From its monuments and landmarks that celebrate liberty and freedom, to its diverse neighborhoods, the nation's capital attracts more than 20 million international and domestic visitors each year. The famous sights and museums, most of which offer free entry, and a year-round calendar of special events make Washington, DC, one of the world's top tourist destinations. It's a city that welcomes children and one that takes the Americans with Disabilities Act seriously.
Beyond Washington's most stately sights, the nation's capital is a personal place, a home to half a million residents. Downtown areas, such as Penn Quarter and the U Street Corridor, that were once depressed have been born again. Georgetown's main streets have always been young and trendy. The residential blocks that were home to Jack and Jackie Kennedy are still traditionally elegant.
Thanks to chefs who appreciate the metropolitan Washington lifestyle, the restaurant scene has heated up in recent years. Jazz thrives in small clubs as it always has, and the Kennedy Center and Wolf Trap attract top musicians as well as actors and masters of dance. DC also thrives when it comes to live performance, a well-kept secret due to the lack of a central theater district.
The federal government is Washington DC's primary industry, with tourism a strong second. DC also is home base to more trade associations than any other city in the United States. World headquarters of Marriott, US Airways, Gannett, AOL, MCI, Mars Candy, and many other corporations are scattered throughout downtown and the metropolitan area. International influence emanates from embassies, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank.
The Best of Washington, DC
Washington, DC, may be strong in theater and other attractions, but on the dark side, it's third in the nation's worst traffic. Roads gradually grew more clogged over the years, but became dramatically more so after the Pentagon was hit September 11, 2001. Washington has increased security of all types, both human and concrete. The same-day public tours of The White House that were once a source of pride to all administrations were cancelled and never reinstated.
Visitors may not be able to tour The White House easily anymore, but they can still experience a cross section of Washington's unique population. A good place to start is across from the North side on Pennsylvania Avenue, now a pedestrian plaza full of concrete barriers and lean Secret Service officers. In Lafayette Park, you'll see East Wing and West Wing staffers rushing to work and lobbyists scurrying off to meetings, journalists having a brown bag lunch, aged protestors raising their signs, all manner of armed law enforcement, a few homeless individuals, students on class trips, bright college interns, and tourists.
There are many possible themes to plan a Washington visit around, from history to art, architecture to government, the military, or technology. Washington also has wonderful gardens that include the themed outdoor rooms of Hillwood Museum and Dumbarton Oaks. Teenagers love the Air and Space Museums. Now there are two, with the addition of the Udvar-Hazy branch at Dulles Airport. The National Zoo is a treat for children and adults.
Washington used to be considered a stodgy place, with northern efficiency and southern charm. Not so much anymore, with the Collection at Chevy Chase shops that include Gucci and Jimmy Choo, and the home design center called Cady's Alley in Georgetown. After a six-year wait while the neighborhood coincidentally grew in stature to match, daylight and visitors are streaming into Georgetown's Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture.
The two-block Greek-Revival building, formerly the Old Patent Office Building, houses both the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. The meticulously restored building and museum collections opened to rave reviews on the Fourth of July in 2006.
Fast Facts & Information
Fast Facts & Information
Geography and landscape: Washington was built on swampy land. Even the National Mall land was created from filled-in swamps. It follows that the city's lowest point is sea level, at the banks of the Potomac River. The highest elevation, 400 feet, is up Wisconsin Avenue almost to Maryland in an area called Tenleytown near American University.
The District of Columbia, named to honor Christopher Columbus, was created to be the seat of the federal government authorized by the Constitution. Maryland and Virginia both gave some land to the cause, but Virginia's section was returned in 1847, thus the uneven shape of the city.
General orientation: The quasi-diamond-shaped District of Columbia is 68 square miles divided into four quadrants: Northwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast. They meet at the US Capitol building. Almost every address a tourist is going to visit will be in Northwest (NW).
It's not an easy city to navigate, although it seems like it should be. Numbered streets run north and south, lettered streets east and west (there are no J, X, Y, or Z streets). Addresses on numbered streets are keyed to lettered streets, so a wonderful restaurant at 701 9th St is between the 7th and 8th letters of the alphabet, G and H, and closer to G since it's 701 and not 791. Avenues named for states (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts) run diagonally, often interrupted by traffic circles that drive residents and visitors crazy.
Safety: Like any major city, there's an element of crime in Washington. The DC metropolitan city police and many other enforcement units (Capitol Police, Park Police, Metro Transit Police, even the Secret Service) are beefed up and on guard for terrorism and other criminal activity. Crime surveillance cameras have been installed in four troubled neighborhoods with 48 more on the way in a big push for prevention and apprehension. The closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) have been or are being installed at 14th and Girard streets Northwest, the 400 block of O Street Northwest, the 1200 block of Valley Avenue Southeast, and between the 1500 and 1700 blocks of Benning Road Northeast.
Tourism is Washington's bread and butter, so traveler security and safety are a top priority. Officers patrol on foot, on horseback, and in marked and unmarked cars. Even the Smithsonian has its own federal officers; so does each of the universities.
There are safe and less safe parts of any city. Most of Northwest Washington is safe, but common sense is always the best guiding principle. At night, it's prudent to take taxis or a car instead of walking through an unfamiliar area, but no one should fear walking around the moonlit monuments. Keep the sparkly jewelry at home. On a bus at night, sit close to the driver. Street smarts come in handy, but will rarely be tested in the tourist and business districts of Northwest.
Population: The DC city population is 572,000 residents. There are 5.4 million people in the metropolitan area, which consists of the District of Columbia and the following: seven Maryland counties (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George's), five Virginia counties (Arlington, Fairfax, Loudon, Prince William, and Stafford) and six Virginia cities (Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas, and Manassas Park).
Climate/weather: Many Washingtonians claim that we have two seasons: some years DC goes from hot (and humid) to freezing. Some winters are a wonderland of snow and ice, while others are perfectly mild. No weather chart rings true to a resident. The fluctuations are just too wild and unpredictable. However, residents would agree that it's kind to warn friends and family -- if possible -- away from July, August, and spring break season.
In July and August, the humidity makes walking around unbearable. During spring break in March or April depending on the school's chosen calendar, the weather can be naughty or nice, but hordes of families and students on class trips create crowds that are best avoided.
The weather probably follows semi-normal patterns for the mid-Atlantic States, but trust the charts at your own peril. Dress in layers and always bring a small umbrella. If it doesn't rain, the umbrella will come in handy to block the strong summer sun.
Washington, DC, can be a difficult city to navigate if you don't know where you're going. Keep reading for our guide to getting around Washington, DC.
Washington, DC, is not an easy city to drive in, due to heavy traffic and some confusing street layouts. If you'd rather avoid the headache of driving, consider taking advantage of the city's public transportation system during your visit. Here's primer on Washington, DC, transportation:
From the Airport
The three airports in decent proximity to Washington, DC, are Ronald Reagan National, Dulles, and Baltimore Washington International (BWI).
Rental car: Rental car counters are located on the first floor in the Ronald Reagan National Airport's Parking Garage A. You can board the "Parking / Rental Car" shuttle, which stops at each terminal outside baggage claim, or take a ten-minute walk. Signs and staff are available to guide you.
The rental car facility at Dulles Airport is located at the intersection of Autopilot Drive and Rudder Road. A free shuttle is available to take you there.
The car rental facility is ten minutes away from the BWI airport, at Stoney Run Road and New Ridge Road, and there's a free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Taxi: Taxicab stands are located near the baggage claim (Arrivals) exits of each terminal at Ronald Reagan National Airport. Dispatchers help you select a taxi based on your destination. If you need to get to downtown DC, it'll be a 15-minute ride that will cost you about $20.
Taxis line up on Dulles' Ground Transportation Level, where a dispatcher is on duty 24 hours a day. If you want to get to downtown DC, the 40-minute ride will cost you between $50 and $60.
Taxis are the best way to get from BWI to downtown DC, but it will be expensive. The taxi stand is located just outside of the baggage claim area of the Lower Level. A one-way fare to DC will cost about $65.
Public transportation: It's the easiest way to get downtown from Ronald Reagan National, or "National" as Washingtonians still call it. The elevated Metrorail station is connected by pedestrian walkways to the concourse level of Terminals B and C, and is accessible by elevators. The fare cost is $1.35.
SuperShuttle stops are on the ground level outside each terminal at Ronald Reagan National. With reasonable taxi fares and easy Metrorail options, shuttles aren't a common choice to get downtown. They are used mostly to reach residences and businesses in the suburbs. Call (202-296-6662 or 1-800 258-3826) to make arrangements and reservations.
The bus stop is on Dulles' Ground Transportation Level outside the baggage claim area. The bus takes a bit over an hour depending on traffic. Buses depart every 30 minutes. SuperShuttle stops are on the airport's Ground Transportation Level. It's is a pre-arranged van service. Call (202-296-6662 or 1-800-258-3826) to make arrangements and reservations.
Look for signs in the BWI airport directing you to the bus platform on the Lower Level. After you exit the airport to the bus platform, look for signs directing you to the MARC Train. Take it to the MARC/Amtrak station. Buy a ticket for the MARC train to Union Station in DC. You'll arrive in 40 minutes once you are on the train, and the fare is $6.
