Hotel subject to street noise from Thomas Circle, a major traffic circle
Pool only open in the summer months
Opened in 1962, this upper-middle-range landmark hotel has a distinctive retro vibe and one of the city's best outdoor pools. Its 340 colorful rooms and suites pay tribute to their original design, but are also modern and practical, with coffeemakers, mini-fridges, flat-screen TVs, and pillow-topped mattresses. Factor in the competitive rates, the excellent and extravagant breakfast buffet, and the hotel's proximity to major D.C. sights, and the Washington Plaza is one of the best values in town. During the off-season (when the pool is closed), guests may fare better at one of the Kimpton hotels in the area, such as the Palomar or the Madera, which have free nightly wine receptions.
This landmark has one of the best pools in town, colorful and modern rooms, and an overall great retro feel
Designed by architect Morris Lapidus -- of Fontainebleau and Eden Roc fame -- the Washington Plaza stands out among the cookie-cutter Marriotts and Hiltons at the center of the city. Though the hotel's Thomas Circle location may be far from the coast, the curvy, 340-room edifice still echoes Lapidus' trademark Miami-Beach-resort style. In its heyday, the hotel was the Jackie O.'s swimming hole of choice (the pool is still one of D.C.'s best, though the original dome covering it is long gone). Nowadays, the Washington Plaza hosts budget-conscious families and business travelers. But the fabulous retro feel is maintained, thanks to the Mexican stone floors, Bauhaus Barcelona chairs, and large curvy chrome table in the lobby and the bright rooms that pay homage to Lapidus' original design.
Central downtown location, within walking distance of the White House, Logan Circle, and Dupont Circle
The Washington Plaza is downtown, on the eastern side of Thomas Circle, where Vermont and Massachusetts avenues and M and 14th streets meet. The area straddles two very disparate neighborhoods: the bustling business district and the vibrant, flourishing residential section at 14th Street, near Logan Circle.
Four blocks to the McPherson Square Metro Station (Orange, Blue and Silver lines), which provides access to the Smithsonian Center, the Mall, the White House, and virtually every sight in downtown
Five blocks to the Farragut North Metro Station (Red line), which provides easy access (three stops) to Union Station, D.C.'s main train station, served by Amtrak, commuter railroads, and the metro system
10- to 15-minute walk to Logan Circle and Dupont Circle (the areas surrounding both are filled with restaurants, shops, and nightlife options)
15-minute walk to the White House
20-minute walk to International Spy Museum
25-minute walk to Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
30-minute walk to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
15-minute drive the Capitol
20-minute drive to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
40- to 55-minute drive to Dulles International Airport
Guest rooms vary in size due to the building's curvy shape. Standard rooms -- called Superiors Rooms here -- range from 210 to 260 square feet, while suites start at 345 square feet. All rooms share a bold color scheme that reflects Lapidus' original design, with accents of plum, brick-red, and light orange. Features include pillow-topped mattresses, work desks, Kohler rainfall showerheads, free Wi-Fi, ironing equipment, and 32-inch flat-screen HDTVs with movies on demand and free HBO. Rooms come with mini-fridges and coffeemakers, and the hotel delivers two free bottled waters every day. Most rooms overlook Thomas Circle, and there are some with balconies.
Outdoor pool is a lovely refuge from D.C.'s infamous summertime heat and humidity
The 25-foot-long outdoor pool, open during the summer months, is Washington Plaza's crowning jewel. With lots of towels, padded loungers, umbrellas, a pool bar, and food and drink service, the pool deck feels a long way from the city's grime and grueling politics. A free fitness center, located on the hotel's lower level, is equipped with free weights and modern machinery: four treadmills, two ellipticals, and one stationary bike. It's on the small side, but its size is comparable to other D.C. hotel gyms in this price category.
The restaurant, No. Ten Thomas, serves food that is well-prepared, though not particularly inventive. Its buffet breakfast is an excellent value, with a cold bar and a hot bar that includes omelet and waffle stations, pancakes, and plenty of side dishes like bacon and sausage. Things are less exciting for lunch and dinner, when the restaurant offers basic continental fare (sandwiches, salads, simple pasta dishes, steaks, fresh fish). The International Bar is a pleasant place to grab cocktails and bar snacks, like hummus with crudites, buffalo wings, and sliders. Room service is also available throughout the day.
There are 12,000 square feet of meeting space and a business center in the basement with three desktop PCs, a printer, and a printer/scanner/copier. Access to the computers and printers costs a fee, but there is free Wi-Fi in all guest rooms and throughout the hotel. An on-site gift shop sells D.C.-themed T-shirts, mugs, and shot glasses, as well as candy, snacks, and drugstore items. The hotel has an underground parking garage with both valet (includes in and out privileges) and self-parking for a fee.
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