Totally out of the blue and into my email box a couple weeks ago was an invitation from Mark Weinstein, Hilton’s Global Head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships. I received an invitation to travel to Washington D.C., meet for lunch, stay at the Washington Hilton for three nights, and top off the weekend with a Hilton@Play Neon Trees Saturday night concert at the hotel’s International Ballroom.
I have attended hotel events with Hyatt, Four Seasons, MGM Las Vegas, Starwood, Carlson Rezidor, IHG and Marriott where I had complimentary rooms and usually some kind of free event and lots of food and drink. Occasional sponsored trips is one of the perks of hanging around hospitality businesses. They want to meet the people writing about their hotel chain and I like to travel. I don’t seek out these kinds of trips, but they are offered to me about two times per year. This was the first time in 2015 a hotel chain reached out to me and the first time I have had a sponsored trip with Hilton.
This weekend in Washington D.C. was different from most media trips due to little demand on my time. I had Friday evening and all day Saturday with free time to roam Washington D.C. I dined at the Washington Hilton hotel and a couple of D.C. restaurants, an uncommon occurrence for my travel style.
As someone who has participated in a dozen or so press trips since 2010, like two per year, the typical invitation to visit a place on their dime usually means I return from the trip wanting to turn off from all movement and contact after the pace of 15 hour days with constant activity, dining, drinking and travel from site to site.
Press trips are great for learning about a place, but the relentless pace makes the whole trip a blur from sleep deprivation after a typical three days in constant movement, conversation and engagement. Many travel bloggers thrive on that lifestyle and engagement with corporate faces and destination tourism staff. I swallow media trips in limited doses.
I can handle the typical media trip about two times per year. My experience with points and miles bloggers is most of us are rather private individuals who love to schedule our own activities.
Thanks Hilton! The Hilton portion of the D.C. trip was fun with a Washington Hilton hotel tour, lunch with Mark Weinstein, Hilton Worldwide’s Global Head of Customer Engagement, Loyalty and Partnerships and a couple other social media staff of Hilton HHonors and the fun Saturday night concert.
On Friday evening I met up with Scott Mackenzie of Travel Codex for dinner at Lauriol Plaza. Over the phone he said Mexican food. I imagined a little bright white fluorescent light hole-in-the-wall eatery. I did not expect a Zagat rated restaurant with layers of table cloths. Even less expected was to hear another local area person talking about the same restaurant the next night at the Neon Trees show.
The National Zoo is about a 20 minute walk from the Washington Hilton. My first activity for Saturday morning on a brilliantly clear sky day was get myself to the zoo.
Tian Tian, male Giant Panda at Smithsonian National Zoo, Washington D.C.
Mei Xiang is the adult female panda who gave birth August 22, 2015 to the giant panda cub Bei Bei.
Bei Bei Cam.
First There is a Mountain
Thanksgiving week was gray and cloudy in London and chilly rain-snow in Sweden. Seeing Washington D.C. in clear blue cloudless skies was a photographic treat. I headed to the National Mall Saturday afternoon. The Martin Luther King Jr. monument had not opened yet when I last visited DC in February 2011. I was emotionally moved by the space.
This introduction to my Washington, D.C. trip is to explain how I was in the city at the invitation of Hilton Worldwide. They covered all the expenses of the trip. There was no contractual arrangement to write about the trip.
Good weather allowed me to spend time on the streets of D.C. and snap lots of photos as I walked over ten miles around the city last Saturday. I have a few posts in mind to share what I experienced traveling to and around Washington D.C.
Loyalty Traveler’s Hilton@Play weekend in Washington D.C.
1. Introduction: Thanks Hilton. Nice week to be in Washington D.C.
2. Hilton@Play in legendary International Ballroom Washington Hilton Elliot Root/Neon Trees concert.
3. Tour of Washington Hilton Hotel – this hotel has seen a lot of D.C. history since it opened in 1965. This is a major hotel for Presidential events. This is the hotel where President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981.
4. American Airlines – Above the California storm. There were some intense colors in the sky on the flight from Monterey to Phoenix. My three hour flight delay meant an all-night journey to reach Washington D.C. At least my AAdvantage Executive Platinum status meant a free upgrade to First Class on my economy class ticket.
5. Smithsonian National Zoo – less crowded than the typical American shopping mall on a December Saturday with some beautiful animal photos.
6. The National Mall – Black lives matter. I specifically wanted to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial since it opened shortly after my last visit to D.C. in February 2011.
7. Washington D.C. Embassies Run – Walking around D.C. and seeing so many foreign embassies gave me an idea for a D.C. mileage run. How about visiting all the foreign embassies in Washington D.C. for a photo shoot? I thought it might be a way of saying I traveled to all these countries in quick and easy fashion. Then, I learned from this article that foreign embassies in D.C. are not actually considered foreign soil, simply inviolable space in all these places. Anyway, this piece is a trip activity idea with a couple of embassy photos to share. My wife said my plan would not work since I would not be able to go to the door of different embassies for photos. There were no barriers to the front door for most of the foreign embassies I saw.
These are the stories I plan for covering my Washington D.C. trip.