's a table with coffee and condiments, pastries, doughnuts and breads to toast outside the depot. Inside the depot, there are hot items, such as oatmeal and bacon, a yogurt dispenser, cereal and milk, juices and vitamin water and two made-to-order do-it-yourself waffle irons. Breakfast is served from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m.
The Waiting Room, a small dining area, serves basic tavern foods and appetizers, such as loaded nachos, panini and Heggie's pizzas from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 4 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday near the hotel's lobby. That can be handy for hungry toddlers near melting point, but you'll find much more to choose from if you are willing to drive or walk the few blocks to Gabe's by the Park.
While it's a sports bar in feel, it has enough American fare to keep most little eaters happy, plus you can order some of the favorite items that the restaurant serves at Giggles Campfire Grill during the State Fair. Look for as walleye fries and cheese curds, walleye sandwiches, Italian pizza fries, wings with nine sauces, chicken vegetable potstickers, firecracker salads, New York style pastrami sandwiches and close to a dozen burger choices, including a version of a Juicy Lucy (burger stuffed with cheese). Kids will appreciate summertime patio dining.
The onsite dining is limited, but there are close to a dozen places that deliver to the hotel, and the BEST WESTERN PLUS includes a detailed listing of close to 20 places that deliver on the back of the information sheet for guests. While many are familiar chains, several are locally based eateries such as Key's CafÃ©, D'Amico and Sons and CafÃ© Latte.
For something super quick and easy, the hotel does have a small marketplace off the lobby with microwavable frozen dinners and pasta. It also sells cookies, chips, candy, ice cream treats, granola bars, soda, wine, beer, hard cider and mochas.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The hotel's exercise facility includes a universal gym, a stair stepper, elliptical machine, stationary bike and treadmill. It's located near the pool and is available to guests 24/7.
The hotel is pet-friendly and often has furry guests who come for services at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Clinic.
If you're traveling by plane, you can grab a cab to reach BEST WESTERN PLUS Comp Park Hotel about 9 miles northeast of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It's easy to find via Highway 5 and either Snelling Avenue or Lexington Parkway.
If driving, the hotel can be reached any number of ways, but the simplest is to follow I-94 west of downtown St. Paul and exit at Snelling Avenue. It's less than 2 miles north of the exit to reach Energy Park where the hotel is located.
Because it's a historic property, there is not a U-drive or sheltered spot to drop off and unload luggage near the lobby and registration area. Have an umbrella handy if it's raining and dress warm for winter visits.
Parking is free, but the hotel requires you to have a parking pass visible on your dashboard.
There is a Metro Transit bus near the hotel at the corner of Bandana Boulevard West and Energy Park Drive. It's about a mile south to reach the Light Rail Transit's Green Line, which runs from St. Paul to Minneapolis and connects to the Blue Line, which then runs to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Mall of America.
For Mom and Dad
If parents can fit in a date, it's a 10- to 15-minute to a wealth of ethnic eateries, upscale cafes and restaurants along historic Grand Avenue. Try the famed walleye at Tavern on Grand, share creative small plates at Brasa Rotisserie, share the turtle cake at CafÃ© Latte or have a full-out romantic night on Cathedral Hill at W.A. Frost & Company, which boasts one of the Twin Cities' most historic and charming venues with a popular patio.