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Washington, D.C. Hot Spots

Washington, DC, Capitol

Photo: Courtesy of The Capitol

The capital city that John F. Kennedy once panned for its “Southern efficiency and Northern charm” continues to rebuild itself into the world-class cultural and culinary capital it was always meant to be. Sure, it’s still a showcase for the nation’s historical treasures, but D.C. has also become a burgeoning hub for music and—more surprisingly—a foodie’s playground, with hotter-than-thou restaurants opening seemingly every week. Among the political and nonpolitical upheaval, though, the nation’s capital eternally thrills at being the wheeling, dealing center of power for the United States and, in some ways, the world.

Hotels (8)

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    Swann House

    A nip of sherry from a crystal tumbler in this house's aristocratic sitting room may make you feel like a guest in a very elegant private home—and

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    Sofitel Washington, D.C. Lafayette Square

    In some way, every Sofitel is a Parisian hotel, and despite the inescapable fact of its location in downtown Washington, the Lafayette is no except

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    Ritz-Carlton, Georgetown

    As unlike its regal sister hotel downtown as it's possible to be, this converted 19th-century incinerator in the heart of Georgetown is low-key, mo

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    The Hay-Adams

    One of the city's finest hotels, this rebuilt 19th-century residence also boasts what is arguably the city's best location: directly across Lafayet

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    Willard InterContinental

    This 200-year-old hotel remains steeped in Washington history, even though the rooms where Lincoln lived, Coolidge governed, and Martin Luther King

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    Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C.

    Only seven years young, the downtown Ritz-Carlton feels like an old-fashioned grand hotel, where bellmen wear white gloves and the clubby old-boy b

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    Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, D.C.

    Spacious and rambling, this Four Seasons sits on an unassuming patch of Georgetown real estate. Recently refurbished guest quarters are split into

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    Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C.

    You could be forgiven for misidentifying this Mandarin outpost, opened in 2004 and gorgeously set on the Tidal Basin, as some sort of Pan-Asian emb

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Restaurants (14)

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    Off the Record

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    Cashion's Eat Place

    Since chef Ann Cashion first opened this upscale Southern comfort-food joint in 1995, it's become a neighborhood institution. Her menu, with its Ne

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    Charlie Palmer Steakhouse

    Close enough to the Capitol to qualify as a third house of Congress, the streamlined, modern halls of this temple to red meat resonate daily with t

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    Two Amys

    As genuine an Italian pizzeria as you'll find this side of the Atlantic, Two Amys has a wood-burning oven, a pizza license from Naples, and suitabl

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    Blacksalt

    It's a testament to Blacksalt's seafood that the tony fish market in front detracts in no way from the ambience (or smell) of the tony restaurant i

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    Vidalia

    Like Washington itself, Vidalia serves up sophisticated city flavors colored by a slight but unmistakable Southern accent. Long lauded as an oenoph

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    Sushi-Ko

    Billed as the first sushi bar in Washington, D.C., this tiny Glover Park hole-in-the-wall makes up for its lack of ambiance with a menu of fresh, s

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    Etete

    Brothers Yared and Henock Tesfaye, Ethiopian transplants, opened Etete in 2004. The restaurant, a gift for their mother, serves traditional Ethiopi

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    Ben's Chili Bowl

    Up until very recently, the only VIP deemed worthy of a free meal at the Ali family chili shrine was longtime devotee Bill Cosby, who made the venu

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    Komi

    Located in Dupont Circle, Komi is a unique dining experience without menus. Instead, diners get a multi-course diner, ranging from 18 to 22 courses

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    Rasika

    Chef Vikram Sunderam, a Bombay native, came to The District after working in one of London’s most acclaimed Indian restaurants, Bombay Brasserie. A

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    Minibar at America Eats

    Developed by chef José Andrés, the Minibar at America Eats is a unique dining experience. The restaurant-within-a-restaurant is located on the seco

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    CityZen

    Thomas Keller protégé Eric Ziebold turns out accessible haute cuisine in this restaurant’s gleaming open kitchen—and largely succeeds in living up

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    Citronelle

    The newest branch of chef Michel Richard’s growing mini-empire (there are two other Citronelles opening in California this year) is an extra-swanky

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Activities (24)

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    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

    The mesmerizing and thoroughly wrenching exhibits here are required visits for any American wanting a better understanding of the Holocaust. The mu

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    National Gallery of Art

    The two architecturally opposed buildings that make up this museum jointly contain one of the world’s most extraordinary art collections. The domed

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    National Archives

    Pieces of paper, no matter how famous, aren’t quite as fun to look at as other sights in the neighborhood. Still, seeing the original Declaration o

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    Vietnam Veterans Memorial

    Located on the National Mall between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is dedicated to the American men a

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    Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

    Cedar Hill, the graceful hilltop home where Douglass lived from 1877 until his death in 1895, provides an intimate look at the daily life of the gr

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    International Spy Museum

    A must-visit for both wannabe spy kids and their John le Carré-reading parents, this terrific interactive museum gives you the chance to try your h

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    White House

    To take a guided tour of the most iconic political building in the Western world, you’ll need to make arrangements well in advance—by submitting a

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    Washington Monument

    Five hundred and fifty-five feet of monolithic tribute, the monument to our first president stands in the center of the Mall like a watchtower over

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    Supreme Court

    The nine justices known to D.C. locals as “The Supremes” hold court—literally—in this Neoclassical palace across from the Capitol. When they’re hea

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    Phillips Collection

    The city's first museum of modern art is its richest, with a fine collection of paintings from the late 19th to mid-20th centuries showcased in the

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    National Zoo

    A 163-acre reserve carved out of Rock Creek Park, the Smithsonian's zoological arm is a long-standing family favorite, where creatures from aardvar

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    National Air and Space Museum

    The world's most-visited museum is heavenly for adults and a must for kids. A seemingly endless assemblage of artifacts from the history of flight—

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    Jefferson Memorial

    The author of the Declaration of Independence is celebrated here with a gleaming Neoclassical temple inspired by the Roman Pantheon (one of Jeffers

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    Lincoln Memorial

    When Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps here in 1963 and said, "I have a dream," he spoke with Lincoln's antislavery legacy quite literally

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    Dumbarton Oaks

    Part of a vast estate off a quiet Georgetown street, the 10-acre garden of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection is a celebration of l

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Similar Trips (8)

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  • Cultural Family Trip to D.C.

    The Mall, Georgetown, Dupont Circle, U Street, Chinatown/Convention Center

    Visiting Washington, D.C., can feel like the school trip from hell: no matter who you are, no matter what you’re interested in, you’re stuck with the same obligatory sights. We say, Table that noti

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  • Green Travel in Washington, D.C.

    White House/Downtown, Capitol Hill, Chinatown/Convention Center, Foggy Bottom

    Eco-minded travelers can tour the capital city in an electric roadster, book a treatment at the country's first LEED-certified spa, and shack up at a wind-powered hotel.

  • Mini Trip: Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

    Penn Quarter, Dupont Circle, Gold Coast, Chinatown/Convention Center, Foggy Bottom

    Catch a performance at the Kennedy Center's free Open House Arts Festival, wine and dine, and go undercover at the International Spy Museum.

  • London's Art Scene

    London, Mayfair, Clerkenwell, Hyde Park/Green Park, Bloomsbury

    Once considered a backwater of crusty Old Master dealers, London is now a contemporary art powerhouse, with more creative and commercial artistic clout than anywhere outside New York.

  • Discovering India's Resplendent Textiles

    Maryland, Mumbai, Gujarat + Western India, Dupont Circle

    Since ancient times, textiles have been associated with important rituals and social occasions in India. In fact, India’s history is so interwoven with textiles that it is hard to separate the two.

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  • Washington, D.C.'s Emerging MidCity

    Washington, D.C., Dupont Circle, U Street, NW Washingon

    As D.C.’s inner city blossoms, roughly six contiguous areas north of downtown are being grouped as MidCity. At its heart, Logan Circle and the U Street Corridor have been among the city’s most emba

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  • Dining in Washington, D.C.

    Arlington, McLean, White House/Downtown, Penn Quarter, Georgetown

    Where do political heavyweights head to seal the deal?From Capitol Hill to the Penn Quarter—and just beyond the Beltway—Washington's dining scene has come of age. Actually, D.C. today is reaping th...

  • Washington D.C. for the Budget-Conscious Family

    Mount Vernon, The Mall, White House/Downtown, Penn Quarter, Georgetown

    It costs absolutely nothing to visit all 14 museums of the Smithsonian Institution. You'll find the best hotel rates on the weekends, when the movers and shakers skip town. Don't be shy about askin

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