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“Kimpton Saga Part 5: great potential, but not quite there yet”

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Kimpton Donovan Hotel
Ranked #28 of 142 Hotels in Washington DC
Certificate of Excellence
GreenLeadersSilver level
Reviewed August 7, 2012

This hotel is like a quirky, cool car from 1972 - but it'll take more than an extra-thick coat of white paint to make it right. That has already been tried.

Being a big fan of Kimpton Hotels, I could not resist booking a room when I received the invitation with a great rate for Kimpton InTouch members.

We arrove around 3.20 pm on a Saturday and were received by 3 (three!) men who looked like doormen or bellhops, but they were standing in the entrance watching us struggeling with our luggage, after we had given up the car to the valet next door and taken out our bags and suitcases. What was their purpose?

Why were they there, if not for guests like us who came to check in? Why not bringing a cart to the car, so we could have loaded up our luggage onto that, like it is done at other properties?

But we eventually made it to the front desk, and we were told that our room was not ready, as they had experienced some kind of water damage earlier that day. We were asked to wait in the lobby until the room was ready. As a compensation we were given wine vouchers for their Bar/Restaurant Zentan.

We also received a generous gift for saying the "secret word" at checking in: free breakfast (for both of us!), also in the Zentan, that was REALLY cool. And since we are Kimpton InTouch members, we also got our minibar credit ($10) and free Internet.

With all these freebies we were kept happy, so the wait didn't feel as a problem to us. We had fun sitting and swinging in the funny hanging chairs, also enjoying their free ice tea drinks as a refreshment.

After a few minutes the Front Desk person (David?) came up and offered a room on the 5th floor. Acknowleding that we prefered a higher floor (data from our Kimpton profile), but our 7th floor room was still not ready, and this 5th floor would be ready sooner, and if we were interested. I declined and said I know I'd regret that, and I would rather wait longer to get the better room.

We continued to wait, and after a while he came back again and offered another room now, this one was the same category but on the 10th floor, and we gladly accepted. The waiting time was about 45 minutes all together.

The room was indeed great. OK, there were nicks and scruffs galore, and some of the furniture was even coming apart (see pictures), and some stains were impossible to ignore - but the outstanding view onto Thomas Circle, the spaceship-like bath room and the spacious layout of this room (King Premier) really made us forgive the flaws.

It was clean enough, and since the bed and the bath were obviously cleaned, we were OK with the status of this room. There were enough towels for a night, plus we had Bigelow toiletteries (the black series which is made for Kimpton).

The high floor was adding to the viewing experience, and we took many photos sitting in that space chair in front of the window, watching people walking by below us.

We actually had 2 big windows in our room, looking to 2 various sides, so it was actually a corner room.

Later we went down to the Lobby to get a share of their wine hour, and we tasted their own recipe of Sangria (made with water melon and fresh basil leaves - very interesting texture and aroma! Hubby found it weird, but I loved it!) They also offered IPA in bottles, and Hubby took one, and he said he liked that a lot better.

The lobby was filling up with people, so they must have been booked pretty full. We sat in that alcove where currently the AIDS awareness quilt is in exhibition (see picture), and we found that moving and interesting.

We also went up to their rooftop pool, and I swam for a while. It was extremely hot that day, and I couldn't stand it very long to be in the heat, as I had already a sunburn from a previous pool visit elsewhere some days before. The water in the pool wasn't exactly cool, so I left it with the few leaps that evening, and we went out for dinner.

When we came back, we headed over to Zentan and were offered a free glass of wine each (for our vouchers from the Front Desk), and we went with the Pinot Grigio, which was a very good choice. That bar was obviously very popular, it was packed with people, it was very energetic. Many people also ate there.

We were exhausted and went up to our room and had a good night's sleep. That weird cocon shaped shower stall acted as a night light (its round plastic wall is standing inside the bed room).

Next morning we had the most excellent breakfast since a long time (see separate review on Zentan), and again we could watch Washingtonians walking by from where we were sitting.

At the front desk I was asking Daisy if I could have a later check out, since I hadn't have a chance yet to try their spacy bath tub, and I was granted another hour with a smile. Thank you Daisy, that was so nice!

We went up, started packing, and I had a wonderful spa bath in that big tub. It had no jets, but I didn't miss them. The shape was so interesting and comfortable also, holding me up by the shoulders and yet relaxing completely. It was very high, so I could soak in my ocean spa products up to the shoulders.

