So… I keep dropping the phrase LPA National Conference, but I never say anything about it. I figured I would dip my toes into the pool today and offer up just a tidbit. The experience was truly eye-opening, and I have some opinions, ideas and notes that I still need to translate to myself before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keys), so let me begin with a little bit of a review.
The Washington Marriot Wardman Park in Washington, DC was the BEST hotel choice!!! Not only is it a beautiful establishment, it’s in Cleveland Park, an amazing part of town- close to so much good food and walking distance from the Zoo- and offered up the space a conference of this caliber needs.
For starters, the Wardman Park was totally prepared for us to arrive. Sure, we waited in the lobby, but our things were kept safe while we waited, the floors were clean and we had time to meet our friends we only knew online!
When we arrived, there were steps to help LP reach the desk height, and the employees were patient with each guest as we pulled our credit cards and IDs for check in. As we headed to our room (accompanied by a very nice gentleman who rolled our luggage and Addie’s many toys), I was impressed with how pristine the floors were. I’ve been to my share of hotels that have collections; whether it’s hair in the corners of marble floors, or pieces of paper that tend to stick to the durable carpets used in many high-traffic areas, Wardman showed almost none of this. Perfect for a first time mom with a baby who army crawls as her primary source of mobility. When we got to the room, there was a step stool in between the beds, too. I appreciated the attention to detail necessary for our group.
Dave and I have a differing view of this, but he feels the layout of the hotel was really cool. While I don’t think it wasn’t cool, it was HUGE and seemed like the tower elevator being in the middle with long hallways coming off meant a LONG walk back to our room. For a runner, even I was a bit worn out from the repeated walk… I will say that limited access, however, is probably part of the security plan. Which leads me to the team that makes sure all guests are safe, cared for, and ensure all items are returned to their rightful owners.
On the first night, my Mom went to look for her planner. Like me, she has a large black book that houses her life. Every plan, meeting, birthday, anniversary and business card is tucked safely in between sheets marked Daytimer. When she didn’t have the book in our room, I saw the panic rise up in her face. Wanting a glass of wine and to explore a bit, I offered her the crook of my arm as we walked down the hall to search.. and hopefully relax. Upon reaching the front desk, a staff member radioed security and directed us to their home base, behind an unmarked door. We were greeted, asked a million questions and then a man disappeared back behind the blockade. When he returned, he smiled, and handed the book over. My Mom nearly leapt into his arms with thanks. Instead, she smiled her beaming grin, thanked him profusely and we walked to the lounge, where we enjoyed sub-par coffee and crème brûlée (one of my favorites).
There were a few more instances where the head of security, who had assisted in the case of the missing planner, gave a genuine nod while doing his routine checks, as well as when he was serious, as was the case in the removal of a guest from our floor. I won’t go into detail, but there was a man who was not with the conference who was causing some concern… he was also a neighbor on our floor. With Addie in bed and Dave doing some work, the ladies (as I refer to my Mom, Kate Clark and myself) left the room (cups full of merlot), finding security and DC police scattered outside a room a few doors down. A little nervous, I looked at an officer and said, “This isn’t going to be noisy is it? If so, you have to put the baby in our room back to bed.” As I cracked a smile, the head of security (who seemed to always be there) smiled back, and gently shook his head. Leave it to me to make a joke during a serious situation. As the man was escorted, the stoic faces of security never became mean, angry or intimidating. Then there was the woman who fell backward in her wheelchair on a bus tour on our way back to the hotel. Upon arrival, a medical team and security were there with bottled water and a well composed group, ready to direct, lead and garner the assistance needed for the person in distress. The team of professionals at the Wardman Hotel really left me with a sense of security and well being, and the confidence to approach and ask for help if I needed it.
The lounge was a great meeting spot where I spent almost every night meeting up with other parents, friends I’d met online and even my friends from when I lived in the area coming to visit. The furniture was really comfortable and the layout was inviting to join in groups in the open setting. There was also an area with computers for guests to use, free WiFi in the area, and information screens with touch screen options to help you find what you were looking for, as well as directions on how to get there.
Finally, the rooms! We loved our room. The bathroom was a bit cramped- having to move the door around to get in (not good for a showering hubby and make-up applying wife, but we survived. The room was clean when we got there… but we didn’t let that last for long- especially the sheets:
Every morning we were able to make a pot of coffee (not so great coffee, but we are coffee snobs), and Addie was able to eat right away from the fruit and milk we had stored in the small refrigerator that comes standard in all rooms. There was enough space for all of her stuff, and we were able to store the dry goods on top of the granite enclosure that housed the fridge.
There were two queen beds, which was perfect because for the price, we decided to share the room. Not just Dave and I (we like to share), but my Mom as well (as my step-dad was home caring for the dogs and my brother who recently had surgery). Yep… three adults in one room. And a pack n play and a large toy. And we still had room. True story.
There was a nice chair in the room with a small end table, where Dave read to Addie each night, then turned off the lights and laid her down to sleep. He was still able to work or watch TV by turning the flat screen away from her direction- yep- swivel TV in the room! When we were awake, we let the light shine in through the full wall of windows with a pretty nice view:
And the perfect touch for a reader? The multiple options for lighting! The blackout curtains were perfect for our napping warrior (who was taking two naps a day) and usually sleeps without problem in light, but with the new surroundings, having the room really dark was just what we needed. With the added attention to detail, I was still able to read in bed with the nifty light added to the headboard.
The few things I would change? The pool being outdoors only (and it’s distance from our tower!)- when it was drizzling out, it was the perfect time to swim, but it’s hard to gather a baby and enjoy a pool in the rain… but the 24-hour gym offered me a bit of an outlet to get a workout. Getting to the pool was a trek, but that’s one of the negatives to having such a large hotel with its specific layout (next time we will have to ask to be close to the pool!).
Getting work done was difficult, as the rooms do not have free WiFi and the lobby was always packed with people, making concentration difficult. With the options of using my cell network or paying $13+ daily, I worked off my phone as much as I could and went to the lobby to make edits as few times as possible.
…and then the food. In true Chelley fashion, I wanted all DC food to be what I remembered (I was much more involved in the food-scene 7 years ago) from living there. Wardman disappointed on this front- from the overpriced and under-whelming breakfast buffet, to the classic (read: un-inventive) pub fare, all the way to the lack of coffee bar late at night. There were plenty of local places, but for someone who could go for a cup of coffee at midnight, or a nice cup of loose-leaf tea with honey and milk before bed, I truly wished for a window I could order up from.
But with a courtyard like this (and lots of good local food), there really isn’t much that the aesthetics of the property doesn’t make up for:
All-in-all, this hotel was great, and I would not hesitate to book again. Are you looking for a place in DC to kick back and relax, see the city or venture on business? This hotel has it all to please guests from families to professionals. Happy travels!