WHEN YOU NEED to renew yourself, reignite your lover or flee the kids and complications, escape to one of Washington's uncommonly fine weekend getaways. Enjoy theater, dancing, intimate clubs, even sunrises in Rock Creek Park, and breakfast in bed before reentering reality.
The following in-town retreats include simple and elegant bed and breakfasts, and hotels from Alexandria, through Foggy Bottom to Dupont Circle. SMALL HOTELS
The Morrison House, in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria, combines old-world grace with modern amenities. George Washington didn't sleep here, but he would have loved it. When you ascend one of the curved double staircases, stand under the columned portico and are greeted by the butler, you feel like a privileged house guest at an 18th-century manor. The studied elegance of this 47-room hotel, which opened in 1985, includes oriental rugs, a mirrored marble foyer replete with crystal chandelier, carefully arranged fresh cut flowers, wing chairs, candle stands, sideboards and silk brocade sofas in the parlor.
To the background music of Mozart, Brahms or Chopin, relax from a day of boutique shopping with high tea in the mahogany-paneled, plum-accented library. Then settle into your room, a comfortable arrangement of four-poster bed and settee. Amenities include marble vanities, bathrobes and television (concealed in the armoire) plus in-house movies.
As a perfect prelude, try Le Chardon d'Or, the intimate hotel restaurant, especially noted for its grilled lamb, duck and scallops. But the specialty of the house is European service. "As a small hotel, we pride ourselves on personalized service. The butler will take you to your room, help you unpack, press your things and draw your bath," says rooms manager Brian McFadden. Or even assist with your fantasies. For one recent weekender, perhaps playing J.R. Ewing in a power tryst, the staff combed D.C. for just the right beige Stetson with a leather band. For another couple, commemorating five years, notes McFadden, "We kept his secret by arranging a balloon ride for her. Then, when they were out, we kept her secret by placing about 40 presents and candles around the room for him along with pa~te' and champagne."
The Morrison House, small enough to be discreet, is large enough to cater to getaway whims, whether romantic room service candlelight dinners, rose petals in the bathwater or the simple allure of champagne and roses. After all, the fountain statue outside proclaims "Paradise Regained."
MORRISON HOUSE --
116 South Alfred Street, Alexandria. 838-8000. Weekend packages include: "For That Special Occasion" with champagne upon arrival, pa~te', fruit and cheese and a gift sent to your room; full breakfast in bed or brunch at Le Chardon d'Or; $159 for executive room, $179 deluxe (four-poster king canopy bed), $225 one-bedroom suite. "The Summer Classic" includes business, executive or deluxe room depending on availability; continental breakfast; 10 percent off dinner for two at Le Chardon d'Or; free parking; two-night minimum, $45 per person per night. Room rates: weekend, $90-$110, midweek $115-$300. Le Chardon d'Or fixed-price seven-course dinner is $65 per person, five courses $55, four courses, $45. High tea, 3 to 5 p.m., is $10 per person, including scones, tea sandwiches and pastries.
Although the Tabard Inn restaurant wins wide acclaim for its American cuisine, The Hotel Tabard Inn, comprised of three joined Victorian town houses in the Dupont Circle area, like a charming but eccentric relative, appeals to a special circle: Those who like their lodgings part funk, faded glory and fun. Here there's no television, marble vanities, blow dryers, or even room service. More like a large bed and breakfast, the hotel's guest rooms (choose an airy one facing N Street if you can) feature eclectic combinations of Empire antiques, '20s iron and brass beds, overly romanticized canva
of cherubs serenading lovers, worn armchairs and even, sometimes, a garage-sale piano. But the pairings can be magical, especially if you find romance in a grande dame of a hotel who wears her slightly worn dignity with style. HOTEL TABARD INN --
1739 N St. NW. 785-1277. 40 guest rooms. Weekend package runs through August. Two-night stay for two includes continental-plus breakfast (roll, juice, coffee, and egg), $138 total for room with private bath. Available Friday through Sunday.Double with shared bath, $60-$69; private bath, $85-$105. 1 1/2 blocks from Dupont Circle metro. THE SUITE LIFE
Almost next door to the Tabard, the Canterbury Hotel, a 99-room lodging opened in 1979 in a converted apartment building, offers weekend gypsies the comforts of home in the heart of downtown. On a block shaded by large magnolias and young oaks, whose bay-windowed and turreted Victorian row houses bear the shingles of law and architectural firms, the Canterbury stands out for its boxlike architecture and suite surprises. During the week the hotel caters to corporate clients, but on weekends, says sales director Karen Auchincloss, "We're a refuge for suburbanites escaping from their children." You might try Chaucer's, the hotel's continental restaurant known for its salmon en croute and mixed grill. But you'll find the Canterbury's junior suites an interesting alternative to the high-rise hotels. The plants, brass ducks and bright orange and beige floral Renaissance bedspreads and drapes soften the sameness of the hotel's decor, a mixture of 18th-century reproduction headboards and bureaus. These large bedrooms feature dressing and sitting areas, along with a dining nook. Despite the lack of room service, enjoy a midnight snack of chocolates, brie and crackers from your private stocked kitchenette, or toast each other with cocktails from your in-room bar. The honor system applies: Pay for what you use. In the morning, lounge abed with the newspaper delivered to your door, then grab a continental breakfast downstairs before continuing your city tour.
