Washington DC hotels?
December 18, 2008 10:53 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are going to Washington DC next year for a few days. We'll be sticking to touristy stuff -- monuments, the Smithsonian -- so we want to be able to get to those parts and back fairly easily. We won't have a car. Where should we stay? Recommendations for areas or for specific hotels appreciated.

What we're looking for in a hotel: quiet, clean, simple, air conditioning, in a safe neighborhood, maybe $250 a night.

We've been looking at some hotels online but we're not sure how easy it is to get around without a car, so we're not sure how far away we can stray. We are fine with public transportation if it's not too confusing.
posted by Karlos the Jackal to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
My recommendation would be to stay somewhere near a station for either the Orange line or Blue line of the Metro. Most of the main tourist stuff (i.e., the Smithsonian, the monuments, etc.) is easily accessed either directly by the Orange/Blue line (they're combined for most of the way in the District) or by a quick jaunt off of Orange/Blue onto the Red line, easily enough done at Metro Center.

This condition gives you a lot of options. You can stay in DC, Virginia, or Maryland -- though if you're going to be heading downtown a lot, you probably won't want to be staying in Maryland as it's a longer ride to the Mall. While I don't have any specific recommendations for hotels (I grew up in the area so I never stayed at one), I can say that you probably shouldn't have any problem finding a hotel meeting your specifications near an Orange line station in Virginia.

I'd personally like to stay in the District sometime, so I'm interested in seeing what other people have to say. Good luck!
posted by malthas at 11:33 PM on December 18, 2008

We stayed at the Phoenix Park Hotel once and were pretty happy. It's right by Union Station so access to the Metro is very easy, and the Capitol and that end of the National Mall is easily walkable from it. We wound up walking everywhere, but we only had a couple days. If I remember correctly we got a ridiculously good rate through one of the major travel sites.
posted by zsazsa at 12:02 AM on December 19, 2008

The Hyatt Regency Crystal City is across the river, but it's extremely nice and very reasonably priced (often under $100 for a double). You can walk or take a hotel shuttle (runs every 15 minutes, if I remember correctly) to the metro and take the blue or yellow line right to the mall. I've stayed there and it felt like a hotel that cost twice as much.

If you'd rather be right on top of the metro, you could also stay at the Crystal Gateway Marriott, which has metro access directly from the hotel lobby. I haven't stayed there, but my fiancée did four or five years ago and was pleased. Again, take the blue or yellow line across the river for easy access to the monuments and the Smithsonian. (Either way, you don't have to transfer, which simplifies things.)

Arlington is chock full of nice hotels, and the prices are surprisingly not bad, considering how close it is to DC. Crystal City is a very nice neighborhood, as well. It's where I would stay if I were planning your trip. Of course, I'm sure you can find someplace to spend $250/night if you really want to!

Bonus: if you're flying into Reagan, you can take the same yellow or blue line metro to the hotel. No need for a taxi.
posted by musicinmybrain at 12:15 AM on December 19, 2008

My favorite hotel in DC is the Tabard Inn at Dupont Circle. Great location, interesting rooms, nice restaurant downstairs. I stayed there the night I got married, and if I didn't have family & friends in DC that's where I would stay there again.
posted by headnsouth at 4:23 AM on December 19, 2008

I work in Washington DC, but live in Philadelphia, and so I stay down there frequently. First of all, you can usually get great deals with priceline. You can choose your star level (I always choose 3, 3 1/2, or 4) and your location. If you choose the locations "DuPont Circle - Woodley Park," "Georgetown - Foggy Bottom," and "White House - Downtown," you're pretty much guaranteed to be near a metro. The only exception is if you choose the combination of "Georgetown - Foggy Bottom" and the 3-star level, because then there's the chance that you'll get the Georgetown University Hotel, which is on a bus route, but which is not very close to the metro. The downside with priceline is that you don't get to pick your specific hotel. However, this forum at betterbidding.com has a list of all the hotels that are in each of priceline's categories, as well as some other helpful tips.

However, if don't have the time or the inclination to do all the research (which is understandable!), I would recommend the Westin near Foggy Bottom. It's near the "orange line," which is the line that will drop you off at the Smithsonian museums. It's the nicest hotel I've stayed at in DC, and it's available (sometimes) through priceline. The bathrooms were huge and gorgeous, the lighting in the hotel is beautiful, and the staff was exceptionally nice. It's also not a far walk from Georgetown, which is a nice place to visit. I would also recommend the Omni Shoreham in Woodley Park (also available through priceline). It's just a couple blocks from the "red line" metro, and is surrounded by restaurants.

