On or Near Capitol Hill
A handful of hotels form a cluster just north of the Capitol, adjacent to Union Station; just one hotel lies on Capitol Hill itself, a few minutes’ walk from the Capitol. These hotels are also within easy reach of the National Mall.
Best for: Travelers who have business at the Capitol and tourists who want to be close to the Capitol and other Hill attractions, as well as to the National Mall.
Drawbacks: These neighborhoods are in the thick of things during the day, but not so much at night.
At the center of the city is this hot locale, jammed with restaurants, bars, museums, theaters, and the Verizon Center sports/concert arena. The plentiful hotels include modern venues catering to convention crowds and historic properties switched up for luxury-loving funseekers.
Best for: Those who love being in the thick of it all. Business travelers are within easy reach of downtown offices, the convention center, and Capitol Hill. Likewise, the Penn Quarter is prime home base for exploring tourists.
Drawbacks: Crowded sidewalks and noisy traffic can be annoying—even overwhelming.
Think of the White House as center stage, with an array of hotels, law and lobbyist office buildings, and restaurants at its feet. Several historic hotels, as well as less sophisticated, more affordable, contemporary properties, are among the options.
Best for: Travelers interested in a central location that’s less raucous than the Penn Quarter at night. Also those on business with the executive branch or at one of the law, lobbying, or association offices that line K Street.
Drawbacks: Urban sounds (traffic, construction, garbage collection) may be part of the experience.
The hotel listed here is situated just north of Dupont Circle, at the mouth of Adams Morgan rather than within its actual boundaries.
Best for: Travelers who want to stay “in” the city but out of the fray.
Drawbacks: The closest Metro stop (Dupont Circle) is several blocks away.
This neighborhood of quaint town houses and beautiful embassies, bistro restaurants, art galleries, and bars is home to more hotels than any other neighborhood in the city. Boutique hotels reign supreme, though several chains have outposts here, too.
Best for: Travelers who love a city scene minus the office buildings. Also for gay and lesbian visitors, since Dupont Circle is LGBT Central.
Drawbacks: If you have business on Capitol Hill or in the Penn Quarter, this might not be your first choice, since there are plenty of closer options.
Foggy Bottom/West End
This section of town is halfway between the White House and Georgetown; Foggy Bottom lies south of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the West End north. Together the neighborhoods are home to town-house–lined streets, the George Washington University, International Monetary Fund offices, World Bank headquarters, and mostly all-suites and upscale lodging choices.
Best for: Parents visiting their kids at GW, international business travelers, and those who desire proximity to the Kennedy Center, also located here.
Drawbacks: There are 10,000 undergraduate students who attend GW and who sometimes make their presence known throughout the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in ways you’d rather they wouldn’t. On the flip side, the West End might seem too quiet if you like being where the action is.
Bustling day and night with shoppers and tourists, Georgetown’s handful of hotels range from the city’s most sublime accommodations to one that I believe offers one of the best values in town.
Best for: Shopaholics, tourists, and parents, students, and academics visiting Georgetown University.
Drawbacks: Crowds throng sidewalks; cars snarl traffic daily. College kids and 20-somethings party hearty here nightly, but especially on weekends.
This Connecticut Avenue–centered upper northwest enclave is a residential neighborhood of little stores and restaurants, the National Zoo, and two of Washington’s biggest hotels.
Best for: Families who like a tamer experience than found downtown and proximity to Rock Creek Park and the zoo. Business travelers attending a meeting in one of Woodley Park’s big hotels.
Drawbacks: This area may be a little too quiet for some, especially at night.
North of Georgetown, south of the Washington National Cathedral, Glover Park is a residential neighborhood of family homes and group houses for Georgetown and American University students, all of whom gather at the bars and low-priced eateries that line the main drag, Wisconsin Avenue. The couple of hotels located here are unfancy and moderately priced.
Best For: Visiting professors and parents of college-age children at nearby American, George Washington, and Georgetown universities; those on business at area embassies; and families on vacation.
Drawbacks: Glover Park has public bus transportation, but no Metro stop.
New Hotels Are popping up All Over
Washington, D.C. is in the middle of a hotel construction boom; Destination D.C., Washington’s tourism and convention corporation, estimates that more than 20 properties are in the pipeline for completion in the next few years. That’s a lotta lodging! The interesting thing is where these hotels are popping up: NoMa. Southwest Waterfront. Capitol Riverfront. Mount Vernon Square. Sound familiar? Probably not. But these neighborhoods are where big things are happening, as D.C.’s economy continues to flourish, attracting developers, entrepreneurs, international investors, and residents to explore new pockets. In fact, the city’s biggest new hotel (the city’s biggest hotel now, period, with 1,175 rooms), the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C., is located in a freshly revitalized quarter called Mount Vernon Square, due north of the Penn Quarter and the greater downtown. The hotel, which opened in May 2014, is the Walter E. Washington Convention Center’s hotel, and is, in fact, connected to the convention center by underground passage.
So before you decide to look only in downtown or Georgetown or the usual familiar spots for your stay in the capital, be sure also to check out some of the lesser known areas, where new hotels are opening all the time. Because here’s the thing: You just might be able to negotiate a better rate at a hotel in an off-the-radar neighborhood; you’ll enjoy individual characteristics not found elsewhere (like the Waterfront’s waterfront!); and you can be assured that no matter the neighborhood, you’re never far from the center of town, in this compact city. Interested? Here are some of the hotels that debuted in late 2014 or are slated to open in 2015. Why not give these a go:
Mount Vernon Square:
Marriott Marquis, Washington, D.C.; 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW; tel 202/824-9200; www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/wasco-marriott-marquis-washington-dc.
Cambria Suites Washington, DC Convention Center, 899 O St. NW, tel 202/299-1188; www.cambriasuites.com/hotel-washington-district_of_columbia-DC018.
NoMa: Hyatt Place Washington, DC/US Capitol, 33 New York Ave. NE, tel 202/289-5599; www.washingtondcuscapitol.place.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html.
Southwest Waterfront: Hyatt Place Washington DC Capitol/National Mall, 400 E St. SW. (phone number and website not available at time of research).
Half Street Hotel, 55 M St. SE, www.halfstreet.com.
Hampton Inn, N St. and First St. SE.