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50 things to do in Washington, DC

The ultimate guide to things to do in Washington, DC, from DC's best restaurants and shops to museums and sightseeing

Searching for things to do in Washington, DC? Whether you feel like eating and drinking your way through the city's finest restaurants and bars, escaping outdoors or exploring the town's quirky underbelly, there are plenty of ways to fill a weekend in Washington.

Best things to do in DC: Outdoor activities

Take to the water in Annapolis

You haven't really lived in the DC area if you haven't gone sailing in Annapolis. A day spent on the water in Maryland's charming capital, followed by an epic crab feast, is practically a DC rite of passage. Opt for a two-hour cruise in the Chesapeake Bay or pony up for private lessons. Local companies catering to those who want to sip a beer and sail into the sunset (while someone else steers the boat) include Schooner Woodwind and Classic Sail Charters. If you're looking to become the next Skipper, then check out Annapolis Sailing School. Make sure you leave time before or after your sail to wander around picturesque Annapolis, once the capital of the United States and current home to the US Naval Academy and St. John's College.

Get in touch with nature at Rock Creek Park

Rock Creek Park is DC's favorite place for biking, skating, running and even horseback riding. With 32 miles of trails, plus paved roads for biking (many of which are closed to vehicular traffic on weekends), you can easily spend an entire day stretching your legs in the Park. While you're there, you can also explore the old mill and the site of the Civil War battle at Fort Stevens. The Park now offers free, guided cell phone tours to learn about the history of the park's surroundings. If you're interested in flora and fauna, the Nature Center offers guided hikes; alternatively, you can check out the highly entertaining Creature Feature program (4pm on Fridays), which takes a close look at the park’s wildlife. Inside Pierce Barn, kids can try on period clothing and play with 19th-century toys. The planetarium (on the park’s western edge) hosts several free shows—check the website for details.

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Commune with the animals at the National Zoological Park

The free-admission National Zoological Park, part of the Smithsonian Institution, is a must-visit at any time of the year; but it’s particularly charming during the off-season, when foot traffic levels are more manageable. The zoo offers a quiet escape from the traffic on Connecticut Avenue, with tree-shaded paths winding through the margins past the various animals. The Zoo is home to about 2,000 animals from 400 different species, and includes both indoor and outdoor exhibits. The stars are two Giant Pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, who are on loan from the China Wildlife Conservation Association until 2015. Don’t miss the Christmas Zoo Lights, a fantastic LED spectacle that includes light and music shows, snow tubing, a trackless train tour, raffles, dancing, contests and—last but certainly not least—wintry food and drinks such as mulled cider, roasted nuts and eggnog.

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Chill out at Meridian Hill Park

On a lazy weekend, head to Columbia Heights, where you'll find 12-acre Meridian Hill Park (also unofficially known as "Malcolm X Park"). It was dubbed Meridian Hill Park because it’s positioned due north of the White House, thus forming a longitudinal meridian for DC. The Park is filled with sculptures and memorials, including statues of Joan of Arc, Dante and James Buchanan, the 15th US President. Pack a picnic and hang out in front of the Cascading Waterfall in the formal garden, or visit the upper mall area, where concerts and events are often staged. On Sundays, a regular drum circle takes place from 3 to 9pm. Listen, dance, or even join in on the drumming if you're rhythmically inclined.

Rock the boat at Key Bridge Boathouse

In the space formerly occupied by Jack's Boathouse, Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown is DC's gateway to all things involving water, oars and paddles. Operated by company Boating in DC, Key Bridge Boathouse offers canoe, kayak, and standup paddleboard (SUP) rentals and classes ($15–$20 per hour), as well as twilight tours of the Potomac via kayak. On the tour, you'll pass various DC landmarks, including Teddy Roosevelt Island, the Watergate Hotel, the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center. So grab an oar and a lifejacket, and get ready to see the city in a whole new way. Afterwards, you can relax in one of the Adirondack chairs and enjoy the view. Season passes are also available for individuals and families.

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Discover a hidden game at Tregaron Conservancy

Even though it spans 20 acres, this nature conservancy, situated between Cleveland Park and Woodley Park, remains a hidden wonder in the heart of DC. The non-profit Tregaron Conservancy owns and protects the site of a century-old, neo-Georgian estate formerly known as The Causeway (and now as Tregaron Estate) and its surroundings, which include thirteen acres of gardens, meadows, ponds, trails and streams. Tregaron Estate is the only country house in DC to have been designed by prominent architect and landscape designer Charles Adams Platt. Visitors can roam the grounds of the conservancy for no charge, seven days a week (but donations are welcome).

