D.C. Done Proper: What to Eat, Where to Go, and What to See
Spending a weekend in Washington, D.C., and don't know what else to do other than walk around museums? Don't worry, we've got you covered with places to eat—from wood-fired pizza to hearty Korean fare—cool venues to see concerts, and places to shop for local goods.
One of the best outdoor-concert experiences you'll ever have is just outside of D.C. in Vienna, Virginia, at this performing-arts amphitheater. Kick back on the sloped general-admission lawn with an alfresco meal (you can bring your own picnic setup, including the alcohol, or buy libations on-site) as you take in live shows by Reba McEntire, Sting, and Sheryl Crow.
The Line Hotel
The Line is a hotel converted from a 110-year-old historic church with stylish rooms that feel more like your apartment, but better. Local art covers the walls, and even the lobby is a cool place to hang out—Chef Erik Bruner-Yang's all-day restaurant Brothers and Sisters is right as you walk in, with a stunning afternoon tea service, and multiple bars on the floor. Plus, with room service like Japanese breakfast with perfectly cooked fish, rice, and a tamago egg, it will make you want to stay in bed a while.
Where can you go to eat an omakase sushi menu, yakitori, and do karaoke? Zeppelin, the rock 'n' roll restaurant with a vast menu of Japanese izakaya food (like takoyaki and dumplings), grilled skewers (from rice balls to pork katsu to okra and tomato), and a traditional sushi menu and hidden omakase bar. Around 11 p.m., the top floor turns into an open karaoke bar. As long as you have a seat (and a cocktail, like a Toki whiskey highball), you can sing for free. "Mr. Brightside" is always a great singalong.
If you're looking to sing along with less people listening to how pitchy you are, go to a show at The Anthem, one of the newest music venues in D.C. at the trendy waterfront Wharf District. There's no bad viewing spot in the house, with three levels of seats and general admission standing, plus the rooftop Marquee Bar where you can have a drink and enjoy a cool breeze and view of the water outside. And if it's too cold out, don't worry—you can have a cocktail and bites like cheese-stuffed pretzels and Montreal smoked meat sandwiches from the many bars inside while watching Lizzo, deadmau5, Passion Pit, Bob Dylan, or one of the many other bands that come through The Anthem.
They say if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen...but what if the whole kitchen is open fire and at the center of the restaurant? That's what you'll be wowed with at Maydan, which has wood-burning hearths blazing the moment you walk in, with the scent of slow-braised lamb shoulder, fresh pita, and charred vegetables moving through the restaurant. Get a selection of dips to start, ask the sommelier to lead you to her favorite wines of the moment, and eat all of the meats. Or fish. Or anything that comes out of the fire. Trust us.
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Exploring all of D.C.'s culture would take weeks, so we recommend starting with the first national museum dedicated entirely to the African American experience. Reserve passes to see an exceptional lineup of exhibits, screenings, and tours. A recent exhibit spotlighted Oprah Winfrey—one of Rach's favorite people—and her effect on American culture.
The Hamilton Hotel
This historic hotel was popular in the 1930s, but after a recent renovation, the centrally located place mixes art deco with modern luxury. Look for specialty rooms, including the Selina Meyer Presidential Suite in honor of the final season of HBO's Veep. Outside of your room, enjoy Neapolitan pizzas at Via Sophia Osteria, or snag a seat at the hotel's speakeasy-inspired bar, Society, for cocktails.
Whether you're searching for a crochet shawl or a color-it-yourself tote bag, it's easy to get lost inside this 3,000-square-foot warehouse, a shoppable incubator for indie designers and artisan brands. Every part of the decor is made within D.C., so it's a wall-to-wall shopportunity. Afterward, you can take advantage of the riverside neighborhood with a waterfront stroll.
At this airy pasta shop in D.C.'s Van Ness neighborhood, you can get handmade tortellini, maccheroni carbonara, and short ribs that were braised for 72 hours. For a more upscale experience, try Sfoglina's sister restaurants: Fiola offers tasting menus (think lots of black truffles) in Penn Quarter, and Fiola Mare serves coastal seafood in Georgetown.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens
Go see the water lilies (sorry, Monet, we mean actual water lilies) and other wildlife at this serene area of Anacostia Park. To catch the famed flowers in full bloom, check out the Lotus and Water Lily Festival from July 13 to 14. If you can't make it then, there's plenty of activity throughout the year, including a riverwalk trail, paddle boats, a golf course, and more.
Call Your Mother Deli
Wood-fired bagels worth traveling for are the star of this "Jew-ish deli," which makes them in unique flavors like za'atar and offers candied-salmon and bacon–peanut butter schmears to go on top. At lunch, go beyond bagels with the pastrami or turkey cheesesteak on a challah sub roll or a taco loaded with brisket, pastrami, and jalapeños. It's classic yet modern, just like Mom. For lunch and dinner, check out their sister restaurant Timber Pizza Co., with flavors like The Green Monster with pesto, fresh. mozzarella, feta, zucchini, and kale.
For excellent Korean food that isn't just Korean BBQ, check out Mandu, where owner Danny Lee and his mom cook together every day. There are traditional dishes like mandu (Korean dumplings, of course), seafood pajeon (pancakes), jjigaes (stews) and chap-chae (stir-fried sweet potato noodles), but we recommend trying one of their more unique offerings, like duru jjigee (gochujang-marinated pork belly sauteed with kimchi and chewy rice cakes).