• Meats & Foods

The line between a hot dog and sausage is sometimes blurry, and if there's one link on this list that has a foot in each camp, it's DC's beloved half-smoke. It's no secret that we love Meats & Foods, and their half-beef, half-pork, don't-call-it-a-dog is the best in a city, with a flavor that stands up even without giving it a bath in chili.

  • The Blind Dog Cafe (address and info)

There are few things sadder than a disabled animal, but the owners of The Blind Dog honor their sightless mutt Baxter with one of the country's greatest morning meals: a flakey croissant jammed with farm-fresh local ingredients. Instead of complicating things with a grocery list of toppings, your choices are simple: bacon & goat cheese, chorizo & cheddar, pimento (the caviar of the South!), or crimini mushrooms & goat cheese, all topped with a frittata made using eggs from nearby Lancaster County's Kreider Farms.

  • Shaw

We'd be remiss not to include our nation's capital in this here list, and the 'hood du-jour is undoubtedly Shaw. It might not have the same quantity of bars as some of the other places we've mentioned, but its inclusion is warranted thanks to a trio of drinkeries from don't-call-him-a-mixologist Derek Brown. Pick your whiskey from the massive list at Southern Efficiency, order up cocktail pitchers like the batched martini at Eat the Rich (with a side of oysters, of course), or sample any of the many 50+ sherries at Mockingbird Hill. Right Proper and Dacha are the places to go for pints, Ivy & Coney is your dive, and All Souls or A&D are also capital decisions for budget beer-and-a-shot specials.

  • Maketto

Trying to be all things to all people can be perilous, but damn if Maketto doesn’t manage to pull it off. Coffee shop and neighborhood hub for the laptop set, hip local boutique and destination bakery, possessor of sick vending machines -- there’s a lot happening. But the one happening you absolutely cannot miss is the Taiwanese fried chicken when you rightly head there for a taste bud-stunning Southeast Asian dinner (these are the folks who brought you DC ramen kingpin Toki Underground). Also not to be missed are fried oyster topped-rolled omelette, whole fried fish, wok-fried noodles... and if you’re afraid you’re going too deep on the fried items, maybe throw in a Wagyu bao platter for a curveball. Oh, and because it's already proven it can do, well, just about everything, it rolled out weekend dim sum this fall -- maybe a hotel next so you can just live there all week? -- ML

  • The Smithsonian's Lesser-Known Museums

The Mall is full of blockbuster museums like the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum, and the National Gallery of art—but there are charming corners tucked away in other Smithsonian institutions. At the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (linked by an underground passage, they are often described as a single destination), don't miss the opulent decor and antique ceramics in the Peacock Room; nor should you skip Life magazine photographer Eliot Elisofon's archives at the National Museum of African Art. For the next several months the entire Renwick Gallery, the home of contemporary craft and decorative arts, is dedicated to a new exhibition called Wonder, an installation of works from its permanent collection

  • U.S. National Arboretum

Located in northeast DC just south of New York Avenue, the Arboretum is one of the city's more difficult destinations to reach. (You'll need to either drive or take the B2 Metrobus.) It's worth the effort, though, with 446 acres of forests, meadows, and gardens accessible with more than nine miles of paths. What to see? Start with its stunning showcase of bonsai trees, koi ponds, and—most striking—a collection of sandstone columns removed from the Capitol building during a 1958 renovation that stand alone in a green field.

  • Mary McLeod Bethune Council House

Just off Logan Circle, the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House, a National Historic Site, sits inside a beautiful Victorian townhouse that once housed the headquarters of the National Council of Negro Women. (The organization, founded in 1935 by McLeod Bethune, has since moved to larger digs on Pennsylvania Avenue.) You may have to knock to get in, but the tour you'll get will be both personal and illuminating, a deep dive into the historical happenings and achievements from the group and its enigmatic leader

  • President Lincoln's Cottage

Continue this rich experience with a visit to President Lincoln's country getaway, now located within the Armed Forces Retirement Home (known locally as the "Old Soldiers' Home"). Using the cottage as a summer White House, Lincoln would regularly make the 3.5-mile commute from downtown DC alone and on horseback. It's also where the 16th president drafted the Emancipation Proclamation. Though the space inside is minimally furnished, there's plenty to see an experience in this "museum of ideas," which explores Lincoln's time here through the context of the Civil War.

