Everyone wants to be close to clients for quick travel across downtown DC, but I've been trending toward a few hotels - both downtown and on the edges - that stand out for personalized service, often offer more spacious rooms, are usually quieter and still afford easy access to anywhere in the nation's capital. Here's why I recommend The River Inn, Sofitel at Lafayette Square and Ritz Carlton Pentagon City:
The River Inn, 924 25th Street NW in Foggy Bottom: Situated in the heavily residential West End within walking distance of Georgetown, the State Department, George Washington University and the monuments of the Washington Mall, this all-suite boutique hotel is tucked away along a (literally) tree-lined street.
I choose The River Inn for its Potomac One Bedroom King Suites (located at the rear of each floor), with vistas of Georgetown, the Watergate and the Potomac River, yet cost substantially less than comparable hotel space in other DC neighborhoods. With a Metro (subway) stop a block away and a short cab ride to the White House and federal buildings, this relatively small property has a regular following among business travelers and overseas tourists, so it can be difficult to book on short notice. After a busy day of work, there is nothing like setting off on foot for restaurants along Pennsylvania Avenue or up toward DuPont Circle - or simply staying in.
You can put in a shopping order in the morning for nearby Trader Joe's and take advantage of the kitchen and dining room for a relaxed business meeting over dinner. The hotel's restaurant and room service aren't bad either.
Sofitel at Lafayette Square is another smartly priced upscale property on 15th and H Streets, a block from the White House and Treasury Department, a few blocks from the K Street lobbyists corridor and not much farther in the other direction from the Washington Mall (monuments and museums). There are enough French greetings dropped by the staff of the French-based international brand, known for its "art de vivre" and luxurious hospitality, that you feel a touch European in the heart of the nation's capital. While the rooms can feel a bit small, some of the marble baths are amazingly large. This is a business travelers choice for a great location close to the Metro and the main road arteries crossing DC in the grid-diagonal design of Pierre L'Enfant, the French-born architect and engineer who used Paris' layout as a guide. Staying there just after the Paris Attacks in November, we were especially aware that the world is very small.
Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, just across the Potomac River in Arlington, Virginia, is a 15- to 30-minute cab ride across the 14th Street Bridge (depending on the hour of day). Even though there are two other Ritz-Carlton's in DC, this is a favored option to leave the rat race for a more leisurely after-hours pace, while not going so far as to become relentlessly ensnarled in the capital's terrible traffic. The night views of the Pentagon's soaring and inspiring 9/11 Memorial and the entire DC skyline (including the Capitol dome and Washington National Cathedral) are breathtaking. National Airport is 5 minutes away and Dulles a 30-minute ride (outside the worst of rush hour). The Pentagon City Mall, a bit tired and touristy for my money, nevertheless offers many retail options - as well as a Metrorail stop.
It takes a little searching to find a comfortable "home away from home" for the Womantraveler, and the good news is that there are several ideal options, with affordable luxury and service, for return visits.