Trip to DC
April 19, 2012 4:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a trip to DC in June and wondering what areas are safe & not so safe? Also hotels are very expensive so can anyone suggest a hotel (staying a week) in or around DC that is convenient to the Metro and again a safe area and not so expensive as to dry out your bank account? Any tips about DC in general?
posted by irish01 to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It would be easier for us if you gave examples of specific areas and/or hotels that you are interested in. You may have a different idea of "expensive" than other people.
posted by The Lamplighter at 4:31 PM on April 19, 2012

What's your actual budget, and where are you planning to spend your time while you're here?
posted by decathecting at 4:35 PM on April 19, 2012

I stayed at the SpringHill Suites in Alexandria, VA last Thanksgiving on a trip to DC and really liked it. It's about a mile from the Metro stop, which I walked to a few times, but the hotel also had a free shuttle to the Metro, and there was a parking lot at the Metro, as well. I think we paid about $80-$100 a night and booked it through but the rates are probably higher for a summer stay. The room was huge and the area was totally safe.
posted by jabes at 4:37 PM on April 19, 2012

Most areas of DC where tourists are are safe. Some parts of DC are not safe, but for the most part, you'll really be okay.

What's your budget for hotels?

What do you like to do?
posted by k8t at 4:47 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: I would like to spend no more than $100.00 a night if possible. I have been looking outside the Capitol but a trying to find a safe area, I'm not too sure what is considered safe in/around DC because some of the websites have mixed answers. We are going to visit the Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, Arlington Cemetery, and other museums but I'm not planning on renting a car.
posted by irish01 at 4:49 PM on April 19, 2012

Less than $100 in the District will be tough, but I travel there regularly for work and can usually find something nice in the $140-160 range with a bit of research. Hotwire and Priceline will be your best bets. You might also have some success with airbnb.

My favorite places to stay are the Topaz and the Helix, which are both Kimpton Hotels - nicely appointed, centrally (and safely!) located, very friendly and competent staff. The Phoenix Park Hotel is fine and sometimes has good deals. I'd stay away from the Beacon Hotel - they frequently have seemingly good deals but the place is really poorly run.

I also used to live in the city, and it's hard to give broad-strokes safe neighborhood advice because it does vary by block. Generally, though, anywhere in the SW quadrant will be safe but dull after 5. The NW quadrant west of 14th and south of the zoo is probably your bust bet in terms of safety and interesting things to do at night, but that will also be the most expensive.

The SE and NE quadrants right near the capitol should be fine, but anything farther than a half-mile or so from the capitol in NE can get sketchy, depending.
posted by lunasol at 5:00 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and for outside the District, you'd be fine in Silver Spring, Bethesda, Alexandria or Arlington (which are all suburbs that have lots of hotels), but make sure you're close to the metro.
posted by lunasol at 5:01 PM on April 19, 2012

Response by poster: I've never really gone anywhere else but Manhattan/Brooklyn, stayed at The Pod in Manhattan and it was small, clean, and a place to park yourself at night because we were out most of the day. I'd like to stay somewhere where I'd feel comfortable to walk at night and get something to eat (traveling with 18 yr. old). Thank you to all of you for your help, I thought $100.00 would be pushing it, so $150 isn't too bad. Is the metro comparable to the subway in NYC?
posted by irish01 at 5:03 PM on April 19, 2012

The metro in DC is a lot nicer than the subway in New York, but the coverage isn't as complete, so you may end up having to take buses or cabs.

If you want a cheap and safe place to stay that's still metro accessible, look in Northern Virginia, not Maryland. Try anywhere along orange line into Fairfax County.

