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Frommer's Washington, D.C. day by day

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This is the fourth edition of our bestselling Frommer's Washington, D.C. day by day guidebook, and Meredith Pratt, a Washington, D.C. resident for over a decade, has been the author of the second, third, and now fourth such edition. Meredith is a much-published travel journalist, and has herself experienced (when she first arrived here) the challenge of making the most of the nation's vibrant capital.

The book contains:
- Full color throughout with hundreds of photos and dozens of maps
- Sample one- to three-day itineraries that include Political Washington; Washington with Kids; Washington for Architecture Lovers; strolls through iconic neighborhoods like Adams Morgan, Georgetown, and the U Street Corridor; and more
- Star ratings for all hotels, restaurants, and attractions that clue readers in on great finds and values
- Exact pricing so there’s never any guessing
- Tear-resistant foldout map in a handy, reclosable plastic wallet and dozens of bulleted maps throughout to help guide you from place to place

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12 Chapters

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12 FAVORITE MOMENTS

ePub

The Jefferson Memorial during cherry blossom season.

12 Favorite Moments

President Harry Truman famously once said: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” While it’s true that the city is known for its passionate politics, presidential scandals, spies, and more, American politics, with its Hollywood-like allure, is not the only attraction drawing a never-ending stream of visitors to the nation’s capital. It’s a city of stunning architecture. World-class museums. Zeitgeist-changing theater. Cherry trees and great green spaces. Historic neighborhoods. Super shopping. An international pool of locals who call this place home. And, of course, the monuments that honor the brave, the fallen, and the founders of this fine country. Washington is inevitably targeted for laughs; but once you arrive in D.C., you’ll be smiling, too.

❶ Stand at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and gaze across the National Mall. The view—of the Reflecting Pool, the Vietnam and World War II memorials, the Washington Monument, and, in the distance, the Capitol Building—is monumental. See p 9.

 

1 The Best Full-Day, Two and Three-Day Tours

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The U.S. Capitol building.The Best of D.C. in 1 DayThis full-day tour guides you through the Mall and Georgetown—both are must-sees, so don’t let the fact that Georgetown is slightly off the public transportation grid deter you. These two areas attract visitors in droves for good reason, so don’t feel like a lemming if you end up trailing kids in matching T-shirts as you explore the Mall’s free monuments and museums and then the cobblestone sidewalks of M Street in Georgetown. START: Metro to Foggy Bottom, then a 30-minute walk.❶ ★★★ Lincoln Memorial. Start your day on the steps of this iconic tribute to Abraham Lincoln, the beloved 16th president of the United States. Architect Henry Bacon designed this marble, Greek temple–inspired memorial in 1914. Its 36 Doric columns reflect the states of the Union at the time of Lincoln’s assassination in 1865—days after the Southern states surrendered the Civil War. Daniel Chester French designed the nearly 20-foot-tall (6m) sculpture of Lincoln, seated in solemn repose, surrounded by inscriptions of his immortal words from the Gettysburg address and his second inaugural address. Gazing across The Mall and contemplating Lincoln’s “dedication to the proposition that all men are created equal” always gives me chills.  30 min. ☎ 202/426-6841. www.nps.gov/linc. Free admission. Metro: Foggy Bottom, then a 30-min. walk.

 

2 THE BEST SPECIAL-INTEREST TOURS: Political Washington, D.C. for Architecture Lovers, Washington for Kids, Historic Washington

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View of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Capitol Building.Political Washington