You'll find the BWI Express/B30 on the lower level of the airport's International Pier and lower level of Concourse A/B. Take the B30 bus to the Greenbelt Metro Station. Purchase a fare card and board the Green Line train toward Branch Avenue. Exit the train at Fort Totten and transfer to the Red Line toward Shady Grove. Get off at Union Station in DC. The 80-minute ride will cost $5.35.
SuperShuttle ticket counters at BWI airport are located in two locations, at the Lower Level near Baggage Claim No.1 (Southwest Airlines Terminal -- Pier A) and at the Lower Level near Baggage Claim No. 10 (Pier C) and are open between 6 am and 2 am.
Rush hour: DC traffic is third only to Los Angeles and San Francisco/Oakland in congestion and delays, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, which publishes traffic statistics every other year.
DC is a difficult city to navigate, with abundant circles and squares, one-way and security-blocked streets. The main arteries such as the Beltway (Route 495) are jammed for all of rush hour, sometimes both ways.
Morning rush hour starts before 7 am and traffic volume is still strong at 9:30 am. Afternoon-into-evening rush hour is drawn out, too. Canal Road, which leads from the Georgetown end of DC and runs parallel to the Potomac into the Maryland suburbs, becomes one-way restricted at 2:45 pm. Rush hour ends between 7 and 7:30 pm.
There are only a few bridges into the city from Arlington and Alexandria, and traffic problems are always highlighted on morning traffic reports. Even before housing prices boomed, much of the area population has commuted from long distances.
Rules of the road: With many circles, one-way streets, and security-blocked streets, caution is the primary rule of the road in Washington. When it comes to round-abouts or street circles, vehicles in the circle have the right of way.
Public transportation: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority provides buses, metrorail, and subway service. When Washingtonians say "Metro," they mean the subway, a.k.a. Metrorail. The bus system is called Metrobus, and is usually simply referred to as the bus. Metro -- bus and rail -- is widely considered safe, clean, and efficient. Metro rail cars have carpeting and decent seating, and are fully air-conditioned. Five rail lines (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, and Orange) and an extensive bus system (more than 15,000 stops on 400 routes) connect DC to Maryland and Virginia.
Rail station entrances are marked with rectangular towers topped with the letter "M." Stripes of color indicate the lines traveling down below. Easy-to-read route maps are displayed at each station and inside each rail car. Each train displays the name of its farthest destination. Fare cards can be purchased at machines located inside the stations.
DC's subway is limited and doesn't serve all parts of the city yet. Georgetown and Adams Morgan are two neighborhoods that were left off the map.
Metro service begins at 5 am weekdays and 7 am weekends. It ends at midnight Sunday through Thursday, 3 am Friday and Saturday nights. Metro bus schedules vary by route. Free transfers to use within two hours are available, and they are accepted on most local buses in addition to Metrobuses. Look for transfer dispenser machines as you enter the station, or ask the booth attendant for help.
Bus fares are $1.25, and 60 cents for seniors and people with disabilities, and $3 for express buses. Metrorail fares run $1.35 to $3.90 based on distance traveled. A $6.50 One Day Pass is valid for unlimited Metrorail travel on weekdays after 9:30 am or all day Saturdays, Sundays, or federal holidays. Passes expire at midnight on weeknights or 3 am Friday and Saturday nights.
The DC Circulator debuted in July 2005 to primarily serve visitors. This bus service connects major tourist attractions and parts of town without good Metrorail connections. Operating daily from 8 am to 9 pm, the red, white, black, and yellow buses have routes painted on the side. Each ride is $1.
Taxis: Taxis are plentiful in Washington and fares aren't expensive, but charges are based on a mysterious zone system. There are 8 zones and 23 subzones. Hardly anyone understands it, but zone maps are posted in each vehicle, and a handy Web site calculates point-to-point. If you're concerned about being cheated and have no time to calculate, use the strategy of asking for a receipt before starting the ride. This puts the driver on notice.
Since it isn't normally practical to calculate fares in advance, you can also ask the driver for an estimate. Remember that DC has four quadrants -- Northwest, Northeast, Southwest, and Southeast. Since many streets run through more than one quadrant, that designation can make a huge difference. The quadrant will usually be "NW" for visitors; include it in the address.
Many drivers fuss over payment with large bills, so don't use money larger than a $20. It's rare for a ride to cost more than $12 -- that would be a trip through eight zones. A long ride, from the National Cathedral in upper Northwest to the U.S. Capitol, runs $11. Tipping 15 percent is the norm.
DC taxis charge an extra $1.50 for each additional person. A rush-hour surcharge of $1 is in effect from 7 to 9:30 am and 4 to 6:30 pm on weekdays, and luggage costs 50 cents per bag.
On foot: Washington is an easy walking city, with wide, plentiful sidewalks and lots of concentrated sights. Three ideal areas for walking are the National Mall, Georgetown, and Capitol Hill. Among them, the Mall has the largest cluster of monuments and museums. Georgetown's residential architecture includes some of the most beautiful, and expensive, in the city. Georgian mansions and Federal and Classic Revival homes are best seen up close, in between strolling the shops of Wisconsin and M Streets.
Biking: Metro has a Bike-on-Bus program and there's no additional charge. All buses have racks that can hold up to two bikes per bus. With the same accommodation on Montgomery County's Ride On buses, DC is a leader in bike transportation.
Bike the Sites (202-842-BIKE or 866-736-8224) rents bikes, mobility scooters, and wheelchairs, with pick up half a block from the National Mall. They also offer tours on bicycle; one is of the monuments at night. Better Bikes also has an excellent reputation for rentals, but does not offer tours. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association Web site is a good resource for information and recommended bike rides and routes.
Now that you know how to get around Washington, DC, you can begin to think about sightseeing. The events and attractions in Washington include historical landmarks; museums for art, history, and science; and parks filled with natural beauty. Keep reading to learn about special events and attractions in Washington, DC.
Washington, DC, Special Events & Attractions
When you visit, you'll find quite a few attractions that will keep you busy and interested, whether you're young or young-at-heart. You'll find world renowned museums, captivating monuments and memorials, and parks filled with considerable natural beauty. That's only the beginning.
It's almost impossible to plan a trip to DC around the bloom of the delicate cherry blossoms that only last two weeks in late March or April, but the National Cherry Blossom Festival is on the calendar and every year, about one million visitors come to Washington hoping the festivities and their visit will coincide with the pink phenomenon around the Tidal Basin.
Although the next event isn't until January, 2009, every four years in January, a U.S. president is inaugurated and Washington turns festive at one of the coldest times of the year. Most Washingtonians don't go down to the Capitol or to the balls, but the city atmosphere is electric. In this most political of cities, Inauguration Day is the Super Bowl on an Olympics schedule. Many residents bundle up and view the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Washington, DC
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Washington, DC
The Lincoln Memorial (23rd St NW) looks across a reflecting pool to the Washington Monument and the Capitol. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address are inscribed on the walls of this temple-like structure, which is particularly impressive at night, thanks to dramatic lighting. Its 36 columns represent the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln's death.
The National Air and Space Museum (600 Independence Ave SW) is a thrilling experience for those who have lived through the age of space exploration or earlier. The exhibits chronicle the beginning of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and through the command module Columbia, which carried the first man on the moon. World War II buffs will see American fighter planes, British submarines, and Japanese planes. An Apollo to the Moon exhibit includes moon rocks, astronaut spacesuits, and other artifacts. If you go to the museum's IMAX Theater, you'll watch a five-story-high screen of Earth as seen from the space shuttle.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial (900 Ohio Dr SW) has polished black walls featuring the names of 58,175 servicemen who died in or remain missing from the Vietnam War. Also onsite are the Three Servicemen Statue and Flagpole and the Vietnam Women's Memorial.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Plaza SW) presents information, images, and artifacts in an architectural setting that enhances visitors' understanding of the Holocaust. A self-guided Permanent Exhibition includes powerful photos, film, eyewitness testimonies, victims' belongings, and reconstructions of concentration camp buildings. One stirring aspect is the Hall of Faces, a narrow three-story space filled with more than 3,000 photos of Jews from one Lithuanian town who were murdered in September 1941. Visitors can light memorial candles in the niches of the walls in the sky-lighted Hall of Remembrance.
The International Spy Museum (800 F St NW) sheds light on the world of international espionage with artifacts that explain how the work is done -- from invisible ink to through-the-wall cameras. The museum uses historic photos, state-of-the-art audiovisual programs, and interactive computer displays to explain how spies operated and helped change history. An exhibit also explains how codes were made and broken throughout history.
The Supreme Court of the United States (1st St NE and Maryland Ave) allows court session to be open to the public 10 am and 1 pm on a first-come, first-served basis. Twenty-minute lectures are offered in the courtroom Monday through Friday, with the exception of when the court is in session.
The National Aquarium (14th St and Constitution Ave NW) is the place to see more than 1,700 specimens of freshwater and saltwater animals, and watch trained professionals feed the sharks, piranhas, and alligators on alternating days of the week. Animal keepers give talks about the animals daily at 2 pm.
Step back in time to the farm days of the mid-1800s with a visit to the National Colonial Farm (3400 Bryan Point Rd). This farm is a living history featuring an herb garden, livestock, and replicated buildings from that era. It's located on 150 acres in Piscataway National Park.
