Hotel News We Noted: January 18, 2013

white houseWelcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

Hotels to Spot the Celebs: Washington, DC’s Hottest Inaugural Lobbies
It’s officially here: Washington is celebrating its 57th Presidential Inauguration on Monday, Jan. 21. We’ve already covered how hotels are prepping for inauguration and some of our favorite over-the-top packages, but what about the best places for people watching? We’d park ourselves at the Four Seasons’ Bourbon Steak or Seasons, Adour at the St. Regis, Off the Record at The Hay Adams, the Round Robin bar at The Willard, POV or J&G at the W, Blue Duck Tavern at the Park Hyatt, the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Quill at The Jefferson or West End Bistro at The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, DC. Washington Post’s Reliable Source is a great place to get the scoop on who is staying where this weekend … and who isn’t coming to town (Oprah, among others).

Tech-Free Trend: Leaving the Gadgets at Home
Could you go tech-free for a week or a weekend? Marriott seems to think so. They’re testing “Braincation Zones” at hotels across the Caribbean and Mexico, ABC News reports. This encourages guests to put down devices and truly relax. The article goes on to detail other hotels that encourage tech-free policies or tech-free zones. We’re totally inclined to put down our gadgets on vacation, but think that actually removing the ability to check email or make phone calls goes a bit far … we’d like the ability to make that choice on our own, thank you very much.

Hotel News of Note: QE2 to Become a Floating Hotel In Asia
Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting that the Queen Elizabeth 2, the former cruise ship that made waves in the luxury cruise space for more than 40 years is being converted to a floating hotel and will be docked in Asia. The property will open in 2014 and may move locations at some point, possibly to Dubai. How does the idea of staying in a floating hotel sound to you?

Hotel Openings: Tropicana Las Vegas
Hilton Honors members just found their next location for a Las Vegas vacation. The DoubleTree by Hilton has invested more than $200 million to renovate the 1,500-room, 35-acre resort. In celebration, Hilton is giving away monthly chances to win one million HHonors points as well as an ultimate Vegas vacation weekend on their Facebook page.

[Image Credit: ~MVI~ (running away from parties)]

How Washington’s Hotels Are Readying For Inauguration: Our Favorite Luxury Packages

mandarin oriental presidential suite dining roomElection day has come and passed, but hotels in Washington are still racing the clock to ready their hotels for inauguration on January 20. We reported earlier on what hotels in the area are doing to freshen up, but now we’re telling you which properties are going to go all out with posh packages for guests.

Here are a few of our favorites, ranked in order of price.

Putting on the Ritz (Carlton)
The Ritz-Carlton Washington, DC is offering an exclusive “Access Washington” package for high-rolling guests. The $100,000 price tag includes four nights in a luxury suite, round-trip first class domestic airfare for two, a private fitting for designer inaugural wear, special behind-the-scenes tours, a cupcake decorating class from cult favorite shop Georgetown Cupcake, a one-of-a-kind diamond and ruby pin from jeweler Ann Hand, gifts each night and a special dinner, the value of which will be donated to a local charity.

More Than a Fair Deal
No expense will be spared for the Fairmont’s “President and First Lady” during their visit to Fairmont Washington, DC for inauguration. This package also tops the price list at $100,000, but includes a fair-ly awesome array of amenities, including four nights in the Presidential Suite, Fairmont Gold floor access, and two “Presidential Detail Agents” to assist and consult with guests throughout their stay. Other perks include use of a 7 series BMW with driver, a $5,000 Shopping Spree at SAKS Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase with personal shopper, champagne, and lunch, a visit to “First Ladies Exhibit at The Smithsonian,” daily in-room breakfast, in-room hair styling, a private makeup consult and application, a midnight buffet for up to 20 after any inaugural balls, and matching Rolex watches for the “President” and “First Lady.” The completely pet-friendly package also includes perks for the “first dog” if you’d like to bring along Fido or Fifi.