  • Frederick Douglass's Cedar Hill

Head further south to explore Cedar Hill, the bucolic home of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, located in the southeast neighborhood of Anacostia. (In his later life, Douglass became known as the "Sage of Anacostia.") The charismatic and brilliant public figure lived in Cedar Hill from 1877 until his death in 1895. Highlights include his library, nearly covered in books; and the "growlery," a one-room stone cabin where he could be free to work in seclusion.

  • Anacostia Community Museum

While you're in the neighborhood, stop by the Anacostia Community Museum dedicated to local and national black history. Founded in 1966 as "an experimental store-front museum," its first home was a former movie theater. Now housed in a custom-designed building, the museum's exhibits include a look at how the Civil War shaped Washington and a future show on the artist group the Spiral Collective.

  • Black Broadway

Now better known as the U Street corridor, this bustling strip once played host to jazz greats like Duke Ellington (who grew up nearby), Cab Calloway, Pearl Bailey, Sarah Vaughn, Jelly Roll Morton, and Billie Holiday. Many of the venues that established U Street's importance still exist: catch live jazz at Bohemian Caverns, or a concert or comedy show at the Lincoln or Howard Theatre, where Ella Fitzgerald once competed in and won an amateur contest.

  • Local Cuisine

The city's recent rising culinary scene has been widely covered, but there are still classic mainstays worth savoring, too. For a DC-style slice of pizza (cheese on the bottom, sauce on the top), try Vace in Cleveland Park. For an iconic DC half-smoke (a larger, spicier, and meatier hot dog), Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street is your best bet. Nearby, at the Florida Avenue Grill, you can dive into soul food that the venue has served since 1944. The city is also known for its Ethiopian and Salvadoran food (from two of its largest immigrant communities), which are best showcased at Dukem Restaurant on U Street and El Riconcito in Columbia Heights

  • The Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage

Here, you can catch free shows every day at 6 p.m., in the Kennedy Center's Grand Foyer—from jazz ensembles and choirs, to ragtime acts and performances by talented area youth.

  • The Potomac River

DC is centered on the convergence of two rivers—the Potomac and the Anacostia. Its larger river, the Potomac, divides the city from the tree-lined Virginia shore, and when the weather permits, it's a unique way to see the city. Check out Fletcher's Boathouse or the Key Bridge Boathouse for rowboat, canoe, and kayak rentals.

  • Arlington House

Originally the house of Robert E. Lee's wife's family—a descendent of Martha Washington—Arlington House is now most famous for being home to the man who lead the Confederate Army. It's located at the top of a particularly lovely hill whose most remarkable feature is that it's surrounded by Arlington National Cemetery. The practice of burying American soldiers there began as an affront to Lee, whose home lay in Union territory. The first graves (and consequently the oldest in the cemetery) were dug on his front lawn. Go for the history, but stay for the view.

  • Wicked Bloom DC

Sometimes a bar arrives and answers an extremely specific need. In the case of Wicked Bloom, it was the need to have a convenient place to sit down and enjoy some fine beverages alongside the beloved BBQ from DCity Smokehouse -- which is maybe why the folks behind said BBQ thought it might make sense to open a more sitting-conducive drinkery while waiting for their larger location to open in 2016. Of course, they didn't just take the food for granted -- that's where the mac & cheese waffle topped with smoked meats, cheese sauce, and sour cream called the Smokehouse Bomb came in. Of course, it takes some seriously impressive beverages to stand up to such a creation, which is why they tapped a guy from local oyster 'n cocktail go-to Eat the Rich to preside over a constantly turned-over cocktail selection that hits the perfect sweet (but not TOO sweet) spot between classic and contemporary. -- Matt Lynch, deputy editor

