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Picking the Best Washington, DC Location
Including pros & cons of each neighborhood, with an emphasis on safety and convenience
Whether you want a budget hotel in the Washington, DC area or a big discount on a deluxe one, the information found here helps you make the right choice.
Picking the right area to stay can make the difference between a safe, convenient, and enjoyable visit and one that is not.
The areas discussed correlate to the ones used on Priceline.com and are similar to those utilized by another DC discount hotel site Hotwire.com.
Priceline hotel neighborhood maps
To view current Washington, DC hotel neighborhood maps, click on
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and then fill in the city. Links show for maps of each area.
Your neighborhood choices are --
- Convention Center - Union Station - Smithsonian area
- Downtown (White House area)
- Dupont Circle & Woodley Park
- Silver Spring & College Park
- Crystal City (Reagan National Airport)
- Baltimore Inner Harbor
1. Convention Center Union Station Smithsonian
The Convention Center Union Station Smithsonian area includes the awesome Air and Space Museum, National Gallery, the Capitol building, and a host of other must sees. This is tourist central. Staying here puts you in a convenient location to see much of what Washington has to offer.
Unfortunately, many streets here become nearly deserted at night and therefore dangerous. Even top hotels such as the Grand Hyatt, serving the Convention Center, are in less ncomfortable areas with either empty nighttime streets or numerous homeless people.
As a result, use considerable extra caution if you stay in this district.
After dark, keep to busy streets, take licensed taxis, or walk with large groups (You can use Washington’s excellent and generally safe Metro System, which serves this area well, but favor busy stations). If you park on a street to avoid high hotel parking fees, be sure to pick a location that will not be deserted when you return.
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2. Downtown (White House area)
What an interesting downtown Washington DC has!
Here you find the White House, Watergate complex, Kennedy Center, the bulk of Washington’s big-name hotels, as well as the Lincoln, Washington, and Vietnam Veterans memorials on the Mall to your south.
Overall, this area is more welcoming to visitors than staying in the Convention Center area. You remain close tooften within walking distance ofthe attractions found in the Convention Center, Union Station, and Smithsonian area.
Still, you must use considerable caution and either stay on the busiest streets or walk in groups or use taxis at night, especially in the northern and northeastern peripheries of this zone.
Ah, everyone loves Georgetown.
This predominately residential area existed before the planned development of Washington, DC, and thus has a very distinct flavor.
Washington’s “movers and shakers” live here, and students from Georgetown University and other colleges in the DC area add vibrancy.
Day or night, the two main business streets, M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, throb with activity, whereas side streets lined with historic town houses invite quiet exploration.
Sadly, there are not many hotels here, and getting in and out of Georgetown is hampered by heavy traffic and lack of a Metro stop. (When given a choice, Georgetown residents were afraid that a convenient rapid transit stop would clog their area with even more visitors.)
Nevertheless, if you can get a good hotel discount, stay in Georgetown. This vibrant neighborhood is worth a few inconveniences.
4. Dupont Circle & Woodley Park
Adjoining Washington DC hotel neighborhoods Dupont Circle and Woodley Park serve up two distinct personalities.
Nestled against Rock Creek Park and the National Zoo, Woodley Park is far quieter and more traditionally residential in feeling. Even the old Omni Shoreham Hotel here has a resort-like feeling.
Although you are not within easy walking distance of downtown and the Smithsonian area, the Metro Red Line offers frequent and rapid service to major tourist attractions.
Although also predominately residential, Dupont Circle packs its residents close together and stays up late.
Attracting an eclectic collection of trendy college students, earnest interns, young professionals, musicians and artists, gays and lesbians, and others to its small shops and late night cafes, this area is lively!
Dupont Circle also has the Phillips Collection, a fine small art museum in a home-like setting overlooked by most Washington visitors.
Use extra care when walking along less busy streets in the Dupont Circle area at night. You find convenient public transportation, including the Metro Red Line, which gets you to the main tourist attractions in just a few minutes.
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A wealthy suburb adjoining northwestern Washington, Bethesda has a thriving commercial section, a variety of hotels, and some outstanding restaurants.
Metro Red Line access from Bethesda to the main tourist areas takes some 25- 35 minutes.
With its easy access to downtown, consider Bethesda a Washington, DC hotel neighborhood.
6. Silver Spring & College ParkAs with Bethesda, less up market Silver Spring borders DC and offers convenient Red Line access to central Washington within 20 25 minutes. This part of the Red Line, however, runs above ground, which makes this route a more fun ride for kids.
Silver Spring’s commercial area is far less developed than Bethesda’s and its accommodation is more spread out (e.g., away from Metro stations). On the other hand, you may find less expensive places to book here.
Travelers with cars may also wish to check out nearby College Park (University of Maryland). From here you commute to central Washington by Metro Green Line (which also offers convenient connections to the stations served by the Red Line). Again, this is a less expensive, but more spead out area.
7. Crystal City (Reagan National Airport)
Located just outside Reagan National Airport, often charmless Crystal City offers numerous hotels and quick Metro access to the tourist attractions of central Washington.
Crystal City makes a good backup choice if you cannot stay in Washington itself. In fact, the numerous hotels here provide a greater chance to get a real bargain.
While in this area, check out the Fashion Center at Pentagon City shopping complex. Those power ties worn by Washington movers and shakers often come from Nordstrom’s here.
Other Virginia suburbs of Washington DC offer budget choices, but access to the Capital may be marred by incredibly congested highways and inconvenient public transportation. Access is not a problem from the Crystal City - National Airport area.
8. Baltimore Inner Harbor
Washington DC area visitors, especially those with children, should consider staying several days in the nearby Baltimore Inner Harbor area.
Here you find the outstanding National Aquarium as well as a wealth of other attractions, including the chance to attend big-time sports events right downtown.
Be sure to visit Lexington Market near the harbor, a traditional indoor farmers market in the grand style. Lexington features delicious Maryland crab cakes prepared as you watch and other seafood.
Inner Harbor offers a wide variety of accommodation. Reaching Union Station in Washington takes 34 minutes using Amtrak express trains.
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Have a great time in in your favorite Washington, DC hotel neighborhood!