The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How Luke Barnett of ‘Floor is Lava’ would spend a perfect day in D.C.

Placeholder while article actions load

In D.C. Dream Day, we ask our favorite people in the area to tell us how they would spend a perfect day in the District.

Like many a child of the Nickelodeon generation, Luke Barnett grew up watching “Double Dare,” “Guts” and “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” all while fantasizing about navigating one of those gimmicky game show courses himself.

Eventually, Barnett got his shot — just a couple of decades later than expected. Earlier this month, the 39-year-old actor and screenwriter could be seen alongside fellow entertainers Chris Mann and Tanner Thomason in the Season 2 premiere of Netflix’s “Floor Is Lava.” And not only did Barnett compete — he and his teammates, who played with baby dolls strapped to their chests and billed themselves as “Team Bad Daditude,” navigated the faux magma with such aplomb that they edged two other trios to win the episode.

“It was genuinely insane,” says Barnett, who grew up in Clinton, Md., before relocating to Los Angeles in his 20s. “They don’t let you see the actual course whatsoever until you walk out there to do it, and it is way bigger than it looks on TV. But it was more fun than I even imagined — it really was. Like, 11-year-old Luke Barnett was living his fantasy.”

Keeping the Bad Daditude spirit alive, Barnett returns for an unabashedly touristy D.C. dream day that’s all about sharing his hometown with his wife, Emily, and their 3-year-old daughter, Penny.

I should preface this by saying that if you would have asked me 10 years ago, the article would be called, “What are the best bars in D.C.?” because that’s all that I would really do. But I have a 3-year-old now, so this trip would be oriented around their first time experiencing D.C.

We’d start out by waking up at the Kimpton Banneker hotel near Dupont Circle and jog-walking — because I’m very slow — down to the Lincoln Memorial. Then we’re taking the Metro everywhere, because it’s awful in LA. When we’re not on the Metro, we’re rollerblading. That’s right — in this world, rollerblading is very cool again. So we’d Metro and rollerblade to Ted’s Bulletin on Capitol Hill for breakfast. I went there for the first time during my last trip to D.C., and their homemade pop-tarts are possibly the best thing I’ve ever had — I had one on my first day there, and I came back every morning and got another.

Then we’re full-on tourists. We’re going to the National Mall, we’re riding the carousel, we’re at the National Museum of Natural History, we’re at the National Museum of American History, we’re at the National Air and Space Museum. And there are no lines anywhere — it’s just us and the museums. The thing about growing up in D.C. and then moving somewhere else is you really appreciate D.C. more than you did when you were a kid. Whenever I’ve gone back with family or friends who aren’t from D.C., I can look over at them and they have just this awestruck look. You just forget how beautiful the city is, and how much history is in D.C.

Next, we’d make our way from the museums to Ben’s Chili Bowl. We’re getting the biggest bowl of old-fashioned chili they have, then watching tourists watch politicians eat lunch. After that, we’d basically spend the entire afternoon at the National Zoo.

By this point, usually I’d want to go out to happy hour, maybe at Old Ebbitt Grill, and have an old-school Italian dinner at Caruso’s Grocery. Or maybe I’d end up at 9:30 Club or the Black Cat, since I try to hit those whenever I go back to D.C. But in this case, after all the rollerblading and the Metro and the museums, I’m asleep at 6. So it feels like my day is going to end — until my phone goes off. It’s a call from Jon, Ben and Jeff, a few of my D.C. friends, and all of a sudden we’re having dinner at the Waterfront and we’re going to Nationals Park. The Nats are playing the Dodgers. Who wins? Well, let’s not ruin a nice article.

Loading...