  • Off the Record, The Hay-Adams

In a city overflowing with skeletons stuffed in closets and where any sort of social gathering space doubles as a venue for elbow-rubbing and relentless networking, politicking, plotting, secret back-room dealings... ooof, sorry, House of Cards binging in preparation for the new season... anyway, it's nice to be in a bar that is tongue-in-cheek about it all. It likes to bill itself as Downtown DC's place to be "seen and not heard," which is a cute way of referring to all the networking, politicking, plotting, secret back-room dealings, etc. An old-school DC bar that was once a hotspot for politicians and the journalists who love them (hoo-boy, if those walls could talk...), Off the Record is a super-sexy space (in that old-school DC way) with a so-so cocktail list, worse beer list, slightly better wine list, and surprisingly great Scotch list. Therefore, this is a place where you order Scotch. Scotch Scotch Scotch.

  • Mount Vernon Square Bed and Breakfast

This charming bed and breakfast is within walking distance of some of the best attractions the city has to offer. The restored building is over 100 years old, and your stay includes a family-style breakfast served daily. There are just five rooms available that contribute to the b&b’s cozy vibe but rooms do book up so be sure to reserve well in advance!

  • Capitol Skyline Hotel

The Capitol Skyline Hotel is a budget-friendly option in a notoriously expensive city, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on amenities. The outdoor pool transforms into a lively party over weekends in the summertime, a shuttle service to landmarks is provided, and WiFi is free. If you’re hoping to save a bit while staying in DC without scrimping on amenities, look no further.

  • Dupont Stay

Close to public transit, Dupont Stay provides a comfortable, basic option in a great neighborhood. There are many restaurant and shopping options in walking distance to explore! And there's also a kitchen on-site if you’d like to cook during your trip to save a few bucks.

  • Tour the Green Hat Distillery

For something a little different from your standard brewery tour, head to the Green Hat Gin Distillery to learn more about the production of DC’s own craft gin. They also hold bottling parties, which is a very fun, hands-on way to learn about the ins and outs on the gin making process.

  • The Smithsonian

This is a broad category as the Smithsonian is made up of several different museums and galleries throughout DC. We recommend choosing a few favorites rather than trying to squeeze them all. Major highlights include the Natural History Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. There’s something for everyone within the Smithsonian and, best of all, most of these museums are free to visit.

  • The Kennedy Center

This building itself is a sight to behold, located right along the Potomac River and adjacent to the infamous Watergate complex. Inside, this performing arts center hosts everything from ballets to folk music acts. While there, head up to the rooftop restaurant for great views of the city.

  • Renwick Gallery

Though the Renwick Gallery is technically part of the Smithsonian, we thought its immense popularity warranted a separate section. After a two-year renovation, the gallery recently re-opened and was met with serious acclaim. The museum is home to contemporary craft and decorative art, and its opening exhibit, Wonder, has caused most of DC to collectively lose their minds.

  • Eastern Market

Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, Eastern Market is a food and arts market that is a hub for fresh produce and local artisans. Visit on the weekend and you’ll find it bustling with locals and tourists alike. There is both an indoor and outdoor market to explore with the indoor focusing more on food items.

  • Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is a breathtaking slice of nature that cuts through the city. It’s one of the oldest national parks, and is home to great trails and incredible scenery. An ideal trip here is spent hiking part of the park’s 30+ mile trails and enjoying a picnic right after.

  • Great Falls National Park

Though Great Falls is in Virginia rather than DC proper, it’s worth a daytrip—and, really, it’s just 15 miles away from DC so you won’t have to travel far. Here, the Potomac River flows into the Mather Gorge, allowing visitors to see the dramatic falls from a number of different overlooks. Whitewater boating is also permitted here.

