It’s time to rethink the nation’s capital, especially if you haven’t spent any time there since that elementary-school field trip. Sure, it’s full of politicians, but it also boasts Michelin-starred restaurants, world-class museums and even opportunities to get outdoors. Here’s what you need to see, eat and do in the District.
Drink in a former church
The Line DC, a new boutique hotel housed a historic church, has a balcony watering hole called A Rake’s Bar. Stop in here for fresh takes on seasonal cocktails, including the Haymaker, crafted with the local Cotton & Reed rum, and an “improved” menu of old-fashioneds with a selection of house cordials. The team makes their own ingredients in-house, such as a cranberry-rosemary shrub and smoked cherry cordial, as well as drinks made with barrel-aged whiskey. Cheers!
1770 Euclid St. NW; thelinehotel.com
Go on a molecular gastronomy journey
World renowned chef and James Beard Foundation’s Humanitarian of the Year José Andrés (who recently opened Mercado Little Spain in NYC) takes guests on a culinary adventure at this two-Michelin-star restaurant, Minibar by José Andrés, in Penn Quarter. Diners sit at a counter overlooking the kitchen—it’s like dinner and a show—while enjoying 25-plus courses that will blow your foodie mind. Andrés plays with flavors and textures in unique ways, making use of avant-garde cooking methods and molecular gastronomy. Be sure to opt for the beverage pairing and take a nightcap at the chic Barmini next door. Tip: Book in advance—reservations fill up quickly.
855 E St. NW; minibarbyjoseandres.com
Cozy up at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco
Book a whimsically designed room at this classic D.C. boutique hotel right in the heart of, well, everything. From the hotel, you can walk to historic sites like the National Mall and Smithsonian museums or wander over to the Capital One Arena, where both the basketball and hockey teams play. After a long day of seeing the sights, kick back with a drink in the hotel’s chic courtyard.
700 F St. NW; monaco-dc.com
Check out Eaton DC
Part hotel, part coworking club, part public gathering space, Eaton DC is a multiuse destination full of locals and out-of-towners alike. Whether you stay here or not, plan to grab a cocktail at the on-site speakeasy, Allegory, and spend time in the wellness center, which includes yoga and meditation classes as well as spa amenities like infrared saunas and reiki energy treatments.
1201 K St. NW; eatonworkshop.com
Hike along the Potomac
Billy Goat Trail is one of the most well-known hikes in the D.C. area, and for good reason. The almost eight-mile-long trail winds along the Potomac River, offering stunning views and outcroppings of rocks. Plus, it’s a short drive from Bethesda, an affluent suburb of Washington, D.C., that has its own charming restaurants for a post-workout meal.
9200 Old Dominion Dr., McLean, VA
Grab a bagel (really)
New Yorkers will defend their favorite bagels to the death, but try getting out of your breakfast sandwich routine for one day. Head to Call Your Mother, a Jewish bakery known for its cheeky combinations. Menu items include the Rashida (bacon peanut butter and apple on a sesame bagel) and the Rihanna-Flex (cream cheese, smoked salmon, onion and capers on an everything bagel). You didn’t hear it from us, but this place might be up there with the NYC’s best.
3301 Georgia Ave.; callyourmotherdeli.com
Admire some art
Sure, you can hit the popular American History, Air and Space or Natural History museums—all along the National Mall—or you can make like the locals, who avoid the touristy (though still worthwhile) institutions in exchange for the National Portrait Gallery. The collection, housed in a stunning Greek Revival building, includes more than 20,000 paintings of famous Americans, including the Hall of Presidents. Sketching is welcome, as is relishing in the sunshine in the glass-ceilinged Kogod Courtyard.
Eighth and F Streets NW; npg.org
See a show at the 9:30 Club
This nightlife establishment has been a mainstay of the punk, rock and dance scenes since the 1980s. Everyone from the Foo Fighters to Lady Gaga to Armin van Buuren have performed here, making it the destination for a concert. The best part? It’s extremely intimate compared with the massive venues in DC. Time to get up close and personal with your favorite musicians.
815 V St. NW; 930.com
Experience a cocktail-paired dinner
Wine pairings with meals are nothing new, but at Columbia Room, you might dine on parsnip soup with coconut and tamarind while sipping a bourbon apple toddy with celery bitters. The menu, which changes often, showcases a progression of cocktails that complement the different dishes. Hidden above popular eatery the Dabney, the bar also includes two other spaces: the dark and moody Spirits Library and the breezy rooftop Punch Garden.
124 Blagden Alley NW; columbiaroomdc.com
Wander among the 19th-century mansions and cobblestone sidewalks of this charming D.C. neighborhood. It’s home to the well-known university of the same name, but also tree-lined streets, delectable restaurants and high-end home-goods stores. Get ready to shop till you drop and enjoy the people-watching. If you need a sweet treat, stop in Baked and Wired for a cult-worthy confection.
M St. NW
Pretend you’re French at Le Diplomate
All the things you once loved about study abroad can be found at this French bistro: sidewalk seating along a picturesque street, rattan chairs, onion soup crusted over with Gruyère and, of course, mountains of pommes frites. The wine list is extensive and the cocktails are thoughtful. Plus, it’s just off the 14th Street corridor, filled with afternoon shopping and bars for a post-meal tipple. We often can’t decide whether to go for brunch or dinner, so we’ll leave that choice up to you.
1601 14th St. NW; lediplomatedc.com
Join a drum circle
Set in the cozy neighborhood of Columbia Heights, Meridian Hill Park—aka Malcolm X Park—is home to one of the coolest Sunday traditions: a drum circle. The circle has been meeting in the same place for more than 40 years. It’s free and fun, and you’ll get some bonus entertainment from the cast of characters who show up with Hula-Hoops, dance moves and more. Music starts at 3 p.m.
16th and W Streets NW; washingtonparks.net
Collect a playbill from the Woolly Mammoth Theater Company
This innovative theater company specializes in plays inspired by the latest news and events—which means they currently have a lot of material to work with. The current lineup includes sketch comedy routines from an all-female troupe, edgy works by the Upright Citizens Brigade and a one-woman show focused on the unjust criminal justice system.
641 D St. NW; woollymammoth.net
Take in the view over breakfast
Gaze over the monuments without the crowds by booking a table for brunch at the Rooftop Terrace Restaurant at the Kennedy Center. Famed for its elite performances, this concert hall set on the river offers penthouse panoramas alongside its Sunday brunch buffet at the rooftop restaurant—think raw bar, prime rib, made-to-order omelets and bottomless mimosas. All the classics, right?
2700 F St. NW; roofterracedc.com
Toast with a pint
Washingtonians head to the nearest outdoor drinking establishment as soon as it’s warm enough to shed the puffer coat. One popular destination? Dacha Beer Garden in the hipster Shaw neighborhood. It’s both family- and pup-friendly, and it serves a curated list of European and American brews, including meads and ciders. You really can’t leave without ordering the monster pretzel and beer cheese.
1600 Seventh St. NW; dachadc.com