Washington, DC, is brimming with national museums and galleries, performing arts groups, and monuments to the arts. Learn more about exploring arts and culture in Washington, DC, on the next page.
Washington, DC, Arts & Culture
Washington is rich in marble shrines to art and culture, from the National Gallery of Art to the Kennedy Center. Museums celebrate fine art and antiques, textiles, American craft and decorative arts, American history, women artists, the postal service, and the American Indian.
Monuments and the Holocaust Museum honor victims and heroes of wars and other international conflicts. DC theater offerings span the full range from experimental drama to corny musicals. Washington also has its own ballet company, and Placido Domingo oversees The Washington Opera.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Washington, DC
Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Washington, DC
The National Gallery of Art (600 Constitution Ave) has masterpieces from the 13th century to the present. Highlights include the only Leonardo da Vinci painting on display outside of Europe, and a comprehensive collection of Italian paintings and sculptures.
The Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Arts Center (4400 Massachusetts Ave, NW) has performances and academic programs on art, music, dance, theater, and art history. The art collection includes works by Marc Chagall, Roy Lichtenstein, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol.
The biggest splash of all is the re-opening of two Smithsonian museums in the restored Patent Office Building. The Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (Eighth and F Sts NW) houses the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art. The portrait gallery exhibits portraits of people who have made a significant contribution to American history.
Fourteen new exhibits have been added, including prominent American sports figures, composers of the 20th century, and cultural and political figures of the last 60 years. The Museum of American Art showcases the best art and artists of the United States in a collection of 40,000-plus pieces of art.
Many tourists visit Ford's Theatre (511 10th St NW) and the Lincoln Museum within. Without much effort, a visitor also can find a performance to enjoy there most nights of the week between the Shakespeare Theatre, Studio, Arena Stage, Washington Ballet, university programs, church choir performances, and regional theater.
Some cultural activities take advance planning. Smithsonian Resident Associates, with a catalog of hundreds of seminars and lectures, is rooted in Smithsonian collections and mission, also taking advantage of well-known and well-connected Washingtonians willing to share their talents, insights, and contacts.
Some of the most beautiful residences and places of business in town are embassies, and many host events that are open to the public. Visitors who call ahead of time to the embassy they'd like to visit may be able to attend a lecture, film, play, concert -- even the occasional wine and cheese reception -- with a bit of scheduling luck. At the very least, you can take a walking street tour of Washington's Embassy Row from April 1 to Oct. 31. Meet the tour guides 10 am daily during those months at the DuPont Circle Station (DuPont South exit near the pay phones).
Washington, DC, holds countelss architectural landmarks, from historical monuments to stately government buildings and the White House. Keep reading to learn more about the architecture and landmarks in Washington, DC.
Washington, DC, Architecture & Landmarks
Washington is known worldwide for classic architecture and is home to many of the most important and recognizable landmarks in the United States. George Washington held a design competition, taking special care to select an architect who would design The White House in a style that would counter the grand scale of European palaces.
Although the building has lost and gained additions, was burned by the British and rebuilt, and has had infrastructure updates, James Hoban's elegant Executive Mansion still retains a human scale, compared to many of the enormous homes built by old money and nouveau riche in Potomac, Maryland, Great Falls, Virginia, and further afield in Hollywood. Tourists often depart the White House after a tour, commenting that it is not as large as they imagined it would be.
The neoclassical US Capitol, an enduring symbol of democracy, was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman designs. A new visitors' center has been in the works since 9/11, and while some printed guidebooks state it's due to be completed in 2005, work continues. As the scope expands and the cost keeps escalating by tens of millions, the feeling in Washington about a completion date is, "Your guess is as good as mine."
Washington's landmark monuments are striking and iconic. In daylight or by moonlight, even long-time residents are struck by the simplicity of the Washington Monument, the grace of The Jefferson, and the gravity of the Lincoln Memorial. New monuments are routinely criticized and gradually accepted. At the moment, Washingtonians are not impressed with the National WWII Memorial that faces west toward the Lincoln. The attraction is the stream of elderly veterans who come to reflect on their experiences and remember their comrades. Tourists and residents are compelled to shake hands and express gratitude for the veterans' bravery and service.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is another landmark that got no respect at the outset. Designed by Maya Lin, the then-21-year-old Yalie who won a design competition, heard her concept scorned as a scar in the Earth. Now, those walls of names are beloved. Approaching The Wall is extremely moving, as is seeing the many loving tokens left behind.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Washington, DC
Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Washington, DC
An often overlooked architectural treasure is the Library of Congress (101 Independence Ave SE). The Italian Renaissance style building is a gem inside and out. The main reading room is a jaw-dropper, with eight enormous columns soaring toward the 160-foot ceiling. The Great Hall also has marble columns, and arches, along with bronze statues, stained glass, murals, and mosaics.
A memorial that was welcomed enthusiastically from its unveiling in 1997 is the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial (West Basin Dr). The four granite spaces that represent each of FDR's presidential terms are extremely popular after dark. The lighting is soft and effective, both on bronze statues of men in a breadline, casting shadows on forceful waterfalls. When the cherry blossoms are in bloom it's especially alluring, since it's sited on the Tidal Basin.
The Washington Monument (15th St SW) stands 555 feet tall, in memory to the country's first president, George Washington. An interior tour will not only show you how the building was made, but you'll get a glimpse of 193 memorial stones donated from states and cities since 1848. The stones were a product of each state and show support for Washington's ideals. The stones had been damaged from moisture and vandals over the years, but a three-year restoration project has brought the shine and beauty back to them.
It's also worth taking the elevator, or 898 steps, to the observation room to see the mesmerizing view, but you need to reserve tickets and a time in advance by calling toll-free 800-967-2283. You can obtain free, same-day tickets at the 15th Street kiosk beginning at 8:30 am, but they are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis until all tickets for that day are gone. Get there early (before 8 am) because they often go quickly. One person can receive up to six tickets. Be aware that US Park Police will continue screening visitors before the tours.
The World War II Memorial (17th St) has twin Atlantic and Pacific pavilions divided by an oval-shaped pool, symbolizing a war fought across two oceans. Fifty-six wreath-adorned stone pillars -- each representing a US state or territory -- form semicircles on the memorial's north and south sides. The wide entrance on the memorial's east side features bas-relief sculptures depicting scenes of Americans at war. A nearby reflecting pool cascades over twin waterfalls that bookend with the Freedom Wall, which shines with 4,000 gold stars.
Favorite modern architecture on the list of prominent Washington architects includes Dulles Airport (45020 Aviation Dr, Sterling, VA), which was designed by Eero Saarinen and opened in 1962, and the 12-story 2004 Association of Realtors Building (500 New Jersey Ave NW), which is a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol. This clever sliver of a building is the most environmentally friendly in town, and the only new DC structure given the official stamp of approval as a 'green' building.
Arthur Cotton Moore, the sixth-generation Washingtonian who designed the Washington Harbour Complex (31st & K Sts, NW, at the dead end of Wisconsin Avenue) in Georgetown, rightfully claims that many of us didn't realize we were living on a river until that waterfront complex opened at the base of Georgetown.
The city's most famous urban planning myth is that no building may be taller than the Washington Monument (15th St SW). This myth isn't true. A height restriction was put into place as a reaction to the 14-story Cairo Hotel (1615 Q St NW at 17th St NW), which was built in 1894 and is now a condo building. The first height law was based on the 288-foot height of The Capitol.
Adjustments were made through the years, and current law restricts height as it relates to the surroundings, with exemptions for church spires, engineering structures, and the like. Most parking garages are underground as a result of the height restrictions, and that benefits the skyline. Thomas Jefferson would be pleased. He had hoped Washington would mimic his beloved Paris, with structures "low and convenient, and the streets light and airy."
DC isn't known for its shopping scene, but if you're looking for high style, good deals, and maybe a souvenir or two, you've come to the right place. Go to the next page for our guide to Washington, DC, shopping.
Washington, DC, Shopping
For quality souvenir shopping, DC has political memorabilia and White House items like official Christmas ornaments (sold all year) and the wooden Easter eggs that are given to each visitor at the annual Easter Egg Roll. Some of the best gift shopping is in the museum shops all around The National Mall.
On the fashion and home furnishings front, DC remains a conservative city overall, but even before Washington Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan won a Pulitzer Prize for her dead-on commentaries on the significance of clothing and style, Washingtonians had come a long way from their stodgy reputation.
Now, designers and retailers know that wallets open quickly for high-quality, high-style merchandise. There are plenty of good deals, too, at branches of H&M, Loehmann's, and Filene's Basement. High-, medium- and low-end price tags can be found in every sector of the city's retail universe, and malls ring the Beltway.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Washington, DC
Since Washington is the center of the universe for political fervor, visitors enjoy Political America (corner of 14th and Pennsylvania), where you'll find authentic and reproduction campaign buttons, signed photos and letters, and a wealth of commemorative items from many administrations. Both tourists and serious collectors shop here.
The Shops at Georgetown (3222 M St NW) is a stylish urban mall with four levels of upscale shops to explore, including Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Talbot's, Georgiou, and others. Don't look for a department store because you won't find any. You can receive help gift-wrapping in the Concierge Center on the lower level. The Shops at National Place (1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW) has more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants.
