These occasional reviews may not interest regular readers of the blog, but I rely heavily on hotel reviews when planning my own travels and try to occasionally return the favor for the folks out there on Google. We paid full (if shockingly low! see below) price for our stay, and the Fairmont staff did not know that I’m a blogger.
In a display of terrible timing, emergency renovations forced us out of our home during our daughter’s first week of preschool. We would have been more upset, except that it was an excuse for our second visit to the Fairmont DC. We love the Fairmont DC.
The Fairmont is located at 24th and M St. NW, a few blocks from George Washington University and within hiking distance (~ 1/2 mile) of Georgetown’s main drag in one direction and Dupont Circle in the other. The immediate neighbors include the Westin and Park Hyatt, plus a handful of office buildings like the WWF and American College of Cardiology. Despite the corporate neighborhood, we found the area surprisingly welcoming for our daughter and our dog. One block north is an elementary school with swingset and play structures. One block west is a dog park. (The streets near the school and dog park also have regular openings for street parking, but beware the strictly enforced 2-hour time limit on weekdays.)
The Fairmont’s lobby and seating areas are lovely and relaxed, with marble floors, golden fixtures, and seating arranged in intimate groupings with views of the courtyard garden. As night falls, the abundant natural sunlight is replaced by a profusion of twinkling fairy lights around the courtyard. There’s an evening piano player, and the wingback chairs are surprisingly cushy. There’s something about the relaxed and welcoming, yet oh-so-posh, atmosphere that makes you want to settle in with a Fairmont specialty cocktail and a friend for a chat. (I settled in for a Diet Coke and the crossword. That was nice too.)
Before our first stay, we worried about bringing a preschooler and a dog somewhere so fancy. But in fact, both were given the utmost welcome. The Fairmont chain is so pet-friendly that some locations have “ambassador” dogs that guests can borrow for walks. There are no additional pet fees – just a damage waiver to sign and a promise that Fido won’t be left alone in the room. They even gave us a bag of handmade dog treats courtesy of the Executive Chef. And our daughter was given the royal treatment from everyone we met, from the doormen to the desk manager.
The standard guest rooms are … standard hotel guest rooms. However, every aspect is beautifully designed and the materials themselves are equally beautiful. During our first stay, my husband and I jokingly catalogued our complaints: after careful study, we found some scuffs on the baseboard paint in the closet and noticed that the clothes-drying line in the bathroom was a bit dingy. That was the extent of it. Everything else was thoughtfully perfect, from the tiny reading lights beside the beds to the well-located hidden outlet strips.
The standard room offered the choice of a king or two double beds, a desk work area, armchair, and mini-bar alcove. The bathroom was basic but decorated with the same thoughtful touches (right down to the hammered-metal holder for the spare toilet paper roll). The bureau revealed a Keurig with Green Mountain Coffee and electric tea kettle with Fairmont tea.
Our second stay was in a Corner Suite, so it was fun to compare the room options. The suite was much larger, with a full sitting area and tons of windows. Otherwise, the furnishings and overall feel were similar.
The hotel sent up a bottle of wine and some chocolate-covered strawberries as a treat for our first night in the suite. The accompanying card had a quote from Edgar Allen Poe about enthusiasm, which seemed well chosen for the Fairmont. All of the staff members that we met had a cheery attitude that spoke of enthusiasm for their surroundings.
There is a health club with pool / hot tub / saunas on the hotel’s lower floor. We had varied experiences in the pool — one visit was all older professionals swimming laps and the other was overrun by small children. The health club was swanky, with extensive locker rooms and a fancy coffee machine in the sitting area. Unfortunately, the health club charges a $15 fee to hotel guests. President’s Club members have the fee waived.
We also enjoyed fancy buffet breakfasts at Juniper during each stay. The food was perfectly prepared but very pricey. Sunday brunch was $48/person; weekday breakfast around $27. We took advantage of free dining credits from our Fairmont credit card. For less expensive options, I’d recommend the nearby Bread and Chocolate cafe (2301 M St.) or Trader Joe’s (1101 25th St.) for self-catering. If you do try Juniper, be sure to sample anything honey-based. The Fairmont has its own hive of honeybees on the roof.
So what does it cost for all this luxury? You might be surprised! Rates vary greatly according to occupancy and the existence of any specials. Regular rates can top $500/night for a standard room. But our first visit was on a $149/night special. Our most recent visit, during a week when DC was completely empty, saw rates fall to $103/night. My husband has the Fairmont credit card, which comes with perks like a complimentary upgrade certificate. He called in his upgrade and nabbed a 700-sf Corner Suite. For $103 night. And we were treated just as royally as if we’d paid the $700+/night regular price. We checked everything on Hotels.com before we thought to check the Fairmont site, and this rate was actually cheaper than chains like the Holiday Inn. I can’t guarantee that you’ll find a bargain for your travel dates, but the Fairmont is definitely worth checking!
Also, if you’re a Fairmont fan, I highly, highly recommend signing up for the President’s Club. It’s free, and at least in DC, membership gets you free health club access, free wireless Internet, and free newspapers in the morning. Totally worth a few minutes to fill out the form. We also love our Fairmont Visa credit card, which carries a $95 annual fee but doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees and comes with a handful of valuable bonuses like 2 free nights at any Fairmont property in the world.