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Originally published Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 2:32 PM

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Corrected version

Surprise! Sea-Tac hotel at top of TripAdvisor ratings

Cedarbrook Lodge, near Sea-Tac Airport, is rated among the world's top hotels and is best in the United States in TripAdvisor.com's Travelers' Choice Awards for 2011. TripAdvisor says the rankings recognize service, quality and value.

Seattle Times travel writer

More information

Cedarbrook Lodge: www.cedarbrooklodge.com

TripAdvisor's Travelers'

Choice Awards: www.tripadvisor.com/TravelersChoice

Forget beachfront views and $400 rooms. A hotel near Sea-Tac Airport where rooms go for $150 a night has been named among the world's top 25 hotels by TripAdvisor.com, a website that rates hotels based on reviews by 40 million travelers.

The 104-room Cedarbrook Lodge, a former Washington Mutual training facility converted to a hotel and corporate retreat center about a year ago, ranked No. 17 on TripAdvisor's "2011 Travelers' Choice Awards" worldwide list. It topped the website's list of top hotels in the United States, and ranked No. 2 among U.S. "best bargains."

The rankings were compiled based on reviews posted on TripAdvisor.com over the past 12 months, said spokeswoman Amelie Hurst. The Maxwell, a boutique inn in Seattle's Queen Anne neighborhood, ranked among TripAdvisor's "Top Trendiest."

How is it that hotels like these can outrank luxury resorts and well-known chains in faraway places?

"The core hallmark is that they offer remarkable service, quality and value," Hurst said. "They're not necessarily the most opulent." (The Golden Well in Prague ranked as the world's top hotel.)

TripAdvisor, owned by Bellevue-based Expedia, recognized 676 hotels in its annual rankings. The average nightly rate among winners was $283, with nearly one-third at $150 or less.

Cedarbrook, with a gourmet restaurant, wooded walking paths, oversized soaking tubs, free breakfast and airport shuttle, isn't your ordinary airport hotel. It's at 18525 36th Ave. S., about a five-minute drive from Sea-Tac Airport.

"We're really a destination for small-group meetings and training as well as a good respite for people traveling (to and from Sea-Tac)," said Greg Bye, general manager.

Washington Mutual for years operated the property as a training center with rooms where employees could spend the night. When the bank failed and was taken over by Chase, Chase sold the property to the Wright Hotel Company of Seattle.

Bye said the hotel encourages guests to fill out comment cards, but offers no incentives for posting favorable reviews on TripAdvisor or other websites.

Ranking it No. 1 among 126 Seattle-area hotels, nearly all the 240 reviewers who posted comments on TripAdvisor rated Cedarbrook "excellent." Only one rated it "poor," faulting its restaurant.

"Don't even bother with the other Sea-Tac hotels," wrote a traveler from Dublin, Ireland. "This is the one you should stay in."

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com

Information in this article, originally published January 19, was corrected January 20. The Cedarbrook Lodge ranked No. 1 in the U.S. top hotels list and No. 2 in the U.S. "best bargains" list. A previous version of the story said it was No. 1 in the U.S. "best bargains" list.

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