White House souvenirs are a big hit with the folks back home. The White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW) is open very early, at 7:30 am, and closes early, at 4 pm, but is open seven days a week. The second White House Museum Shop (740 Jackson Place, NW) is at the White House Historical Association in a beautiful townhouse on a street that borders Lafayette Square. It's open Monday through Friday only.
A third place to get wonderful gifts with Washington flavor, also on Jackson Place, is the Stephen Decatur House (1610 H St NW), which focuses on American history and architecture. Reproductions of presidential china include 12 patterns of dinner and salad plates. Take time for a tour before or after your shopping session; Decatur House was designed by pre-eminent American architect Benjamin Latrobe.
For years, White House staff and their guests shopped for White House Situation Room T-shirts and presidential cuff links at a Secret Service gift shop that could only be reached by wandering around the basement of the Old Executive Office Building. After 9-11, the Secret Service, whose sales profits go to charities, moved to the National Press Building (529 14th St NW). In addition to White House logoed items, they sell official wooden Easter eggs and WWII Memorial items.
For clothing, in addition to the hundreds of retail stores, Washington has two fantastic consignment shops. At Inga's Once Is Not Enough (4830 MacArthur Blvd, NW), owner Inga Guen makes sure her merchandise is abundant but edited. At least one rack is always devoted to Escada, and there are sections for Chanel, St. John, and cashmere. A small men's area regularly displays Prada loafers, Zegna shirts, and Burberry raincoats and suits. Inga's prices are wide-ranging and not usually negotiable.
Another great consignment shop isn't far to the northwest. Encore Resale Dress Shop (3715 Macomb St NW) is just off Wisconsin Avenue near the National Cathedral. The main room usually has lots of great shoes and bags. Clothing labels include Escada, St. John, and Dana Buchman. The shop also seems to take in and send out a lot of fur coats. Alden's Shoes (1725 K St NW) has manufactured men's shoes since 1884.
Auction lovers will want to know about Weschler's Auction House (909 E St NW). Every Monday morning, anything not being held for a catalog auction is on display. If you can't be there during the day on Tuesday, you're welcome to leave a credit card number and bid instructions, but by 5 pm Tuesday you must pick up your spoils. Before you arrive, check the Web site, where upcoming lots are posted.
The Georgetown Flea Market (Wisconsin Ave NW) is a friendly neighborhood place that has given local collectors of antiques, jewelry, books, rugs, toys, linens, and other items a place to display their goods since the mid-1970s. You can find as many as 70 booths set up year-round offering treasures for bargains if you're willing to look. Come early for the biggest selection, and late for the best bargains.
Washington, DC, is often thought of as stuffy and serious, but the town boasts a great theater scene and plenty of hot clubs and live performances to keep you entertained after hours. Keep reading to learn more about nightlife and entertainment in Washington, DC.
Washington, DC, Nightlife & Entertainment
Washingtonians were long known for being serious, wonkish workaholics, but that was before Bill Clinton, the blogger known as Wonkette, and the West Wing TV show. Although DC will never rival South Beach, it does have its charms after dark.
The variety of live performances is second only to New York City. With a theater scene that blankets a large metropolitan area and no central "Broadway," no wonder it's a secret.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC
Insider's Guide: The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC
The 930 Club (815 V St NW) is a nightclub with a bi-level balcony and stage that has welcomed the Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and many others. The club serves a phenomenal beer list and good food, and can accommodate up to 1,200 people. The Barbie and Ken dolls that mark the restrooms doors are a quirky, but nice, touch.
The Black Cat (1811 14th St NW) is a low-key club that features indie and alternative music groups and has space for 600-plus people to dance. When you need a break, head to the Red Room Bar, which is a red-walled lounge with red leather sofa, booths, and a pinball machine and pool table. There's a $5 to $20 cover charge when bands perform, but the price varies depending on the artist. Platinum Nightclub (915 F St NW, 202-393-3555) is an upscale dance club with three dance floors housed in a 19th-century building.
One of the newest clubs in DC is the aviation-inspired Fly Lounge (1802 Jefferson Place NW). There's always the Georgetown waterfront, which is appealing in every season but winter. Sequoia and Cabanas are two to check out before claiming a bar stool.
Nightclubs come and go with frequency, so the best way to find out what's happening after dark is to pick up a free Washington City Paper, or go online for current listings.
J Paul's (3218 M St NW, 202-333-3450) is designed to make you feel like you're back in an old saloon. The mahogany bar is the place to drink down handcrafted beers, Bloody Marys, or Scotch. The Lucky Bar (1221 Connecticut Ave NW, 202-331-3733) is the place for a laidback drink as you look out onto Connecticut Avenue, or on a couch in the backroom waiting your turn at a game of pool. The bar usually has a DJ with a periodic visit from a live group. Monday nights is a good time to visit for free salsa lessons. If the TVs on, most likely its showing a soccer game from somewhere around the world.
Rooftop Terrace (515 15th St NW) is located in the Mobil Two-Star Hotel Washington with an amazing terrace view of the Washington Monument and The White House. This is the place to sit back and watch the sun set on landmarks. Hawk 'n Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave NW, 202-543-3300) is a quaint bar filled with political memorabilia, campaign signs, and other novelty items. Usually the well-dressed crowd of Capitol Hill workers come for the free buffet food during happy hour, then stay for a laidback game of pool or sitting back by the fireplace.
The Smithsonian Atrium Cafe (10th St NW and Constitution Ave, in the Natural Museum of National History) turns into a jazz cafe with local talent on Fridays from 6 to 10 pm. The $10 fee pays for cover and a cocktail. HR-57 (1610 14th St NW) is another place to go for quality jazz jams on Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
The Birchmere Music Hall and Bandstand (3701 Mt. Vernon Ave, Alexandria), where many careers have been launched, features close-up live music in a casual 500-seat venue with reasonably priced food and drinks.
The innovative Arena Stage (101 Sixth St SW) is the spot to catch quality performances from a nonprofit theatre group in an intimate 120-seat setting. Their performances run the gamut, from epics to dramas to musicals.
Many local theaters are growing. Exciting new performance spaces include the main stage at 68-year-old Olney Theatre Center (2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Rd, Olney).
After 25 years in begged and borrowed churches, an auto shop, and elsewhere, Woolly Mammoth has new downtown digs (641 D St, NW); and the 16-year old Signature Theatre (2800 Stafford St, Arlington), nationally known for its Sondheim interpretations is now housed in a $12.5-million two-stage complex in the Village of Shirlington.
For same-day half-price tickets, go to TICKETPlace at 407 7th St or call (202) TIC-KETS for information. For links to all the theater Web sites, go to the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington site and click on "Member Directory."
If sports appeal, many teams play at night. In addition to the Washington Wizards basketball games at MCI Center (601 F St NW) and Washington Redskins football at FedEx Field (1 Redskins Rd), the Nationals baseball team is a new pride and joy in DC. With ticket prices as low as $8, Washington Mystics women's basketball is a great family evening out, especially for girls, at MCI Center (601 F St NW). Halftime includes contests, games, the Mystic Mayhem (dancing, cheering girls and boys, ages 7 to 17) and a breakdancing rabbit mascot.
If you'd rather relax than party, Washington, DC, is dotted with parks and open spaces. Keep reading to learn more about relaxing and unwinding in Washington, DC.
Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC
Relaxation can take many forms in and around Washington. DC's Rock Creek Park is the largest natural national park in any American city, established in 1890. It inspired the creation of future national parks, of which there are plenty around the area. They all provide opportunities for walking, biking, picnicking, and other leisurely pursuits.
Charles L'Enfant, a French-born architect and urban designer who served in the American Revolutionary Army, was chosen to design Washington. His plan identified parks and open spaces as an essential element in an urban design. It's that forward thinking that allows locals, and hopefully out-of-towners, to watch congressional staffers play softball on the National Mall, taking your own strolling along the Potomac River, or hiking at Rock Creek Park. Do as the locals and find time to enjoy the thousands of cherry blossoms in full bloom around the Jefferson Memorial each spring. Other times of year the area is still a beautiful view.
In the Know: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC
In the Know: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC
Stroll through the numerous plants and seasonal blooms housed at the US Botanical Garden (100 Maryland Ave). It's one of the oldest botanic gardens in the country and the ideal place for quiet reflection and a stroll. You should head to the conservatory to view the tropical, subtropical, and other special plants.
Strolling along the boardwalk and enjoying a mesmerizing view of the Potomac River is a sinch at Washington Harbor (3000 K St NW).
Two wonderful parks are both called Great Falls, one park on the Maryland side of the Potomac River and the other on the Virginia side.
In the middle of the Potomac, the 91-acre Theodore Roosevelt Island was named for our 26th President, considered the country's first environmental leader. It's considered a wilderness preserve that you can explore in a free 60-minute guided tour offered through the Park Service. If you go, you're sure to come across the 17-foot statue of Roosevelt.
On the river below Georgetown University north of Key Bridge, there's a wonderful bike and boat rental facility. Fletcher's Cove (4940 Canal Rd NW) has been in this spot since the 1850s. The Capital Crescent Trail and the C & O Towpath come together here, and run parallel. The Capital Crescent Trail, 13 miles from Georgetown to Silver Spring, Maryland, is popular for biking, rollerblading, and walking. The C & O Towpath follows the Potomac River from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland.
