Taste of History in Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina, is turning out some of the country’s best new chefs—Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury, on Capitol Hill, among them. For all the town’s historic allure, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriage tours, and stately homes, there’s innovation in the air—and on the plate. The dining scene is one of the most exciting in the region, with 11 James Beard Award semifinalists this year.
Creativity here doesn’t mean eschewing the past. Chefs such as Sean Brock of the much-lauded McCrady’s (2 Unity Alley; 843-577-0025) and Husk (76 Queen St.; 843-577-2500) helped put South Carolina’s oldest city on the modern food map through his exploration of low-country traditions—a blend of European, Native American, and Afro-Caribbean influences—and dedication to regional ingredients. Menus across town read like guidebooks to a Southern larder, rich with Carolina gold rice, Edisto Island grits, and sesame-like benne seeds, not to mention heirloom pork and pristine seafood from the waters surrounding the port city.
This effort both to preserve and to evolve Charleston’s culinary heritage isn’t exactly new. Chef Mike Lata’s can’t-miss FIG (232 Meeting St.; 843-805-5900) is still packed 12 years after opening, thanks to innovation done well—buttermilk-marinated razor clams, lamb neck over blackened pea ragoût. The next generation of chefs is pushing the boundaries even further. Husband-and-wife team Joshua Walker, a fifth-generation Charlestonian, and Duolan Li serve Asian soul food at Xiao Bao Biscuit (224 Rutledge Avenue), housed in an old gas station.
In the historic part of town, Brock recently debuted a casual taqueria, Minero, that melds flavors of Mexico and Carolina—crispy catfish tacos with pickled green tomato; shrimp and chorizo with masa grits. A car isn’t necessary in the foot- and cab-friendly town, unless you want to explore the beach communities a short drive away. If you do, drop by Page’s Okra Grill (302 Coleman Blvd., Mt Pleasant; 843-881-3333) in funky Mount Pleasant for a more traditional taste of the South, especially the P.B.T. sandwich stuffed with pimiento cheese, bacon, and fried green tomatoes.
Where to eat now:
While King Street is known for shops and college bars, the northern end is a culinary destination. FIG’s sister restaurant, the Ordinary (544 King St.; 843-414-7060), dishes up addictive crispy oyster sliders and showstopping shellfish platters, all in a lofty former bank. A few steps away, locals share small plates of pigskin pad Thai or tuck into cauldrons of low-country seafood pilau at the Grocery (4 Cannon St.; 843-302-8825). James Beard Award semifinalist Jeremiah Bacon’s restaurant, the Macintosh (479 King St.; 843-789-4299), draws crowds with plates both elegant and robust, plus knockout brunch. Grab a nightcap at the warehouse-like speakeasy Cocktail Club (479 King St #200; 843-724-9411), a floor above.
Best celeb-chef spotting:
On our last visit, Daniel Boulud dropped in to order lunch from the chalkboard menu of no-frills Butcher & Bee (654 King St.; 843-619-0202), a BYO sandwich shop. You might spot the next generation of culinary stars chowing down on chicken bánh mì from the late-night menu at 2 am.
Best reason to wake up, at any hour:
“Everything ’til 10 pm” is the motto of Two Boroughs Larder (186 Coming St.; 843-637-372), a market/restaurant where fresh-shucked Carolina oysters are served alongside breakfast sandwiches and a ramen-esque “bowl-o-noodle” all day long.
Best way to start the night:
Pick any two words (“strong,” “spicy”) from the Bartender’s Choice list for creative, made-to-taste drinks at the Gin Joint (182 E Bay St.; 843-577-6111). Too fancy? The Griffon (18 Vendue Range; 843-723-1700) is the kind of dive where dollar bills paper the walls.
Best break for the stomach:
Charleston is known for its elegant historic homes; the Festival of Houses and Gardens (March 19 through April 19) is a chance to peek inside. Don’t miss the Nathaniel Russell House Museum ($12 adults, $5 children) any time of year, a magnificently restored 1808 mansion built by a wealthy trader.
Best place to stay:
A newly renovated boutique hotel in the French Quarter, the Vendue, boasts rooms in two historic buildings, some with gas fireplaces. Guests can explore the city on free bicycles or relax at the Rooftop (19 Vendue Range St. 800-845-7900), one of the town’s best outdoor bars, overlooking the harbor.
The onetime capital of the Confederacy, two hours south of DC, has long burnished its image as a charming, slow-paced town built upon propriety, conservative politics, and old ways that endure. But as its recent evolution into one of the South’s premier food destinations has shown, there is another Richmond.
As in many small cities with a rich and thriving scene, the transformation is driven by a group of artisans, bakers, baristas, and brewers. But these local-loving chefs and restaurateurs have nurtured a homegrown aesthetic rather than looking to other cities for inspiration.
Washington has more variety and more options at the high end, but it lacks the unself-conscious liveliness of the better restaurants in Richmond, from the quirky Belmont Food Shop (chef Mike Yavorsky, a Daniel Boulud alum, makes do with just five tables) to the Magpie (1301 W. Leigh St.; 804-269-0023), a bordello-channeling gastropub (helmed by chef Owen Lane) to Ed Vasaio’s quintessential red-sauce Italian joint, Edo’s Squid (and his petite and equally wonderful trattoria/deli, Dinamo).