  • Meridian Hill Park

Meridian Hill Park was designed to look like an Italian Garden, and as result you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to Europe upon arriving. Though the park is not large, especially compared to Rock Creek, it is easily accessible and a great spot to enjoy the outdoors on a nice day. Locals frequently picnic here on the weekends, and on Sunday afternoons you’ll be able to listen to the famous drum circle that’s assembled here regularly since the 1950s.

  • Current Boutique

There are a few different Current Boutique locations in the DC area, each brimming with great clothes at fantastic prices. This consignment shop consistently has a great selection—including premium designers. The clothing is in good shape and the stores are all well organized, so you won’t spend ages digging through piles.

  • Union Market

A market in every sense, Union Market is a smorgasbord of delicious restaurants, high-quality grocers, and locally run retailers. Head here for lunch and on a nice day take your food outside to enjoy in the sun. After you inevitably have one too many tacos (as we all do while here), peruse through the vendors to find everything from spices, beauty products, home accessories, and even hard to find Asian groceries.

  • Salt & Sundry

Conveniently located in the aforementioned Union Market (with an additional location in the Logan Circle neighborhood), Salt & Sundry offers a beautifully curated shopping experience where you can find home goods, jewelry, accessories, and trinkets. Find gifts for your loved ones or stock up on original pieces to make a statement in your own home.

  • Georgetown Shops

Georgetown is admittedly a huge area, but it’s one of the best spots to do some serious shopping in the city. On M Street, Wisconsin Avenue, and the neighboring side streets, you’ll find just about everything you could ever want or need. Though there are many larger chain shops here (Club Monaco and Madewell to name a few), you’ll also find local shops as well.

  • Glen’s Garden Market

Glen’s Garden Market represents something of a radical food idea. Every single item in the store is sourced from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area, with no exception, and that distinction is evident in its offerings. Head to the deli counter and order one of the delicious sandwiches or salads for a meal that is healthy, locally sourced, and affordable.

  • Compass Coffee

This is a great local coffee shop that fills up daily with laptops and people meeting for a quick drink. They roast all of their coffee locally, and pay extra attention to every drink that they make. The interior is modern, warm, and invite you to stick around and relax. Head here for a croissant and a coffee for a quick and easy breakfast.

  • Cava Grill

Cava Grill is the fast-casual brother of the DC restaurant Cava Mezze and it does not disappoint. This Mediterranean spot allows you to customize your meal exactly how you’d like with ingredients like harissa, spicy lamb meatballs, pickled banana peppers, and some of the best feta out there. There are a few locations throughout the city, and they’re rapidly expanding, so expect to hear this name again!

  • Maki Shop

Maki Shop takes the do-it-yourself model to another level by giving you the means to roll your own sushi! This fast-casual style restaurant lets you pick from fresh raw fish delicacies to more inventive variations such as curry chicken or beef short rib, made all in a sushi hand roll and ready for you to devour. This is a great, affordable spot perfect for a light lunch or snack.

  • Le Diplomate

The definitive destination for DC Francophiles, Le Diplomate could have easily been uprooted from the center of Paris and dropped into DC. The classic bistro decor and the sight of freshly baked baguettes as you walk in gives off a very authentic feel—and it doesn’t end there. The menu offers all of the French classics from beef bourguignon to great local cheese plates. The sidewalk tables are perfect for a glass of wine and people watching, but be sure to make reservations! This spot fills up quickly.

  • Maketto

The restaurant itself is a garage-like structure that is open to the outside during the warmer months, and serves up an interpretation of Cambodian and Taiwanese cooking. Start with either the leek or pork bao buns, and then get adventurous with your other choices by indulging in bone marrow or savory curries. In addition to the restaurant, Maketto also houses a fantastic cafe upstairs, as well as a shop, making it a really fun spot to spend a few hours.

