Travel Blog Series: Washington, DC

I’ve traveled the majority of my life and yet, I’ve never hated anything more than feeling like a tourist. Obviously, it’s inevitable — you can’t visit Washington DC without seeing the Mall or London without riding on the Eye or Cleveland without visiting the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. However, I think there’s something to be said for trying the local (or at least more unknown) places.

So, that’s my mission to bring the local flavor of a city to your visit (which arguably should still include all the museums and sight-seeing you want). This week, with the help of a variety of people, I’m focusing on our nation’s capital, Washington D.C.

1. Walk left, stand right. It applies everywhere — the Metro, sidewalks, the museums. Trust me.

2. About twenty minutes from the National Mall via Metro, Old Town Alexandria (Virginia) has plenty of shopping and dining available. Rebecca Frank ‘18 recommends taking a walk along the scenic Potomac River Waterfront.

3. In Battle of the Georgetown Bakeries, Celia Healy, a junior from American University recommends Baked & Wired while Lindy Wittenberg ‘19, encourage everyone to visit Georgetown Cupcakes. My solution? Try both!                                                     

Baked & Wired

Georgetown Cupcakes

 

4. Washington DC is divided into quadrants, with the Capitol Building's rotunda acting as the center. Each quadrant is broken into eight “wards” aka neighborhoods. Getting used to which is which will help you navigate the city.

5. Mumbo sauce is found in DC area Chinese restaurants. It’s a mix of BBQ & plum sauce and generally put on anything fried (chicken, rice, shrimp, etc), although the locals seem to believe the sky’s the limit for what can be eaten with mumbo sauce.

6. Although there are plenty of delicious restaurants, bars and pizzerias, food trucks are the local ways of life. Fast, easy, unusual and oftentimes cheaper than sit-down restaurants, they’re perfect for a city-on-the-go.

7. U Street Corridor is a nine-block stretch of clubs, restaurants, art galleries and music venues. Once the center of African-American culture (Duke Ellington called it home), it’s now a hipster’s paradise, with everything from upscale bars to Ben’s Chili Bowl, home of “drunk food” galore.

 

8. Spend a beautiful day at Rock Creek Park, a national park in the Northwest quadrant of Washington DC. There’s a horse center for trail rides, the remains of a Civil War-era Fort Circle Parks and a planetarium, not to mention plenty of opportunities to hike, bike or float!

9. Recommended by Jess Kusher ‘19, Comet Ping-Pong is a wood-fire, thin-crust pizza restaurant that specializes in table-tennis, old arcade games and local beers. Sounds simple enough, but it’s the preferred first-date and general hang-out spot of young locals, so it can get pretty crowded, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.         

 

10. Georgetown Sunset Cinema on the Waterfront, recommended by Healy, is a free, all-summer long event, where food-trucks and locals come together to watch everything from classics to rom-coms to action flicks. It’s especially popular among the student population of DC!  

11. In the Battle of the Markets, Eastern and Union are both located in huge warehouses and offer a variety of fresh produce and local art. It’s argued that Eastern is in a better neighborhood but Union has a wider variety of vendors, so it all depends on what you want in your market experience!  

12. Another favorite of Healy, Politics and Prose is an independent indie bookstore that attracts celebrated authors, such as JK Rowling, and is known for its knowledgeable staff and dedicated customers.

13. A favorite sculpture of many, The Awakening features a giant (nicknamed Charlie) trying to extract himself from the ground — his arms and knee provide the perfect spot for climbing and taking cute photos with friends!  Although located at Hains Point for 27 years, the sculpture can now be found at National Harbor in Maryland near the Children’s Museum.

 

14. The Tabard Inn is the oldest running hotel in Washington DC — the name itself is drawn from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and it operates as an English manor. Even if you can’t afford to stay there, stop in for a bite at their restaurant and cafe (brunch is apparently the local’s favorite), or buy tickets for one of their famous jazz concerts.

15. Frank also recommends visiting The Torpedo Factory Art Center, located in Alexandria Virginia, is home to the largest collection of publicly accessible working artist studios in the United States. You can sign up for an art class or just pursue the studios!

16. A U Street Taco has nothing to do with Mexican cuisine. Instead, it’s a chili-dog wrapped in a “jumbo” slice of pizza. The locals can’t get enough.

 

17. Busboys & Poets, whose name is inspired by Langston Hughes, are community gathering places located in six DC neighborhoods. They act as a resource for “thinkers, dreamers, artists, activists and writers” and hold events such as poetry readings, political forums and art exhibitions. Their doors are open for everyone!

18. The Adams Morgan neighborhood is the Hispanic center of DC, but also a place teeming with nightlife and amazing Latin-infused music & cuisine. The local recommendation: taking salsa dancing lessons at Habana Village!

19. The signature drink of Washington DC is a gin Rickey, which was invented by Colonel Joe Rickey in 1883. Although every bar makes it a little differently, it’s basically just gin (or bourbon) with limes thrown in.

20. DC natives speak exclusively in acronyms and initialisms so have Google at the ready.

If you love your hometown or have a city you’re particularly familiar with, and want to show tourists what the locals love, please contact me at [email protected] and I’ll happily sit down with you to work out an article that showcases your love for your city.

 

Images: pinterest.com, bakedandwired.com, geno-baroni.com, yelp.com, nytimes.com, thrillist.com