THE CANTERBURY HOTEL --
1733 N St. NW. 393-3000. Special weekend package: $78 per night, based on availability, includes continental breakfast, welcome champagne and fruit, afternoon cocktail, morning newspaper. Parking, $6.75. Three-course pre-theater dinner, $12.95 per person. Mid-week rates, $135-$175 single; $155-$195 double.
At Guest Quarters, while you won't see your own children, tourists' kids often fill the hallways. The reasonable rates -- priced the same for one to four persons -- combined with separate living/dining rooms, bedrooms and fully stocked kitchens, attract out-of-towners. But these comfortably if not imaginatively furnished chrome-and-glass suites -- with blue-green loveseats, two televisions and Steinberg posters of New York -- offer some good buys for natives as well, including hard-to-get theater tickets. When no one else had seats to "Les Miserables," Guest Quarters' lodgers with a theater package were sitting in the orchestra. Guest Quarters' two in-town locations are near the Kennedy Center and Georgetown. GUEST QUARTERS --
801 New Hampshire Ave. NW (785-2000) and 2500 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (333-8060). Weekend Package: $118 double per night, includes chocolates, continental breakfast for two, newspaper and parking. Theater Package: $87.50 per person, double occupancy. To the weekend package, add a free cordial and tickets of your choice to either the National Theatre, the Kennedy Center or Ford's Theatre. Advance notice required. For either package, VCRs, rowing machines or exercise bicycles will be brought to the suite upon request. Mid-week rates: $140 single, $160 double. BED AND BREAKFASTS
To peer behind the high-walled gardens of Old Town for a peek at the lifestyle of the republic's elite, stay in one of Princely Bed and Breakfast's 35 historic town houses (with about 50 rooms).
"We offer gracious accommodations, most in historic Old Town at giveaway prices," asserts founder E. J. Mansmann, a retired State Department cultural attache.
Graced with original moldings, intricate mantels and finely carved cabinets, and furnished with handsome antiques, each of these private homes reflects the owner's special interests: one, a collection of turn-of-the century toys in the upstairs parlor; another, 188 porcelain teapots; and another, the panache of peacock feathers reflected in the double parlor's wall-size Victorian gilt mirror. These homes provide the perfect setting for a life of privilege, and a weekend of romance. Special choices: the 1850 house with its 14-foot ceilings, airy guest room with bay window, four-poster bed with a crocheted canopy, and wedding wreath quilt. Breakfast in the country kitchen, or on the brick courtyard, sweet with magnolia, dogwood and azaleas in season. At the 1750 house, one of the first built in town, after a lover's tryst in your private suite, alluring with its antique Chinese canopied four-poster bed, enjoy the moonlight and roses in the triple-terraced garden bordered by boxwood, and presided over by a huge magnolia.
PRINCELY BED AND BREAKFAST LTD. --
819 Prince St., Alexandria. 683-2159. $65-$75 double includes continental breakfast.
"This is the grandmother's house you wish you had," says owner Roberta Pieczenik, of the six turn-of-the century row houses, two in Woodley Park, and four in Kalorama, that comprise the Kalorama Guest House.
Dignified without being stately, some of these were advertised in 1910 as "houses of tone, character and dignity for people of taste, refinement and culture." While not elegant, these bed and breakfast rooms provide a warm alternative to standard motel fare. And just like granny's new store-bought furniture, these now-"antique" oak dressers, armoires, brass beds and overstuffed armchairs -- some flea-market finds -- while not the best quality, sport a funky, offbeat charm. In the hallways and guest rooms, framed scores of ditties like "When I Met You Last in Dreamland" add a touch of wit as starry-eyed women wearing enormous plumed bonnets peer out from halos of pink roses. And just like granny, enjoy a nip of afternoon sherry "stolen" from a niche in the pump organ in the parlor. Says Pieczencik, who turned innkeeper for the sheer pleasure of it. "When guests say it's wonderful, it's a great high." KALORAMA GUEST HOUSE --
2700 Cathedral Ave. NW. (328-0860; 19 rooms in two houses) and 1854 Mintwood Place NW (667-6369; 31 rooms in four houses). Shared bath: $25-$50 single; $35-$55 double; private bath, $50-$70 single; $60-$80 double. Includes continental breakfast and afternoon sherry. LUXURY HOTELS
When you drive up to the Park Hyatt, the glass-canopied portico, shimmering with rows of white lights, suggests long-ago promises. This is the place to pamper yourself with gracious service, fine dining, tasteful rooms and a full-service spa and salon. One of Washington's newest luxury hotels (opened in August 1986), the Park Hyatt offers understated elegance and an alluring array of weekend packages.
