What service can you provide to groups that they normally might not receive?
Renaissance “Navigator” is a unique on-property, online, and mobile program providing guests with local indigenous recommendations about a variety of venues including food, spirits, retail, music, entertainment and culture. If a group is checking into our property, they can let our Navigator Concierge know ahead of time of any particular requests or interests of its meeting attendees. This allows us to create a unique In The Know document providing the group with customized recommendations that allow them to be “In The Know” and discover the many hidden gems in our local area.
What are your bar or nightclub recommendations?
Our own Lobby Bar and Lounge comes alive every Thursday evening between 5:30 and 7:30 pm with RLife LIVE. Unique to Renaissance, it is a music platform that brings guests as well as local patrons together with exciting, up-and-coming musical artists.
Outside of the hotel and very close in Crystal City, I never hesitate to recommend guests to Jaleo for awesome sangrias, classic cocktails and a great selection of Spanish Cervezas. Their “Jaleo Hour” from 4:30pm to 7:30pm features a variety of specially priced Tapas along with a nice selection of sangrias, cocktails, wine, and beer.
Just a couple of miles down the road from our hotel is The Birchmere. It is known for presenting performers in the bluegrass, country, folk, and jazz genres. The main stage has intimate table seating serving a very casual dinner service along with drinks. Tables in front are about two feet from the performers on stage, so we always recommend guests get there early, since choice seating is on a first come, first served basis.
For a much different nightlife experience, I recommend a short cab ride or take the Metrorail Orange Line to the Clarendon neighborhood. At IOTA Club & Cafe, live music is performed by a wide variety of local talent in a decidedly causal atmosphere. The venue itself is small, but there are two bars, and ample space to stand and still be very close to the band. This place is very popular most every day and night of the week due to the addition of a great selection of food and gourmet coffee drinks at reasonable prices.
Can you recommend a good place to take a stroll?
A short stroll from our hotel guests can relax at an unexpected large water feature nestled among the office buildings and residential high rises along Crystal Drive. For those wanting to walk a little further, they can continue down Crystal Drive to Long Bridge Park, a new park created along the Potomac River. For more energetic walkers (or joggers) they can join the Mount Vernon Trail just eight blocks from the hotel and enjoy picturesque views along the Potomac River. Your first stop will be Gravelly Point where you will get an extremely close up view of airplanes arriving and departing from Reagan Washington National Airport. Just across the river, the famous landmarks and monuments of DC are in full view.
Absolutely unique to our hotel is our "Cycles of Discovery" program where guests can take advantage of our complimentary 3-speed, Trek bicycles to fully explore Washington, DC, Old Town Alexandria and even ride the entire 16-mile trail to the Mount Vernon Estate.
Are there any quirky places we should check out?
The Washington, DC area has many intriguing places that spark our guest’s interest and encourage them to explore. In northern Virginia, the neighborhoods of Del Ray, Old Town Alexandria, and Clarendon offer a multitude of boutique shops to browse and very distinct as well as historical restaurants and bars in which to savor and sip. In Washington, DC, the Georgetown, Adams Morgan, and Capitol Hill neighborhoods are well known and on many guests lists of places to visit.
However, for something “quirky” try these out!
Often described as a "must see for CSI fans," the National Museum of Crime and Punishment includes a crime lab and the filming studios for America's Most Wanted. During the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day the museum offered couples a very “quirky” experience. Couples were handcuffed upon entry to view the over 600 exhibits, including one highlighting “crimes of passion”. Following their tour they were then treated to true stories such as the “Valentine’s Vampire”!
The International Spy Museum “Spy at Night” aims to offer an exclusive James Bond experience to the 21-and-older set after the museum closes on the second Friday night of every month. The evening includes their own perfect mix of espionage activities that you don't get with a typical museum visit. At mission’s end, it’s bottoms up for everyone, a chance to debrief with fellow agents or even a visiting ex-CIA agent over a signature drink at their fully-stocked bar.
What is an unusual request from a group you’ve had?
The public restrooms of our hotel’s Lobby Lounge recently received a most unusual award. Cintas, a company that among other things supplies restroom facilities, has for 10 years asked the public to rank America's best restrooms. The company's rankings' process is two-fold: First, it accepts nominations on restrooms across the country and then it asks the general public to choose the best bathrooms from a list of 10 finalists. Our hotel was voted #2 in the nation!
Recently, a group of women’s volleyball teams requested that we take pictures of them in our bathroom with the sinks and mirror as a backdrop. They were unaware that we had received the distinction of one of the best bathrooms in America, but were so fascinated with our bathroom’s design they had to take pictures home with them.
One of the coolest things about our restrooms is the sink faucets: They rush with red light when the water is hot, and they pour with blue light when the water is cool. And, after you've gone about your business, be sure to look at the shadowy leaves that follow your footsteps as you walk down the hallway… They're made of nothing more than light.
A party of 12 wants to have dinner right away. What restaurant can accommodate last-minute requests of this size?
The Renaissance strives to recommend the perfect choice of restaurants for all our guests. Therefore, we always attempt to ask all the right questions to zero in on just the right restaurant choice for each guest or group. There are numerous restaurants within walking distance of our hotel or a short cab ride away and we maintain a very good relationship with many of them. These restaurants range from very casual to elegant atmosphere and menus offering anything from home-style to great barbeque to fine dining.
For an impromptu party of 12 I know I can quickly arrange a wonderful dining experience in our own SOCCi restaurant, an Urban Italian Kitchen. A hidden gem of our restaurant is a uniquely designed private dining room draped in vibrant fabric and crowned with a stunning chandelier on top of an impressive, contemporary round table. It’s perfect for intimate or business occasions.
For guests requesting a break away from the hotel for dinner I would call either The Wharf or Columbia Firehouse, both located in Old Town Alexandria. Each offers superb menus of varied selections along with an atmosphere steeped in early American history.
What’s a unique event that has taken place at your property?
Our hotel recently hosted a very traditional Indian wedding ceremony. The Indian Barat, which is known for their grandeur, is one of the major components of an Indian wedding ceremony. The Wedding Barat is a dance and music procession that proceeds from the groom’s place towards the wedding venue.
Approximately a block away from our hotel, a sword-carrying groom was seated on an ornately decorated white mare. He was accompanied by his cousins and siblings who sang and slowly danced their way down the street to the entrance of the hotel.
Upon entry to the hotel’s portico, the groom was greeted with great exuberance along with garland and rose petals offered by the elders of both the families as well as guests from the bride's side. The mother of the bride then applied Tilak on the groom's forehead and performed Aarti to ward off any evil. The groom then crossed over the threshold to join his bride in the mandap for the wedding ceremony in our Grand Ballroom.
To discover more eye-opening insights from top concierges, just visit our Concierge Insights section!