A Local's Guide to Washington DC

A Local's Guide to Washington DC
The capital city by night, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Draw up your to-do list because Washington has plenty to offer

Sanskriti Chamaria
March 15 , 2019
07 Min Read

It isn’t the city that never sleeps, nor is it in the sunshine state. In fact, it doesn’t even qualify as a state. So why should one visit Washington DC? What makes it worth the trip besides being the US national capital and home to Capitol Hill? Well, plenty.

Part of the Newseum in Washington DCLet’s start with the museums. Even if you feel that museums aren’t for you, the museums of Washington are something else. They are designed to be interactive and provide an experience based on more than simply viewing. Everyone has heard of the Smithsonian, but the Spy Museum is one of my favourites. Not only is it possible to look at all the cool gadgets used by spies, one can also have their own 007 moment with “Operation Spy” in which groups of museum visitors are banded together to solve a crime. In fact, the museum is so popular with people of all ages that the Spy Museum is getting doubled in size this April. Another museum worth mentioning is the Newseum. It lets visitors see the inner workings of the free press—from how journalists track down information, right up to how the information is presented to the rest of the world. There is a section on how the press has influenced presidential campaigns over time and another one dedicated to the September 11 attacks. 

Did you know? You can book tours to enter the White HouseNow, mentioning the White House is not radical but it is definitely warranted. The number of people standing outside the gates on any given day and time is proof enough of how popular it is. The world wants a glimpse into the home and offices of the First Family of the United States. Peering through the gates at the iconic white mansion with its sprawling grounds is usually worth a visit and a tick on the bucket list for the crowds. But it held little appeal for me. What most people don’t know is that instead of standing outside the gates, you can actually take a tour instead inside just by planning ahead. All it takes is booking through your embassy, and you could be under the same roof as the President, even if for only a little while. If you happen to pass by someone important in the hallways, it’s a bonus! (Get more information on the tours here.)

Politics are exhausting to follow, so one can only imagine how tiring it is to be an active participant on a daily basis. So, it’s no surprise then that DC-ers take their after-work drinks very seriously. Late nights in DC are more the game of tourists and students, but post-work drinks are what DC is all about.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon is a must-visit as it houses among the best collections of whiskey you will ever see. Another one for the books is Columbia Room, which has consistently been voted the best bar in DC and has also been called one of the best in the country. It has a Tasting Room, which comes with a four-course cocktail menu, aside from the Punch Garden and a Spirit Library. Every part of the bar is more spectacular than the last, and each has its own distinctive feel. 

Washington’s cocktail bars are also well reputed with good reason. POV, which reopens Spring 2019, the rooftop bar of the W hotel, provides what the name promises—the best point of view of the city. The bar will reopen in the spring of this year and is expected to be even swankier than it used to be. Let’s also not forget the Watergate Hotel, which is famed for the downfall of President Nixon. If the political and historical significance doesn’t pull you to the hotel, the Top of the Gate rooftop bar definitely will. Once again, the views are breathtaking, but since it is by the side of the Potomac River, it has a certain edge over other rooftop bars.

Another major component that can make or break any trip is food. Luckily, DC doesn’t fall short in this respect either. The gastronomic choices are many in number, varied in cuisine and character, as well as of impeccable quality. Le Diplomate excels in delivering French cuisine in a Parisian sidewalk café-style restaurant. Fiola Mare and Masseria are both popular for Italian bites, though the former is a posh riverside restaurant, and the latter provides is more rustic.

Over the years, Washington has become home to one of the largest Ethiopian communities outside of Africa, and their food has been represented well. Chercher and Dukem are two of the many available Ethiopian options that shouldn’t be missed. Another distinguishing aspect of is DC is the rendition of American cuisine. American food usually strikes up an image of greasy food and large milkshakes in a typical diner but this isn’t true in DC. Restaurants like Pineapple and Pearls, Greenhouse at the Jefferson and Lafayette at Hay-Adams serve experimental American fare in differing high-end settings.

Georgetown is a little town of its town in DCWhen talking about DC, it’s impossible to skip Georgetown, the university neighbourhood within the city that is its own distinctive little town. Very different from the busy city, Georgetown is quieter, even slightly European. It is a canal-side locality with quaint restaurants, cafes, boutiques and shops. Instead of kayaking down the canals, the best way to explore is on foot. Pop into any of the myriad options one by one, for just one coffee, or just one snack to experience many of them and it will definitely be an evening well spent. Just don’t forget to wander into Georgetown Cupcakes at the end of the day for their irresistible Red Velvet Cupcake (if you’re lucky enough to get it).

It's cherry blossom season at the Tidal Basin and Jefferson MemorialLast but not least, it is imperative to mention DC’s National Cherry Blossom Festival. It isn’t just Japan. DC does it too, that too, over an entire month. In fact, the first Cherry Blossom Trees in DC were a gift from the Mayor of Tokyo to the city in 1912. Needless to say, the flourishing cherry blossoms in the springtime are splendid to witness and add to that the beautiful DC riverside. The month-long cherry blossom festival is designed to bring everyone outdoors and enjoy the flowers and the springtime. There are outdoor film screenings, parties, parades and more. This year’s parade is from March 20-April 14, and Petalpalooza (April 6) and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 13) are not to be missed!

If all these reasons aren’t enough, there are also vineyards and Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington just outside the city. As a matter of fact, DC is well positioned for one to explore the neighbouring regions of Maryland and Virginia. Washington is different from other American cities and one not to be skipped. It is a hub for history, culture, food and approaches all of these a little differently than everyone else. Washington DC may be a city by the elite, but it definitely is a city with something for everyone.

Getting there

Washington DC has 2 major international airports servicing it: Dulles International Airport and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. Most major carriers like American Airlines, British Airways, Turkish Airlines etc fly to either one or both airports. The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is in the city but is only services domestic flights. DC is also accessible by multiple bus companies, as well as the Amtrak trains. Buses and trains both serve the DC Union Station

The author's college was two hours from Washington DC. She would visit whenever a chance arose.

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