With so many of Washington, D.C.’s attractions being free, most of the expense of a D.C. vacation ends up being lodging. That might give the average family more room in the budget for a nice hotel. With over a hundred hotels to choose from, I was ever so overwhelmed with all the options. I spent hours reading guidebooks, online reviews, and travel forums, trying to decide where to stay. I concluded that highly rated hotels that are perfect for business travelers might not be the best option for a family on vacation. Since this is a website devoted to traveling with kids, I’m going to share the results of my research and personal experience and give parents some tips for narrowing down the many options.
1. Location, Location, Location
It’s all about the location, but I need to be more clear about that. You’ll read comments such as “two blocks from the White House”. Don’t be concerned with being close to a single attraction. What you want is to be close to the Metro. Not only will that get you where you want to go faster in the morning, it will mean that you are that much closer to your hotel room at the end of the day when everyone is getting tired and cranky.
You didn’t pick Washington, D.C. as your vacation destination because you wanted to sleep in and relax. You picked it because of the attractions, many of which require you to get up early. Our Library of Congress tour started at 8:30 a.m. and our White House tour was even earlier, at 7:30 a.m. If you want to tour the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (Money Factory), you’ll want to get in line early to get tickets. My family, who is accustomed to eating in the car occasionally to save time, quickly discovered that eating on the Metro is prohibited. For those reasons, it is ideal to have a hotel that offers a quick breakfast buffet. You want to be able to eat and run in a timely fashion every morning.
3. Swimming Pool
Again, you picked Washington, D.C. as your vacation destination for its unique attractions, which don’t include amusement park thrill rides or the beach. But kids are kids: they need to burn off energy and there’s only so much culture they can handle before they just need to play. A swimming pool in your hotel is an ideal way to balance D.C.’s culture and history with the need for kids to have some unstructured recreational time. Many of the museums and government buildings close by 5:30 p.m. After dinner, kids can spend the evening splashing in the pool while parents soak their aching feet in the hot tub.
Extra consideration for large families – Enough Beds
Families with two children don’t usually have a problem with this. Most hotels have rooms with two double or queen beds. It gets trickier with families of three or more kids. When my three kids were very young, we would put them all sideways in a double bed. Now that they are older, that doesn’t work any more. My 14-year-old is now taller than me and can’t share a bed with his 10 and 12-year-old sisters. Many hotel rooms can’t fit a roll-away bed. My kids’ primary criteria for a “nice hotel” has become that everyone gets to sleep in a bed. All the luxurious amenities in the world don’t matter to them if they have to sleep in a chair.
There are probably several hotels in Washington, D.C. that meet these criteria, especially if you have only one or two children. The one that we ended up picking was the Embassy Suites – Chevy Chase Pavilion. It is located at the Friendship Heights stop on the Red Metro Line–you don’t even need to go outside to get to the Metro. At the end of the day, that was really nice. My kids love breakfast foods and they quickly fell in love with the cook-to-order breakfast that Embassy Suites is known for. The staff members at were very friendly and helpful. By the end of the week, when the breakfast cook saw my daughter coming, he’d start making her cheese omelet before she even ordered it. We used the swimming pool and hot tub several times. While it wasn’t the biggest hotel pool we’ve been in, it wasn’t the smallest either, and my kids had fun swimming in it. And of course, we appreciated the extra room that a suite provided. It was nice to have a couch in the living area that turned into an extra bed at night.
In addition to meeting the criteria we had set for our Washington, D.C. vacation, there were other features we really liked about this hotel. There was a CVS drug store in the building which proved to come in handy a couple of times. We also really enjoyed the free manager’s reception each evening. The bartenders happily made Shirley Temples for the kids while my husband and I indulged in an adult beverage or two. A selection of four snacks was offered each evening: Goldfish crackers, the house snack mix, some kind of chip and dip (such as tortilla chips and salsa, or pita chips and hummus), and one other snack (such as pretzels). Board games and decks of cards were available and we found this a very relaxing way to start the evening. The refrigerator and microwave in the room meant that we could bring leftovers back to the hotel from a restaurant and reheat them the next evening for a dinner in. Several restaurants were located nearby, including a Cheesecake Factory right in the building. My 10-year-old, cheesecake-loving daughter recommends a visit, “Because everyone needs some cheesecake once in a while.” And if you don’t want to dine there, you can easily pop in to pick up some cheesecake to take back to your room. We were very pleased with our hotel choice and would definitely stay there again.
We received a discounted rate for our stay at the Embassy Suites Chevy Chase Pavilion, but there was no expectation of a favorable review. My statements here are my honest opinion.
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