by Wendy Irvine
A big round for Bill and Mike — the guys behind the Kimpton hotels — who’ve shaped their properties into reliable, wildly wonderful places to stay. Consider the Hotel Palomar in Washington D.C., for example. At the top of Embassy Row and within the Dupont Circle neighborhood, the Hotel Palomar is a sparkling example of why the Kimpton boutique hotels are thriving. At D.C.’s Hotel Palomar, you’ll find a courtyard pool, a wine reception in the evening, a wonderful coffee station in the morning and beautiful rooms, loaded with technology and kid-friendly channels.
After a long day of touring the Smithsonian, my husband, twin 9-year-old boys and myself limped into the Hotel Palomar. To say we were wiped out doesn’t quite describe our level of crankiness. But we all perked up upon entering the Hotel Palomar’s lobby with its gleaming steps, trendy art and pretty flames dancing in the glassed-in fireplace (we were there in March).
Pair the charming neighborhood and hotel’s hip decor with one of my favorite things ever (sincere down-home friendliness), and you have a stay to remember. Case in point: While I was checking in, a front desk staff member tossed a Nerf football to one of my sons and a Frisbee to the other, and then recklessly encouraged both to toss the projectiles back to him. The mom in me stressed at seeing a ball flying through the sleek lobby, but frankly, he started it. My point is that the front desk guy did not appear to be checking boxes off a list. Welcomed guests? Check. Inquired how many room keys they’d need? Check. Threw toys at kids? Check.
The Hotel Palomar — all of the Kimpton hotels, in fact — roll out the red carpet for parents, kids and even pets. Yes, this is the hotel chain that doesn’t merely tolerate dogs, but actually fusses over each doggie guest by leaving a water bowl in the lobby and a doggie bed, toys and treats in the guest room.
But the highlight of the Palomar stay for my boys was something you could pick up for a couple bucks at Petco — goldfish. Yep, the brilliant minds behind the Kimpton hotels will deliver to your room a complimentary bowl of goldfish upon request. And bonus for parents: No feeding, walking or cleaning cages. Just sit back and watch the kids go bananas over budget pets.
The only downside I could find to the Hotel Palomar is something you’ll find everywhere in D.C.: Abysmal parking fees. The Hotel Palomar charges over $40 per night for parking, though this is quite standard for D.C. proper.
For more information, read about Kimpton Hotels.
Our Editor Loves
- Pet-friendly hotel
- Charming location in Dupont Circle
- Toys, animal-print robes and goldfish to rent
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
The Hotel Palomar guest rooms are wrapped in chocolate croissant hues and topped with comfy beds, an iPod docking station, animal print robes for everyone, a DVD player (thumb through the front desk's small collection), and kid-required channels.
Unless you order a spa or high-end suite, the Hotel Palomar bathrooms are standard, except for the very cool and very artsy square-shaped sink. Many rooms overlook the Dupont Circle neighborhood, with its architectural beauty. And in the far distance, the Washington Monument tip can be seen. But there's more:
When you make your reservation, mention Kimpton Kids and you'll receive cookies and milk for the little guys or gals, delivered to your room on your first evening.
Upon arrival, request a fridge and microwave for a one time fee for each. I can't say that the microwave would be worth it, but the fridge more than pays for itself. Bring cereal, milk, fruit, bread, peanut butter and foil for wrapping and you've cut your travel-eating bill by two-thirds. No, really; D.C. restaurants are pricey.
The Hotel Palomar boasts eight room arrangements from basic guest rooms to the 1100-square-foot Presidential Suite. The Executive Queen Double was perfect for our family of four, with plenty of space and great views.
Reserve any suite and get a sleeper sofa, a Jacuzzi tub, a separate shower and the possibility of connecting rooms, if needed. The two-room Superior Suite is ideal for families with a king-sized bed, living room with a sleeper sofa and flat-screen TV. The Spa King sports a luxurious bathroom with Italian marbled floors, Fuji soaking tub for two and extravagant bath treats. The Motion Suite is for the non-slackers among us, boasting -- get this -- fitness cardio equipment. You can choose between a bike or an elliptical machine! Or you can opt for yoga instead of cardio if stretching sounds wonderful. The Spa Suite offers all of the former, plus more square footage. After your workout, relax in an oversized soaking tub.
For a real treat, reserve a room facing P Street -- anywhere from the fifth floor to the 10th -- and the whole family can "ooh" and "ahh" over the tip of the Washington Monument.
So I woke up this morning hugging a blanket with stains of feces, blood, and other human fluids right by my face, see photo. Like when those flimsy sheets they put around the duvet (instead of a proper cover) come apart. The stains looked fresh, meaning not washed out, and no, they were not from me.
