Hotel Review-Embassy Suites, Chevy Chase, MD-Child Accommodating (With a Watchful Eye)

So, I have to come clean at the onset. I love Washington DC. Even though I’ve lived in a few places across the USA from Pennsylvania to Texas, my heart always returns to Washington DC. This may be because when I lived there it was my early twenties, my first stint in grad school, or the city where I stumbled upon my husband (it was a karaoke bar…he sang Bon Jovi…how couldn’t I fall for that…sigh). It also may just be that it is a great city. And even though so much of it hasn’t changed, in the years since I’ve lived there, the one thing that strikes me is just how much it has changed. That being said, when looking for a hotel for a weekend getaway, my husband and I chose one in a location we knew from our days living there (yes, it was a long time ago, don’t ask).

US Capitol Building

So, along the metro’s red line is where we found the Embassy Suites, Chevy Chase. And to this momma, any time a hotel has the term “suites” in its name and it’s a true suite with real doors separating sleeping spaces, I am all in. Every. Last. Inch. (BTW, why do hotels even call those rooms with “alcoves” a suite anyway? We all know it isn’t. It’s just a slightly bigger space. But when your children go to bed at 7 p.m., that’s no help. None. Seriously.) This hotel seemed like the perfect spot. Out of the city, but not totally out of the city (a number of our friends have moved out of the city proper, so being closer to the edge of the city was a benefit for us) and right on the red line (which is where the zoo is (and all (mostly) our old stomping grounds are)). It, in effect, was the sweet spot.

While I wanted to love this hotel, all in all, I have to admit I would probably stretch my wings and head either downtown or more out of town for our next trip. The main issue facing the hotel is the same issue that makes it appealing: it is part of a mall. That’s right. A mall. A mall with a CVS (yay late night candy shopping), a World Market (because I always need to buy more whimsical notebooks or napkins for the house), and a Starbucks (because I’m a mom and I need it to go with the wine I just bought at World Market). So, there are some pretty impressive positives to staying at this hotel.

Looking up from the bottom floor of the mall towards the hotel rooms.

But that mall aspect? Oh it isn’t without it’s down side as well. All the hotel room doors open into a central atrium overlooking a mall below. The mall is small, so not too noisy (unless your room is located right above the restaurant), but for a mother with children who can scale smooth, vertical surfaces in an instant just for kicks, it’s enough to cause some sweaty palms and heart palpitations. And the restaurant on the third floor? The one with a small, six inch high piece of plastic between the edge of the table and the sheer drop to the floor three stories below? That one? Yeah. It’s there. Just like that. A glaring deathtrap for any toddler. This. This is why I don’t recommend this hotel.

But there’s more to consider when searching for a hotel. Perhaps your children are a bit older and know better than to climb over everything that is remotely vertical. Perhaps they’re so young the thought of walking, let along climbing, is far beyond your worries. What then? Well read on for a comprehensive list of some pros and cons.

Pros

  • The location: As mentioned above, the hotel is in a quiet neighborhood right along the red line. It is easy to get into the center of Washington DC as well as up into Bethesda, MD. It’s also right off of 495, so there’s no heavy city driving if that’s something you want to shy away from.
  • The Metro: The entrance into the Metro Station is indoors and can be accessed through the bottom floor of the mall. This is a bonus if it’s a rainy or cold day. Unfortunately, the entrance at this location is not handicapped or stroller accessible. There is one located across the street, but it does require traveling outside.
  • Dining Options: Because the hotel is in a mall, it comes with dining options. There are some typical mall-scale restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and Maggianos. There’s also the hotel’s Willie’s Bar and in room dining. But, there’s more. So much more. Like Range, a new restaurant from James Beard Award finalist Chef Bryan Voltaggio. Yep. Right outside your door.

    Willie’s Bar: nights include breakfast and happy hour here.
  • Willie’s Bar: So, this little restaurant gets a spot all it’s own. That’s because it’s where free breakfast is served every morning and where happy hour is every night (from 5:30-7:30). And it’s not just a little “shoved in a corner in the lobby” bar; it’s a full bar. Let that sink in: Full Bar.
  • Staff: I’ll give the staff their own spot too because we found them to be exceptional. Try as hard as we might, we still seem to leave a hurricane of destruction in our wake. Even with our best efforts, something spills, someone trips, a tray falls. It’s not pretty. But the staff was gracious with us and all our catastrophes. And they always greeted us when we walked in, even if we were toting two grumbling little people with us who may or may not have called them all “Yucky people.” (The third is still too young to be so unpleasant, so we have time before I’ve got to up that number to three, thank goodness.)
  • Suites: Need I say more? I’ve got a room to stay awake in and sleep in that’s not the same one my little people are in. Perfection. Perfection made better by the fact that the desk was on wheels so we could move it around and then use it as a dining table or lego building table when necessary.
  • Pool: There was a heated pool. For some reason my littles associate going to a hotel with swimming so regardless of location, a hotel stay must include a swim in a pool. This one has one, so crisis averted.