If you want to splurge on a nice hotel while you're in town, keep checking the Kimpton hotel website, you can get 4 star rooms for like $150/night if you book at the absolute last minute (like the day of check-in) and don't care which hotel you stay at. They're great hotels with very cool design in great locations and they treat you like royalty.
posted by empath at 5:35 PM on April 19, 2012

As for which neighborhoods in DC are safe, generally, neighborhoods in NorthWest are safer than Neighborhoods in NorthEast and SouthEast, but really, unless you're looking for nightlife, just hang around the Mall and immediate environs and you'll see every touristy thing in the city and won't wander around into any sketchy areas accidentally.

I don't know how you feel about letting your kid go out clubbing, but there are clubs in town that are 18 and up -- notably U Street Music Hall. If they want to go, it's pretty safe, even to go by yourself. I'd recommend cabbing straight to and from there.

if you guys want to catch a movie in town, the Uptown up near the National Zoo is great, as is the E Street Cinema.

You'll also want to go shopping in Georgetown, you can get there by taking a short shuttle from the nearest metro stop.
posted by empath at 5:48 PM on April 19, 2012

On the red line, try the courtyard Chevy Chase. It sometimes has decent rates online and is in a safe, suburban neighborhood, but right on the metro. And, I think, free wifi.
posted by mercredi at 5:53 PM on April 19, 2012

I live in downtown Silver Spring, MD, which is less than 2 miles from the MD/DC border and about 7-10 miles from the sites on the Mall. I live in a small studio so when I do have out of town guests, they tend to stay at either the Marriott Courtyard or the Hilton. You may be able to get a room there under $150 per night. They are both within easy walking distance of the metro (red line, Silver Spring stop). It's about a 15-20 minute ride to downtown DC. Although fair warning, they have been doing weekend track work on the red line (and blue and orange as well I believe) for what feels like an eternity. This can turn a quick 20 minute trip downtown into 40 minutes. I see plenty of people who are obviously tourists at the Silver Spring metro stop, catching the train into DC. It is usually families so I assume they found it cheaper than staying in DC proper.

There are plenty of places to eat nearby and most are decent, although there are quite a few chain restaurants, but at least a few are local chains (Lebanese Taverna and Moby Dick's House of Kabob) and there are good independent places as well. It's not the level or variety of places that you'd find in parts of DC, but it's fine. Overall Silver Spring is safe. Sometimes the downtown area can get a little raucous on Friday and Saturday nights. There is a megaplex movie theater that attracts a lot of teens, but to my knowledge there hasn't been a lot of crime and it is well-patrolled. I have lived here for 7 years, walk to and from the metro station or the other movie theater (the AFI silver a lovely restored art deco theater) , sometimes late at night, and have never felt unsafe.
posted by kaybdc at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2012

If you're coming over a weekend, be sure to check the Metro weekend work schedule for the dates you're planning. It would suck if you got a hotel only to find that the nearby metro stop was closed for two days. June looks like a lot of work on the Orange line, so keep that in mind if you're considering VA (and, if I may show my biases, there are already few reasons why you would) over MD. Silver Spring would be my suggestion, for all the reasons kaybdc mentioned.

I work at one of the Museums on the Mall, so if you have any specific questions about that area feel free to shoot me an email.
posted by arco at 6:45 PM on April 19, 2012

...although I must say there are some hotels in Silver Spring that I would advise against. If you are considering Silver Spring, stick to the hotels downtown, like the Homewood Suites or the Courtyard.

Having said that, if you can swing one of the Kimpton hotels mentioned earlier, that would be a really great, memorable experience in the city.
posted by arco at 6:55 PM on April 19, 2012

Oh and if you do decide to stay in Silver Spring and want to touch base or even meet up for a meal or coffee, feel free to memail me. I also used to work for one of the units of the Smithsonian downtown, so can offer some sightseeing/museum tips as well.
posted by kaybdc at 7:04 PM on April 19, 2012

