Pull out your picnic lunch and, in nice weather, enjoy it on the grass in front of the Washington Monument. Sit back and relax. Aren’t you happy you planned ahead?
2 PM: Walking Tour of the Monuments
Take the afternoon to explore some of DC’s monuments and memorials. Starting at the Washington Monument, head south and walk the path around the Tidal Basin. Then walk west to the Lincoln Memorial, then back east past the reflecting pool, and end at the World War II Memorial. Here’s what you’ll see along the way (in order):
• Washington Monument
• Thomas Jefferson Memorial
• Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
• Korean War Veterans Memorial
• Lincoln Memorial
• Vietnam Veterans Memorial
• World War II Memorial
The loop is about 3½ miles long, so wear comfortable shoes and bring bottled water, especially in the summer. You have plenty of time to complete the tour, so feel free to sit, reflect, and rest at each monument. And if the weather’s nice, take a spin on the paddle boats at the Tidal Basin!
5 PM: Happy Hour
Take a cab to the U Street corridor, where you’ll spend the evening. Head to the lively Tabaq Bistro (1336 U St., NW; 202-265-0965) for drinks and appetizers from the small-plates section of the menu. Take in the fantastic view of the city from the covered rooftop. Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 8, drinks are buy-one-get-one-free.
6:30 PM: Wine and Dine
Cork (1720 14th St., NW; 202-265-2675) is a cozy new wine bar that’s already packing in crowds. Sip flights of wines from the excellent, Old World list, and sample dishes from the menu of hot and cold sharable plates. Rosemary-chicken liver bruschette and a house-cured trout salad are favorites, along with the addictive French fries tossed with parsley, garlic, and lemon.
8 PM: Dance the Night Away
Now that you’ve eaten, it’s time to stretch your legs. Just a block away is the Black Cat (1811 14th St., NW; 202-667-7960), a nightclub and live-music venue popular with local hipsters. Downstairs, you’ll find the Red Room Bar, a dimly lit spot with a well-stocked bar of microbrews and imports, Belgian beers, bourbon, Scotch, and more. Strike up a conversation with a stranger; or if you’re more bold, challenge someone to a game of pool. You can also play pinball or play DJ for the night on the jukebox.
Adjacent to the bar is the club’s Backstage, a small performance space that hosts lesser-known bands of all stripes, from punk and indie to garage bands as well as soloists. The stage also features spoken-word events, film screenings, and DJ dance nights.
Upstairs is the main concert space, a 7,000-square-foot venue that hosts national touring acts, popular local bands, and monthly DJ dance events. The upstairs bar has a smaller selection than the one downstairs, serving predictable—and high-price—beers and mixed drinks. There are a few tables and chairs in the back for conversation, but most people crowd near the front, where the band plays.
The no-cover Red Room Bar is open from 8 PM to 2 AM during the week and 7 PM to 3 AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Doors open for the Backstage at 9, and the act goes on at 9:30. Door times for the Mainstage vary; check the Web site. Tickets for shows on both stages are required and can be purchased from the box office (cash only) starting at 8 PM or through Ticketmaster.com.
12 AM: Midnight Snack
Before calling it a night, there’s one more place in the neighborhood to check out. Ben’s Chili Bowl (1213 U St., NW; 202-667-0909) has been a favorite of Washingtonians since 1958, when legends such as Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, and Martin Luther King Jr. frequented the spot. The most famous dish at this diner-style comfort-food joint is the chili half smoke, DC’s signature sausage swimming in Ben’s warm chili. It’s reportedly Bill Cosby’s guilty pleasure.
This busy late-night hotspot is open until 2 AM Monday through Thursday and 4 AM Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, it closes at 8 PM.
DAY FOUR: FIND LOCAL FAVORITES
Now that you’ve spent a few days touring, it’s time to see why many Washingtonians love to call this city home.
9 AM: Breakfast
Market Lunch (306 Seventh St., SE; 202-547-8444) is a local favorite in DC’s Eastern Market neighborhood (closest Metro is Eastern Market on the Orange and Blue lines). After a fire in April 2007 ripped through the historic Eastern Market building, Market Lunch and other vendors, which had been housed there, moved across the street to a temporary tented hall. Market Lunch’s long communal table with seating for 30 survived the blaze, so its cafe-meets-diner atmosphere is still in tact. The line tends to be long, especially on weekends, but it usually moves fast. Even if you have to wait a few minutes, the fantastic Blue Buck pancakes, made with blueberries and buckwheat, make the wait worth it. Open Tuesday through Sunday.