If price is not an issue, book one of the light-filled Caroline Astor suites at D.C.’s regal and recently transformed St. Regis (rooms from $795) just two blocks north of the White House. Closed for the past sixteen months, the result of the palazzo-style hotel’s multi-million-dollar near-gut renovation is 175 elegant Sills Huniford–designed rooms and suites with significantly bigger bathrooms. Most rooms are still not huge, but each comes with 24-hour butler service. You might have to use it, as the opulent dining room facing K Street won’t open until spring 2008.
For bigger rooms and better views, get a corner Water View room in the tastefully modern Mandarin Oriental (from $525) overlooking the Jefferson Memorial, Tidal Basin, or the Washington Marina. Oddly in sight of everything yet nearly impossible to find, this south-of-the-Mall secret is worth the trek for its giant gorgeous spa, beautifully Feng Shuied rooms, and critically acclaimed, formal (denim verboten) Modern American restaurant, CityZen. Chef Eric Ziebold—a French Laundry alum—keeps the weekend reservations booked a month in advance, four years after it opened.
For something cheaper, hipper, and younger, try the newish, stylish Hotel Palomar (from $169) just off Dupont Circle. This hotel takes advantage of Dupont’s artsy vibe by inviting local artists in to mingle with guests during its nightly complimentary wine hour. Looking to continue the watercolors conversation? Stumble over to the hotel’s restaurant and wine bar, Urbana, known for its extensive ecofriendly wine list and tasty pizzas like the Parma (mozzarella, arugula, prosciutto crudo, and parmigianino).