You guys, no joke, I started this post last August. And I’m just now publishing it. To be honest, I was just too lazy to add in pictures and links for the many great places in this wonderful city. I love living in DC, and over the years I have developed a list of sorts to help guide friends and family who have visited. After passing it on to my boss’ friend’s daughter, someone I don’t even know, I decided I should post about it here and share the wealth with all of you! So without further ado …
You may not realize it, but DC is actually a great food city! We have some fabulous chefs and unique concepts. Here is a list of some favorite restaurants and bars arranged by neighborhood.
Capitol Hill/Eastern Market – my first love: Cava (Greek tapas and probably my favorite DC restaurants) | Acqua al 2 (yummy Italian – try the tasting menus) | Rose’s Luxury | Montmartre | Hank’s On The Hill (tasty cocktails and boozy cereal) | Boxcar Tavern | The Chesapeake Room | Ted’s Bulletin (homemade poptarts and adult milkshakes) | Matchbox (something for everyone) | Belga (great brunch) | Senart’s Oyster House
H St NE – my second love and our current neighborhood: Queen Vic (great bar, great service, great food) | Sticky Rice (sushi and tots) | Granville Moore’s (mussels and frites) | Pursuit Wine Bar (wine and grilled cheese) | DC Harvest (local and seasonal menus) | Liberty Tree | Boundary Road | Church and State (for a cozy nightcap) | Argonaut | H Street Country Club (for indoor putt putt)
Dupont/14th Street/U Street – neighborhoods I should frequent more often: Boqueria (all you can eat/drink brunch) | Lauriol Plaza (good Mexican) | Russia House (vodka, anyone?) | ChurchKey | El Centro (more good Mexican) | Vinoteca | Ben’s Chili Bowl (home of the famous half smoke) | Ulah Bistro | Policy | Jack Rose
Downtown/Penn Quarter/China Town – neighborhoods near my work: Lincoln | Old Ebbitt (DC staple with great raw bar happy hour) | NoPa | City Tap House | Brasserie Beck | Graffiato | Flight Wine Bar (happy hour wine and food specials) | Zengo (awesome mojitos)
Georgetown – home of the famous cupcake: Georgetown Cupcake (obvious) | Thunder Burger | Farmers Fishers Bakers | Filomena | Blue Duck Tavern (where we ate dinner on closing day) | A Bar (where we celebrated Olivia and Josh’s engagement)
Arlington – the first neighborhood I lived in the DC metro area and the neighborhood D lived in before we moved in together: Screwtop (awesome wine bar and shop) | Liberty Tavern | Hard Times Cafe (best chili!) | Ray’s the Steaks | Guajillo (our fave Mexican food in the DC area) | Rustico (try the carrot hummus!) | Green Pig Bistro
The craft beer culture has been taking off for a while now, and DC is not without it’s own contributors. Although I think that the Budweiser ad is hilarious, I love a good local brew and the DC-area has several! Port City in Alexandria has a great variety and they have tours, as does Bluejacket near Nationals Stadium in SE.
The indoor market is open Tuesday – Sunday and on the weekends the outdoor areas become one big flea market with art, fresh produce and various odds and ends. Eastern Market is a wonderful place for unique souvenirs instead of your typical t-shirts and shot glasses.
Tourist Spots and Info
The U.S. Capitol: Free and reservations are not required, but I suggest booking online if you’re visiting at a busy time of year. Capitol Dome tours are hard to come by, but if you have a connection and the stars align, I would recommend going. I went once while working on the Hill and it was awesome. I never did and never will go again because my fear of heights made my legs shake nonstop, so it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.
The Library of Congress: This is my favorite building in DC and they have rotating exhibits. Not only is the art and architecture beautiful, but it’s full of books! Tours are free, but check out their website for the details and schedule.
The U.S. Supreme Court: From what I understand, tour availability depends on whether there are hearings taking place. I’ve never taken one, but it’s on my DC bucket list.
The White House: East Wing tours are free but reservations are required and they’ve apparently been more difficult to obtain since I left the Hill. You must make the request through your Member of Congress or know someone, but really that’s how everything works here anyway. If you can go at Christmas, it is my favorite time of year because of all the decorations. If you get a West Wing tour, I sure hope I’m invited.
The Mall (Monuments & Memorials): You can find various walking, bike, segway, and driving tours (including a monuments by moonlight tour, which is one of the best times to visit – fewer crowds and the monuments are simply glowing). A very popular time of year is spring when the cherry blossoms bloom. My favorite memorial is the FDR, and don’t forget to stop at the nearby National Archives and the Einstein Memorial, one of my favorite lesser known memorials.
Smithsonian Museums: The Smithsonian is made up of nearly 20 museums (many around the Mall) and the National Zoo – all are free and no reservations are required. The First Ladies’ dresses exhibit is at the American History Museum, as is Julia Child’s kitchen. The Museum of Natural Science has some cool creatures, a Rastafari room and the Hope diamond! Most close at 5:30 p.m. but the Portrait Gallery is open until 7 p.m. You’ll never get through all of them in one visit – I live here and still haven’t been through them all – so pick your favorite subjects and start there. If you’re really interested in aviation, the National Air and Space museum has two locations, one on the Mall and one out at Dulles Airport.
Arlington National Cemetery: Across the river in Virginia, the cemetery is accessible by metro and also has a generous pay-to-park lot if you have a car. It is absolutely worth the trek to watch the Changing of the Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, see the eternal flame at President John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and visit the historic Arlington House.
Botanic Garden: This is also on the Mall, but is not part of the Smithsonian family. It was a great stop in the winter when Erin visited because it is kept at temperatures native to the plants that are housed. (NOTE: My BFFSM Olivia is doing a series of posts about several DC sites. Check out her Botanic Garden post!)
The Holocaust Museum: This is hands down the best museum in DC. Admission is free, but you’ll need a ticket, which you can order online in advance. You can also get a same-day timed entry ticket in the morning, but I would recommend arriving before they open to get in line. Give yourself at least half a day to make it through the main exhibit and one or two others.
Other Museums to Consider (tickets cost money):
The International Spy Museum: My brother and I toured this museum a while back, and it had some very interesting exhibits!
Crime and Punishment Museum: I went to this museum with a Texas friend, and I saw exhibits with information about my Uncle “Pretty Boy” Floyd!
Ford’s Theatre: Tour tickets are available in advance for a small booking fee. This is also a working theater, so it could be a good option if you’re looking to see a show one night. Over Thanksgiving, D and I took our families to see A Christmas Carol and it was magnificent!
Other performance venues:
Old Town, Alexandria
Old Town is accessible by metro (King Street). The waterfront is quite a walk from the metro, but it’s doable, and there is a free trolley if you aren’t up for the trek. Fun shops and restaurants line King Street.
Georgetown is one of the cutest neighborhoods in DC, but it is also one of the most congested despite not being metro-accessible. (The nearest stop is Foggy Bottom, but I think that it’s best to drive or take a cab there.) Wisconsin Ave and M St. have great shopping. Be sure to make a stop at Georgetown Cupcake! You can also walk along the C&O Canal or spend time at the newly revived Georgetown Waterfront Park.
Although getting to Mount Vernon can be a challenge, it is well worth the visit to see the beautiful grounds, historic home of our first president and a working farm. It definitely depends on your time and interests though. Tickets are required and renting a car is the best way to get there.
This list is by no means comprehensive. I’ve lived here more than five years and still haven’t put a dent in the places to eat, drink and see. Please leave comments with your own tips on our nation’s wonderful capital!