Washington DC Travel Guide
What do we know about DC? Yes, it’s the nation’s capital, home to the United States government and well; there are a ton of monuments and museums (all of which are worth visiting). What those of us who are not from DC typically fail to realise is that beyond politics, it’s a pretty amazing city and destination. The metro system is very easy to use, the shopping is world-class, and there’s an abundance of sights to see. Some pretty important people are constantly visiting the capital, so, of course, the hotel options are all going to be top-notch and ready for dignitaries. And the culinary scene in the city has been on a constant climb that continues to keep it growing, always outdoing itself. DC has some of the best restaurants in the United States, and if you just go there to eat, you won’t be disappointed. But there’s also something else about the city which makes it unique, and that’s the atmosphere – it’s a perfect blend of hustle and bustle with upscale and refined (if you know where to look). Wondering what to do in DC? Mr Hudson has got you covered.
The Watergate Hotel, which recently reopened in June 2016, is super chic and no expense was spared during its $125 million renovation
The best hotels in Washington DC
Starting with the classics, there are two Ritz-Carlton properties within the city limits. First, the Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C., which is the larger of the two, is situated on 22nd Street, which is right in the heart of it all. The smaller more boutique property is the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown features 86 guest rooms that include all of their suites (32 in total). The Four Seasons, Washington D.C. is another great option. The hotel is the city’s only five-star, five-diamond luxury hotel, has six different presidential suites and recently underwent a $13 million renovation focused on providing guests with an experience shaped towards the “art of sleep.”
The Watergate Hotel, which recently reopened in June 2016, is super chic and no expense was spared during its $125 million renovation. Their spa is also said to be one of the best spas in D.C., rivalling the spas at the Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons. The Kimpton hotel brand has two properties, and both provide a more fun yet upscale experience. The Kimpton Mason & Rook is set up with rooms full of texture and oversized bathrooms. The rooftop here has green walls, a grill and a pool scene worth visiting.
Things to do in Washington DC
There’s a tonne of things to do in Washington DC. This city’s attractions include some of the most impressive monuments in the world, and we expect you will be spending some time visiting each of them, but beyond the monuments and the better-known museums are a few other must-visit experiences that will make your DC trip extra memorable. One of those experiences is spending time at the National Building Museum, home to exhibits about architecture, urban planning, and design. Each summer they install a family-friendly pop-up. Last years installation as “The Beach,” which was a ball pit filled with one million tiny white balls, umbrellas and snack bars. This year was “Icebergs,” which had giant icebergs replicas hanging between the six-story columns inside their Great Hall. This summer, the museum also showcased “Small Stories,” an exhibit of 300-years of dolls houses. The Phillips Collection is also very much worth the time. A petite but astonishing collection of private art that now hosts major exhibits in a mansion near Dupont Circle. The Phillips is the first museum of modern art in the U.S and includes works of arts by Picasso, Modigliani, Braque, as well as mid-century masters like Rothko and contemporary artists like Wolfgang Leib.
D.C. is full of national parks including Rock Creek Park, a 1,800-acre park that winds through the city. Inside the park is a stable where one can book trail rides. It’s something different within a city, but surprisingly thrilling to ride up and down the hills and alongside the streams. And like most major cities, there’s a booze scene, but instead of spending all your time at the bars (which there are plenty of), check out some behind the scenes tours (and tastings). Bluejacket Brewery, which uses a host of methods to make beer, including natural yeast, is in the Navy Yard and has loads of great beers (theirs) on tap. And Joseph A. Magnus & Co. makes bourbon, and recently won gold medals at the World Spirits Competition this year. The distillery offers free tours and gives visitors the opportunity to explore the bourbon and gin distillery.
Convivial is a refined Frenchman’s take on an American bistro, with dishes such as escargot in blankets and soft shell crab meunière.
Where to eat in Washington DC
First and foremost, make reservations now for Fiola, which opened in 2011 and is still one of the city’s premier dining establishments, and is best described as an upscale trattoria, which uses the freshest ingredients for its daily changing menu. In 2014, famed chef Fabio Trabocchi and his partner/wife Maria (who happens to be super fabulous, and is usually found between their restaurants chatting with guests), opened Fiola Mare (where President Obama recently celebrated his birthday) similar to their flagship restaurant, offering the same world-class hospitality but this time with views of the Potomac River. Fiola Mare is a seafood restaurant and gives one the impression that they are dining on the Mediterranean and Italian coasts.
Over at the Four Seasons, ENO Wine Bar is perfect for a light meal or pre/post drinks. ENO specialises in pairings, and the chocolate pairing is something that should be experienced by everyone. Also at the Four Seasons, is Bourbon Steak, a restaurant by celebrity chef Michael Mina. Its a modern and visually appealing steakhouse offering some of the best cuts of meat in the city. Some other places to definitely check out, and wait in line for, as they don’t take reservations include Little Serow, which has no more than 30 seats and serves a zero-substitutions progressive menu of about seven or eight Northern Thai dishes. Bad Saint is a 24-seat Filipino restaurant with great cocktails in Columbia Heights. Rose’s Luxury is eclectic new American with a rooftop lounge and was named best new restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appetit. Chef-owner Aaron Silverman just opened a prix-fix menu ($250 including food, alcohol, tax and tip) restaurant, Pineapple and Pearls, which does take reservations and serves as a coffee shop in the morning.
D.C.’s next go-to dining neighbourhood is Shaw, and the restaurants currently there, prove it. Convivial is a refined Frenchman’s take on an American bistro, with dishes such as escargot in blankets and soft shell crab meunière. Espita Mezcaleria has 80 kinds of mezcal for your sipping pleasure, and the Oaxacan menu features ceviches, tacos and of course, moles. The Dabney is more regional food, and most of the cooking is done in a huge wood-burning hearth. The bare tables and brick walls play well into the unpretentious atmosphere, while the openness allows the kitchen team to showcase their skills. Just above The Dabney is The Columbia Room, which has three spaces: a punch bar (outside deck), a liquor library (cocktail menu and order as you wish), and the Columbia Room (a 3 or 5 drink tasting menu). Lastly, for those who like to wander and find something on their own, Union Market is ideal for this.
Shopping in Washington DC
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United States Capitol
Convivial | Photo: Scott Suchman
Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Four Seasons Washington D.C.
The Phillips Collection Rothko Room. Courtesy of The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC | Photo: Robert Lautman
Rosewood Washington D.C.