Hotel Helix Rating: 3.0 Pearls
Downtown, Washington, D.C., United States

Oyster Review Summary

Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators

Pros

  • Extremely spacious standard rooms with unusual mod furnishings
  • Free wine and champagne reception for guests every day in lobby, lounge, and patio area
  • Free in-room Wi-Fi (uncommon in D.C.)
  • 12 specialty guest rooms including Bunk (with bunk beds), Eats (with kitchenettes), Flex (with exercise alcoves), and Zone (with entertainment center alcoves)

Cons

  • Room service not 24 hours
  • Helix Lounge open only for breakfast buffet and light dinners
  • Nearest Metro station, the Dupont Circle stop on the Red Line, is a 15- to 20-minute walk
  • No pool or spa, but in-room spa treatments available
  • Overnight valet parking is pricey, daily parking is more reasonable

Bottom Line

An eccentric, reasonably priced, 178-room Kimpton hotel (a chain with seven D.C. properties), Hotel Helix opened in 2002 on a once-sketchy but now pretty block of Rhode Island Avenue in the Dupont Circle vicinity. It has was revamped in 2009 with extra-large guest rooms, free Wi-Fi, modish decor, and a relaxed mood, but the nearest Metro station is a 15- to 20-minute walk.

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Oyster Hotel Review

 Scene

Hip and high spirited -- without taking itself too seriously

The lobby
The lobby

This free-spirited 178-room hotel owned by Kimpton, a national boutique group with seven hotels in D.C., opened in 2002, and most of the property has been kept well since a $1.3 million renovation in 2009. From start to finish, the tone here is all about fun. When you call to make a reservation, a recorded Austin-Powers-like voice (with accompanying movie music) enthusiastically greets you with a rousing "Yeah, Baby!" and walks you through the automated system. Neon lights and patent-leather furniture in the Helix Lounge channel the Jetsons. Throughout the lobby, elevators, and Helix Lounge, '80s music blares continuously. And the Helix takes its Hollywood-esque "15 minutes of fame" theme seriously: Framed photos of film and music stars line the hallways, while meeting rooms are dubbed Casting Rooms A and B.

The hotel's vivid pop-art ambiance, large Deluxe King standard rooms (averaging a pretty typical 350 square feet), free in-room Wi-Fi, and free nightly happy hour attract all kinds of travelers. Like most Kimpton hotels, the Helix is super kid- and pet-friendly, and offers amenities for both two- and four-legged guests.

Arguments against? The postage-stamp-size fitness center is a bit of a joke. The Helix Lounge doesn't serve lunch or full dinners, and room service isn't 24 hours. And the hotel is a trek from the nearest Metro station. Comparable in price, the Carlyle Suites Hotel is much closer to Dupont Circle (three and a half blocks to the Metro) and its rooms are similar in size, if not larger; but it lacks the Helix's endearingly idiosyncratic personality. Still, both are a significant value for the area. And the trendy Dupont Hotel (formerly the Jurys Hotel), with beautiful guest rooms, great food, and free business center, is directly in the midst of Dupont Circle's action, but costs quite a bit more per night. So the Helix's fun-loving atmosphere, commodious rooms, and fair rates, plus its residential locale a 15- to 20-minute walk from Dupont Circle make it a solid choice for most travelers -- particularly those who prefer cabbing it to hoofing it around town.

 Service

Competent and courteous

The front desk
The front desk

As befits this unfussy boutique hotel, lobby employees dress casually and act informally, but gladly help with luggage, taxis, and baggage storage. Hotel Helix claims to have a concierge, but front desk clerks actually handle that task. The free and convivial happy hour is a welcome post-check-in treat (all you can drink wine and champagne in 60 minutes), but that's one of the only times service here goes beyond the usual.

  • A staffer pours free wine and champagne during a nightly happy hour for guests in the lobby, lounge, and on patio.
  • Room service not 24 hours
  • Free printout of flight or train boarding pass and delivery from front desk
  • Staff will deliver tote bag with yoga mat, strap, and block to guest room upon request.
  • Front desk clerks double as concierges.

