by Christine Koubek
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is known for its more than 60 luxury properties, including Boston’s Copley Plaza Hotel and The Plaza in New York, home of Eloise, the spunky little girl in Kay Thompson’s classic stories. While you won’t find Eloise at the Fairmont Hotel, Washington, D.C., Georgetown, you will find that same ritzy–but not stuffy–elegance and playful spirit, both in the building and in the warm and welcoming staff. The hotel’s 415 rooms and suites are located in a U-shaped building that surrounds a beautiful garden courtyard and fits right in with the stately embassies nearby.
Upon entering the lobby, it’s easy to picture famous folks conversing at the bar or lounging by the grand piano, and indeed, the hotel has hosted heads of state and celebrities such as Muhammad Ali, Itzhak Perlman, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lauren Bacall. What was difficult to picture, initially, was a coffee-loving mother enjoying an afternoon of tea with her two young sons. But that’s exactly what turned out to be the highlight of our Fairmont family weekend.
My sons (age 10 and 16) received a welcome packet at check-in, which included information on one of the hotel’s notable features – rooftop bee hives. In May of 2009, 105,000 Italian honey bees made the Fairmont’s rooftop their home. The hives are part of Fairmont Hotel’s commitment to help the nation’s bee shortage. I was as intrigued as the kids to study the packet’s fun facts, such as how bees “dance” to communicate with one another, and which state is nicknamed the Beehive State. The hotel’s bees travel up to three miles away foraging for food, and return to their respective hives. Nearby Rock Creek Park’s trees and plants provide essential nectar the bees must gather for their work.
Executive Sous Chef Ian Bens and Pastry Chef Rebecca Kinsella serve as Chief Bee Keepers and retrieve roughly 100 pounds of honey each year. While you can’t visit the hives, you’ll definitely have an opportunity to taste the honey in soups, salad dressings, pastries, ice cream and in the hotel’s delicious honey walnut bread.
The hotel itself opened in 1985 and was acquired by Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in 2002. A substantial room renovation was completed in 2011. The pool and fitness center are currently under renovation and slated to re-open in February 2013.
To learn more about Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, please visit Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.
Our Editor Loves
- Garden oasis in the heart of family-friendly Georgetown
- Pinkies & Paws afternoon tea for families and dogs
- Family packages with Smithsonian museums and National Zoo perks
- Water Sports
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Guest rooms are decorated in cocoa brown, creams and golds, with a hardwood entry foyer, comfortable furniture and cherry blossom-inspired artwork. Each standard 400-square-foot room includes one king-sized or two double beds, a high-definition television, mini refrigerator, Sony Dream Machine clock/radio with iPod docking, Keurig coffee machine, robes, a safe, wireless Internet access and a chocolate brown armchair. Room balconies are the step-out only kind, albeit those in the Deluxe rooms have a lovely courtyard view. One of our favorite room features were the twisty-armed bedside reading lamps. They shine just enough light for a parent or teenager to read without waking others.
Most bathrooms have cream-colored marble counters and tiled floors, lighted make-up mirrors, full-sized hairdryers and crystal jars with cotton balls and Q-tips. The Rose 31 bathroom amenities smell so good you'll want to take your half-used bottles home.
Connecting rooms can be confirmed at the time of booking, or try a suite if the following configurations work for your family.
Capital Corner Suites are 700 square feet and have one king bed and room for a rollaway or crib. For families of four or more, the Ambassador and Magnolia Suites offer 700-1,100 square feet in versatile configurations. For example, the Magnolia suite's parlor connects from one door to a room with two double beds, and from another to a room with a king. The parlor itself has a queen bed that folds down from wood cabinetry, and enough space to accomodate a rollaway. Request the configuration that fits your family best.
Fairmont's ninth floor Gold Level offers additional standard-sized rooms, plus suites ranging from 700-1,800 square feet. The unique Chesapeake Suite (one king bed, or one king and two doubles) was created with organic and renewable materials including IceStone countertops made from recycled concrete and glass. Eco-designer Kelly LaPlante designed the room to give the feeling of walking into a black and white image. Splashes of color are provided by one-of-a-kind paintings by local D.C. artist Jon Wassom.
Note that in the standard (i.e. 400-square-foot room category), Fairmont rooms have city views, and Deluxe rooms have lovely views of the courtyard. Pack 'n Plays, rollaways, cribs and bed-rails are all available, without charge, as are dental kits if you forget your toothbrush. Pay-per-item dry cleaning and laundry service is available through guest room laundry bags. Order fresh baked chocolate chip cookies and milk for a bedtime snack ($5).
Excellent location, beautiful and clean hotel with outstanding service. Cameron was so helpful and gave us great ideas as to where to go in the city. The staff were always willing to help. Thank you so much!
