Washington DC with kids
January 10, 2006 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Washington, DC hotels: The kids and I are going to see Butterstick! next weekend. I haven't been to DC in a long, long time.

The Zoo lists some nearby hotels on its website, but I wasn't sure about the neighborhoods in that area. The kids are 5 and 11; I'm bringing them by myself, and ideally I'd like us to be able to walk to dinner, the Metro, etc. I assume it's worth the $ to stay in the city rather than staying in the suburbs and driving in, yes? We won't be there long - driving from NC on Fri, seeing the butterboy on Sat a.m., then home after lunch on Sun. Any other suggestions would be great.
posted by SashaPT to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The neighborhoods around the zoo are upscale, and you will probably pay that rate. You can look for places a little further out of town and use the Metro to save money. The Metro's Redline (which the Zoo is on) has lots of places to park and ride.

However if you can afford it, staying in Woodley Park (where the zoo is) will allow you to do all the things you want. There are lots of restaurants along Connecticut avenue near the zoo, and Cleveland Park is also walkable for food and drink. Dupont Circle is the hip section of town, and is only 2 Metro stops south of the zoo area, but with kids in tow I wouldn't bother.

Lighten up though, DC isn't a war zone, and certainly not the NW section. :)

Say hi to the baby panda.
posted by terrapin at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2006

Adam's Inn might work for you if they've got room -- it's reasonable walking distance or a cheap cab ride from the Metro, dinner, and the zoo. I've stayed there before; it's homey and nice.
posted by footnote at 3:35 PM on January 10, 2006

I've gotten good deals in the DC area by using Priceline. You want Northwest DC or Dupont/Woodley Park (depending on which part of Priceline you search). Best option: Woodley Park. The Marriott there is quite nice and extremely convenient. Who knows, they may have a special or be on priceline. If you don't know, you can name your own price by selecting how many "stars" you want, and what part of town. You might be able to find a 3 star in the Dupont/Woodley Park area for about $100.

Dupont would also work. You could possibly walk to the Zoo, although that seems like a lot of walking for a 5 year old, including time in the zoo. But you would be 1 red line metro stop away, but would be fine. Adams Morgan could work too, but there's no metro to Woodley Park from there, so you would have to walk about 15 minutes to either entrance, I think.

Cleveland Park is very close to the zoo, too, but I can't remember if there are any hotels there.

As long as you're taking the metro you could go as far south as Metro Center or Chinatown, or further north too, into American Univ area or even Friendship Heights. I'd advise staying on the redline, because it's easiest to navigate since your main destination is the zoo.
posted by Amizu at 3:42 PM on January 10, 2006

The new Smithsonian Native American museum is great!
posted by k8t at 3:43 PM on January 10, 2006

Jurys is right on Dupont Circle and has a $125/night deal going on. Caveat: they're in the process of replacing the windows on some of the floors, so I don't know what effect this has on the rest of the hotel.
posted by mookieproof at 4:24 PM on January 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

I totally love the Hotel Tabard Inn, which is near the Dupont Circle stop. It's got loads of history and quirk, as well as some excellent (and pricey) food. However, it also doesn't have TV's in the rooms, which might be a problem with two young kids. But hey, if they're into reading the bizarro books that are on the shelves in all the rooms, go for it.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:36 PM on January 10, 2006

I'll second Jurys. It's where I live when in DC.
posted by Sagres at 5:46 PM on January 10, 2006

I stayed at the Days Inn on Connecticut Ave. when I came to DC as a tourist. Liked it so much, I moved here. It's right at a Metro stop, just one stop from Cleveland Park, one of the two stops closest to the zoo. The other zoo stop is Woodley Park, so you'd be two stops from there. There are some good dining options near the hotel, and lots of great ones near Cleveland Park.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:45 PM on January 10, 2006

Heh. My wife and I spent our first night after being married at The Jurys in Dupont Circle and it is a very nice hotel. However the restaurant/pub is a loud meat market. We had our wedding brunch at Tabard Inn and love that place too. Sunday nights in the winter are great for sitting by the huge fireplace listening to live jazz (usually an upright bass and guitar). We went back to Tabard for our second anniversary, and are planning to go to The Jurys for our 4th this October.