Draw inspiration from the Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden

DC is a city of trees and parkland, but many of these green patches are concealed by the city's monumental buildings. If you wander long enough, though, you'll occasionally stumble across a hidden oasis in the middle of the city. The Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden is one of these pleasant surprises. Off embassy row on Massachusetts Avenue, past Rock Creek Park, you'll find a peaceful garden dedicated to the eponymous Lebanese-American poet (1883–1931). The garden was established in 1983 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gibran's birth and was dedicated in 1993 by President George H. W. Bush. Its features include a fountain adorned with a bronze bust of Gibran and inscribed with several of the poet’s quotes. It's the perfect place to sit and eat a picnic, read, or even meditate. Bring along a book of Gibran's poetry and get inspired.

Best things to do in DC: Museums

See history up close and personal at the National Archives

The vast collection of the National Archive & Record Administration (NARA) represents the physical record of the birth and growth of a nation in original documents, maps, photos, recordings, films and a miscellany of artifacts. The catalogue includes the Louisiana Purchase, maps of Lewis and Clark’s explorations, the Japanese World War II surrender document, the gun that shot JFK, the Watergate tapes, an original copy of the Magna Carta and the Charters of Freedom (the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence). The Public Vaults, where most of the documents on permanent display are housed, has over 1,000 items on display at any one time. Sections are divided into themes inspired by words in the preamble of the Constitution: We the People deals with records of family and citizenship; To Form a More Perfect Union with liberty and law; Provide for the Common Defense with war and diplomacy, and so on. Don't miss the Rotunda, where the original Charters of Freedom are mounted, triptych-like, in a glass case at the center of a roped-off horseshoe containing other key documents. The Archives’ Lawrence F O’Brien Gallery hosts imaginative temporary exhibitions using a variety of records and documents, including photographs.

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Take flight at the National Air & Space Museum

Where else but in DC's Air & Space Museum can you see missiles, aircraft and space stations, all without stepping outside the city limits? In the museum's central Milestones of Flight hall, towering US Pershing-II and Soviet SS-20 nuclear missiles stand next to the popular moon rock station, where visitors can touch a lunar sample acquired on the 1972 Apollo 17 mission. The 1903 Wright Flyer—the first piloted craft to maintain controlled, sustained flight (if only for a few seconds)—and Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St Louis are both suspended here. Permanent exhibitions in the museum detail the history of jet aviation, space travel and satellite communications. The gallery often features live presentations with guest astronauts and space pioneers. The Albert Einstein Planetarium offers half-hour multimedia presentations about stars and outer space, while the Langley Theater shows IMAX films on air and space flight. The museum’s annex, the Steven F Udvar-Hazy Center (named after its principal donor) opened in Chantilly, Virginia, in 2003. Its hangar-like halls hold the restored Enola Gay, the B-29 that dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, and the space shuttle Enterprise, among other large-scale air-related artifacts. A shuttle bus service makes a round trip between the two outposts several times a day (tickets cost $15 for the round trip, and you’re strongly advised to book in advance by calling 1-202 633 4629). The How Things Fly gallery is a favorite with children.

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Stroll through Dumbarton Oaks

Located at the highest point in Georgetown, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection, an offshoot of Harvard University, is more than just a library. It also has lovely historic gardens, an art museum and a music room, the site of frequent lectures and concerts. The Research Library focuses on Byzantine, Pre-Columbian and Garden & Landscape Studies, and includes a rare book collection. The gardens are well worth a visit ($8 regular admission). There are weekly and monthly guided tours, or you can simply make your own way among the many enclosed gardens, paths and terraces. Admission to the museum, which features collections of Byzantine and Pre-Columbian art as well as European masterpieces, is free to the public (check the website for opening hours).

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Get in touch with your roots at the Museum of Natural History

There is so much to see at the Museum of Natural History, it can be a bit daunting. Make sure you spend time in the Kenneth E Behring Hall of Mammals, featuring interactive displays alongside 274 stuffed animals striking dramatic poses. Another must-see is the sparkling gem and mineral collection, where visitors can ogle the very well-guarded 45.52-carat blue Hope Diamond. The David H Koch Hall of Human Origins provides a fascinating in-depth look at human evolution, examining scientific evidence and providing striking representations of early humans. The Sant Ocean Hall examines the world’s oceans through items from the museum’s collections, as well as research in marine science. The museum is also a real magnet for children: its Dinosaur Hall has an assortment of fierce-looking dinosaur skeletons and a 3.4-billion-year-old stromatolite; tarantulas and other live arthropods ripe for petting inhabit the Insect Zoo.