O
h, the intrigue . . . the drama . . . the repressed yawns
among members of Congress as they fight to stay awake during marathon legislative sessions on Capitol Hill. Exciting or not, Washington is pure politics, 24/7. If you live here, there’s no escape from the maneuverings of our elected officials, and the (sometimes biting, sometimes toothless) press corps that hounds them. If you’re visiting, spend a few days catching a glimpse of the capital’s complex, consequential, and at times truly captivating political scene, from past to present, with this tour.
START:
Metro to Capitol South or Union Station.
❶ ★★★ The U.S. Capitol Building. Viewed from the wide avenues that radiate toward and away from it, the Capitol is almost palatial in its grandeur, crowning the highest pont between the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. Connected to the White House by a grand diagonal avenue (Pennsylvania Ave.), the Capitol was part of architect Pierre L’Enfant’s plan to embody the separation of powers in the capital grid and architecture when he laid out the city in 1791. The Capitol complex includes the Capitol, the House and Senate Office buildings, the U.S. Botanic Garden, the Capitol Grounds, the Library of Congress buildings, and the Supreme Court building. Among the Capitol’s most impressive features are the cast-iron dome, the rotunda, the old Senate and Supreme Court chambers, the Brumidi Corridors, and the National Statuary Hall. When you tour the building, you’ll see interior embellishments that include richly patterned and colored floor tiles, the vaulted and ornately decorated corridors on the first floor of the Senate wing, and the fluted white marble pillars lining the Hall of Columns, plus hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and other artworks, including the 4,664-square-foot (433-sq.-m) fresco The Apotheosis of Washington. In late 2008, visiting the Capitol changed monumentally with the opening of the Capitol Visitor Center. This half billion–dollar complex, located beneath the Capitol itself, has an exhibition hall featuring the Statue of Freedom, amendments to the Constitution, and an 11-foot (3.4m) model of the Capitol Dome. Hands-on exhibits include virtual tours of the building and touchable reproductions of famous Capitol artworks. Food, beverages, large bags, and pointed objects are prohibited on these tours.  2 hr. East end of The Mall (entrance on E. Capitol and 1st sts. NW). ☎ 202/226-8000. www.aoc.gov, www.house.gov, www.visitthecapitol.gov, or www.senate.gov. Free admission. Advance reservations required for tours beyond the Visitor Center. Mon–Sat, 1st tour at 8:50am and last at 3:20pm. Closed Jan 1, Thanksgiving, and Dec 25. Metro: Capitol South or Union Station.

 

3 THE BEST MUSEUMS

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Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall at the National Air & Space Museum.

National Air & Space Museum

Maybe you fantasize about soaring high above the clouds, visiting galaxies far, far away, or traveling in spaceships to distant planets. Since it opened in 1976, the National Air and Space Museum has been one of the most visited museums on the National Mall. It’s also one of the largest, holding some 30,000 aviation artifacts and 9,000 space artifacts ranging from the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer to passenger jetliners, rockets, lunar rocks, and spacesuits. It also houses the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater, where you can tour the galaxies from the safety of your seat. The following itinerary features hallmarks of the collection. Plan to spend a couple of hours here; avionics lovers may want to linger an afternoon or a day. START: Metro to L’Enfant Plaza.

❶ Wright Brother’s Flyer (1903). Wilbur and Orville Wright pioneered early flight after building and testing several piloted gliders and kites. Then, on Dec. 17, 1903, this aircraft—the first powered airplane with a propulsion system—took off in Kitty Hawk, N.C., for a 12-second flight, traveling 120 ft. The brothers made three more flights with the plane that day, until a large gust of wind overturned the plane. It was never flown again, but on that day, modern aviation was born. Early Flight, first floor.

 

4 THE BEST NEIGHBORHOOD WALKS; Adams Morgan, U Street Corridor/14th Street, DuPont Circle, Georgetown, Penn Quarter, Capitol Hill

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Daniel Chester French’s marble fountain in the center of Dupont Circle.

Adams Morgan
If you love New York’s East Village, you’ll feel right at home in this neighborhood, which is all about youthful verve, bohemian values, diversity, and a thriving street scene. Concentrate your explorations on 18th Street and the intersecting Columbia Avenue, where you’ll discover authentic ethnic restaurants, girlie boutiques, funky lounges, coffeehouses with sidewalk seating, and young people on display in their various rebellious uniforms. START: Metro to Woodley Park–Zoo/Adams Morgan. ★★ Tryst is one of those coffeehouses whose regulars seem to live in the place—you almost expect to find Ross, Rachel, Joey, and the gang camped out in the corner. A bar, a lounge, a diner, and a cafe, it shelters students doing homework; writers on laptops; artists hanging artwork for sale; and mohawked 8-year-olds running around, pastries in hand. Opens very early, closes very late. See p 149.

