Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
Though it's famous for its political guests (and, too often, their misdeeds), this historic property is now just an outdated, 650-room Marriott-owned business hotel.
Since opening in 1925, the Mayflower has established an impressive reputation as one of D.C.'s "power hotels" for its inaugural events, high-profile guests, and, more recently, prominent affairs -- the famous photo of President Clinton and Monica Lewinksy embracing at a 1996 campaign event was taken here and New York governor Eliot Spitzer's resignation-inducing prostitute hookup happened in Room 871.
Such a history -- and the fact that the hotel markets itself as "Washington's Grand Dame" -- might inspire high expectations of the Mayflower. But just as the attention has turned from presidential grandeur to political misdeeds, so too has the quality of rooms, facilities, and service soured. As the hotel stays packed (almost always), most guests will feel more anonymous than distinguished. While the completely restored Beaux Arts lobby and its "Grand Promenade" are impressive, the grandeur of the space is often upset by the swirl of business travelers spilling out of meeting rooms on one end; bar-crowd runoff and 650 rooms worth of guests negotiating the other. The guest rooms, though comfortable, are small, fairly bland, and a bit out of date -- old tube televisions; no in-room safe; small bathrooms; no Wi-Fi (hard-wired available for a daily fee).
Overall, while the Renaissance has a great fitness center, a comparable gym, a better business center, and larger, more modern guest rooms are also available at the Westin Washington, D.C. - City Center, just a few blocks away. Also, if you're willing to sacrifice a classy lobby and restaurant, the often less-expensive Courtyard by Marriott Embassy Row has a great location, newer rooms, more freebies, and even a pool and Jacuzzi. To combat the dated style of this historic hotel, a multi-million dollar refurbish was launched with the mission of updating the lobby, restaurant, bar and retail spaces of the hotel, which were completed in the spring of 2012.
Efficient, not doting
Despite a large, competent staff that funnels guests through requisite lines, and a separate concierge who can field questions, service at the Renaissance Mayflower is not the kind that will go the extra mile to make guests feel well cared for. When I called to ask why my morning newspaper hadn't been delivered, for example, the concierge forwarded my call to the front desk, who explained that the hotel was almost out of the paper I wanted, and he didn't offer an alternative paper until I asked for one. Of course, instances like these are no big deal (and hardly worth complaining about at a hotel in this price range). But the attitude of the staff does make it hard not to feel like one insignificant guest among a thousand others.
Between Dupont Circle and the White House; a great springboard for seeing capital sites
The Mayflower is between Dupont Circle and the White House, with a Metro subway station located directly beneath the hotel. Though the immediate surroundings consist of a few dull restaurants and corporate offices (including ABC Studios), the hotel is within walking distance of Dupont Circle and the 14th Street corridor's restaurant and bar scene.
One might expect rooms that have hosted presidents and hidden political affairs to feel, well, fancy. Unfortunately, the guest rooms lack any of the hotel's historic Beaux Arts design and don't look much different from any other dressed-up Marriott.
Overly chaotic, without a child in sight
The Mayflower's massive, chaotic lobby, bar scene, and maze of hallways makes it less ideal for families with young children -- it wouldn't be too hard to lose a child among the crowds. Check our list of the best kid-friendly hotels for better family options in Washington, D.C.; in the downtown area, Washington Plaza is a great option.
Clean, but showing some wear in the guest rooms
Daily housekeeping keeps the hotel clean, but the dated furnishings and carpets are a bit older; not fresh and pristine.
Café Promenade, though beautiful, is still best described as "generic hotel food."
Though the Mayflower has hosted inaugural events and scandalous affairs since 1925, most days it's just an outdated, 650-room business-focused Marriott without much of a business center. Given its location -- between Dupont Circle and the White House -- it's a fair choice, but also consider the Westin Washington and the Courtyard by Marriott Embassy Row.