Since I hadn’t visited in nearly 18 years, my Iowa road trip earlier this year had to include a stop in Burlington, near where I attended high school. For one night, mi casa was the Catfish Bend Inn and Spa, in the Pzazz complex, ironically where I stayed for my last visit during one of my high school reunions. Yet this is not the same hotel of 20 years ago…we’re talking elegant AND warm decor, fitting of a hotel with “spa” in its name. Read on for my review of this southeast Iowa boutique hotel.
Located on the Mississippi River, Burlington is one of those sleepy Iowa communities going through a downtown renaissance. To say the area has changed in 18 years is an understatement. Back in my growing-up-high-school-days, I tended to hang out in West Burlington and along Highway 61 (east of the riverside downtown), as this was the main road that brought us into the “city.” That’s how I became familiar with the Pzazz resort complex, the location of our prom, and many subsequent high school reunions, but the Catfish Bend Inn & Resort was nowhere near the hotel of my yesteryears.
I was in the midst of my road trip through Iowa, and the Catfish Bend Inn & Spa was my fourth hotel stay. I approached the Pzazz complex from the south on Highway 61, noting the city’s major construction mode, including this hotel complex with cranes and in-process renovations. The Catfish Bend Casino porte-cochere was easy to spot (and with its stoneworks reminded me of many Colorado mountain hotel entrances) and set the scene for the elegant spa-like setting of Catfish Bend Inn.
Arrival to Catfish Bend Inn & Spa
Although you can see the hotel complex from the highway, I missed the turn into the complex, and continued on to Highway 34 off of 61 and circled behind the buildings. Typical flashing lights announced the entrance to the casino, which doubled as the hotel reception. Due to its close proximity to the casino, this boutique hotel is only open to guests 21 or older. However, there are other hotel options for families traveling with children — and there is that amazing waterpark (see below).
Continue straight down the hall to access the casino area, and to the left just past the receptionist were the hotel rooms. A valet greeted me at the door, offered to assist me with my luggage, and since I only carried one bag, I refused.
My mid-afternoon check-in was flawless with no lines. My room was located on the first floor, close to a side parking lot. Valet parking is available, but since my room was located steps from parking, I opted to self-park.
The lighting in my room first caught my eye — you know, the low, soothing lighting that immediately made you think of spa and relaxation. The lights were turned low, illuminating and calm. This hotel only offers 40 non-smoking rooms, all considered boutique suites, with 3 of those rooms actual suites and 2 wheelchair accessible rooms.
The bathroom area is to the left upon entry, and the mirrors also contained the low lighting. The surprise was the shower, large and airy with those half-doors typical of European-style accommodations.
The ample workspace and desk and free WiFi sealed the deal, making this one of the top business-friendly set-ups in a hotel — and yes This is Iowa!
Pzazz! Hotel Resort: Family-friendly
For those traveling with children, book a room at the Pzazz! Hotel Resort, with standard accommodations and kid-friendly bunk beds. Then there is that amazing FunCity with attractions for kids of all ages – arcade games, go-carts, laser tag, and the fully renovated outdoor water park, Huck’s Harbor (free admission for hotel guests).
Hotel guests may also take advantage of free Burlington Bees tickets, minor league baseball games nearby. If I had traveled with my grandkids, they would have been all over the water features AND the baseball game.
On-site Amenities at Catfish Bend Inn & Spa
I already mentioned the casino, and although I didn’t venture in, the convenience of being a short walk from the room was certainly enticing. But smoking is still allowed in Iowa casinos, so I would likely not stay long.
My first-floor hotel room opened up to the pool courtyard, but due to construction, their saunas, jacuzzis, and both indoor and outdoor whirlpools are closed until further notice.
SPA! With “Inn & Spa” in its name, of course, there has to be an amazing spa. And located down the hallway en route to the casino, discover The Spa, a 5,000 square foot pampering palace with five treatment rooms. I had limited time on my visit and didn’t visit the spa.
Complimentary breakfast is included with your room rate, and the buffet is worth the stop.
Although Burlington is a perfect road trip option, for those on flights, complimentary airport transfers are available upon request.
Since I grew up in this area, Burlington has my heart. But arriving there as a tourist is a whole different ball game. I took in the touristy things, something I hadn’t done when living there. I drove down Snake Alley, the “crookedest street in the world,” something I wasn’t allowed to do when I first got my license as it wasn’t safe. I stopped at the Mississippi riverfront and snapped photos (even in the rain!). Sampled an Iowa staple – pork tenderloin sandwich and sipped a local brew at Bent River Brewing Company. And at night, drove the self-guided lightscape tour of the downtown’s historic churches.