Disco D.C.

Not your mother's Mayflower Hotel. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

Will a visit to Washington, D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel yield a nostalgic view of old-time politics and tranquility?
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

That Vegas Feeling in Washington’s Grand Dames

Has anyone ever gone to the nation’s capital to experience the glitz? D.C. tends to be a staid and educational or work-related travel destination, one where a little history, a brush with power, and, increasingly, some good food, can be had. A quick visit to some monuments, a stop in at Kramerbooks, a bite at the Tabard Inn, a visit to the waterfront or Adams Morgan or Dupont Circle, and you’re done. Having lived in the District for a period of time, I’ve formed my own assessments of D.C.’s charm and efficiency, although they’re not far off from President Kennedy’s. The District always seemed southern to me, in its gentility, its clinging to old ways even as more liberal parts of the nation wanted to advance, its lagging in style and high fashion. New York is trendy; Washington, classic.

It’s the sort of place where young ladies used to be found sipping champagne in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel or drinking sugar-rimmed Irish coffees from stemmed glasses and listening to a piano player over at the Four Seasons in Georgetown or having tea and a little sherry at the Jefferson Hotel or brunching on the patio at the Hotel Washington.

The bright lights of a changed city at the former Hotel Washington in the District of Columbia Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

The bright lights of a changed city at the former Hotel Washington in the District of Columbia
Photo credit: M. Ciavardini

More recently, some prominent D.C. hotels seem to have adapted more of a millennial sensibility, one vibrant and full of color and not caring quite so much about tradition or propriety. There are surprising hews in the Hotel Washington (now known as the W Washington D.C.) and in the Mayflower’s current lobby. There seems to be just a touch of Vegas in the interior aesthetic of these once more formal places.

—Lori Tripoli

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