You mention "safe neighborhoods," and since I'm a young woman staying by myself whenever I travel, I have those concerns, too. I would stick to the Northwest quadrant of DC, and any hotel in the neighborhoods of Woodley Park, Cleveland Park (not sure there are any hotels there, actually), DuPont Circle, Foggy Bottom, the "West End", or Georgetown will be quite safe. I would recommend staying in DC and not going out to Virginia (such as Crystal City or Arlington) only because I think you'll be able to find a good hotel in your price range within the District, and that will cut down on the time you spend on the metro. I work right across from the Phoenix Hotel that zsazsa mentioned above. I wouldn't recommend this hotel because of it's location. Although Union station is conveniently a block away, there are many other hotels that are within a block of the metro that are in better and more interesting areas. I wouldn't feel comfortable there at night.

I also think you'll be very comfortable without a car. Relying solely on public transportation in DC for a few days isn't hard at all, and nearly all the tourist sites are metro-accessible. The DC transportation website is really user-friendly, and you can plan many of your trips around the city in advance when you find out where you're staying. Again, the Smithsonian museums and the closest metro to the White House/mall are all on the Orange Line, so you may want to consider that when choosing your hotel. Transferring from the Red Line (which has the DuPont Circle and Woodley Park stops) isn't hard at all, but it will take a few (very few) extra minutes when planning your day. DC is also a terrific city for walking, with sidewalks everywhere and many attractions near each other. Have a great time and my email is in my profile if I can help with anything else!
posted by lagreen at 4:54 AM on December 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Holiday Inn Capitol is clean, cheap ($90), less than a block from VRE train station and the L'Enfant Metro (Blue, Orange, Yellow, and Green lines in one location), one block from the Smithsonian and the Mall, two blocks from the American Indian Museum. Very easy walking distance to all the touristy stuff, Holocaust Museum, Capitol, etc... Quick, direct Metro rides to Eastern Market, National Airport, Chinatown... It's nothing fancy, I mean it's just a chain hotel, but it's certainly:

quiet, clean, simple, air conditioning, in a safe neighborhood, maybe far less than $250 a night

In the interest of full disclosure, my office is in one of the attached office towers so I walk through the lobby when it's rainy and I want to take a little indoor detour. I also buy coffee there every morning from their little deli kiosk (there is also a Starbucks in the lobby, but I like the Ethiopian coffee and they're cheaper) and the staff are always super friendly and helpful. If you decide to go with this let me know and I can help you find any ammenities nearby or map out anything you may want to get to.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:13 AM on December 19, 2008

One recommendation for at least one day: rent bicycles to tour around the Mall, and over to the Jefferson Memorial. From the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial is 2-3 miles, so it would take a lot of walking to get around.

Another tip: go to the gate of the White House, find the man in uniform, and tell him "Hi, I'm Karlos the Jackal". Watch the fun ensue.
posted by yclipse at 5:15 AM on December 19, 2008

In the interest of full, full disclosure: the other office tower (the building complex has three, my office, the hotel and...) is the FEMA headquarters. You might not want to call yourself Karlos the Jackal when checking in. But really, the hotel staff really do seem to do a heck of a job.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:23 AM on December 19, 2008

We had a lovely weekend at the Embassy Circle near Dupont. It is about three or four blocks from the Dupont Metro and so gives easy access to all the Mall/Capitol area touristy stuff, but you also get a flavor of the Dupont neighborhood. I really can't recommend it highly enough.

If you do stay there, or somewhere else near Dupont, be sure to eat at the Bisto du Coin just around the corner. Super-authentic French cuisine at more than reasonable prices. My boyfriend is from southwestern France and was overwhelmed by the number of choices that his mom used to make him, and he was very happy with the quality of the food.
posted by ohio at 5:28 AM on December 19, 2008

The Kimpton chain has a handful of hotels around DC. I've stayed in a few and always been happy with them. One, the Topaz, is right next door to the Tabard Inn mentioned above.
posted by yarrow at 6:41 AM on December 19, 2008

I agree on the Kimpton suggestion wholeheartedly. The closest to the National Mall are Hotel Monaco and Hotel George. Hotel Monaco is one pf the nicest hotels I've stayed in.
posted by dzot at 6:56 AM on December 19, 2008

The Metro in DC is extremely easy to deal with, goes pretty much everywhere you'd want to go*, and is clean.

