Washington, D.C. is known as a historic sightseeing destination, but it’s developed into a sophisticated urban getaway. With most of the key landmarks located in a compact area, it’s possible to see many of them in a single trip. When business takes you to our nation’s capital, formulate a plan for your off-hours with these suggestions.
Stroll along the National Mall, the heart of Washington, D.C.’s iconic collection of monuments and museums. The Smithsonian Institute’s museums – including the newest addition, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture – flank the grassy expanse, punctuated by the Washington Monument. The National Museum of Natural History, which features scores of permanent and special exhibitions that highlight marvels of the natural world. Don’t miss the extraordinary collection of dinosaur fossils and the allegedly cursed Hope Diamond. Other Smithsonian favorites include the National Air and Space Museum, home to record-breaking air and spacecraft such as the Spirit of St. Louis and the Apollo 11 command module, and the National Museum of American History, which offers an immersive experience through artifacts as diverse as the ruby slippers from the “Wizard of Oz” and a fragment of Plymouth Rock.
Exploring the National Gallery of Art should be high on any itinerary. Among its collections is the portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci, the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Americas, and the 200-foot subterranean Multiverse sculpture by artist Leo Villareal, which lines the concourse linking the museum’s east and west wings.
Continue your walk to the memorials dedicated to fallen American soldiers, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with its once-controversial black-granite wall; the National World War II Memorial; and the Korean War Veterans Memorial.
Along Constitution Avenue, you can approach the most famous U.S. residence from the south. Peer at the White House through the gates for a look at the south lawn where Marine One lands. Even without crossing the threshold, the site that’s been home to American presidents since John Adams’ time is impressive to behold.
Conclude your day at dusk on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for spectacular views of the Mall, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol building.
City Center is the go-to destination for shopping downtown with high-end brands like Paul Stuart, Hermes, Tiffany & Co. and Vince. Georgetown is a lovely neighborhood with upscale fashion boutiques and major retailers along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Penn Quarter is steps from Chinatown and has everything from H&M to local accessories boutique Lou Lou, while the Logan Circle area is the best place to source edgy fashion and vintage finds.
Dining & Nightlife
The Wharf is D.C.’s best option for dining with something for any taste or budget. Have a cocktail after work at Kirwan’s Irish Pub and stay for dinner at Hank’s Oyster Bar. Save room for a cake truffle at Milk Bar, the award-winning bakery from James Beard award-winner and area native Chef Christina Tosi.
For those with healthy expense accounts, try one of the steakhouses favored by lobbyists and lawyers or the Bombay Club for first-rank Indian cuisine. To sample lots of different cuisines under one roof, visit Union Market. The foodie mecca is housed in a converted warehouse and features vendors and small restaurants selling all things artisanal, from chocolate to oysters. Little Serow near Dupont Circle is often cited as one of the city’s best, known for its homey, family-style Thai dining. After dark, the Hotel Tabard Inn’s cozy lounge hosts world-class jazz musicians on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights.
Where to Stay
If proximity to power is an amenity, the St. Regis, Washington, D.C., can’t be topped. Just two blocks from the White House, this hotel is a relaxed retreat with elegant rooms. The Willard InterContinental is a historic hotel that’s hosted power brokers since 1850. The Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill is located steps away from the halls of Congress and the Smithsonian museums.
Washington is a walkable city, but other transportation options include taxis, ride-share and the Metro, which travels between most points of interest. If you plan to use the subway system a lot during a short period, it’s smart to buy a one-day or seven-day pass that permits unlimited use for a single fare. Several trolley and double-decker bus services travel among the key attractions on the Mall and nearby, allowing guests to hop on and off along the way.
For more on the ‘business+leisure’ trend, check out Bleisure Travel: What is it and How Will it Impact Your Travelers (and Your Bottom Line?)
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