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Explore alternative history at the Museum of Unnatural History

The brains behind the gloriously odd Museum of Unnatural History is 826DC, a nonprofit organization cofounded by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari which seeks to develop creative and writing skills in students ages six to 18. The "museum" is actually a storefront designed to raise money for the organization's tutoring programs. The space is full of artifacts from a history that may not have (read: has definitely not) taken place. Surreal exhibits include an assortment of fantastic animal hybrids, such as the owlephant and the weagle, and a built-in cave. Visitors can pick up items such as unicorn tears, confused wood (a relative of petrified wood) and future mold.


Celebrate the freedom of the press at the Newseum

The line of stands by the Newseum's Pennsylvania Avenue entrance, filled with copies of today’s front pages from newspapers around the world, draws passers-by to this museum dedicated to journalism and free speech. Once inside, make sure you catch the museum's stunning highlights, including eight large, graffitied sections of the Berlin Wall, an East German watchtower, the upper section of the antenna mast from the World Trade Center’s North Tower, the Pulitzer Prize photographs gallery, and the Unabomber (Theodore Kaczynski)'s cabin. Browse through the News History exhibition, built around the museum’s collection of over 30,000 newspapers, which traces more than 500 years of news. The exhibit also explores issues of media bias and credibility, the modern phenomena of blogging and "citizen journalists," and the environment of 24-hour rolling news.

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Best things to do in DC: Bars and nightlife

Dance salsa at Habana Village

The best place in town to shake a leg to some Latin music and get a killer mojito is Habana Village in Adams Morgan. Three stories of music inspire dancers from all nationalities and levels of proficiency to grab a stranger’s hand and get swinging. With salsa lessons offered four nights a week, covering beginner to advanced levels ($10/person), there's really no excuse to be a wallflower. Learn the moves and then hit the top floor for live merengue, salsa and bachata. If you're feeling peckish after all the dancing, check out the restaurant on the ground floor, which offers authentic Cuban dishes like ropa vieja (shredded beef) and tostones (savory fried plantains).

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Enjoy the best of the Midwest at Ivy & Coney

Ivy & Coney, the newest bar from Kangaroo Boxing Club owners Josh Saltzman and Chris Powers, celebrates Saltzman and Powers' respective hometowns, Chicago and Detroit. The bare-bones menu includes Chicago style hot dogs and Detroit-style coneys (hot dogs covered in chili, mustard and onions), as well as peanuts and crackerjacks. Don't expect to get upscale cocktails here: the bar only has a few bottles, and nothing too schmancy. Detroit and Chicago expats will rejoice at the local touches on the bar menu, including the availability of Faygo Red Pop, a Michigan pop (soda) favorite. As a perk, regulars and friends of the bar are offered the opportunity to buy bottles at a discount and store them in onsite liquor lockers.

Get into the trivia spirit at The Wonderland Ballroom

The Wonderland Ballroom is one of those sought-after DC establishments that offer something for everyone: a chill downstairs bar (with an open-air beer garden when the weather's nice), an upstairs dance party, and, on Monday nights, some of the best trivia in the District. Hardcore trivia nerds in the city head to Wonderland's Monday trivia night for its mix of joviality and seriousness. There's no entry fee or charge to play, but trivia-goers are expected to buy a beer or a snack at the bar before getting down to business. Fellow trivia teams take turns hosting and writing the questions, which are often hard and always quirky. Come for the prizes and drink specials, stay for the nerdry.

Taste the tropics at Hogo

Hogo is a rum-focused tiki bar that serves up exotic cocktails lovingly made with rums from all over the tropics. If you come into Hogo hungry, though, you won't be disappointed. The Central American influenced menu includes chicken à la brasa and elotes, as well as crowd-pleasers like chicken wings and chorizo-bean dip. Unlike its the Passenger, Hogo doesn't get crazily crowded, so it's usually possible to snag a table (or at least a seat at the bar).

