One of my dad’s many dream ‘bucket list’ trips was to go to Washington DC for all the Fourth of July fireworks and festivities. Politics aside, his blood bleeds red, white, and blue, and his love for the underlying foundation of this country is rivaled only by his love for fireworks, music, and holiday celebrations. As I think I’ve said before, he’s kind of like Clark Griswold, only without some of the darker elements of good ‘ole Clark (like leaving poor Aunt Edna dead in the rain with an umbrella?!).
Anyway, after watching the DC fireworks and “Capital Fourth” concert on TV together in their living room last July 4th, I understood his comment of “I really want to see that in person someday” to mean “let’s book a trip to go to DC for the next July 4th”. For better or worse, I have a tendency of turning travel dreams into immediate and actionable items.
I would have to look back at confirmation emails to be sure, but I’m pretty certain I locked in a few nights at the W Washington DC on SPG points that very week. Of course that is one of the beauty of points since you can typically cancel and refund the points if your plans change, so it was a “risk free” way to get the ball rolling. With Starwood Preferred Guest bookings you can make reservations about 18 months in advance, so it was no issue to make a reservation for a standard room on points for July 4, 2014 when it was still just July 4, 2013. As you can see, you can lock in a reservation on cash, points, or points + cash at the W Washington DC right now for July 4, 2015 without any issue (though there does seem to be a two night minimum in effect).
Roughly a year later things worked out and we completed our stay at the W Washington DC on points and we were able to take in all that the nation’s capital has to offer on the nation’s birthday. In case you are considering a similar trip for your family, here is what we thought of the hotel and the area in general on the 4th of July.
Review of the W Washington DC:
We knew before we ever made the booking that the W Washington DC was probably a bit too hip for our normal tastes, but that was an issue we were willing to overlook given its ridiculous location right across from the White House and just two blocks from the Washington Monument. We knew DC would be a zoo on the 4th of July, and the last thing we wanted was to have to navigate a mass of people getting to/from our hotel. Location was everything, so we decided to ignore the fact that we weren’t really cool enough to be there, and booked anyway.
Hip dark hallway
Despite its current hip style, the hotel has actually been around since 1918 as the Hotel Washington. It is located at 515 15th Street NW between Pennsylvania Avenue and F Street – yes that Pennsylvania Avenue. If you are into cinema, according to Wikipedia it has been used in many popular movies you have probably seen.
The hotel is 12,000 points per night as a Category 5 hotel or you can book using cash + points for 6,000 points + $110/night. The cash rate seems to be around $300/night for that 4th weekend, so a decent return on points. We were able to use a 2013 Platinum re-qualification 35% off discount so our rate ended up being just 7,800 points per night for our room, which was a great deal. Sadly SPG doesn’t seem to be doing requalification gifts like that this year.
The trick with using points here is that the rooms you can get for the standard number of points are small. Very small. They also seem to consist of just one king or one queen bed. This worked out fine for my family of three, but wasn’t good for my mom, dad, and sister who were sharing another room. They were able to talk their way into an ADA room with two doubles at the last minute, but we could not secure the upgrade in advance when my sister initially joined the trip.
Small room with king bed
If you need more than one bed you may need to pay a slightly higher points cost to book a ‘deluxe’ Spectacular room with two double beds. I don’t recommend crossing your fingers and hoping to talk your way into a room with two beds as the hotel will likely again be fully committed on the holiday weekend. The room with two double beds will run you 13,500 points per night in the low season (interestingly, 4th of July is currently considered low season). That is a 1,500 per night up-charge over the standard points rate and you can book it either over the phone or via online chat with SPG.
There was only a shower in our room and honestly it was a very tight fit in the room even for the three of us and our stuff. We were only there two nights, and I’m glad it wasn’t longer simply because the room was so cramped. The hotel was 100% sold out the nights we were there so there was no chance of an upgrade even with my husband’s Platinum status.
There was a very useful little seating nook that my four year old fit in perfectly to play with her toys, but otherwise the room was not one you want to just hang out in longer than you have to, even though it was tastefully decorated and with lots of plugs for gadgets.