P.O.T.U.S Worthy Pampering
The Mandarin Oriental’s “P.O.T.U.S.” (Presiding Over The Ultimate Suite) Package ($15,000 per night) features four nights in the three-bedroom Presidential Suite, the largest suite in the city. In addition to panoramic views, guests will enjoy 24/7 butler service, house car use, a keepsake amenity, and the option to host a private dinner at CityZen, the city’s only AAA five-star restaurant, for up to 80 people.Getting Glam at the Park Hyatt
Stay in style for the weekend of inauguration at the Park Hyatt Washington, DC. The $57,000, four-night package includes four nights in the hotel’s presidential suite, daily turn-down amenities, chauffeur-driven, round-trip, airport transfers and daily sedan transportation, a private Kennedy Center tour, spa treatments, a handcrafted American rocking chair and much more. To add a fashionable element to the package, guests will enjoy a custom styling session from Saks Fifth Avenue to include clothing for the entirety of their stay as well as to personalize the room itself with a variety of home goods. Guests will also enjoy a cheese tasting party for 12 from the hotel’s cheese specialist, including wine and selected accompaniments. All meals are included for the duration of the stay, including a private chef’s table in Blue Duck Tavern for up to 12 one evening and daily in-room or restaurant breakfasts. A donation will also be made on behalf of the guest to the U.S.O.

Go A-List at AKA
Also honoring the 57th inaugural with a $57,000 package is AKA Washington DC. The over-the-top package includes occupying the entire penthouse floor with a seven-night stay in two, one-bedroom suites and two, two-bedroom suites (total occupancy of 12 people), which comes with 1,100 square-feet of outdoor terrace space to enjoy memorable views. Guests also enjoy a 24/7 on-call butler and driver, a two-hour cocktail party for up to 25 with open bar and appetizers, a fully stocked fridge and welcome grocery package, 12 robes and daily breakfast served en-suite for up to 12 people.

Presidential Style at The Jefferson
This intimate 99-room hotel is just four blocks from the White house. During the week of inauguration, The Jefferson is offering a four-night minimum stay ($950-$8,500 per night) that includes daily breakfast for two, an on-call concierge assistant, access to the Neiman Marcus satellite store in the St. Regis for evening gowns and suits and gifts including a silk and cashmere scarf, sea salt caramels and a large graphite writing quill.

[Image Credit: Mandarin Oriental Washington DC Presidential Suite Dining Room]

Birth Of A Hotel: Washington Area Hotels Primp For Inauguration

washington dc photo courtesy of nick mcketa photoIt isn’t just the Capella that is racing to spruce up their hotel before the 2013 inauguration. Hotels all over the nation’s capital are preparing to greet visitors with new welcome spaces, updated decor, special amenities and in-house food extravaganzas.

Inauguration is one of Washington’s biggest hotel events. In 2009, when more than one million people journeyed to the inauguration of President Obama on the National Mall, DC hotel rooms generated more than $100 million in revenue, states data from Destination DC, the city’s marketing organization. Since that time, more than $250 million has been spent to refresh or update hotels throughout the city.

Although the Capella Washington, D.C. Georgetown is the only hotel scheduled to open between the election and the inauguration, other area properties have also made efforts to step up so that guests will “elect” them for their inaugural home away from home.

More than a dozen properties are expected to be refreshed or updated in time for the inauguration. As we already know that you’ll be shelling out the big bucks (often more than $300 per night) to stay in the city during this prime time, you might want to consider those properties that have had a recent update, including:

  • W Washington DC
    This hotel just barely missed the last inauguration, opening in summer 2009. Previously the Hotel Washington, the Starwood branded hotel has played host to Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift since its reopening.
  • Avenue Suites completed nine months of renovations early this year, including its façade, lobby and patio and rebranded from the Washington Suites. The property has quickly become a local favorite, and draws a crowd at its on-site bar, A Bar.
  • Capital Hilton spent two years completing its $30 million in renovations, including a new spa, lobby and the Statler Lounge, its lobby bar. This centrally located hotel is often a popular location for inaugural events.
  • The DoubleTree by Hilton Washington finished a design of its lobby, lounge and entrance. This hotel is likely one of the more reasonably priced in the city during inauguration.

