DC Guide for Visiting Family

DC is known as a very transient city, which means when its residents have babies, the city sees an influx of visitors coming to help out. Our baby isn’t even born yet and we have three sets of family members already booked to come in the first two months. We’ll appreciate the help, but we also know our small walls will drive all of us crazy. To that end, I created a DC guide for our families to get out of our house and enjoy some time to themselves (and ourselves). Feel free to add your DC favorites in the comment section. I’d love to hear them!

2017: Best of Washington, DC

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Hill East

Hill East is the neighborhood to the east of Capitol Hill and is becoming DC’s melting pot mixing long time DC residents with the new young professional/young family urbanites. It’s very much a neighborhood and here are a few favorites:

  • If you need coffee:
    • Mia’s Coffeehouse:
      • It’s not DC’s best coffee shop, but it’s become a neighborhood meeting place. It’s at the corner of 15th and A St NE and the only coffee shop in the area. It’s cozy and they make a decent latte. Free wifi, good chai lattes, and Taco Tuesdays make it a great escape.
    • If you need a sweet treat:
      • The Pretzel Bakery:
        • The glory of Hill East. Even if it wasn’t DC’s only pretzel shop, it would be the best. They make fresh pretzels every hour and serve them with your choice of Nutella, mustard, or caramel mustard (Yes, it’s amazing). If you have a sweet tooth, try their pretzel bomb, a Nutella-filled, sweet pretzel roll topped with our house-made glaze and a kiss of salt!
      • If you need a bite:
        • Far East Taco Grill:
          • This tiny shop started out as one of DC’s beloved food trucks. Now they serve their Korean-Mexican fusion food permanently on Hill East. They have wall seating, but most people get their kimchi fries to go.
        • If you need a stiff drink:
          • Trusty’s:
            • Just south of Hill East is a strip of dive restaurants and dive bars. If you’re tired of the suits of DC, venture to Trusty’s to meet the more country folk who live in the city. Grab a cheap draft beer and a Philly cheesesteak and enjoy this quirky dive bar.
          • Wisdom:
            • Right next to Trusty’s is a cocktail parlor called Wisdom that’s considered a dive. They have a great beer list on draft (including hard cider) and the back has comfortable couches to relax on.
          • If you need nature:
            • Kingman Island Park:
              • Just behind the RFK Stadium, Kingman Island Park is literally an island in Anacostia Park. Follow the nature trail around the island and stop and see the herrings and other animals. For an hour, you’ll think you are far, far from the city rather than still in it.
            • Lincoln Park:
              • The largest park in the neighborhood, it’s a great place to walk your dog, host an outdoor party, take your kids, or get a good workout in. There are two statues on either end of the park and lots of green space in between. On the edge of the park is a restaurant (Lincoln Park Kitchen) and a bakery/bodega (P&C Market).
            • If you need a walk/run:
              • Anacostia Riverwalk Trail:
                • Just behind RFK Stadium, this trail will take you along the Anacostia River over a bridge and into the Navy Yard. There are several places to stop and rest and enjoy the nature by the river.
              • Congressional Cemetery:
                • One of the oldest active cemeteries in the nation, Congressional Cemetery is also known as one of the coolest cemeteries in the country. They have free live music on Sundays at 4PM, morning yoga, night wine tours, and beautiful views of the city. It also doubles as a dog park for Capitol Hill’s elite.
              • Rosedale Community Center:
                • They have an outdoor pool, fitness center, basketball courts, and library. It’s $7 a day for non-DC residents and $5 for non-DC residents who are senior citizens (55+).

H Street NE

H Street NE is one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods in DC.

