Washington DC with my 10 year old grandson..which neighborhood to sleep?
October 28, 2021 11:57 AM   Subscribe

I'm taking my 10 year old grandson to Washington DC next spring/early summer for a week-long visit. We want to be able to walk to museums and be in a nice area close to public transportation. Which neighborhood would you recommend? Looking for hotel, not AirBnB or vrbo.
posted by lois1950 to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I quite like the area between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle. DC has several old-school hotels with the elegance of a bygone age in the area, as well as numerous restaurants. I am partial to the Mayflower for sentimental reasons. Farraguut Square has excellent metro connections, which is nicer than the buses that sit in traffic. D.C. in general is very walkable, especially if you're not there in the heat of summer. My only real caveat is that the character of a neighborhood can change in a single block, so check the specific location. Like, grand hotels to open-air prostitution in two blocks.
posted by wnissen at 12:31 PM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

There's going to be a tradeoff between how nice the area right around the hotel is and how close you are to the major museums on the Mall. For example, the JW Marriott is a few blocks west of the White House and a few blocks north of the Mall, but the area right around it is pretty dead outside of business hours, especially these days. If you go further north, around Dupont Circle like wnissen suggests, it will be more pleasant and interesting to walk around, but it will be a longer walk to most of the museums, but easy to jump on the Metro or take a bus. For example, the Mayflower is a short walk from Dupont Circle and 1-2 miles to the museums. For more detail on neighborhoods, see this guide.

A short plug while you're here: Washington is not just museums, monuments, U.S. history, and politics. It's also a city of 700,000 people with our own local history and culture. (Some people describe the first as "Washington" and the latter as "DC.") For more information on DC, see Cultural Tourism DC, and perhaps choose one of their Neighborhood Heritage Trails, self-guided walks that "provide a glimpse into the rich diversity of DC's neighborhoods, past and present."

Have a great trip!
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:43 PM on October 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

I have stayed in a hotel in Dupont Circle and walked to the Mall, Capitol Hill, and Pennsylvania Avenue all on the same day. It's not terribly far. Also, if you're a geography nerd like me, there are a lot of embassies in the Dupont Circle area, and it's fun to walk around and see what you can see there.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2021

The Thomas Circle area (Westin, Washington Plaza Hotel, Residence Inn, etc.). is a good blend of being walkable to the downtown attractions while also not being in the dead part of downtown. IT's an easy walk to 14th street for restaurants and such, and there are more things opening in that vicinity regularly (for example, Rose Ave Bakery is a great new-ish spot). Plus, every metro line.
posted by mosst at 1:15 PM on October 28, 2021

We stayed at the Washington Plaza Hotel a few months ago and it was great -- we were able to walk everywhere and never needed to take public transportation, but it was close by if needed. There is a daily parking charge if you have a car, just an FYI, but I imagine that's standard for the area.

Oh also -- since your visit is in the spring/summer, they have a great outdoor pool!
posted by jabes at 1:19 PM on October 28, 2021

The area just south of Union Station has several good hotels and is very close to the Mall (where most of the museums are), but also the Eastern Market area of Capitol Hill (in the other direction) which is great for restaurants and lovely walking around (I used to live in the neighborhood and out of town guests loved the proximity to both).

The other area I'd recommend is Dupont Circle, east to Logan Circle. Very nice neighborhoods, lots of good hotels, an easy bus/metro ride (or long but manageable walk) down to the White House and then the Mall.

I recommend Kimpton Hotels for quirkiness (DC has quite a few) and great in-house restaurants, but a few of the bigger hotels in both areas also have indoor pools, so it depends on whether or not this 10-year-old is more into whimsy or swimming.

One other thing: DC hotel rates get really high in the late spring/early summer, speaking as someone who also used to travel there for work. So I'd make a (free) reservation now, but if you're not enthused about the place or the price, do Hotwire a week or so out. Restrict your search to the areas you've identified from this question and only hotels with, say, 4 stars or higher. I often got really great deals on very nice hotels in DC this way, and I think it's because so much of the business travel to DC is based on politics, so plans change a lot.
posted by lunasol at 2:00 PM on October 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

Nthing the Dupont Circle area. My firm has an office a few blocks south on New Hampshire and I've stayed at many different hotels in the area over the years. It's a nice neighborhood, a doable walk downtown if you're a walker or you can catch the Metro at Dupont Circle which will get you downtown in just a few stops (or back if you are tired after a long day of walking). Lots of people out and about well into the evening and some great restaurants (District Taco!).
posted by Preserver at 3:35 PM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I want to gently suggest that if you have the slightest hesitation walking extended distances between attractions you might want to also consider integrating public transportation options or Uber/Lyft/taxi into your calibrations. I also had the idea of walking between the historic and artistic attractions along the Mall, but the distances are formidable, easily multiple city blocks, when on the map they are right next door. Worth the journey, but the attractions seem placed for architectural impact rather than easy accessibility by pedestrians. We also ended up paring down the number of places we visited each day because of the distance and hassle traveling between attractions.
posted by citygirl at 6:28 PM on October 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Nthing that the Dupont Circle area is nice; however it is not what I would describe as walking distance to museums (other than the Phillips Collection). It's around 2 miles to the Smithsonian Mall, which I would think of as pushing the walking limits of 10 year olds, particularly after already being on one's feet all day at museums. If your primary interest is the Smithsonian museums, I'd consider something a few blocks from them like this Holiday Inn. Being able to go from the hustle and bustle of the big museums to a private space without having to deal with a metro or cab/Uber to recharge for a little bit can be really nice and makes doing a morning and afternoon trip to museums much more doable. In my experience, most people have really ambitious plans for what they want to do at the museums in a single day but after about three hours they want a break.

