Over the last couple of debates, Donald Trump has made a point of bringing up his new hotel in Washington, D.C, right on Pennsylvania Avenue. His boasting about how expensive and luxurious this hotel is may have led some people to have the wrong impression of what it’s like to visit D.C, so let me clear up some things:
Washington, D.C, is not an expensive city to visit. The treasures of our nation’s capital are almost all entirely free. The 18 museums and one zoo of the Smithsonian Institute, which includes the brand new African American History and Culture museum are all free. The various monuments and memorials spread along the Mall and the Tidal basin are open to browse at your leisure. The National Arboretum and Botanic Gardens welcome visitors without charge every day but Christmas when they are closed. The White House and Capitol building themselves only require visitors to request tours from their government representatives. The U.S Constitution, the document that made our nation what it is today, is displayed in the National Archives Museum, which is also free to visit. You can spend plenty of money at any of these places, they all have gift shops and some have restaurants. But just visiting them will not cost you a dime.
Growing up in the nearby Prince George’s County suburbs, I remember my Girl Scout troop taking the metro to the zoo and the museums. I remember my mom bringing my siblings and me in to see dinosaur bones and the gowns of the First Ladies for nothing more than the cost of parking. More than any other city I have lived in or visited, DC strives to make itself accessible to everyone in a way that I didn’t really appreciate until I started traveling and ended up shocked at the entrance prices at other museums or other cultural landmarks. Not that they aren’t worth it in many cases, but the idea that they weren’t open for the enjoyment and enrichment of everyone was foreign to me. The area itself is also incredibly diverse across racial, economic, and cultural lines. Both of our next door neighbors were immigrants from different areas, and I grew up with close friends from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds. I can honestly say that growing up there gave me a better and wider perspective on the world than I would have if I’d grown up in the smaller, rural community we moved to just before I started high school.
Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything that I loved about the DC area, and his new hotel is a monument to his “fuck you, got mine” mentality. Located in the historic Post Office building, his hotel is all about restricted access and ostentatious wealth. Their wine is so expensive, you can order it by the spoon. They have a 6,300 sq. ft. two bedroom penthouse that has a nightly rate in excess of what it would cost to rent an entire house for a month in one of the city’s most exclusive neighborhoods.There are other luxury hotels in the city that cost far less per night, never mind hotels that may not be “luxury” but are perfectly fine. This is what Trump wants; a world that has no place for anyone other than the fabulously wealthy and demands that those with means display it in the most garish fashion. As far as the middle class or anyone who falls below that, he doesn’t care about them. He is only interested in how he can exploit their labor, or dazzle them out of their hard earned money with promises of similar prosperity, or at least the appearance of it. He wants their vote, but don’t ever tell me that Donald Trump is the kind of guy a normal person can get a beer with. Not when he’s serving wine by the spoon to drive home how unaffordable it is.
I had originally planned to visit the Trump hotel to give a first person account of it. But as time went on, and more stories came out, I realized that I didn’t even want to give his company the money for a drink so that I could tell you first hand what it’s like to have one there. We know what it’s like. A lot of expensive things thrown together with no eye for taste or class. Spaces that demand you acknowledge how much they cost and how little you deserve to be there. DC has been pushing back at this hotel since it was in construction, and with any luck his name won’t stay on it for too long. The picture that appears at the top of this piece is one I took myself of one of the many protests that have taken place outside the hotel, this one during the “soft opening” last month. Donald Trump likes to talk about what an “exclusive” address his new hotel has. And yes, the Pennsylvania Avenue location, between the Capitol and the White House, is pretty impressive. But what he won’t tell you is that less than a block away is the Hotel Harrington. It’s been there since the early years of the 20th century, and you can get a room that sleeps 5 for about $200 a night. It’s a favorite of school groups or scout trips. It’s not as impressive as the Old Post Office building, the rooms aren’t as expensively decorated, and the wine selection is probably less pricey, but it’s a reminder that visiting Washington, DC is not something that’s reserved only for the richest Americans. Our nation’s capital is open to everyone. Don’t let Trump or his kind tell you otherwise.
Genevieve Burgess has spent over half of her life living within a mile and a half of a DC metro station. She will admit that DC is an expensive city to live in, but encourages everyone who can to visit and enjoy all the Smithsonians and the other national monuments and parks in the area to their fullest. She is happy to offer recommendations to anyone interested.