  • If you need coffee:
    • Maketto:
      • Maketto is a little bit of Brooklyn cool in DC. It’s a Chinese-Cambodian restaurant/apparel shop on the first floor and a simple, but sleek coffee shop on the second floor with expensive lattes, pastries, and free wifi. If you go in the morning, their warm chocolate croissants are the best in the city.
    • The Wydown:
      • Newly opened Wydown is a coffee shop and cocktail parlor in one of the newest condo buildings on H Street. There’s no wifi, but if you need a great place to read a good book, the atmosphere is the most inspiring.
    • If you need a bite:
      • Granville Moore:
        • The New York Times once wrote an article about how good the mussels are at Granville Moore. It’s a dark, little restaurant, but they serve good food and drinks.
      • Toki Underground:
        • One of, if not the very best, ramen in town. It’s a tiny place and lines can be long, but it’s quirky, fun, and their chicken curry ramen and warm chocolate chip cookies are the perfect meal.
      • &pizza:
        • This is one of DC’s fast-casual success stories. Its make your own pizza in a matter of minutes. It’s all thin crust, but their pizzas are on point.
      • Sally’s Middle Name:
        • A group of New Yorkers once said Sally’s Middle Name rivals the top restaurants in Manhattan. Every day, they write their farm-to-table menu on the walls and serve small plates. Anything you order will be great, but don’t pass up the olive oil cake for dessert.
      • Ten 01:
        • You haven’t experienced DC until you have happy hour and this one is the best on H Street. From the creators of the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl, this place is casual, fun, and make great appetizers.
      • If you need a sweet treat:
        • Dangerously Delicious Pies:
          • Originally from Baltimore, this place sells dozens of savory and sweet pies. A favorite is their chess pie. It’s a tad expensive, but it will fill you up!
        • Farewell:
          • Don’t let the gluten-free sign scare you off. Their desserts are amazing as is their main entrees. Stop in for a sweet treat.
        • If you need a stiff drink:
          • Copycat:
            • After you enjoy a few bao on the first floor, go upstairs to an unassuming bar on floor two. There you’ll enjoy surprisingly unique and delicious cocktails of all kinds.
          • If you need to be around people:
            • Union Market:
              • Just north of H Street is Union Market. On the site of DC’s oldest market, Union Market is one big indoor market with dozens of shops and food stands. They have a non-compete clause so you won’t find more than one coffee shop, sandwich shop, Greek stand, etc. Our favorites: Salt and Sundry for shopping, Peregrine for coffee, and Mason Dixie for America’s best biscuit in 2015.

 

Ivy City

Ivy City is the most industrial part of the city. Much of it is still emerging, but the land is going fast. It’s home to several distilleries, breweries and even a Moms Organic Market.

  • If you need nature:
    • National Arboretum:
      • The largest green space in the city, the National Arboretum has a lot to offer- trails that go on for miles, a river walk way, a bonsai garden, and even the original columns of the US Capitol Building. It’s a popular picnic spot and if you’re lucky, you’ll see the bald eagles that call it home.
    • If you want a distillery tour:
      • New Columbia Distillery:
        • DC’s first gin distillery. They sell their drinks up and down the East Coast and give free tours every Saturday. If you’re adventurous, sign up to help them bottle their gin on Thursdays. They’ll provide free drinks for as long as you work.
      • Republic Restoratives:
        • The first female owned distillery in DC, the two owners distill great vodka, craft even better drinks, and provide a beautiful spot to relax.
      • If you need a stiff drink:
        • Atlas Brewery:
          • It’s a large brewery wit food trucks, games, and an impressive flight of beer.
        • If you need a bite:
          • Panda Gourmet:
            • Named the best Chinese in DC, Panda Gourmet is a restaurant in Days Inn Motel. It’s a little dodgy, but the dozens of hipsters inside will make you feel okay about eating here.

Capitol Hill

One of the most historic neighborhoods in DC. It’s a neighborhood pull of beautiful row houses many of which shelter DC’s politicians.

If you need coffee:

  • Peregrine:
    • One of DC’s oldest coffee shops, it’s a neighborhood spot for all Capitol Hill residents. Their latte may be the best in the city.
  • Pineapple and Pearls:
    • This Michelin star dinner spot also has a coffee shop/lunch spot during the day. Order a latte and ask for their fresh made hazelnut of pistachio milk. If you come around lunch time, order DC’s best fried chicken sandwich.

