Washington D.C.: Forget the cherry blossoms, stay and watch the U.S. Open

The Mandarin Oriental is ideally located in the nation's capital

One of my father’s favorite sayings was: “If you can’t travel first class why bother traveling at all?” As a result, the Moore family stayed home a lot. But when the patriarch did plan our summer travel he searched out the best hotels conveniently located to family attractions and preferably within walking distance. (He hated driving in big cities.) And if there was a major golf tournament in the area it would immediately be on our “must do” list as it was one year when we all attended the U.S. Open at Oakmont CC outside Pittsburgh.

O.K, this is my lead-in to say my father would have loved the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C. It perfectly fits his preferred criteria: 1) it’s a first-class property known for exceptional service; 2) it’s ideally located overlooking the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Marina and within an easy stroll to the Mall and museums; and 3) it even boasts a U.S. Open package for June 13-19 when one of golf’s major championships will be held at Congressional Country Club in nearby Bethesda, MD.

Let’s take a look at this last item first. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is one of the few if any hotels in D.C offering a “U.S. Open” package. Although guests must arrange for their own Open tickets, the hotel is providing a buffet breakfast for two in its fine Sou’Wester restaurant, round trip bus transportation from the hotel to the course (a deal closer for Dad!), and even a cleverly conceived “survival kit” which includes a snack pack, an Open spectator guide and some sunscreen (a healthy bonus given the expected hot and sunny weather.) And for those booking a suite, the hotel is adding a special golf gift to the package. As for the matter of last minute travelers nervously thinking about Open ticket availability, it shouldn’t be a concern even if the USGA (visit www.usga.org) “sells out” its ticket allotment. Websites such as Stubhub.com always have tickets looking for buyers.

As far as the hotel itself, the 400-room upscale Mandarin Oriental (www.mandarinhotel.com) is part of an international hotel and investment group with 41 deluxe hotels, resorts and residences in 26 countries. Its stated aim “is to be recognized widely as the best global luxury hotel group, providing 21st century luxury with oriental charm in each of its hotels.” Sometimes a claim like this can be overstated but after staying there for several nights last month I can attest it’s not.

The rooms are spacious, elegantly-appointed and meticulously cared for. In addition to the four-star CityZen restaurant, the Mandarin Oriental is locally known for its exquisite spa and fitness center. But what really stood out was the exceptional service. From the first moments of our initial check-in to when our car was brought around after checking out, the staff remained on “high alert” for imparting friendly and exacting service. And better yet, they genuinely seemed to enjoy their duties. One example occurred while we were having pre-dinner drinks one evening in the lovely terrace courtyard overlooking the marina and with a glimpse of the Jefferson Memorial. We asked one of the staff to take a photo of us to mark the occasion. Not only was she happy to oblige but she also quickly removed a table centerpiece and other furnishings to better compose the shot. It was a little gesture but it spoke volumes about the Mandarin’s staff and its commitment to affable service.

In terms of an ideal location, it would be hard to match this hotel in D.C. Leaving our car in the hotel’s garage, we loved the proximity to so many attractions and museums as well as to the Metrorail—D.C.’s efficient and clean underground subway system. From the Mandarin, there’s a delightful walk or run around the Tidal Basin with stops at the Jefferson Memorial, a new memorial to George Mason, the stunning FDR memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Memorial and the always heart-stirring Vietnam Veterans Wall.

On this trip, we made our first visit to the Newseum located on Pennsylvania Ave. The Newseum is dedicated to highlighting five centuries of news history with state-of-the-art technology with hands-on exhibits.  Featuring seven levels of galleries, theaters, retail spaces and visitor services, the Newseum takes visitors behind the scenes to experience how and why news is made. For many, it will be an emotional experience with gripping photography and film depicting the world’s most trying periods and episodes, including wars and assassinations, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and journalists being killed doing their jobs. But it’s a most worthwhile and inspiring attraction that really demands a full day to absorb its many facets.

We also went to the U.S. Capitol where we had reserved tickets with our local U.S. Representative for a guided tour. The primary reason for the tour was to see the new statue in the Rotunda of former President Gerald R. Ford who also represented our native Grand Rapids in Congress. It’s an impressive and fitting bronze likeness of the 38th President in an even more impressive and time-enduring setting.

Likewise, visiting Washington D.C. is an impressive experience. It offers a complete array of attractions, events, amenities and a wealth of nightlife and dining options. And if you love watching the U.S. Open contested at an outstanding course such as storied Congressional CC, well just don’t sit there and stay home. Go first class and head to the nation’s capital.

For more information about Washington D.C, visit www.destinationdc.com

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