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Lodging Strategy

With hundreds of D.C. metropolitan hotels, it may seem like a daunting task to choose one. Our experts have done most of the legwork, however; the 80-plus selections here represent the best this city has to offer, from the best budget motels to the sleekest designer hotels.

Reservations

With more than 95,000 guest rooms available in the area, you can usually find a place to stay, but it’s always prudent to reserve. Hotels fill up with conventioneers, politicians in transit, families, and—in the spring—school groups. Hotel rooms in D.C. can be particularly hard to come by in late March or early April during the Cherry Blossom Festival, and in May, when students at the many local colleges graduate. Late October's Marine Corps Marathon also increases demand for rooms. Never forget that when the time comes to celebrate the presidential inauguration every four years, rooms book up fast and prices increase.

Facilities

You can assume that all rooms have private baths, phones, TVs, and air-conditioning, unless otherwise indicated. Breakfast is noted when it is included in the rate, but it’s not a typical perk at most Washington hotels, and one feature you may want to consider for a summertime visit is a pool, especially if you’re traveling with kids.

With Kids

From the free Smithsonian museums on the Mall to the cuddly pandas at the National Zoo, D.C. is a very family-friendly town. Major convention hotels don't always cater to families, so we recommend looking Downtown, in Foggy Bottom, or in Upper Northwest; in the latter, many hotels offer special panda packages for the zoo-bound. Also, the closer your hotel is to a Metro stop, the quicker you can get on the sightseeing trail. The Metro itself often ranks as a favorite attraction among the under-12 set. Consider a stay at an all-suites hotel, which will allow you to spread out and, if you prepare your meals in a kitchenette, keep costs down. It also gives the grown-ups the option of staying up past bedtime.

A number of well-known chains, including Embassy Suites, Fairmont, Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, and St. Regis offer special programs or packages for kids and—stars be praised—have babysitting services. Holiday Inns allow kids under 12 to eat free in their restaurants and several of the Kimpton properties offer family-friendly rooms complete with bunk beds and child-size bathrobes.

Parking

Hotel parking fees range from free to $50 per night, which involves valet parking and its usual gratuities. Street parking is free on Sunday and after 10 pm other nights. There are often far more cars searching than there are spaces available, particularly Downtown, in Georgetown, and in the upper Connecticut Avenue area.

During weekday rush hours, many streets are unavailable for parking; illegally parked cars are towed, and reclaiming a car is expensive and inconvenient. Read signs carefully; some are confusing, and the ticket writers are quick.

Prices

If you're interested in visiting Washington at a calmer, less expensive time—and if you can stand semitropical weather—come in August, during the congressional recess. Rates also drop in late December and January, except around inaugurations. Weekend, off-season, and special rates, such as AAA discounts and online-only promotions, can make rooms more affordable. Hotels that cater to government workers and businesspeople, especially properties in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs, offer especially sizable discounts on weekends, even in busy tourist seasons. A little bit of research can pay off in big savings.