Dance the night away at Eighteenth Street Lounge

Eighteenth Street Lounge (or "ESL," as regulars will refer to it) stands out from other DC clubs and lounges in that it's housed in the restored former mansion of 26th US President Teddy Roosevelt. Fireplaces, lamps and chandeliers, coupled with the variety of curious nooks and crannies, make you feel as if you've wandered into the home of a wealthy hipster with an eclectic taste in music. Love it or hate it, ESL also remains the city’s trendiest and most exclusive lounge, known and feared for its strict door policy. Should your attire (or your connections) please the notoriously fickle bouncers and you’re granted entrance through the unmarked wooden door, you’ll find beautiful people mingling and dancing to live jazz or downtempo electronic music spun by the city’s best DJs.

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Groove Latin-style at Chi-Cha Lounge

Chi-Cha Lounge, the creation of Ecuadorean entrepreneur Mauricio Fraga-Rosenfeld, combines hookah pipes, "modern Andean cuisine" and Latin jazz. The layout of the lounge, with its closely grouped couches, is supposed to inspire spontaneous conversations between patrons (the sangria and hookah help with that, too). Since opening Chi-Cha, Fraga-Rosenfeld has expanded to Dupont Circle (Gazuza), Georgetown (Mate) and Arlington (Gua-Rapo). All follow the same formula: deep velvet couches, candlelight, Andean tapas, sangria, Latin jazz and hookah. Chi-Cha hosts DJs to spin music on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Or you can just stop by for happy hour (Mon–Fri 5–7pm). No hats, ties or sportswear. That’s right—no ties.

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Pop a bottle at Cork Wine Bar

It's hard to beat Cork Wine Bar's cozy, romantic atmosphere, and even harder to beat their voluminous wine selection. With at least 50 wines available by the glass and 150 bottles, every palate is sure to be satisfied at Cork. Try a wine flight or a wine and food pairing, in which Cork matches some of its small plates with various selections of wine. Cork's food menu is solid: try the charcuterie board, cheese plate and avocado on grilled bread. For dessert, the goat cheesecake is a unique, light confection. Bear in mind that Cork gets packed on weekends, so it's highly recommended to reserve ahead for dinner.

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Pretend it's Oktoberfest at Biergartenhaus

Lots of places in DC have beer, but an outside beer garden? Now that's a prized commodity—especially when the weather heats up. Biergartenhaus, an authentic Bavarian style beer garden in Capitol Hill, boasts a drinking patio that's open all year round (it's partially covered and the rest is heated during the colder months). Alternatively, you can sit inside and enjoy the wood paneling, stuffed deer head and accordion music (Biergartenhaus doesn’t do the old-school Bavarian thing by halves). The menu is fully German, featuring favorites like bratwurst and spatzle. But really, this place is all about the bier, with an impressive selection of German brews of all types (including non-alcoholic and gluten-free ones).

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Jam at the 9:30 Club

Once a tiny, art-scene dive on F Street, renowned for its heat (and smell), the 9:30 Club relocated in 1996. Now it's situated in the trendy U Street Corridor, and boasts state-of-the-art sound and ventilation, as well as a good selection of microbrews. A few long-lived (or reunited) punk and post-punk bands have played both incarnations, among them Wire, the Feelies and Mission of Burma, but these days the club features an eclectic mix of artists. At the time of writing, Kraftwerk, Better Than Ezra, Pat Green, The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Mogwai and HAIM were all on the upcoming program. Make sure to arrive early and scope out the best vantage point to ensure a good view.

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Best things to do in DC: Arts and entertainment

Experience community art at BloomBars

The curiously named BloomBars, a non-profit arts and events space in Columbia Heights, does it all. It hosts poetry festivals, screens films, holds dance workshops, teaches drumming, throws concerts and more. In other words, BloomBars offers accessible and fun ways to get some culture into your life without going to a museum. The weekly open mic nights, which feature poetry and music, are a big draw. During a typical week at BloomBars, you’ll be able to attend an indie film night, meditate silently, learn to samba and practice your French (though not all at once, regrettably). BloomBars tries to cultivate a family-friendly environment by not allowing alcohol on its premises, so its events are attended by people of all ages.

