A Capital Experience

Richmond magazine | March 16, 2022


Spring is a fine time to explore Washington, D.C.

For Richmond residents, a trip to our nation’s capital is just a two-hour drive or ride on one of Amtrak’s trains away. Since Washington-area traffic can be awful, and driving and parking downtown can be cumbersome and expensive, taking the train is a convenient option: Historic Union Station will place you in the middle of the action.

Treat Yourself

For an upscale boutique hotel experience, the stylish Kimpton Banneker Hotel in Dupont Circle provides a walkable hub for many popular attractions. In addition to impeccable service and thoughtful amenities such as a fitness center and shuttle service, the hotel boasts an impressive breakfast and dinner menu in its ground-floor French bistro, Le Sel. Or take in impressive city views while enjoying the open-air rooftop bar, Lady Bird.

For an alternative breakfast experience, try my favorite — the Avocado Smash — at the Scott Circle location of Bluestone Lane, just steps from the hotel’s front door. My top lunch spot within walking distance is the trendy Duke’s Grocery, where the sockeye bowl is jammed with flavor. Although the seared diver scallops at Le Sel left me wanting to eat there every night, I found the vibrant Barcelona Wine Bar close by. The trendy spot was packed, but the manager Carlos found a spot for me at the chef’s table so I could see all the action. The potato tortilla and braised pork were amazing, but when Chef Ricky brought the Gambas Al Ajillo, it was, as he said, life-changing. The flavor-packed food and lively atmosphere were only topped by the friendly and attentive staff.

Old and New

This trip marked my first visit to the National Archives, where I viewed the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The Washington Artechouse will thrill the artist in you with innovative technology-driven art, and the Smithsonian’s “Futures,” in the Arts and Industries Building, is a fascinating place for dreamers to peek into the future (on display until July 6)

Sights to See

Be sure to check the hours of your favorite attraction or museum before going, as pandemic-related changes have closed the doors of some museums several days a week. Some of my picks include the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and its National Museum of American History, where you can view the 10-foot-wide original Star-Spangled Banner and random but iconic pieces such as a “happy little“ Bob Ross painting and Dorothy’s sequined ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.“ The highlight of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum for me was “Family II,” an amazing piece by Bohyun Yoon, an associate professor at Virginia Commonwealth University. The work represents himself, his wife and his daughter in one slowly spinning piece that alternatively shows their three profiles in shadows on the wall.

Getting Around

For an easy overview of what Washington has to offer, consider a Big Bus Tours double-decker, and explore monuments and places of interest without a hefty walk between them. Get off at any stop to explore, then get back on when the next bus comes. After viewing the White House, stop at the Black Lives Matter Plaza — the two-block area of 16th Street Northwest where you’ll see the mural featuring the 50-foot-tall words “Black Lives Matter” with the flag of the District of Columbia.

SAVE THE DATE

March 20-April 17: For the first time since 2019, Washington’s National Cherry Blossom Festival will be held in person. nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

TIP: Before traveling, download Google Maps (for walking directions), the WMATA app (for bus or rail travel), and a ride share app such as Uber or Lyft.