What you should know

Of course it’s the U.S. capital and that alone makes Washington, D.C., a one-of-a-kind destination. The city is all about the government, and it’s family-friendly, with many free things to do. Tour the historical monuments, visit the Smithsonian Institution or the National Zoo, all are free. D.C. has three major airports — Ronald Reagan Washington National (DCA), Dulles International (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International (BWI). Hotel accommodations offer a wide range of options, from global chains to independent boutique hotels, with price ranges for any budget. With 13 distinct neighborhoods, the city offers an eclectic mix of culture and cuisine, from historic and hip Georgetown to U Street/Shaw, the center of African-American nightlife. Public transportation is safe, clean and easy to navigate. Options include the Metrorail subway system and the Circulator bus, which costs $1 to ride and provides easy connections between key points of interest, such as the Southwest Waterfront and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Transportation by taxi is economical and plentiful. More than 6,000 cabs serve the city. Those wanting to explore by foot will find logically laid-out streets and wide sidewalks, which contribute to D.C.’s ranking as a top “walkable” city.

The 411

  • 95,000 guest rooms in the greater metro area
  • 27,500 guest rooms in Washington, D.C.
  • 4,635 rooms within one mile of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center
  • 90+ restaurants with private dining space
  • Average daily rates are highest March through June and September through October

Where to meet

AMA’s Washington Area Conference Center in Arlington, Va., is minutes from Reagan National Airport and within walking distance of the Yellow Line Metro stop at Crystal City.  Meeting packages include flip charts, continuous beverage service and no service charges. The center has 10 meeting rooms that range in size from 390 to 1,640 square feet and a bookstore with more than 3.000 business and professional books and CDs. Top of the Town, a reception and conference facility, overlooks the Potomac River and Washington’s most famous monuments. It holds up to 180 attendees for meetings, conferences, banquets or receptions. Amenities include a dance floor, an outdoor terrace, and a large, private parking lot (parking fees are included in the rental rate). The USS Sequoia, a yacht that has ferried presidents since 1925, is where JFK had his last birthday dinner, Nixon decided to resign and FDR fished. The main salon/dining room holds 49 for a buffet dinner or 22 for a seated dinner around a mahogany dining-room table. Four staterooms sleep a total of six guests. The Newseum, an interactive museum of news, has gallery space for up to 3,000. The museum’s top two floors house the Knight Conference Center, which has more than 13 meeting spaces (total capacity, both floors: 750–1,000) and an open-floor plan with unimpeded views of the U.S. Capitol and surrounding landmarks. Private dining for 70 to 90 guests is available in a dining room, which has an adjacent terrace.

Where to meet green

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center uses 100 percent SCA post-consumer paper disposables; Green Seal-certified Cojo foam hand soap in all restrooms; 30 percent post-consumer, acid-free paper in all copy rooms; and Ecolab, an environmentally preferred vendor that provides cleaning and sanitizing products to food-service and housekeeping-service partners. Nationals Park is the first major professional U.S. stadium to become LEED Silver-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The project incorporates a variety of sustainable design elements. The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the Willard InterContinental Washington and Kimpton Hotels all offer green meeting packages.

Where to stay

The 145-room/suite Hay-Adams hotel, across from the White House, plays host to myriad historic figures and political powerhouses. Its 14 meeting rooms can hold from eight to 340 attendees. The Capital Hilton, formerly the Statler Hotel, is two blocks from the White House. It has 554 rooms and 30,000 square feet of meeting space. The LEED-registered Salamander Resort and Spa in the historic village of Middleburg, Va., is set on a 340-acre estate 30 minutes from Dulles International and Winchester Regional (WGO) airports, in horse and wine country. Amenities include 168 guest rooms/suites, 11,000 square feet of indoor function space, outdoor event areas, an equestrian center and a full-service spa.

Where to eat

Smith & Wollensky, a D.C. institution known for its steaks, has seven private dining rooms that can accommodate groups of eight (Chef’s Table), 12, 45, 80, 100, 300 and 450 (grand ballroom) people. Planners can reserve the Poste Moderne Brasserie‘s main dining room for private banquets for up to 94 people (reception: 200). The restaurant also has a 10-person chef’s table, a private 45-seat dining area and an outdoor patio. Rosa Mexicano caters contemporary Mexican food off-premise or on-site.McCormick & Schmick’s, known for their fine service, cuisine and business-friendly banquet rooms. It has two D.C. locations and several others throughout the greater metro area. If you want to shake up a meal function, try CulinAerie, a culinary school that can create such team-building programs as amateur “Iron Chef” competitions. Other options include customized chef’s table experiences, wine-tasting seminars and cooking classes. Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, just west of town in Tyson’s Corner-Vienna, Va., has private dining for small and large groups. Waiters dressed in traditional Brazilian gaucho attire roam the restaurant, offering 16 rotisserie meats. For non-meat eaters, there’s a generous salad bar.

Where to play

Attendees can infiltrate the International Spy Museum, the first and only public museum in the U.S. dedicated  to espionage. The museum features the largest collection of international spy-related artifacts on public display. Through film and interactive exhibits, the stories of individual spies unfold, revealing the impact on current and historic events. Visitors can experience the life of a crime scene investigator at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment, which explores techniques used by government and law enforcement agencies to solve crimes.