I’m in a line that snakes along a sloping brick sidewalk. It’s crammed with millennials snapping selfies, families jostling for space and locals looking for a different kind of happy hour. My nine-year-old daughter Maxine and I have joined the throngs outside Georgetown Cupcake (known to TV fans as DC Cupcake). Maxine, a die-hard fan of the show, has convinced me that this is a good use of our time while visiting Washington, D.C. And, once we actually get our cupcakes in hand–delicate sweetness topped with perfect icing and fondant flowers–and catch a sighting of two of the TV show’s stars–she is proven right.
We hole up in Georgetown because it’s a neighborhood where real Washingtonians live and work. Its storied history that includes George Washington, JFK and Katharine Graham of the Washington Post infuse the quaint lanes and bustling avenues with a patrician grace.
Our first night, we spend at the Four Seasons Hotel, which happens to be one of Washington’s poshest stays; yes, but also one of its most comfortable. I linger in the lobby to study museum-worthy pieces created by artists like Warhol and Botero. In the afternoon, we descend on the saltwater lap pool. Afterwards, I sauna and steam. In the morning, I breakfast at Seasons and so should you, whether you stay at the hotel or not. The breakfast menu reflects its worldly guests, spanning the globe from the Americas to Middle East to Asia. The added benefit is the chance to eavesdrop on international leaders who gather here religiously for power breakfasts.
Washington, D.C. is not only the U.S. capital, but also the repository of some of the country’s greatest treasures, which can be accessed among the city’s plethora of admission-free museums, which tax dollars support.
Washington, D.C. is not only the U.S. capital, but also the repository of some of the country’s greatest treasures, which can be accessed among the city’s plethora of admission-free museums.
On our first day, we visit The National Portrait Gallery, one of my all-time favorite museums, where we beeline to the president’s portrait room, which features a cracked-plate photo of Abe Lincoln and a kaleidoscopic painting of Bill Clinton created by Chuck Close.
We also pop into the National Museum of the American Indian, where we discover what just may be the best museum food court in the country because it reflects the cuisine of many indigenous people, with offerings like smoked bison loin, sorrel-baked oyster and cedar-plank salmon dressed with maple syrup.
Although we walk by the White House and pause outside the gates, we don’t get to do a White house tour, as those must be arranged in advance (typically three months or more) by a U.S. Senator. We stroll along the National Mall, circle the Washington Monument and climb the steps to the Lincoln Memorial, the site of Martin Luther King’s “I Have Dream Speech.”
Afterwards, we head back to Georgetown, which, after touring the width and breath of downtown D.C., feels intimate and welcoming. Maxine and I grab a quick dinner next door to the Four Seasons at Eno, a boîte that’s dedicated to cheese and wine. I order a dry red made in Greece and Maxine orders an artisanal soda.
The next day we head to the Newseum, a temple of all things media. Maxine films a news piece on the Berlin Wall in the studio. We watch a loop of political humor from late night TV talk shows, and we study photos taken by journalists of Civil Rights workers marching in Selma.
Next door, we pause for brunch at The Source, a Wolfgang Puck restaurant that elevates the art of dim sum. This is considered one of the city’s best restaurants and for good reason. We order eight courses of delectable bites, like lacquered duck bao buns, brisket wontons and sweet turnip mini cakes glazed with sweet soy.
Afterwards, we walk a few blocks to the International Spy Museum, where we assume false identities as we practice decoding World War II messages, admire a carrier pigeon, learn about Mata Hari’s spying misadventures, and ogle James Bond’s Aston Martin driven in Goldfinger.
That night, we take refuge at Avenue Suites, an affordable all-apartments hotel just across the bridge from Georgetown. Our suite has a kitchen, living room and roomy bedroom, giving us the feeling of having our own abode in the city. A Trader Joe’s across the street means we stock up for breakfast and dip into local life.
Before checking out the next morning, we jot down an agenda to attack the next time we’re in the city, which includes visiting the National Air & Space Museum, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, along with a boat ride up the Potomac. And, at the very top of the list? Of course, another visit to Georgetown Cupcakes. After all, there are so many more flavors to sample.