The city’s national profile has risen with the emergence of native son Travis Croxton, who, with cousin Ryan Croxton, opened the Rappahannock at DC’s Union Market and operates a larger version of that classic oyster bar in Richmond, and the recent arrival of Mike Isabella, the Top Chef contestant who brought Graffiato to the city last summer.
Still, it’s the stubborn communal refusal to look elsewhere for assistance—or validation—that keeps things interesting.
John Maher at the Rogue Gentlemen (618 N. First St.; 804-477-3456) is so serious about his drinks that he printed up a book, handsomely bound, for his menu. A Maher drink is both bracingly stiff (shades of the great bartenders of yore) and supremely balanced (in keeping with the tenets of the mixological moment). Sip and savor his Bear Hug, made with ten-year bourbon, Fernet-Branca, Cynar, and Becherovka, and halfway through, your tongue will undoubtedly be looser.
Get to Perly’s (111 E. Grace St.; 804-332-6434), park yourself on one of the mint-green stools facing the old-fashioned bar, and take in the buzzy scene: hipsters and families with young kids all cramming in to experience a newfangled, artisan-driven deli that would rather you experience it as old-fangled and unassuming. The good mood only gets better with a smoked-whitefish platter, a cup of good strong coffee, and—we can’t resist—an egg cream.
Afternoon pit stop:
A brother-and-sister tandem from Reston, Evrim and Evin Dogu—their father operates the small Washington chain Rosemary’s Thyme Bistro—runs Richmond’s best bakery: Sub Rosa (620 N. 25th St.; 804-788-7672), which features wonderfully rustic, hearth-baked breads in addition to croissants, tarts, and Turkish treats. Any item on the menu, plus a cup of rich, dark coffee from the excellent Richmond roaster Lamplighter (116 S Addison St.; 804-728-2292), provides an oasis in the day.
Distinctly un-DC dinner:
Edo’s Squid (411 N. Harrison St.; 804-864-5488) is the kind of place you find in a city with a thriving Little Italy—a bit worn around the edges but big-hearted and impossible not to love, even when you have to wait 40 minutes for a table. The dish that speaks to the place’s quiet magic sounds so simple as to be unremarkable: braised fennel. It melts in your mouth like butter, while the warm nutmeg cream sauce coats your tongue like fondue. Pay close attention to the list of specials, scrawled on a chalkboard in the bare-bones dining room: A recent special of deep-fried sugar toads (also known as northern puffers) was polished off quickly.
What to do when you’re not eating:
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is excellent, and small enough that you can explore most of the collection in one afternoon. The Museum of the Confederacy—next to the Confederate White House, where Jefferson Davis lived and directed operations throughout the Civil War—is eye-opening. Shockoe Hill Cemetery houses the remains of John Marshall, the fourth US chief justice, and Daniel Norton, creator of the first great wine grape in America.
Where to stay:
The Jefferson isn’t just the most elegant hotel in the city but also one of the most convenient to restaurants and shopping.
New Energy in New Orleans
New Orleans once was a city that knew exactly what it was. The elite assembled at Galatoire’s (209 Bourbon St.; 504-525-2021) for three-hour drunken lunches of soufflé potatoes dipped in béarnaise or trout amandine drowned in butter. Everyone else went to joints like Domilise’s (5240 Annunciation St.; 504-899-9126) or Parkway Bakery & Tavern (538 Hagan Ave.; 504-482-3047) for po’ boys—crusty French loaves filled with hot sausage, fried shrimp, or roast beef in gravy. On weekends, families lined up at Angelo Brocato (214 N. Carrollton Ave.; 504-486-0078), founded in 1905, for cups of lemon ice or cannoli filled to order.
Those edible pleasures still survive in New Orleans. They couldn’t be dislodged by fads or floodwaters. But as the city edges toward its 300th anniversary in 2018, the restaurant scene, humming with renewed energy, is quickly evolving.
Marquee chefs such as Donald Link, with his modern bistro, Herbsaint (701 St. Charles Ave.; 504-524-4114), and his stylish Cajun eatery, Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-588-2123), are building empires. Brennan’s (417 Royal St.; 504-525-9711), the formerly creaky French Quarter stalwart, reopened after a $20-million renovation with a chef who makes flawless eggs Benedict in the morning and palm-sugar-roasted duck with rutabaga cakes at night.
Recent arrivals and upstart young cooks are adding new flavors to this Creole city. The internationally revered tiki expert Jeff “Beachbum” Berry came to town and opened a restaurant and bar called Latitude 29. Native son Michael Gulotta, after rising to the helm of John Besh’s flagship restaurant, August, unexpectedly embraced Southeast Asian cuisine when he struck out on his own with MoPho (514 City Park Ave.; 504-482-6845). And in and around the rapidly gentrifying Bywater neighborhood, you’ll find New York-style pies at Pizza Delicious (617 Piety St.; 504-676-8482), falafels and Belgian fries at Kebab (2315 St. Claude Ave.; 504-383-4328), and unhinged creativity from a vet of New York’s Mission Chinese Food at Red’s Chinese (3048 St. Claude Ave.; 504-304-6030).
