An ever more popular choice of lodging for visitors to Washington in search of a cozy home away from home is in-town bed-and-breakfasts.
And locals are also recommending B&Bs; more and more as a good alternative to hotels for their out-of-town guests. There are three reasons: B&Bs; are usually less expensive, located in pleasant parts of the District of Columbia and offer a hearty, homelike setting.
In an effort to help find the best B&Bs; here, we visited 18 locations. We flopped down on mattresses, soaked up atmosphere in the common rooms and sampled the muffins and coffee some of them offered for breakfast.
While the District of Columbia has a number of charming inns, small hotels and guest houses, we decided to focus exclusively on B&Bs.; Here the term B&B; usually refers to townhouses or other spacious homes that have been converted to provide lodging for guests. We narrowed our list down to places in the neighborhoods tourists flock to most. Although Georgetown is also a popular district among tourists, it has a dearth of B&Bs;, largely because most proprietors there are reluctant to open their homes to travelers.
We did not seek to make a comprehensive compilation of the city's B&Bs;, but rather to list a few places that we liked. We visited most of the properties advertised in guidebooks or on the Internet and whittled away those we found lacking. While some good B&Bs; are not officially sanctioned by the city, all the places we recommend are licensed. All but one serve breakfast. Some have private baths; others share facilities. We put a special accent on affordability. While some of the rooms in places we mention cost up to $250 a night, most are under $100.
Besides our recommended B&Bs;, we include the names of two services that act as agents for strings of B&Bs; throughout the city. Many of the establishments they represent are private homes that have one or two guest rooms made available for overnight guests. The services usually take care of reservations and take a percentage of the room rate as a commission. They are a good resource for those in search of lodging in Georgetown or other particular neighborhoods.
Swann House, 1808 N. Hampshire Ave. NW; telephone (202) 265-4414, Internet http://www.swannhouse.com. Nine rooms; doubles from $135 to $250 per night.
This 1883 red brick mansion, perched regally on a quiet corner, is worthy of a birthday or other grand celebration. The sitting rooms have an airy, open ambience enhanced by the 18-foot-high ceilings, woodwork and antique Oriental carpets. The rooms, all with private baths, air conditioning and private telephone lines, are as stylish as a three-star hotel. The breakfast often includes special homemade pastries as well as the usual assortment of coffees, teas and rolls. But it is the extras--a swimming pool surrounded by a lush private garden, an open kitchen with complimentary refreshments--that make this one of the best of the city's B&Bs.;
The Dupont at the Circle, 1604 19th St. NW; tel. (202) 332-5251, Internet http://www.dupontatthecircle.com. Seven rooms, two apartments; doubles $130 to $175.
With an air of serenity about it and an excellent location, this B&B; allows guests to be smack in the swing of things but still retreat into a peaceful corner. A nicely restored 1885 townhouse, it has a wonderful Old World mood to it. The living rooms, full of antiques, make for great places to curl up with a book. The guest rooms, complete with Egyptian cotton sheets and embroidered bedspreads, offer just the right mood for relaxation. Equipped to serve the business traveler as well as the leisure weekender, all rooms have private telephones. The Plum Suite, sprawled across a whole floor of the house and complete with adjoining room and whirlpool, is our favorite. One big draw here is the owners, Alan and Anexora Skvirsky. They host a hearty breakfast, family style around an elegantly appointed dining room table. Longtime Dupont Circle residents, the Skvirskys also offer great advice about the best places to go for a romantic dinner or an evening of dancing.
The Adams Inn, 1744 Lanier Place NW; tel. (202) 745-3600, Internet http://www.adamsinn.com. Twenty-five rooms; from $55 (for a double with shared bath) to $70 (private bath); continental breakfast included.
This is a well-kept place spread across three townhouses on a quiet street. For those who want to be in that haven of ethnic restaurants and clubs, the location is perfect. The setting is best for young couples on a budget who want a taste of the District of Columbia's most cutting-edge neighborhood. Cities and Cashion's Eat Place, two of the most happening restaurants in the city, are a few blocks away. There are no televisions or telephones in rooms, but those amenities are provided in the living room. The National Zoo and the Woodley Park Metro station are within walking distance.
Kalorama Guest House, 1854 Mintwood Place NW; tel. (202) 667-6369. Twenty-nine rooms; doubles from $60 a night (with shared bath) to $90 (private bath).
One of the first established B&Bs; in D.C., this place is sprawled across a couple of Victorian houses. It has everything a good, low-cost B&B; should have. A basic continental breakfast and afternoon aperitifs are part of the room rate.
Capitol Hill Guest House, 101 5th St. NE; tel. (202) 547-1050, Internet http://www.guesthse.com. Ten rooms; rates from $55 to $105.
The interior of this 19th century townhouse is homespun but neat and nicely appointed. The rooms, on three floors, are a bit small but clean and air-conditioned.
Hereford House, 604 S. Carolina Ave. SE; tel. (202) 543-0102. Four rooms; doubles from $50 to $67, all with shared baths.
This house has the feel of a quaint, low-key home. The rooms are average size and come with comfortable beds and reading chairs. There is a common room with plenty of seating space and a television on the ground floor. One big plus here is the location; the house is excellently situated a block from the Eastern Market Metro station. But it is Ann Edwards, the hostess, who makes Hereford House special. A warm and chatty Brit, she serves up a stick-to-the-ribs full breakfast and a lot of wit and wisdom about the neighborhood. Hereford would be excellent for a small group of women on a visit in the city.
Shipman House. The address and other details can be obtained from the company Bed and Breakfast Accommodations Ltd., which makes reservations for the house (see below). Six rooms; doubles range from $60 to $150.
Restored with loving care by the owners, Charles and Jackie Reed, this Victorian mansion is one of the most pleasant B&Bs; in D.C. The decor, enhanced by ornate woodwork and Art Deco lamps and artwork, is dazzling. The elegant gardens, sometimes used for special weddings and receptions, are also free for guests to use. The full breakfast, served family style by the owners, is a special treat here. One drawback is the neighborhood, near 14th Street, where women may not be comfortable walking alone at night.
The Swiss Inn, 1204 Massachusetts Ave. NW; tel. (202) 371-1816, Internet http://www.theswissinn.com. Six rooms; summer rates from $79 to $99 for two. No breakfast is served, but all rooms have kitchenettes, making in-room meals easy. Some rooms have an extra bed or an extra bunk bed, which makes the inn suitable for a couple with one or two children.
This is a turn-of-the-century building converted from an apartment building to a guest house in the early 1980s. It's a good value for the money, clean and friendly, best for a small family on a budget. Near downtown, it's an easy walk from the Metro Center subway station. But the decor is basic. And the neighborhood can be a bit risky, particularly at night.
Bed & Breakfast Accommodations Ltd., P.O. Box 12011, Washington, DC 20005; tel. (202) 328- 3510, Internet http://www.bnbaccom.com. This place makes reservations for 80 B&Bs; of all types throughout the Washington area.
Bed and Breakfast League Ltd., P.O. Box 9490, Washington, DC 20016; tel. (202) 363-7767. Ask for a brochure, with complete descriptions of properties.