Reason 4: You Can Discover the World Here
From Chinese art to British pop, here are ways to feel worldly without leaving town
At the all-female Hani Joa Day Spa (6676 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-533-3588), $120 gets you more than two hours of massage, exfoliation, body wrap, steam, and sauna. The tradeoff for the bargain price? Most treatments are done in the nude—and not in a private room.
If you loved the dancing in Slumdog Millionaire, catch more Bollywood at the Loehmann’s Twin Cinemas (7291 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church; 703-573-5774), which screens Indian films regularly.
Crisply suited men smoking in coffee shops, speakers broadcasting lilting Vietnamese pop, and more pho shops and banh mi delis than you could count make the maze of a mall called the Eden Center (Wilson Blvd. near Rt. 7, Falls Church) feel like Saigon on the Potomac.
The humble Mandalay Restaurant & Cafe (930 Bonifant St., Silver Spring; 301-585-0500) is home to our favorite cheap dessert, the $2.99 shweJi, a traditional, not-too-sweet cake made from coconut, raisins, and Cream of Wheat.
More than 10,000 pieces—fascinating archaeological relics, gorgeous sculptures and paintings—make up the standout collections at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries (Jefferson Dr. and 12th St., SW; 1050 Independence Ave., SW; 202-633-1000).
Whether you’re relaxing by the koi pond, taking in the bonsai trees, or meandering down the cryptomeria walk, the Japanese garden at the National Arboretum (3501 New York Ave., NE; 202-245-2726) is one of the area’s most soothing spots.
At the Persian Yas Bakery and Supermarket (131 Maple Ave. W., Vienna; 703-242-4050), fill a basket with sweet Iranian lemons, freshly baked flatbread, and diamond-shaped baklava.
If it’s Sunday and the sun is shining, head to DC’s Meridian Hill Park (16th and Euclid sts., NW), follow the beat, and you’ll come upon a drum circle of dancers, musicians, and everyday people. It makes for a joy-filled late afternoon.
DC’s Chinatown might be almost gone, but Little Ethiopia—a stretch along Ninth and U streets, Northwest—is thriving. The neighborhood’s best restaurant is Etete (1924 Ninth St., NW; 202-232-7600), where you can share platters of spicy stews or take part in a traditional, incense-perfumed coffee ceremony.
Central and West Africa/African Savanna
The toddling panda gets most of the attention, but there are plenty of new arrivals at the National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave., NW) that’ll make you say, “Awww,” such as the six-month-old dama gazelle or the three-month old Western Lowland gorilla. The baby elephant shrew? Not so much.
On the second Saturday of most months, the Black Cat (1811 14th St., NW; 202-667-4490) feels more Manchester than DC. That’s when the dance party known as Mousetrap takes over, unleashing Britpop spanning from the Smiths to the Libertines.
Exquisitely delicate underpinnings fit to go under that Yves St. Laurent pantsuit can be found at the Paris-inspired shop Coup de Foudre Lingerie (11th and E sts., NW; 202-393-0878).
Dig into a pot of moules frites while sampling golden triples, lambics, and blond ales at the creaky-cool, Belgian-owned Mannequin Pis (18064 Georgia Ave., Olney; 301-570-4800).
A silent Hamlet? Rosslyn-based Synetic Theater (synetictheater.org)—run by director Paata Tsikurishvili and his choreographer wife, Irina—not only made it work; they made it soar. Now the Georgia natives turn their talents to a wordless version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which opens at the Kennedy Center this month.
You probably won’t score a Maria Sharapova sighting at the chandeliered Russia House (1800 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-234-9433), but the borscht and beluga—and more than 100 kinds of vodka—are sure things.
With its crispy skin, secret blend of spices, and fiery sauce, it’s hard not to literally tear into the birds offered at many of the area’s Peruvian chicken joints. We like El Pollo Rico in Arlington (932 N. Kenmore St.; 703-522-3220) and Wheaton (2517 University Blvd.; 301-942-4419) and Pollo Brasero in Silver Spring (14336 Layhill Rd.; 301-438-2800).
You’ll get a serious workout during the barefoot, body-shaking Afro-Caribbean dance classes at Joy of Motion Dance Center’s Atlas studio (1333 H St., NE; 202-399-6763).
This tiny country produces some excellent up-and-coming wines, especially the steakhouse-friendly reds made from the Tannat grape. Rodman’s (5100 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-363-3466; 4301 Randolph Rd., Wheaton, 301-946-3100; 5148 Nicholson La., Kensington, 301-881-6253) stocks a good selection.
—Ann Limpert>> Next: A reason to love Washington? Our "star" sightings aren't Paris Hilton.