Forget politics–just for a moment–and delve into the Washington, D.C. that belongs to all of us
A tightly packed town with a population of about 600,000, it is wedged between Maryland and Virginia. From its beginnings, it has always rolled out the welcome mat to people from around the country and the world. Because of the influx of energy of this power hub, the world’s capital is one of the most dynamic places on earth.
Washington is one of those rare cities that you never really “know.” Capture it once and it moves on again. It’s always evolving–from food trucks to pop-up shops, from newly minted cycling lanes to the latest museum (most recently, the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture).
Of course, D.C. has many world-class museums filled with extraordinary treasures (Declaration of Independence, anyone?). There’s the Air & Space Museum with Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis and the National Gallery of Art with works by da Vinci and other masters. The National Museum of the American Indian is a testament to this country’s first civilization and just happens to have the best museum cafeteria. (Tip: Try the plank-smoked salmon at the Pacific Northwest kiosk.).
One of the city’s most powerful museums is the United States Holocaust Museum, where each visitor is assigned an identity so the exhibits become visceral experiences. The Renwick Gallery, dedicated to American craftspeople, invites visitor to lie down on the floor and contemplate the expansive ceiling art. And, the hands-on International Spy Museum focuses on spies through the ages from Mata Hari to 21st century espionage agents.
D.C.’s wide boulevards and sturdy buildings give an air of gravitas to this city, but it also has an authentic thread of fun running through it. To tap into the lighter side, head to the Adams Morgan neighborhood, where graffiti-imprinted walls set the stage for art galleries and indie bookshops, such as Idle Time Books prized for its rare books. Spend an afternoon at Union Market, where locals burrow in to sample sashimi, empanadas and Korean BBQ from artisanal purveyors, before shopping for small-batch soap and retro-chic aprons at Salt & Sundry.
Culinary competition is steep, so you can count on eating well. A few standouts include Masseria, an ode to the chef’s Puglia ancestry that renders homemade orecchiette tossed with rapini and tomatoes; Le Desales, where chef Rafael Francois, who hails from Le Cirque in New York, delivers high notes even in the appetizer round, like a done-right country duck pate; and Jose Andres’ original Jaleo, which upholds it reputation, thanks to reliable tapas like the classic gambas al ajillos or garlic shrimp.
The sheer number of hotels makes D.C. a great place to bed down. Among the best with a political bent: The Watergate–yup that one–offers a nod to its infamous Nixonian past with Instagram-worthy details that echo its iconic shape, including spherical lamps and conical planters. Head to the rooftop for a 360-view of the city and the Potomac. Two blocks from the White House stands the imposing Willard Intercontinental, a power center for the nation’s capital since 1850. Here, linger in the marble-clad lobby to people watch, book a room overlooking the Washington Monument and sip a signature mint julep inside the iconic Round Robin bar off the lobby.
Despite its solid history, it is in a near constant state of renewal. And, that’s precisely what makes it an exciting place to visit time and time again. So, next time someone brings up D.C. and says, “I don’t want to talk about politics” you can say, as locals do, “No problem…Washington, D.C. has got plenty else to talk about.”