From September 2021, masks will be required for almost all indoor activities in the District of Columbia. A growing collection of hospitality companies, including bars and restaurants, are choosing to enforce a vaccine requirement for access to their facilities. The latest city updates can be found here.
In the minds of many Americans, the District of Columbia is less a city than a physical representation of the country’s polarizing political struggles. But the real Washington, DC, is not the one portrayed in the news. Locals do not start over when a new political regime does, nor can it be depicted with any kind of accuracy through the chaos of a single, dark day.
DC is a vibrant, breathing place with a dynamic and diverse population. Its residents – who are not represented in congressional systems – are a fundamental piece of a thriving cultural scene.
The best of DC is experienced not only by visiting the many wonderful monuments and museums here, but by the sensuous delights of its world-class restaurants and bars as well as its bustling local art scene. Washington is a collection of dozens of neighborhoods with different personalities, and it offers in many ways a lifelike representation of the country as a whole.
Jefferson, a historic hotel, reopened in July after closing its doors at the start of the pandemic. The DC icon opened in 1895 and retains a reputation as a boutique, luxury property in the heart of the city; stroll just down 16th Street for a few minutes and you will encounter the White House. The hotel is known for its classic style and decor as well as its bespoke hospitality. Jefferson’s main bar, Quill, offers excellent cocktails along with understated hospitality. Both are musts given the political who is who of frequent visitors.
A more recent option is Riggs Washington DC, which opened just before the pandemic only to get into immediate hibernation. The property, located in the Penn Quarter, was once home to the historic Riggs National Bank and has now been revitalized to showcase the best of its former architectural splendor along with colorful and occasionally whimsical, artistic style with a healthy touch of art deco -mini bank vaults serve as minibars; pocket books with Keats poetry waiting at your bedside table, which you can read on your velvet chairs.
Another new property is Conrad Washington DC, which debuted in March 2019. The property is an anchor for CityCenterDC, a mixed residential development and its only hotel that welcomes guests with a beautiful atrium dominated by a huge white pendant, the light from which bikes from light white to dark yellow to reflect the time of day.
Tucked away next to the National Mall is the Mandarin Oriental Washington DC, which provides easy access to first-class sightseeing and Capitol Hill. Rooms at the rear corner of the property are located with direct views of the tidal pool and Jefferson Memorial, which serve as surreal and enviable perches during the spring cherry blossom season. A large spa and an indoor pool with lounge seating offer resort-style amenities not commonly found in the city.
EAT & DRINK
From fine-dining to dining halls, DC has more than enough to satisfy every taste. For the former you would be wise to start at Masseria, a Michelin-starred restaurant by chef Nicholas Stefanelli that serves sublime Italian food with a focus on the Puglia region, and for the latter you would be just as wise to start next door at Union Market, filled with dozens of prominent vendors spanning the culinary spectrum.
One of the best wine bars in town is the charming French-focused La Jambe in Shaw, which serves French wine and cheese along with fine-tuned cocktails made from only French or DC-made ingredients. Shaw is home to an extensive collection of the city’s most trendy destinations, from the Espita Mezcaleria, one of the country’s leading mezcal bars that matches Oaxacan food, to the Columbia Room, a cocktail program and a team that deserves its recognition among the world’s very best . When it comes to whiskey, look no further than the Jack Rose Dining Saloon, whose huge selection of prestigious bottlings would make most auction houses blush. Next to the room is its new sister restaurant The Imperial.
Maketto, a cafe, restaurant and shopping area from chef Erik Bruner-Yang is worth a stop at any time of the day. Another gem in the neighborhood that will see you comfortably through from coffee to cocktail is The Royal, in LeDeroit Park. The sister restaurant Lulu’s Wine Garden offers cozy surroundings, resembling a wine-filled soiree in a friend’s home and garden, with southwestern-influenced dishes, such as short taco plates with short ribs and fried bread.
New to the city’s cocktail scene is Silver Lyan, the long-awaited debut at the state for Ryan Chetiyawardana and Mr. The Lyan team, with frontier-pushing libations designed to surprise; and Allegory DC, which matches its cocktail program with its mural and decor from Alice in Wonderland, framed again through the lens of social justice.
In the new Wharf neighborhood, stop at Nara-Ya, where colorful sushi plates and Japanese food are served along with limitless sake and Japanese whiskey, as well as Moon Rabbit, where chef Kevin Tien serves crave-worthy dishes such as. Lemongrass pork, with minced pork served DIY with scallop pancakes, salad paper and sauces. Although he may seem more suited to global relief, DC still remains the epicenter of the restaurant empire José Andrés, and any stop among his linchpin companies is recommended.
The best way to get started with the city’s 19 free Smithsonian museums, galleries and other destinations is with its official website. The site displays current opening hours and access information and provides links to timed access cards when required.
Visitors looking for a new perspective can visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in 2016. From there, you can either stroll across the National Mall and take in its basic destinations at the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial – and the many other worthy places in between and along the way – or walk straight across the street to the White House in front of the lawn, and beyond what has been christened in DC as Black Lives Matter Plaza.
The Wharf along the Southwest Waterfront and Navy Yard, home of the National Park, have in recent years been transformed into destinations worthy of destinations, while the streets and waterfront of Georgetown still attract crowds for good reason. If you want to escape to nature beyond the city, consider Great Falls Park for hiking and views of the Potomac River and its rapids.
This author hosted Riggs Washington DC and Mandarin Oriental Washington DC