WASHINGTON -- While leading a tour of the 175-room Canopy by Hilton Washington D.C. the Wharf in March, representatives of the brand couldn't help but take a jab at one of Hilton's most established and haughtier badges.

"These are proprietary Canopy mattresses," the representatives said of the brand's Serta beds. "They're more comfortable than the ones at Waldorf hotels."

Upstart, proud and with a touch of urban edge. That's the attitude Hilton is going for with its upper-upscale lifestyle brand. Canopy made its global debut in Reykjavik in 2016, but the D.C. property, Canopy's first in the U.S., didn't open until last October.

With its splashy orange logo, Canopy appears to be eyeing a younger-at-heart guest than its flagship Hilton brand attracts, while offering enough flexibility for owners and franchisers to shoehorn them into tighter city quarters.

For a guest at the Canopy at the Wharf, this means an unconventional approach with a local emphasis. A wooden "welcome table" replaces the traditional front desk, enabling workers -- "enthusiasts" in Canopy parlance -- to come out from behind the table to give guests their room keys, point out the view of Washington Channel and the Potomac River or offer local tips. 

Behind the desk is a retail shelf full of everything from orange Canopy socks to locally made sundries like Harper Macaw chocolate, Jerkface beef jerky, Michele's granola and Sasya salsa and rice-lentil chips.

"We really hire for personalities at Canopy," said brand global head Gary Steffen.

The local approach goes beyond chips and salsa. At the D.C. hotel, guests can hop on free bikes (orange, of course) to tour one of three suggested itineraries: the 5.5-mile Blue route around Washington Mall; the 5.2-mile Orange route that skirts the Jefferson Memorial and circumnavigates East Potomac Park; and the 3.2-mile Brown route that cuts across the southern part of the city and hits areas like Nationals Park, Navy Yard and the Capitol Waterfront.

There's also a big local focus at the 177-room Canopy by Hilton Washington D.C. Bethesda North, which is located outside the Beltway and northwest of Washington proper. That hotel, which opened last month, has a second-floor light fixture/sculpture inspired by the work of longtime National Geographic editor (and local resident) Gilbert Grosvenor, while the entry area includes 48 colorful pop art portraits of other local notables.

Both hotels have a bar-restaurant-lounge area called Canopy Central. At the Wharf, the two-story area overlooks the Potomac and includes a small, wooden stadium-seating area where guests can socialize or plug in and work. Canopy Central areas in Washington and Bethesda offer breakfast -- the Wharf's morning brew is from D.C. mainstay Swing's Coffee Roasters -- as well as lunch and dinner and a craft-cocktail menu with drinks such as Pirate Jenny, made with habanero tequila, Gran Marnier and lime juice; and Soothe, with vodka, ginger-turmeric tonic and pineapple juice.

Both hotels also have "transfer stations," where guests can store luggage and shower, and "retreats," where they can relax out of view or earshot of the bustling lounges.

Upstairs, both hotels offer typically sized rooms for the upper-upscale sector with design touches to maximize utility. A luggage perch replaces the closet, while work desks are wide and relatively shallow. In Washington, the room's chaise lounges with mounted mini-desks enable guests to work or recline with a prime river view.

Tiles in natural colors complement relatively large bathrooms, which feature natural Apitiva bath products. Meanwhile, the Wharf gets in on the rooftop bar craze with Whisky Charlie (after the military alphabet terms for "WC," or Washington Channel), which affords 270-degree views of the city.

Hilton is targeting potential franchisers for the brand. The Washington and Bethesda hotels are managed by Concord Hospitality and PM Hotel Group, respectively, and Steffen said six more Canopy properties were slated to open this year, with as many as 15 to debut by the end of 2019. Overall, there are about 30 Canopy hotels in the global development cycle.

Late April weekend room rates at the Canopy at the Wharf start at about $265 a night, as do late-April midweek room rates in Bethesda.

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