It’s fall in Washington, D.C., and if your previous visits were confined to the touristy two-mile stretch between the U.S. Capitol and Lincoln Memorial, you’re in for a surprise: DC has more green space per capita than any other U.S. city its size, according to National Geographic, with tons of options for design and history buffs to boot. It’s a great excuse to take a weekend jaunt through the city’s neighborhoods.
BOOK A ROOM
Kimpton’s Hotel George (15 E Street NW) on Capitol Hill puts a modern spin on the city’s rich history with color-drenched, Warhol-like paintings and prints throughout the hotel’s public spaces. Plus, each of its 139 rooms has a feature wall with oversized graphics of George Washington’s inaugural address.
From the hotel, it’s an easy stroll through the Capitol Hill Historic District, whose wide avenues are lined with some of the most diverse architecture to be found in a single neighborhood—from 19th-century manor houses to hefty Romanesque brownstones and prim Queen Anne row houses.
You’ll end up at Eastern Market (225 7th Street SE), where 7th Street closes each weekend for an open-air market with produce, flowers, jewelry, clothing, art, and vintage furnishings. Need a pick-me-up? Grab an espresso at Peregrine Espresso (660 Pennsylvania Ave. SE), or choose one of their “on tap” coffees.
Hail a cab to Georgetown, where its Kennedy-era renown for salon gatherings of the city’s political, literary, and social elite is seeing a long-overdue revival—only today’s mix includes young, tech-fueled entrepreneurs with international flair.
Start off at Leopold’s Kafe, (3315 Cady’s Alley NW) a modern Austrian bistro a few steps away from the crowds of M Street. If the weather’s nice, sit by the charming fountain in the courtyard and order from a menu of tarts, sandwiches, salads, and cured meats. An enormous bakery counter holds myriad dessert temptations.
Walk off lunch toward Book Hill on Wisconsin Avenue NW, where you’ll find some of the city’s best antique shops and art galleries. The Christ Child Society’s Opportunity Shop (1427) consigns all manner of art, antiques, china, sterling silver, jewelry, and haute couture at thrift-store prices. Browse through the waterfalls of fabric lining the walls at John Rosselli & Associates (1515), where you’ll find precious antique accessories and reproduction-antique furniture, in addition to custom designs. Marston Luce Antiques (1651) sells furnishings and art that would be at home in a French country chateau. Stop in at David Bell Antiques (1655) for pure whimsy in the form of oversized accessories, like a large, antique punching bag or a 5-foot-tall globe mingle, as well as plenty of mid-century furnishings and an enviable collection of first-edition and out-of-print books. At the newly opened Artist’s Proof (1533) gallery, designed by modernist architect Travis Price, the structure is as much a work of art as the local and international talents represented there. Susan Calloway Fine Arts (1643), meanwhile, features everything from moody landscapes and line drawings to 18th-century paintings and modern abstracts.
By now, you’re ready for a cocktail. Walk back down the hill to the Capella hotel (1050 31st Street NW), and have a drink at the Rye Bar, whose clubby interior overlooks the historic C&O Canal.
For dinner, try 701 (701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). The continental restaurant’s enormous windows look out to the glowing National Archives and U.S. Navy Memorial, while a live Jazz band plays on the weekends. The restaurant offers a pre-theater menu in case you’re heading to a show at the avant-garde Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (641 D Street NW) around the corner or (if you want a more refined experience) the Shakespeare Theatre Company (450 7th Street NW) next door.
Get a dose of the city’s gritty flair by heading to the bustling 14th Street NW design district. Start off with brunch at Lupo Verde (1401 T Street NW), an authentically Italian hot spot with everything from doughnuts to brunch pastas. If you want something quick, memorable, and more budget friendly, however, go to the French, crepe-centric Point Chaud (1736 14th Street NW).
Shopping awaits after brunch. Miss Pixie’s (1626 14th Street NW) and GoodWood (1428 U Street NW) offer funky, vintage furnishings and accessories, while Timothy Paul Home (1529B 14th Street NW) combines exotic rugs, pillows, and throws with high-end bed linens and décor. Lori Graham Home (1412 14th Street NW), meanwhile, features cutting-edge modern art alongside contemporary and mid-century furnishings and décor.
IF YOU GO
Train lovers will want to arrive at Union Station, just steps away from Hotel George. The century-old Beaux Arts beauty boasts a newly restored Main Hall, where the 96-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling coffers shine with fresh gold leaf. Reagan National Airport is the most convenient airport, a short cab or Metro ride from Capitol Hill.
THE HIGHBOY RECOMMENDS
The grounds at Georgetown’s Dumbarton Oaks—a respected research library and institute for the arts—were recently voted one of National Geographic’s Top 10 gardens in the world, and they’re definitely worth a visit. Designed by esteemed landscape architect Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s, the gardens are a prime example of the beauty that can be achieved when architecture and landscaping work together.
Jennifer Sergent is one of DC’s premier design writers and bloggers. Keep up with her work at dcbydesignblog.com