I made a last minute reservation at this hotel through Fairmont central reservations I reserved an ambassador suite. The person I made the reservation with indicated that as a Le Accor platinum member I would have access to the concierge level. When I arrived I was informed by the front desk person that the concierge lounge was closed due to construction. The front desk attendant was very courteous and professional but his suit jacket was frayed and worn near the front buttons. No big deal but kinda surprising for a Fairmont. The reason for my negative review was that I was woken up in the morning by jack hammers. Non stop jack hammering. I called the front desk and I was told the construction noise was from 9 am to 5 pm. I could not rest or even make business calls from the room. Fairmont should disclose on its website of ongoing construction. The reservation agent should have notified me of construction. The front desk agent should have notified me prior to check in. I am very disappointed as a loyal Fairmont platinum member that this has happened!
While the hotel does not offer a children's program or center, there are great ways to relax with your family after a day of exploring Washington, D.C. Sip cocoa and play a board game (pack your family's favorite) in the glass-enclosed portion of the lobby, or try afternoon tea. Yes, tea with kids.
Henry James, author of The Portrait of a Lady, once said, "There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." While that might have been true in James' time, my sons required prodding to "dress up" (pants and a sweater) and sit for "so long," sans TV or other electronics. I enticed them to try it with a mention of sweets in a place that allowed well-behaved doggies to dine, too. Fairmont's pet-friendly afternoon tea, also referred to as "Raise Your Pinkies and Your Paws, serves dog-friendly items in a three-bowl tray.
As the boys gazed at a table full of china plates, tea cups and assorted tea pouring paraphernalia, Edwin, our tea sommelier, helped us choose from their selection of more than 19 fruit, herbal, green, black and wellness teas, explaining the tastes and health benefits of each. We ordered spicy apple for the boys and I, energy tea for my husband, and the promised sweet and savory tea menu, which arrived on a three-tier plate stand. The next hour was wonderful. Our normally running-every-which-way family of four sipped, talked and sampled, all without the accompaniment of a single screened device. In fact, it was such a success that our teenager asked not for a burger or pizza the next day, but if we could "take tea" again. He loved the experience as much as the tea, so we returned again. If sipping tea and nibbling on tea sandwiches and red velvet Madeleine cookies is what it takes to ensure a quality hour together, I'll trade my afternoon coffee for tea any day.
While there were no dogs during our visit, we heard stories and saw a few photos of regular guests with their dogs. In addition, you might spot one of Washington, D.C.'s leading etiquette experts, Carole Randolph. We heard she's a frequent patron of Fairmont's afternoon tea, and is often dressed in hat and long gloves, taking tea with friends, or sometimes leading an etiquette class for children.
In warmer weather you can take tea outdoors amidst the courtyard's lush foliage, topiaries and cherry trees. Afternoon tea is served on weekend afternoons from noon to 3 p.m. The cost is $35 for adults, $20 for children and $10 for dogs.
Set to reopen in early 2013, the health and fitness club will have a weight and cardio room, 20-bike room for spin classes and a 50-foot indoor pool with a four-foot deep shallow end and noodles for kids.
The hotel's small gift shop sells Washington, D.C.-themed souvenirs, including sculptures, T-shirts, pajamas, pens, mugs and books. In addition, there is a good selection of stuffed toys, decks of cards, wood puzzles, balls and other kid-friendly fare.
A few blocks walk away, you'll find numerous shops and restaurants along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, from the Gap, J.Crew and CVS Pharmacy, to an Apple store, Kate Spade and other high-end boutiques.
Three-story Niketown (3040 M Street) is fun to explore. The interior walls are constructed from former gym bleachers. An Air Jordan exhibit showcases the first Air Jordan (worn by Michael in his Rookie of the Year '84-'85 season) on up through this year's current style. The more than 20 shoes are displayed in Georgetown University colors. Measure your height at the third floor's wall-sized ruler and see how you size up to famous athletes, from gymnast Shawn Johnson to numerous basketball players. Height isn't the only thing you can compare though. Step inside the size 18 outline for Kevin Durant's shoes, Kobe Bryant's size 15, or Hope Solo's size nine and see how big or little your feet are in comparison.
Take a tour of D.C.'s most renowned monuments, memorials and museums, including the many Smithsonian locations. Smithsonian museums are free to enter and open every day of the year except Christmas.
Bike and Roll's three-hour, four-mile "Monuments Bike Tour" is an ideal way for families to see the Washington Monument, Vietnam Memorial, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and Jefferson Memorial while biking the National Mall and Potomac Tidal Basin. The tours also give you time to walk around and explore the memorials in depth. Adults $40, children 12 and under $30.
Also close by, the Kennedy Center is D.C.'s premier performing arts venue featuring musical and theatrical performances, jazz concerts, family shows and much more.