For organized outdoor activity, every county in the metropolitan area has public golf courses that range from decent to incredible. The most convenient is Washington's East Potomac Public Golf Course (970 Ohio Dr SW) with 36 holes of golf, a driving range, and a golf school with a full program of instruction.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the U.S. Navy Band's Concerts on the Avenue series is held 8 pm Tuesdays at the Navy Memorial (701 Pennsylvania Ave NW). On the west side of The Capitol on summer Wednesday evenings, the U.S. Marine Corps Band (also known s The President's Own) performs.
Authors of substance and style read from their new bestsellers at Politics and Prose (5015 Connecticut Ave NW), an independent bookstore, community center, and coffeehouse with a packed calendar. The almost-nightly events often highlight politics, government, the media, and public policy.
If getting out of town is appealing, there are many day trip options that are an hour drive or less. Middleburg, Virginia is horse country; its National Sporting Library (102 The Plains Rd, Middleburg) is the only library in the country devoted to equestrian matters. The tiny, tony town also has lots of unique shops and good restaurants. For great gourmet take-out, go to Market Salamander (200 West Washington St), on the main drag, for macaroni and cheese with truffles, fine fried chicken, crab cakes, and cheeses of the world.
In Annapolis, Maryland, a 45-minute drive in decent traffic conditions, you can walk the cobblestone streets, visit the Naval Academy, and learn to sail or crew a ship. You can also just sit, eat and drink, and look out on the water.
There is so much to see in Washington, DC, that the prospect of striking out on your own might be daunting. Fear not -- keep reading for our guide to organized tours.
Instead of a bus tour, visitors can scoot around Georgetown, Adams Morgan, or down Pennsylvania Avenue itself on a Segway with City Segway Tours. An orientation lasts as long as it takes -- until everyone is balancing and comfortable. Guides are well versed in history and current events, and they brake for photo ops.
If a Segway is too odd, go for a bike tour. You can rent or tour with Bike The Sites, which has it all: mountain bikes, tandem models, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, child trailers, and jogging strollers.
There's nothing like getting up close and personal in any of DC's diverse neighborhoods, and no one has as much variety as Washington Walks.
Washington is beautiful from the water, but the big dinner cruises are a lot of money for a very standard experience and substandard food. Instead, try a $12 ($6 for kids) Capitol River Cruises.
After a day of sightseeing, you'll need a place to rest your head. We have that covered in the next section, where we provide a Washington, DC, hotels guide.
Washington, DC, Hotels Guide
Tucked away in an odd plot of land near the Holocaust Museum and L'Enfant Plaza, and only accessible via distinctly specific directions, the luxurious Mobil Four-Star Mandarin Oriental Washington DC (1330 Maryland Ave) made the biggest splash in recent hotel history in DC with its priceless view of the Jefferson Memorial and its acclaimed CityZen Restaurant.
Guidebooks are filled with hotel listings, but one category that doesn't often appear in DC accommodations information is bed and breakfasts. It is an unexpected pleasure to discover that DC has dozens of fine B&Bs. A few of the best are the African and Asian art-filled DC Guesthouse (1337 10th St NW); the literary-inspired Akwaaba (1708 16th St NW) and romantic Swann House (1808 New Hampshire Ave NW).
Looking for an even more unusual place to spend the night? The Cathedral College at the Washington National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave NW) is in a garden area steps from the magnificent cathedral. When not in use for conferences, rooms are available to the public. Guest rooms and suites in the Gothic-style building are priced from $80 to $155. The Tower Suite has a panoramic view of the city, and is one of few things that are best in the dead of winter when the trees have lost all their leaves.
Dining in Washington, DC, includes sophisticated restaurants that feature ethnic cuisine, organic foods, and a celebrity chef or two. Keep reading for our guide to Washington, DC, restaurants.
Washington, DC, Restaurants Guide
In the past decade, Washington dining has gone from pedestrian to exciting. Celebrity chefs have raised the city's profile. DC is now a destination -- and metropolitan area -- where menu items are healthful, fresh, regional, and imaginative, and organic food is gaining in popularity.
Appropriate to a city full of embassies and World Bank/IMF staff, the number and breadth of ethnic eateries has exploded. Hotel dining has become more adventurous and sophisticated. On weekends, reservations are a must.
If a restaurant is trendy, popular, or expensive, expect to need to call ahead to reserve a table. For large parties, normally six or more, a gratuity of 15 to 18 percent might be included. Tips in Washington average around 18 percent. For ordinary service, 15 percent is acceptable, but it's 20 percent for good service.
The Mobil Four-Star Mandarin Oriental Washington DC (1330 Maryland Ave), on the waterfront across from the Jefferson Memorial, set the bar high for hotel dining experiences with its Mobil Four-Star CityZen Restaurant. The room impresses with its stone pillars, brown leather banquettes, and glowing orange-red lighting. Chef Eric Ziebold was a catch, coming directly to DC from Napa's famous Mobil Five-Star French Laundry. He is so creative and motivated to impress that the menu changes monthly or more, so there's no use getting one's heart set on a certain specialty of the house. One thing that seems certain is Ziebold's delightful mini-Parker House rolls.
DC pizza has gotten national notice, thanks to Two Amys (3715 Macomb St NW) and Mobil One-Star Pizzeria Paradiso (2029 P St, NW and 3282 M St, NW). Both their menus are mainly pizza, both make pies in a wood oven; order the toppings you like best and dig in.
The empire of Spain's Jose Andres keeps expanding. Mobil Two-Star Jaleo (4807th St), Mobil Three-Star Cafe Atlantico (405 8th St), and Zaytinya (701 9th St NW) are all popular and award winning standouts. Zaytinya, for one, is known for its modern and airy, white and wood, two-story setting as well as its Greek, Turkish, and Lebanese menu items such as lamb meatballs with dried fruit and cinnamon. Jaleo is a treat with its murals of flamenco dancers and Spanish menu. Cafe Atlantico serves a fine Latin American menu.
At Equinox, Todd Gray (818 Connecticut Ave NW) is known for his lump crab cakes, barbequed salmon, and Amish chicken. The restaurant is pleasant and comfortable but nondescript.
Frank Morales reigns at Zola (800 F St NW), where the rich red decor is a nod to the Spy Museum next door. Doors leading to the bathrooms are mirrored; there are a few discreet peepholes in the wall. Its chic bar has huge windows overlooking a busy, trendy downtown corner. Try the duck with peppery marmalade, jumbo prawns with green pea sticky rice, or caramelized Meyer lemons.
At Mobil Four-Star Michel Richard Citronelle (3000 M St NW), make sure you don't skip dessert. This celebrated chef pulled himself out of poverty and neglect by becoming a pastry apprentice in France when he was a young teen. At Citronelle, there's whimsy added to every apple and square of chocolate. His entrees are considered works of art as well, and the menu descriptions are written with humor: caviar penguins, and scallops in a giant tomato symphony.
Mobil One-Star Nathan's (3150 M St) is a classic at the crossroads of Wisconsin and M Streets in Georgetown. The restaurant has great American food and interesting luncheon series featuring well-known newsmakers who live in or pass through DC. The main dining room is decorated with huge photo portraits of DC political icons by David Hume Kennerly, White House photographer under Gerald Ford.
A more formal Georgetown tradition is dining at Mobil Three-Star 1789 Restaurant (1226 36th St NW) within the campus of Georgetown University. Diners rave about the rack of American lamb with creamy feta potatoes and garlic spinach.
The young and stylish as well as rich and famous prefer Mobil Two-Star Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect St NW), known for its elegance and sophisticated Northern Italian cuisine. The crisply fried zucchini blossoms and all the various risottos are irresistible.
Near Dupont Circle, Mobil Two-Star The Palm (1225 19th St NW) has a loyal following of steak, creamed spinach, and lobster lovers. Also downtown, there's the Mobil Three-Star 701 Restaurant (701 Pennsylvania Ave NW), where a favorite dish involves caviar: the Domestic Caviar Sampler. At the Blue Duck Tavern (24 & M Sts NW), try the Angry Trout with pear, hazelnuts, mushroom, and thyme.
For Italian, the light and modern Primi Piatti (2013 I St NW) is a popular choice for monkfish that's pan roasted and flavored with lemon juice, pinot grigio-preserved lemon, and caper berries.
Another spot for Italian is Finemondo (1319 F St NW), where favorites include the agnolotti, a pillow-shaped pasta stuffed with ricotta cheese and spinach in a cream sauce, and the veal chops. Finemondo is billed as Italian country kitchen dining, comes close with dark wood, ceramic tiles and pottery throughout the dining room and bar.
Near The White House, the appropriately named and modern art appointed Mobil Two-Star Oval Room (800 Connecticut Ave NW) demonstrates the chef's imagination with a popular side dish of roasted baby beets served with passion fruit gelee, horseradish, and ice wine.
With so much to see in Washington, DC, you'll need a plan to make sure you don't miss anything. Go to the next page to read our suggested itineraries for visiting Washington, DC.
Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Washington, DC
You've just learned about the monuments, museums, culture, and history you can experience while visiting Washington, DC. But how do you fit it everything into your trip without missing any of the highlights? We've put together these suggested itineraries to help you see everything in your specific areas of interest, whether they be special events and attractions, arts and culture, architecture and landmarks, shopping, nightlife and entertainment, or relaxing and unwinding.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for
Special Events & Attractions in Washington, D.C.
