Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Stuff to do in DC

A Twitter friend is coming to Washington DC for July and has blegged for local dives.  While there are guides aplenty for things to do in DC, there's nothing that beats a local's recommendation. So, for what it's worth, here's my list of what people coming to DC aught to take advantage of (admittedly heavy on NW).

But before I give you my recommendations, pleeeze deeer gawd!!!! Stand to the right, walk to the left on the frikkin escalators!!!

Okay...

Dive Bars
  • The Raven Grill: Tiny bar. You have to squeeze your way in. I watched one of the 2004 Bush v Kerry presidential debates here on a small black and white TV mounted in the corner. It was a partisan crowd, to say the least. (Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights green/yellow line).
  • Wonderland Ballroom: Isolated location. I thought I was lost the first time I tried to find it. Weird to be next to a school. But it's pretty awesome. Upstairs dance floor. (Columbia Heights green/yellow line).
  • Galaxy Hut: Honestly, I thought this place was a hipster dance club the first 100 times I walked by it and never gave it a second glance until someone told me it was for serious beer drinkers only. This book should not be judged by its cover. (Clarendon, orange line).
  • Stan's Restaurant: Lived near this place for a year and never gave it a second glance because it's buried in a basement. Turns out, it's a surprisingly awesome and friendly establishment. They pour their drinks like everyone is Hunter Thompson. Gawd help you if you ain't.(Thomas Circle, McPherson Square orange/blue line).
Not dives but worth the time
  • DC9: Small, but very fun live music venue. Most things DC run through DC9. (U Street, U street metro green/yellow line).
  • Bistro d'OC : Small French restaurant. Excellent food. The cheesy, touristy neighborhood grew up around them, don't blame them. They were there first. (Metro Center, orange, blue, red lines).
  • Black Cat: Like DC9, most things DC run through Black Cat (U Street, U street metro green/yellow line).
  • Busboys and Poets: The godfather of DC's soul. If you visit DC and fail to make your pilgrimage to Busboys and Poets, well, that's your choice, ain't it? (U Street, U street metro green/yellow line).
  • Twins Jazz: How could you not love a jazz club opened by Ethiopian twins. C'mon, man, This is what defines local flare. (U Street, U street metro green/yellow line).
  • ChurchKey : Beer lover's paradise. Temperature controlled down to the degree. A host of cask conditioned beers on tap. This is where beer poseurs go to die. Serious beer drinkers only, please. (Thomas Circle, McPherson Square orange/blue line).
  • Woolly Mammoth Theater (Archives metro, green/yellow line).
  • Warehouse Theater (Mt Vernon Square metro, green/yellow line).
  • E Street Cinema: What? A clean, well kept indie cinema in an easily accessible area? Who woulda thought?  (Metro Center, orange, blue, red lines).
  • West End Cinema: More indie cred than E Street, but also small, cramped theaters, kinda boring location, and they play the movies from a frikkin DVD. Meh. (Foggy Bottom, orange/blue lines).
  • Hike Rock Creek Park. Runs North-South along the district. There are some remarkably remote-seeming locations within this park, even though you're always dead center of DC. NYC's Central park ain't got that.
  • Arena Stage (Waterfront Metro, green line).
  • Capital Fringe Festival: I have always believed in the value of creativity for creativity's sake. We ain't ants. (various locations).
  • Eat at a "gourmet" DC Food truck. Food is awesome. Mobile food is awesome. Why should tacos own the food truck market? Do you hear me, Austin? 
General Recommendations

Walk
I'm a fan of seeing a city by the soles of your shoes and DC is a particularly walkable city. With smart phone maps and recommendation apps, DC becomes a good city to discover by foot. A comfortable pair of walking shoes are your best friend.

Capital Bike Share
For longer stays, DC's bike share program is great. They have daily, weekly, monthly and annual plans.

The Touristy Stuff
There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of touristy accommodations like bus tours because they hit the obvious highlights quickly and efficiently. Particularly with respect to The National Mall, most people have no clue just how big it is. Walking the monuments and Smithsonians is itself a monumental task that is damned tiring, especially in the hot, humid DC summer.