Where to eat now:
Restaurants are complicated animals with a hundred moving parts. At this moment, Coquette (2800 Magazine St.; 504-265-0421) chef and owner Michael Stoltzfus has everything working in sync. This Modern American bistro in the Garden District is currently one of New Orleans’s finest restaurants.
Dinner and a show:
In a city that loves its past, chef Phillip Lopez sees only the future. Root (200 Julia St.; 504-252-9480), his first restaurant, was equal parts science experiment and whimsy, with foie gras cotton candy and scallops smoked with Cohiba cigars. At Square Root (1800 Magazine St.; 504-309-7800), a tasting-menu-only place, he adds to the complexity (and the price). Stationed behind a wide counter wrapped around the open kitchen, Lopez himself serves the 12 to 15 courses, which despite the avant-garde techniques often draw soulfully on the chef’s Mexican-American heritage.
Isn’t it romantic?
Loyal regulars claim most tables at Gautreau’s (1728 Soniat St.; 504-899-7397), an elegant bistro tucked into an upscale Uptown neighborhood. Owner Patrick Singley, a consummate host, oversees the dining room while budding celebrity chef Sue Zemanick runs the kitchen. Make reservations well in advance.
Fish meets fire:
Pêche Seafood Grill (800 Magazine St.; 504-522-1744), the latest venture from Donald Link in partnership with chef Ryan Prewitt, is unlike any other seafood restaurant you’ll encounter in Louisiana. Fish from the Gulf of Mexico is mainly cooked in a large open-fire grill. Dishes such as grilled tuna with olive salad and catfish with chili broth won Pêche the 2014 James Beard Award for best new restaurant in America and Prewitt the prize for best chef in the South (shared with Gautreau’s Sue Zemanick).
Beer from here and beyond:
Craft beer has finally taken off in Louisiana. At Avenue Pub (1732 St. Charles Ave.; 504-586-9243), a 24-hour bar with a balcony overlooking the streetcars of St. Charles Avenue, you can sample a large selection of regional brews along with impressive collections of Belgian beers and American whiskeys.
Rest easy in the Big Easy:
Populist governor Huey P. Long preferred to sip his Ramos gin fizzes at the Sazerac Bar of the Art Deco Roosevelt (130 Roosevelt Way; 504-648-1200) hotel. Opened in 1893, it underwent a major renovation in 2009 and became a Waldorf Astoria property.
The stately, 19th-century wooden bar at Purloo, a restaurant in the new Southern Food & Beverage Museum, once stood in a waterfront seafood joint, before Hurricane Katrina pushed it into the water in 2005. A decade later, you can again belly up to the Brunswick bar and sip a Sazerac. You’re encouraged to carry your cocktail through the museum’s exhibits on Southern foodways.
Walk on water:
A half-hour drive from the French Quarter, the boardwalks winding through the swamps of the Barataria Preserve—part of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve—make for good hiking. The visitor center offers helpful tips on what to do if you encounter an alligator (clap and stomp).
What’s Brewing in Asheville
Asheville is having a moment.
New Orleans has soulful history. Charleston’s roster of chefs is full of attention-grabbing talent. But this scenic North Carolina city is making a lot of noise as of late.
That’s the sound of Asheville beating the local-food drum, surrounded as it is by farm-rich countryside. The cheesemakers are prolific enough for a Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. And chefs such as James Beard semifinalist Jacob Sessoms of Table (48 College St.; 828-254-8980) take full advantage of the abundance in a way that’s strictly Asheville.
“Asheville has the unique quality of being in the South without being Southern,” Sessoms says. Settled by Scotch-Irish isolationists, the city was exposed to little of the outside culture that influenced much of the South’s culinary style. “These factors have led us to a place where we, as Asheville chefs, don’t really have an original food culture as a touchstone with which to start—or to which we must be held accountable.”
Asheville has taken that pioneering spirit to brewing. It lays claim to more breweries per capita than any other US city. People barhop the vibrant downtown in hiking boots and duck into breweries in the rehabbed South Slope, which includes Wicked Weed’s newest tasting room, the Funkatorium.
“When we began discussing where to launch Wicked Weed Brewing, Asheville was the only logical choice for all of us,” says owner Rick Guthy, who came to the city from Los Angeles in the ’80s. “Not only because it’s a place we enjoy so much but because Asheville is America’s craft-beer capital.”
There are other reasons to visit. Asheville is surrounded by bike trails and kayak-friendly waterways. The nearby Blue Ridge Parkway travels the spine of the mountains, offering sweeping views of Carolina high country and access to nature that draws millions of tourists each year
Where to eat now:
James Beard-nominated John Fleer steered Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm toward its hyper-local ethos. Now he takes a similar approach at Asheville’s Rhubarb (7 SW Pack Square; 828-785-1503). Try the Mongolian lamb ribs with collard kimchee, or wood-roasted trout from nearby Sunburst Farms. Meanwhile, another Beard-nominated chef, Katie Button, a protégée of Ferran Adrià and José Andrés, also took a chance with Asheville—her family’s tapas restaurant, Cúrate (11 Biltmore Ave.; 828-239-2946), is booming. Book a table in advance.