We stayed in Rosslyn, specifically at the Quality Inn Iwo Jima. Their address is 1501 Arlington Blvd, Arlington. (I'm not sure why the address is Arlington, but whatever.) It was about a four block walk to the Rosslyn Metro Center. The hotel was small but clean and cheap, and the people were friendly and helpful. If you're not going to be spending much time there anyway, it was perfectly fine. Next door they had a simple breakfast buffet which was not a fancy gourmet meal, but fine for gearing up for a day of walking. Ask for a room on the second floor away from the parking lot, or you will be smelling tour bus fumes all night.

If you are looking for a fancy hotel experience, that Quality Inn is not your best bet, but I would recommend it for a cheap, safe place to stow your stuff and sleep. You can even walk over to the Iwo Jima Memorial.

*It's a long walk to the National Zoo from the closest Metro stop, however.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:03 AM on December 19, 2008

My family and I were in DC in June and found it very, very walkable. We didn't stay close to the attractions but we used the bus and the Metro and our feet and everything was easy and cheap. Just chiming in to say that the public transportation in DC is very good and the monuments and the Smithsonian buildings are all in the same walkable area.
posted by cooker girl at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2008

What time of year will you be visiting? Right now, hotels are ridiculously cheap (Kimpton's Hotel Rouge for $140/night, for example). During the inauguration or the Cherry Blossom Festival: not so much.

DC is geographically compact and very walkable, the Metrorail is easy to use and convenient to most tourist destinations, and there are multiple bus options (Metrobus, DC Circulator, etc.).

All of the areas referenced previously are safe (including the area around Union Station).

What is more important for you: immediate proximity to Monuments/Museums/The Mall or in a neighborhood with restaurants and bars? Those two things are generally mutually exclusive.

But that's in DC terms, for example:
Dupont Circle (Metrorail Red Line & home to the wonderful Tabard Inn and more hotels, restaurants and bars than you could need) is less than a mile from the White House and less than 2 miles from most of the Smithsonian Museums on the Mall. It's an easy train ride or walk in nice weather. If you want to wake up and roll out to the Museums, then the Holiday Inn Capitol (L'Enfant Plaza Metrorail, as previously mentioned) is a better choice. You'll have far slimmer dining options (within a half mile walk).

Staying near the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station will leave you within a mile of the Mall and put you in the middle of a lively dining area.

You also might consider staying on Capitol Hill and spending some time at Eastern Market (Blue/Orange Metrorail) on the weekend. Its the last of the public food markets in DC and on the weekends has a farmers' market and crafty stuff. 8th St SE (aka Barracks Row...just south of the Eastern Market Metrorail stop) has a growing bar/restaurant scene. H St. NE has a very fresh bar scene, but is a lot more, um... gritty? Safe (I walk there from my house all the time), but your comfort level may vary.

U St. (Green Line) has Ethiopian food (try Etete or Dukem) and lots of nice clubs and food/bar options. Adams Morgan, the mother of restaurant/bar scenes, has its fans (try Columbia Station for free jazz on weekend afternoons) and then there is still Georgetown. Other than breakfast at Leopold's...not my favorite.
posted by jindc at 7:25 AM on December 19, 2008

Jurys Doyle is right on Dupont Circle (area has great restaurants, shops, metro right there and a neat independent bookstore that is also a restaurant with great breakfast Kramers right across the street.

If you are inclined to bring a pet the Hotel Madera is awesome, clean, modern, they even have a welcome sign with your pet's name when you arrive. It is a block or so off Dupont Circle.

Depending on the time of year and weekend each place can be had for less than $250.
posted by Kensational at 7:35 AM on December 19, 2008

Another tip: go to the gate of the White House, find the man in uniform, and tell him "Hi, I'm Karlos the Jackal". Watch the fun ensue.

Yes, yes, at the gate, take your shoe off and throw it over; ah, the jailarity.
posted by Kensational at 7:43 AM on December 19, 2008

A month ago, my girlfriend and I basically did the same trip you're planning. We stayed at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, and thought it was excellent, and very reasonably priced. We flew into Reagan National Airport, and it's one stop away on the metro from the hotel. You don't even have to go outside to get to the hotel (hey, we're Florida residents, and it was cold!); the Crystal City underground shops and tunnels go right from the station to the hotel lobby. The blue and yellow metro lines both run out through Crystal City. The metro is fast, safe, cheap, and it will take you within walking distance of nearly every one of the major attractions. For the outliers, there's always the MetroBus.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 7:48 AM on December 19, 2008

Its the last of the public food markets in DC

Last in it's original 19th century structure (when it's rebuilt), perhaps, but otherwise not even close.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:04 AM on December 19, 2008

I agree, Hotel Topaz is awesome. I would expect the other Klimpton hotels are also good.