Special Events & Attractions in Washington, D.C.
The must-see attractions in Washington, DC, range from the historical to the cultural to the gastronomical. Follow these suggested itineraries to ensure that you take advantage of all the things to do in Washington, DC.
1 day: Start the day with lobbyists and other movers and shakers at the Mobil Four-Star Hay-Adams Hotel (16th and H Sts, NW), where the price is right for breakfast with a view of The White House. Then walk the few blocks to The White House Visitors Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW), where you can see a video and exhibits about the first families and learn about the building's architecture, furnishings, and other details. Leave yourself at least 20 to 90 minutes to tour the center.
Have lunch among White House staffers at the Mobil Two-Star Old Ebbit Grill (675 15th St, NW). This restaurant isn't far from The White House and has velvet booths, and bars set in marble, brass, and beveled glass just like a 1900s saloon. Antique beer steins are on display, as well as a walrus head caught by President Teddy Roosevelt. You should try the three cheese ravioli or steak and egg tostada for lunch.
Spend the afternoon at the Old Patent Office Building, newly christened the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (Eighth and F Sts, NW). The freshly renovated two-city-block museum is home to the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum. Take a coffee break at the terrace cafe on the building's second floor.
Explore the art galleries and other shops in the surrounding Penn Quarter neighborhood and dine at one of many trendy restaurants. Zaytinya (701 9th St, NW) is a favorite spot where you can have the tiniest beef stuffed balls of pasta called 'manti nejla' that are covered with roasted garlic yogurt and paprika butter. Go Asian at Teaism (400 8th St, NW) for bento boxes, some with the best priced fresh salmon in town. For wooden oven pizzas, try Matchbox (713 H St, NW) or have a perfect Angus beef mini-burger on toasted brioche with onion straws.
2 days: Check the Washington National Cathedral Web site (3101 Wisconsin Ave NW) for tours and enjoy the educated docents' program. This beautiful building was made of Indian limestone and features intricate carvings inside and out, has a 30-story central tower and 215 stained-glass windows. Bring binoculars to see the more than 100 gargoyles. Take the elevator up to the towers for a panoramic view of the city and beyond.
Have lunch at one of the best pizza restaurants in the United States: Two Amys (3715 Macomb St NW). This gourmet pizza tastes different because the owners follow strict rules about the type of ingredients used, then pop it into a wood-burning oven. When it's done, they put a swirl of extra virgin olive oil on top. One type to try is the pizza topped with salami, sweet peppers, garlic, and mozzarella. You'll find unique offerings like clams (in the shell) on other pizzas.
Drop into Washington Consignments (3226 Wisconsin Ave NW), where the wealthy sell their decorative arts and furnishings after they redecorate, or where they pick things up to ship to homes in Nantucket and the Eastern Shore.
After lunch, go south on Massachusetts for a walk down Embassy Row. Stop in at The Society of the Cincinnati Museum at Anderson House (2118 Massachusetts Ave, NW), a turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts mansion that belonged to Larz and Isabel Anderson, who bequeathed their home to an organization of descendants of Revolutionary War officers, the Society of the Cincinnati. The grand building is interesting in its own right and for the murals, art, and historical exhibits. You need a guide to see some areas, so inquire about the tour schedule ahead of your visit.
Also try to fit in a visit to the only Presidential museum in Washington, Woodrow Wilson House (2340 S St, NW), a National Historic Landmark that focuses on the President's public service. Wilson led the country during World War I and served two terms, from 1913-1921. He and his wife, Edith, moved into this beautiful home at the end of his second term, and it has been preserved as it was when they occupied it. Mrs. Wilson willed the home and its contents to the nation. There are guided tours, exhibits, and educational programs.
3 days: Spend most of the day at Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy, Mount Vernon), appropriately the most popular historic home in America. Sixteen mostly-scenic miles from DC, Mount Vernon was going downhill fast when a group of concerned citizens -- all women -- raised money to save it. It's still owned and operated by America's first preservation organization, the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, founded in 1853.
At the end of October 2006, two new buildings opened on the 500-acre grounds. The Ford Orientation Center and Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center are the fruit of a $95 million campaign to bring Mount Vernon and the Father of our Country into the high-tech, multi-sensory present with interactive galleries and media displays.
One movie and other short films produced by The History Channel and three life-sized models depict Washington as a teen and at two other stages of his life, to expand his image as a statesman. These models were designed to humanize him by showing a young man of modest means who became President. In the museum, which increases the exhibition space five-fold, many personal family items will be displayed here for the first time.
A perfect complement to Mount Vernon is Old Town Alexandria, a river port established in 1749. One can wander the preserved cobblestone colonial streets or shop, enjoy galleries, and have dinner. If you like the idea of dining and historic interpretation in a preserved 1785 hotel and tavern, visit Mobil Two-Star Gadsby's Tavern (138 N Royal St, Old Town Alexandria) for peanut soup and blueberry trifle. This restaurant and museum, was a center of political, business, and social life in early Alexandria. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson dined here.
If you'd rather head back into town and try a newer dining experience, make reservations for low-country cuisine at Indigo Landing (1 Marina Dr, Alexandria) and try the pan-seared hake with bacon, lima bean, corn, tomato, crab succotash.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Washington, DC
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Arts & Culture in Washington, DC
Washington, DC, takes arts and culture very seriously. You can visit countless museums in this town, and it is home to several fine performing arts institutions. Here are some suggested itineraries that will help you get the most out of DC's arts and culture:
1 day: A must for any visit to Washington now and for the foreseeable future is the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture (Eighth and F Sts NW), the two-block home to Smithsonian collections and the Luce Foundation art storage and study center. After a six-year renovation, light streams into skylights at the Greek Revival Old Patent Office Building.
Visitors are encouraged to discover pieces of their own story on the walls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and F Sts NW). Installations of three centuries of this country's most creative artistic achievement include Edward Hopper landscapes, a massive folk art altar, Andy Warhol pop art, and Nam June Paik's state-by-state video map of America. Beyond its serious collection of Presidential portraits, the National Portrait Gallery mingles classics with contemporary art. Exhibits honor poets, composers, performers, and notable sports figures; visionaries, villains, and activists are also represented.
Any leftover time and energy should be spent exploring Penn Quarter (also known as the 7th Street Art District), the once-sketchy part of town that matured beautifully during the museum renovation years. This revitalized section of northwest Washington runs from Pennsylvania Avenue to Chinatown, and east-west from 6th to 9th Streets. In a sparkling new mall, Gallery Place, shops include Aveda, Banana Republic, Benetton, and a 14-screen movie theater. Not far on F and 11th St, there's the 25,000-square-foot H&M, the Ikea of clothing. A boutique called Pua Naturally sells clothes and gifts that support the people who make them in India, Nepal, and Afghanistan. Apartment Zero has modern home furnishings and accessories.
Penn Quarter's International Spy Museum (800 F St NW) is the only public museum in the world that explores the history and contemporary role of espionage. Narratives enlighten visitors about carrier pigeons, the atom bomb, and Hollywood's contributions to disguise techniques. The Spy City Cafe has a good reputation for healthful breakfast, lunch, and snacks at economy prices.
The Bead Museum (400 7th St NW) might be the smallest museum in town, but it features quite a collection of beads. The exhibits are dedicated to further the understanding and appreciation of these tiny objects used as jewelry, ornaments, religious symbols, and artifacts through the ages.
Penn Quarter also has lots of art to purchase in galleries. Of all the galleries, don't miss The Zenith, headquartered here for more than two decades, with its contemporary art and a room of neon creations. On the fourth Thursday of each month, a Gallery Walk is held. Art galleries are open until 8 pm and Starbucks hosts a poetry reading. A farmers market sets up on 8th Street between D and E from 3 to 7 pm every Thursday as well.
In this neighborhood you can dine at some of the most delicious and stylish restaurants in town: Teaism (400 8th St NW) serves great bento boxes and tea; IndeBleu (707 G St NW) has good veal-stuffed gnocchi; and Zaytinya (701 9th St NW) provides all kinds of Eastern Mediterranean dishes like the fascinating 'manti nejla' that are covered with roasted garlic yogurt and paprika butter. Mobil Two-Star Jaleo (480 7th St NW) serves tapas extraordinaire and was the pioneer restaurant in this part of town.
2 days: The U Street Corridor is another recently revitalized neighborhood. Centered on U Street between 10th and 15th Streets NW, and down 14th to N Street, this area draws locals and visitors alike to its shops, restaurants, and clubs. Historic landmarks include the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum (1200 U St NW) and Howard University (2400 6th St NW). The memorial pays tribute to more than 200,000 African American soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The university's main campus houses a Gallery of Fine Art with changing exhibits.
A neighborhood jewel is Candida's World of Books (1541 14th St NW), one of the best travel-dedicated bookstores in the country. Other popular stores include Go Mama Go (1809 14th St NW) for colorful gifts and artwork; Meeps & Aunt Neensie's Vintage Fashionette (1520 U St NW), and the Wild Women Wear Red (1512 U St NW) for designer shoes.
Some of the best soul food in the city still can be had at Ben's Chili Bowl (1213 U St NW), founded in 1958 and made famous in part by Bill Cosby's enthusiasm. A classic meal -- half-smoke, cheese fries, and milk shake -- costs less than $10.
