Travel like a local

An insider guide on where to eat, drink and buy locally-made surfboards in Washington, D.C.’s The Wharf and Portland’s Pearl District.

By WP BrandStudio

Most locals stick to a 10-block radius for all their essentials–favorite coffee shop and bookstore, restaurant and watering hole. For tourists and business travelers staying in an unfamiliar city and in search of authenticity, these neighborhood spots are highly sought after, but hard to come by. Now, however, visitors to Canopy by Hilton–a hotel brand that’s developed to become an extension of the local neighborhood–in Washington, D.C.’s The Wharf and Portland’s Pearl District don’t have to fret about being confined to the tourist traps. With the help of two insiders from opposite coasts with impeccable taste and boundless enthusiasm, we developed a guide to the hidden gems around the two flagship locations.

The Wharf

(Washington, D.C.)

Photographer and lifestyle guru Albert Ting has roamed Washington, D.C., since 2002, snapping evocative images of beauty, food and friendship in the metro area. He’s been increasingly drawn to the historic neighborhood called The Wharf, a mile-long stretch along the Potomac River’s southwest waterfront. A major commercial port and stomping ground for the wealthy in the early 1800s, and then a crucial Civil War staging ground, The Wharf fell on hard times in the early 1900s. Now it’s back. “I always loved the waterfront,” Ting says. “Now it’s a really cool, really central, really unique social space for retail, the arts and dining.”

The Full Aperture:

For Ting, there’s no more eclectic backdrop for photo walks than The Wharf. He’s particularly drawn to the built environment. “There are stunning Brutalist buildings like the Department of Energy. There’s a great combination of old and new architecture.”

Just Browsing:

The third edition of the iconic DC-indie bookstore Politics and Prose has infused the neighborhood with some intellectual heft and created a literary hub and new gathering place on the waterfront, Ting says. As readers sift through pages, speakers explore public policy and literature.

Start a Tab:

Whiskey Charlie, the penthouse rooftop lounge at Canopy by Hilton The Wharf hotel, overlooks the Potomac River from a unique indoor-outdoor space. “It’s still my favorite place for drinks at The Wharf.” He’s a fan of speciality cocktails WC Mule (vodka, fresh ginger, strawberry, mint, lime) and The Last Word (strawberry-infused Chartreuse, gin, Luxardo, lime).

Whiskey Charlie
Whiskey Charlie

Beyond Bread:

“This is a more recent discovery. My friends said I absolutely had to check out the avocado toast at Toastique. I was like ‘I can make that at home.’ But no.” Along with the trademark artisanal toasts, Ting likes this boutique gourmet toast and juice bar’s fruit-laden Acai bowls and baked goods.

Culture Fix:

Artechouse is not a traditional gallery. The art is not hanging on the walls. It’s an immersive space where people can interact with art digitally created by international artists.” Ting loved a spring exhibit with walls and floors covered by video images of cherry blossom petals that blew around as visitors passed.

The Pearl District


Stroll through Portland’s Pearl District and you’re likely to find Jade Sheldon sketching, reading or shopping. It comes easy in a neighborhood where industrial depots have morphed into art galleries, eclectic restaurants, eye-catching retail vendors and parks. Sheldon, an illustrator, photographer and model born and bred in Portland, is in love. “The Pearl is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. People are so passionate about everything they do.” The District’s namesake is said to be Pearl Marie Amhara, an arts enthusiast who threw warehouse parties in the 1980s. There is still a festive vibe and palpable creativity in the air, paired now with wonderfully walkable streets. “It’s gotten better and better. And I’ve seen it happen.”

Serenity Now:

“One of the most beautiful and peaceful spots in the city is Lan Su Chinese Garden. I use any opportunity to go there, put my phone away, take out a sketchbook and absorb the moment.” The botanical garden is home to rare plants native to China, a tea shop and summer jazz festival.

Arts and Crafts:

Made Here PDX has wonderful products all made in the Pacific Northwest by local craftspeople, artisans and creators. I love the ceramics. But there’s everything you can imagine”–from sea salt and surfboards to handbags and belts, from 250 makers.


“I’ve been going to concerts at McMenamins Crystal Ballroom since high school, maybe three to five times a year,” Sheldon says of the historic 875-seat venue that’s more than 100 years old. She recently saw one of her idols there, singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis who just released a new album. “She’s the ultimate for me!”

The Hairy Lobster
The Hairy Lobster

Dinner Time:

The Hairy Lobster is a very Portland-style restaurant. It’s a really special place people might not have heard of before. Whether you’re a meat or fish eater, or a vegan like me, there’s something for you.” The cheekily named eatery offers market-fresh American fare in a rustic-chic space.

Tea for Two:

Smith Teamaker is probably one of my favorite spots in all of the city, not just the Pearl District.” A tearoom, workspace and art gallery created by the late founder of Tazo Tea, it epitomizes Portland. “I love trying new teas they are working on like the Rose City Genmaicha, or enjoying one of their new ‘tea mocktails.’ Perfect for any vacation.”

Recommendations from around the country


AMP by Strathmore: A live music offshoot of the celebrated nonprofit Strathmore arts center, the venue hosts nightly bluegrass, rock and jazz shows.


Katy Trail Ice House: The restaurant and beer garden–with 50 beers on tap–in the heart of Uptown Dallas was named best patio in the city.


Woodruff Arts Center: The visual and performing arts center, comprising the Alliance Theatre, the High Museum of Art and the Atlanta Symphony Hall, has something for everyone.


Faribault Woolen Mill Store: The brick and mortar is an urban offshoot for the iconic wool company, which was founded in southern Minnesota in 1865.


Cinemapolis Movie Theater: You don’t need a big city for cool, independent films. The venue offers first-run contemporary art films in the heart of the revitalized university town.


Thread: The curated lifestyle boutique carries big names as well as collections by local designers. The style of items ranges from vintage bohemian to minimalist.


Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe: Need a vacation read or a late-night dessert option? Check out the beloved indie bookstore and cafe, which has anchored the neighborhood since 1976.


Grandview Public Market: The sophisticated indoor food hub is anchored by El Cochinito, whose Cuban sandwich was crowned best in the country.

Discover More. 

This content is paid for by Canopy by Hilton and published by WP BrandStudio. The Washington Post newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more about WP BrandStudio.