Common Mistakes When Booking a Hotel in the Washington, D.C. Area
My wife and I are always being asked about what are the best hotels in the greater Washington, D.C. area including in the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia. The biggest mistake we see people make is assuming downtown is the best choice. Often it is not, and instead the most expensive. During the weekend however, rates downtown drop, as do they all over the entire D.C. region when business travelers leave. The other mistake we see people make is FAILING to book a hotel near the Metro and relying on driving or expensive Ubers to get around. The Metro opens up access to affordable hotels as well as takes the stress out of getting around.
The Greater Washington, D.C. Area at a Glance
For the purposes of looking for a hotel in the D.C. area you can divide up the region into six segments. Those are downtown, south of the National Mall, Arlington, Alexandria, the urban residential neighborhoods of D.C. Then there are the suburban regions in Maryland and Virginia toward the south, west and north. Use this page to get a feel for the pros and cons to each area and recommendation on the best hotels.
Best Types of Hotels the D.C. Area
This article also recommends specific types of hotel for families who want suite rooms, luxury minded hotels for romantic getaways, dog / pet friendly hotels, and our top recommendations for big brand hotels like Marriott and Hilton.
Pros & Cons to Staying Downtown. Downtown spans from Union Station to Georgetown and is north of the National Mall. The hub of downtown D.C. for tourist is at the Gallery Plaza / Chinatown Metro station. It takes roughly 15 to 20 minutes to walk from downtown to the National Mall. The pros to staying in this area are that there is a great deal of hotels, an abundance of nightlife and restaurant options as well as access to number of museums and shopping. The cons are the costs of hotels, noise and parking fees. There are not hotel in downtown that offer free parking. Most travelers would consider downtown D.C. a safe place. A pro tip is to consider downtown hotels on Friday and Saturday nights, but to avoid it during the week when rates jump up by $75 to $100 a night.
South of National Mall
Pros & Cons to Staying South of the National Mall. The area just south of the National Mall is home to large government agencies and spans the distance between the supreme court and the Lincoln Memorial. The pros to this area are that you will be able to walk from the hotel to the National Mall including all the museums and monuments. The cons are that hotel choices are limited and the area clears out after dark without much nearby in the way of restaurants or nightlife. For some the quite may be welcomed, for others it is a drawback. Pro tip for this area is that it is home to the #1 hotel for families, that is the Capitol Holiday Inn which also has a rooftop pool.
Pros & Cons to Staying in Arlington, VA. Arlington sits across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. and is connect via Orange & Yellow Metro lines as well as 3 major bridges and 3 separate pedestrian trails. Arlington can be divided into two segments. The area by DCA (Reagan National) airport and the strip of urban pockets along the Orange line headed west. The biggest pros to Arlington are that hotels have parking fees that are less than downtown and in a few instances parking is free. Other positives include a strong restaurant scene in the neighborhoods of Clarendon, Ballston and Crystal City. You can catch a free shuttle from your hotel to the airport by staying near DCA. The commute to National Mall is quick, and Arlington is connected to the highway via I-66. Its hard not to go wrong with Arlington, and that is where my wife and I lived for several years.
Pros & Cons to Staying in Alexandria. Alexandria sits south of Washington, D.C. across the Potomac River near DCA and just of I-95. The pros to staying in Alexandria are access to boutique main street shopping, and endless restaurants. Alexandria is a unique urban pocket of D.C. bottled into a charming downtown. You’ll be able to drive or ride a bike easily from Alexandria to Mt. Vernon. With close proximity to I-95 this is one of the best areas for parking the car and staying in a hotel outside of Washington, D.C. The cons to Alexandria will be that in some cases the hotels are either further away from downtown or the Metro stations. Alexandria helps alleviate this nuance with a trolley. A pro tip is to stay near the Eisenhower station on the edge of Alexandria were hotel rates are less and the hotels have free parking.
DC Urban Residential
Pros & Cons to Staying in D.C. Urban Residential Neighborhoods D.C.’s affluent tourist friendly urban neighborhoods span between Dupont Circle and Chevy Chase along the Red Metro line. This area is home to Rock Creek Park, as well as the National Zoo. One of the pros to this area is being surrounded by D.C. vibrant neighborhoods during your stay. There will be no shortage of good restaurants nearby, and the commute to the National Mall is under 20 minutes. There are also a variety of hotel price points. The cons are getting here, especially by car and getting to these areas from the airport is going to take extra time with a transfer. One pro tip is to look at the Days Inn which offers economy minded rates near the National Zoo.