How sweet it is:
The French Broad Chocolate Lounge (10 S. Pack Square; 828-252-4181) is a 4,200-square-foot temple of bean-to-bar chocolate, with handmade truffles, sipping chocolates, and other artisanal sweets.
Wicked Weed Brewing (91 Biltmore Ave.; 828-575-9599) opened its immensely popular two-level downtown pub in 2012. The more intimate Funkatorium nearby specializes in barrel-aged wild and sour brews. Try the Black Angel Cherry Sour, black ale brewed with cherries and aged in bourbon barrels. Locals also head to eccentric West Asheville to barhop, as well as to the River Arts District, where Wedge Brewing Company (37 Paynes Way; 828-505-2792) turned one side of a former 19th-century warehouse and its railroad stockyard into a charmingly gritty adult playground. On the other side is the Bull and Beggar (37 Paynes Way; 828-575-9443), a rustic-mod restaurant where you can sip craft cocktails, eat oysters, and watch the trains go by.
Catch live bluegrass or folk at Jack of the Wood (95 Patton Ave.; 828-252-5445), which has pub fare and—of course—local beer. Tired of beer? Find craft cocktails at MG Road (19 Wall St.; 828-254-4363) or the Imperial Life.
The Aloft hotel has a stylish, modern vibe in the heart of downtown. For more glamorous digs, the Inn on Biltmore Estate offers plenty of luxury on 8,000 acres.
Best way to wake up:
Head to Early Girl Eatery (8 Wall St.; 828-259-9292) for a taste of the South. Try the Porky Breakfast Bowl, with farm eggs, local cheese curd, and pulled pork in smoky Benton’s-bacon gravy. Or pop into Vortex Doughnuts (32 Banks Ave., Suite 106; 828-552-3010) for first-rate coffee and doughnuts with ingredients like bacon and beer caramel.
Anna Spiegel is associate food editor; Todd Kliman is a food and wine editor. Todd Price is a dining writer for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Mackensy Lunsford covers food for the Asheville Citizen-Times.
This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
Friendship Heights has been synonymous with shopping for some time—Lord & Taylor opened in 1959, followed by Saks Fifth Avenue and, in the ’70s, Neiman Marcus. Yet it wasn’t until the past few years that the Red Line-accessible neighborhood straddling DC and Maryland really upped its game with a slew of designer boutiques and restaurants. Still, it retains that high/low mix that defines fashion right now: Along with one-percenter stores such as Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and Dior are bargain places like H&M, Nordstrom Rack, and T.J. Maxx.
Shops are clustered mostly along a walkable half-mile stretch of Wisconsin Avenue, from Harrison Street to Somerset Terrace. Start the day at Sweet Teensy Bakery (1 Wisconsin Cir.; 301-656-0809) with an Illy espresso downed Italian style at the bar. One of the flaky ham-and-cheese scones made in-house wouldn’t be amiss, either.
Then indulge in a little fantasy shopping by heading north on Wisconsin to the fun-to-even-just-look-at addresses at the Collection at Chevy Chase. You might pop into French jeweler Cartier (5471 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-654-5858) to slip on Juste un Clou, the edgy “bent nail” bracelet favored by actress Kristen Stewart, or check out the wrap-around wristwatch at Bulgari (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-986-8610) worn by Vogue Japan editor at large Anna Dello Russo. If shoes are your thing, don’t miss the chance to ogle the butter-soft suede loafers at Gucci (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-986-8902) and the sexy stilettos at Jimmy Choo (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-223-1102). And you needn’t channel Audrey Hepburn—chignon, cigarette holder—to relish a turn through Tiffany & Co. (5481 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-657-8777).
A block up awaits Saks Fifth Avenue (5555 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-657-9000) and its 6,000-square-foot shoe department with such brands as Christian Louboutin and Miu Miu. “It girl” denim and contemporary designers—Alice and Olivia, 3.1 Phillip Lim, Vince—are on the lower level, too. Cross the street and you’ll come upon De Pandi (5518 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-718-1901), a trove of Italian designer suits, shirts, and ties as well as custom menswear by owner Eduardo De Pandi (father of Giuliana Rancic of E! News).
The snug boutique Sylene (4407 S. Park Ave.; 301-654-4200)—known for swimwear, sweet and sexy lingerie, and saleswomen who can fit a bra—is a short detour onto South Park Avenue. Back on Wisconsin, you’ll see the elegant facade of Santa Maria Novella (5454 Wisconsin Ave.; 240-743-4949), one of five of the Florentine shops in the US, filled with deliciously scented soaps, candles, shaving cream, potpourri, and the namesake cologne created for Catherine de Medici in the 1500s. Gifts are lavishly wrapped for free.
Time for lunch? Head to The Shops at Wisconsin Place (5310 Western Ave.) and go casual at Le Pain Quotidien (202-499-6785) with a curried-chicken tartine or lentil-avocado salad, or more formal with the $18 lunchtime two-course “plates” menu at the Capital Grille (301-718-7812). We recommend the potato-leek soup and lobster roll.
Both places are a stone’s throw from Bloomingdale’s (5300 Western Ave.; 240-744-3700) and its smartly edited smattering of everything: housewares, men’s clothing that skews classic, an infant and children’s area, and an array of not-too-pricey party dresses. The second floor really shines, with cool-girl labels such as Maje, Sandro, and Tibi.
