Diplomats + Spies
Background Check You hunger for foreign intrigue. Your idea of the perfect snack is a bowl of Vietnamese pho. You’ve seen The Bourne Identity—29 times.
Ambassadors, world bankers, UN officials, and secret agents live in a world of embassy fabulousness in D.C., and hundreds of thousands of immigrants have created mini Vietnams, El Salvadors, Indias, and West Africas. Their worlds can be yours.
Where to Begin
At the International Spy Museum (800 F St. NW; 866/779-6873; www.spymuseum.org), to find out if you have what it takes for a career in espionage. Can you commit a cover story to memory in three minutes?Examine lipstick pistols and buttonhole cameras, learn how to work up a disguise, and buy an invisible-ink pen so the kids can write baffling postcards to their friends.Starting in late May, further hone your sleuthing skills at Operation Spy—the newest interactive experience at the Spy Museum—where youll attempt to solve real-life assignments of U.S. intelligence officers. In one eventful hour youll decode a covert audio conversation, break free from a high-security compound, and even conduct a climactic polygraph test of a suspect agent.
Other Essential Museums
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl. SW; 202/488-0400; www.ushmm.org) is as grim as the Spy Museum is whimsical. Although its concentration-camp footage and photos of victims are not for children under 12, they’re required viewing for older ones and will likely spark more discussion than anything else you do in D.C. Continue your global tour down the street at the Freer and Sackler Galleries (Jefferson Dr. and 12th St. SW; 202/633-4880; asia.si.edu), exhibiting amazing Asian art, and the National Museum of African Art (950 Independence Ave. SW; 202/633-4600; nmafa.si.edu), the finest collection of its kind in the United States.
Your Stomping Grounds
Adams Morgan and the adjacent U Street Corridor are D.C.’s most cosmopolitan neighborhoods. Eat at one of the many Ethiopian restaurants, such as Dukem (1114–1118 U St. NW; 202/667-8735; dinner for four $70) or Meskerem (2434 18th St. NW; 202/462-4100; dinner for four $75). The stews are delicious, but be prepared to use your hands: the spongy injera bread is both plate and fork. For dessert, try America’s contribution to the world’s waistline: the cupcake. Treat yourselves to the buttercream beauties at Love Café (1501 U St. NW; 202/265-9800).
Where to Stay
The Hilton Washington (1919 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202/483-3000; www.hilton.com; doubles from $229), dubbed the Hinckley Hilton because it’s where John Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981, is nevertheless a kids’ Shangri-la. It has a glorious outdoor pool (with a separate toddler pool) and an alfresco café where you can load up on fries. Don’t worry about all the security guards giving you the hairy eyeball—there’s always some foreign leader and his entourage ensconced here.
Sunday Morning Outing
A few blocks south of the Hilton is the Dupont Circle farmers’ market (20th St. NW, between Q St. and Massachusetts Ave.; 202/362-8889), which draws vendors from organic farms in the region. Buy cherries and strawberries from the Reid’s Orchard stand and almond croissants at the Bonaparte Breads booth, then wander up Embassy Row along Massachusetts Avenue to see the most dazzling fin-de-siècle architecture in town. For brunch, head to Cashion’s Eat Place (1819 Columbia Rd. NW; 202/797-1819; brunch for four $45) in Adams Morgan. The croque-monsieur is reason enough for improved Franco-American relations.