Juniper, the hotel's full-service restaurant, offers modern American cuisine. Menus are seasonal and almost all dishes utilize fresh, locally grown and sustainable ingredients. Juniper is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 6:30 a.m. - 10:30 p.m. daily. Meals are served in the elegant restaurant or alfresco in the courtyard garden.
Kid-friendly fare includes the Dinosaur Omelet, Butterfly Waffles, Mac & Cheetah, and a Hope Diamond Dessert, each served on a placemat that shows the location of related items at the Smithsonian. In addition to cool names, Fairmont's new children's menu options offer healthy twists on chicken strips, pizza, spaghetti with meatballs and even chocolate mousse. How? They've swapped out refined flour for whole wheat and incorporated fruits and vegetables into recipes to help meet the recommended daily fiber allowance.
Kids age five and under eat for free when ordering from the children's menu. Kids 12 and under can order from the children's menu, or choose to have child-sized portions from the adult menu at 50 percent off. Fairmont's newly-introduced Lifestyle Cuisine Plus is also an option. The menu caters to dietary needs and preferences - diabetic, gluten free, macrobiotic and vegan, to name just a few. No matter what menu you order from, don't miss Fairmont's walnut honey bread and Juniper's specialty, the Chesapeake Bay Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes.
Morning coffee is available through in-room Keurig machines, a weekday lobby coffee cart, or from a Starbucks located across the street from the hotel's M Street exit.
The lobby bar, open from 11 a.m. to midnight is the place for drinks and small plates. Room Service breakfast prices begin at $20, which gets you a continental breakfast--"The Constitution"--featuring fruits, English muffins, toast, breakfast pastries and a pot of coffee or tea. Lunch and full dinner menus are also available. The Kids Corner section of the in-room dining menu includes similar items to those mentioned above, priced from $5 to $10.
Nearby, our pizza-loving family devoured the delicious wood-fried pizzas and Paninis at Pizza Paradiso (3282 M Street). Our Georgetown friends frequent The Tombs with their three young kids for burgers, sandwiches and milkshakes. At night, The Tombs (1226 36th Street) is a popular Georgetown University restaurant and bar, but during the day this old-school restaurant, with walls full of crew-team paraphernalia, is a great choice for a family lunch or brunch.
Georgetown Cupcake (3301 M Street) has become its own destination, complete with lines out the door many times a day. Sisters Katherine and Sophie opened their first store in Georgetown in 2008. Since then, they've become the stars of TLC's hit series DC Cupcakes, and best-selling authors of The Cupcake Diaries. Daily flavors include Chocolate Ganache, Red Velvet and Vanilla Birthday. A rotating list of specials will keep locals coming back for more. Imagine chocolate peanut-butter swirl, salted caramel and key lime.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Crib rentals, bed-rails and rollaways are complimentary, as are dental kits (toothbrush and toothpaste). Babysitting is available through an outside service. Arrangements can be made through the concierge. All the staff members we encountered were wonderful with kids, from the front desk staff to Edwin, the tea sommelier who engaged us in conversation on everything from basketball and diving, to dogs and honeybees.
Guests can book The Smithsonian Experience package year-round, which includes a guestroom for up to four, $50 food and beverage credit, Smithsonian-inspired amenity created by the hotel's culinary team, copy of Smithsonian Magazine, two tickets to the Smithsonian's IMAX Theaters or Einstein Planetarium (additional tickets available through the front desk) and a donation of $10 per stay to the Smithsonian. Rates start at $349 per night.
Animal loving families might prefer the Wild at Fairmont package, which includes a guestroom for up to a family of four, one zoo welcome kit with a stuffed panda, zoo map and scavenger hunt, Zoo Tycoon 2 computer game for Windows, panda info card, a National Zoo pen and $10 donation to the Giant Panda Conservation Fund. Rates start at $299 per night.
During the holiday season you'll find a 20-foot Christmas tree in the lobby, gingerbread displays and gingerbread classes for kids, holiday-themed teas and brunches and the garden courtyard illuminated by thousands of tiny white lights, some in the shape of reindeers.
The Art of Smart Timing
While summer and school breaks are the easiest times to travel with kids, they are also the busiest for many Washington, D.C. sites. For less expensive room rates and smaller museum crowds, visit in the late fall, early spring, or for a pre-Christmas December weekend. It's colder, but attraction lines are shorter, hotels more affordable and everything looks beautifully festive, too.
The hotel is located in Georgetown, five miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, 26 miles from Washington Dulles and 35 miles from Baltimore-Washington International Airport. In addition, the Foggy Bottom metro station is a few blocks from the hotel.
For Mom and Dad
Tuck the kids in for the night and slip downstairs to the Lobby Lounge or courtyard for a drink and small plates. Or, head out and take in a performance at the Kennedy Center. Strolling along the Kennedy Center's portico overlooking the Potomac River is an extra treat.