*waves to MrMoonPie* Miss you, dude.
posted by terrapin at 8:37 PM on January 10, 2006

Best answer: I priceline Crystal City for $40 bucks and land the remarkably swanky Courtyard Marriott every time. I've done it no less than 10 times, all of them to visit the pandas, for no more than $50, which considering both the accommodations and location, is rather spectacular. The downside is that parking costs $10 and the nearest metro (no parking), while walkable (a mile, perhaps), wouldn't likely be that much fun toting kids in the winter.

The drive from Crystal City to the Zoo isn't terrible depending on the time of day, although it is rather tricky directions-wise. (much of DC is); however, you can always park at the Pentagon metro (a couple miles away from the hotel, straight shot)... or at least you used to be able to -- I don't know what their rules are these days.

Realizing my suggestions probably solve none of your problems, perhaps you can glean some wisdom from my Zoo-going experience...

The pandas prefer the cooler weather and are much more active now than in the sweltering summertime. In the summer, you would likely have to arrive when the zoo opens to see any sign of movement in the pandas. This time of year, they'll probably be more active throughout the day (although, they're pandas, so 'active' probably isn't the best word). Despite that, I'd still recommend going as early as possible to beat the crowds. I don't know if they're managing admissions to the outside exhibit via tickets like the inside exhibit (to see Tai Shan), but crowds build up quickly and remain throughout the day. Tai Shan has been outside quite a bit lately, so if they're not managing via tickets, then the outside crowds will swell larger. (And if you don't have tickets and are expecting to just walk-up, you might want to double-check their current policy to make sure you're not making the trip for nothing.... although the neighboring elephants and giraffes are quite fun, as are the orangutans.)

If you do end up driving, parking at the zoo is expensive if you stay a while. You'd do yourself a favor by parking along the street somewhere on Connecticut if you can find it. The zoo gives free parking to its FONZ (Friends of the National Zoo) members, and if you're feeling savvy, you can purchase a membership online -- which usually comes with free gifts that you could store away until birthday/christmas. It also gets you a discount in the gift store which is literally wall-to-wall pandas.

Finally, if you end up taking the metro (red line), here's my walking-friendly tip: Connecticut Ave is on a bit of a slope, with the zoo halfway between two stops. When you're GOING to the zoo, go PAST the Zoo stop (Woodley Park) and get off at the next one (Cleveland Park). This will put you at the top of the hill, from which you can walk down to the zoo. When you're done at the zoo, continue down the hill to the Woodley Park stop to catch the metro back to your origin. Downhill both ways!
posted by Hankins at 1:18 AM on January 11, 2006 [3 favorites]

Just to add a bit to the excellent advice you've already gotten:

If you haven't been to DC in many years, you should know that it is MUCH safer than it was in the late 80s and early 90s (when I was growing up there.) Neighborhoods which once were taken over by drug dealers are now being taken over by young lawyers. In any case, the area around the zoo has always been very safe (and very pleasant), and it still is, as far as I know. Your greatest danger will be getting woken up early in the morning by the sound of shrieking monkeys.

While you're there, if you want a great view of the city, you won't be too far from the Washington National Cathedral. Not many people realize that the top of the Cathedral is the highest point in DC--even higher than the Washington Monument. (There's a rule that no building may be higher than the Washington Monument, but it refers to height about the ground the building is built on. The Cathedral is on top of a hill, so it ends up looking down on the Washington Monument.)
posted by yankeefog at 2:14 AM on January 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oops--that's "height above the ground".
posted by yankeefog at 2:14 AM on January 11, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, excellent suggestions! Hopefully it will be slow at work so I can get the hotel settled today. I love the look of Adam's and the Tabard, but the call of cheap on Priceline is awfully tempting too.

To follow up on Hankins' post, they are still limiting access to Tai Shan via tickets. Ours are for 11:20 - 11:30, which was a perfect time of day when I got them, but now seems to have turned into naptime. Still worth the drive, though - nobody naps cuter than Butterstick. (And yes, I am addicted to the Panda Cam - I think I'm looking forward to the trip more than the kids.)
posted by SashaPT at 3:41 AM on January 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Fortunately, this query is on topic -- does anyone know about the Hotel Harrington? I'm staying there next while attending this symposium. $115 a night for two double beds -- anyone have the 411?