Mazza Gallerie (5300 Wisconsin Ave., NW) is next. Catch your breath at low-key Tabandeh (202-244-0777), known for one-of-a-kind fine and costume designer jewelry and accessories. Neiman Marcus (202-966-9700) has three floors devoted to of-the-moment shoes and bags, stylish menswear, high-end women’s wear from names like Brunello Cucinelli and the Row, infant and children’s clothing, and home accessories. Worth seeking out are Neiman’s own line of cashmere and the Cusp boutique, full of trendy denim and date-night clothes. Also at Mazza is Saks Fifth Avenue Men’s Store (202-363-2059), all about stylish sportswear, shoes, and accessories on the first level—look for names like Theory and Rag & Bone—and elegant power suits from the likes of Boss and Salvatore Ferragamo on the second.
Time for cocktails? You could go for a skinny or traditional margarita along with guacamole made tableside at Rosa Mexicano (5225 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-777-9959). Or head to the lively happy hour at Lia’s (4435 Willard Ave.; 240-223-5427) for truffled popcorn, $6.50 burgers—with fries or greens—and a well-priced roster of beers and wines. The sunken white lounge at Sushiko (5455 Wisconsin Ave.; 301-961-1644) is perfect for sake and spicy tuna hand rolls, both happy-hour picks. Well-sourced sushi and sashimi and creative takes on Japanese classics make it a good option for dinner, too.
Craft cocktails are the thing at Bryan Voltaggio’s Range (5335 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-803-8020) in Chevy Chase Pavilion. Stay for dinner and choose from the raw bar, salumi, pastas, wood-oven pizzas, and other entrées, all with a modern twist. Or go more formal and intimate at Aggio—Voltaggio’s restaurant within Range—a serene oasis of Italian fare. It’s just the sort of cosseting you might crave after an all-day shopathon.
Friendship Heights freelancer Cynthia Hacinli writes about food, fashion, travel, and design.
This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.
Correction: In a previous version of this article, we recommended going to Chevy Chase Plaza (5310 Western Ave.) for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien and the Capital Grille. The correct location is The Shops at Wisconsin Place (5310 Western Ave.).
Where: Goodstone Inn & Restaurant, 3605 Snake Hill Rd., Middleburg; 540-687-3333.
What’s special: The luxurious Goodstone Inn & Restaurant sits on 265 acres of countryside. Enjoy a full breakfast in the morning, and cozy up by the fire on chilly afternoons in the Carriage House and indulge in complimentary afternoon tea. The elegant guest rooms and suites are done up in English and French country styles. The inn offers vistas of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the restaurant features a farm-to-table menu. You can hike the property or drive into Middleburg to shop at antiques stores and boutiques.
The deal: Goodstone’s Cabin Fever Package includes one night at a regular rate plus 50 percent off the second night (you must stay two consecutive nights in the same room for the discount). Mention the Washingtonian deal at check-in to also receive a complimentary bottle of wine, a $35 value. Rates start at $275 a night.
When: Valid through April 30, 2015.
Where: Lansdowne Resort, 44050 Woodridge Pkwy., Leesburg; 888-541-7954.
What’s special: Lansdowne Resort, overlooking the Potomac River, offers 45 holes of championship golf, an indoor/outdoor aquatic center featuring five pools, a tennis complex, and running trails. For any guest craving even more exercise, there’s a fully equipped athletic club that also has CrossFit and aerobic classes. Afterward, you can indulge yourself at the luxurious Spa Minérale. Four on-site restaurants feature offerings from nearby farms as well as local wines and beer.
The deals: The Pamper and Putt package includes accommodations, one round of golf per stay, and one 50-minute Just Breathe Swedish massage per stay; additional 50-minute treatments can be added for $99 each. Rooms start at $265, a 10-percent savings for Washingtonian readers. Or opt for the Wine and Unwind package, which includes accommodations, daily buffet breakfast for two adults at the Riverside Hearth, two 50-minute spa treatments per stay, and round-trip transportation to two local vineyards, 868 Estate and Doukenie. Prices start at $397, excluding winetasting fees, a 10-percent savings for readers. To book either package, click here or call 888-541-7954 and mention the promo code Wash2015.
When: Both packages are valid through December 31, 2015, if booked by June 30. The Wine and Unwind package is available only on weekends; the wine tour is on Saturdays.Capitol of Virginia Getaway
Where: The Jefferson, 101 W. Franklin St., Richmond; 804-649-4750.
What’s special: Opened in 1895, The Jefferson is Richmond’s grandest hotel, with a lobby that greets you with Tiffany stained glass, a marble statue of Thomas Jefferson, and a grand staircase. The hotel has hosted Presidents, writers, and Hollywood stars. Guests enjoy complimentary downtown transportation, a fitness center, and an indoor pool. March 21 through June 21, the nearby Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is hosting the exhibition “Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower,” featuring 65 paintings by more than 30 artists. It’s the first major American exhibit to explore the development of French floral still-life painting from the late 18th through early 20th century.
