A Guide to D.C. in the Spring

While you may have scratched the surface of Washington, D.C. on a school trip or family vacation, the city has much more to offer than monuments and long, hot walks on the National Mall. With cherry blossom season just around the corner, now is a great time for a short getaway to the nation’s capital.

STAY:

The city has many gorgeous, century-old hotels that have been maintained to reflect their original condition. Stay at The Jefferson for a taste of 1920’s Beaux-Arts glamour or get your retro fix at The Willard, which proudly offers an afternoon tea service available throughout the year.

If you’re looking for a more contemporary feel, try The Graham. Located at the heart of Georgetown, the hotel is an easy walk from the waterfront and the endless shopping opportunities along M Street. Capitol Hill Hotel is another good bet if you want to be in the middle of the action — just two blocks from the Capitol and across the street from the Library of Congress. The spacious, unfussy hotel even provides guests with bike rentals and pet-friendly rooming options.

AirBnB is a great way to go if you’re looking to explore neighborhoods off the beaten path. You can find spaces for $80-150 per night if you do some legwork in advance. Although D.C. is fairly walkable, keep in mind that the Metro can be a bit unreliable, so consider staying in a location near your must-see sites.

EXERCISE:

For a good burn, check out Off Road — a boutique gym specializing in high-intensity boxing, cycling, and strength classes. Check out their two-hour “Sunday Sufferfest” cycling class if you’re feeling particularly ambitious. Sore from the travel? Head to Epic Yoga to work out any travel related kinks. The Dupont Circle studio offers variations of vinyasa flow as well as more unique options like their “EPIClates” class — combining pilates, dance, barre, and yoga into one session.

Photo by Aaron DeNu.

Or, save your cash for dinner and take to the outdoors! If you’re in town while the cherry blossoms are in bloom, beat the crowds and head to the Tidal Basin for a run in the early morning. For more of an adventure, take a cab out to Roosevelt Island and jog along the Potomac River on the Mount Vernon Trail“The Exorcist” steps are a great option if you’re into cardio, film trivia, and next level heebie-jeebies. Three birds, one stone.

EAT:

Photo by Scott Suchman for Washingtonian.

It’s hard competing for attention with New York so close by, but D.C. has a vibrant food scene of its own. From nationally recognized hotspots like Rose’s Luxury to beloved landmarks like Ben’s Chili Bowl, there are no shortage of places to try.

D.C. has some truly incredible and authentic Ethiopian food. If you’re looking for traditional preparation and a sit-down experience, Lalibela and Ethiopic are two great possibilities. Also, many Ethiopian restaurants offer combination platters with samples of meat and veggie dishes, a great option if you’re traveling with friends of different dietary needs (or levels of adventurousness).

Look to The Dabney for seasonal and farm-fresh twists on American cuisine. The restaurant sources its ingredients regionally, allowing them to show off the variety of the Mid-Atlantic in small plates and family-style dishes. The Dabney even serves locally brewed ciders and beers. Just make sure you book your table in advance!

DO:

The famous Smithsonian museums are a must-do. They comprise an unparalleled diverse collection of art and artifacts, and they’re free! But remember, as tourism season starts picking up in late spring, the museums along the National Mall get crowded fast. So if you’re not feeling up for slogging through swarms of people at the American History Museum, visit the National Portrait Gallery where you can view the presidential portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama. If the line for the Botanic Garden is out the door, go to the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum at The National Arboretum and check out the potted trees, peaceful gardens, and the viewing stone collection (a gathering of naturally occurring or shaped rocks displayed to evoke waterfalls, mountain ranges, and the like).

If you’re in D.C. over the weekend, there are several open-air farmer’s markets located around the city, which showcase local products and produce. My favorite is Eastern Market, a 145-year-old indoor food market that hosts outdoor vendors during the weekend. In case of rain, you can shop at Union Market, a recently restored wholesale market space offering retail, fresh food, and delicious coffee.

For a sustainable, southern-inspired brunch menu, look to Creme: home of the Louisiana Benedict. You can also try the Sunday drag brunch at Perry’s and afterwards work off the mimosa buzz with a walk through Adams Morgan.

As far as nighttime activities go, consider seeing a show at 9:30 Club, an iconic music venue and one time haunt of a teenage Dave Grohl. You can make a night of it by grabbing some ramen before the show at Haikan next-door to the club and checking out the bars along the U Street Corridor after the show — if you’re not too worn out yet, that is.

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