  • Embassy Suites D.C. Convention Center is in the midst of a 384-room update, as well as changes to its lobby and reception area. Conveniently located in downtown, this hotel is walking distance from many inaugural events as well as public transportation.
  • The Fairmont Washington D.C. invested $2.6 million in its function space including its meeting room and ballroom. The hotel’s proximity to posh Georgetown is a draw for many guests.
  • The Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC invested $1 million to expand and update Seasons Restaurant, a noted power breakfast spot, this year. The hotel completed a massive overhaul before the 2009 inaugural, and is likely the pre-eminent “see and be seen” spot for celebrity spotting during the 2013 inauguration.
  • The Hamilton Crowne Plaza Washington, DC was refreshed in the spring-summer of 2012 and shows off its Art Deco form to great advantage.
  • The Hay Adams transformed their rooftop deck into an enclosed private events space atop the historic Hay-Adams Hotel was so extensive that the hotel essentially added a ninth floor and a dedicated elevator. If you can attend an inaugural event here – do it.
  • The Liaison Capitol Hill, an Affinia Hotel invested $6 million in updating its guest rooms. Conveniently located near the hill, this hotel is walking distance to the actual inauguration.
  • The Madison is the final stages of completing a $22 million revamp of its entire property, including its restaurant and guest rooms. The hotel will celebrate its 50th birthday throughout 2013. A bit “under the radar” in DC’s luxury hotel scene, this hotel hosts an annual inaugural event that is one of the city’s most coveted.
  • The Mayflower Renaissance Washington, D.C. re-opened the Promenade Ballroom, the site of presidential affairs including Calvin Coolidge’s inaugural ball. This hotel is just a few blocks from the White House.
  • The Park Hyatt Washington updated their lower level last year, and recently unveiled catering from their famed Blue Duck Tavern (where the Obamas celebrated their 17th anniversary).
  • The Renaissance Washington Downtown will finish up a multi million-dollar renovation of its 804 guest rooms by mid-October. The proximity to public transport and the ability to use your Marriott Rewards? A match made in bi-partisan heaven.
  • The Washington Hilton, whose $150 million redo wrapped up before this year, added a coffee shop – the first Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the city – this spring. Angelenos, take note. You’re also likely to find at least one inaugural event in this hotel’s ballroom.

We’ll be bringing you lots of news about what’s happening in DC over the coming weeks and months, both as our focus property, Capella, prepares to open, and as hotels unveil their over-the-top packages and events surrounding the big day. In the meantime, remember to get out and vote tomorrow!

[Image Credit: Nick McKeta Photography]

Absolutely breathtaking photo of the Presidential inauguration

By now I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of photo and video material of the inauguration of our 44th President.

The picture you see above it probably no different from any of the other of 1000’s made that day.

There is however one big difference – it is a whopping 1,474 megapixels. For comparison – your home camera probably shoots in 7 or 8 megapixels.

Of course, a massive photo is useless without some fancy tricks to help view it, so click here to view the original, and use your mouse or keyboard to scroll around or zoom in – you’ll be able to zoom in far enough to see who in the crowds around President Obama was bored, and who was freezing their backside off in the frigid DC weather.

The photo was made by David Bergman with a regular Canon G10 camera, mounted on a Gigapan robotic mount. The final image is built around 220 different photos, and took almost 7 hours to create on his Mac.

If you are feeling creative, and want to make your own panoramic photos, you can buy your own Gigapan robotic mount for just $279.

Obama’s blockhead double takes oath in CA

While President Barack Obama took the oath of office in Washington, D.C., his counterpart did the same in Carlsbad, CA. While the west coast ceremony was a bit rough around the edges, the blockhead appears to have done just fine.

LEGOLAND® California is celebrating our new president with a new display, running until Memorial Day, May 25, 2009. Visitors to this theme park can enjoy the ascension of the 44th president of the United States on the steps of the Capitol in Miniland U.S.A.

The entire effort includes block depictions of Obama and his family, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill and former presidents and vice presidents George Bush (senior and junior), Dick Cheney and their spouses. In all, more than a thousand “people” were erected to show the inauguration. Most of the figures stand four inches high. In the audience, you’ll find some famous spectators, including Senator Dianne Feinstein, Aretha Franklin and Yo Yo Ma. The U.S. Marine Corps Band and San Francisco Boys Chorus are in attendance as well.

The LEGOLAND inauguration is part of a larger exhibition comprised of more than 22 million LEGO bricks that renders major cities such as New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco in this unique art form.