Washington, D.C. hotels
Hotels in Washington, D.C., have been working hard to overcome their city's reputation as the all-work-no-play drone of the East Coast. Stuffiness is now trumped by buzzy modernity; even old-school power spots like the St. Regis (formerly the Carlton) have transitioned from fusty and overwrought to serenely elegant. The boutique hotel scene has evolved, too, from quirky (the Hotel Monaco and Hotel George) to sophisticated, with the opening of the modish Donovan House. Of course, a trip to Washington is a trip through American history, and hotels such as the Hay-Adams—once a salon for the likes of Mark Twain and Teddy Roosevelt and now a happy-hour spot for White House staffers—and the Willard, where Lincoln stayed before his inauguration, play their roles with gusto.
Though Washington is a relatively compact city, location does matter. Many of the top luxury hotels, including the Four Seasons, Park Hyatt, and one of the four area Ritz-Carltons, are located in and around leafy Georgetown. That neighborhood is one of the city's most idyllic, yet the lack of Metro access there means hotel guests rely on cabs to get around. Choosing a hotel downtown or in the Penn Quarter will put you near some of D.C.'s best restaurants and nightlife and within walking distance of the National Mall. For a more laid-back vibe, consider Thomas and Dupont circles, home to boutique properties like the budget-friendly Normandy and Kimpton Hotel Rouge and charming B&Bs such as Swann House.
Washington, D.C., hotels can be a great deal for weekend travelers. When business and political visitors head home, luxury hotel rates fall by as much as 50 percent and hotel restaurants fill with local residents. (Some of the capital's top tables are hotel-based, including Alain Ducasse's Adour, in the St. Regis; CityZen, in the Mandarin Oriental, and Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt.) Great deals also abound when Congress is in recess during late August and the winter holidays.