If you need a sweet treat:

  • The Sweet Lobby:
    • The tiniest cupcake shop in DC, the owners won Cupcake Wars with their green tea cupcake. If you’re not a fan of frosting, try their hazelnut chocolate cupcake or DC’s best macaroons (The passion fruit is the best!).

If you need a stiff drink:

  • Harold Black:
    • It’s an actual speakeasy where DC’s elite hang out at night. You go through a wooden door to the left of Aqua Al 2, up the stairs, and knock on the giant sliding wooden wall. Once inside, have the bartender craft you one of their best drinks and enjoy the soft music and mood lighting.

If you need some fun:

  • Escape Artist DC:
    • It’s an escape room in a row house just south of Barracks Row. It’s run by a genius engineer. He’ll take an hour of your time and challenge you to an intense escape room experience.
    • If you need breakfast:
  • Market Breakfast:
    • Inside Eastern Market, this no-frills DC establishment makes the best blueberry buckwheat pancakes in town. It’s cash only and lines can form early, but it’s worth the wait.

If you need to read:

  • Capitol Hill Books:
    • The quirkiest bookstore in DC, it’s a small row house owned by a cranky war veteran. If you abide by the list of rules, you’ll be fine. Wander the three floors and don’t forget the foreign language section in…the bathroom! On the third Saturday of the month, the owner puts out a massive bottle of wine and a hunk of cheese for all to enjoy.

If you need to shop:

  • Eastern Market:
    • During the week, it’s an indoor food market that sells fresh fruits and vegetables, produce, and even flowers. On the weekends, it extends outdoors and a flea market opens selling DC art, crafts, and antiques.

 

Navy Yard

Navy Yard is where the Navy is…and an emerging waterfront scene complete with restaurants, bars, and shops.

 

  • If you need coffee:
    • Philz:
      • This San Francisco coffee shop is part of the third-wave coffee movement where they serve you very detailed hand crafted coffee to fit every need you may have.
    • If you need breakfast:
      • Scarlet Oak:
        • Not everyone loves this place, but they make one of the best French toast in DC.
      • If you need a stiff drink:
        • Bluejacket Brewery:
          • It’s a huge, industrial brewery on the waterfront serving dozens of local beers. Try the flight to get a good taste of what they have to offer.
        • If you need exercise:
          • The Trapeze School of New York:
            • Yes, that’s right. For a small price, you can learn how to trapeze. If you love adventure, it’s worth it!
          • Yards Park:
            • This park runs along the Anacostia River. It offers great views of the water, interesting architecture, and free weekly yoga.
          • If you need ice cream:
            • Jubilee Ice cream:
              • The lawyer owner got sick of practicing law and started making ice cream from her home. She won “Best ice cream in DC” and now has a small shop that serves Thai ice tea ice cream and other unique flavors.

 

National Mall

The National Mall is the strip of grass that runs from the US Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It offers a great running path and countless monuments and free museums.

  • If you want to see art:
    • National Museum of Art- East Building:
      • It’s newly reopened and displays countless modern art. The building itself is beautiful on the inside and it has a fun rooftop that looks out on the Mall and houses a giant, blue rooster (Yep, you read that right). The second Thursday of every month, they host a free live music event complete with wine and food for purchase.
    • Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden:
      • Its modern art and a hidden gem of DC. It’s a donut shaped building with contemporary art and one of the best museum stores.
    • If you want to be inspired:
      • Lincoln Memorial:
        • It stands for itself. When you go, be sure to sit on the back and look out over the Potomac River.
      • US Capitol:
        • Its breath taking and the visitor center is a fun small museum. Stop by your congress person’s office and get same-day tickets for a tour. It’s free!
      • Washington Monument:
        • The best views of The White House and both ends of the Mall.
      • World War II Memorial:
        • At night, it’s all lit up and so beautiful and inspiring. You’re likely to meet a WWII veteran and ask them their story to make the experience more real.
      • If you want to learn history:
        • American History Museum:
          • If you love America and history, don’t miss this one. It houses the flag that inspired the “Star Spangled Banner” and Julia Child’s kitchen.
        • Museum of the American Indian:
          • It’s uniquely built, full of rich history, and the best café inside a Smithsonian. It’s free.
        • National Museum of African American History and Culture:
          • Hands down the biggest and most inspiring museums in DC. Wake up at 6:30AM to snag free same-day passes and budget 5-6 hours to go through ALL the exhibits, café, and reflection areas.

