Review: Hilton Garden Inn Wausau,WI

I was on a 2 night quick trip to Wisconsin and I was heading up to Rhinelander on business.  I was recommended by a few of my work colleagues that staying up in Rhinelander would result in a bit of a bad time.  (They don’t have too much going on as far as food and or nightlife) I was told that the Hilton Garden Inn was a great option to stay about an hour south in Wausau.  

I flew into Green Bay (later which I found out is also a mistake to do when coming out this way.  CWA is much closer and has about the same number of scheduled flights in and out.  My drive in was pretty horrible.  Really dense fog, pitch black, and the Chevy Tahoe I had rented had two soup cans with candles for headlights.  I was a bit concerned that my entire trip was going to be like this for the remainder of my stay in Wisconsin… How wrong could I be?

When I pulled up to the hotel, I noticed that the facade of the hotel was unlike any other HGI that I had stayed in before.  It was modern, with very nice large glass windows, a fire pit out front, and a very overall sleek look to the building.  Parking was plentiful, and they had quite a few reserved Diamond parking spots right up front.  Upon walking in I was greeted with a bustling lobby all decorated for Christmas and a wonderful front desk staff.  

Hilton Garden Inn Wausau Front Lobby
Really pretty Christmas Display

Cody, the front desk clerk was super helpful.  He tried to get me a room upgrade, but they seemed to be busy the night I checked in.  He did offer me a room upgrade for the following night (however, that would mean checking out of my room and moving).  I declined but thanked him for the offer.  He informed me of the restaurant hours and bar hours which were pretty standard for a hotel, Restaurant until 10 PM and Bar until Midnight.

I went upstairs to go check out my room, which was a standard king room.  I was pretty shocked with how big, modern and spacious the rooms were. 

With a big panoramic window from floor to almost ceiling the amount of natural light during the day was very nice.  This hotel is located about 1 mile away from a ski resort.  I never knew there was skiing in Wisconsin, yet I am to understand this is the closest place for people in Chicago to go Skiing.  Next time I would recommend getting a “Mountain View” room as the view overlooking the parking lot is of course nothing special.  Plus, taking advantage of the windows would be great in this hotel.  

I was pretty determined to go out to try some of the local fare in Wisconsin while I was there, but it had been a 4 leg trip and my lazy attitude led me to go down to the bar down in the lobby.  What a good choice that turned out to be.  

The food was nothing to write home about- let me just tell you that.  It was pretty standard Hilton Garden Inn menu and while it had been prepared with care, it didn’t have a lot of attention-grabbing potential.

Pasta Marinara

While the food was meh at best, the bar on the other hand was INCREDIBLE.  Not only was the liquor selection massive, the prices were off the chart good.  For draft beers you were looking $3-5 per beer, and for cocktails about $7-10 for some top shelf stuff!  

Liquor selection at HGI Bar

I was surprised to see a few items that they did have there.  First of all they had JW Blue label at a reasonable price of $23 per oz.  Normally that type of liquor (especially in a hotel) is going for 40+ per oz.  They also had a bottle of Blanton’s and at 9 bucks per oz it was a great deal.  One of the bartenders Sam and I got talking and she said that they don’t get Blanton’s in as often as they would like and a bottle usually lasts them about 1 shift.  I personally love the stuff so I had Sam whip me up a Blanton’s neat.

I thought my night was going to be topped out by having a nice glass of good bourbon, but again, I was very wrong.  Jeff, who is the bar manager at the Hotel told me that they are working very hard on their seasonal cocktail program, and they change all of their drink menu items about 4 times a year.  This is what they currently had for winter.

They also had a giant selection of bitters, and fresh herbs for drink mixing.

I asked Jeff and Sam to think of a cocktail that may be on or off the menu for me to try.  I was asked the pertinent questions such as sweet, boozy, fruity or how I would like something made.  I told Jeff that I wasn’t a big fan of Gin and I would love something to change my mind.  He thought for a minute and came up with a Southside made with The Botanist Gin from Islay.  I told him I didn’t even know there was a gin from Scotland (especially from one of my favorite regions in Scotland for good smack you in the face Scotch).  Jeff started whipping up this masterpiece.  Carefully muddling mint and simple syrup, pulling mint leaves out with garnish tongs and double straining the drink after it was made.  He also squeezed fresh lime into the drink prior to shaking and a healthy portion of Gin.

The Awesome Southside

Needless to say, he has converted me into being able to not only tolerate, but enjoy a well made gin drink!  It was so good, that I bought all of the ingredients to make it at home!  Hopefully I can do as good of a job as Jeff.

Truly, this Hilton Garden Inn is one of the nicest I have ever stayed at in the entire country.  I would say it almost surpasses most Hilton branded hotels as far as it’s elegance and comfort.  Unless you are getting up into the range of Waldorf Astoria or Conrad hotels, nothing came close.  A major thank you to the entire staff of this Hotel.  I look forward to coming back and staying with you again!

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