 

5 THE BEST SHOPPING

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Shop for up and coming designer names at Cusp.

Shopping Best Bets

Best Interior Design District

★★ Cady’s Alley, 3314 M St. NW, Georgetown (p 110)

Best Antiques (to $10K)

Carling Nichols, 1655 Wisconsin Ave. NW (see “Antique Row,” p 110)

Best Antiques (to $100)

★★ Eastern Market, 7th St. and North Carolina Ave. SE (p 112)

Best “Bling”

★★★ Tiny Jewel Box, 1155 Connecticut Ave., NW (p 111)

Best Shoes for $500

★★ Hu’s Shoes, 3005 M St. NW. (p 112)

Best Shoes for $50

Nine West, 1029 Connecticut Ave. NW (p 108)

Best Apparel for Serious Fashionistas

★★ Cusp, 3030 M St. NW (p 107)

Best Commercial Shopping Drag

M Street and Wisconsin Avenue

Best Hidden Gem

Home Rule, 1807 14th St. NW (p 110)

Best Hood for Contemporary Art

The Galleries on 14th Street, 14th St. NW (p 106)

Best Place for a Power Tie

★★★ Thomas Pink, 1127 Connecticut Ave. NW (p 108)

Best for Gourmet Snacks

 

6 THE BEST OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

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The Smithsonian Castle.

Rock Creek Park

How many other major American urban areas have 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of natural woodlands smack dab in the middle of the city? Established in 1890 by the Rock Creek Park Historic District and protected by the U.S. Congress, this green resource is to Washingtonians what Central Park is to New Yorkers—except New Yorkers can’t camp, canoe, or lose themselves for miles on trails that wind beneath canopies of lush-leaved trees, so thick in spots that civilization seems a distant memory. Accessible through numerous entrance points throughout northwest Washington, this urban oasis offers shade and cooler temperatures on hot days; historic parks; great golf, horseback riding, and bird watching; a refuge for deer and raccoons; and even a 1-mile (1.6km) stretch of rapids. It also borders the National Zoo. It does have isolated areas, however, so avoid visiting early in the morning or past dusk. Remain alert, and avoid going alone if you can. START: Metro to Friendship Heights or Fort Trotten, then the E2 bus to Glover (also called Oregon) and Military roads; walk 300 feet (30m) south on the trail to the planetarium.

 

7 THE BEST DINING

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The bar at Le Diplomat.

Capitol Hill & Penn Quarter

Georgetown & Dupont Circle

Dining Best Bets

Best Newcomer

★★★ Rose’s Luxury $$ 717 8th St. SE (p 143)

Best Manhattan Rival

★★★ Momofuku $$ 1090 I St. NW (p 139)

Best for Carnivores

★ Medium Rare, $ 3500 Connecticut Ave. NW (p 139)

Best Hotel Eats

★★ The Riggsby $$ 1731 New Hampshire Ave. NW (p 141)

Best Mussels and Beer

★★ Brasserie Beck $$ 1101 K St. NW (p 134)

Best All-Organic

★★ Restaurant Nora $$$ 2132 Florida Ave. NW (p 141)

Best Unfussy French

★ Chez Billy $$ 3815 Georgia Ave. NW (p 136)

Best Sexy Tapas Place

★★ Estadio $$ 701 9th St. NW (p 136)

Best for Flirting with Elected Officials

★★★ The Capital Grille $$$$ 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (p 135)

Best for Winos

★★★ Proof $$$ 775 G St. NW (p 140)

Best for Blue Bloods

★ Café Milano $$$ 3252 Prospect St. NW (p 135)

 

8 THE BEST NIGHTLIFE

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The wine bar at Proof.

