Welcome to our Hotel Tip of The Week series. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay in countless hotels, and at over 500 days as nomads, we have stayed some of the best (and worst) accommodation the world has to offer. We cover everything from budget to luxury accommodation, and believe that any hotel worth recommending must be comfortable and clean, offer good value for money and treat people as guests, not clients. We have personally stayed in every hotel we recommend to you here on Globetrottergirls.com.
We’d like to thank Martin Luther King, Jr for our Hotel Helix experience. Had it not been for the unveiling of King’s memorial in Washington, DC the very weekend we were in town, we would have never been on the hunt for a new hotel (the one we stayed at had overbooked).
Hotel Helix, a Kimpton hotel, makes you feel fabulously groovy from the minute you pass through the theater curtain upon entry. That’s right, each time you enter through the front door, you pass through a theater curtain to the sound of applause before heading up to your room. The fabulousness continues as you pass Warhol-esque photography covering the walls and your eyes adjust to the neon green and shimmering silver color scheme in the hallway.
As we booked at the very last minute, our expectations were very low – A small, cluttered broom closet with a double bed, perhaps. What we got was essentially a spacious room most hotels would consider a suite, but we were assured it was a standard room. Immediately our eyes were drawn to the giant swivel entertainment center hanging in the center of the room, which can be turned to be watched in either the bedroom or the living room.
Tucked away in a sleeping nook was the super comfortable bed with fully-adjustable lighting and sheer curtains to envelope you into this private sleeping space, complete with a leopard print throw blanket on the bed. We had a laugh with the animal print bathrobes hanging in the closet.
Although ‘fun’ would appear to be the main focus at Helix, judging by the fully equipped desk area, the motto would better be ‘Work hard, play hard’. The desk came with enough plugs and a power strips for charging and using multiple devices. The ergonomic office chair was just as comfortable as the couch for watching TV (and getting work done, of course).
And how awesome was the retro-space-age mini-bar! Forget $9 mini vodka bottles and lame salted peanuts. This mini-bar extravaganza included Pop Rocks, Pez dispensers, hangover cures and…fun stuff for adults as well.
As for the bathroom, it was….adequate. Some call the space of the basic shower/tub and toilet cramped, but we say if it leaves room for the large living area and separate sleeping nook, the trade-off is easy.
On the ground floor, Helix has a fitness center in the back with a pair of treadmills, a cross trainer, stair-master and a full set of weights. Helix has Flex Suites available, too, with gym equipment for private workouts in your own room. Next to the gym is a fully functional business center and two recording studios for their rock-n-roll clientele. Seriously. Up front, the restaurant serves breakfast and dinner, while the bar stays open until 1am and can get pretty rowdy. If you’re not the nocturnal type, I’d ask for a room on the other side of the building. Helix is all about fun, after all.
Stand-Out Feature: All things to all people…almost
The hotel is 100% dog-friendly, with a food and water bowl for Rex upon arrival and availability in any room. For those who drive a hybrid car, Hotel Helix cuts your parking day rate in half.
For those who write a song in the middle of the night and just have to get in to the studio and lay down the track, Helix helps there too. And despite all of the fun, Helix is family friendly, too. One reviewer on Tripadvisor mentioned that when staff saw she was traveling with her baby, they brought her up a bottle of bubbles, plus there are family rooms available with bunks for kids.
We pictured business travelers, bored at their meeting, giggling inside at the thought of coming home, throwing on a leopard robe, and eating pop rocks on the colorful couch. Let us be frank here – the over-the-top glitz and glamor at Helix is a bit gaudy, and those who don’t come in with a sense of humor, or want a standard luxury or business hotel, need not book a room. For everyone else, however, Helix works really well.
Stand-Out Feature: The local’s perspective
Normally, the more stars a hotel has, the more globally-focused and less connected to the city it is. Staff at guest houses, budget hotels and B&Bs love to give guests tips on little local gems and hidden hotspots, while finer hotels have a concierge to book standard city tours and reservations at fine-dining restaurants. Hotel Helix posts staff favorites – hidden gems and DC’s inside track – on the elevators above the up-down button and a fuller version on a handout in your room: restaurants you would have never heard of, bars you may not have found online, etc.
Room for Improvement: Impersonal
While we loved these locals’ tips, we found staff to be a bit stand-offish. For example, no one explained the breakfast situation (supposedly there was free coffee and tea in the morning?) nor was there a mention of a free wine happy hour or $10 free mini-bar when joining Kimpton’s rewards program (a must that gets you the free wi-fi).
Room for improvement: The Valet
The location isn’t great in terms of public transport and most guests come with a car. We found the $34 nightly parking rates sky-high, especially considering that this is a neighborhood hotel far from anywhere downtown. Although we did not travel with a car, there were quite a few complaints on review sites about issues with the valet (damage, over 20 minutes to get the car, etc) so you might consider alternative parking options for your stay.
Hotel Helix is an affordable, hip hotel and an interesting member of the Kimpton Hotel brand. Most of Kimpton’s hotels are more clearly on the luxury level, but we appreciated the tongue and cheek gaudiness. For those who stay in a lot of hotels, as we do, we appreciate a hotel dedicated 110% to its theme. No half-thought out, half-implemented designs here. The attention to detail was a pleasure, the pop rocks were an added bonus. If you’re looking for a standard hotel experience, Helix isn’t for you. But if you are up for it, Hotel Helix is a quality boutique hotel in a good DC neighborhood that makes nearby boutique hotels look boring in comparison.
Location: 1430 Rhode Island Ave NW Washington, DC 20005
Price: from $179 on hotel deal websites, $229 standard rate
LGBT Friendly: Any place this fabulous has to be!
Amenities: Free wi-di (after sign-up to free rewards program),
For more from our Hotel Tip of the Week series, check out the following Hotel Reviews:
1. Hotel Elysee in Manhattan, NYC Luxury
2. Cabinas El Pueblo in Santa Elena / Monteverde, Costa Rica Budget
3. La Candelaria, Valladolid, Mexico Budget – one of our Top Picks!