The real Washington, D.C., does not look like a scene out of a political drama—the dark dining halls of House of Cards, politicized ice cream shops of Veep, or the stuffy suit-and-tie parties of The West Wing. The nation’s capital has seen something of a cultural renaissance that has moved it away from these TV clichés, with businesses flocking to the city, development projects popping up everywhere (think bike lanes, condos), and of course, food, drink, and luxury hotels close behind. Whether you’re looking to eat like you’re in Manhattan, or see the sites while pedaling along the Potomac, here’s your guide.
Situated next to the Chesapeake & Ohio canal in the heart of Georgetown, the Rosewood Washington D.C. offers the kind of boutique luxury never before seen in the nation’s Capital. The concierge team will contact you in advance, helping to plan dinner, drink reservations or personal shopping; rearranging your room to fit your quirks; and meeting you upon arrival—no check-in required. Most visitors won’t want to go further than the Cut restaurant, whose airy, lounge-like atmosphere doesn’t give a hint to the James Beard Award–winning chef, Wolfgang Puck, behind their stellar menu. Capella’s highlight, however, is its rooftop space. This urban retreat, available only to hotel guests, is something no other place in the city can boast—a spacious bar, delicious food, an infinity pool, a sundeck, and expansive views of the Potomac River and national monuments.
As happy hour approaches, everyone—from hipsters to pollsters with deep expense accounts—makes their way to the 14th Street strip running from Logan Circle to beyond the U Street Corridor. This once-downtrodden neighborhood is now the most vibrant dining scene in the city. If you don’t have reservations, expect to spend the evening hostess-hopping; fortunately, there are plenty of spots to grab a drink. Start with Destination Wedding, where mixologist Lukas B. Smith turns out cocktails featuring ever-inventive ingredients. If you instead want a glass of well-priced wine, aim for Cork Wine Bar’s carefully curated menu of European standouts. When it comes time to dine, try to score a seat at Stephen Starr’s Le Diplomate, where you will want to make room for boards of butter-fortified foie gras parfait and expertly executed steak frites or trout amandine.
With over 500 stations and 4,300 cherry-red bikes available in the citywide share, there is no better way to explore D.C. Pedaling down the National Mall to the Tidal Basin is the obvious play—but for good reason. The looping ride under a canopy of cherry trees takes you past the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and plenty of places where you can pause to picnic. On sweltering days, shady Rock Creek Park provides a cooling refuge, as a heavily forested stretch running up the center of D.C. For a more rigorous workout requiring a bike with thicker tires, hit the towpath along the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. It runs parallel to the Potomac River from Georgetown to Cumberland, MD, over 180 miles away—though we don’t recommend trying to do that all in one day.
Or you can pedal over to D.C.’s Navy Yard for a game at Nationals Park and a beer from Bluejacket, one of the best in the city. Built in a beautifully renovated early 20th-century boilermaker shop, Bluejacket brags upwards of 20 beers on tap at any given time, with every imaginable style, from sours to pale ales and old ales aged in wood barrels. The brewery’s stellar full menu (it’s owned by one of the city’s largest restaurant groups) gives you reason to stay for hours, even if the game is rained out.
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