Wednesday, August 12, 2015

AC Hotel National Harbor Hotel Review

I'm a firm believer in the adage "less is more," and the brand-spanking new AC Hotel National Harbor proves it... offering luxurious accommodations with scrumptious views and sterling service, for a mere $199 per night (smack dab in the middle of National Harbor.) There's lots to love; but in my book, great hospitality begins and ends with genuine kindness and loads of comfort and convenience. I've been in hundreds of hotels (from bad to amazing) and this is the first time I've encountered perfect service across the board... Literally, each and every employee of the AC Hotel National Harbor I crossed paths with, said hello with a smile. Each and every one. Pinch me, I must be dreaming.

Hold the pinch, because I did plenty of dreaming as well; but all jokes aside, 100% customer service efficiency is unheard of... even at a 5-star luxury hotel. Even if the AC Hotel wasn't clean, modern and ideally located, I'd go back for the endless abundance of enthusiasm and warm welcomes. It begs the question: Why can't every hotel offer the same?

Perhaps it's because the hotel is still so new (it opened in late April) but the staff's relative youth and unmatched exuberance is a welcome break from the drag of employee inconsistencies found elsewhere. Check-in was super fast (thanks Ben) and included a friendly chat on the way to the elevator (they have a Berkel Prosciutto Slicer!) Said elevators fly up and down, and are plenty big (unlike the ones at the last hotel I stayed in.) No need to use your room key to activate either, unless you're on the top floor. Hallway corridors are immaculately clean and warmly lit.


Accessing the room was easy too (no card hiccups) and the temperature upon arrival was a comfortable 67°. If you like your rooms roomy, you might be a tad disappointed; but each of the 192 regular rooms (there's six suites available too) packs a lot of amenities into a smaller space, beginning with a literal walk-in bathroom and closet area immediately to your left as you walk in. The toilet and gorgeous shower (no tub) are conveniently hidden behind a mirrored door/partition. It's the only door in the room.

Inside, there's a king-size bed, dressed in all white with two sleek nightstands that feature power/USB ports (pure genius.) Light switches (main and reading) face the sides of the bed for extra convenience (no fumbling around.) The LG LCD TV is mounted between two windows with majestic views, and comes with a glow-in-the-dark remote. The picture is high quality (most channels are in HD) and you get HBO as well as access to your Netflix account (score!) Channel surfing is a breeze (there's an on-screen channel guide and the remote is very responsive (no delays whatsoever between channels... an irksome inconvenience found in other hotels.)

Desk (and refrigerator)

There's a tiny fridge under the desk (no bar either, go downstairs to the AC Lounge... it's a lot more fun than drinking alone) with a couple of small glasses and bottles of water. On the opposite side, there's a comfy swivel chair with a small table, and a convenient bench under the television. Whoever designed these rooms clearly understands efficiency.


Bed linens (Preferred Comfort) are very comfortable with a down comforter and four top-notch, king size pillows. I woke up in the exact same position I fell asleep in; so I can only assume I had a great sleep. Some (most?) of the credit has to go to the bed, right?

How's this for a window view?

Room views are nothing short of spectacular. The Capital Wheel is so close, you might be tempted to reach out and (try to) touch it; and the view of the Plaza is without equal. You can also see the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, National Cathedral (home) and Washington Monument in the background. Impressive. Very impressive.

Window view #2

You won't find a full-service restaurant inside the hotel; but you can get small plates (tapas) and cocktails at the aforementioned AC Lounge, and breakfast every morning at the AC Kitchen. Best of all, they serve breakfast after advertised times to clueless guests like yours truly, who stop in 20 minutes after it's supposed to be over. Thank Heaven too, since it features croissants flown in from France (how cool is that?) and perfect slices of silky prosciutto... in addition to a myriad of juices, soy milk (yes, soy milk) fresh fruit, tarts and yogurt. Think Continental with flair. If you're too good for prosciutto, you can find bacon, sausage and French toast at nearby Granite City Food & Brewery every morning until 11. I'd never stand in the way of someone who wants bacon, under any circumstances.

Breakfast at AC Kitchen
Hand-sliced Prosciutto

Nice as it is, "less is more" has a few drawbacks, especially for old-school travelers used to old-school "frills." You won't find newspapers, room service or robes (don't worry there's still an iron/board and hair dryer) or one of my must-haves... a box of tissues. There's a tiny pack (probably half-a-dozen) next to the shower cap and spare toilet roll; but if it's half as important to you, as it is to me... there's a CVS Pharmacy behind the hotel, so you can buy your own.

View from the Harbor

Luckily, those few negatives don't come close to usurping the many positives of the AC Hotel. Little things like blazing fast iMacs in the lobby (with wireless printing) free Wi-Fi throughout the entire hotel and a humongous, modern fitness room. There's even a washing machine and dryer (with waiting area) for taking care of little messes without the high cost of dry cleaning. There's also an ice machine on the 8th floor (not sure if it's the only one) but kudos for giving clear-cut instructions on how to find it... "ICE MACHINE LOCATED ON THE 8TH FLOOR NEXT TO ROOM 818." If I had a nickel for every time I struggled to find the hidden ice machine...

Alexandria - National Harbor Water Taxi: Getting there is half the fun

Other details worth mentioning > The A/C gets nice & cold... really cold if you want (59° and under!) That comes in handy with a high-quality (subsequently warm) down comforter over you at night. Also, getting to the Harbor doesn't require taking a car (valet parking runs you $35, yikes.) There's a shuttle ($10 each way) to King Street-Old Town Metro, Metrobus to Southern Avenue Metro (NH1... only a buck and a quarter) and the coolest way, my way... the Alexandria - National Harbor Water Taxi ($8 each way.) Trust me, nothing beats coasting in to National Harbor along the Potomac River. As you might expect, the boat stops just a few steps away from the hotel. Convenience, convenience, convenience.

Great air conditioning

Cosmetically, it's hard to find any fault with the room. Forget carpets, the AC Hotel prefers chic, laminated floors (and so do I.) The open concept bathroom and closet are unique as well, and there's attention to detail at every pass (love the shoe sponge... sooo handy!) Even the hanging light fixture over the Kohler sink is beautiful, probably proving I have way too much time on my hands. Perhaps it's time to pay the AC Lounge a much-needed visit.

The shower is sexy, and water pressure is fantastic (toilet too.) Toss in a box of Kleenex, and I might never leave. The "closet" area houses a safe, iron and ironing board, as well as a coffee maker/ice bucket. Storage is thin (a few hangers, a couple of draws) but there are a number of glass shelves that fit my things like a glove. Once again, the room is geared towards "less is more," AKA the millennial crowd. Either you like it, or you don't.

It goes without saying, I do... and I'm nowhere near millennial status (although I did get carded a couple of weeks ago.) Considering all there is to do at National Harbor, how much time are you actually going to spend walking around your hotel room? I could probably stay a week (if only I could) without skipping a beat. Come for the location, revel in the amenities and service, and take in a view others only dream about. Click here to learn more, or (more importantly) to make your own reservation. Click here to see AC Hotel's decidedly better quality photos.

AC Lounge

Cozy seating

Outdoor patio