More than 20 million domestic visitors traveled to Washington, D.C., in 2017, a 4 percent increase over 2016. That uptick stems from both the city’s longtime, all-American attractions (the U.S. Capitol, the monuments and the Smithsonian) and a fresh roster of revitalized or soon-to-open tourist sites, hotels and whole neighborhoods. The vitality luring tourists also makes D.C. ripe for planners and events. “The same things that make D.C. unique for the leisure market benefit meetings organizers,” says Destination DC President and CEO Elliott Ferguson.
Here’s what’s new and what’s coming next.
Beyond the Mall
Thanks to Washington’s booming economy and rapidly revitalizing northeast and southwest quadrants, you can host attendees for dinners, overnight stays or boat rides in zones you’ve never heard of.
Chief among these hot hoods is The Wharf. The $2.5 billion, mile-long mixed-use development made its classy, glassy debut along the Potomac River in late 2017. Three sleek-yet-retro mid-rise buildings and cobblestoned streets hold three hotels—a Canopy by Hilton, a Hyatt House and an InterContinental—with a total of 690 rooms. Meetings spaces in the hotels include the elegant, 5,300-sq.-ft. Waterside room at the InterContinental with river vistas.
Three music venues that can double as event spaces also call The Wharf home, and they can rock out for events of varying sizes. Think the intimate, dinerlike Pearl Street Warehouse for smaller happenings or The Anthem, a jumbo, tiered concert hall that can accommodate seated groups of 3,200 or standing groups of 6,000. Amid the breezy walks and docks of the complex are numerous venues, including the Dockmaster Building with waterside views and indoor-outdoor space for cocktail parties and seated dinners on Transit Pier, an outdoor space with water taxi access that can be tented to accommodate up to 700. “Southwest D.C. is becoming a formidable part of corporate travel,” says Ferguson.
Two of D.C.’s most popular attractions also get new life in 2018 and early 2019. The International Spy Museum, a popular, interactive collection devoted to espionage, will soon decamp from Gallery Place to L’Enfant Plaza, just off the National Mall and not far from The Wharf. Its new 140,000-sq.-ft. facility looks a bit like an inverted pyramid and features event spaces including a dazzling roof terrace with monument views and high-tech features. The new event space is already open in L’Enfant Plaza, though the museum itself will remain open in Chinatown through Jan. 1 before moving in spring 2019.
And in spring 2019, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will add 2,500 square feet of new performance space and 7,500 square feet of event space thanks to an expansion starring new art installations, green spaces and a new video wall. It’ll all be available for events, and the Potomac River views should be epic.
The recent renovation and relaunch of The Watergate Hotel in Foggy Bottom and the Line DC, a hipster haven in groovy Adams Morgan, have put D.C. in the lodgings news. But from late 2018 through early 2020, the city will get another 15 new or renewed hotels with 3,600 rooms. Many of these properties are in those aforementioned lesser-known neighborhoods. The Mob Hotel, a French-owned brand known for stylish-yet-snug digs, will open near Northeast D.C.’s edgy food-centric Union Market. And between The Wharf and the Mall, Hilton Washington DC National Mall will see 367 renovated rooms and 23,000 square feet of meeting and event space reopen in early 2019.
And in one of the most unusual openings of late 2018, Eaton Workshop brings a hybrid, millennial-focused hotel/coworking space to Chinatown. Expect a yoga studio, sleek meeting spaces and a cool vibe.