If you’re coming to D.C., do this

A friend recently visited us in Washington for the first time and it got me thinking about what I would say she should do while she was here. In fact, my two best friends will be visiting in the coming week and my parents soon after that. Figuring out where to take our guests and what to recommend is something I think about often. In fact, the husband has been known to say “we need to bring so-and-so here.”

We’ve lived here for going on four years now and I can’t claim to have seen and done everything. (That’s what the bucket list is for) We do have our favorites, though.

This is just kind of a collection of some of my favorites with a few places to skip. I’ll include the disclaimer that, of course, I’ve lived here a shorter period of time and everyone has different tastes, what-have-you, so don’t consider this list to be exhaustive. As I’ve said before, you can live here and never do everything there is to do.

Neighborhoods

Old Town, Alexandria.

See: Old Town. It has charm out the wazoo and lots of history. It is chock full of cute and delicious restaurants. There’s shopping, just like Gtown. And that view? Yeah, pretty. Plus you can take a water taxi over to the National Harbor. That’s another cool area.

Skip: Georgetown. Don’t get me wrong, I like Gtown OK, but it isn’t my top choice. There are just too many rich people and too many tourists. Skip those cupcakes (why would you wait that long anyway?) and go to Baked & Wired, right down the street with better cupcakes, or Sweetgreen for frozen yogurt. If you just want great dessert options, check out Kramers in Dupont Circle.

Other faves: I like the H Street area, but I don’t think it’s quite for the faint of heart. First, it isn’t exactly easy to get to. Eastern Market and Capitol South also have some good options and walking around there is nice. I recommend going to Eastern Market on a weekend morning to walk around the market there, then have brunch nearby. You may have to do some walking to find a place without a crazy wait.

H Street NE, Washington.

One thing I always love to do is drive/bus down Mass Ave where Embassy Row is. I love the neighborhood, first off. It’s a bit too long to walk, but always worth a try.

For nightlife, check out Adams Morgan (AdMo) on 18th street but beware of a ton of drunk people and crowds (and a bit of a walk from the metro). U Street has some fun nightlife spots as well (see the list below). In the ‘burbs, Courthouse and Clarendon have some good places for a nice, chill night if you don’t want to go to Old Town.

Can I just reiterate how much there is to see in this city?

Monuments/ Memorials / Museums

See: American History. Such a cool collection of stuff.

Skip: The Washington Monument. Seriously, why wait in that line? Want a great view of the city, head over to the Old Post Office and go to the top. Or the National Cathedral. Walk by the monument and you’ve seen it.

Best monuments: In my book, the Vietnam, WWII and Korea monuments. The Jefferson is also really nice because it’s on the Tidal Basin, one of my favorite parts of the Mall area. I feel weird leaving Lincoln off, but you know, you’ve seen it. Jefferson’s is better.

See: Library of Congress. Skip: Supreme Court. It’s a long wait just to shuffle in for five minutes, listen to something you don’t understand, take no pictures and shuffle back out. The LOC has much more to see. Save the time and see that beautiful building.

View from the Capitol Visitor's Center

Best exhibit: The Congress exhibit in the Capitol Visitors Center. Even though I work out of a room here every day, it’s still such a cool place. And the exhibit that walks through the history of Congress is really cool.

Cool stop: The Botanic Garden. Really cool.

Other cool museums: The Newseum, The Ford Theater and House Where Lincoln Died, and the National Geographic Museum (although check to see what its exhibit is first since there is only one). Seriously, I haven’t been in all the Smithsonians, but these were must-do stops.

Restaurants

Oh this is tough. So many good places to go eat in the city and I’ve barely tried many of them. This is mostly a list of places I like going back to because they are that good.

One of our favorite pubs in the city is Duffy’s Irish Pub near U Street. The wings are delicious. Plus it’s right across from 9:30 Club, so it’s a great stop before a show. There’s not much else to say about it. It’s a pretty bare room with TVs, but those wings …

Anything from the Clyde’s group — the Tombs (Georgetown), Old Ebbitt Grill (Farragut) and Clyde’s — is great. The menu is usually pretty fresh and flavors are delicious.

The Argonaut has a good menu with shockingly good flavors. It’s a little out there, but worth the trip. The vibe and atmosphere is is right on. Busboys and Poets also has really great food.

For my go-t0 rec, Nando’s Peri-Peri in Chinatown (and other locales around the city), for great, powerful flavors, good sangria and cheap food. Plus you can get a table for a group pretty easily. I’ve already written about their great happy hour deals. While you’re in Chinatown, check out Ping Pong Dim Sum (but make a reservation).

Here are some of my fave for specific types of food: Cactus Cantina (Cleveland Park) for Mexican, Masala Art (Tenleytown) for Indian, Two Amy’s (Cleveland Park) for  pizza, Sala Thai (U Street), Momoyama (Cap Hill) and Nooshi for sushi. I enjoyed Das Ethoipian in Georgetown but haven’t tried the many spots on U street and elsewhere in the city. Sorriso in Cleveland Park also has good pizza and good pastas and OMGelato.

My husband’s new favorite obsession is the Afghan Kabab House in Courthouse. He won’t stop talking about it. You do get a lot of delicious food for very little money.

In D.C. you’ll hear a lot of talk about the best burgers. I can’t claim to have tried them all, but I like Ray’s Hell Burger and Z Burger best. I’m dying to try Good Stuff Eatery though. Slacker, I know.

Bars

The husband likes Velvet Lounge on U Street. It’s not my favorite. I like dives, but this is really dive. I’d much prefer Nellie’s Sports Bar right down the street. It’s a gay bar with an awesome patio and fun music choices. I’d also much prefer Stetson’s a little farther down U Street. They have great Trivia there (or used to. haven’t been back in a while).

Our first year in the city we discovered Fox & Hound near Dupont Circle, also apparently a gay bar. The great thing about F&H is that you get an entire glass of alcohol with the mixer on the side. Be very careful. I suppose that F&H was replaced with Big Hunt for a our favorite Dupont bar though. It can get crowded but it’s still a lot more chill than other places. I also like Lucky’s for dancing because it doesn’t become too much of a club.

And add Irish Whiskey Public House to that list, too.

Skip: Sign of the Whale. It’s way too crowded in there. Like sardine cans.

There are a lot of fun bars on H Street with a variety of feels. Rock and Roll Hotel has a good area for dancing but the DJ can be hit or miss. (I don’t like a lot of techno, just give me straight up dancey pop.) For the best dance music (well, for me), I love Peyote Cafe in AdMo. The music there is just general pop like Katy Perry and Britney. They also have karoke, but actually getting a chance to sing can be challenging.

Other faves: District 2 (Cleveland Park), Ireland’s 4 P’s (Cleveland Park), O’Connells (Old Town), Samuel Beckett’s (Shirlington), Queen Vic (H Street) … oh the list goes on.

Like I said, this is certainly not an exhaustive list. In fact, I have my own list of to-go places, a la bucket list style. Now I have to plan where to take all these visitors.

What are your favorite spots in the city?

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