Washington, DC, might bear the stereotype of being conservative and masculine. However, as you spend more time in the US Capital, you notice that it is just the opposite. Women outnumber men 53 to 47, a female mayor leads the city, local women are opening businesses at a record pace, and there are more women lawmakers than ever at Capitol Hill.

When you look at it that way, it is almost natural to have a hotel dedicated to women and their achievements in DC. And that’s why we all love the newly-opened Hotel Zena and its focus on women’s empowerment. 

Feminist art at Hotel Zena in Washington DC - the print in focus has the words "My body was not made for your legislation" across a woman's bare back

A Central DC Location

Located on Thomas Circle in Northwest Washington, DC, you can’t help but notice the mural that takes over the Hotel Zena building’s whole length. Two stunning glamazon women, in full warrior attire, face the city in defiance. The mural, created by local artist MISS CHELOVE, shows women’s strength, highlighting an African and an Indigenous woman. 

The location of Hotel Zena is central. It is only a twenty- to thirty-minute walk to the Washington Monument and most museums along the National Mall. The property is also within walking distance to many women-owned restaurants in Washington, DC, such as Compass Rose, Centrolina, Colada Shop, and Equinox. There are also several metro stops near the hotel to facilitate your way around the city. 

View of the urban skyline from the rooftop of Hotel Zena on Thomas Circle in Washington DC

The Feminist Art

Hotel Zena is not only a hotel but a living art gallery. Every step you take at the hotel, you are encountered with an art installation dedicated to women — guests check-in at the front desk encased with colorful platform high heels. Throughout the hotel’s lobby, there are several pieces either made by women or dedicated to women. 

The most photographed art installation is the extraordinary installation of the late Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The installation, created by Andrea Sheehan x Julie Coyle Art Associates, comprises over 20,000 hand-painted tampons to create an enthralling portrait of the feminist icon. 

Portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, former US Supreme Court Justice, at Hotel Zena

Beyond the large installations, there are art pieces and details throughout the hotel that celebrate women. The lobby area has a large wall lined with feminist pins. The intention is for guests to add their own.

Table covered in small pins with feminist statements at Hotel Zena in Washington DC

As you enter the hallways leading to the elevators, you will notice the shattered glass in the ceiling, symbolizing the cracks on the glass ceiling. A hallway leading to the event room shows over a hundred hand-drawn portraits of influential women such as Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Rosa Parks.

Wall filled with sketched portraits of famous women

The hallways leading to the guestrooms are adorned with images of women with powerful messages painted on their bodies, reflecting women’s rights. The rooms are also filled with these touches to include cute accent pillows featuring women Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. 

Pillow at Hotel Zena in Washington DC with a photo of US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Read next: Meet the Photographer Empowering Women to Tell Their Stories


The Design-Forward Rooms

At 225-275 square feet, the most basic room at Hotel Zena, the Zena Queen, provides enough space. Given its location, try to ask the front desk for a city view room with a panoramic view of Washington, DC, and plenty of natural light. The 600-square-foot suites make for the perfect base for a girl’s trip. 

All the rooms are design-forward with a neutral color palette, modern furniture, and accents highlighting feminine energy. The rooms have amenities such as free wifi, Nespresso coffee machines, and a Google Nest hub serving as a concierge. 

Hotel room at Hotel Zena in DC with an arched ceiling covered in butterflies over the bed

The Food & Drinks

Opened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hotel Zena is still developing its food and beverage programs. Their only offering at the moment, Figleaf, comes with an extensive and innovative cocktail and wine menu. Cocktails, curated by Jasmine Diaz, feature names such as “The Huntress” and “Earhart.” The food menu is quite limited, with smaller appetizers and snacks due to the restrictions of COVID-19. 

During the hotel’s opening, there was a discussion among DC’s food media about Hotel Zena not having a female chef. The food and beverage program is headed by Area Executive Chef David Sears, who also oversees the Viceroy Washington, DC. When asked about the lack of women representation in the kitchen, the hotel claimed that more female chefs are joining the team once they can expand the menu offerings at the property. 

Although the menu is limited, make sure to check out the Le Classique burger. After a long day of sightseeing or meetings, that burger hits the spot. It’s delicious. 

A bartender wearing a facemask and gloves pours a cocktail at the bar at Hotel Zena in DC

A Neighborhood Dining Guide

Located in Downtown DC, Hotel Zena is a great hub for exploring the city. Here are some women-owned restaurants to try that are within walking distance from the hotel: 

Compass Rose: Owned by Rose Previte, this local restaurant is a tasty tour around the world inspired by the owner’s travels. Make sure to save room for pastries made by Chef Paola Velez.

Colada Shop: Take a virtual trip to Cuba with guava-filled pastelitos and a strong Cuban coffee, or stop by for happy hour at their insta-worthy patio. Co-owned by Daniella Senior. 

Centrolina: James Beard award-winner Amy Brandwein serves some of the most delicious upscale Italian cuisine in Washington, DC. 

Arepa Zone: Co-owned by Venezuelan Gabriela Febres, Arepa Zone serves Venezuelan-style arepas. These corn tortillas with savory fillings are an affordable option. 

Cork Wine Bar: Owned by Diane Gross, this wine bar and market on 14th street continues to be a local favorite since its opening in 2008. 


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Additional Hotel Zena Amenities

No hot DC hotel would be complete without a rooftop bar. Hotel Zena delivers a rooftop pool with a stunning 180-degree view of the city. The pool is on the smaller side, but it is still worth going up there for a dip once it opens next summer. The property also plans to open a rooftop bar called Hedy’s in the Spring/Summer of 2021. 

The property also has a fitness center, wifi in the lobby, plus GoPro cameras, bikes, and scooters guests can borrow during the stay. 

The lobby area of Hotel Zena with the Notorious RBG portrait at the far end

Hotel Zena: More Than Just a Hotel

Hotel Zena is a refreshing addition to the Washington, DC, hotel scene. Some may be overwhelmed with the strong feminist messaging in the lobby, but most importantly, it opens the conversation around women’s rights. As a hotel, the property offers some creative amenities, and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing its full potential once the pandemic is over. 


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Jessica van Dop DeJesus
Jessica is a widely-published travel content creator. She’s the founder of the popular foodie travel website, The Dining Traveler, and the author of the coffee table book, The Dining Traveler Guide to Puerto Rico.

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