The deal: The hotel’s Art of the Flower package includes accommodations; a traditional Southern breakfast for two including gratuity; valet parking; two tickets to the VMFA exhibit; and transportation to and from the museum—a 40-percent savings. Mention Washingtonian when booking to also get two complimentary drinks in the hotel’s Lemaire bar, a $30 value. Rates start at $325. Book online here (make a note of the Washingtonian deal in the special-requests section) or call 800-424-8014.
When: Valid for stays Sunday through Thursday through June 21, 2015, excluding May 3 through 7.
Where: The Lodge at Woodloch, 109 River Birch La., Hawley, Pa.; 800-966-5624.
What’s special: This is not a resort with a spa but a true destination spa. The adults-only Poconos property includes guest rooms, a restaurant, a gym complete with a long list of classes (yoga, spin, abs, Bodypump, boot camp, cardio blast), a magnificent outdoor Jacuzzi that you may never want to leave, multiple indoor Jacuzzis (one with a waterfall), a steam room, a sauna, and plenty of spots with fireplaces and couches. The Whisper Lounge, an area meant for relaxation after spa treatment, has infused tea, trail mix, and fresh fruit. Outside are hiking trails; a 15-acre lake for fishing, kayaking, and standup paddleboarding; fire pits; and rocking chairs. The lodge is very low-key—you can go to breakfast or lunch in a robe or gym clothes (casualwear required for dinner.) The food is geared to healthy options, including gluten-free and vegan dishes.
The deal: The Holist-Inclusive Package includes accommodations, three meals a day, group fitness classes and lectures, cooking and baking demonstrations, and guided group adventure excursions. Prices start at $239 per person per night for the Midweek Magic offer (weekday rates are usually $309 based on double occupancy). Readers also receive a $50 spa credit per person when staying two nights. To get this deal, mention Washingtonian when booking.
When: Valid for stays Sunday to Thursday through April 30, 2015.
Where: Waterstone Resort & Marina, 999 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton, Fla.; 561-368-9500.
What’s special: This opulent Boca Raton resort features a breezy, sophisticated coastal design. Guests enjoy a vast array of water sports - jet skiing, sailing, kayaking, scuba. A shuttle takes you to some of Boca Raton’s nearby pristine beaches. Two new restaurants showcase local ingredients and sustainable fresh seafood.
The deal: The Washingtonian Magazine Exclusive Deal includes deluxe water-view accommodations, a welcome cocktail, and a choice of either a one-hour scenic ocean kayak ride or a one-hour standup-paddleboard ride. Prices start at $214, a $40 savings for readers. To book, click here.
When: Valid through May 31, 2015.
Where: The Condado Plaza Hilton, 999 Ashford Ave., San Juan, Puerto Rico; 787-721-1000.
What’s special: The hotel boasts uninterrupted views of the Condado Lagoon and Atlantic Ocean. The large guest rooms feature private balconies and complimentary wi-fi. Enjoy snorkeling in the lagoon reef, kayaking, tennis, and standup paddleboarding. You can swim in Puerto Rico’s only saltwater pool, which offers a panoramic ocean view, or in one of three oasis-style pools. The property also has the 24-hour Condado Casino.
The deal: The Leisure Escapes package includes a $50 daily on-property credit that can be used toward a tour of the nearby El Yunque Rainforest, on-site dining, or a massage. Washingtonian readers also receive a complimentary room upgrade, a $30 savings. Rates start at $179. Book here or use the promo code RPTVS1 when calling.
When: Valid through March 19, 2016.
More than 380 years ago this week, colonists who'd sailed from England on the Ark and the Dove stepped onto the shores of what would become St. Mary's City, Maryland, and took "possession of this Countrey for our Saviour and our soveraigne Lord the King of England."
The anniversary of the state's formal founding is commemorated every year with Maryland Day festivities—this year March 20 through 22.
Throughout the weekend, historical and cultural attractions in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County will offer special tours and events, many for free or for a discounted $1 admission.
Among the Saturday highlights: A free tour, from 10 a.m. to noon, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (advance reservations are required, and the tour is limited to 50 people); $1 guided walking tours of the United States Naval Academy (you must print a coupon to get this deal), which will also offer free children's activities—think knot tying, tattoo painting, and the making of paper sailor hats—from noon to 3 p.m.; and $1 admission into Historic London Town and Gardens, where costumed interpreters and displays tell of daily life in Colonial times.
There's even a "Picture Yourself in History" selfie contest at participating sites. For more information about Maryland Day events, click here.
Edited by Sherri Dalphonse
When's the last time you rode to the top of the Washington Monument? Or toured the White House?
Admit it: It's been a while.
We locals love living here, but when it comes to the most Washington of Washington experiences, we tend to roll our eyes and assume it's all for tourists.
Our Great Washington Bucket List will tell you why that's a mistake. We set out to pull together a collection of things we'd regret not doing if we moved away. As it happened, many of these were those same activities residents too often dismiss as hopelessly touristy.
They're not. What is hopelessly touristy is not doing them right. Here's our collection of the 50 memorable Washington sights, sounds, and places you really shouldn't miss—and some tips for how to see them like a local.
Want to see how Washingtonian you are? Take our quiz.
