Best for what? All the areas you will see recommended on the forum have some good points and sometimes a few bad points. My favorite is Dupont Circle, but I am a bit prejudiced.
I always recommend Penn Quarter/Convention Center because it's walking distance to the sites and there are lots of dining options for evening. Some places to consider, depending on your budget:
Courtyard by Marriott Convention Center, Hotel Monaco, Hampton Inn, Red Roof Inn, Marriott at Metro Center, Renaissance, Embassy Suites Convention Center. Other places probably considered "downtown" which to me, means closer to the White House, are the Sofitel, W Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn.
See what's available in your price range for your travel dates, then post back for further suggestions. Hope this helps get you started on your search.
Thanks for the responses. This gives me a great start and I can do some research.
I went to San Diego in July and a DE suggested the area and was spot on. I wouldn't have even thought about the area suggested but it was perfect.
Just to put my 2 cents in - while Penn Quarter is more convenient for walking to the Capitol and museum side of the Mall, I find it a lot less charming (and calm) than Dupont Circle. And Dupont is only a 15 minute walk to the White House/Washington Monument side of the the Mall. And being in Dupont also means you are walking distance from Georgetown, U Street and Adams Morgan, all great for nighttime strolls and restaurants.
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