For a more formal dining experience, and one of the best views of Washington, make reservations at Tabaq Bistro (1336 U St NW). The menu draws from Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, and Morocco. The dish that receives the most notice is the branzini (Mediterranean sea bass) with spinach, rice with almonds and currants, and creamy lobster sauce. The restaurant's glass ceiling opens up when weather allows.
For dessert, it's all about Warren Brown, the lawyer turned baker who opened CakeLove and LoveCafe (1506 U St NW). He has appeared on Oprah and in People Magazine, and is host of his own Food Network show called Sugar Rush.
3 days: Head out of town and cross the river by Metrorail to Alexandria, Virginia for a full day and evening. At 250 years old, it's known for history and hospitality, historic homes, churches and museums, shopping, and a lovely day spa.
Six of the city's historic sites are the Alexandria Black History Resource Center (638 N Alfred St), Archaeology Museum (105 N Union St), Fort Ward Museum (4301 W Braddock Rd) and Historic Park (118 N Washington St), Friendship Firehouse (107 Alfred St), and The Lyceum (201 S Washington St), Alexandria's history museum. It prides itself on art and artists.
When you get hungry, grab a table at Gadsby's Tavern (138 N Royal St), for Colonial-era food and entertainment.
The Torpedo Factory Arts Center (105 North Union St, Alexandria) was born through the efforts of local artists and the city in 1974. With 84 working studios and six galleries, the Torpedo Factory is considered the largest and most successful visual arts center in the United States.
If you stay in town and art and gardens are appealing, head for Georgetown instead, and visit Dumbarton Oaks and Gardens (1703 32nd St NW). In the 19th-century Federal-style mansion, a 1944 conference led to the formation of the United Nations. The museum of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art and artifacts is closed and under renovation, but the 16 acres of gardens are open--works of art in their own right. Nature lovers, amateur and pro, delight in the formal and informal designs that were inspired by various English, French, and Italian gardens.
In the afternoon, visit the first national museum dedicated exclusively to Native Americans. The National Museum of the American Indian (Fourth Street & Independence Ave SW) showcases objects from ancient civilizations through the 21st century. Multimedia presentations, live performances, and hands-on demonstrations bring the Native American people's history and culture to life. The museum opened in 2004 on the last available open space on the National Mall. Not just a time capsule of historic events, the museum's exhibits include groundbreaking modern artwork. Have lunch in the cafe, praised for its delicious, healthful, and culturally appropriate food.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Washington, DC
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Architecture & Landmarks in Washington, DC
Washington, DC, is known for its classic architecture. Civic buildings and monuments throughout the city sport stately marble columns. These suggested itineraries will help make sure you see all the best examples of Washington, DC, architecture and landmarks during your visit.
1 day: If you only have one day, stay outdoors and see as much as you can. A tour is in order. If you prefer to do it yourself, walk the National Mall. You'll see the U.S. Capitol at one end and the Washington Monument in the distance beyond the other end, about a mile away.
In between, you'll see the National Gallery of Art (National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW) and its celebrated East Wing, a sharp-lined building made with pink Tennessee marble. The Smithsonian Castle building (1000 Jefferson Dr SW) was the original of what is now the largest collection of museums in the world, 19 and counting, including the National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave NW).
One of the newest museums in town is the National Museum of the American Indian (4th St & Independence Ave SW), made of undulating, golden, Minnesota limestone. At night, after everything else is closed, walk around the seven-acre FDR Memorial (West Basin Dr).
2 days: If you have two days, spend an early morning beyond the west end of the Mall and visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (900 Ohio Dr SW). Continuing toward the Tidal Basin, walk through the Korean War Memorial (French Dr SW and Independence Ave). On your walk, you will see the 555-foot Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial, which are best viewed from a distance. No need to go up close and inside, unless you have the desire.
If you want to go up to the top of the Washington Monument (15th St SW), stop there first for timed tickets or obtain tickets in advance for a small fee ($1.50) by calling 1-800-967-2283 or online.
3 days: You can also get a great view of Washington from the towers of the National Cathedral (3101 Wisconsin Ave NW). This amazing marvel of art and architecture could occupy the good part of a day with its organ demonstrations, choir rehearsals, and other rich offerings. A Behind the Scenes tour is offered at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm weekdays, July through February. Participants must be at least 11 years old and able to climb lots of stairs. Check out the long list of public tours on the Web site.
If you time it right, you can make reservations for tea, with Tour & Tea in the Pilgrim Observation Gallery, offered year-round. In blooming season, especially for rose lovers, spend a quiet moment in the Bishops Garden. The three National Cathedral shops (the main Museum shop, the Herb Cottage, and the Greenhouse) are well known for creches, books of the spirit, and gardening items. Washingtonians love to shop here in December for holiday gifts and holly wreaths.
On your way to or from the Cathedral, take a walk up or down Embassy Row, otherwise known as Massachusetts Ave and 23rd St NW, from Dupont Circle to Wisconsin Avenue. Many embassies offer tours with prior notification. Some have concerts and lectures. A comprehensive listing of embassies is online.
If you have an interest in aviation and space flight, drive out to Dulles Airport to see this architectural wonder. The main attraction is the Air and Space Museum outpost, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (14390 Air and Space Museum Pkwy, Chantilly). More than an outpost of the Mall museum, it welcomed its millionth visitor before celebrating its one-year anniversary in December 2004. The Space Shuttle Enterprise is a draw, along with hundreds of rockets and satellites and other aircraft that could not fit into the Mall museum. Here, with 760,000 square feet, there's room for hundreds of exhibits, another IMAX Theater, a memorial to explorers and aviators, and an observation tower for viewing air traffic in and out of Dulles.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Shopping in Washington, DC
Although Washington, DC, doesn't have a reputation as a shopping town, you won't have any trouble finding places to get in a little retail therapy while you're visiting. Use these suggested itineraries to take advantage of the shopping hotspots.
1 day: Have breakfast in the eatery at Union Station (40 Massachusetts Ave NE), the perfect place for one-stop souvenir shopping. Its stores specialize in flags (Alamo Flags); political satire (America's Spirit); DC items (Destination DC); and DC sports teams (Out of Left Field). After an hour or so of shopping, head to the National Mall.
It could take weeks to explore all the National Mall museums and shops, so let your interests guide your choices. Some of the best shops are in the Freer Gallery (Jefferson Drive at 12th St SW) and the National Museum of the American Indian (4th St & Independence Ave SW), but don't miss one of the most unusual: the National Museum of African Art (950 Independence Ave SW). There are baskets from Botswana, dolls from all over the continent, and jewelry for women and little girls. As with almost all museum shops, there are great books, and special merchandise is added to complement each new exhibit.
Late in the day, before choosing any of the many great restaurants in Penn Quarter, visit the International Spy Museum and store (800 F St NW), open until 8 or 9 pm during summer. One of the best-selling items is a gray T-shirt with "Deny Everything" screen-printed in red. Kids love the Wild Planet spy gear and disguises that include synthetic wigs and a set of mustaches. Gray Line recently added an evening tour of famous/infamous spy activity spots in DC.
2 days: Many Washingtonians wish for a full day to walk around Georgetown. The corner of Wisconsin and M Streets, NW is not the geographic center of Georgetown, but it's the heart of this charming, historic neighborhood that has shopping and restaurants that attract area college students, visitors, and the established society set that lives in elegant townhouses on cobblestone streets.
For relaxation and culture, visit Dumbarton Oaks, or take a walking tour and see where Jack and Jackie Kennedy lived in the 1950s and 1960s. Have capellini at Mobil Two-Star Cafe Milano (3251 Prospect St NW) or a crabcake or perfect burger and fries at Mobil One-Star Nathan's (3150 M St).
Up and down Wisconsin and M in Georgetown, there's something for everyone. Everard's Clothing (1802 Wisconsin Ave, NW) has upscale menswear; Sherman Pickey (1647 Wisconsin Ave NW) is American prep, with some imports and handmade items. For vintage clothing, try Annie Creamcheese (3279 M St NW) for never-worn T's from the 70s and gently worn Manolo Blahnik shoes. Snap up jewelry inspired by flags, eagles, and national landmarks at designer Ann Hand's Boutique (2900 M St NW), where staffers from The White House and Departments of State and Defense buy gifts for foreign dignitaries.
The store is managed by Ashley Hand, Ann's granddaughter, and her influence added trendier offerings to Hand's line. In this very old section of the city are great shoes, date dresses, and the latest in skinny jeans from Sassanova (1641 Wisconsin Ave NW); Sugar Clothing & Accessories (1633 Wisconsin Ave, NW) and Hu's Shoes (3005 M St NW). And who can resist a store for babies with a name like Piccolo Piggies (1533 Wisconsin Ave NW).
Historic Georgetown has a contemporary design district: Cady's Alley, behind M Street between 33rd Street and Key Bridge, where stores offer traditionally-exclusive products to the public. The Thos. Moser showroom leads to Ligne Roset, Baker, Poggenpohl, Design Within Reach, and Waterworks. For a pastry or lunch break, Leopold's Kafe Konditorei (3315 Cady's Alley NW) is in a courtyard along the pedestrian-friendly block. The pastry chef worked with Daniel Boulud and at Payard in New York; expect something exquisite.
