A few blocks from the Reynolds Center is Poste Moderne Brasserie (555 Eighth St., NW; 202-783-6060), in the central courtyard of the Hotel Monaco. Feel free to walk through the hotel or enter the bar directly through the old carriage way on Eighth Street, last used when the space was home to the General Post Office in the 1800s. Belly up to bar to watch the bartenders work their magic. In pleasant weather, sit outside on a plush patio chair and sip one of the $10 signature cocktails, including Tango & Cash (rum and cashew juice) or the Chameleon (herbal tea with Bombay Sapphire, lemon juice, and club soda). Or ask the bartender about seasonal cocktails.
6 PM: Tapas on Tap
For a fun, delicious dinner a short walk from Poste, visit one of superchef José Andrés’s lively small-plates spots. His flagship, Jaleo (480 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-7949), features traditional and updated tastes of Spain; Oyamel (401 Seventh St., NW; 202-628-1005) is regional Mexican; and Zaytinya (701 Ninth St., NW; 202-638-0800) offers Mediterranean fare. All have tasty cocktails and a hip vibe. Even better, they’ve all been recognized among the area’s best restaurants on The Washingtonian’s most recent 100 Best Restaurants list.
8 PM: To the Theater!
Penn Quarter has a number of options for a night at theater. The Shakespeare Theatre Company performs the Bard’s classics as well as works by other playwrights at Sydney Harman Hall (610 F St., NW) and the nearby Lansburgh Theatre (450 Seventh St., NW)—collectively known as the Harman Center for the Arts—almost every night except Monday. Evening shows begin at 7:30 or 8; call 202-547-1122 or check the Web site for more information.
Another option is the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company (641 D St., NW; 202-393-3939), which has made its name developing, producing, and performing new plays. Some of them are world premieres; others have played recently in other cities but are making their DC debut. Tickets range from $24 to $57, depending on the date and time of the show and where you’re sitting. Learn more about this season’s plays here. Performances Wednesday through Saturday start at 8, on Sunday at 7.
If film is more your style, head to E Street Cinema (555 11th St., NW; 202-452-7672), an eight-screen theater featuring independent and foreign films, documentaries, and classics. Part of the national Landmark Theatre art-house chain, it serves beer and wine, among other concessions, and has an espresso bar. Tickets are $9.75; showtimes vary, so check the Web site before making plans.
DAY THREE: A DAY AT THE MONUMENTS
Visit museums in the morning, but then it’s outside for fresh air and a walking tour of the monuments.
8:30 AM: Breakfast
For breakfast, head to Teaism (800 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-835-2233), an Asian-inspired teahouse near the White House in Lafayette Square, for cilantro scrambled eggs (or tofu) and hearty Irish oatmeal with fruit. Be sure to grab one of the hefty salty oat cookies for the road—they have something of a cult following among Washingtonians.
9:30 AM: Plan ahead! Grab a Picnic Lunch
You’ll be spending the day on the southwest side of the National Mall, where the pickings for lunch are slim. We suggest hitting Breadline (1751 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-822-8900), a short walk from Teaism, and packing a lunch for later. The lunch rush at this popular spot can be chaotic, but because you’re going in the morning you’ll find no lines and will have your pick of fresh salads and sandwiches on excellent bread. Try the prosciutto with watercress, mascarpone, and fig jam on walnut-raisin bread; egg salad on olive bread; or a takeout bowl of greens with such toppings as Persian chicken or lentils and feta.
From Breadline, it’s on to the Mall. Head east on Pennsylvania Avenue—you’ll cross in front of the White House—and then turn right onto 14th Street. Take 14th about three blocks to the southwest corner of the National Mall.
10 AM: Freer and Sackler Galleries and US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Spend the rest of the morning at the Freer and Sackler galleries and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Take an hour to walk around the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave., SW) and the Freer Gallery of Art (Jefferson Dr. at 12th St., SW), which together make up the Smithsonian’s museums of Asian art; the museums are connected by an underground exhibition space. In the Freer, don’t miss the Peacock Room, a blue-and-gold dining room painted by James McNeill Whistler; it was once part of an 1876 London townhouse owned by a wealthy ship owner.
Around the corner is the Holocaust Museum, a solemn but educational journey through a tragic period in world history. You’ll want at least two hours to take in the whole place. The permanent exhibition tells the chronological history of the Holocaust,starting on the fourth floor with Hitler’s rise to power and working its way downward. The exhibition ends with a video of Holocaust survivors sharing their stories. Because the permanent exhibition can be disturbing for children, the museum has developed “Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story,” a fictional account of the Holocaust about a boy name Daniel that draws from the stories of survivors. This exhibition is meant for elementary- and middle-school kids.
All three museums are free, but you’ll need a pass to visit the Holocaust Museum. It distributes a limited number of timed-entry passes on a first-come, first-served basis for use the same day.