Government agencies, cultural centers, and a major university shape this area known to work and play equally as hard.

Washington, D.C. Tour: Foggy Bottom
Credit: WoodyStock / Alamy

Foggy Bottom has come a long way since its early years as a working-class neighborhood thick with factories and tenement housing. Today, the area’s character is shaped by George Washington University, and the pastoral interludes created by pocket parks, the nearby river and Rock Creek Parkway. Row houses from the turn-of-the-20th-century, federal agencies, and high-profile organizations, such as the World Bank and the Kennedy Center, fill in the remaining gaps. Peel back the hard-working shell, however, and you will find an equally serious commitment to playing. If Foggy Bottom had a “state” cocktail, it might be the Shaketail, a milkshake loosened up with liquor.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is home to the Washington National Opera, National Symphony Orchestra, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, traveling Broadway productions, and other performance arts performances from contemporary dance to jazz. Get tickets to a show—like the free daily shows at The Millennium Stage—or take a guided tour.

Founding Farmers

Green to the extreme, this 21st-century approximation of a farmhouse just blocks from the White House features menus printed on recycled paper and award-winning CORE architecture. Beloved for comfort-food favorites like its Southern pan-fried chicken, Founding Fathers serves an organic American menu in a multi-level space dramatically accented by a sweeping staircase. Winning design elements include the use of old wood and community-style farm tables on the first level, along with silo-shaped booths in the intimate second-floor dining area.

Arts Club of Washington

The Arts Club, established in 1916, exhibits contemporary artworks in its headquarters, the former home of President James Monroe. The group also maintains a busy calendar of free activities, such as play readings and Friday concerts.

Department of State’s Diplomatic Reception Rooms Tour

Three times a weekday, the U.S. State Department runs free tours of the tastefully decorated chambers used to welcome visiting foreign dignitaries. The prestigious rooms display a fine art collection comprising early American paintings, furniture, decorative arts and historical artifacts, such as a silver coffeepot made by Paul Revere and owned by John Adams. Advance reservations required.

AIA Store

The American Institute of Architects bookstore mixes the academic with the whimsical. Tomes on famous architects and movements share shelf space with such clever baubles as a Lego set of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, a deck of cards that resembles a mixed tape cassette, and a tissue box shaped like a house.

Department of the Interior’s Indian Craft Shop

The department’s Indian Craft Shop has been representing Native American artists since 1938, showcasing an array of traditional works by 60 tribes. Among the pieces: stone animal fetish carvings by the Zuni Pueblo, Navajo rugs and sand paintings, Santa Clara Pueblo pottery, and sculptures of Alaskan critters by the Yupik and Inupiat.

The River Inn

The all-suites hotel on a quiet street touts such special touches as full-size kitchens, coffee grinders and Potomac River views. The 125-room property also offers the on-site restaurant, a 24-hour fitness center; free WiFi; and complimentary bike rental, so guests can sightsee by two-wheeler.