 Location

Bring your walking shoes -- it's a hike to Dupont Circle

Hotel Helix claims to be in Dupont Circle, but it's actually on the neighborhood's fringe -- on a leafy, residential block a 15- to 20-minute walk to the Dupont Circle Metro stop on the Red Line. In fact, the Helix is much closer to Logan Circle, Scott Circle, and the strip of restaurants, pubs, and shops on P Street between Logan Circle and 15th Street, a formerly down-and-out area now populated by restored apartment buildings, a Whole Foods supermarket, and hybrid cars.

The diverse Dupont Circle neighborhood, named in honor of American naval officer Samuel Francis Dupont, is a longtime spirited gathering spot for progressive, socially minded types; coffeehouses, bars, restaurants, and upscale retail shops abound. It's the place to head for a vegan dessert, a gay bar, or to buy fresh produce on Sundays at the farmers' market. Centrally located with numerous options for nightlife (and frequent crowds), Dupont Circle is ideal for travelers who want to get out of "old downtown" and stay in a neighborhood where locals actually live. It's also the historic center of the city's gay community and home to Embassy Row.

  • Dupont Circle Metro station on the Red Line is a 15- to 20-minute walk, but offers direct access to downtown, The Mall, Smithsonian Museums, and the National Zoo.
  • Hotel is steps away from the short but convenient strip of restaurants, pubs, and shops of P Street between Logan Circle and 15th Street.
  • Hotels can call or hail cabs anytime; taxis are easy to come by on weekend evenings.
  • 1.2 miles to the White House; five minutes by cab or a 20- to 25-minute walk
  • 2.4 miles to the U.S. Capitol; 10 minutes by cab
  • 5.5 miles to Reagan National Airport; about 20 minutes by cab in traffic
  • 30 miles to Dulles International Airport; up to 70 minutes by cab in traffic
  • Union Station, D.C.'s main train station served by Amtrak, MARC commuter rail, and the Metro subway and bus system, is five Metro stops away on the Red Line from Dupont Circle ($18 to $30 by taxi).

 Rooms

340 square feet of colorful whimsy -- appealingly spacious, but not sumptuous

King Deluxe room
King Deluxe room

A $1.3 million rehabbing in 2009 is apparent in the comfortably large and well-laid-out rooms: vibrant colors, eclectic furniture, faux pop art, sheer curtains around the bed area, flat-screen TVs, and free Wi-Fi. Incongruously, most in-room electronics seem stuck in the past (much like the piped-in lobby music) thanks to the Panasonic five-CD disc changer, Panasonic radio/alarm clock, and Sony cordless phone. And there were a few more problematic issues: My bed wasn't particularly comfortable; I could hear guests talking in other rooms; the Weather Channel was frozen on the TV; and the free yoga TV channel kept replaying the same short savasana segment -- over and over and over. (On the other hand, the front desk will deliver a tote bag with a yoga mat, strap, and block, and there's almost enough space in the room for three yogis to practice simultaneously.) Much closer to Dupont Circle, guest rooms at the Carlyle Suites Hotel rival those at the Hotel Helix in terms of size, but not attitude.

 Features

Lacks a spa, a serious restaurant, and a well-equipped fitness center

Small fitness center
Small fitness center

There's no way around it: Hotel Helix doesn't proffer nearly as many cool amenities as Hotel Palomar, its less expensive sister hotel in Dupont Circle (with a pool, real restaurant, and great fitness center), or the pricier Downtown W Hotel (with Bliss Spa, a top-notch gym, and several chichi restaurants and bars).

  • Outdoor patio off Helix Lounge with tables, chairs, lounge areas, and heat lamps
  • No on-site spa, but hotel arranges in-room treatments from local spa Relax & Rejuvenate
  • Tiny, lobby-level fitness center with just one treadmill, two elliptical machines, a stationary bike, and two sets of free weights, but open 24 hours with room key access
  • Small, lobby-level business center with two desktop MACs and a printer open 24 hours with room key access, but Internet is for 15 minutes
  • Hybrid cars get half-off parking, while over-sized vehicles cost more per day.

