Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Rumor has it, the hip-hop stars from Cypress Hill partied at the Palomar during my stay; while I was long asleep. What does this tell us? The Palomar is cool enough for rappers, yet quiet enough for an aging guest to sleep through it in blissful comfort.
Make no mistake, the 335-room Palomar is an animated hotel, arguably even more so than its sister Kimpton-mangaged hotels in the D.C. area (the George, Helix, Madera, and Monaco hotels, among others). Its "Art in Motion" theme thrives on a sense of fun, not pretentiousness, and while the front desk clerks might list their "artistic inspiration" on their nametags, the selections range from the genius (Joan Miro) to the influential (Biggie Smalls) to the inexplicable (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Adding to the lively mix, there's a popular bar (with great happy hour specials), an occassional high-profile art exhibition (partnered with the renowned Phillips Collection), evening wine tastings paired with Wii tennis tournaments, colorful room schemes, minibars stocked with Garfield Pez dispensers, and animal-print bathrobes (all hallmarks of the Kimpton brand). And the hotel fits well into its happening-yet-down-to-earth Dupont Circle location, an area that has become boutique hotel central.
That said, it's not quite as in-the-know-hip as Donovan House, and the rooms are smaller than the other nearby Kimptons like the Helix and the Madera (both of which offer a similar level style, service, and comfort). Still, it's a sound choice for the price (especially considering all the fun extras). To paraphrase B-Real from Cypress Hill, you'd have to be at least a little insane in the membrane not to consider the Palomar.
Personable and attentive
In general, the hotel staff makes a diligent effort to learn each guests' name -- a level of attention that separates the smaller boutiques from big chains (although at 335 rooms, the Palomar fits somewhere in between) -- and I found the concierge to be knowledgeable and helpful.
In the bohemian enclave of Dupont Circle, just northwest of downtown
Dupont Circle mixes residential, commercial and nocturnal entities in a homey neighborhood package that's not too far from the tourist attractions. Block by block, Dupont Circle encompasses a number of different things to do and see, such as Embassy Row, well-kept brick brownstones, art galleries (including the renowned Phillips Collection), and historic buildings such as the Cathedral of St. Matthew (where J.F.K.'s funeral was held) and the Woodrow Wilson House, the only presidential museum in the district.
But to most visitors, Dupont Circle also means nightlife. Unlike many parts of Washington, it's been a bohemian enclave for decades and is often considered the heart of gay life in Washington. There are watering holes of all kinds, from the divey Big Hunt to the upscale 18th Street Lounge, to Apex, a popular gay dance club for more than 25 years.
Befitting the "Art in Motion" theme, the rooms at the Hotel Palomar have more flair than a typical chain hotel. Voguish touches like the faux bearskin blanket, the Mosaic lamps, the illuminated nightstands, the leather headboard, the mirrored side table, and the paintings on the wall give the room a distinctive flavor.
The Palomar doesn't have a ton of amenities, but the offerings are solid.
Not exactly geared toward families, but the Palomar offers more for families than most small-scale boutiques
Between the seasonal pool with toys, the on-demand video games, free children's DVD selections, free milk and cookies, and a kids' menu, the Hotel Palomar has more family offerings than tend to be found at boutique hotels.
Urbana, the on-site restaurant, has beome a neighborhood favorite.
The dimly-lit 173-seat Urbana restaurant offers a mixture of dishes from northern Italy and southern France (as well as a solid wine list) from the up-and-coming young chef, Alex Bollinger. The bar at Urbana -- which serves signature cocktails, small plates, and brick-oven pizzas -- can be hopping on the weekends, though it generally caters to a more mature crowd than many of the other bars in Dupont Circle.
Some stains and scuffs since the 2006 renovation, but generally clean
In my room, there were handful of smudges on the glass, stains on the wall, a crack on the face of the DVD player, and a bit of dander on the desk chair, but not enough to call the hotel anything but clean. The fitness center, in particular, was especially well maintained.
All pets welcome; no fees or restrictions
As is the case at all Kimpton hotels, the hotel strives to be the most pet-friendly in the business. In addition to all the free perks, there's also a pet concierge who can provide further information about dog walking, pet sitting, pet massages, gourmet treats during the evening turndown, old newspapers, and helpful contact information.
Fun boutique flair, at a fair price. The 335-room Hotel Palomar has an outdoor pool, a lively bar and restaurant, and a great location near the Metro subway station and the nightlife of Dupont Circle. And being a Kimpton hotel, it has great perks -- free wine hour; free Wi-Fi; pet pampering; great beds; top-notch service.