In 2006 I stayed at the Hotel Harrington, which was in a fantastic location for being a tourist. It's definitely a budget hotel - historic, but a little worn, full of backpackers and other low-to-the-ground travelers, a little run down around the edges - but it was safe, comfortable, and more than adequate for our stay. Cost was about $115 a night, which when you consider that it was right on the Metro line and really close to most of the destinations we wanted to visit, was a good deal. If you stay farther out of town, remember to add in transportation costs.
posted by Miko at 7:41 PM on April 19, 2012

I use hotwire to find good deals on hotel rooms in DC. It's a bit early to get a great deal right now, but if you can wait until May, you could get a 3 or more star hotel for about $115 a night in the White House/Downtown area, Dupont Circle/National Zoo, or Capitol Hill/National Mall area. You cannot cancel on hotwire, and you cannot see the hotel before you book, but you can see the neighborhood, and their neighborhood maps have always proved accurate for me.

It is totally doable, you've just got to keep checking. I've done it several times, usually the week before the trip. In which case, you could book an alternative so you don't panic, then keep checking hotwire. Most hotels have a 24-48 hour cancellation policy.
posted by fyrebelley at 8:03 PM on April 19, 2012

Hotwire and Priceline will be your good friends here. Per the calendar of wins, I see multiple reports of people getting the Washington Marriott Wardman Park for less than $100/night in June!
posted by SisterHavana at 8:05 PM on April 19, 2012

The Clarion Court Suites are exactly what you're looking for, especially given your planned itinerary. Anywhere along the Orange Line into Arlington is going to be safe and also convenient for visiting the major D.C. attractions downtown and Arlington Cemetery. The Court House and Clarendon stops have the added bonus of being in neighborhoods with a ton of restaurant options, and only a few stops away from the National Mall (around a 20-minute metro ride).

I've stayed at the Clarion Court Suites a few times and the value for the money is crazy. It's around $100 per night, you get a free breakfast that is surprisingly decent, and the location is only 1.5 blocks from the metro. Other hotels within a block or two rent for $100 more per night; the Clarion is a little bit older and doesn't have a nice lobby but the rooms are recently renovated and much larger than you'd expect.

You'd feel safe at a lot of places along the Red Line in Maryland as well, but the metro ride to National Mall and all the museums is significantly longer and involves changing trains.
posted by iminurmefi at 7:43 AM on April 20, 2012

I live in DC and my parents always stay at the Days Inn on Connecticut Ave, NW. It looks slightly over your budget at around $140 a night with taxes, but you might be able to get some kind of deal if you look around a little. It's about a block from the Van Ness metro stop on the red line, and it's in a very pleasant residential neighborhood.

You'll definitely want to try to stay within walking distance of a metro stop, getting cabs or taking the bus can be challenging in more residential neighborhoods or outside of the district in my experience.

It really doesn't sound like you'll be visiting any of the "more dangerous" neighborhoods in DC in your itinerary. Really, DC is overall very safe. As previously mentioned, neighborhoods in the NW quadrant are considered the "safest" but honestly I would just exercise basic good judgement about street safety rather than worrying over any given area.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:18 AM on April 20, 2012

I've stayed at the Americana Hotel at Crystal City for over 20 years when visiting D.C. It's retro, but I've never found a better overall value. Short walk to the Metro (yellow line).
posted by charris5005 at 1:24 PM on April 20, 2012

Like Miko, above, I too have stayed at the Hotel Harrington, and it's pretty much just as described. Great location right in the middle of things. Kind of worn down. Perfectly fine as a place to lay down and sleep. I recall the internet connection being a bit spotty, as of a few years ago.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:20 PM on April 20, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great advice! Anyone familiar with the Columbia Heights area & the green line/yellow line metro?
posted by irish01 at 4:43 PM on April 20, 2012

Columbia Heights is a really fun neighborhood. I recommend taking a look at the Prince of Petworth Blog to get some idea of the surrounding neighborhood.

Also, a LivingSocial (a daily deal site located in DC) has a deal for a hotel in Arlington for $99 a night. You might want to look around on their site to see if they have any other good deals.
posted by forkisbetter at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2012

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