It’s been over 20 years since I last saw Washington D.C. awash in cherry blossoms. Even with a cold spell delaying the full bloom of blossoms throughout the city, festivities for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival were in full force everywhere during our recent family trip to D.C. I was amazed to see how much the city has changed in the last twenty years: neighborhoods that were nasty have turned hip, building construction at what seemed like every corner, and there was a refreshing abundance of new and seriously good restaurants (something DC was lacking sorely when I was there during college) that could rival those in Manhattan. I guess it was just a matter of time but it was sad to see the strip of Georgetown, once a regular hangout, succumb to such franchise commercialization.
I have always wanted to return and introduce the city that I have lived in and had grown so fond of to my two daughters. Our girls were more excited for their first train ride and I have to say it didn’t disappoint. For them, the journey from Penn Station to Union Station was almost as fun as trip itself.
Winning an auction package at the Jefferson Hotel for three nights at a school benefit was the impetus for our trip although it was not by sheer coincidence that we won (no one was outbidding me!). I had been looking for a reason to check out the Jefferson ever since the hotel completed its two year renovation in 2009.
I really, really liked The Jefferson.
First impressions do count. Walking into the Jefferson, I instantly knew this was my kind of hotel. The 99-room boutique hotel has a stunning arched skylight in the lobby that is original to the 1923 building. The “traditional/federal meets beaux-arts” style interiors in earthy colors throughout the public spaces immediately appealed to me (I am so so tired of these minimalist renovations I have been seeing lately). Befitting its name, the Jefferson pays homage to our 3rd president throughout the hotel (and in the guest rooms) with antiques, period artwork and framed historical documents creating history all around us. Every detail seemed so well thought out. The vibe? Elegant but not stuffy. Sophisticated but not too formal. Discreet but welcoming.
Our children were won over immediately when the concierge wheeled over a Red Flyer welcome wagon full of stuffed animals to choose from at check-in. Then came the personalized pop tarts in toy toasters in our suite to seal the deal.
We had the opportunity to stay in the Deluxe Suite the first night before moving to connecting rooms. Both were very spacious, tastefully appointed with incredibly comfortable beds. It was the thoughtful unique touches we appreciated the most such as in-house purified waters in the rooms (bottled on site – no tacky plastic water bottles), a hidden TV in the bathroom mirror, deep-soaking tubs, interesting books and magazines throughout to read, as well as iPod stations and Nespresso machines. Note: There is even a pet butler for guests with dogs (alas, our 100 pound dog didn’t quite make the weight size restriction).
There are plenty of wonderful dining options at the hotel. A wonderful breakfast is served at the 4-star Plume restaurant. For tea, you can choose the cozy book room with its fireplace or at Quills. Quills, which also serves dinner, is an appealing dark and sultry sort of space that has quite the bar scene late night (supposably its a favorite haunt of Prez Obama).
The location of the Jefferson is pretty central – only a few blocks from the White House and Foggy Bottom/GWU (my Alma Mater) and right next to the National Geographic Museum, which is a great place to spend an hour with the kids checking out the current exhibits (our daughters loved the Birds of Paradise and Real Pirates exhibits) without dealing with crazy crowds.
This will definitely be our home away from home for all our returning trips to the nation’s Capital.
Rooms to get:
- We particularly loved the Deluxe Suite (there are 20 suites in the hotel) which has its own foyer with desk separating a king bedroom and a library with pull-out couch.
- There are only one or two connecting rooms so book ahead to get one. The rooms are very spacious and can easily accommodate four children in one of the rooms.
- If you want to splurge, go for the $4,800 a night, 1,900 square feet Jefferson Suite with views from 5 terraces of the Monument and the White house.
- There is way too much to see and do if you are just in D.C. for the weekend so don’t try and cram everything in. We found one museum a day
more than enough before the kids got tired from over-stimulation.
- If you are taking the train with the kids in tow, find a porter and give them a little tip and let them take your bags to train before anyone else boards it. It’s a great way to skip the long lines and make sure you can get seated together.
- Contact Uber (yes they are in D.C.!) when you arrive at Union Station to avoid the inevitable long taxi lines.
- One of the best decisions we made – at the advice of the concierge – was getting a driver for two hours (about $95 an hour). In a short time, we saw the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, toured Georgetown University (its never too early!) and saw other highlights our our driver recommended such as the Einstein statue. Our driver even accommodated our kids current cupcake obsession and took us to his favorite cupcake spot .
- The “To Fly” movie at Air & Space Museum. Despite what the Frommers D.C. Guide said, it felt very outdated and the kids were bored. I mean it was the same exact film I saw when I was 8!
- Georgetown Cupcake – unless you want to wait in a 45-minute line and head to Red Velvet or Sprinkles. I mean they are just cupcakes!
What we Loved:
- Brunch at Sequoia on the Washington Harbour and Potomac River with direct views of the Performing Arts Center and Watergate. The setting doesn’t get any prettier and the buffet is actually really good (including a candy bar and donut station for the kids) – I promise!
- Hitting some of the old restaurant haunts that are still standing such as J.Pauls, Clydes and Afterwords/Kramers Books. All are great stops for kids but the food is nothing to write home about. There are so many exciting new restaurants, like Jaleo, that I wanted to try but this just wasn’t the trip for that.
- The smaller, specialized museums without the waits and crowds. The International Spy museum was a hit for the whole family and kept us entertained for a few hours. Considering we just were at the Goldeneye Resort, the current James Bond exhibit was very cool. The spy museum gift shop has tons of great gadgets and spy stuff . Note: Shake Shack is opening up next door soon. Newseum was also amazing for everyone – while some sections a bit too sensitive or advanced for 6 year olds there are plenty of interactive programs and activities to keep them riveted. I could go back to either of these museums without the kids and easily spend half a day.
Jefferson Hotel images are courtesy of the Jefferson Hotel and copyright protected.
The Jefferson Hotel, Washington DC
1200 16th Street NW,
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