For decades, the hotels north of the White House floundered as a collection of concrete-block monstrosities. No longer. With its 2014 renovation, the Donovan, a Kimpton hotel, injected a sense of fun and whimsy into the neighborhood’s boxy buildings with its sleek chrome-and-leather lobby and rooftop pool bar, the only of its kind in the area. Named for “Wild” Bill Donovan, the founder of CIA predecessor the OSS, the hotel subtly takes its cues from glamorous secret agents—sushi rolls are named for James Bond films, and Asian-inspired decor derives from some of Donovan’s favorite destinations. Rooms are slick and clean-lined, with just a hint of mid-century modernism in the egg-chair seating and canopy-style leather headboards. The trendy Zentan—its name taken from the Mandarin word for “spy”—is a popular spot for staffers to gather after work over fresh sushi and hard-to-find sake, while its rooftop sibling, DNV, becomes one of the area’s hottest nightlife spots in the warmer months.
The Donovan isn’t just looks, though; like at all Kimpton hotels, hospitality is key, and the staff here bends over backward for kids, pets, and discerning adults alike, with a wide range of perks that run the gamut from in-room yoga mats to daily happy hours.
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Just a few blocks north of the White House, perched on historic Thomas Circle, the Donovan straddles the line between business D.C. and young, trendy D.C. The 14th Street Corridor, known for its booming restaurant and art gallery scene, stretches north from the hotel, past Logan Circle, while the White House, Capitol, and National Mall are only a few blocks in the other direction. Popular local eateries include Le Diplomate and Birch & Barley; Peregrine Espresso and La Colombe duel it out for the neighborhood’s best coffee.
Need to Know
Rooms: 193 rooms, 17 suites. From $169. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: Sleek and sultry, the trendy Zentan restaurant and bar serves fresh, seafood-heavy Japanese-inspired small plates alongside an extensive sake and Japanese whiskey list, as well as craft cocktails. Upstairs, the seasonal DNV Rooftop bar and lounge draws an attractive crowd to its drinks and bites from Zentan, not to mention the panoramic city views and cooling breezes in the humid summer months. By day, the rooftop is open only to hotel guests, and a limited menu can be ordered poolside, too. Spa and gym details: In addition to a modern, 24-hour gym, the hotel offers Public bikes to borrow, and Gaiam yoga mats are included in all rooms, pairing nicely with the 24-hour yoga and Pilates channel on all televisions. The guests-only rooftop pool is just long enough for laps, but it’s not set up for hardcore fitness buffs. The hotel lacks a spa, but in-room spa treatments can be arranged.
Who's it best for: Up-and-coming wheelers and dealers, trendy tourists, and young couples. Our favorite rooms: City View King Studios have the best views of leafy, historic Thomas Circle through floor-to-ceiling windows, and those on the corners are twice as bright and scenic. Start the evening: At the end of each day, from 5 to 6 p.m., the hotel hosts a wine hour for guests in the elegant and relaxed living room.