Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC, USA credit: Camrocker
Donald Trump’s arrival in Washington maybe dominating the headlines but there’s more - much more - to DC than power-house politics. Whether you want to cram in culture or while away hours in a cute cafe in a leafy neighbourhood, America’s capital offers something for everyone. Check out TNT’s guide to the US capital…
Mad about museums? Washington won’t disappoint. DC museums such as the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum (https://airandspace.si.edu), National Museum of Natural History (www.mnh.si.edu) and the National Gallery of Art (http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb.html) are among the best in America. Even better? Almost all of them are absolutely free to visit proving that the best travel experiences – much like love – don’t cost a thing. TNT’s tip: be sure to dedicate at least one day to taking in their glory.
Hit political drama House of Cards is set to return with a brand new season on Netflix, later this year. However if you can’t wait until then, fill that House of Cards hiatus by heading for the Capitol Visitor’s Center (www.visitthecapitol.gov/) where you can visit the US Supreme Court, Capitol Rotunda, the Library of Congress, the House of Representatives and Senate. Next up, make for the National Mall (www.nationalmall.org). Often referred to as America’s Front Yard, this legendary 1.9 mile long lawn has played host to hundreds of speeches including Martin Luther King’s 1963 I have a Dream speech, marches and rallies. From the National Mall, you can peer through the railings of the White House (www.whitehouse.gov) before wandering down to the Washington Monument (www.nps.gov/wamo/index.htm) - one of DC’s, most iconic structures, as well as its tallest.
National Mall, Washington DC, USA credit: Kaye Holland
Washington DC is a city of monuments and memorials honouring the politicians, poets, generals and statesmen who helped shape the States. No visit to the US capital is complete without checking out the National WWII monument (www.wwiimemorial.com) which honours the 400,000 Americans who died in conflict and the 16 million who served during the war. The Lincoln Memorial (www.nps.gov/linc/index.htm) – a shrine to Abraham Lincoln - also rewards a visit. After you’ve paid your respects to Abe, head down the stairs to Tidal Basin where you’ll find the Martin Luther King Memorial that’s adorned with some of the great man’s most inspirational quotes. Then tick off the Roosevelt Memorial, Jefferson Memorial and FDR Memorial. The latter is a 7.5 acre monument honouring the President who led America out of the Great Depression of the 1930s and through the greatest global conflict in history. Last, but by no means least, seek out The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial (www.avdlm.org), a newish memorial featuring a reflecting pool, striking laminated glass walls and bronze sculptures, that pays tribute to the three million living disabled veterans as well as those who died in service.
National WWII monument, Washington DC, USA credit: Kaye Holland
Washington will forever be associated with The White House, but spend ever a short time in the city and you’ll soon discover that DC has a thriving food scene. For lunch on the run, look to Union Market (www.unionmarketdc.com), a fabulous food market that’s the perfect place to taste DC on a plate filled as it is, with over 30 of the top food producers in the region.
Need a 3pm sugar hit? Afterwords Cafe (www.kramers.com), part of a buzzy bookshop, is top spot to tuck into heavenly home made cakes and excellent coffee. For something more swanky, seek out Central Michel Richard (www.centralmichelrichard.com) which specialises in serving new takes on traditional American comfort food favourites – lobster burgers anyone? – in an upmarket setting.
After a hard day at the office, locals love to let their hair down over a cocktail at a hip U Street bar: take a bow Bar Pillar (www.barpilar.com) and Marvin (www.marvindc.com). Wine more your bag? Dickson Wine Bar (www.dicksonwinebar.com) whose cosy walls covered in wine will put a smile on the face of any oenophile. When you’re done drinking, catch a show at DC’s original live music venue - the 9.30 club (www.930.com) whose name was derived from its opening time. Everyone who is anyone - we’re talking Bob Dylan, Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Adele - has played here when in town. As Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump once said of the 9:30: “It's got so much character, you wonder if the locals know how lucky they are.”
Shop to it
Good retail therapy is another part of Washington’s short break pleasures. If you want to play at being a politician, check out The CityCenter complex (www.citycenterdc.com). Housing some 40+ individual boutiques plus all the big designer names, this is where Washington’s power players shop till they drop.
Alternatively if your budget is more Primark than Prada, head to historic Georgetown - especially M Street, whose charming cobblestone streets sell everything from streetwear to home decor.
Into art? Don’t miss the Phillips Collection (www.phillipscollection.org/) near Dupont Circle (a favourite with DC’s diplomatic and gay scene) where you’ll find a remarkable collection of European and American works, many of which are for sale.
Georgetown, Washington DC, USA credit: aimintang
Have a head for heights? Take a ride on the Capitol Observation Ferris Wheel (thecapitalwheel.com) at the National Harbour, and enjoy arresting views of the DC skyline. You’ll be able to admire Blockbuster sights such as the Arlington National Cemetery, White House and US Capitol Building. If you’re feeing flush, book the VIP gondola replete with wine chillers, glass floors and leather bucket seats. Sounds good to us…
There’s no shortage of places to sleep when in Washington but, if you’re after local charm and character, The Carlyle (www.carlylehoteldc.com/dupont-circle-hotels) has it covered. Situated in the arty suburb of Dupont Circle, The Carlyle is famed for its thoughtful touches: think complimentary morning coffee and bike loans. Even if you can’t afford to check into The Carlyle, be sure to factor in a meal at its restaurant The Riggsby – an ideal destination to meet fellow travellers.
Getting around is easy
Huzzah! Washington DC is arguably the one American city where the car isn’t king. Rather DC is blessed by an affordable and reliable (London Underground, please take note) metro system, which has built up a reputation for being one of the best in the country. Prefer to see the sights while you travel? The red Circulator buses cost a mere US$1 and pass the lion’s share of Washington’s top attractions. And much of the city can be navigated for free on foot or by bike.
Got half a day to kill? Make for Mount Vernon (www.mountvernon.org) - a US landmark and an enduring tribute to George Washington, aka the Father of America. The first US President moved to Mount Vernon in 1754 and visitors to this beloved historic site, can get a glimpse into 18th-century plantation life through gorgeous gardens and grounds, intriguing museum exhibits and immersive programs honouring George Washington’s life and legacy. Alternatively head to Oak Hill Cemetery (www.nps.gov/nr/travel/wash/dc9.htm) – a picturesque 24 acre cemetery, that’s a popular spot for a leisurely stroll.