West Suburbs in VA
Pros & Cons to Staying West of D.C. The Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. sprawl west along the Orange and Silver Metro lines that hug I-66. The key areas are Falls Church and Tysons Corner. The later is home to two very large malls. One of the pros to staying in this area is that hotels often have free parking, another is that if you are flying into Dulles these are the most accessible hotels. The commute into the National Mall don’t require a transfer if you stay on the Orange line, but it will take between 30 and 45 minutes. The cons to hotels in these areas are the commute on the Metro and in some cases getting to and from the Metro from the hotel in bad weather. One pro tip for this area is to look at the Courtyard by Marriot at Dunn Loring which is the most popular hotel on this website.
Pros & Cons to Staying South of Washington, D.C. The suburbs south of Washington, D.C. along the Yellow and Green Metro lines span along I-295 and I-495 in both Maryland and Virginia. The pros to staying this area are two-fold. For starters this is where you’ll find the most affordable hotels with nightly rates usually around $125. The other positive is that most hotels have free parking and some are within walking distance to the Metro. For families looking for the best value, south of Washington, D.C. is a good bet. The cons are that the surroundings are not unique it is simply every day suburbia, plus the commute into the National Mall takes between 30 and 40 minutes. Our pro tip for this area is to look at hotels near the Branch Ave. Metro station. There are three relatively similar hotels situated in a quite street within walking distance to the Metro (picture above).
North Suburbs in MD
Pros & Cons to Staying North of D.C. The northern suburbs of the Washington, D.C. area span along the Red line near I-270 and I-95. The urban pockets of Bethesda and Silver Spring are the most notable areas connected by the Red line. The pros to these areas are that you can find hotels with free parking and also avoid driving into the worst of D.C. traffic. If you look at hotels in Bethesda or Silver Spring you’ll be able to balance a mix of location and savings over downtown D.C. hotels. Staying further out toward Shady Grove brings in additional savings, but the downside will be longer commute times into D.C. The pro tip for this area is to look at the Americana Inn which is in Bethesda about 7 blocks from the Metro and this hotel offers free parking.
Top 10 Cheap Hotels in the D.C. Area
The Most Reliable Cheap Hotels in D.C. Area Below are our top 10 hotels for the Washington, D.C. area. All of these hotels offer free parking, and in most cases offer guests a grab in go breakfast along with free wifi. Each are very close to the Metro and in most cases you can walk from the hotel to the Metro station. We listed these hotels because they perform well across thousands of online reviews and close to the Metro. Use the links below to learn more about the hotel and surrounding neighborhood.
Best Cheap Hotels in Washington, D.C. Area
|Franconia / Springfield||Comfort Inn||Access to I-95, South||30 mins|
|Falls Church||Econo Lodge||Off I-66, West||20 mins|
|Branch Ave.||Country Inn & Suites||Off I-495, Walk to Metro||30 mins|
|Bethesda||Americana Inn||Best Mix of Location to Savings, Free Parking||20 mins|
|Spring Hill||Quality Inn||Walk to Metro, West I-66||30 mins|
|Crystal City||Americana||Best Mix of Location to Savings, Free Parking||15 mins|
|Shady Grove||Comfort Inn||I-270, Good Reviews||40 mins|
|Huntington-Eisenhower||Holiday Inn||Good Location on Edge of Alexandria||30 mins|
|Ballston||Comfort Inn||Great Location, Walk to Metro, Rates Sometime Inflate||15 mins|
|New Carrollton||Courtyard by Marriott||Good for Getting to BWI||30 mins|
Hotels in D.C. Area with Suites
The Best Hotels With Suites in Washington, D.C. Probably the most affordable hotel in the D.C. area with suites is the Country Inn and Suites located within walking distance to the Branch Ave. Metro station south of D.C. along I-495. If you are a family who doesn’t mind a 30 minute commute this hotel will please because it offers free breakfast and parking. An upgrade to this option would be the Residence Inn in Ballston. This is a new hotel that offers free breakfast everyday. The hotel doesn’t offer free parking, however the location is a substantial upgrade with many restaurants right outside the hotel. For families who want to stay in D.C. we suggest looking at hotels near Foggy-Bottom right next to George Washington university campus. Many of the nearby hotels carter to families by offering large suite rooms. This location allows you to walk to the National Mall. For families who are prioritizing Smithsonian Museum and Monument we suggest looking at either the Holiday Inn near L’Enfant Metro or the newly built Hyatt House close by. While sometimes expensive these hotels offer the best access to the National Mall.
Best Suite Room Hotels in D.C. Area
|Country Inn & Suites||Best Value for Families, Free Parking, Walk to Metro, Breakfast|
|River Inn||Good Location in Dowtown Near GWU|
|Residence Inn||Great Neighborhood, New Hotel, Free Breakfast|
|Hyatt House||Walk to National Mall, New Hotel, Expensive Parking|
|Holiday Capitol Inn||Walk to National Mall, Rooftop Pool, Expensive|