Do dinner and a movie at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse

For a unique date night, combine your dinner and a movie into one experience at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, which offers a full restaurant and bar menu (plus tableside service) during movie screenings. But the fun isn't limited to film: the Drafthouse also offers live comedy, open mic nights and music shows. Devotees of the Drafthouse praise its affordable movie tickets, fun atmosphere and good service. Don't expect to see the latest blockbuster here, though; the Drafthouse tends to show films that are no longer in major theaters. Seating is first-come, first-served, so get there early. Tickets and unlimited movie passes are available on the cinema's website.

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Get experimental at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Your coolest, artiest friends have probably been into the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company since it began in 1980, but it's not too late to jump on the bandwagon. The Company's mission focuses on promoting edgy, challenging plays in order to engage the DC community. The small size of the theater allows every theatergoer to get a clear, unobstructed view of the stage, leading to an intimate, enhtralling communal experience. Buy single tickets or season passes on the theater's website.

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Gather with the people at Busboys & Poets

Busboys & Poets is more than just a place to get lunch or have a coffee—it's a gathering place for the community. Owner Anas "Andy" Shallal, an Iraqi-American artist, activist, and restaurateur, opened the flagship venue in 2005 at 14th and V NW, and it swiftly became a hub for DC progressives, including many anti-Iraq War activists. Today, Busboys and Poets has expanded to four locations, two of which are in the District. All of the locations host events such as open mic nights, and exhibit art by local, national and international artists. Stop by for a meal or a drink and soak yourself in the artistic, buzzy atmosphere.

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Spice up brunch with a drag show at Perrys

Brunch can be so blah sometimes. Unless, of course, you're brunching at Perrys on a Sunday, in which case there won't be a dull moment. Taking part in Perrys legendary Sunday Drag Brunch, which runs from 10am to 3pm, is a surefire way to spice up your weekend brunch routine. Get to the restaurant around 9am to start queuing, as seating is first come, first served. The brunch ($24.95 for food and entertainment; drinks separate) is buffet-style, and includes a variety show hosted and performed by drag queens. A warning: be prepared to tip the ladies—they don't work for free.

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Best things to do in DC: Restaurants and cafés

Dine at the stately Tabard Inn

There's never a bad time to drop in to The Tabard Inn, a DC institution since 1922, whether you feel like having a meal or just sipping a drink. The bar is set in a shabby-chic, living room-like front room, where patrons can relax on Victorian sofas in front of a log fireplace that might have come straight from the pages of Wuthering Heights, while sipping a fortifying glass of wine or brandy. The sunny, charming restaurant, headed by Chef Paul Pelt, is ever popular, so be sure to make a reservation before showing up for a meal. For special occasions, Room 51, a private dining room that accommodates up to fourteen guests, can be reserved in advance.

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Have a Vietnamese feast at Eden Center

A giant Falls Church, VA strip mall that includes over 100 Vietnamese shops and restaurants, Eden Center is the DC area's version of Little Saigon, and is a must-stop for those who can't live without a good pho or bun cha. The chaotic parking lot, which is legendary among patrons both for the amount of hassle it entails and for its enchanting aroma of barbequed pork, is an essential part of the experience of visiting Eden Center. Once you've passed through the gauntlet of parking, check out the many options for tasty Vietnamese food and products. Some of the best restaurants include Huong Viet, Thanh Truc, and Hai Duong. There are also nail and hair salons, jewelry stores and souvenir shops, but the real reason to come is the delicious (and cheap) food.

Dine on upscale, Belgian-influenced soul food at Marvin

From the owners of the ever-hip Eighteenth Street Lounge, Marvin turned a former Subway fast-food shop into one of the U Street Corridor's coolest hangouts. Eric Hilton, one of the owners of Marvin and half of DC’s music duo Thievery Corporation, named the bistro after DC native son Marvin Gaye. The food, which combines soul food staples like shrimp and grits with Belgian classics such as moules frites, is a nod to Marvin Gaye's 1981 life-changing sojourn to Belgium. After dining downstairs, head upstairs to listen to DJs spin in the lounge, or congregate with DC's scenesters on the spacious back deck.

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Eat like an executive at Central Michel Richard

A favorite of downtown movers and shakers and tourists alike, stylish and airy Central Michel Richard serves up the perfect lunch. The playful, unpretentious menu fuses American and French classics with Richard’s signature whimsy. There’s "faux" gras (made from chicken liver rather than foie gras), a towering lobster burger, a spin on fried chicken, and a monstrous banana split sure to attract any nearby spoon. The hot, homemade bread will tempt even the staunchly gluten-free, and the cheese puffs are to die for. Unlike many a popular lunch destination downtown, Central Michel Richard also stands out for its service, which is always impeccable.

