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Review: Intercontinental The Willard Hotel Washington DC

IHG credit card
Written by Charlie

Here is a review of The Willard Intercontinental hotel – a beautiful, perfectly situated hotel in downtown Washington DC. Find out what it is like staying here and how you can do it for free!

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Located just a block from the White House on the famous Pennsylvania Avenue is the upscale Intercontinental The Willard hotel, or just The Willard. It has some beautiful architecture and room sizes that make you forget you are in a city with extremely valuable real estate. For a stay in Washington DC, The Willard definitely merits your consideration as your place of lodging.

Review: Intercontinental The Willard Hotel Washington DC

The Willard Hotel website

History

If you are a history buff, then the history of The Willard Hotel and its address should certainly intrigue you. The location had been home to various hotel structures since 1816. Since that time, it has switched hands multiple times including a dispute that took the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on. It was that transaction that occurred between the former owner and a man named Willard that changed the property into a single hotel and put the name “Willard Hotel” on the property.

After years of being closed and then being renovated, it was brought into the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) family and reopened in 1986.

The hotel has had many famous guests. According to Wikipedia, every president since Franklin Pierce has either slept in or attended an event at The Willard Hotel. Not only that, but it was from within the hotel that Martin Luther King Jr. penned his speech, “I Have A Dream.”

Location

The Willard

The convenient location of The Willard

The Willard is located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, just one block over from the White House. In addition to the hotel, the Willard is also the location of The Willard office buildings with access from the other side of the hotel. You can enter from either the hotel or the office building side and you will be greeted with a beautiful walkway and decorations lining the walkway to the hotel lobby.

Getting There

While there is parking on location, it is not cheap. For valet parking, the cost is $50 per day! If you do drive into the city and are looking for a place to park your car, there are garages all over the city that you can utilize cheaper than that. One we chose was located at 1201 F Street. The rate for us for 24 hours was $20. It may be a good idea to download the app SpotHero to pick and pay for the nearest, cheapest location.

If you do not need to drive, the better option would be to either use some sort of transportation like Super Shuttle from the airports or Uber. If you want to go even cheaper, the Metro would be your best, cheapest way to go. This would be true especially if you were flying into Reagan National Airport, just a few short miles from the hotel. The Metro Center station is two blocks from the hotel.

Hotel Entrance/Check-In

The lobby of The Willard Hotel is just beautiful. It gives such an elegant appearance to this historic property while also being large enough to simply lounge around while waiting for a car, a friend, or just wanting to read a newspaper (readily available) and relax. The design inside is reminiscent of the architecture found in the US Capitol and gives you that DC awareness before you even step out.

The Willard

Part of the elegant lobby of The Willard

Check-in was handled quickly from a desk in front of the old fashioned key slotted wall. Having no IHG status didn’t really matter as you can tell that this hotel is used to catering to and serving all of their guests.

The hallways leading to the guest rooms followed with the elegant theme of the rest of the hotel. The best way to explain it is that it is very classic DC look.

The Room

When visiting large cities, I am used to seeing high-class but somewhat cramped rooms. Real estate in these cities is at a premium and the prices on hotel rooms are high enough and in great enough demand that it is understandable.

The Willard

The minibar area near the entrance to the room

However, our guest room at The Willard was quite spacious. It began with a small entranceway that had the minibar and bathroom on the right. Just be careful if you do what I like to do (replacing the mini bar drinks with my own for chilling) – this minibar is an electronic one that notifies the system to charge the room if you select a drink from the refrigerator! Yes, I know this from experience. 🙂

The Willard

Our spacious guestroom at The Willard

The bedroom itself was a wonderfully large area. The room had 2 queen beds, Intercontinental’s exclusive mattresses, a chair and end table, a work desk, and a large 47″ television.

The bed was very comfortable! Hotel beds at nice hotels can be hit or miss with a majority of them missing the mark of great comfort just barely. This one nailed it. I got an incredible night’s sleep between the comfort of the bed and the support and cushioning of the pillows.

The Willard

The desk is right behind where I am standing for the photo

As you would expect, the desk was perfect for spreading out papers, setting up a computer, and getting work done. Not only that, but it had an electric strip embedded in the top corner of the desk. Hotels always seem to fail in providing enough electrical outlets. Putting a strip like that into the desk was a thoughtful, necessary touch.

The bathroom continued with the roomy feel. As one who likes a nice bath, this one did a good job of providing just that. It was not a deep tub but still long enough to not be cramped.

The Willard

Part of the bathroom

The view from the room was partially blocked, but the building that was blocking the view was actually another part of The Willard. That meant it was not bad to look at – at all! Off in the distance, you could see the Lincoln Memorial. All told, it was a pretty good view!

The Willard

The nice view from the room

Fitness Center

The Willard

The fitness center at The Willard / from The Willard website

I forgot to take my phone down with me to the fitness center so no photos from me of the center! Still, it was as good as you would expect from such a hotel. While I was unable to get a run in on the treadmills, they would have been nice ones to do just that.

One of the things I liked about the fitness center is that it is a 24 hour facility, accessible with your keycard. Too many hotels have operating hours that don’t work well for runners like me who like to go for a run in the middle of the night.

Staying There

This is a top category hotel within the IHG portfolio. That means it will require 50,000 points per night. Or, even better, you can use your free night certificate from your anniversary of holding the IHG card. That is one great redemption!

The Willard

The cost in cash or points for a random night at The Willard

I used a free night from the “Into the Nights” promo. It was a fantastic use and one I was glad I made. The cash price for the hotel was at $350 for that night. It can be had around $240 a lot of nights as well but it will go even higher than the $350 depending on the events/season in the area. In fact, you can easily find nights for well over $500!

If paying with points, here is the point breakdown:

  • 50,000 points for straight points
  • 45,000 points + $40
  • 40,000 points + $70

Depending on your point amount, any one of these options could work out for you.

Summary

I have stayed at several hotels in Washington, DC and this one is certainly one of my favorite hotels. In fact, it could be my favorite. I just wish I had more time there and in the area. When visiting DC, I like being central to the downtown area and this hotel gives you that. The downside of that is that much of that area of the city shuts down in the evening. The upside is that it puts you in close walking distance to monuments, museums, government buildings – much of what you would want to see in Washington, DC.

If you have the IHG credit card, this is definitely a place where you may want to use an anniversary night or your points. It is certainly worth it. I will definitely be back to The Willard again and am looking forward to my family seeing it as well.

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About the author

Charlie

Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.

6 Comments

  • The Willard is my favorite hotel in the world. I have been fortunate enough to stay here using points for both or President Obama’s inaugurations. I’m looking forward to the next inauguration in 2017, no matter who wins, as long as I can stay here on points. The cash price for the last inauguration was $1,300 per night, with a four night minimum. Best use of points EVER!

    • Good to hear! And that is certainly a fantastic redemption! Hopefully you snag it again for ’17. I am surprised it is still available on points when you stayed there in the past – I would think it would have been a pretty popular hotel.

  • While I haven’t yet had the chance to stay in the Willard, you can see the apartment complex I used to live in off in the distance of the exterior shot photo. The left corner, top floor of the brick building beyond the blue flag pole. Just across the river in Rosslyn, VA. Loved living down there

  • Last time I stayed here there was an Israeli-US conference with special guests John Kerry and Benjamin Netanyahu. There was an armed guard in our hallway and two secret service members in the elevator. Very unique experience; highly recommended hotel!

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