- 50 States Bike Ride
- Air Force Memorial Concert
- Annapolis Day Trip
- Arlington National Cemetery
- Blossom Kite Festival
- Boundary Stones Tour
- Cherry Blossoms at the Tidal Basin
- City Sights—From a Metrobus
- Civil War Battlefields
- Congressional Cemetery
- Ford's Theatre
- Fourth of July Fireworks on the Mall
- Frederick Douglass House
- George Washington's Mount Vernon by Boat
- Great Falls Rafting
- High Heel Race
- House of Representatives Debate
- Inaugural Ball
- Kennedy Center
- Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival
- Library of Congress Main Reading Room
- Lincoln Memorial
- Marine Corps Marathon and Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run
- Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon
- Monument Tour
- Mount Vernon Trail
- Museums Around the Mall
- National Arboretum by Moonlight
- National Archives and DAR Library
- National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
- National Zoo Elephant Trails Tour
- Old Rag Mountain
- Only-in-Washington Food Experiences
- Passport DC Embassy Tour
- Peking Duck at Peking Gourmet Inn
- Political Protest
- Pope-Leighey House
- President Lincoln's Cottage
- Prime Rib at the Prime Rib
- Rock Creek Park on Horseback
- Rolling Thunder
- Round Robin Bar
- Sculpture Garden Ice Rink
- Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
- Supreme Court Oral Argument
- US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Washington Monument
- Washington National Cathedral Tower
- The White House
- White House Correspondents' Dinner Event
Contributors to this package were: Sherri Dalphonse, Tanya Pai, Jennifer Barger, Andrew Beaujon, Kate Bennett, Benjamin Freed, Michael J. Gaynor, Matthew Graham, Sara Gilgore, Joseph Guinto, Christine Ianzito, Marisa M. Kashino, Ann Limpert, Leslie Milk, Anna Spiegel, John Scarpinato, William Triplett, and Michael Schaffer.
This time last year, I quit everything to attempt a six-month backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail. I’d learned of the AT only a few years prior and was instantly seduced by the idea of sweat and sky. By late March, I had summited Blood Mountain in icy rain and stood above the clouds with my rain jacket on and dried pineapple chunks in hand. By June, I'd already been benched by an overused ankle, but it was the inflamed bursa in my hip that restricted my walking and ultimately sent me home.
I’d give anything to attempt another thru-hike, this time without injuries. Now that I'm working in Washington, I find comfort knowing the trail is only 16 miles from the nation’s capitol. I talked to experts at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), a nonprofit charged with maintaining the 2,190-mile scenic trail, and a recent thru-hiker to create an introduction to all things Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail spans through 14 states between Georgia and Maine. Each year, volunteers reroute sections of the trail for conservation purposes, but for 2015, the official length is 2,189.2 miles.
“There’s three-walled shelters along the way, no electricity though,” says Judy McGuire, an information volunteer at ATC and chair of the Landscape and Resource Protection Committee. “A privy if you’re lucky, and you have to carry everything you need between towns along the way.”
An estimated 2,500 people attempted a thru-hike last year, but to date, only 644 finished, according to the ATC. That number is likely to grow, as this number is determined by completion applications that roll in endlessly. Laurie Potteiger, the ATC’s information services manager, says that by the end of March, 95 percent of 2014 applications should be filed. In 2013, 734 hikers completed the entire trail in a 12-month span.
According to McGuire, 40 percent of hikers were under age 30, “but there are a fair number of retirees as well.” Although hikers are “mostly men,” women account for 25 percent of AT completions, McGuire says.
The AT is supported by 31 trail-maintenance clubs, totaling 6,000 volunteers who clocked 200,000 hours last year clearing trees, constructing bridges, and removing litter.
North-bounders depart from Springer Mountain in Georgia anytime between March 1 and April 15 in order to reach Maine before parks close in mid-October. Hikers attempting a south-bound adventure typically start on Mount Katahdin in June, after snows have thawed in Maine, and finish in Georgia.
Donell Booker, Jr., a 2014 thru-hiker, hit the AT on a popular start date, the first day of spring, and summited Katahdin six months and 20 days later. His biggest resource was how-to videos from YouTube, and he did several long day-hikes in preparation.
Although northbound is the most popular route, hikers can also south-bound, section hike, and flip-flop. Section hiking allows completion over a longer time span, while flip-flopping allows hikers to change direction (usually to avoid inclement weather.) Thru-hikers complete the entire trail in 12-months time, but anyone who hikes the entire trail is a “2,000-miler.”
Attractions along the trail include Clingmans Dome, 6,643 feet high in the Smoky Mountains, wild ponies in the Grayson Highlands, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
Everyone has their own reason for thru-hiking, but there are some common draws to the wilderness.
“It’s a tempting challenge,” McGuire says. “You have to get by on your own wits, a lot of people want to get away, there’s a real camaraderie, but there’s also solitude.”
Hikers unite under one motto: “Hike your own hike.” It means you can hike any way you please (southbound, barefoot, and there’s even a day for naked hiking), as long as you make it yours. However, some behaviors will ensure thru-hike completion.
Be responsible: Simple habits like checking for ticks, sticking to the path, and using hand sanitizer can keep you safe and prevent a rescue mission.
