Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C.
You could be forgiven for misidentifying this Mandarin outpost, opened in 2004 and gorgeously set on the Tidal Basin, as some sort of Pan-Asian embassy. The Far East sensibility is all-encompassing, with the effect of breathing freshness and calm into D.C.'s traditional, harried landscape. Classical Chinese and Thai artworks decorate the hallways, and most of the 400 feng shui-aligned guest rooms are outfitted with Japanese paper-shaded lamps, silk tapestries, and bamboo plants. The spa offers treatments like Oriental Foot Therapy and a Japanese cherry-blossom body scrub, and Café MoZU serves excellent sushi and sashimi. Even the hotel's lounge—where a mural of China's last empress presides over tables full of guests sipping cucumber-sake margaritas—continues the motif. In fact, the only part of the property that ventures beyond the Asian aesthetic is the formal restaurant CityZen, where French Laundry alumnus Eric Ziebold's menu spans the globe.
Tip: Ask about packages that include access to some of the city's best kid-friendly attractions—including the National Zoo and Christmastime Nutcracker performances by the Washington Ballet.
Room to Book: All standard rooms here are basically the same size, but you can pick your view: City rooms look out over the Jefferson Memorial; Water rooms look out over the Potomac or the Tidal Basin.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.