A reader wrote us last week to ask:
“A childhood friend of mine is coming to visit for the first time in the 20-plus years I’ve lived in D.C. He wants to see what’s so great about living in DC, with the thought of considering relocating here. We’ve got an entire week and plan to do a lot of exploring. Our plan is to be out and about with plenty of spontaneous discoveries along the way. What are some of your suggestions for neighborhood focal points?
This got us to thinking: What parts of town would you show off in order to tempt out-of-towners to move here?
I really like the D.C. waterfront, and I’m not talking about the bars in Georgetown at Washington Harbour. Start at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, between Georgetown and Rosslyn. After you’ve explored the island, walk down the Mount Vernon Trail along the Virginia side of the Potomac, where you’ll get a fantastic vista of the Lincoln Memorial and its waterfront steps. Walk across the Memorial Bridge (one of my favorite walks in D.C.), and around the Tidal Basin. (You can stop and visit the FDR Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial or, my personal favorite, the World War I Memorial, along the way.) Head for the Southwest Waterfront, stopping along the Tidal Basin to see the Jefferson Memorial across the water. Hit the Fish Market and look at the local seafood, maybe grab a sandwich. Hug the water, past sailboats and marinas and historic ships, until you reach Cantina Marina, a fun little bar perched right over the water, with great views of Hains Point.
I’d also love to steer you towards my neighborhood on Capitol Hill, which is home to some amazing old houses, historic churches and wide-open parks. Folger Park, with its old fountains with built-in benches, is one of my favorite places to sit and read in the city; it’s a reminder that D.C. is not just a city of monuments, but a city of people, too.
Don’t forget to take your friend to H Street NE for a taste of D.C. nightlife. I would grab dinner at the Atlas Room or Ethiopic, see a show at either Red Palace, Rock & Roll Hotel or the Atlas Performing Arts Center, and then hit a few bars (play mini golf at H Street Country Club, drink German brews at Biergarten Haus, and hear live cajun jazz at TruOrleans, or live jazz at the historic HR-57).
I’d recommend you see our Capital Bikeshare pieces for a few ideas. The itineraries are for an arty afternoon, for a night out, and one for hitting good vintage shops. Even if you don’t follow these itineraries exactly, there are ton of good ideas that might spur something for you.
I also like to take visitors who know the area and don’t want to spend the day at a museum to the Dupont Farmers’ market on Sundays. Sit in the circle and eat a chocolate croissant and people-watch.
Also, make sure to check out our fall bucket list. There are a lot of great ideas here, many that aren’t right in the city. But it’s a great taste of how much the entire area has to offer. I love that you can go just 40 minutes out of the city for a real country experience or two.
I checked out Union Market this weekend and had a great little dinner at the Rappahanock Oyster Co. Raw oysters, steamed clams, a nice glass of wine and some good conversation with the guys behind the counter, and fellow diners. It’s a perfect, yet different, D.C. experience.
As long as you have a car handy, I’d add the National Arboretum to your list. By the end of October, the massive park will have several trees flush with fall colors, and won’t require a drive to the far-out suburbs. But you can also get a taste of the lush local forests and the park’s quiet corners, and see the original U.S. Capitol columns, which are perched, oddly, right in the park, like ruins. I’d also make it a plan to try some of the food that is so ingrained in Washington that it’s practically our native food: Ben’s Chili Bowl, Ethiopian food (we recommend Lalibela in Logan Circle for casual, and Ethiopic for higher-end); pupusas (try Blanca’s in Falls Church), Vietnamese (make a trip to Eden Center, go to Song Que, get a banh mi, thank us later....)