That cocon shower has been described by many other reviewers already, so I don't think it is necessary to describe it again. It is really funny and interesting to stand inside it and have that shower coming out of the ceiling.

But beware, it is a bit slippery! Watch your steps and go slowly! This is not your tiled stall where you can stand safely, here you'll have to pay attention! But definitely a great fun factor, and I urge you to stay in this hotel just for that shower alone!

We thought the check out came way too soon, and we would have liked to stay longer, but we can never stay anywhere longer than one night at a time (animals alone at home). Good that we'll come back already in 3 weeks!

On a critical note: there are quite a few hick-ups in our single night stay. Starting with the 3 guys watching us struggle with our luggage, the nicks and scuffs and stains in the room, and in the end the charges were put on the wrong credit card.

At check in we were handing over our new Amtrak Visa card, requesting to put the charges onto that one instead of the older one which had been used at booking time months ago.

The Amtrak card is giving points towards free train trips, and since our favourite Kimpton is in Virginia, we are going there by train, and free train trips are always welcome.

At check out I foolishly did not request a print out of the invoice, so I saw the charges only a day later when I was back at home. The old card (not Amtrak) had been charged.

I had to call bookkeeping to straighten that out (paying by the minute plus a connection fee, as it is not a free number).

It will be fixed, I am sure, but it is a nuisance, especially after I had made it extra clear at check in that we wanted to charge the new card because of the Travel Points it gives us.

Oh, and Hubby mentioned he saw some new scratches on the car door and some dents in the bumper. We didn't see that when we left, so we are out of luck, but he is convinced we didn't come with those. Oh well.

All in all, a Kimpton Hotel with very high potential to become a true star - but they'll have a long way ahead of them.

Room Tip: Several room categories feature a view onto Thomas Circle, which I think is more desirable than any...
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  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank Albgardis T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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1,525 - 1,531 of 1,727 reviews

Reviewed August 6, 2012

My husband and I spent 3 nights in DC to celebrate my 40th birthday, and we chose The Donovan based on reviews here on TA and a great "Beat The Heat" rate that we found on their website. We booked the hotel less than a week before travelling to DC and still managed to reserve an upgraded room (King Premier Room) at the special rate.

The evening before we were due to check-in, we received an email from Daysi Cruz at The Donovan asking if we had any last-minute requests or details they could arrange for us. I was working late tying up some loose ends before our vacation, and didn't read the email until 1 am...at the same time that I realized I only had 2 more hours before we had to leave for the airport to catch our flight. Since I knew I wouldn't be getting any sleep, and we would be arriving at the Donovan around 9:30 am, I replied to her email asking if there was any way for us to get an early check-in as I knew I'd be exhausted by the time we arrived. I figured it would be impossible - I know it's difficult for hotels to arrange check-ins that early when they are at or near capacity, but I figured it was worth a try.

To my surprise, I received an email back within a few minutes telling me that she would call the hotel on our behalf and let them know of my request and they would make every attempt to accomodate our request - may I remind you, this is 1:30 in the morning!! When we arrived at the Donovan at 10ish the next morning (after an awful flight and zero sleep over the past 24 hours) we were greeted by a friendly face (Kevin), who was later assisted by another smiling, bubbly representative (I think her name was Cheri - my apologies - I was half-asleep!!) who told us that our room was ready to check-in and they thanked us for sending the email and letting them know we'd be in early.

I. Was. Amazed. I was truly expecting the "We're sorry, but a room simply isn't available yet" and a long wait - but instead we were given a quick rundown, handed our keys and we were in our room within minutes.

Our room was on the 7th floor and fabulous. Immaculate, spacious and a minimalist purple, white & tan decor. Big closet with plenty of hangers (my hotel pet peeve - never enough hangers!) Giant bathroom with the spiral shower and huge tub. Flat screen tv, futuristic reading chair, full-length mirror and mood lighting on a dimmer. Great panoramic view of Thomas Circle and a well-stocked minibar.

No coffeemaker, so we called down to the front desk and they promptly sent up a Keurig - finally, a hotel that invested in Keurigs - this seems like such a no-brainer to me when it comes to in-room coffee service.