Avoid New York Avenue. They just renovated a couple of hotels on there, so I guess it might not be as awful anymore, but I frequently enter the district from that road and almost every time that I am with someone else we see the hotels we shake our heads and lament how we feel bad for people who choose those hotels from a list on Expedia or something. (It's not the worst neighborhood, but it's not nice.)
posted by KAS at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2008

Ditto Re: New York Ave.

And if you make it to Eastern Market during the weekend across the street from it are coffee shops, a higher end second hand woman's clothes place,a nice pub/restaurant and a flea market.
posted by Kensational at 8:39 AM on December 19, 2008

Cosign the Tabard Inn. Right in the middle of the city, pretty close to metro - google maps says 0.4 mile walking (couple blocks effectively) to Farragut West station which is on the orange and blue lines, eg a straight shot to the Smithsonian.

Thirding re: don't stay on New York Avenue. Impossible to get around if you don't have a car unless you want to cab it every time you go into the city.

If everything is booked in DC you might try.. a couple of hotels right by the King St metro station in Old Town Alexandria, use google maps to search for hotels in the vicinity, there are three just a block or two away, Old Town is gorgeous, and it's not far on the blue line to Smithsonian/National Mall.
posted by citron at 11:58 AM on December 19, 2008

Another thing about Old Town Alexandria by the way, it's the oldest (I am pretty sure) place around there that was settled, lots of 18th century rowhouses, shops, good restaurants, a free shuttle bus up and down King St to the waterfront at the far end - worth a visit in itself and really gorgeous around the holidays. So again if you can get a spot at a hotel right near King St station that should be a great place to stay, also if you're flying in to National Airport you are only two stops away on the metro from there.
posted by citron at 12:02 PM on December 19, 2008

I've had great success using Priceline in the area, and you can definitely get away with MUCH less than $250 a night. I second the recommendation to check out betterbidding.com. If you're interested in this, let me know and I'll check and see exactly what I ended up paying on a couple of recent trips. I'm thinking it was about $70 for the Westin near Foggy Bottom that someone mentioned. I concur that the Westin is really nice and in a good location. I also ended up staying cheap at the Hilton Washington (it's the one on Connecticut Avenue, not too far from Dupont Circle) via Hotwire. Not too far from the metro, lots of cool things within walking distance.
posted by little e at 3:18 PM on December 19, 2008


While I love the Florida Ave. Market (i'll be at Litteris tomorrow, in fact), i consider it as more of a wholesale market that allows individuals, as opposed to a public food market aimed at those individual consumers.
posted by jindc at 7:03 PM on December 19, 2008

Nthing the Tabard Inn, it came highly recommended from a friend before my recent trip to the city. She and her husband would stay there for 1-2 weeks at a time, several times a year for business and had nothing but glowing reviews for their experience with the staff and enjoyment of the excellent restaurant and bar. Bonus: they saw Joan Baez there twice.

(Although I wasn't able to stay there myself as my hotel arrangements were made for me, I did have a truly wonderful lunch in their restaurant.)
posted by vespertine at 9:25 AM on December 20, 2008

We are back from vacation! Thanks, everyone, for helping us out!

We ended up staying at the Radisson in Crystal City. It fit our needs -- quiet and clean, and they put us on an upper floor as we requested. They had "sleep number" beds, which I've never encountered before, so that was fun.

The Metro was, as it turned out, super easy -- thanks for the encouragement on that front. The station is a couple of blocks away and we took the blue line to wherever we wanted -- 10-15 minutes got us to the Smithsonian stop, right next to the Washington Monument.

It's about a mile from Reagan National, so walkable in a pinch, but there was a free shuttle so we just took that. We didn't eat at their restaurant or anything, so I have nothing to say about that. We did buy an umbrella in the gift shop which seems sufficiently umbrella-esque.

There's a 7-11 about a block away for late-night yogurt runs, and even better, next door to that there's a 24-hour kabob place called "Kabob Palace" that has totally yummy food.

A block up 23rd there's also a sports pub that the hotel clerk gave us "20% off" coupons to -- they were good, too, as was a Salvadoran/Honduran place called "Lilian's" in the same area. Pupusas!

There's my Crystal City report. Thanks again!
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:37 AM on April 10, 2009

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