DC over the Holidays

I won’t lie… when I imagined writing about my DC trip, I imagined it being a little more full of things that we did and places we went. But I think it’s almost as important (though maybe not as fun) to share the reality of what it’s like for me to travel right now.

When we decided to go to DC over the holidays, it was both in the spirit of optimism and realism. Optimistically, we hoped that with vaccines and boosters, the COVID situation might be ok enough for us to explore the city a bit. Realistically, we kind of thought it was looking like we weren’t going to be able to have a “normal” holiday season at home, so at that point, we might as well be celebrating elsewhere with our immediate family.

A large, decorated Christmas tree is set up outside - there is a set of stairs behind it, and a cement arch on top reads "Willard Center." There are ropes around the tree.

We had an incredible stay at The Willard over Labor Day, and had heard incredible things about how beautifully the hotel was decorated for the holidays. Since DC is a (relatively) easy drive for us, and the weather is typically at least slightly warmer that Pittsburgh, it seemed like the perfect place to choose to go.

There was a slight issue when we checked in – they had given the ONLY (!!!) accessible one bedroom suite to someone else, and put us in a non-accessible room without telling us. Happily, the other person agreed to switch rooms, so after a slight delay, we were able to get into the correct room, which was a relief. While the non-accessible suite was still spacious, we didn’t think our wheelchairs would fit through the bathroom door, and while we could have made that work for a night, the prospect of having to unpack and set up all of our equipment in one room for that night only to have to do it in a different room the next day was truly exhausting. We were very, very grateful that the other person agreed to switch rooms! The only disappointment was learning that the hotel has only one accessible option out of over 70 suites!

The decorated front of the Willard Hotel - the facade is covered in lighted boughs, bows, and wreaths.
Heather is wearing a burgundy velvet smocked Nap Dress, long dangly rhinestone earrings, and a jeweled headband. Her dog Lily, a Yorkie, is sitting on her lap, and she's wearing a black and white velvet and tulle dog dress. They're posing in front of a decorated fireplace mantle in the hotel lobby.

But once the room situation was straightened out, the rest of the stay was much smoother. The hotel really does not disappoint with their holiday decor – it is so decked out and so beautiful! They have a HUGE tree in the center of the lobby, a few smaller trees, lots of garland and wreaths, and even a little champagne bar cart! It felt so special to just walk through or hang out in the lobby – we were just totally and completely surrounded by holiday cheer.

And I’m so glad the hotel is as beautiful as it was, because we spent a LOT of time there. I had booked a few different dinner reservations ahead of time, but with the incredible rise in omicron cases, we ended up cancelling them all. My family and I talk a lot about taking really, really calculated risks. Even vaccinated and boosted, it’s still not safe for us to just resume life as normal – mild COVID could still be really bad for us! So while it felt safe for us to go to DC (because we drove), going out to dinner while we were there just did not feel safe. We ended up just staying in our (very spacious, thankfully) room a lot, or in the lobby occasionally – I had a Christmas glass of champagne in the hotel bar. I share this not to make you feel bad for me, but because I think it’s important to share these struggles of safe decision making as a disabled person that I’m still facing every day.

Heather is wearing a bronze metallic textured dress and is smiling. Behind her, above, are silver metal snowflake decorations strung up along the open air "ceiling" at City Center.
The National Christmas Tree, decorated with lights and red and white ornaments, and has fake red wrapped "gifts" around the bottom. It's HUGE and set up outside the Ellipse.
Heather is wearing a bronze metallic textured swingy dress and black tights. She's posing in front of a giant decorative reindeer made out of what appears to be branches with lights all over it. The reindeer is on a platform of faux wrapped gifts.

Happily, we did get to do a few fun things outside the hotel, too. The outdoor holiday market was still going on for the first bit of our stay, so we walked around there and got to check out some local businesses who had set up shop in the booths. And because the hotel is so close to the White House, we got to walk to the Ellipse and see the National Christmas Tree, which was stunningly huge (and not too crowded since we went late in the evening on Christmas Day). And we did explore the National Museum of American History for a bit – we went an hour before closing so it wasn’t too crowded.

The rest of the time, we spent ordering takeout, watching movies, and playing games – my sister and I are obsessed with Monopoly Deal. Much like the rest of 2021, it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but we made it fun nonetheless!

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