We stopped up at the rooftop pool to see it one afternoon - and it seemed like a pleasant way to relax on a hot afternoon. We were there to sight-see, so no pool time for us - but I wish we could have taken advantage of it.

We ate at Zentan one evening - great ambiance, pleasant hostess, attentive waiter and a big menu of everything from stir-fry to sushi. We ordered some edamame, a few (maybe 8) pieces of sushi, two maki rolls, two glasses of wine, a cookies & cream dessert and a dessert wine and ginger tea...the tab came to about $100 - which we thought was reasonable, all things considered. The food was good (the fish was fresh, tasty combinations but a little bland for me - but good) and the ambiance and service made it an enjoyable night.

At 7 pm, the rooftop pool area opens as a trendy night-spot bar open to the public. We never got up there (too tired from all the walking every day!), but based on the lines at the elevators after 7pm, I can tell you that it's a pretty popular spot for twenty-somethings looking for a fun night out!

The Donovan is about 3 blocks from the nearest Metro station, which will take you anywhere in the DC area that you might want to go to. There is a 24-hour CVS across the street, which is handy for everything from snacks to forgotten toiletries. A few little restaurants and a liquor store are within 2 blocks.

Overall, we enjoyed our stay at The Donovan and wouldn't hesistate to stay again, especially with a rate like the promo "Beat the Heat" that saved us quite a bit on our upgraded room. The prompt email response in the middle of the night coupled with our room being ready upon arrival made this hotel stand-out for us as an A+ in Customer Service....every single person who worked at this place was friendly and greeted you with a smile - including the maintenance/cleaning staff who we shared elevators with from time to time.

Minor complaints:
Bathroom sink was all "bowl" and a 1" ledge around it - no counter to put your toiletries - my contact case just fit on the ledge when I would remove/insert my lenses. Hotel bathrooms need counters!!

Our bed seemed small to be a King size - not sure but seemed smaller than the King I have at home.

No price list for the MIni-bar/snacks (although I'm sure they would have sent one up if we requested one - I'm guessing the previous guest may have removed it)

Overall - The Donovan was a great stay. It's young and trendy, but as a couple in our 40's, we didn't feel too out of place! I'd definitely stay again and will seek out Kimpton properties in the future. Big Kudos to the amazing employees at this hotel - your attention to great service doesn't go unnoticed and is appreciated!

  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled as a couple
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3  Thank LindaJoy72
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
MMJennings, General Manager at Kimpton Donovan Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded August 8, 2012

This review made my heart sing. I am so proud of my staff. Thank you for sharing your experience with me and the rest of the world. Incidentally, we do have a handful of rooms with little vanity space as you mentioned. We are currently looking to add a custom rolling shelf under the vanity in these rooms. We hope to see you back soon!

Mark

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 1, 2012

On my first stay in this hotel, I was happy to have the usual Kimpton amenities- excellent customer service, attention to my individual needs (they even offered to go and buy my plain M&Ms because they only had peanut in the mini bar!), and great perks. Free wine/beer hour, morning coffee/tea, a rooftop pool and bar, and a very nice sushi restaurant next door. Kimpton does a wonderful job of rewarding customer loyalty, too, and that's why I keep coming back!

Try Lincoln for a drink- just across the way on Vermont Ave. And just north on 14th are terrific hip cafes, bars, and restaurants. About a 10 minute walk from Dupont and not too far from red, orange, and blue metro lines. Thomas Circle is pretty, quiet at night but close enough to busy areas if you're interested.

Only bummer is that the pool closes when the bar opens...it would be nice to have the option to swim after 5pm.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled on business
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1  Thank atew2u
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 1, 2012

Good location, great rooftop pool and bar. Perhaps not our style, a little too modern for us.
Great personal touches; tea a d coffee in the lobby in the morning and wine in the evening.
There is no spa, hence the low rating for that. Great pool, though could do with shade cover in the hot months.

Room Tip: Unless you like to party, don't have a room on the me floor as the rooftop bar.
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  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank Perth0990
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abe L, Manager at Kimpton Donovan Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded August 3, 2012

Hello Perth0990,

You nailed it! We love hip travelers, the Kimpton Traveler!

We like to think that the Donovan House has something for everyone, like all Kimpton Hotels. From our Evening Hosted Manager's Reception to the Rooftop Pool, and not to forget our slamin' restaurant Zentan, which features Inspired Asian Cuisine. Glad you enjoyed!

