When you think of Washington D.C, you probably think of museums, monuments, memorials, that little thing called the White House, and boss scenes from Scandal. But the capital city is more than just politics and power players. Over the past few years, the capital city has shaken off its stuffy rep to become, well, cool. With a new wave of bars, boutiques and restaurants, a vibrant arts scene, and some seriously stunning scenery, it’s worth popping over on your next trip to the US.
WHAT TO SEE
The Washington Monument. The city is flush with historical monuments, but this one is pretty special. Sitting pretty on the National Mall, it’s the place where presidents’ inaugurations are held, and where Martin Luther King delivered his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. For the best snaps, time your visit with sunset. And while you’re there, swing by the Lincoln Memorial and the Tidal Basin.
District Wharf. Right on the waterfront, the new District Wharf is lined with buzzy restaurants, cafes and boutiques, and it’s quickly become the place to eat, drink and shop in the city. Stroll around, then go all the way up to Whiskey Charlie, the Wharf’s first rooftop bar.
East Potomac Park. If you’re in DC during cherry blossom season, see the pink flowers in full bloom at this park. Try to go insanely early to avoid the swarms of tourists trying to take the exact same photo.
Georgetown. Splash some cash in Georgetown, a charming neighbourhood with cobblestoned streets and old-school homes. A shopper’s paradise, the streets are dotted with one-off boutiques as well as chain stores. Warning: your credit card might be in danger at Relish and Salt & Sundry…
Nationals Park. During baseball season, head to the iconic Nationals Park, and drink beers in the sun all afternoon while pretending to know what’s going on. #murica
Rock Creek Park. This scenic slice of nature cuts right through the city. It’s one of the country’s oldest national parks – it’s home to plenty of trails, so you can go for a hike or bike ride or just flop over for a picnic.
Key Bridge Boathouse. When the weather’s warm, leave dry land to paddle past Washington’s sights on the river. The boathouse rents kayaks and paddleboards.
The Smithsonian. ‘The Smithsonian’ is a string of 17 museums and galleries across DC, and most of them are free. To get your culture fix, check out one or two, like the trendy Renwick Gallery (last year, it had a Burning Man exhibit) and the National History Museum. The highlight is the software that shows you what you would’ve looked like in the caveman era. The newish National Museum of African American History and Culture is another goodie. The exhibits are eye-opening and book up early, so try to nab tickets in advance.
Newseum. If you love writing and photography, the Newseum is a must. It’s packed with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs as well as famous newspapers and front pages from around the world.
The Kennedy Center. Perched on the Potomac River, the building itself is beautiful, especially when it’s lit up at night. Inside, the performing arts centre hosts ballet and music performances (and sometimes, they’re free) and upstairs, the rooftop bar has epic views of the city.
The National Arboretum. The Arboretum is often hired out for shoots, and for good reason: it’s a bit of a show off. If you’re obsessed with succulents, drop by the National Bonsai Museum – it’s a plant lover’s dream.
George Washington’s estate in Mount Vernon. Hop in the car and cruise 30 mins outside the city to Mt Vernon. America’s founding father lived there, and the house and grounds are pretty much intact so you can get a peek into life in the 18th century.
WHERE TO EAT
Zytinya. For delicious Turkish, Greek and Lebanese mezze (share plates), head here. It’s owned by Jose Andres, who, fun fact: pulled out of a restaurant contract with Trump Hotels after Donald Trump made negative comments about Mexican people.
Mi Vida. Speaking of Mexican, feast on all the tacos, burritos and guac you can handle at this spot, which is in a prime spot on District Wharf.
Bidwell Restaurant. Pizza for breakfast? Yes, please! Tucked inside Union Market, this place puts on a sweet brunch spread that includes woodfired pizza.
Rose’s Luxury. This fairy-lit eatery is wildly popular, and it doesn’t take reservations so you can expect to wait in line. It’s worth every second – and as a bonus, Rose’s donates 25 cents for every meal eaten to the World Food Program.
Kapnos. For the best brunch in DC, make your way to this Greek restaurant and load up on oven-baked eggs, crispy lamb, fetta and creative plates like Greek coffee waffles.
Chaia. Vegetarian? This shop serves up street food-inspired eats, like veggie tacos and handmade tortillas.
The Dabney. If you’re in the mood for Southern-style comfort food, you’ll find it at this newly opened restaurant. And PS. the cocktails are amazing.
Little Serow. Craving Thai? For date night, go to this romantic restaurant – it whips up a pad thai that hits the spot every time.
Ben’s Chili Bowl. Washington DC’s signature street food is the ‘half smoke,’ which is basically a hot dog made with beef and pork, smoked over the grill, and smothered in chilli or mustard and onions. Ben’s serves the best in the city.
Red Hen. A local favourite, Red Hen is the kind of place you’d go to on the reg if you lived in the city. It serves classic Italian, but you can’t go paste the handmade cacio e pepe pasta.
Ice Cream Jubilee. The owner, Victoria Lai, quit her job as a lawyer to make ice-cream, and hasn’t looked back. Try an out-of-the-box flavour, like Banana Bourbon Caramel.
Colada Shop. The tagline for this bright blue-and-red cafe is “Come Curious, Leave Cuban.” Sold! Perfect for a full meal or just cocktails, it’s lively every day of the week. Try to score a spot on the patio.
WHERE TO DRINK
Calico. Do as the locals do and go to Calico for cocktails and rose. The outdoor space is diving during the summer, and during the cooler months the team brings out the snuggies.
Proof. We know you’re fancy, so pop into Proof at least once. The wine bar has every drop you can imagine, and puts on a sweet happy hour on weekdays.
Ghibellina. After a day spent exploring, treat yourself to a drink at Ghibellina. Happy hour runs from 4pm to 6.30pm every day, including weekends, so bottoms up!
Copycat Co. H Street is the dining and drinking destination of DC, and Copycat Co is a great spot to start the night. They take their cocktails seriously, and with the classic American freepour, you can expect to get nicely buzzed.
Atlas Arcade. If you can’t go past a good dive bar (or you’re already a tad drunk), head to Atlas Arcade. It’s super chill, and there are a bunch of retro arcade games to play – or ask a cute boy to teach you how. 😉
District Winery. Welcome to the first winery in DC. Perched on the Wharf, it has panoramic views of the city and even makes its own rose on-site.
Bluejacket. More of a beer person? DC’s craft beer scene is next-level, and you can get a taste at Bluejacket, which is a brewery, restaurant and tasting room rolled into one.
Dacha Beer Garden. When the sun is shining, go straight to Dacha. It’s the ideal summer sitch, and attracts everyone from college kids to cute older couples who have been together for decades.
Bar Pilar. Sometimes, you just need a boozy slushie. This bar has an impressive wine and cocktail list (and pours with a very heavy hand), but the colourful, sugary slushies are just too good.
Wanderlust by Katia Iervasi