Wait what?! That was my initial reaction. After living in Arlington, VA for several years, with my continued natural curiosity, sense of adventure, and a little help from Groupon, I discovered what would become one of my favorite hidden gems in all of Washington, D.C. Possibly one of my favorite quirky hidden gems to date. And that is the O Mansion, or Mansion at O Street, right in the heart of popular Dupont Circle, known for it’s restaurants, bars, and nightlife. It’s quite possible you may have even passed this magical place without even knowing it. I’ve visited on three separate occasions. The first time was the Groupon which included a welcome glass of champagne, otherwise the tour is free. You don’t need the Groupon or the champagne, but it certainly made it more fun.
What Is It
The owner, who established this hotel back in the hippie days, created this hotel as a refuge where artists, musicians, writers, and thinkers could come and relax, get away, practice their craft, socialize with other like minded folks, and do so in solace without being bothered by the public or the media. You’ll see evidence of famous visitors, including an extensive signed guitar collection, from celebrities such as Bob Dylan and The Beatles. The hotel is a mix of museum, shop, event space, and functioning hotel you can actually stay in.
Not only are there occasional events, both private and public, but you can tour the house when there are no private events happening. You will find all kinds of art, books, and other quirky artifacts that are not only fun to look at but also available for purchase. And that’s not even the main draw. The O Mansion is also a functioning hotel with secret hidden rooms! That’s right, you can wander the hotel and attempt to find the 12 or so hidden rooms, each of which are individually and uniquely themed. There are also rooms that are not hidden, also uniquely styled. It’s fun for adults and kids alike. What’s that? A bookcase? Oh wait, it’s actually a secret doorway to another room!
Always Knock, Keep The Door Locked
Funny story, I took a first date here to tour the hotel and then catch an acoustic set of Beatles hits performed by members of the awesome Led Zeppelin tribute band Lez Zeppelin. As we wandered and searched for hidden rooms, I came upon one behind a bookshelf or mirror. I signal to my date to come over to partake in my discovery. I slowly open the door, eyes wide, ready to see what unique room and quirk awaits. There before me stands a naked woman who is caught completely off guard, understandably so! She gives me a look and shuts the door. Apparently she had just gotten out of the shower and there was a door very close to the bathroom that seemed to be secret even from inside the room! If the secret rooms are booked, you’re not allowed in, but it’s up to the guests to remember to lock the door since you have no idea if they’re occupied or not, until it’s too late… Needless to say, it was a very interesting first date, and I was very careful opening doors for the rest of the evening.
What To Do Afterwards
This is a great area of the city I would recommend for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Yelp! is your best friend for finding the place that best suits what you and/or your group is looking for. Plenty of great restaurants, you can’t really go wrong. One of my favorites is Kramers Bookstore which serves food and is also a bookstore, sometimes with live music. Nice outdoor patio and banana pancakes that are out of this world. You might also consider dropping by Teaism for tea and maybe some light fanfare. There is a Dupont location and also a nearby Penn Quarter location if you’re heading to the National Mall or want fewer people.
Check Out Some Photos