Chinatown

Don’t be fooled. Most of the original Chinese restaurants are sadly gone and all that remain are shops and restaurants with their signs in Mandarin. However, many consider Chinatown the heart of DC since it’s a few blocks away from the National Mall and some of DC’s best neighborhoods.

  • If you want more museums:
    • Building Museum:
      • Many of DC’s best galas are at the Building Museum and every year they turn the courtyard into a unique exhibit.
    • Portrait Gallery:
      • It’s free and they have a fun scavenger hunt in the east gallery. Grab a coffee in the courtyard and enjoy the light and fountains.
    • If you want to catch a movie:
      • Regal Cinema:
        • DC’s most mainstream cinema.
      • If you want coffee:
        • Chinatown Coffee Company:
          • The oldest coffee shop in Chinatown serving great coffee, pastries, and free wifi.
        • Compass:
          • This DC coffee shop made quality coffee accessible. They have free wifi and you’ll always be able to find a seat.
        • La Colombe:
          • This Philly coffee shop has the best draft latte. No wifi, but bring a book to enjoy.
        • If you want a bite:
          • Beef and Bread:
            • This place sells excellent sandwiches, including a great roast beef one.
          • Daikaya:
            • This place is a popular ramen shop. Small and lines are long, but worth the wait.
          • Vapiano:
            • Casual yet fancy feeling Italian place. You get a card when you walk in to use to order hand crafted Italian pasta.
          • If you want culture and live music:
            • 6th and I:
              • It’s a historic synagogue but host author events, concerts, and political discussions for a small fee.
            • If you are up for walking a few more blocks:
              • A Baked Joint:
                • The very best breakfast sandwich- biscuit, cheese, and a meat of your choice. You’ll end up ordering two.

 

Georgetown

Rumor has it when the DC Metro opened, they left the Georgetown stop abandoned because the wealthy didn’t want this rich neighborhood to be accessible to just anyone. Walk down M Street NW and you’ll get a sense of the wealth as you pass by high fashion shops and 5 star restaurants. Nonetheless, Georgetown is still a popular place to visit when in DC.

  • If you want a sweet treat:
    • Baked and Wire:
      • When tourists love nearby Georgetown Cupcakes, locals love Baked and Wire. Their cupcakes are plenty, large, and come in wax paper.
    • If you want breakfast:
      • Café Leopold:
        • It’s a cute Austrian café with good chocolate, breakfast, coffee, and croissants.
      • If you need a bite:
        • Chaia:
          • It sells vegan tacos, but surprisingly amazing and fresh.
        • Good Stuff Eatery:
          • The chef was on two seasons of Top Chef and got close to winning both times. He now makes really good burgers and fries and award winning milkshakes (Get the toasted marshmallow shake).
        • Sweetgreen:
          • DC’s fast casual farm to table salad shop with organic iced tea and frozen yogurt. Don’t pass the warm slice of homemade bread that comes with each salad.
        • If you want a walk:
          • The Canal:
            • Start at Baked and Wire and walk along the canal and enjoy the beautiful homes.
          • If you want some fun:
            • Pinstripes:
              • Beers, food, bocce ball and bowling on Georgetown’s waterfront. You can’t go wrong here.

 

Coming soon…

Shaw

U Street

Columbia Heights

Mt. Vernon Square

Downtown

Park View

Mt. Pleasant

Adams Morgan

Waterfront

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