  • Rose’s Luxury

At this family-owned establishment in Barracks Row the food is daring in both concept and flavor. If you aren’t sure about the menu or what to order, the knowledgeable staff will guide you, depending on your tastes and likes. Though the menu often changes, the pork and lychee salad is a must order! Tip: Arrive early as they do not accept reservations. The line begins to form more than an hour before opening, probably because Rose’s Luxury was voted the best new restaurant in America in 2014 by Bon Appétit. President Obama even ate here for his birthday in 2015!

  • The Dabney

The newly opened restaurant in Shaw does not disappoint on creativity or execution. The restaurant focuses heavily on local ingredients in both food and drinks. Try some of the inventive cocktails that contain interesting additions like house-made sorghum vinegar or stone fruit bitters. After sipping a drink or two, order the southern-influenced courses that frequently change based on what’s in season.

  • Red Hen

Come for the mouthwatering pasta that is made in-house, and stay for the extremely well curated wine list and ambience. The grilled octopus is often touted as a standout, but generally every single item on the menu is worth an order. An insider’s secret: You can order cacio e pepe even though it’s not on the menu! It consists of perfectly cooked pasta covered in butter, Parmesan, and freshly ground black pepper. Who can’t get behind that?

  • Ghibellina

By far one of the best happy hour spots in the area, drop in for affordable wine, beer, and cocktails while enjoying a stone-fired pizza from 4:00 to 6:30 p.m. daily (yes, even on weekends). The marble bar makes for a great location to spend a few hours with friends, and you can enjoy a fresh breeze as the restaurant opens its front windows on nice days.The olive e carciofi pizza is a must order!

  • Room 11

It’s worth a trip to the Columbia Heights neighborhood to check out this fantastic bar with a relaxed, neighborhood vibe. It’s a good, low-key destination when you want to chat with friends over a glass of wine. The outdoor patio makes for the perfect spot to catch up and relax. During the day stop by for coffee and snacks, as well as for brunch on the weekends.

  • The Columbia Room

Look no further for a fancy cocktail experience, making you question ordering a standard vodka soda ever again. You’ll pay a little extra, but the price allows you to try top shelf drinks with carefully crafted, high-end ingredients. And if you want something different, consider reservations for their three-course tasting menu, which includes small plates and cocktail pairings.

  • Copy Cat Co.

The bar sits in a comfortably on a second floor in the ever-changing H Street Corridor. The professionals behind the bar are artisans—they take your drink very seriously, so you’re in for an incredible cocktail experience. The menu is often scrawled on a sliding chalkboard that lists hundreds of variations on different cocktail classics. And if you haven’t had dinner yet, the bar lets you order dumplings, steamed buns, and meat skewers from the small restaurant downstairs.

  • 2BR/2.5BTH PH Loft featured on HGTV

Shaw Rate: $299/night What you get: Entire loft (accommodates four): two bedrooms; 2.5 bathrooms If you're looking at this listing and thinking, "Hey did I see that place on HGTV?," the answer is yes, yes you did! And now you can totally stay there. The two-story unit has two private decks off both bedrooms and a balcony off the front. Four skylights flood the space with natural light, and there's a fireplace in the living room. It's also situated in Mount Vernon Sq in the center of DC's trendy Shaw neighborhood, and close to the Convention Center and Chinatown.

  • Little Coco's

For aperol spritzes

  • Urbana

Tucked away under Kimpton’s relatively modern Hotel Palomar near Dupont Circle, Urbana boasts a popular bar scene with a daily cocktail hour. In addition to $1 oysters and a satisfying raw bar, you can choose from an aperitif-heavy cocktail list. We especially like the Constituent Cup, an Italian spritz using Nardini Taglatello, fennel liqueur, lemon and sugar to mimic the flavors of an English favorite, the Pimm’s Cup—while the seasonal Piccola Perla infuses vermouth with chamomile and the Suits Get Crazy combines rum, tiki bitters and aperol. The bar menu also includes smaller, Italian bites and snacks to round out your experience.

nov 17 2015 ∞
aug 5 2019 +