Hope to have you back soon,
Abe

Abe Liao
Assistant General Manager

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Reviewed August 1, 2012

I hesitate to write this positive review, since I think the low Trip Advisor score is helping to keep rates lower at this Kimpton, but the staff deserve it. On previous DC trips I was a regular at the Palomar Arlington (now closed). Based on other reviews, I was worried about the Donovan House, but in the end I was pleased with my visit and plan to stay again in future.

My favorite things about Kimpton hotels are:
1) Great service. Donovan House completely lived up to the Kimpton standard during my visit. This despite some deliberate attitude and semi-unreasonable requests on my part, just to check them out. The concierge on duty (Clay) was particularly helpful with walking and Metro directions.

2) Clean and clean-smelling. I have never stayed at a Kimpton that smelled musty. They always smell fresh. I understand the disappointment of the reviewers who could smell stale smoke, but I can say that the 7th floor does not have this problem. It smelled fresh. I do think that Donovan House was slightly below the Kimpton average for cleanliness/maintenance issues, but they still beat my average non-Kimpton DC cleanliness experience, and believe they are working to improve.

3) The beds. The bed was comfortable, with the comforter between two nice clean sheets, just the way I like it. Perhaps a bit low to the ground for someone elderly, but fine for anyone who is not mobility compromised.

4) Not a cookie-cutter hotel. I like that Kimptons don't look like every generic hotel, and I like that they differ from each other. I thought the decor was different, but fun.

Bottom-line: If you want a cookie-cutter, go to a cookie-cutter. If you want something different, including a great attitude toward service, try the Donovan House.

  • Stayed: August 2012
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2  Thank ImALightSleeper
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abe L, Manager at Kimpton Donovan Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded August 3, 2012

Hello ImALightSleeper,

Thanks so much for this thoughtful review!

We are trying our VERY hardest to improve our rating on TripAdvisor. Thanks to reviews like yours, we should be well on our way. I also appreciate the note about Clay, he's one of our very best Guest Service team members. The Donovan House is certainly not "cookie cutter" and is a great addition to the Kimpton DC scene!

Cheers,
Abe

Abe Liao
Assistant General Manager

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Reviewed July 30, 2012

Donovan House has a great location, and the staff is incredible. The rooms are very comforable and done in a clean, contemporary design. I will be staying here for all of my future trips in DC. And if you are lucky enough to go in the summer, the pool and deck are not to be missed.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled on business
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3  Thank SJSloan1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abe L, Manager at Kimpton Donovan Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded August 3, 2012

Hello SJSloan1,

Thanks for your review!

So glad you had a great second stay with us. The Rooftop is a can't miss! Exclusive Guest Pool Hours during the day and transition to a Rooftop Bar in the evening's for guests and the public.

See you next time,
Abe

Abe Liao
Assistant General Manager

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Reviewed July 29, 2012

We spent three nights, the staff was extremely nice and courteous. Our room was perfect, quaint and quiet! The roof top pool and bar were awesome too!

The $42 a night parking is a little steep but not much you can do about that, just budget it. We just walk or take a taxi wherever we go anyway which you may have to pay to park anyway?

Overall we just loved the location, decor and everything about our stay. Will come again!!

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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1  Thank Ray L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abe L, Manager at Kimpton Donovan Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded July 31, 2012

Hi Ray L,

Very nice review indeed!

Thanks for your note about the staff. They always treat our guests so well. I agree, the Rooftop Pool is great and when it turns into a Bar in the evening hours, it's a nice change of scenery. Your question about parking: the $42 Valet Rate does include free in and out service, so you can come and go as you please.

Cheers,
Abe

Abe Liao
Assistant General Manager

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Kimpton Donovan Hotel

Address: 1155 14th St NW, Washington DC, DC 20005-4111
Phone Number:
Location: United States > District of Columbia > Washington DC > Upper Northwest
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#16 Green Hotel in Washington DC
#18 Luxury Hotel in Washington DC
#24 Business Hotel in Washington DC
#41 Romantic Hotel in Washington DC
#56 Family Hotel in Washington DC
Price Range: $129 - $452 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Kimpton Donovan Hotel 4*
Number of rooms: 193
Reservation Options:
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Also Known As:
Donovan Hotel a Thompson
Donovan House Washington Dc

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