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Watch the world go by at L'Enfant Café

LGBT hot spot L'Enfant Café, a French bistro/bar that serves up Belgian beers, French wines and French food, is always bustling. The restaurant does its best to deliver decent French stalwarts, such as boeuf bourguignon, at a reasonable price and with reasonable speed. Dimly lit but welcoming and warm, it’s an ideal spot to spend a winter afternoon; in spring and summer, its outdoor patio gets lively. L'Enfant also hosts frequent events, including its annual, sprawling Bastille Day celebration, and its weekly La Boum brunch party, a three hour, booze-soaked experience meant to simulate a lively house party.

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Eat and drink like a Dostoyevsky character at Russia House

Russia House, housed in a stylish mansion on the outskirts of Dupont Circle, certainly sets a luxurious scene. The low-lit restaurant on the first floor gives one the feeling of dining in a Russian manor house, with its blood red walls and elaborate chandeliers. The restaurant specializes in real Russian fare, including various types of caviar. But you don't have to sit down for a meal at Russia House: it's perfectly acceptable to just come for the vodka. The bar is stocked with vodka from every corner of the former Soviet Union, and all of it is good. You can either sip your drink at the elegant bar downstairs or venture upstairs, where fashionable people sip vodka concoctions and dance to techno.

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Feast on crabs at Cantler's Riverside Inn

After a day on the water in Annapolis, it's de rigueur upon disembarking to head straight to a crab feast. Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis is one of the best-loved crab establishments in the area. For the uninitiated, eating Maryland crabs involves putting on a bib, sitting down at a table covered with brown paper, picking up a mallet, and going to town on fresh steamed crabs covered in Old Bay spice mix, which are dumped on the table in front of you. If you don't care for crabs, no worries: Cantler's also serves up oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, and non-seafood staples like prime rib and fried chicken.

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Go carnivore at Honey Pig

Honey Pig, a 24-hour Korean barbeque joint, is a local legend. Its original location in Annandale, VA, the epicenter of great Korean food in the DC metro area, is wildly popular (but there are three other locations in VA and MD to choose from). Sit down at your table, which includes a built-in grill, groove to the K-Pop playing on the TVs overhead, and wait for the magic to happen. Popular delicacies include the spicy pork belly, bulgogi (thinly sliced marinated beef), and seafood pancake. Don't expect stellar service: this place is known for its meat and its divey atmosphere. It's a favorite late night spot, so be prepared for crowds if you come on a weekend night.

Slurp politely at Sakuramen

For delicious ramen in a non-pretentious setting, head to Adams Morgan's Sakuramen, a favorite among DC noodle fans. The surroundings aren't flashy and there's no booze on the menu, but this place delivers some of the best ramen in DC, and quickly. The owners of Sakuramen take a broad and inclusive approach to their dishes, blending flavors from Japan, Hong Kong, and the East and West Coasts of America, with no artificial ingredients involved. Order the Tonkotsu Red (pork broth with pork belly) or the meaty Shoki Bowl. If you're still hungry after a piping bowl of noodles, try the chashu (pork belly) or bulgogi buns.

Eat home-style at Thai Xing

Thai Xing (think “Thai Crossing”) is a restaurant tucked into a house on Florida Avenue NW. When you show up for dinner, you feel like you’ve just shown up to a friend’s home—and, accordingly, you should bring a bottle of wine along. (Thai Xing is one of the few BYOB restaurants in DC, and only serves ice water.) Chef/owner Taw Vigsittaboot cooks traditional, authentic Thai recipes that he learned from his mother, aunt, and grandmother. Opt for the chef’s choice prix-fixe menu or go a la carte. Make sure to try the pumpkin curry, mango sticky rice, and papaya salad. Reservations recommended at least a week in advance.

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Best things to do in DC: More things to do in DC

Embrace nudity at Sun's Day Spa

Korean spas are popular among stressed out DC folks who want to unplug completely. If you go, be forewarned: you'll be doing your relaxation in the nude (but don't fret—Sun's Day Spa is gender-segregated). Once you feel comfortable in your birthday suit, start off with a relaxing shower and soak, or chill out in the sauna. Then indulge in some of the spa's excellent full body treatments, such as scrubs, massages and wraps. The scrubs in particular are legendary for removing every last bit of dead skin from your body. You'll leave the spa feeling like a new man or woman!

