East End Taste has debuted their new column: My City. My City includes a feature Q&A with residents from notable cities and regions from across the world, highlighting the best places to stay, eat and what to do for visitors of all ages. To kick off this second full week of February is an insider’s guide to Washington D.C. with Ethan and Taylor of CapitalCouple.com.
Where should one go first when visiting your city for the first time?
On your first trip to D.C., visit the various monuments and memorials that make our city one of the top attractions in America. The National Mall is the ideal place to start: With more than a dozen museums and iconic views of both the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument, the Mall offers the chance to see a majority of D.C.’s top attractions all in one stop. If you have a full day and tons of energy, we recommend taking the metro to the Capitol South stop (orange, blue, and silver lines). Walk from the metro up through the House of Representatives office buildings up to the foot of the Capitol Building. The National Mall is to the left of the Capitol Building, and the Supreme Court and Library of Congress buildings are to the right. Have your photo taken on the steps of the Supreme Court and head inside the Thomas Jefferson building (directly to the right of the Supreme Court) to check out the beauty of the Library of Congress. Not only is it the national library of the US, it’s also the oldest federal cultural institution and serves are the research arm of Congress.
After the Library of Congress, turn back towards the Capitol Building and circle around the left side to head down to the US Botanic Garden. The Garden is absolutely gorgeous and one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America.
After the Botanic Garden, continue onto the National Mall, where you’ll be surrounded by more than a dozen museums – so many to choose from! Our favorite museum is hands-down the Natural History Museum, but the appeal is slightly diminished right now as the Dinosaur Fossil Hall is under a massive renovation until 2019. Until we can kick it with the dinosaurs again, opt instead for the American History Museum, where you can see everything from Revolutionary/Civil/Vietnam War relics to First Lady dresses and china – a definite must-see! If you get hungry while you’re on the National Mall, the National Museum of the American Indian museum has a great cafeteria, Mitsitam, which has various stations serving native foods from different parts of the Americas!
If you’re not worn out, continue on down the National Mall to see the Washington Monument. Unfortunately, it’s currently closed for renovations until spring 2019. Behind the Washington Monument, you’ll find the World War II Memorial, the reflecting pool, and at the other end, the Lincoln Memorial. You can find our insider tips on visiting these memorials on our blog. Warning – if you head down past the Washington Monument, you’ll probably want to take a taxi or uber home as there are no metro stops nearby.
In your opinion, what is the best time of year to visit?
The best season to visit DC is definitely the fall. While summer is beautiful, D.C. was built on a swamp (this is why you’ve heard Trump refer to “draining the swamp”), so summer can get pretty humid. Similarly, winter can be brutally cold, and the cold temperatures often linger into the spring. In the fall, we have ideal weather for strolling through D.C. from dusk ‘til dawn with no more than a light sweater. Moreover, pick the right weekend, and you may even be able to catch all four of D.C.’s professional sports team (Redskins, Nationals, Capitals, and Wizards) in action on the same trip!
Which district is the best area to stay in? Any hotels you recommend?
Georgetown has two primary hotels that have always stuck out to us. The Graham Georgetown is a chic boutique hotel located between excellent shopping on M Street and some of D.C.’s most popular restaurants at the Georgetown Waterfront. In addition to its modern décor, The Graham hosts our favorite sunset happy hour at their rooftop bar, The Observatory. Once the sun has gone down, befriend a bellhop in The Graham’s lobby to obtain a password for The Alex, an ultra-secret speakeasy located behind an unassuming door that leads to the hotel’s basement. For those looking to really spoil themselves, rooms can be booked at the Four Seasons on M Street, where you can often rub elbows with D.C.’s A-Listers strolling the extravagantly decorated hallways. Keep in mind that Georgetown does not have its own metro stop, so the closest metro is about a 15 minute walk.
For a more affordable option, we often suggest Pentagon City, located just across the Potomac River in Arlington, VA. Pentagon City is a popular base for many tourists due to the affordability and convenience of the area. Hotels in the area often run at half the cost of popular D.C. hotels, and Pentagon City metro station is just 1-4 stops from the Pentagon, Arlington Cemetery, and downtown D.C.
Where are your three favorite spots to dine?
D.C.’s food scene is largely influenced by the city’s melting pot of world cultures. Whether you’re looking for a lively evening with friends, a romantic date night, or a swanky dinner with your parents (on their dime), D.C. has you covered! Our three favorite restaurants are Jaleo, La Tomate, and Le Diplomate.
Jaleo is a trendy Spanish tapas spot located just south of Capital One Arena in Gallery Place. Headed by D.C. super chef José Andrés, Jaleo mixes vibrant décor with strong cocktails and the best tapas the District has to offer. Whether your party is just the two of you or a ten-person fiesta, Jaleo will dish out adventurous tapas, lavish paellas, and perfectly-crafted gin and tonics (prepared tableside) until the whole table throws in their towels. Book a table early though, or else you may have to “settle” for one of Andrés’ other establishments scattered throughout D.C.: Oyamel (Mexican); Zaytinya (Greek); China Chilcano (Peruvian); and minibar (high-end American).
