Three Days in D.C.: Day 3

George Washington's Mount Vernon estate is a short cruise down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
George Washington's Mount Vernon estate is a short cruise down the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. (Len Spoden - For The Washington Post)
By Fritz Hahn Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 3, 2010; 12:00 AM

Washington D.C. is known as the Capital of the Free World, and tourists come from across the country and around the globe to see the White House, Capitol and other symbols of freedom. But there's far more to Washington than marble edifices. We have a huge network of free museums, expansive outdoor spaces, some of the best restaurants in America and lively late-night clubs. There's a lot to see and do in our area -- it could take a lifetime to experience everything there is to offer. But if you give us three days, we can help you make the most of them.

Day 3

It's time to get out of Washington and head for Old Town Alexandria, the charming colonial city a few miles down the Potomac. Red-bricked Old Town is older than the nation's capital, tracing its history to 1749, and it's full of colonial buildings, antique shops, galleries and fun restaurants. Wander down cobblestone alleys and browse the artisan stores, stopping in at the recreated Gadsby's Tavern or historic Christ Church, which was attended by George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Kids and adults alike enjoy watching local artists working in their studios at the waterside Torpedo Factory. For a special lunch, we really like Restaurant Eve; no reservations are required if you eat at a table in the bar.

If you don't have a car -- or don't want to bother with parking -- the Potomac Riverboat Company runs a water taxi service from the Georgetown waterfront to Old Town. (Check the company's Web site for discount coupons.) It's not as exciting, but Metro goes there too -- take the Blue or Yellow lines to King Street, and look for the free shuttle buses that run to the historic district. (It's a 15- to 20-minute walk otherwise, and an enjoyable stroll past small boutiques if you don't have children in tow.)

Some history buffs will want to continue their exploration of the founding fathers by making a trip to Mount Vernon, George Washington's nearby estate. It's reachable by boat (the Potomac Riverboat Company again), car or public transportation; Catch the Metro from King Street to Huntington, where you can get Fairfax Connector bus 101 to the estate's front gate.

Others, though, will want to head back to Washington, and we suggest a tour of the recently renovated National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum in the revived Penn Quarter neighborhood. Both museums are open until 7 p.m. daily, so there's no need to rush back. (Note that this area includes the Verizon Center, home to the Washington Wizards basketball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team, and is likely to be crowded on game nights.) There's plenty of shopping and entertainment nearby, including the ever-popular tapas restaurant Zaytinya, modern Indian at Rasika, Spanish tapas at Jaleo and gourmet brick-oven pizzas at Matchbox. Proof is one of the city's top restaurants and wine bars, and offers a by-the-glass selection that will delight oenophiles. For cocktails, we like the attractive courtyard bar at Poste, inside the Hotel Monaco, and the wildly inventive cocktails at PS 7's and Rasika.. Those preferring pubs to pomegranate martinis can check out the quiz nights at live music at Fado Irish Pub, the large selection of draft beers at R.F.D. Washington, or Rocket Bar, a fun bar that offers pool, darts, shuffleboard, Skee-Ball and other amusements.

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