For the touristy stuff I highly recommend the following:
  1. The National Zoo (Woodley Park red line).
  2. The Lincoln Memorial (Foggy Bottom, orange/blue line).
  3. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (on The Mall).
  4. Lunch at the cafe in the National Museum of the American Indian (on The Mall).
  5. The White House (yes yes, it really is that small).
  6. Wander around the Botanic Garden (on The Mall).
  7. You'll wait forever to get to the top of The Washington Monument; instead, go to the tower at The Old Post Office just a few blocks away. Quick, easy, and almost as great of a view.
  8. The interior courtyard at The Portrait Museum (Chinatown, green/yellow line).
Things to avoid
  • The Spy Museum - blah, always a line, expensive, cheesy and not worth it.
  • The Air and Space Museum - always packed and frankly, outdated. The phone in your hand has more impressive technology than that on display in this mothball museum.
  • Five Guys Burgers - this chain has pulled a perfect Keyser Söze. The only thing they ever did was con the world into believing they made food worth eating. They never bothered to actually make food worth eating. It's McDonalds with super sized salt. A coronary waiting to happen. Eat at a food truck, you won't be disappointing.
  • Georgetown. Basically, douchebag central.  Maybe 30 years ago there was some haute culture vibe worth observing, but now it's little more than corporate United Colors of Benetton, reality-show-cupcakes, polo-shirt-collar-flipped-up douchebag central. And I swear, if one more spandex-clad person goes jogging along the narrow sidewalks of M street shoving people out of their way as if their weekend jog somehow holds moral precedent over everyone else, Imma call a drone strike on their ass.
Personal Favorites
Everybody wants to know some local flare, the inside scoop. Here are some of my personal favorites (dictated somewhat by where I live). Some are well within walking distance of the touristy stuff
  1. Snack at Teaism, Penn Quarter (8th street NW, near the White House).
  2. Walk Roosevelt Island (Rosslyn Metro, orange/blue line).
  3. Take the tourist boat from Georgetown to Old Town in the evening (metro back).
  4. Ride a bike along the The Capital Crescent Trail that takes you from Georgetown to Bethesda (maybe 12 miles or so of relatively flat easy cycling). Have lunch, bike back. 
  5. Eat Ethiopian food. (U Street, U street metro green/yellow line).
  6. Sunday Brunch ... anywhere. DC is brunch crazy.
  7. Shoot pool at Bedrock Billiards (Adam's Morgan).
  8. Coffee and reading at Northside Social (Clarendon Metro, orange line).
  9. Artisphere (Rosslyn Metro, orange/blue line) .
  10. Join my Books and Banter book club.
  11. Bike the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail
  12. Lunch at Whole Foods, P Street. People watch. (Thomas Circle, McPherson Square orange/blue line).
  13. Listen to Kojo Nnamdi noon to 2 on WAMU.
  14. Smoke a cigar at Jay's Saloon (Clarendon, orange line.Talk about dives!).
  15. Sushi at Sushi Taro, 17th and P NW.
  16. Falafal at Amsterdam Falafal (Adams Morgan).
  17. Blues Alley (one of the few Georgetown places I go to regularly).
  18. Buy a copy of Street Sense for a dollar (from a badged vendor).
Leave DC
Plenty of stuff in the neighborhood.
  • Train to Baltimore, Little Italy and Fells Point (HonFest in June, but that's over).
  • Drive to Herndon for Indian food (Angeethi is one of my favs).
  • Bus to Eden Center for Vietnamese food, Falls Church.
  • Metro to The State Theatre for live music (East Falls Church metro, orange line, you can also bike in on the WOandD).
  • WOandD Trail, take a 50 mile bicycle ride into Virginia and back, 100 mile round trip).
  • Play the Sunday poker tournament at Hollywood Casino in West Virginia (1 hour drive).



2 comments:

Lisa G said...

Nice list. I would add the Red Derby to "not dives but worth the time". Or maybe it is a dive, can't decide. It's a fun low-key bar with lots of good beer, friendly people, and a rooftop deck.

DC20009 said...

You'll wait forever for the Washington Monument indeed - it's closed for post-earthquake repairs till Spring 2014 or so. Even so, I've always like the old Post Office Tower - much nicer view of the city (as opposed to the Mall), less crowded and open-air.