D.C. Nightlife

Nightlife Best Bets

Best for Hopheads

★★ Churchkey, 1337 14th St. NW (p 147)

Best for Watching Interns Flirt with Elected Officials

★ Charlie Palmer Steak, 101 Constitution Ave. NW (p 151)

Best for Rubbing Shoulders with Capitol Hillers

★ Tune Inn, 331 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (p 151)

Best for Wine & Romance

★★★ 1789, 1226 36th St. NW (p 152)

Best for Overhearing State Secrets

★★ Off the Record Bar, Hay Adams Hotel, 800 16th St. NW (p 151)

Best for Scotch Lovers

★ Barrel, 613 Pennsylvania Ave. SE (p 152)

Best for Live Jazz & Blues

★ Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW (p 149)

Best for Catching Indie Acts

★ 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW (p 150)

Best for Drinks While the Kids Eat Pizza

★★ 2 Amys, 3715 Macomb St. NW (p 148)

Best for Mingling with Socialites

★ Café Milano, 3252 Prospect St. NW (p 151)

Best Literary/Artsy-Fartsy Haunt

 

9 THE BEST ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

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Fireworks over Wolf Trap theater in Virginia.

D.C. Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment Best Bets

Ford’s Theater.

Best Restored Theater

★ The Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW (p 158)

Best for History Buffs

★★ Ford’s Theatre, 511 10th St. NW (p 157)

Best for High-Brow Performance

★★★ Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW (p 158)

Best for Avant-Garde Acts

★★ Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW (p 158)

Best Place to Laugh So Hard You Cry

★★ DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW (p 157)

Best of the Bard

★★ Shakespeare Theatre Company, 610 F St. NW (p 158)

Best for Touring Broadway Shows

★★ National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (p 158)

Best for Edgy Playwrights

★★ Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW (p 158)

Best Outdoor Theater

★ Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, 1645 Trap Rd., Vienna, Virginia (p 158)

You can picnic on the lawn while enjoying a show at Wolf Trap.

 

10 THE BEST HOTELS

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Federal Suite of the Hay Adams

D.C. Hotels

Hotel Best Bets

Where Activist Hollywood A-Listers Hold Court

★★ Mandarin Oriental $$$ 1330 Maryland Ave. SW (p 166)

Where Hollywood A-Listers Get Some Sleep

★★ Gold Floor at The Fairmont Washington $$$ 2401 M St. NW (p 163)

Where Washington’s Young Bucks Mingle

★★ Hotel George $$ 15 E St. NW (p 165)

Most Romantic Bathtub with the Best View

★★ Willard InterContinental $$$ 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (p 168)

For Some Shabby with Your Chic

★★ Tabard Inn $$ 1739 N St. NW (p 165)

Where to Make a Great Splash

★★ Washington Plaza (and its rooftop pool) $$ 10 Thomas Circle NW (p 168)

Best for Fashionistas

★★★ Four Seasons Georgetown $$$$ 2800 Pennsylvania Ave. NW (p 164)

Best for Warehouse Luxe

★★★ Ritz-Carlton Georgetown $$$$ 3100 S St. NW (p 167)

Where to Meet an NBA Player

★★ Hotel Monaco $$ 700 F St. NW (p 165)

Best for the Entitled

 

THE SAVVY TRAVELER

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Ronald Reagan International Airport.

Before You Go

Government Tourist Offices

Destination D.C., 901 7th St. NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20001-3719 (☎ 800/422-8644 or 202/789-7000; www.washington.org) provides information on hotels, restaurants, sights, shops, and more.

Also take a look at the D.C. government’s website, www.dc.gov, and Cultural Tourism D.C., www.culturaltourismdc.org, for more information about the city.

For additional information about Washington’s most popular tourist spots, access the National Park Service website, www.nps.gov/nacc and the Smithsonian Institution’s www.si.edu.

The Best Times to Go

The city’s peak seasons generally coincide with the sessions of Congress and springtime. When Congress is “in,” from about the second week in September until Thanksgiving, and again from about mid-January through June, hotels are full with guests on business.

Mid-March through June traditionally is the most frenzied season, when families and school groups descend to see the cherry blossoms. It’s also a popular season for protest marches.

 

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