“Ticks and lime disease are definitely the biggest danger,” McGuire says. “But in the last couple of seasons, there has been an influx of infectious disease,” she added, explaining the effects of Norovirus (known for it's contagiousness) in crowded shelters. “It’s short-lived, but has pretty dramatic symptoms, especially in the backcountry where you don’t have toilets.”
Hang food away from animals and utilize Leave No Trace practices to protect the environment you’re visiting.
“The biggest problem is people pooping,” McGuire says. You're supposed to dig a six- to eight-inch deep "cathole," she says, but that doesn't always happen: “People are not digging holes to bury their excrement, and they’re leaving their Kleenex and toilet paper.”
Be tough: Walking 2,200 miles with 30-40 pounds of gear, burning up to 6,000 calories a day while feasting on ramen and peanut butter is no easy feat, and if you’re headed northbound, the trail ends in what’s called the “Hundred-Mile Wilderness.” While physical toughness can be attained by mostly anybody, mental toughness will make or break your thru-hike.
“There was nothing good about Pennsylvania,” Booker said. “You literally walk on rocks the entire time. Rocks, sticking straight out of the ground, so sharp, it’d stick through your boot like a knife. But I wasn’t going to let it beat me at that point. I went through three pairs of shoes in that state, middle finger in the air.”
Be committed: “It’s got to be the most important thing to you,” said McGuire.Follow @AngieHilsman
Why you might roll your eyes:
You already know what the monuments look like from a distance.
Why you'll love it:
Because there are ways to see them with new eyes. Here are three ideas.
In the snow: The next time Washington is freshly blanketed, hop on the Metro and head toward the Mall. The city is at its most hushed—and possibly most beautiful—when it snows, making it a perfect time to walk and gawk.
At night: It's no secret that the best way to view the monuments is at night, when they positively glow. Besides, it's easier to park. But because it's no secret, if you time it wrong (say, during spring-break weeks) you'll find yourself admiring Lincoln with busloads of tourists. Our advice: Pick an evening—Christmas or Thanksgiving night, maybe Super Bowl Sunday—when most people are doing something else. You may just end up having the Jefferson to yourself.
On the water: From a kayak in the Potomac or Anacostia River, Washington's storied sites take on both a more imposing and a more peaceful vibe. The outfitter Boating in DC leads three 90-minute guided tours that ply the local waters at sunset: a monument-heavy trip taking off from Georgetown, a Capitol Riverfront jaunt in the Anacostia starring vistas of the Capitol and Navy Yard, and a paddle departing from National Harbor with glimpses of Old Town Alexandria and the illuminated Capital Wheel. Discovery Channel-worthy close-ups of birds such as blue herons come with the experience. "When you're on a boat, the marble on the monuments takes on a special glow, and the water is beautiful at sunset," says Boating in DC's Nicholas Verrochi.
Tours ($45) take place multiple times a week in warmer months. Reserve at boatingindc.com.
Why you might roll your eyes:
Getting in line early for tickets to look out a few windows at a city you know may seem like a waste of time.
Why you'll love it:
At 555 feet tall, the monument offers panoramic views. After a short ride up in the elevator, you can peer out the eight windows and see landmarks the nation's capital is known for. Maps at each window show what you're looking at, and views reach all the way to Maryland and Virginia. Afterward, in the exhibit below the observation deck, you can learn about the monument's construction. (Fun fact: When it was completed in 1884, it was the world's tallest building.) On the ride back down, the elevator's frosted glass will suddenly turn clear to let you see some of the commemorative stones lining the monument's interior.
The Mall between 15th and 17th sts., NW; 202-426-6841. Free, timed same-day tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 8:30 am at the Washington Monument Lodge on 15th Street adjacent to the monument. Tickets are also available online or by phone for a $1.50 fee; see recreation.gov.
Why you might roll your eyes:
Savvy Washingtonians know that nothing really gets debated on the House floor—the chamber is usually empty, with lawmakers posturing for C-SPAN.
Why you'll love it:
Everyone should see how the sausage is made at least once. Sure, the House of Representatives is just a bunch of goobers sent here to impose the whims of their backwater districts on the rest of the country, but a company town like Washington is only as good as its leading industry. You'll want to time your visit well and go on a day the House is taking a critical vote on big-ticket legislation. Even if you're not in the chamber for the final roll call, you'll get to see the demonstrators who flock to town to cheer or jeer.
Same-day passes for this civics lesson are available from your representative or senator's office when the House is in session.
Why you might roll your eyes:
Yes, this is the restaurant whose claim to fame is that it was a Bush-family favorite. With all the great restaurants in the area, why eat at this oldie in a tired-looking strip mall?
Why you'll love it:
The Falls Church restaurant offers a tasty version of Peking duck, a Chinese delicacy involving elaborate preparations and roasting that results in a bird with crisp, glazed skin and tender meat. The whole duck is carved tableside and served on platters, along with julienned jumbo spring onions, thin pancakes, and hoisin sauce.
Eating here feels like an event: The place is typically packed with large parties celebrating something or other, and walls are blanketed nearly floor to ceiling with smiley photos of staff alongside notable patrons, including John Travolta and, of course, George W. Bush.
6029 Leesburg Pike, Falls Church; 703-671-8088; pekinggourmet.com.