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We Review: Hotel Zena, Washington DC

Hotel Zena offers a pop of colour on the Washington DC hotel scene, with its thought-provoking edgy vibe.

Hotel Zena is an Urban Retreat by Viceroy, ‘part hotel and part art gallery’, with featured artworks celebrating the contributions and courage of women. While it’s easy to get immersed in the fascinating art displays, Washington DC’s popular attractions nearby beckon guests to wander beyond the hotel.

The 191-guest room and suite hotel is located in Logan Circle, at the beginning of DC’s 14th Street corridor. You know you’re in a good neighbourhood when the White House is just down the street! The location is ideal for exploring the city, with the option of using the accessible Metro nearby or taking a gentle 30-minute walk or wheel to the National Mall.

Restaurants and cafes are within easy reach, plus there’s a CVS Pharmacy and convenience store just across the road – handy for picking up supplies and snacks. If time allows for shopping, bargains await at Macy’s and Nordstrom Rack, only a few blocks away.

Facilities at Hotel Zena

Hotel stays can feel somewhat vanilla, with many taking a cookie-cutter approach to design. While some travellers take comfort in the familiarity of chain hotels, I love nothing more than walking into accommodation that surprises and delights guests with flare.

Hotel Zena delivers, with unique and quirky decor and an attitude that empowers at every turn. Artwork on the wall reflects a liberated forward-thinking world, which celebrates all genders, races, and sexualities. Girl power rules, with feminine pink touches throughout the hotel, from the billiard table with its pink felt to the pink-hued lighting above the bed in accessible rooms.

It’s hard to resist the lure of Hotel Zena’s rooftop views. By day, it’s a sun-seeker’s haven, with lounges and cabanas for guests to relax. A pool seat enables easy access into the pool, for swimming laps or cooling off after a busy day of touring nearby museums and attractions. When the evening approaches, Hedy’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge is the perfect spot to raise a glass to women’s empowerment and watch the sun set behind DC’s skyline.

View from the Hotel Zena rooftop bar with a cocktail in the evening
Relax with a cocktail and an incredible view at Hedy’s Rooftop Bar & Lounge at Hotel Zena.

Fun fact: the rooftop bar is named after Hedy Lamarr, the groundbreaking actress, inventor, and film producer credited with creating the blueprint for Bluetooth technology.

Dining in the Figleaf Bar & Restaurant (a nod to Adam and Eve), I was in good company, joined by the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg – or her likeness, at least. The mural which dominates the space is made from nearly 20,000 organic, hand-painted tampons. It was designed as a tribute to Bader-Ginsberg’s strength and unrelenting commitment to gender equality. I was seated at a table next to a wall covered in 12,000 protest buttons supporting gender equality and women’s rights. It served as a powerful reminder of the battles that have been fought over the years, and the gaps that still exist despite the best efforts of past trailblazers. Though I dined alone, the decor ensured I was never bored, with plenty for my eyes to feast on before my tender steak meal arrived.

Close up of a portrait of Ruth Bader-Ginsberg made of dyed tampons
Only at Hotel Zena would you find a larger-than-life portrait of Ruth Bader-Ginsberg made of tampons!

Hotel Zena’s Z Shed is the place to go if you or your travelling companions are missing entertainment from home. Board games, Nintendo Switch consoles, and Oculus Quest devices are available for guest use. If you’d rather get out and about, guests can also borrow outdoor gear, including picnic baskets, soccer balls, basketballs, and bikes. If you forget your camera, you can grab a Polaroid or GoPro to capture DC travel memories. The team at Hotel Zena really has thought of everything.

Hotel Zena Accommodation

Hotel Zena offers five accessible guest rooms, with a variety of bedding configurations and access features to suit all abilities. Features include visual fire alarms and doorbells, lowered light switches and air-conditioner controls, and spacious interiors.

Mobility access rooms provide good circulation space, with room to transfer on either side of the bed and non-carpeted floors to making rolling easy. A sliding door provides access to the bathroom, fitted with a roll-in shower and bench, hand-held shower-head, and grab rails throughout.

Interior view of one of the accessible rooms at Hotel Zena with circulation space around the bed
The accessible rooms at Hotel Zena have a range of features to make every stay a delight.

You don’t have to miss out on the latest episode of your favourite streaming show just because you’re travelling. Cast it to the in-room 140cm television, and unwind with a snack from the mini-bar fridge.

Accessibility at Hotel Zena

Hotel Zena offers step-free entry. The eager and friendly valet team are at the ready, promptly opening the door for guests before there’s even time to reach for the handle. Lift access is available to guest rooms and Hedy’s Rooftop Bar. A pool seat is available for guests to enter the pool. Good circulation space is provided between the tables in Figleaf Restaurant, and access is excellent for appreciating the art on the walls throughout the hotel.

Empty pool seat next to the rooftop pool at Hotel Zena
Hotel Zena’s rooftop pool is easily accessed with a pool seat.

Having the option to roll or wheel to many of the major attractions of Washington DC makes Hotel Zena an ideal base, but it’s the art and messaging that make it a truly extraordinary hotel stay.

For more information, visit the Hotel Zena website.

This review first appeared in Travel Without Limits. You can subscribe to the magazine here.

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