Not everyone gets to live across the street from the White House. Before the current Italian-Renaissance hotel was constructed in 1927, the prime real estate was occupied by the homes of two little-known American icons: John Hay—personal secretary to Abraham Lincoln, ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Secretary of State under both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt—and Henry Adams, Harvard professor and great-grandson of John Adams. Their houses were hubs of D.C. culture for decades at the turn of the last century, and so, when the Hay-Adams opened, it was only logical that the hotel would continue that tradition. Washingtonians play at the sultry bar scene, everyone from Amelia Earhart to the Obamas has stayed in its elegantly Old World rooms overlooking historic Lafayette Square and the White House beyond, and the hotel is known for its discreet and comprehensive, no-questions-asked service. Should guests need a ride to one of the District’s many important meetings, the house Tesla drops off anywhere downtown, guaranteeing a first impression worthy of a luminary. Though if you insisted on the meeting coming to you, no Beltway insider would mind.
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Just across the historic and storied Lafayette Square from the White House, the Hay-Adams occupies one of Washington’s most desirable locations. The neighborhood itself is quiet at night, after all those staffers head home from happy hour, but it couldn’t be more convenient for exploring the National Mall, lined with the free-to-the-public Smithsonian Museum, and the many monuments that are spread throughout the parks south of the White House, including the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Washington Monument. Both the Farragut West and McPherson Square metro stops are just a couple blocks away, making the city easy to get around, but both Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, with their many shops and restaurants, are within reasonable walking distance.
Need to Know
Rooms: 124 rooms, 21 suites. From $359. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: A fine-dining affair of ornate columns, white tablecloths, and crystal chandeliers, the Lafayette restaurant seems straight out of the Gilded Age, where one might expect to catch eyes with a Rockefeller or a Kennedy over the signature lobster salad. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a Sunday brunch worthy of pearls and bowties are served. Decked out in red velvet and dark mahogany, the Victorian-inspired Off the Record bar touts itself as the best place in D.C. to “be seen and not heard.” Its vintage craft cocktails, extensive scotch collection, and gourmet bites have attracted a who’s who of Capitol Hill for decades. Spa and gym details: The hotel does not have a spa, but a small, modern gym is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Spa treatments at acclaimed local spas can be arranged by the concierge. Vintage-style Mozie bicycles are also available to borrow for cruising around the monuments and the Potomac waterfront.
Who's it best for: Lovers of intrigue, history, and Old World luxury. Our favorite rooms: Any of the top-floor rooms overlooking the White House. Hobnob with the literati: In keeping with the tradition of intellectual salons that the Hay and Adams families encouraged, the hotel hosts an ongoing author series with some of the country’s most acclaimed writers, such as Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. Check the schedule when you’re planning a trip, to coordinate timing and get tickets in advance.