This was the morning after the second night in the hotel, so when making the bed, the cleaners must have decided twice that this was still ok for me to sleep in and just covered it up with sheets.
It was the filthiest thing that has happened to me in 15 years of very regular work travel. I left the hotel in disgust and will never set foot in a Kimpton again and have asked our corporate travel department to review sending people to IHG hotels.
Two side notes: beer in mini-bar was “best before 07-2017”, so I decided it best to leave it alone. First morning I thought I could sleep in, but the cleaners were shouting and laughing so loud in the corridor, that it was impossible.
Overall it felt to me like this place has no bit of concern for the well-being of their customers.
I stay at hotels roughly 150 nights a year globally, generally upscale:luxury. I booked 3 nights in DC, Kimpton Palomar at $579 a night. I have a view of a fence (literally, see photo), the bar was closed at 10:30pm tonight (talk about a real letdown), the shower has an old small head on it that spits at you (huge jacuzzi tub that no one uses, you’d think a nice shower head would be easy). I’m adjacent to conference rooms on my floor with noise and corporate meetings and food in the hallways. Hip and cool? Not a chance. Abit stark and void of hospitality. Yes. Overpriced. Yes. Not terrible, but at this price point for DC, I’m staying elsewhere again. Vacillated between 2 and 3 stars, felt generous at 3. Just speaking the truth, as I see it.
This has to be the most adorable amenity on hotel record -- goldfish. Let the front desk know upon registering that your stay won't be complete without goldfish roommates. Let the kids enjoy the bowl of fish while the Hotel Palomar staff feeds and cleans the bowl. No muss, no fuss, yes fish.
The Hotel Palomar's swimming pool invitingly sits in a floral courtyard adjacent to the fitness room. I'm not saying the pool is huge, but it's a respectable city-sized pool and will provide hours of fun for the kids on hot, sticky D.C. afternoons or early evenings. Open 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Hotel Palomar is also incredibly close to a Metro stop that will take you anywhere you want to go in D.C.
The Hotel Palomar boasts both 24/7 room service and Urbana -- a well-regarded D.C. dining spot. The atmosphere is modern and hip, but well-behaved kids are more than welcome. Urbana offers a creative selection of dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch, all with an Italian and French flair. For breakfast, choose pumpkin waffles, an egg white frittata with Manchego cheese and arugula salad, or maybe forget healthy eating and dive into the pastry trough -- I mean, basket. Lunch and dinner menus are layered in sandwiches, salads, pizzas and pastas. Brunch is eggs Benedict, incredible sticky buns and a breakfast pizza with apple wood-smoked bacon.
Awesome Urbana dishes are delivered to your guest bed or bath 24/7.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
There aren't any coin-operated laundry machines, but the Hotel Palomar provides an overnight service.
Overnight parking is available for a [hefty] fee.
Children under the age of 17 stay free.
The Hotel Palomar has a compact fitness room that comes with all the trimmings: Disposable ear buds, rolled towels, cold water and a huge bowl of apples, oranges and bananas. Treadmills, an elliptical and a bike all face a happy pool view. Or you can face the cardio machine's TV screen; your call.
The Art of Smart Timing
The Hotel Palomar's high season is in March and April when the National Cherry Blossom Festival is in full swing. The quiet season begins in November and whispers through February. Summer is hot, but thinking half-full, you'll likely score better prices during the stickiest months. Families descend on D.C. in June and July, and European families tend to visit in August. Plan to awaken early during the hot months and tour D.C. before your kids go into a full meltdown. Get back to the Hotel Palomar in the afternoon for the air conditioning and the pool. Just know that even in the sweltering heat of summer, the D.C.region sees about three inches of rain each month. Fall is a beautiful (and quiet) time to visit.
Getting There and Around
Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) is a five-mile drive to the Hotel Palomar, while Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) is 27 miles and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) is 33 miles.
The Metro stop closest to the Hotel Palomar is an easy five-minute walk and won't bother even the most ornery child. Also, look into Metro's SmartTrip card that can save you money if you travel by Metro more than one day.
For Mom and Dad
If a glass of merlot or chardonnay sounds heavenly, head to the lobby at 5:00 p.m. sharp and enjoy a fancy bite of something to go with your glass of vino. Fresh lemonade is poured for the sweet set and a bowl of water is set out for the pooches.
The Hotel Palomar doesn't have a spa, but does offer in-room spa services. Choose from a host of treatments including massages, body wraps, facials and manicures and pedicres. Services are offered from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. After-hours spa treatments can be arranged, but come with an extra fee.