Washington, D.C. Tour: Capitol Hill
Stately government buildings, politicos, and boisterous bars are permanent fixtures in D.C.’s famed neighborhood.
Capitol Hill is true to its name: The neighborhood contains the U.S. Capitol Building and sits on a raised piece of land originally called Jenkins Hill. But to really experience the area, you need to go beyond the literal. Once dominated by boardinghouses for out-of-state legislators, the city’s largest residential district is divided into two quadrants, northeast and southeast. The NE portion of East Capitol Street is subdued and stately with such monumental institutions as the Supreme Court, the Senate offices, and the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum. The SE section has a serious side, too, with the House of Representatives buildings, Library of Congress, and Folger Shakespeare Library, but it turns playful around Eastern Market and Eighth Street. Here, among boisterous restaurants and bars, Northeasters co-mingle with Southeasters, bridging the great East Capitol divide.
Supreme Court of the United States
It’s exciting enough just to walk up these famous steps, upon which so many crucial, course-altering decisions have been announced. But the best part about visiting the Supreme Court of the United States is the opportunity to witness justice in action: Oral arguments are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. On weekdays, docents offer lectures on Supreme Court history.
The Monocle Restaurant
Sewall-Belmont House and Museum
The fifth and final national headquarters of the National Woman’s Party traces the group’s fight for gender equality and the right to vote. The museum’s 250-plus artifacts, including Susan B. Anthony’s desk and suffrage banners, give voice to the NWP’s members and supporters whose protests, picketing, and occasional arrests resulted in the 19th Amendment.
Folger Shakespeare Library
The ghost of Shakespeare rules this world-class house of research and learning, established in 1932. Sculptures of his iconic characters adorn the Elizabethan Garden, and bas-reliefs of dramatic scenes enliven the northern exterior wall. Puck, in statue form, frolics above a fountain facing the Capitol. Inside, you’ll find more of the Bard, including exhibits, lectures, theatrical performances, a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse and free tours by cell phone or live guide.
Phoenix Park Hotel
The 149-room hotel brings the luck and love of the Irish to Capitol Hill. The property is owned by an Irishman and shares the name of the famous park in Dublin. Waterford crystal sparkles in a display behind the front desk. The adjoining Dubliner restaurant and bar features Guinness and live music nightly, and sates guests who call room service craving corned beef and cabbage, or shepherd’s pie.
Whether you’re shopping for groceries, original works of art, or antique collectibles, Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market is the place to go. Peruse the food stalls at the indoor market hall any day of the week, and pop in for a weekend visit for a larger array of vendors both inside and out. Sundays bring a flea market full of antiques, photos, and more.
Every surface is covered in kitchen equipment and accoutrements both practical (tea kettles and mugs) and fanciful (cookie cutters shaped like 49 states, plus the District; sorry Hawaii). For help behind the stove, check out the 400-strong collection of cookbooks or sign up for a class that teaches such essentials as basic knife skills, sauces and pasta.
Tucked in a graffiti-splashed space, the multi-disciple venue spotlights underground and experimental art, film and music. Shows like “Dissociative” by Scotch!, a San Antonio public artist, and Louder Than a Bomb, a documentary about Chicago high school poetry slam teams, are the norm.
The French restaurant serves the best-of bistro cuisine: braised rabbit leg, calf liver, cassoulet, and hanger steak. Dine inside on Gallic country-style wooden tables or outdoors a la Paris cafe.