December 24, 2010

Hotel Review: W Washington DC

This week, I changed up my hotel. Thanks to a great rate on Travelzoo, I decided to check out the W Hotel Washington DC – a chic little place one block away from the White House.

When I first walked in, it seemed like tourist central! I’m very used to my usual hotel that’s nearly all business travelers, so this was a different scene. Furthermore, instead of a staid lobby with classical Christmas music playing in the background (which is what I’ve become accustomed to), I found that the W was “bumping,” as my friend Kristen would say. Its lobby was a combination bar/lounge that was encouraging all kinds of people to hang out instead of just the usual business travelers trying to drink away their clients’ problems 🙂

When I headed upstairs, I was first impressed with how wide the plum-colored hallways were, with their sumptuous carpeting and dark mahogany trim. Purple has become one of my favorite colors in decorating, because it perfectly pulls off the combo of being elegant and trendy. However, I was less impressed by the size of my room – it was smaller than my (tiny) New York bedroom at home! I was especially surprised about this given the fact that I’m an “elite” member and they had told me they were giving me an upgrade – if this was how small the upgraded room was, I couldn’t imagine how small a standard must be! But while the size of the room made it difficult to find a spot for my suitcase where I wouldn’t trip over it (never mind doing any kind of workout in my room), I did admire the color scheme and decor – that was the look I had wanted in my apartment when I redecorated, but I ended up going light and airy instead of chic and sophisticated.

(Colors on this are not really true to form – check out this pic on the W website for a better idea of how gorgeous the purple and white bed was, and the chair was almost the same color)

But now the true test of any hotel, at least for me: how is the gym?

Like the rooms, not huge – at least not nearly as big as my usual hotel in DC. However, I’ve learned that with hotels, the size of the gym means very little – it’s all about the equipment and the hours.

“Sweat” at the W (yes, they give it a trendy name) is a 24 hour gym – fabulous! My job often entails some late nights and early mornings, so I like to have the flexibility to work out whenever I want. Plus, as I mentioned before, the room was far too small to work out in if it wasn’t a normal gym time (though I did manage to do a few segments of the Exhale Core Fusion DVD on the in-room DVD player). And there was a lot of floor space in case I did want to do some body weight or core stuff I’d normally do in my room.

The next consideration that mattered to me was availability of equipment. At my usual hotel, it’s packed from about 5am-7am, which is as long as I ever have to work out (and I am not getting up at 4:30am to beat the rush!). Here, there was one other person in there both times I visited (once in the morning, once at night). Pretty comfortable!

Now, let’s talk about the equipment. After staying in a miserable Sheraton whose entire stock consisted of two bikes, two treadmills, two ellipticals, and a chest press machine (really tough to get in a strength workout when that’s all you have), I don’t take a set of free weights for granted anymore. This gym had a great set, plus two versatile Bowflex-like machines where you can change the handles/heights. One cool thing about the Bowflex-y machines was that they had been setup with a long pullup bar going across – perfect if you’re a Crossfitter or P90Xer! There was also a boxing punch bag and a few sets of boxing gloves; I didn’t end up trying this out, but now I wish I had.

The cardio equipment was similarly excellent: three treadmills, two ellipticals, a wave, and two bikes, all of which had personal TVs. But wait, hold up – what was that third piece of equipment? That’s right, the gym had the amazing Technogym Cardio Wave, which I had first seen featured on FitSugar a few years ago but had never had the fortune to try. I didn’t find it nearly as difficult as many reviews mentioned, and I ended up Googling it afterward to see if there were any tips I was missing (see number 3 on this list). Learning the different positions was helpful, but I didn’t feel nearly as out of breath as I do from a good interval session on either the elliptical or the treadmill. Two days later, I did feel a bit of soreness in my legs/butt, but I attribute that more to the awesome gluteus sculpt segment of the Exhale Core Fusion DVD I did.

Finally, some neat perks to point out, which didn’t really impact my workout that much but certainly made for a more luxurious gym experience:
-A mini fridge full of bottled Fiji water (in case the purified water cooler wasn’t posh enough for you)
-Earbud headphones in tiny silk baggies like wedding favors (in case you didn’t bring your headphones and still wanted to watch the individual TVs)
-Bliss spa body wipes (in case you didn’t have time for a shower)
-A bowl of fresh Granny Smith apples (for a post-workout snack)

Overall, I was definitely impressed by the “Sweat” component of the W. I wish the actual rooms were a little bit bigger, but the gym was fantastic enough to make up for it. My only regret about the gym was that I was supposed to meet up with Reader Greta for a cardio session, but ended up going home early and having to cancel, so she never got to experience the wonders of the Wave. Furthermore, key cards are required to get in, so you can’t just sneak in and give it a try. Sorry, Greta!

Finally, let’s not forget the final component of an Absolut(ly) Fit hotel review: the fabulous rooftop bar, called POV. It was trendy and lounge-y, with very dark lighting, but that only enhanced the gorgeous views of the Washington Monument.

The scene at POV seemed to be exactly my kind of place: despite being elegant, it wasn’t at all snobby, and while I stuck with my coworker, the people there seemed to be “my kind of people.” The drinks were a bit pricey at $15/cocktail, but more than made up for it with their unusual and delicious combinations (like the Da-Curry, made with curry infused rum, sugar, fresh lemon juice, and bitters). Tasty!

Ultimately, I’d be a bit torn in deciding between staying at the W again or going back to my usual hotel, simply due to the room size. However, since I had found a special rate here and this normally doesn’t fit under our preferred vendors, the choice isn’t really mine to make. If there’s another special rate, I’ll probably give it a try just to mix things up a bit, but I think a lot of what I liked about this hotel was more form than function.

Top three best things about the hotel:
1. Amazing rooftop bar with my new favorite drink (called the “#9”, it’s made with cinnamon Stoli, sweet vermouth, and lemon ginger beer) and great views of the Washington Monument
2. Fabulous bath products from Bliss (including some body butter that I ended up calling Service Express to get more of)
3. Great gym with unique equipment, cool perks, and plenty of room to workout

Top three worst things about the hotel:
1. Teeny tiny room size – no workouts in there
2. Unhealthy room service menu – basically nothing salvageable, though I’ve learned to just order takeout from Seamless Web instead of bothering with room service these days
3. Caters more to tourist clientele than business travelers – though I suppose that can be a positive if I’m ever sick of meeting corporate-types like myself 🙂


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