In the late afternoon, head north on Wisconsin Avenue and window shop or prepare to spend real money at The Collection at Chevy Chase (5471 Wisconsin Ave at the DC/MD line), where Washingtonians shop like Upper East Siders at the world's top luxury retailers such as Barneys Co-op, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, Dior, a huge Ralph Lauren establishment, and Max Mara. If it's too much, neighboring department stores include Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, as well as Filene's Basement and Lohmans.
3 days: After a tour of George Washington's Mount Vernon (George Washington Parkway, Mount Vernon) a bit beyond Alexandria, Virginia, allow plenty of time for the gift shops where they sell everything from seeds, cider, and cookies to a Dove of Peace Lamp inspired by the weathervane commissioned by Washington for his home.
Have lunch there before heading off to one of the best shopping meccas on the East Coast, Tyson's Corner in Virginia, two malls with almost 300 stores plus a huge Crate & Barrel, and then a small center with Tiffany, Hermes, and the like, in the same area. Tyson's anchors are Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Hecht's, and Lord & Taylor. Specialty shops such as Wolford Hosiery and Izod are sprinkled throughout, and one of the best places in the area to buy a global selection of fine watches is Liljenquist and Beckstead.
Tyson's restaurants include chains, but good chains: P.F. Chiang and Legal Seafood are at the Galleria. Locals love Mobil Two-Star Clyde's (8332 Leesburg Pike, Vienna), and its 12 restaurants in the metropolitan area. The beauty of Clyde's is that everything is done well and there's a wide variety of menu items, from chili to grilled salmon.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Nightlife & Entertainment in Washington, DC
Washington, DC, really lights up at night with plenty of theater companies, restaurants, and night clubs to choose from. These itineraries will help satisfy the night owl in you.
1 day: In the late afternoon, head for the U Street/Logan Circle area and start out at Busboys & Poets (2021 14th St NW), a combination of coffee shop, bookstore, restaurant, and lounge that attracts a diverse crowd.
Try DC9 (1940 9th St NW), a two-level club with DJ downstairs and a mix of local and national up-and-coming acts upstairs. Cafe Saint Ex (1847 14th St NW) has the reverse set up with live music and dancing downstairs, and a restaurant and bar upstairs.
For live Latin jazz, go to the Chi-Cha Lounge (1624 U St NW), and if the weather calls for an outdoor space, end the night at Local 16 (1604 U St NW), which has a nice rooftop bar.
Whenever you're in the mood for dinner, if duck with sauteed baby spinach, pumpkin seeds, raisins and passion fruit oil sound sounds enticing, you'll find it at Mobil Two-Star Cafe Atlantico (405 8th St, NW).
2 days: After a relaxing day walking around the National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave NW), head to the Adams Morgan neighborhood. Chloe (2473 18th St NW) is an upscale, stylish, multilevel dance club; Madam's Organ (2461 18th St NW) is the place to go for bluegrass and soul. This very relaxed, fun place has been around for decades -- a good sign in the club business. The nearby Reef (2446 18th St NW) has three levels including a roof deck with a view. Fish tanks located throughout the room maintains the aquatic theme.
For some quality food and spirits, grab a table at Mobil Three-Star Mendocino Grill and Wine Bar (2917 M St NW, 202-625-7888). Their all-American wine list is impressive and will complement any creative dish on the menu.
3 days: Bowl the afternoon away at the hip Lucky Strike (701 7th St NW). Have dinner at Mobil Two-Star Jaleo (480 7th Street NW). One of your best choices will be gambas ajillo (garlic shrimp), a classic among so many delicious tapas.
One of the classic and yet still edgy, even punk/grunge clubs in DC is the 930 Club (815 V St NW) incredibly still going strong after a few decades. Performers have included R.E.M., Nirvana, James Brown, Liz Phair, and the Black Crowes.
Across the river in Alexandria, nightly live Irish music comes with humor at Murphy's on King Street (713 King St, Alexandria, VA).
If you're looking for a comedy club, The Improv (1140 Connecticut Ave NW) regularly books the best national comedians. For political satire set to music, Washingtonians love to take their out-of-town guests to see The Capitol Steps, a group that performs live every Friday and Saturday night at the Ronald Reagan Building (1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW).
Dinner at the Mobil Three-Star Bombay Club (815 Connecticut Ave NW) might feature lamb with fresh spinach, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, nutmeg and a blend of Northern Indian spices.
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC
1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Washington, DC
Washington, DC, has more parks and open spaces than you'll find in most cities, making it an ideal place to kick back and take it easy. Use these itineraries to find ways to relax and unwind while visiting Washington, DC.
1 day: Spend the early morning walking -- or jogging -- through the National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave NW). Ideal for early risers and parents of small children, the Zoo grounds open at 6 am. Although the buildings don't open until 10 am, you can see lots of animals in their outdoor habitats. The zoo is ideal for a walk or run in the morning. If you have your heart set on seeing pandas, cheetahs, and other wild animal babies, you can do so between 7:30 to 10 am, when there is less of a crowd, and when young animals are more active in the morning. If you take the Metro, get off at the Cleveland Park stop instead of Woodley Park-Zoo. Cleveland Park is actually closer and an easier walk.
Most tourists never venture out to Hillwood Museum and Gardens (4155 Linnean Ave NW), a treasure of a museum estate up Connecticut Avenue on land that borders Rock Creek Park. Visitors must make reservations to have lunch and a guided tour at Hillwood, one of the homes of Post Cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, who designed the interior of the 36-room Georgian mansion to display her world-class collections of imperial Russian and French fine and decorative arts.
Among thousands of notable items are Faberge eggs, chalices, icons, and liturgical vestments from imperial Russia; Beauvais tapestries; and Sevres porcelain. You can wander on your own, but you still need reservations. They can often be obtained same day, especially during the week. Don't skip the excellent film in the Visitors Center.
2 days: Completely off the beaten track on one of the best streets in a gorgeous part of the city, the Kreeger Museum (2401 Foxhall Rd NW) is the former residence of Washington philanthropists Carmen and David Lloyd Kreeger. Their collection of traditional African and Asian art and masterpiece paintings are displayed in a sprawling mansion that was designed by premier American architect Philip Johnson in 1967; it was one of his first forays into postmodernism. This is an excellent place to relax while contemplating works by Monet, Rodin, Picasso, Miro, Moore, Kandinsky, and Washington artists Sam Gilliam, Bill Christenberry, and Gene Davis.
If you love a massage, the most luxurious is at the spa at the Mobil Four-Star Mandarin Oriental Washington DC (1330 Maryland Ave SW). It glows and soothes from the minute you enter. The burnished bronze ceilings, oak floors and sycamore walls at this orchid-strewn spa envelop even those in-the-know guests who only book a manicure. Most of the facilities are available, including amethyst steam rooms; showers with four kinds of color, temperature and water pressure variations; the vitality pool and ice fountain; and relaxation areas where complementary snacks and beverages are offered. If you book a half-day or day package, the fitness center and pool are included as well.
If you still aren't ready to leave this beautiful property, and aren't driving, go to the Mandarin's Empress Lounge, where bartenders shake up creative seasonal drinks like lemony Monticello martinis, fresh fruit Empress Sangrias, and the tangy Mandarin Rum Punch.
If the weather is right and you'd rather be outdoors, head to Hains Point, a spit of land that juts into the Potomac River. It has golf and more: a swimming pool, tennis courts, playgrounds, and picnic tables. Look up and see planes taking off from Reagan National Airport. Take photos at The Awakening, an unusual sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. that's a series of large body parts (head, knee, foot, hand, and arm) that emerge from the earth.
3 days: If swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and windsurfing sound good, the closest beach to DC -- about an hour's drive -- is a mile-long stretch called Sandy Point State Park, near Annapolis. The family-oriented mile-long beach has picnic shelters, hiking trails, and boat rentals. There's a perfect view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and you'll surely see some freighters and sailboats passing by.
Many Washingtonians love to golf, and there are many good public courses throughout the metropolitan area. Two of the tops are in Montgomery County, MD. At Blue Mash (5821 Olney-Laytonsville Rd, Laytonsville) is a location where seasoned players pray for accuracy over distance. The first five holes are very long, and golfers report that no two holes feel the same. Blue Mash architect Arthur Hills is known for strategic requirements for every shot. He has designed and renovated courses around the world, including some of the DC area's finest private clubs: Chevy Chase, Burning Tree, and Congressional.
A second course, Little Bennett (25900 Prescott Rd, Clarksburg), is impeccably maintained with fast greens and narrow fairways. Architect Michael Hurdzan is admired -- and cursed -- for his creativity. This is a hilly course where the pros play; Little Bennett serves as the qualifying course for the PGA Tour's Booz Allen Classic.
As you've seen in this article, there's more to Washington, DC, than museums and historical landmarks. It's a truly vibrant city that offers everything from great food to a hopping nightlife.
Ann Cochran, winner of the Washington Writing Prize for personal essay, is a journalist whose work has appeared in AmericanStyle, Art & Antiques, Bethesda Magazine, Chesapeake Life, GolfStyles, LINKS, Modern Bride, Modern Luxury's DC Magazine, USAA Magazine, Virginia Living, Washington Gardener, Washington Woman, and Washingtonian. Although her focus is on her home base of Washington, DC, and extends to the Mid-Atlantic States, assignments also take her overseas. Her recent stories include golf in Italy and Jamaica for the sun-adverse.