Within walking distance of the monuments at the Mall and the Smithsonian, and just steps from four of the five Metro subway lines, the 370-room, convention-focused L'Enfant Plaza Hotel has an ideal location. But despite its year-round pool, the worn, outdated guest rooms are not ideal.
The entire L'Enfant Plaza is trapped in the Watergate era, and the 370-room hotel is no exception. If the hotel gets up to date, it's got decent amenities, and a superb location for sightseeing and getting around Washington D.C.
In the late sixties, a huge office complex with an underground mall opened in Southwest D.C., L'Enfant Plaza. Festooned in gold plating, neon, rows of glaring light bulbs and an array of colorful flags that wouldn't look out of place in an Up with People routine, the mall feels stuck in a disco era time warp. It has all the charm of Leonid Brezhnev, all the grandeur of iron-curtain public housing, and all the economic vitality of Jimmy Carter's days of malaise. Inside the mall, in addition to the shops and the Metro Station (and its four subway lines), there is the 370-room L'Enfant Plaza Hotel (opened in 1973).
Buzzing with all things political, L'Enfant Plaza feels like a Washington D.C. hotel -- not just a hotel that happens to be in the nation's capital. Its expansive marble lobby has numerous seating areas for lobbyists to ply their trade, and there's more than 21,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space (accounting for 45-percent of the the hotel's business). Catering to its international clientele, employees proudly list their home countries on their nametags, and the hotel brags that over 20 languages are spoken by its staff, including Farsi, Tagalog, and Romanian.
But like a polyester leisure suit, the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel is more fun as an idea than as a practicality. Though its guest rooms are a roomy 320 square feet -- about 20-percent larger than the D.C. standard (one advantage of its construction date) -- they are showing their age. In my room, for example, the faucet and bathtub stopper were corroded, the furniture was banged up, the cushion on the bench was faded and stained, the paint was chipped, the balcony looked dingy, and, demonstrating a subpar attention to detail, there were half-stuck label-maker instructions next to the toilet. And while most other hotels in D.C. have upgraded to flat-screens and iPod-docks in the guest rooms, all you get here is a cheap plastic AM/FM clock radio and an old tube set.
Extremely convenient; an ideal location for D.C. sightseeing
The hotel is located in L'Enfant Plaza, a drab 1970s office plaza that's home to government agencies (HUD, Energy, NTSB) and one of the more outdated malls around. It's convenient though, four of the five Metro lines stop at the Plaza (there's an entrance through the hotel) and the Smithsonian Institution is only a couple of blocks away.
Gray Line tour buses come right to the front door, frequent taxis
1.5-miles to Union Station (the Amtrak train hub), a 10-minute cab ride away
10- to 15-minute drive from Reagan National Airport, or a 15-minute Metro trip on the Metro
27 miles to Dulles Airport, about a 35- to 45-minute cab ride
One-mile, 12-minute walk to the White House
Half-mile, 10-minute walk to the center of the Mall, including the Washington Monument and the World War II Memorial, a 12-minute walk to the Jefferson Memorial, and a 15-minute walk to the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Three-block, five-minute walk to the Smithsonian Institution
15-minute walk to the U.S. Capitol Building
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