For my second stay in a Summer Getaway to Lake Tahoe, I had picked the Rodeway Inn South Lake Tahoe, a Choice Hotel, as part of my research into the Battle of the Budget Chains. After the bad experience at the nearby Howard Johnson South Lake Tahoe by Wyndham, I braced myself for another bad night at this bargain basement budget hotel – but I was pleasantly surprised: Even a budget hotel can provide a nice stay, when it is well managed!
Location: The Rodeway Inn is in a prime location for all seasons: It is a block away from the Lake Shore with access to a long stretch of sandy beach in the summer, two blocks away from all the casinos for entertainment all year and a short walk to the Heavenly gondola for access to ski in winter (or hike/bike in the summer). While it is not quite a ski-in/ski-out resort, it’s pretty close! You have plenty of restaurants, bars and stores to choose from in the vicinity!
Service: The friendly service was the next winning attribute of the Rodeway Inn – the front desk welcomed me warmly and found me a room, despite arriving early and cleaning still in full swing. She also provided me with a pass to the private beach nearby and a coupon booklet for the casinos in town. She provided information about parking, breakfast and amenities without prompting. It’s these little things that turn an ok stay into a pleasant stay! Housekeeping had done their job well and the room was clean, well maintained and fully stocked on arrival.
Room: The Rodeway Inn has three buildings. I booked a queen room, which is located in the oldest, motel-style building with exterior corridors. The room is small and felt a little cramped and the window to the hallway had no sheer window covers, adding to the dark feel. There are night stands on each side of the queen bed, with little room to walk around it. A drawer set with a flat screen TV on top, a small table and two chairs are lined up against the opposing wall. The tea/coffee facilities were in working order and clean. The lamps on the desk and next to the bed had extra outlets, so you could charge your devices next to the bed or work at the desk! No fridge, microwave or safe are provided in the room. The bathroom offered a little more room, with a sink and toilet one one side, a window in the middle and a built-in, narrow shower with curtain on the other side. It’s all just as basic as the bedroom, with a pedestal style sink, and a budget shower curtain and shower head. The towels are clean and soft, but the amenities provided screamed “budget”, with rock-hard soap and shampoo in little foil packages – I recommend you bring your own. I really prefer the eco-friendly dispensers found in Europe or Asia over this.
The decor of the room was basic and a decade or three out of date – if you are looking for style, you won’t find it here. But everything was clean, well maintained and in working condition – something not all budget hotels can claim!
The free WiFi internet is some of the fastest I’ve seen at hotels at an average speed of 39.6 Mbps, enough for streaming HD movies or anything else you want to do. It does vary a bit from blazing fast at 70Mbps in the morning to still fast at 10Mbps in the evening.
Insider Tip: If you don’t like the motel-style corridors or want a little more space, there are king and two-double rooms in a newer building with interior corridors across the street.
Amenities/Restaurant: The hotel offers an outside pool and jacuzzi which is operated all year long (I like a jacuzzi bath after a full day of winter-snowboarding as much as after summer-hiking!). It’s set off the road and surrounded by a fence and some trees, making it reasonably nice for a motel, but certainly not a resort-style pool!
The hotel offers vouchers to the nearby, private lake shore. It’s a very nice, sandy beach to hang out, go for a swim in the (very cold) water or a leisurely stroll along the shore.
There is ample parking in front of the hotel, open to the road. Several (older) washer and dryer for a longer stay and an ice machine are available.
Breakfast is not a guarantee in the Rodeway Inn budget chain, so I was surprised to find a full, hot breakfast included with the room price. It was way better than at the Howard Johnson and offered some basic bread and pastries, coffee and juice, as well as eggs, meats and waffles. You can get a hearty breakfast prior to a day of skiing or hiking, but not a very healthy one – it is short on fruits, yogurts or healthy cereal! And it all comes in plastic/foam cups and plates, not the most environmentally friendly way to start your day!
Bottomline: Overall, the Rodeway Inn South Lake Tahoe was a pleasant surprise. While it is a budget motel in an older building, it shows that good management can keep it up to date and offer a pleasant experience, with clean, well maintained rooms, friendly service and nice amenities. Add what is one of the best locations for all seasons in South Lake Tahoe and you have a winner in the budget category. At $82/night I wouldn’t call it a steal, but it’s much better value than the Howard Johnson Tahoe I stayed before. But it won’t be mistaken for the Ritz, even after a night out in the bars and casinos, so if you need a little more luxury or design/decor from this century, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The casinos might offer more for just a little higher price, but come with smoke and casino noise. Or you can spend a little more for those luxuries – Lake Tahoe is a beautiful place and the hotel prices show that, like in many places in California!