America’s hotel: The Willard Intercontinental in Washington, DC

Make history at the Willard InterContinental in Washington

Photo: The Willard Intercontinental

WASHINGTON, Septemeber 14, 2012 — The Willard InterContinental in Washington, DC is often referred to as “America’s Hotel.”  Since it opened in 1818, it has been positioned in one of the city’s most prime locations, a block from the White House.

Sweeping in through the heavy brass doors, you instantly “feel” history. The lobby is a lush, handsome room with towering flower arrangements that feel more Parisian than Washingtonian.

Just about every U.S. President has stayed here, along with most political luminaries.  And some of America’s most important moments got their start here.  Take, for instance, Reverend Martin Luther King, who finalized his “I Have A Dream” speech while a guest in 1963.

There’s no other single hotel that speaks more to the importance of this city, but the Willard is not stuck in history. It continues to be a lively hub of activity and provides the backdrop for some of Washington’s best people watching.

Sidle up at the circular bar in the clubby Round Robin and Scotch Bar and there’s a good chance you’ll be quaffing whiskey beside an ambassador. Plan a leisurely afternoon tea in Peacock Alley, where the well-coiffed grand dames of DC society gather.  Order moules in the buzzy French bistro Café du Parc and you will be surrounded by a constellation of international power brokers, from Washington lobbyists to Russian oligarchs to South American generals to well-heeled families from oil-rich lands.

STAY: Barring an invite to the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House, it would be hard to find a bed better positioned within the city’s center.

The Willard has 335 rooms and 40 suites, including the sprawling (nearly 3,000-square-foot) Thomas Jefferson Suite, which as an unimpeded view of the U.S. Capitol.   

Book a corner room on high floor (the 11th is ideal) and you will be rewarded with postcard-perfect views of the Washington Monument and the White House lawn.

Rooms are traditional with dark wood, long curtains, and a neutral palate, a design scheme befitting the classic building.  Flashes of inspiration are found in the details, like black urn-based lamps festooned with gilded garlands and photographs of architectural elements from Washington’s most famous buildings.

Bathrooms are clean and bright; exactly what every woman wants in this era of the mood-lit bathrooms that look sexy, but all but ensure makeup appears clownish in the daylight.  Here, you can actually see what you look like before you head out for the day.  A tightly fitted glass door, combined with strong pressure delivering a steady pounding of hot water transforms the marble shower stall into a virtual steam room.

The fitness room is located within the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa on the second floor of the hotel, and it’s got plenty of machines from treadmills to elipticals so even on the busiest days guests don’t have to queue up for a workout. 

However, if the weather is even remotely cooperative there is no replacement for an outdoor run.  Step outside the front door of the Willard and you’re amid the most iconic structures in the nation’s capital.  A half-hour run affords you your very own private tour past the Washington Monument, the Reflecting Pond and the Lincoln Memorial. 

The Willard understands its place of importance in making America’s history, past and present.  However, rather than muscling that cache into an ambience of intimidation, the staff here does the seemingly impossible: make guests feel like they are part of that history.    

Upon departure, while the valet collects your car, step out past the hotel awnings and gaze down Pennsylvania Avenue for a spectacular view of the white dome of the U.S. Capitol.  Leaving this perfectly situated hotel may not be easy, but at least for a moment you will be reminded that you stood in the midst of history.

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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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