- Sleepy, slightly gritty location
- No on-site restaurant or bar
- Not many dining or drinking options nearby
- Pricey valet-only parking (typical for D.C.)
An unexciting but good-value business-oriented chain hotel near D.C.'s Washington Convention Center
"Friendly service, clean rooms, comfortable surroundings, every time." That's the Hampton's motto -- modest, sure, but it makes sense for a value-focused chain. And the Hampton takes it a step further: "If you're not satisfied, we don't expect you to pay." The 100 percent guarantee, they call it.
I can't say I was 100 percent satisfied -- there was no place to grab food on-site for lunch or dinner, the AC unit in my room was noisy, and we paid more than you'd expect a Hampton Inn to cost ($250 a night, before taxes, midweek in early November). But the hotel certainly delivers on the above promises. The front desk staffers checked me in and out with smiles on their faces. My room was clean and still in excellent shape even though the hotel hadn't been renovated since it opened in 2005 (rooms did receive new carpeting in 2011). And while some people may not find the surrounding area entirely comfortable (see Location, below), you can't fault the Hampton folks -- by locking the front door at night and keeping a bellman on call 24 hours, they do their part. Overall, I had a perfectly pleasant stay. Let's call it 89 percent satisfied.
Occupying 228 rooms of a nondescript building in an up-and-coming but still nondescript neighborhood, the Hampton follows through on both its goals as Hilton's business-oriented, budget-minded brand. The amenities are utilitarian and free: complimentary continental breakfast; coffee and tea in the lobby 24 hours a day; copies of USA Today at your door in the morning and in the lobby; free Internet. By the time I checked out, the only item on my bill was the room itself. A refreshing departure, I have to say, from the usual rash of tack-ons. The rooms, meanwhile, are indeed clean and comfortable -- spacious enough, with comfy beds and decent water pressure in the shower. As bonuses, you also get a 32-inch flat-screen, coffee machine and coffee, and a microwave and mini-fridge.
A number of guidebooks and websites rate the Hampton Inn as one of the best values in Washington. I wouldn't go that far, simply because of its location. But if you're in town to do business at the Washington Convention Center, it's a perfectly viable option. There are only three other hotels in the neighborhood, and two of them (the Renaissance and Embassy Suites), while solid picks, are usually quite a bit pricier. The third, the Four Points Sheraton, is superior to the Hampton, but it too is usually more expensive. If you can find a room there for the same price or lower, go for that instead.
A quiet, slightly gritty section of Penn Quarter, two blocks from the Washington Convention Center
The part of Penn Quarter near the Washington Convention Center is one of many gentrifying neighborhoods in the capital. The area immediately surrounding the hotel is still up and coming, but don't be too put off by the pictures I took -- it was a gloomy day; besides, if you walk a few blocks south, you hit Chinatown and the Verizon Center, where a lot more goes on (restaurants, bars, etc.). Actually, staying south of the Hampton is a good rule of thumb in general: The International Spy Museum and Museum of Crime & Punishment are also not far in that direction, and if you keep heading south, you'll quickly hit the National Mall. The exception to the rule is one block west, Busboys and Poets, a hip all-in-one cafe/restaurant/bar/book store. I highly recommend it any time of day.
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