The Casual Runner

Hampton Inn Crystal River: Rest Stop to Adventure!

The What: Hampton Inn, Crystal River
The Where: Crystal River, Florida

1103 North Suncoast Boulevard

Crystal River, Florida, 34429

Casual Runners know that while running is a part of our lives, it is not our entire lives. Better yet, as Casual Running allows us to be healthier and live more active lifestyles, it allows us to experience new and wonderful adventures. In this special series, we will look at fun Casual Adventures that our Team takes on when we are away from our training, even if its only for a day or two! And remember, adventure is out there!

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

The Setup

Many Casual Runners, when looking at destination races, look for adventures and experiences to add onto their runcations. Others are just looking to get out and have some fun! Candace and I recently took an extended runcation that involved a prolonged trip to Florida in January for the 2017 Cigna runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and the St. Pete Beach Marathon Classic. This left plenty of time for adventure, and we set our sights on Crystal River, Florida.

If you do not already know about Crystal River, it is becoming a top nature adventure destination in the heart of Central Florida, and I am a huge fan of this town. A little more than an hour drive from both Tampa and Orlando, Crystal River is the perfect destination to add some adventure to reward yourself for a race well-run, or just to take a break from the theme parks and big cities.

Since we knew we would be adventuring an early morning manatee snorkel, we knew that we did not want to leave uber early to drive in from either Tampa or Orlando, so we needed a place to stay. When you do not know much about a town, you start with Google, which is what we did. But, you never really know what you are going to get. We reached out to the folks at the Hampton Inn Crystal River and they invited us to come review their hotel and give our frank assessment to our readers. This is it.

Hotel Overview

The Hampton Inn Crystal River is like many other Hampton Inns, only better.

Honestly, it was one of the cleanest hotels I have ever stayed in, and that is saying something. The lobbies, hallways, elevators, and guest rooms were immaculate. How many times have we arrived at a new hotel late in the night only to find that it is, well, less than appealing? I do not want to think about it to be honest. Fortunately, this was not the case here: it was so clean there was not a scrap of paper out of place.

Lets start with the most important part: the hotel room. The room was great! It was spacious and furnished with a cozy modern flair. The beds, linens, and pillows were super comfortable and we got a great night sleep, so great that I wished we were staying more than just the one night. The room also had the largest mini-fridge of any hotel room I have seen and an in-room microwave, perfect for snacking when your Casual Adventures make you work up an appetite.

The bathroom was likewise very spacious, which may come in handy if you are rinsing out running clothes, scuba gear, wetsuits..oh come on, we all do it! Really, the only negative that I observed for the entire property was that the water pressure in the shower was a little low for my liking.

I noticed that the hotel looked fresh, everything was newly appointed in both the public spaces and the guest rooms. The hotel offers an outdoor pool, conference space, and a fitness center. Just so you do not get too carried away with your Casual Runner healthiness, there were freshly baked cookies and hot coffee in the lobby every time I walked through. Come on people, you are killing my waistline!

Speaking of waistlines, I am a huge fan of hotels that provide breakfast. I find that, with the way I travel, being able to go to the lobby to grab a quick bite to eat helps keep me on schedule and avoid the time suck that is going out in search of breakfast.

Do not, however, mistake this for a chintzy continental breakfast that many hotels try to pass off on their guests. There was a full selection of hot and cold breakfast items, including eggs, bacon, fresh belgian waffles, cereal, oatmeal, fruit, pastries…well, you get the idea. There were also juices and an endless supply of surprisingly good coffee, which is one of the fastest ways to my heart. The whole breakfast spread was very good and there was plenty of space in the dining room for the hotel guests to spread out and not be forced to eat while sitting on top of one another. I even took some time to read an actual newspaper. I cannot tell you the last time I did that (for our younger readers, newspapers still do come in actual papers!).

Location. Location. Location. 

You should know that, when travelling to Crystal River, you will need your own car. First, you need to get there. Like I said, it is over an hour drive from either Orlando or Tampa. Plus, once there, you need a way to get to your adventure sites. There is free parking and even plug-ins for electric cars (ok, we at Casual Runner are not nearly THAT advanced yet, but perhaps someday soon?). This may seem like a small point, but we’re here to help you cover those aspects of your trip that you may not think about.

As for location, the hotel is located right on the main drag in the heart of the many adventures of Crystal River. The hotel is a stone’s throw from several dive shops, the marinas, and public parks. For the non-adventurers in your group, it is also close to the small local shops that give Crystal River its charm. Since we keep revisiting our theme of food in this article, it is also located right in the middle of a large selection of local and chain restaurants, fast food, and carry out options. Needless to say, the hotel’s location is another huge plus for this property.

Wrapping It Up.

As you can tell, I am a big fan of this hotel. There are tons of plusses for the property, which are enhanced by its great price point AND its location in the heart of so many great adventure opportunities. That is why I termed it the “rest stop to adventure” in Crystal River. This hotel certainly afforded us a great place to rest up comfortably to enjoy ourselves.  How could I not be a fan?

I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to the hotel staff. I spend a lot of nights in hotels while travelling, and it seems like staff these days often go out of there way to not interact with guests. The Hampton Inn’s staff were friendly and welcoming, and did a great job of making our stay a good one. Thank you!

So Much Adventure – We Shall Return!

There really is so much to do in Crystal River that we already decided that we HAVE to go back to experience new adventures that we can bring to you. Here are some quick hits:

  • You already know about snorkeling with manatees, we cannot say enough about this great adventure for Casual Adventurers of all ages and ability levels.
  • Scuba diving in nearby Rainbow River and other inland scuba diving destinations.
  • For you Casual Cyclists and Casual Triathletes, the Withlacoochee State Trail runs for 46 miles long, during which it connects 3 Florida counties: Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco.
  • Hiking in Withlacoochee State Forest, Crystal River Preserve State Park, and Withlacoochee River Preserve…beaches AND caves!

Like I said, we are already excited to explore more of these adventures and exhausting ourselves in the process, so it is a good thing we know a great place to lay our head at the end of the day to rest up for even more adventures!

Check out other installments in our Casual Adventurer Series by clicking here.

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!