Mingle with the foodies at Union Market

Union Market, a fancy new addition to the NE quadrant, is an upscale food- and drink-focused "artisanal marketplace," with shops that sell both local and imported goods. Unlike your typical farmer's market, Union Market is open every day except Monday; so if you have a midweek hankering for locally made cheese or extra virgin olive oil, you can come here satisfy your urge. The space houses close to thirty artisans, who peddle everything from cupcakes to gelato to Korean tacos; you'll equally find coffee, home goods, cutlery, flowers and spices. It also hosts events, including lectures on the first Tuesday of every month, gospel choir brunches on the first Saturday, and daily happy hour specials (Tue–Fri 4–7pm).

Visit horse country and an authentic English pub

Virginia's horse country is only 50 miles south of DC, but it might as well be on another planet. Here, you can take a drive through the peaceful green foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, stop at a vineyard or two to taste wine, or go riding on one of many public access horse trails. In the afternoon, head to Upperville, where you'll find Hunter's Head Tavern, an English-style pub in the middle of American farmland. The Tavern is built on the site of a (purportedly haunted) historic log cabin that dates from 1750, the original walls, fireplaces and mantels of which still remain. It naturally serves pub fare, but also organic, ethical, non-GM meat and produce from nearby Ayrshire Farm.

Tour Dupont's Mansion on O Street

One of DC's quirkiest luxury boutique hotels, the Mansion on O Street stands out for its eccentric decor and interior layout, which includes 32 secret doors. The hotel (which also houses a museum and a private social club) now spans five row houses in the historic Dupont Circle area, and was once the residence of Edward Clark (architect of the US Capitol) and his brothers. The Mansion has a storied history, including a period during the 1930s in which it was used as rooming houses for FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's G-men. Today, the Mansion is open to the public for tours, dining, and shopping on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

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Play a round of mini golf at H Street Country Club

Set along the bustling H Street NE Corridor, H Street Country Club is a rare beast. It's at once a Mexican restaurant, bar, arcade of sorts, and indoor mini-golf course. One thing's for sure: it's a real scene. Make a night of it and eat dinner at the restaurant first (try the brisket enchiladas), then take your margaritas into the bar for arcade favorites like shuffleboard, skeeball and Big Buck Hunter. If you come for dinner on a Monday or Tuesday, the indoor mini golf course is free to play (otherwise it's $7 and takes about 35 minutes; no reservation needed). H Street Country Club's Mexican-themed weekend brunch is also popular, and includes the option of bottomless mimosas for a reasonable $12.

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Spend an evening on Barracks Row in Eastern Market

Eighth Street SE in the Eastern Market Neighborhood is also known as Barracks Row for its proximity to the Marine Barracks on the same street. Although it's been a bustling commercial district for centuries, today it's one of the most popular places in the city to go out for a drink or a bite to eat. One of the hottest new restaurants on the scene is Rose's Luxury, a romantic new American bistro that doesn't take reservations and features small plates and family-style dishes. Other winners on Barracks Row include nostalgic diner Ted's Bulletin, pizza joint Matchbox and Mediterranean restaurant/wine bar Cava Mezze. After dinner, check out Caribbean-themed Banana Cafe & Piano Bar or sports bar Ugly Mug.

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Tour the world during Passport DC

If you've ever strolled down Embassy Row, you've probably wondered what it's like inside those grand mansions lining Massachusetts Avenue. What are the embassies hiding? State secrets? International intrigue? Nice chandeliers? During Passport DC, an annual springtime celebration that opens the embassies’ doors to visitors, you can find out for yourself. More than 40 embassies participate, staging cultural demonstrations, food tastings, and music and dance performances. Admission is free, reservations are not required, and there is a free shuttle service for participants. Find out more information about participating embassies on the event website.

Celebrate spring at the National Cherry Blossom Festival

Nothing says spring in DC like the appearance of the cherry blossoms along the Potomac. The trees, which were planted in 1912 as a gift from the people of Japan to those of the United States, are virtually venerated by DC visitors and residents alike as a symbol of spring’s imminent arrival. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which was first celebrated in 1935, celebrates the change of seasons and the beauty of the cherry blossoms (not to mention Japanese-American friendship). Highlights of past editions include the Blossom Kite Festival, concerts by Japanese jazz musicians and a grand sake tasting.


David p
David p

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