I get claustrophobic just looking at the pictures from when my mom and dad came by our room for a bit…though I guess the room was comfortable enough for my dad as he passed right out!
Unlike at the nearby Grand Hyatt (that I will review soon), there was no Disney Junior on the TV at this hotel, though again, if you are hanging out in the room very much be aware you won’t have much space to turn around. You could, however, take to using the closet as a play area as my daughter did. She may look like she’s in time-out, but she loved playing in that little corner!
Also of note if you come here with a kid, the “mini bar” is very much at low kid level and includes a ridiculously enticing lollypop. Naturally my thought it was hers for the taking and was a bit disappointed when I told her that under no uncertain terms are we eating the expensive lollypop! So, just be prepared to have that no-mini-bar talk either in advance or after your kid starts drooling over colorful sugar.
Eating at the W Washington DC:
Since my husband’s original flight to join us in DC was cancelled due to weather, we actually had one night at the W without him. Since I woke up hours before C, this meant I either had to order room service or be hungry until she woke up both in the morning and again at nap time. As room service always is, both were relatively pricey meals, but were tasty enough and delivered quickly. The club sandwich was especially huge and yummy.
A more budget friendly meal for us was the morning we were able to take advantage of Josh’s Platinum status and eat a complimentary breakfast in the top floor restaurant. This hotel went above the standard “continental breakfast for two” option for Platinum SPG members and gave all three of us full buffet breakfasts with hot and cold items – plus juice and coffee.
The hallway leaning toward the restaurant was very chic, and if we had tried to go up there for the 4th of July fireworks we wouldn’t have been permitted as you had to pay for access in advance that night to be on “the list”. Those folks were dressed to impress the night before, but here the next day the place was back to normal.
Breakfast with a view!
The food was good enough for a buffet (and pretty fun variety), but it was the view that was killer. Upstairs the POV Lounge is a hip-happening spot at night, but for breakfast it becomes a family friendly beautiful spot to start your morning and look out at the Washington Monument and all that DC has to offer.
Location of the W for the 4th of July:
We stayed here for two nights in order to be as close to the patriotic festivities as we could, and indeed we were. It was a very short and easy walk getting to the parade during the day as well as getting to and from the fireworks display at night. With a four year old (and husband who really doesn’t like masses of people) the ease of getting around was essential for success.
Enjoying the parade with a friendly dog near the W Hotel
We viewed the fireworks from near the Washington Monument and it proved to be a very laid back and fun way to celebrate. Most everyone just brought a blanket or large towel to lounge around on while waiting for the fireworks to start at dusk.
Bring a blanket or enjoy laying on the grass
Worth every point to see the fireworks…and then some
As soon as the fireworks ended we had to walk in a mob of people back to the hotel, but only for two blocks and then we were ‘home’. There were streams of people still filing by for well over an hour after we were already back in our room. This is when I was very happy we had decided to pick our hotel based on location (and points price).
…an hour later, they’re not
Overall the hotel was as cool as I thought it would be and there were indeed lines of folks in high heels and sport coats on the 4th of July waiting to party it up at the POV lounge (so don’t expect to schlep up there for a free view of the fireworks). We didn’t at all fit in with that crowd, but the hotel was able to meet our needs despite its coolness - or our relative uncoolness. The location is impeccable for our touristy needs in DC. The rooms we had were small, but that was okay for this stay. The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of here was the nickel and diming such as $4 or $5 for the water in the room and several dollars to print something in the business center. I don’t expect unlimited freebies, but not even a single free bottled water for SPG elites and no ability to just print out a couple pages without being hit with a fee stung a little. Of course internet would have been an extra charge were it not for SPG status, so at least we escaped that one.
The hotel had a spa and workout area that we didn’t get a chance to experience on this visit. I was appreciative the hotel worked with my parents to get them a room with double beds and I would absolutely stay there again if location were paramount to our trip (or if remembered to pack a thread of hip in my bag!). It is certainly not the most family friendly hotel in town, but it was a good choice for us for the 4th of July.
Have you stayed at the W Washington DC? What did you think about the hotel? Stay tuned for more info about the DC area on the 4th!