The capital of the United States, the District of Columbia sits wedged between the Mid-Atlantic states of Maryland and Virginia, alongside the Potomac River.
In a country that’s not often long on history, Washington stands out, with the densest collection of museums and monuments in the United States.
As the nation’s capital, the District isn’t short on transport options: it’s got no fewer than three airports, if you count BWI, and it’s at one end of what passes in these parts for a high-speed rail network.
With its marble sidewalks, Parisian-style plan and giant-scaled National Mall, D.C. is made for walking. Choose your footwear wisely.
Washington D.C. is the epitome of a company town, the sort of place where business hours tend to extend indefinitely into the evening. But the social nature of the work means that much of it happens in public establishments — so despite its slightly square image, D.C. is blessed with an impressive diversity of bars and restaurants. The dining landscape spans from the traditional steak-house spots where lobbyists entertain to tucked-away ethnic boutiques serving some of this country’s tastiest overseas adaptations — take the runaway success of Thai bolthole Little Serow, in Dupont Circle, as proof of the latter. And the nightlife options come in a similar variety, with a bar for every taste (and every political persuasion).
For happy hour, a highly appreciated local custom, the city’s boutique hotels are established fixtures. Drinks at the Kimpton group’s Donovan House attract a sophisticated crowd enjoying the sweeping views down to the National Shrine, tempted by specials on St. Germain cocktails and glasses of bubbly. Over at The Dupont Circle Hotel’s Bar Dupont, the ever-growing cocktail list challenges taste buds with market-fresh ingredients, while floor-to-ceiling windows and a generous terrace overlooking the namesake grassy circle make it an ideal spot for spying the local scene.
For lunch, check out Founding Farmers in Foggy Bottom, where the bar can look like a composite picture of the D.C. dining population: a table of businessmen, a foodie tourist on a barstool, and a media type lecturing a fellow scribe on the minutiae of Bloody Mary–making. This glassy, light-filled space with its eco-friendly, rustic-chic décor has been packed more or less since it opened, thanks to some deeply satisfying classic American dishes, like fried green tomatoes with goat cheese and green goddess dip. When it’s time for dinner, we suggest heading downtown for some bold flavor at chef Art Smith’s recently revamped Southern eatery, Art & Soul Restaurant, located right next to the Liaison Capitol Hill Hotel. His Chesapeake fry, a combination of deep-fried seafood and okra, is the dish to order. Just ask Oprah, for whom Smith once worked as a private chef.
It’s an article of faith in America that capitalist competition breeds excellence — and this is one area where the conventional wisdom holds true. As long as D.C.’s frenzied dining-and-nightlife arms race keeps on bearing such tasty fruit — be it Hotel Palomar’s Bottomless Bellini brunch, or District Commons’s evening family meal (which goes for $12 at 10pm), or Ceiba’s daunting litany of tequila varietals, or chef Robert Wiedmaier’s massive stock of Belgian beers and farm-grown mussels at Brasserie Beck — we can only hope that the peace talks remain forever broken down.