Inside Barack Obama's Hay-Adams Experience

Hay-Adams exterior

The entrance to the Hay-Adams hotel

Washington, D.C.’s Hay-Adams hotel is getting good play this week as President-elect Barack Obama moves his family and security entourage into an entire wing of the hotel. The plan is to give the new First Family a home so that daughters Malia and Sasha can start school on Monday at Sidwell Friends School. Expect the Hay-Adams to house its VIP occupants until January 15, when they’ll move into Blair House, the official White House guest quarters.

In the meantime, you can enjoy an insider’s view of the Hay-Adams in a review written by contributor Glenn Haussman for Travel Agent’s sister publication, Luxury Travel Advisor, early in 2008.

For a taste of what it’s like to be at the axis of Washington, D.C. politics, a visit to the Hay-Adams is a great gateway to experiencing an unvarnished look at these power players in action. More than just a luxury hotel, this member of The Leading Hotels of the World is where politicians come to be seen and hammer out deals.

During our stay, we saw seemingly more elected officials, support staff, insiders and journalists than at the Capitol. Even Vice President Dick Cheney stopped by for a private party held on the hotel’s incredible rooftop.

Adjacent to the White House and St. John’s Church, commonly known as the “Church of the Presidents,” this intimate, historic hotel exudes an unpretentious colonial charm and features only the finest amenities and services. After all, this is a second home to world leaders, millionaire financiers and, of course, fat-cat lobbyists.

Hay-Adams hotel federal suite

A Federal Suite at the Hay-Adams

The finest rooms in the house are the Federal and Presidential Suites, which are bookable via the GDS. Each of these exquisite suites features two separate rooms: an expansive corner living room with breathtaking, panoramic views and a luxuriously appointed king-bedded master bedroom with a White House view. The spacious living room includes a large dining room table, two sofas—one is a full-size pull-out—coffee tables, arm chairs, an armoire with TV and mini-bar, a home entertainment center featuring a Bose stereo system and a deluxe marble bathroom. These suites may also be reserved as a two-bedroom suite upon request, with a connecting Church View Room with either one king or two double beds.

Other top rooms include the Church View Suites, which overlook St. John’s Church and 16th Street. They feature a separate living room and are complemented by an executive desk and a large marble bathroom with a double sink, separate shower and large soaking tub. The elegant one- or two-bedroom Park View Suites also have great views and can comfortably seat eight guests. They also include a dining table for family dinners and political powwows.

White House View King Rooms feature an executive desk, a component audio system, three dual line phones and a marble bathroom. Tip: French doors that open onto small balconies in rooms 806, 808 and 810 are a nice touch.

white house view king room hay-adams

A White House View King Room at the Hay-Adams hotel

We immediately fell in love with The Lafayette Room, the property’s signature restaurant. Here, impeccable ingredients mesh seamlessly with nearly invisible service to create the ultimate luxury dining experience. Our wine glass was never empty and food seemed to magically appear. The dining room is quite formal, the perfect place to have a truly elegant meal; you won’t find any camera-toting, shorts-wearing tourists here.

What we savored most about The Lafayette was the seasonal menu and the care that went into creating every bite of food. We’ve never enjoyed shrimp cooked so perfectly, and the foie gras dressed with a cranberry-and-apple chutney served with toasted brioche and a jerez truffle sauce was simply sublime.

Breakfast is served until 11:00 a.m. and usually attracts the city’s top power brokers. After work, the playfully named Off the Record Bar is known as “Washington’s place to be seen and not heard.” This is where many younger staffers come to meet, mingle and network.

Head Concierge Jack Nargil is able to respond to any of his guests’ needs and is limited only by their imaginations (insiders say the best way to contact Nargil is by dialing the hotel’s main phone number: 202-638-6600). Booking exclusive viewings at one of the Smithsonian museums or arranging a private dinner at an exclusive restaurant is par for the course with Nargil. Tip: A complimentary sedan is offered in the morning and early afternoon to guests on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Hay-Adams is also the perfect venue in which to host a memorable event for groups of up to 225. Its Rooftop Terrace offers the only panoramic view of the nation’s capital. The view is stunning, with the White House, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Old Executive Office Building, the Department of Commerce, the U.S. Treasury, the Smithsonian Castle and the Decatur House in sight.

Luxury travel advisors who are planning a special event should contact Director of Catering Alison Okobi (202-638-6600, ext. 6151) for assistance. Okobi can tailor the hotel’s more than 6,000 square feet of meeting space and five banquet rooms for parties, galas and weddings. Clients also can enjoy exclusive use of the Rooftop Terrace. The John Hay, the hotel’s ballroom, features rich woodwork, an ornate plaster ceiling from 1927, two working fireplaces, historic tapestries and brass chandeliers.

Those visitors with free time will love a stroll around historic Georgetown. There’s great shopping here, as well as many great bars, pubs and restaurants. One place to find really high-end goods is at The Collection at Chevy Chase, which features stores such as Christian Dior, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Bulgari, MaxMara, Cartier, Ralph Lauren and Jimmy Choo.

Additionally, the National Mall is within walking distance of the hotel; the famous landmark is flanked by the museums of the Smithsonian, including the Air and Space Museum, American Art Museum, American History Museum and many more. (Major memorials honoring George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, veterans who served during World War II and the Vietnam War are also here, as is the Capitol, which is also open to the public.)

Nearby is Citronelle, widely known as one of the top restaurants in town. Chef Michel Richard has been celebrated by the likes of the James Beard House. Cooking classes and a variety of special menus are available throughout the year.

For VIP needs, contact the Hay-Adams' general manager Hans Bruland (202-638-6600, ext. 6100) or the property’s director of sales and marketing, Doug Camp (ext. 6141).

Read more on: