How to Visit Our Nation’s Capital Like the Movie Stars do
Hollywood's A-list lends these DC spots their glamour.
When Hollywood’s biggest names visit DC, they often tend to travel incognito. “They really want things to be discreet,” says Julie Saunders, concierge supervisor at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be spotted—and emulated. With help from Saunders, who has 24 years of experience helping visiting VIPs explore the city, Travel + Leisure took a look at the best way to experience DC like a movie star.
Where to Live
If you’re famous, chances are you’re going to be living in Georgetown. It’s the city’s most famously blue-blooded neighborhood, anchored by Georgetown University and upscale boutiques. This is where the Brat Pack hung out in St. Elmo’s Fire, where you’ll find the apartments of powerful TV characters like Josh Lyman from The West Wing, and also where the guy from The Exorcist fell down the terrifying stairs.
The next neighborhood of choice is Capitol Hill, home mostly to characters in political dramas (both in film and in real life). But for your less obvious neighborhood choices, there’s always Mt. Pleasant, where Russell Crowe’s character lived in the 2009 movie State of Play, or Adams Morgan, where just last year director Oliver Stone was filming a forthcoming feature about Edward Snowden.
Where to Stay
DC is a city that specializes in luxury accommodations. After all, you can bet the Saudi King wants a top-notch hotel when he visits Washington. And like King Salman bin Abdulaziz, many Hollywood celebrities choose the Four Seasons in Georgetown. (Though they usually don’t buy out the whole hotel as King Salman reportedly did last year.)
A rep says that film stars tend to stay in the Royal Suite, a 4,000-square-foot space filled with Swarovski crystal light fixtures, a white marble bathroom, a private dining room and pantry, a fitness room, a study, an enormous terrace, and bulletproof glass. This suite can also be transformed to house several separate living spaces in case you want to bring your whole entourage.
But if you’d prefer to be a little closer to the center of power, there are options. The Willard InterContinental has hosted George Clooney, among other A-Listers, while stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio, Al Pacino, and Lady Gaga have been spotted at The W.
Where to Eat
Right now, the hottest place for Hollywood types to dine in DC is Fiola Mare, a seafood-focused Italian restaurant in Georgetown. “People love Fiola Mare because it’s out on the water,” Saunders says. The Washington Post called it “the home away from home for visiting celebs,” such Pierce Brosnan as well as the Obamas and the Bidens. In recent months, Fiola Mare has hosted Gloria Estefan and Larry David, while its sister restaurant Fiola has served Sean Connery, Alicia Keys, and Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
The Four Seasons’ own restaurants are also popular spots for A-listers. Bourbon Steak has hosted Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Jon Hamm, while Seasons has seen Robert Redford, Beyonce, and Jay-Z. Elsewhere in Georgetown, another all-time, old-school favorite restaurant for celebrities is Café Milano, which mostly seems to be popular with celebrities just for being popular with celebrities. And Eater DC notes that Blue Duck Tavern has hosted the likes of Harrison Ford and Reese Witherspoon.
Outside of Georgetown, Usher once hosted a BET Honors after-party at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, celebrity chef José Andrés pulls in his fellow celebrities at his Penn Quarter restaurants, and Le Diplomate is a choice spot for A-Listers checking out the action on 14th Street. There are always some stars who want to experience a little more DC culture by stopping at iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street for a half-smoke, Saunders says—or they might just arrange to have a half-smoke delivered to their room.
Where to Drink
Hollywood celebrities who visit DC are very discreet, Saunders says. “They don’t do that nightlife scene like they do in LA and New York.” So if you want to drink like a movie star in DC, your best bet is the hotel bar. Fortunately, that means excellent bars like the Lounge at Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons, the Round Robin & Scotch Bar at The Willard, and POV at The W. The rooftop POV lounge is a particularly special nightlife stop for VIPs, thanks to its stunning views across the National Mall and the White House, so be sure to stop in here during any of DC’s major celebrity-attracting events.
Where to Play
Movie stars tend to visit DC for very specific events: the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the Kennedy Center Honors, the presidential inauguration, and to testify on Capitol Hill about their pet causes. After that event, they leave. “They’re in and out,” Saunders says. But some stay and explore a little bit.
Naturally, Saunders says, you’re most likely to find Hollywood stars walking around the charming shopping streets of Georgetown. But given the interest these stars have in staying below the radar, Saunders says the Four Seasons often arranges tours for them at DC’s lush private gardens, such as the Hillwood Estate or Dumbarton Oaks. And if they’re interested in learning more about our capital city, they may book private tours at Mount Vernon or check out the monuments by night.
And just because a star is traveling doesn’t mean they’re going to loosen up on their fitness routine. Celebrity magnet spin studio SoulCycle has made its way to DC and the stars have followed. The studio’s West End location brings in the most VIPs; though a rep couldn’t confirm who has been there, there have been reports of Michelle Obama and Harry Styles getting sweaty while in town.