Warning: Hotel link plays "Hail to the Chief" while opening.
posted by Miko at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2006

Miko, I found some reviews online. My general impression of the place is that it's a somewhat seedy dive, but not, you know, scary. And the location is great!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2006

Oh, and Miko, lemme know if you want to have lunch--you'll be in my building!
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2006

Miko, I work in a building right across from the Harrington. I have never stayed in the hotel myself, but I know the bar downstairs (Harry's) has pretty good food on the cheap -- try their baby burger (if you want a normal sized burger, that is, make sure you get the "baby" -- otherwise you will have about 4 pounds of meat in front of you), and make sure you get it well done. I used to be able to see a little inside the rooms when my office faced that side of the building, and I was not tempted often because frankly they were not much to look at. But the area that the hotel is in is very, VERY safe -- right across from a Barnes and Noble and lots of good restaurants plus a great little E Street Theatre which gets great independent films, as well as a few blocks away from Warner Theatre.

In short, I think what you're getting there is location, location, location. But again, I haven't stayed there, so I could be wrong. The location is pretty good, though. The only negative about the location might be that there ARE a whole bunch of buildings with attorneys in them that surrounds it, so that the area might not have the same fun nightlife as something like DuPont Circle. But there is still considerable foot traffic brought in by the theatre and restaurants, so this isn't really a big deal.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:24 PM on January 13, 2006

MrMoonPie, OnlyConnect: Thanks for the input and link to reviews. I'll come back and post how it was. I actually kind of like raffish budget hotels, so maybe this'll be a good one. Glad to hear the location is as happening as it appeared.
posted by Miko at 10:12 AM on January 16, 2006

Miko: Glad to help! Please do report back!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:02 AM on January 17, 2006

For posterity and future searchers, here's the scoop on the Hotel Harrington.

The location can't be beat, as onlyconnect says. The neighborhood is lively, safe, and close to transportation. The hotel itself is a classic budget traveler's hotel. Sure, it needs new carpeting, and the halls could use a coat of paint. But if that sort of thing is important to you, you can have it, in the same neighborhood, for twice the price. The hotel staff was incredibly helpful and friendly; they held baggage for us, they offer a great deal on parking, and there's free internet. Our room was small and un-fancy but very clean; the linens had a wonderful fresh-laundry scent. The street noise wasn't too bad at all; and certainly it would be the same anywhere else nearby. The other guests were cool: lots of Europeans, some American hipsters. There's a fun little bar downstairs.

We walked a couple of blocks each day to have breakfast at the Old Post Office building, where the NEH is now headquartered. My colleague's mom used to work there, so he knew that the employees' food court was open at 8. You do have to go through security, but it's really quick, and there are good choices inside. An incredibly cheerful and efficient Asian woman runs a great egg-sandwich-and-bagel operation there. There was also a pastry vendor whose stuff looked great. You can eat in the nice atrium in the building's central light well. It's gorgeous; nice way to start the day with a little local flavor, watching the staff filter in and go about the People's Business, rather than settling for Starbucks or Au Bon Pain.

We had two evening meals at the nearby Capitol City Brew pub -- maybe 4 blocks down 11th street. Their beer was suprisingly excellent; truly great brews. The food was inexpensive and also quite good for pub grub. There's a happy hour from 4-6 or so, with half price beers and appetizers. Food is served until 11.

So, all in all, Harrington gets a thumbs-up if you're a cheap non-profit salt miner like us. Great value for the price.
posted by Miko at 8:20 AM on January 22, 2006

Hey, it's great to see that you enjoyed the Harrington! I've had lunch in the Old Post Office before; there are some pretty good options there now, and also a really great view of downtown if you go up the elevator to the viewing area. Glad you enjoyed your visit to our fair city!
posted by onlyconnect at 9:16 AM on January 23, 2006

Response by poster: We're back and we had a GREAT time. Tai Shan is adorable and it was absolutely worth the 400 mile drive. We ended up at the Days Inn Connecticut Ave., which was a bit of a disappointment. We probably won't stay there again (turns out I am rather fussy about cleanliness, maintenance and smells!), but that didn't dampen our spirits. General location was great. Excellent weather, and so much to see and do. Thanks to everyone for the advice. Here is a picture of the pandaboy and his mom for your enjoyment:

posted by SashaPT at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2006

Response by poster: Gah, sorry for the bad link; unfortunately I know just enough about this stuff to be dangerous but not enough to actually do it right.
posted by SashaPT at 3:15 PM on January 23, 2006

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