Here’s how to make the most of your time in the nation’s capital when the city is dusted pink.

By Katie Chang
Updated March 10, 2020
Advertisement
Credit: BeeCoolPhoto / Getty Images

What’s more synonymous with spring than once-dormant trees and flowers budding back to life after months of winter bareness? But without a doubt, few destinations undergo a more striking seasonal transformation than Washington, D.C.

For a short stretch (typically between late March and early April), the nation’s capital is awash in petal pink when its 3,000 cherry blossom trees bloom and cast a positively pretty effect on the entire city — especially the Tidal Basin. While it’s a huge draw for travelers — this year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival being held March 20th to April 12th — pinpointing peak bloom is challenging, because nature is unpredictable (at best), and the blossoms regretfully short-lived.

But whether you enjoy a passing glimpse or full days of the pink blooms, there’s plenty to eat, drink, and do when you’re in town. Ahead, how to the make the most of a visit to the nation’s capital this spring.

Credit: Courtesy of Four Seasons

Where to stay

Tucked away in an unassuming pocket of Georgetown, the venerable Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC turned 40 last year and celebrates spring with unique activations ranging from ENO Wine Bar’s Sunday Rosé Garden to in-room, floral baths drawn by an attendant. In true Four Seasons fashion, the accommodations are tastefully appointed — with the Royal Suite being the city’s largest and safest, thanks to wraparound, bullet-proof glass. And Seasons, under the helm of newly-appointed chef Sebastien Giannini, is where power players mingle over breakfasts of lemon ricotta pancakes and avocado toast.

Located along the Southwest Waterfront, the stately Mandarin Oriental, Washington D.C. is well-suited for guests seeking proximity to the Tidal Basin, District Wharf, and other popular attractions. The design is unabashedly opulent — even the rotunda lobby dazzles with gleaming marble, limestone, and glass — and the expansive spa offers the city’s most comprehensive menu (including a Japanese-inspired Cherry Blossom Treatment). Recently, it unveiled Mini Sushi Bar, an omakase-only jewel box by local sushi legend Minoru Ogawa.

Seeking a more intimate stay? Then book The Jefferson on 16th Street, a breezy four blocks north of The White House. The 99 rooms sport a classic look (think toile drapes, English wool carpets, and wood valets), while Quill — which is shaking up a mezcal-infused Osaka Sunrise for this year’s blossoms — is one of the buzziest bars in town. And if you want to see how top politicos like to unwind after a long day, catch Quill’s legendary resident pianist Peter Robinson Tuesday through Saturday night.

Credit: Courtesy of Anju

Where to eat and drink

At Dupont Circle’s acclaimed Anju (“food consumed with alcohol” in Korean), chefs Danny Lee and Scott Drewno dish out Korean favorites (Palace Ddukbokgi and Dolsot bibimbap) with contemporary flourishes in a homey two-level space. Just opened, Tonari is the fifth concept by the Daikaya Group (Daikaya, Bantam King, Haikan, and Hatoba). But instead of ramen, the focus here is squarely on wafu, or Japanese-style pizza and pasta (like Napolitan spaghetti with ketchup sauce). While steakhouses remain a D.C. staple, none shine brighter than Bourbon Steak. Naturally, you can dig into mouthwatering chops and sides, but it’s executive chef Drew Adams' passion for foraging — soon, he’ll offer a colorful tartine topped with his spring bounty — that sets him apart. Vegetarians and meat eaters alike will flip for the Middle Eastern-inspired shared plates dramatically fired on the open grill at Maydan. (Scoop all of them up with the pillowy, free-flowing flatbreads.) Want proof that bigger isn’t always better? Look no further than Bad Saint, Little Serow, and Komi — all sublime examples of little restaurants that could, and you absolutely should.

Fast casual dining isn’t a new concept, but the trend flourishes in D.C. in diverse, unexpected ways. At the newly-opened Buffalo and Bergen, owner Gina Chersevan brings New York to Capitol Hill at her cheerful deli selling knishes, bagels, and a bloody mary garnished with a lox bagel sandwich. At two locations, Chiko turns out a gloriously fun mashup of Korean and Chinese hits (like orange-ish chicken and kimchi potstickers) on metal trays. Immigrant Food is an inspiring concept by chef Enrique Limardo, marrying advocacy with fusion bowls drawn from different cultures’ everyday eating. At Shaw's Buttercream Bakeshop, Tiffany MacIsaac displays enticing treats (like unicorn bars, cinnascones, and breakfast bombs) in an adorable nook. Indian food gets a fast, healthful spin at Rasa in the Navy Yard, where you can tuck into cleverly named bowls (Goa Your Own Way, Caul Me Maybe) in mere minutes.

Credit: Ken Wyner

Equal parts laboratory and cocktail lounge, barmini by José Andrés offers an experience like no other. The decor is eclectic, the service spotless, and the drinks — there’s over 100 to pick from — unforgettable. Make a night out of it by ordering an interactive cocktail flight. At Tiki TNT & Potomac Distilling Company in The Wharf, famed bartender Todd Thrasher produces world-class rums on site — many of which make their way into the bar’s original creations, including Drink Me Now and TNT Problem Forgetter. Owned by hospitality veterans David Batista and Joanna Brady, All Souls in Shaw has the makings of the quintessential neighborhood bar: tasteful music, chill vibes, and affordable drinks. (The signature All Souls, a coupe of sparkling rosé paired with a shot of Maker’s Mark, sounds strange but works like a charm.) And Silver Lyan, the highly anticipated U.S. debut by London’s visionary mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana, presents complex, intricately prepared libations in a sleek, basement lounge at the new Riggs Hotel.

Credit: Emma McAlary

Where to shop

Opened by Virginia Arrisueño in 2016, Steadfast Supply in The Yards carries over 60 independently-owned brands from all over the world. You’ll find everything you need to spark a little more joy in your life here, from Skincando Eye Balm to Neva Opet handbags. As the name implies, Shop Made in DC celebrates its hometown by exclusively selling locally-made goods, ranging from stationery to furniture. Little Leaf is a tiny, leafy oasis that helps customers brighten up even the dreariest room. For the city’s most extensive vinyl selection, audiophiles should beeline to Smash! Records in Adams Morgan.