If you had asked me 20 years ago whether I would ever move to DC, I would have said “Uhm, no way. It’s boring.” That was then. But the me from back then wouldn’t recognize the city DC is today.
Yes, sure, the city still brims with politicos—and in those circles, “Who do you work for?” is still the main topic of conversation.
But the DC I have come to love is a non-stop dynamo of creativity and fun, what-just-happened? experiences. (And most of them are free; score!)
So, how much can you pack into a day? Grab your SmarTrip card or Capital Bikeshare day membership—and get rolling.
7:00am DC gets up early (and not just to avoid the soul-crushing gridlock). But it’s totally worth it once you taste one of Ted’s Bulletin’s homemade salted caramel tarts—a flaky, grown-up version of the Pop-Tarts of your youth. This local favorite breakfast craze hasn’t caught on in other cities, but we’re okay with not sharing.
10:15am If you slept in, now’s the time to head over to Big Bear Café for French-pressed Counter Culture coffee from El Salvador and hobnobbing with the other creatives typing away on their laptops. (Double score for visiting on Sundays, when the Bloomingdale Farmers Market takes place right outside.)
11:00am So fortified, avoid the scores of tourists flocking to the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. Instead, take a walk along U Street NW for cool shopping at boutiques like Rosies & Rockers and to take in the ’hood’s various murals celebrating the culture, music, and history of DC.
12:30pm Walking made you hungry? Just a few blocks south, upscale sandwich shop SUNdeVICH lets you take your tastebuds on a journey around the world. My favorite is the Istanbul. No, make that the Capri. Or maybe the Buenos Aires?
1:30pm Okay, time for some serious art … or, not. How about a place that’s just a little offbeat instead? Take a self-guided tour of the Mansion on O Street and discover secret passageways as well as some interesting rock ’n’ roll memorabilia. (Note: Pretty much everything you see is for sale.)
6:30pm If you have the time for dinner reservations, go to Le Diplomate. If you don’t mind standing in line, try Rose’s Luxury. But my personal fave is Sticky Rice, located on H Street NE. Where else can you order a sushi roll called “Godzirra” and tater tots in a restaurant with a punk vibe? Yeah, didn’t think so.
8:00pm Besides counterculture art galleries, DC also has a solid performance scene. If live music is your thing, 9:30 Club and Black Cat are musts. Theater more your speed? Check out Studio Theater and Atlas Theater. Oh, you meant movie theaters? There’s the Uptown and E Street Cinema. Just want to chill with your friends? DC’s neighborhoods are packed with outdoor and rooftop bars like Dacha and Red Derby. For fewer crowds and more upscale vibes, check out newcomer Left Door or head underground to P.J. Clarke’s Sidebar.
Can’t get enough? Here are more of our favorites:
Hierarchy: More like an event space with unusual art.
The Fridge: Follow the murals for shows featuring local artists.
Hole in the Sky: A party with art and artists.
Tweet Ride by Dandies & Quaintrelles: Vintage-clad jaunts through the city.
AwesomeCon: DC’s major sci-fi and comic convention. Major celebrities!
Capital Fringe: Year-round events with the largest festival in July.
It’s hard to keep up with DC’s burgeoning restaurant scene. From the exploding food scene in Shaw to celebrity chef additions popping up all over town—whatever you’re in the mood for, DC’s got it. So don’t judge me if your favorite is not mentioned.
District Taco: Best tacos in town, hands down. Also: breakfast burrito.
Bistro Bohem: My favorite for fall and winter Eastern European fare.
The Red Hen: Bloomingdale’s Italian-American eatery. Make reservations.