Everyone knows the basics when it comes to visiting the nation’s capital—see the White House, the Capitol, Supreme Court, the monuments—but the locals know there’s a lot more that is worth checking out. Here’s a rundown of the best of DC:
What to See
If you like art but are overwhelmed by the more popular art museums on the mall, the offers an intimate modern art collection, with Renoirs and Rothkos tucked away in a Edwardian Dupont row home. Even if you don’t go to a show or concert, check out the rooftop for skyline views of the city. The is classic fun for all ages, and the is a refreshing natural respite from the hustle by the Capitol—in the winter, it even has an exhibit that recreates DC out of plants. The district has several summer Screen on the Green options: complete with local food trucks, Cinema Series, and, new in 2014, , at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. on 16th is famous for its tiered fountains and a fun drum circle that meets on the upper level every Sunday afternoon. A bit farther out, the is the largest Catholic church in North America, and is the sixth largest cathedral in the world. Sports fans might want to check out a or match.
What to Skip
Most important tip: skip the memorials during the day—instead, go at night to see them lit up, and don’t miss the World War II and Vietnam Wall shrines. The is a tough sell for the $22.95 entrance fee, especially when the Smithsonian history museums are free and have similar exhibits. never ceases to be an endless tourist fascination thanks to a television show, but down the street has no line, and superior cupcakes.Adams Morgan has turned into the college kids nightlife spot, so if that’s not your scene, only (whiskey heaven) and (best Peruvian, even in a ) are worth the trip. downtown is a tourist trap. is farther than you think, and without good public transportation, cabs can be pretty pricey for the corporate-feel payoff. can be fun, but less fun since BYO alcohol is a no-go for your picnic.
Where to Eat
- DC is a foodie heaven, so much so that its hard even for locals to keep pace with the new restaurant openings. Here’s some to get you started:
- Coffee. and (also known for its gelato) are hip DC’s espresso spots. also serve DC’s local brew, Vigilante Coffee.
- Brunch. If DC is a happy hour town during the week, it is brunch-obsessed on the weekends. boasts delicious French-inspired plates, has an unreal buffet spread, is known for its pork and bourbon maple syrup, has a chill outdoor patio, is good for families and its homemade pop tarts, and is a must for its bottomless drinks. If you don’t mind waiting, the blueberry buckwheat pancake line at inside Eastern Market is a fun activity.
- Lunch. If you try one spot, make it . It’s a warehouse full of different local food artisans and pop-up kitchens, making it good for a group with lots of different taste buds.
- Dinner. You can’t really go wrong at any of the places on 14th Street between Logan Circle and U Street, or with anything in chef Jose Andres’ restaurant group (including , , , and ). Mike Isabella’s is famous for its seasonal small plates. is the finest and freshest Italian around. offers farm-inspired goodness, or for a quick and delicious bite, there’s always burgers and milkshakes at . Belgian-fare , 555-beer-cellar , modern-Indian …we could go on and on. Columbia Heights on 11th St. has gems like , , and . The more adventuresome may want to check out the Atlas District, H Street NE from Union Station out to Benning Rd NE, a hipster haven with favorites including and, Washington’s best, ramen. The best kept dining secret? , a northern Thai speakeasy does not take reservations, but its seven-course, prix-fix menu will blow you away. Definitely worth putting your name in early and then grabbing a drink at nearby while you wait.
For a classic DC experience, , the W Hotel’s Rooftop, is a must—it overlooks the White House. at the Donovan House has great views to the city’s north. Cocktails are great at and . For wine, check out or . Beer is top-notch at (while you’re at it, try out some of the new places cropping up in Shaw), , and . , , and are the go-to’s on U Street.
Where to Stay
The features stunning views of the White House and the Washington Monument, and it’s where President Obama and his family stayed before they moved into the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If you want luxury in the heart of Georgetown, book a room at the —just don’t expect it to come cheap. just over the Potomac in Rosslyn is a stylish, boutique spot, or if you want to skip the hotel route, you can check out Airbnb’s .