For a more intimate evening, we suggest La Tomate, a quaint Italian bistro situated one block from the bustling Dupont Circle. While a plethora of newer Italian restaurants may steal D.C. headlines, La Tomate has been our favorite ever since we first moved to D.C. We recommend visiting on a warmer evening, when you can dine on their outdoor patio and watch the passersby. With charcuterie boards, fine wine, and stiff Negronis aplenty, you and your date may just forego the nearby nightlife for one last glass on the patio.
Lastly, when you need to impress a client or are looking for the perfect spot for dinner with parents, head over to Le Diplomate near Logan Circle. With vintage French décor and a bustling-yet-intimate atmosphere, walking into Le Diplomate instantly transports you to your favorite Parisian brasserie with escargots and steak-frites that can satisfy even the strictest of Francophiles.
BONUS TIP: Don’t let this list fool you – D.C.’s American cuisine is bar none. For the best burger in the District, check out Duke’s Grocery for their Proper Burger that will literally melt in your mouth.
Describe your perfect day in your city.
For our perfect day in D.C., we will presuppose that it is a sunny, early autumn Saturday. To start the day off right, we love to take a morning stroll around the Tidal Basin at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial before the afternoon heat slows us down. The Jefferson is our favorite monument/memorial in all of D.C., and the Cherry Blossom trees that line the Tidal Basin provide the perfect amount of shade for a leisurely (read: sweat-free) stroll around one of D.C.’s most popular attractions. If we get there early enough, we can often fit in the Jefferson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King Memorials all before a brunch reservation!
Speaking of brunch, every “perfect day” needs one! Our hands-down favorite brunch spot in D.C. is Kafé Leopold in Georgetown. Hidden down the little-known Cady’s Alley, walking into Kafé Leopold transports you into a European-esque environment in the heart of America’s Capital! Specializing in coffee/espresso drinks and delicious pastries, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually in an Austrian cafe. The atmosphere inside is sleek and modern: all white décor with pops of orange accents meticulously placed throughout. On warm days, Kafé Leopold also offers outdoor seating in their cozy courtyard with umbrellas for shade and a relaxing fountain that drowns out background noise for an intimate brunch.
After brunch, we love to treat ourselves to a bit of shopping on M Street. With world-renowned designers and shops stretching for over 10 blocks, there’s something to pique anyone’s interest! Taylor loves to check out the curated selection of chic women’s fashion at Violet Boutique before indulging in Olivia Macaron’s excellent macarons. For some men’s fashion, Ethan’s favorite stops to check out include the perfectly tailored suits at SuitSupply and the preppy shorts and tees at Chubbies (for his inner Southern Boy).
Once we’re shopped out, it’s time to cool down and relax with a refreshing drink! At the Georgetown Waterfront, you can find the hottest spot in D.C. on warm weekends. We love to organize a group of friends and find a spot overlooking the dozens of boats and yachts docked together on the Potomac River. Our favorite Waterfront spot is Sequoia DC, where you can gulp down their famous blueberry mojitos until the sun goes down! Check out our blog for more tips on the perfect Sunday Funday in Georgetown.
Which three hidden spots are a must do/see while visiting?
Union Market, Point of View, and New Vegas Lounge
Union Market is a huge, (mostly) indoor market up in northeast DC. The market is a foodie’s paradise and self-described as “the epicenter of culinary creativity in DC.” The market has over 40 local vendors and consists of coffee shops, wine bars, sandwich shops, sushi counters, local brews, fresh produce, an oyster bar…we could go on and on. When you’re absolutely stuffed, head over to Little Leaf and Salt & Sundry to pick up some adorable plants and gorgeous home decor! Head over to our blog for the Weekend Guide to Union Market.
The drinks may be expensive, but no view in all of D.C. compares to POV (Point of View) at the W Hotel. Take the elevators to the top floor. Once off the elevator, the immediate panorama is breathtaking. POV offers a bird’s eye view of practically every notable site that D.C. has to offer, with the Washington Monument seemingly just out of your hand’s reach. Located just a block from the White House, we’ve even spotted Marine One dropping off the President on the White House lawn and the Secret Service making their rounds on the rooftop. Read more about this legendary rooftop spot on our blog.
New Vegas Lounge is a super fun rhythm and blues club near Logan Circle. The Lounge is open on Friday and Saturday nights, and the house blues band does not disappoint! We love getting a group of friends together to dance the night away to fun covers of classics. Tip: get there early because it can get really crowded (and rowdy!).
Capital Couple is a couple of attorneys, Ethan & Taylor, living in our nation’s capital. We are your local guides to DC, showing you the best food, drinks, shopping, sights, and adventures the city has to offer.
Planning a trip to DC? Live in DC? Check out our blog, CapitalCouple.com, for more tips on the best DC has to offer. Follow us, @CapitalCouple, on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and feel free to reach out with any questions (or recommendations!).