The Union Station area a few people have mentioned is also worth considering - it's a little further out but has more going on at night. Union Market has a big spread of food if the two of you

It's worth considering splitting the week between two hotels. Concentrate on the Smithsonian area part of the time and then head someplace like Dupont Circle (which also gets you fairly close to the zoo).
posted by Candleman at 6:51 PM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

When you say you want to be able to walk to museums, I assume you mean Smithsonians (though there are non-Smithsonian museums that are great!). The challenge is that the Smithsonians are on the Mall which is not a great place to stay. I like the suggestions re: Thomas Circle and DuPont because you could have breakfast/dinner around there and metro or Uber to the museums during the day. If you want to be closer to museums, perhaps the Marriott at Metro Center would be a good option (the trade off is that DuPont is much more if a neighborhood than Metro Center). Have fun!
posted by kat518 at 7:17 PM on October 28, 2021

My partner lives in Penn Quarter (Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro) and it's got a great view as well as close proximity to museums, restaurants, and entertainment. It doesn't have a "neighborhoody" feel like a lot of other places but it's a favorite of mine. There are lots of great places all over the city so you really can't go wrong with wherever you end up! There has been more violence lately than in recent years but the city is overall much safer (less gun violence/homicides) than it was even 5-10 years ago so do keep that in mind as you read reviews! I would recommend avoiding the U Street corridor because it's gotten so gentrified yet lacking in "culture" that it's just kind of gross (to me at least.)
posted by smorgasbord at 7:32 PM on October 28, 2021

Alternatively, you might want to consider staying in Old Town Alexandria, VA by King St. There are many hotels walking distance or a short free shuttle to the King St. Metro station, where you can pick up the subway into the city. I always find Alexandria to be more family-friendly than the city. Walking around Old Town is like walking around a whole museum town. You didn't say if you will have a car or not, but there are some hotels on the outskirts of Old Town that have free parking. I just think Alexandria is more interesting than the Mall and museum area, when you are not at the museums and monuments.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 8:28 PM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I second DEiBnL13's suggestion of Old Town Alexandria. I was just coming back to suggest it and they already did! Plus, it's super close to DCA so easy for flying in and out.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:35 PM on October 28, 2021

I think it's best to stay close to the Mall, such as the Holiday Inn linked above.

I used to live quite close to it in Southwest DC, and it's a perfectly nice hotel. Out of town visitors would stay there and liked it. I believe there is also a Residence Inn nearby.

You won't walk out your door and find a cute quirky neighborhood, but you will be very, very close to the Mall and the Smithsonian museums. You'll be able to strap on your sneakers and go instead of futzing with Metro.

More importantly, it gives you a convenient home base, so if either of you get footsore, cranky or overstimulated, you can easily get back to the hotel for a rest.

I'm not sure if you've done the whole DC Smithsonian shebang before, but it can be crowded, full of shouting middle school field trippers, busy, a ton of walking, and just a LOT.

DC has great public transportation, but it may be crowded, and Metro can be slow due to service cutbacks. Friends who still live in the area are waiting up to 30 minutes for a train.

And if you do stay close to the Mall, you're a close walk to Southwest. There's a waterfront area that's been recently revitalized, complete with restaurants and a seafood market.

You can hop a ride share to any of the cool neighborhoods and see historic architecture.

But speaking as someone who spent much of my adult life in an apartment a short walk from the Mall, shepherding out of town visitors around the various museums and monuments: when you and your grandson hit a wall of being footsore and grumpy, you will want to get back to your hotel quickly and put your feet up.

Stay as close to the Mall as you can manage, and save the cute neighborhoods for outings.
posted by champers at 4:11 AM on October 29, 2021 [3 favorites]

I also recommend the Holiday Inn or another hotel near the Mall. We stayed at this Marriott Residence Inn just a few blocks north of the White House and found it okay - it had a kitchen in the room which was a lifesaver for saving some money on food. We were visiting with an eight year old over the Christmas break during a deep freeze, so walking more than a few blocks was out of the question (the flip side was that all of the museums and government buildings were deserted, there was us and one other family in our Capitol tour group, it was great!) You're definitely going to want to take breaks throughout the day and being able to walk back to your hotel or take an inexpensive Uber is a great feature.

Have fun! Enjoy the Smithsonian.
posted by fortitude25 at 4:36 AM on October 29, 2021 [2 favorites]

The other day I went to an event at Eaton and it was awesome. Too expensive for me to stay in but maybe it's in your range! A cool place to visit if you're nearby too.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:49 PM on October 30, 2021

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