What It’s Like Staying at the Notorious Watergate Hotel

You know how, when you live somewhere, you never get around to doing the things the tourists come for, unless family or friends come to visit? I like to think I’ve done a pretty good job of not fitting into that stereotype, but there’s one thing I’d never taken the opportunity to do until my cousins came to visit: Stay at the notorious Watergate Hotel! Here’s what it’s like and why it’s so terribly infamous.

The History

Just in case you don’t know, the Watergate is not just a hotel, it’s a whole complex of shops, condos, apartments, and hotel rooms. It’s located on Virginia Avenue, NW, just across the road from the Potomac River, a short walk from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and only half a mile from trendy-yet-historic Georgetown. It’s also the site of the Watergate Scandal, which led to President Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

What happened, exactly? In 1972, the Watergate Complex served as the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters. On June 17 that year, five intruders associated with Nixon’s re-election campaign were caught wiretapping phones and stealing documents. Nixon went to great lengths to cover this up, and when the American people found out, he resigned in shame.

For more details, check out the Watergate’s History Page and this summary from History.com.

The infamous Watergate
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The Hotel

Opened in 1965, its curvy design by an Italian architect was quite avant-garde. It’s gone through several redesigns over the years, but it’s recently been restored to its shiny, mid-century modern splendor. Even the staff’s uniforms are retro!

The Watergate Hotel fully embraces its controversial and incriminating history, and it has gone to great lengths to run with the theme. You can even stay in “The Scandal Room” associated with the break-in and wiretapping! It’s room 205, and it’ll set you back around $1,700 per night, including taxes and fees. You can get a sneak peek at The Scandal Room from this article from The Points Guy.

The lobby is very new-age-mid-century-modern
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The Room

We actually stayed in two different rooms on our trip. The first one developed a sulfur smell on our last full day there, so we switched to a different room for our last night. I mention this because it was not the only inconvenience we encountered at the Watergate.

Our room was spacious and had a neutral, yet shiny, mid-century modern look and feel. There was a mini fridge, writing desk, armoire, and coffee table and chair, plus two side tables with drawers. Our second room also featured a loveseat.

Our room
All the mid-century modern vibes
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The Bathroom

The robes were some of the most comfortable and luxurious I’ve worn at a hotel, and the bathroom itself was quite large. The toiletries were okay, and we love a large countertop with double sinks. The walk-in shower featured both handheld and rainfall shower heads.

This is not a black-and-white photo, it’s a black-and-white bathroom!
Large shower with two shower heads
“Further” Brand Toiletries
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The Gym

The gym is very large, with a wide range of equipment. You’ll have your pick of cardio machines, weight machines, free weights, medicine balls, a spacious group fitness room (which I used by myself early in the morning, no group required), and more.

The hitch? It was hot down there. It’s on the B3 level, meaning three levels underground, in the basement, so one would think it should be easy to keep cool. Unfortunately, we asked three different hotel employees if there was any way to lower the temperature (the thermostat read 90-degrees Fahrenheit at one point), but it never got cooler. I hope you have better luck!

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