Two-Day Towns: Washington, DC

Washington, DC can be great—but keep in mind, it’s an expense account town. Translation: more expensive than it should be. One of our favorite walking areas is between Dupont Circle and Logan Circle, where some of our favorite restaurants (with plenty of weeknight mojo) are located.

Stay away from driving if you can avoid it. The taxis and Uber cars are everywhere. On the outskirts of town, it’s not LA traffic, but it tends to feel like it with a lot less lanes. And rush hour seems to be four hours in the morning and six hours in the afternoon. Yes, that leaves a small window late morning and early afternoon to actually enjoy the drive on GW Parkway, which is gorgeous in the fall and spring (cherry blossoms are usually out late March into mid-April).

Where to Stay:

Honestly, we haven’t yet found THE hotel. It’s a city dominated with businessmen travelers (we should say people, but it’s still mostly men), conventions, and events. So the hotels mostly accommodate all of them, and they smell, oddly enough, like a combination of death and bacon. (Isn’t if hard to tell the difference sometimes?) The bacon must come from the catering, and the death comes from the old buildings not remodeled appropriately.

That said, here are a few tips:

Georgetown:

The hotels we liked most were in Georgetown, including the Capella. It has some of the best hotel service we’ve seen. There’s also the known Four Seasons. But they’re in Georgetown and they’re expensive. The hotel has a great neighborhood for walking, it’s beautiful, near the university, etc. But if you want any novelty in restaurants or retail, this is not the place to stay. One cheaper boutique-like option in Georgetown is the Graham.

In the downtown area, it’s all a matter of location. Closer to Dupont or Logan Circle, you can choose from Dupont Circle Hotel (ask for the highest floor with balconies on the rooms) or Donovan. The Donovan is cheap-trying-to-be-cool boutique, but rooms are okay and location is good. Neither hotel is great. Every chain is there, including the Loews Madison, with a decent restaurant, Rural Society, on the first floor.

Closer to the convention area (still not far away) include the Palomar (also a Kimpton hotel and okay), the Sofitel (dated, but Sofitel is always a good choice), or the Park Hyatt, on the higher end.

There is also the option of the big old dogs, or the higher-end chains including everything from the W to the Willard (Intercontinental) or the Mayflower (now a Marriott Autograph collection) to the traditional, well-known Jefferson or Hay Adams, up to the Mandarin Oriental.

The key is that they’re all owned by some big hotel chain, so go by either your points or take the general appeal of a Kimpton (usually cheap and boutiquey in DC) to the Marriott to Loews, etc.

Our go-to tends to be Capella or Dupont Circle, if we can get a balcony. Note, with the exception of Georgetown, and the Jefferson/Hay Adams/Mayflower, the exteriors are all hideous.

RS

For restaurants, in addition to the 14th Street run (which also includes Bar Pilar and Cork wine bar), try:

Rose’s Luxury: on the other side of Capitol Hill and hard to get into, but novel and has great mojo

José Andrés owns the town, and for a multiple owner, his places are all good. Try Zaytinya, Jaleo, or Minibar.

Jack Rose if you want a whiskey bar

Little Serow for Thai

For oysters, either Pearl Dive or Hank’s

Boqueria for tapas

Daikaya for Japanese (ramen on one floor, izakaya on another)

The celebrity chefs are coming in more and more including Michael Mina (Bourbon Steak in Four Seasons), Michael White with Osteria Morini, and every steakhouse chain in the country is here, so there’s no shortage of known choices if you MUST.

If you haven’t been to DC, it’s a great two-day town. Even if you don’t love our government (personal comments aside), flying in directly over the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument, then driving past the Mall, the White House, and all the grand museums is an American must. Combine it with a walk through the neighborhoods of Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, and eating your way through 14th Street and you’ve got a great combo.

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