As parents of a tween and teen, we’re always on the lookout for a particular kind of family welcome at hotels. It needs to acknowledge the kids as almost-adults and meet their “cool quotient”. At the same time, we need a grown-up, comfortable experience. Holiday Inn’s #YoureWelcome campaign highlights how the hotels encourage families (including “tired parents”, which…yes) to be themselves. In this sponsored post, we explore Camden and look at how our stay at Holiday Inn Camden Lock gives families, including those with older kids, a warm welcome.
This was never going to be a standard stay: overnighting in Camden Town, taking the 12-year-old to discover this vibrant London borough. We were staying at right on Regent’s Canal at Holiday Inn Camden Lock, where the lights glitter on the water, while all nearby the lively crowds eat, drink, browse stalls, or make their way to gigs at one of the area’s famed music venues.
At Holiday Inn, kids under 12 stay and eat free, you don’t have to worry about shushing little ones and there’s no feeling awkward with messy eaters, muddy feet, sticky fingers or, er, stroppy teens/tweens.
There’s no question that the Holiday Inn Camden Town is one of the best sited hotels in the area, merely a footbridge’s distance from Camden Lock Market and 5 minutes from Camden Tube station. From the moment we arrived, we experience a family welcome that was both relaxed and in keeping with this borough’s young vibe.
The smiling staff greeted us immediately and whisked us through check-in. Here was a nice touch I noticed as a parent: They proffered a slip of paper with the wifi password not just to me but also a second one to my daughter, recognizing her as a guest in her own right and also someone in need of a wifi fix.
After dropping our bags, we went out to explore.
Camden is known for its markets and shopping. Camden Market is actually several markets, including Camden Lock, the Stables, Canal Market, Buck Street Market and Inverness Street Market. For lunch we had visited Poppie’s, a classic fish-and-chips shop that fairly swims in nostalgia, with vintage-style posters and bric-a-brac, retro server outfits and a booming-voiced host at the door taking names with bonhomie. Don’t worry about the queue – they move you in, feed you and move you out efficiently.
After that, we sought out nitrogen-frozen ice cream at ChinChin Labs with exotic flavours (I ordered the one that tasted of pine needles), walked around Camden Lock Market, stopped to admire the bronze horses in the Stables Market (neat fact: it’s a former horse hospital), then it was time for a jaunt up Chalk Farm Road to Q Grill for a cocktail with my sister-in-law, who lives nearby. “I’m hardly ever here anymore,” she exclaimed. “It’s so busy!”
In fact, it’s one of the busiest boroughs in London. Along with Westminster, Camden receives the highest number of visitors in London, its markets reportedly attracting more than 100,000 people every week. Designers like Dolce & Gabbana and Stella McCartney are said to pop along for inspiration.
For some perspective, we took a left turn to Primrose Hill, the tranquil park with panoramic views over Central London. City lights spread out in the distance while in the park lamps cast moody pools. Footsore and tired, we returned to the Holiday Inn for that wonderful time of any hotel stay – the détente in the room between the excitement of exploring and satisfaction of dinner.
Welcoming rooms for families (and women)
Here was another aspect of our family-friendly welcome that we enjoyed: a room space thoughtfully put together and well-suited for a family. We relaxed in 2 adjoining rooms, each with a double bed and a Juliet balcony. (For a more economical stay, we could have booked into 1; kids under 19 stay free when sharing parents’ room.) You could lean out and see Regent’s Canal just steps away, down the service driveway. The rooms also had some essential elements from my woman-friendly features list: a good hairdryer near a mirror, a ledge for a suitcase, surfaces in the bathroom for toiletries, full-length hanging spaces and a proper reading light.
The most welcoming part of Holiday Inn Camden Lock
But the best part of the #YoureWelcome experience was in the ground-floor lounge. Banish images you have of a corporate-style lobby. There was a reading table stocked with newspapers, magazines and reading lamps next to a Mac for guests (sadly during our stay it seemed to have IT problems). Chairs, sofas, and a Chesterfield called invitingly, on the television a game of football was playing, the bar was serving drinks and shelves down one wall featured interesting objets.
What I really liked was the vibe: casual, communal, congenial. You could just as easily have a Starbucks coffee as a glass of wine or fruit juice. As we sat with a drink and a paper, more and more guests gathered, chatting, drinking, watching the football. Here again was that attention to what families need: charging points featured at intervals along the wall – a good thing since many parents and kids had smartphone and iPads to hand. My daughter’s take:
“It was really calm and you didn’t have to make sure you were wearing the right clothes or anything. You could just relax. I liked watching football with everyone and they had wifi so you could go on your phone.”
We didn’t feel like going to the upstairs dining space. Thankfully, we could order from the full dinner menu from where we were sitting. How relaxing to simply fold the paper and clear a space when my mild and tasty curry platter arrived. My daughter’s chicken burger and chips were a highlight.
A satisfying family breakfast
The next morning we woke for the buffet breakfast in the 1st floor lounge – cooked-while-you-wait pancakes, full English, and hot drinks – where we spotted another casual TV area (this one broadcasting Disney’s The Princess and the Frog) and a tabletop football table.
I had tasty mushrooms, sunny side up eggs and fresh fruit salad; my daughter the self-serve hot chocolate with whipped cream; my husband the works. With all the choices, we each ate to our heart’s content.
Then it was checkout time and onto the streets of Camden again. We contemplated visiting one of the many attractions in the area, discovering the borough’s welcome beyond the Holiday Inn’s front door at the Regent’s Park Zoo, in better weather taking a boat tour to Little Venice, visiting the Camden Arts Centre, gawking at the bedizened storefronts on the high street… But the borough’s teen-appeal had gotten its hooks into my daughter.
She’d spotted several clothing shops the previous day that she just had to visit.
Thankfully she didn’t seem set on visiting another popular feature of Camden High Street: the tattoo parlours.
Where else we ate and drank in Camden Town:
Poppie’s Fish & Chips, 30 Hawley Crescent, London NW1 8NP poppiesfishandchips.co.uk
Chin Chin Labs, 49-50 Camden Lock Place, NW1 8AF www.chinchinlabs.com
Q Grill, 29-33 Chalk Farm Road NW1 8AJ q-grill.co.uk/camden
I’m working with BritMums and Holiday Inn highlighting its warm family welcome. Holiday Inn is where you and your family can always be yourselves. Visit Holiday Inn for more information.