Cons

  • Suites: The rooms were shotgun style, so the living room, which the door opened up into, had a big picture window that opened out onto…the walkway overlooking the mall. It’s a Peeping Tom’s paradise. So, we basically had to keep the curtains pulled, which meant it was a dark and dreary room to spend any time in.

    The large window that had to remain shut, making the hotel room feel dark and basement-like even at the sunniest times of day.
  • Privacy: So, privacy wasn’t just a concern with the giant window to the mall, it was also a bit of a concern in the room itself. Because of the railroad style of the room, the kitchenette and bathroom were wedged between the living area and the back bedroom. So, the bathroom door, a sliding door that was perfect for smooshing little fingers in the huge gap left between it and the wall, was a lovely frosted glass that opened into the center of whole suite. It was really like the focus of the whole room. And the toilet looked directly at it. Just like home, in this hotel, there’s no privacy when anyone wants to use the bathroom. Oh, and the door didn’t lock. So, it was basically slid open and shut and open and shut and open and shut at all moments. Lovely.
  • Towels: There weren’t enough. Ever. I don’t normally comment on little inconveniences like this, considering it generally a fluke, but since we had this problem each day, I feel like it may not actually be a fluke and more a way of life. Each day we’d be given two towels. Based upon our spread (the crib, the clearly-occupied-solely-by-two-different-children-and-their-random-stuffed-animals bed, and the obviously-slept-in-each-night pull out couch), it would seem pretty obvious that more than two towels would be needed (oh and the fact that more than two used towels were taken away each time as well). But no. Never more than two. So always a call.

    Looking from the front of the suite towards the kitchen and bathroom to the bedroom beyond. Note the bathroom door placement.
  • Pool: The pool does not actually belong to the hotel. It is part of a facility next door that is accessed through the 8th floor. This means that you may walk into the pool during different events, say swim lessons for local children (they were kind enough to let our big little use a noodle). But this also means there are no towels provided there (what’s up with the towels here?). Imagine a dad takes a three and five year old go to a pool. They swim. It’s a bit chilly, so they decide to come back to their room. They get out of the pool and grab a…wait…oh that ‘s right. Nothing. They grab nothing. Then all three shiver their way down the air conditioned elevator, through the air conditioned mall walkway/hallway, and end up angry and blue at their room, leaving a trail of pool water the whole way. Sounds fun right?
  • Upkeep: The hotel, though clearly recently renovated, seems like it wasn’t quite complete. We had some wall plates that were off the wall and wires hanging out. This does become a bit of a danger when there are tiny little people exploring. As a side note, we also had a dirty washcloth in our bathroom for two days. Not a big deal if it weren’t for the fact that it was there when we arrived.

    Another view of Willie’s Bar. Note the low plastic walls next to the dining tables.
  • Willie’s Bar: I think that my mention above makes it clear how I feel about this restaurant. It’s great. The food’s certainly fine. The staff is amazing. But it is so unsafe for young children I am amazed that anyone went ahead with this concept. Not all of the tables are against the edge, fortunately, so there are some places to sit with little people, but it still draws little people to it, a moth to the flame. The fact that the edge doesn’t have any kind of ledge, a planter even, is a huge parent-red flag. All systems alert. Beyond this danger though, rooms open up right above the restaurant. And imagine a large collection of people gathered in a huge atrium chatting each other up about the day’s events (some of said people just may be little people who are intrigued with the sound of their own echo and testing the boundaries of their parent’s pleas by continuously doing so with increasing frequency…maybe). It’s not so quiet. And if your littles just happen to not wake you up at the crack of dawn, this restaurant will do it for them if you’ve opted to sleep on the pull out couch.

All in all, this hotel does the trick by being a suite. But what makes it intriguing is the same thing that makes it somewhat less than practical (and quite a bit unsafe).

Note: Hotels are based on a four level scale: Child Centered, Child Friendly, Child Accommodating, Unsuitable. A Child Centered hotel is a hotel in which the child’s comfort, happiness, etc. is paramount. A Child Friendly hotel has those implements in place to create a fun atmosphere for the child, though it is not the apparent mission of the hotel to continuously do so. A Child Accommodating hotel is that hotel where it will assist the parents in making the child comfortable at the parent’s request only. An Unsuitable hotel is a hotel that has no accommodations suitable for a child or the cons of the hotel make the hotel dangerous for the well-being of the child.