 Pet Friendly

Any pet under 200 pounds invited for free

One of the pet friendly features
One of the pet friendly features

Hotel Helix, like all Kimpton hotels, has a serious affinity for animals. Staff members welcome pets by writing their names on a chalkboard in the lobby and leaving out bowls of food and water near the entrance.

  • Any pet under 200 pounds allowed (no limit on number of pets)
  • Hotel provides pet treats, feeding bowls, a mat, bed, bottled water, and pickup bags for no charge.
  • Pet packages available, include pet robes, and pet manicures and pedicures
  • Hotel provides list of local pet sitters and doggie day care facilities.
  • Guests must sign pet waiver at check-in.

 Family

A palpable bring-the-kids vibe

Hotel Helix attempts to go the extra mile by running a program called "KimptonKids," but aside from pint-size robes and in-room child safety kits, it's not that different from what most other D.C. hotels offer. That said, youngsters will feel comfortable here thanks to crazy colors and fun touches, and parents will appreciate the chilled-out environment.

  • Kid and adult menus are virtually interchangeable here, but the "Cadillac" grilled cheese and milk shake are safe bets for tots.
  • Specialty guest room categories: Bunk (with bunk beds), Eats (with kitchenettes), Flex (with exercise alcoves), and Zone (with entertainment center alcoves), many of which are ideal for families
  • Free cribs, rollaways, playards, high chairs, booster seats, and in-room child safety kits (outlet covers, toilet latches, nightlights) upon request
  • Kid-size animal-print robes (for loan or to buy)
  • Hotel provides list of child-friendly area parks, restaurants, and activities.
  • Front desk can connect you to stroller rentals, babysitting services, and car rental company with safety seats.

 Cleanliness

No complaints here

Aside from a little dust, my room was very clean, as were public areas. The bathroom, however, showed some minor wear and tear.

 Food

Girly drinks and updated TV dinners

Helix Lounge
Helix Lounge

Just off the lobby, the Helix Lounge serves "pajama party" cocktails with cutesy names, burgers, hush puppies, waffle fries, a vegetable pot pie, and lobster mac and cheese (portions for two) during the evening to the sounds of '80s pop music in a groovy room and adjacent outdoor patio with plenty of comfy seating and changing mood lighting. If you prefer a hip hotel that serves food throughout the day, check out the Hotel Dupont right on Dupont Circle.

  • Free wine and champagne happy hour every evening for guests in lobby, lounge, and patio
  • Free morning coffee in lobby
  • Continental breakfast buffet; a la carte options available.
  • Helix Lounge not open for lunch; light fare during dinnertime
  • Room service only when Helix Lounge is open

 Bottom Line

An eccentric, reasonably priced, 178-room Kimpton hotel (a chain with seven D.C. properties), Hotel Helix opened in 2002 on a once-sketchy but now pretty block of Rhode Island Avenue in the Dupont Circle vicinity. It has was revamped in 2009 with extra-large guest rooms, free Wi-Fi, modish decor, and a relaxed mood, but the nearest Metro station is a 15- to 20-minute walk.

Things You Should Know About Hotel Helix

Address

  • 1430 Rhode Island Nw, Washington, DC 20005

Hotel Is Also Known As...

  • Hotel Helix - a Kimpton Hotel
  • Kimpton Washington Dc

Room Types

  • Bunk Bed Room
  • Deluxe Room
  • Flex Room
  • Helix Suite
  • King Studio
  • Zone Room

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Hotel Features

Number of Rooms: 178
Fitness Center: Yes
Internet Access: Yes
Pets Allowed: Yes
Cribs: Yes
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Hotel Information

Location: Downtown, Washington, D.C.
Address: 1430 Rhode Island Nw, Washington, DC 20005
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