I'm a big fan of the Kimpton chain. Like its other hotels, Hotel Monaco has a stunning, distinctively colorful interior that is a refreshing change from the beige on beige of business hotels. Yet the Holiday Inn that this hotel replaced in January still lurks in a few important ways.
GOOD: Gorgeous lobby and rooms; fantastic location; very clean; nice robes in closets; great bed; fantastic water pressure in shower; L'Occitane bath products; no street noise in rooms facing courtyard; balcony; free coffee and tea in the lobby; New York Times delivered to room!
BAD: Very noisy air conditioner; no Discovery Channel; heater for swimming pool broken; no door chain or latch (though there is a deadbolt and peephole); slamming of hallway doors by staff and guests; no bathroom blower vent!
Whoever Kimpton has hired to do its interior design deserves a raise. I was wowed by the lobby of the Monaco. I would never have thought that this deep aqua shade of blue would work--but it does. In the hallways and the guest rooms, you have lots of deep brick-red and dark brown. It all comes off as very rich, very calming, very exclusive. The room itself was fantastic; I've stayed in lots of nice hotels all over the world, and I can think of none that were decorated more pleasingly.
And the location! Right there near the water, near many great restaurants and all the charm of Old Town. If you're going to visit DC, definitely consider staying in Old Town Alexandria and driving or Metroing to the tourist spots. The only thing about this hotel is that the King Street Metro is maybe .75 mile away--but via a very pleasant walk.
Thus, given those attributes, it's a shame that the Hotel Monaco is nearly ruined by the rattling, clattering air conditioners the hotel inherited from its past as a Holiday Inn. And I'm someone who loves a gentle thrumming to fall asleep to. This thing would clamber on in the wee hours; I barely got any sleep.
If only they would move these a/c units to the bathrooms, for a much-needed privacy-sparing noisemaker, given the lack of any active blower-vent. The latter are also good for reducing the steam level, so that you can see yourself in the mirror after a shower.
To top it off, there was a lot of door slamming. I know; the hotel can't be blamed for the actions of its guests. But when I left at around 7:30 AM, I saw an employee leave a door at the end of the hallway--and let it slam shut behind him. Management, are you reading this? Train your staff to shut doors gently!
The TV was overall great, but there was no TV Guide channel, and the Discovery Channel was not working. We did get HBO, though.
The pool's heating mechanism was broken, and no one at the front desk mentioned this. I only found out when I went to the pool and stuck my foot in; the water was probably about 65 degrees--which feels really cold. I couldn't go in.
The fitness center is pathetic. Two treadmills, two elliptical trainers, a weird cable/pulley machine, and a rack of very small dumbbells. If you're a middle-aged, flabby business person, it's enough. If you're a youthful, athletic person who wants a real workout, it's not.
Despite these problems, I'm really rooting for the Hotel Monaco. And I think it could be a truly outstanding hotel if it were to fix these problems. But a noisy a/c is not merely an annoyance; it prevents the guest from actually sleeping--and no amount of beautiful decor can make up for that.
TIP: Park for $4 per overnight (if you get out by 8 AM) in the nearby municipal garage.
Great Thai food at My Thai, just down King Street.