Start your escape with elaborate high tea in the lounge, whose flourishes include delicate mauves and pinks and a classical pianist. Sample creampuffs, eclairs, tea sandwiches and scones at tables sheltered by potted palms. Return between 5:30 and 7:30 for jazz and complimentary hors d'oeuvres, then dine at the Melrose, overlooking the patio with its flower border and 10-foot cast-iron fountain.
The weekend retreats, all Regency suites, feature pink and green sitting rooms with philodendrons, sofas and marble tables and bedrooms with bleached oak bureaus. Rest here, or rejuvenate yourself at the hotel's urban spa, Rendezvous in the Park. Swim in the indoor skylit pool, soak in the Jacuzzi, work out on the Nautilus circuit, (you can request a VCR movie while you bike), enjoy steam or sauna, a massage from Shiatzu to Swedish, a skin-care analysis, makeover or hair styling. At the Park Hyatt, a weekend escape truly transforms.
PARK HYATT --
24th and M NW. 789-1234. "Fantasy Weekend in the Park" specials include: "Relax," with suite, complimentary parking, champagne and fresh fruit upon arrival, health club privileges, discount coupons to Georgetown Park, $125 per couple. "Celebrate": all of the above, plus Saturday or Sunday brunch for two in the Melrose, wine and dessert in the lounge, and complimentary makeover for women at the Rendezvous salon. $180 per night for a couple. Optional: For $100 per person, try a shampoo, styling, set, manicure, skin analysis, makeup and massage. "Gourmet Delight": Regency suite, parking, champagne and fresh fruit; Saturday or Sunday dinner at the Melrose; high tea; health club. $315 a couple for two nights. "Urban Spa": suite, parking, champagne and fresh fruit; health-club privileges, morning jog, pool aerobics, massage on motorized roller bed, Sunday brunch. $265 per couple includes two nights' lodging. $40 extra per person, a special low-calorie dinner at Melrose.
Weekend packages at some of Washington's other luxury hotels include:
At the Watergate Hotel (2650 Virginia Ave. NW, 965-2300), "Washington Weekend" includes a suite overlooking the Potomac, complimentary wine; two tickets to a Saturday night Kennedy Center ballet, opera or symphony or Ford's Theatre show; a tour of Jean-Louis's wine cellars; use of the health club with indoor pool, continental breakfast for $165 per couple per night.
At the Sheraton Washington (2660 Woodley Rd. NW 328-2000), "Time of Your Life Weekend Special" includes a basic room and use of pools at $69 per night. "Bed and Breakfast," $79, includes full breakfast for two at either the Twentieth Century or The Courtyard Cafe. "Sweet Suite/Brunch Weekend" $119 per room, includes a suite plus champagne Sunday brunch for two at the Americus, the hotel's noted restaurant.
At the Hay-Adams Hotel (1 Lafayette Square NW, 638-6600), "Weekend Package" includes wine and fruit upon arrival; parking; afternoon tea for two; full breakfast, $175 per night. The "Honeymoon-Anniversary Package" includes a suite overlooking Lafayette Square and the White House with champagne in your room; full American breakfast in your suite or in the Adams room, $250 per night.
At the Four Seasons (2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 342-0444) "Best of Friends" includes a deluxe room, parking, a bottle of champagne for $145. "One Enchanted Evening:" deluxe room; parking, champagne breakfast in bed. $175.
At the Willard Inter-Continental (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 628-9100), "Weekend Package": champagne in your suite upon arrival, full breakfast in bed, free parking, $225 per night or a weekend room at $125 single or double, $175 for a suite; both include valet parking.
At the Grand Hyatt (1000 H St. NW, 582-1234), the newest of D.C.'s luxury hotels, enjoy weekend introductory rates of $89. Other weekend packages: "Landmark of Luxury" -- room, parking, champagne and a rose upon arrival, taxes, gratuities and $25 credit toward either breakfast in bed or dinner at the Grand Cafe, or Hamilton's, the hotel restaurants, $158 per double room. "Simply Grand" -- room, tax, parking, shopping and sightseeing discounts, $138 per double.
DISCOUNT OVERNIGHT GETAWAYS --
Some 70 Washington hotels offer special weekend packages, according to the Hotel Association of Washington, and many have extended those rates to weekdays through the summer. Prices range from $19.50 per person (double occupancy) at Carlyle Suites to $145 per room (and up) at the Four Seasons. For a brochure write the Hotel Association of Washington at P.O. Box 33578, Washington DC 20033, or visit the Tourist Information Center at 1400 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (in the Commerce Building) between 9 and 5 daily.