News & Politics

Washingtonian’s Most-Read Articles in 2021

Photo of the Trump International Hotel by Jeff Elkins

This was the year many of us hoped life would return to normal. One small bit of status quo for Washingtonian this year, web-traffic-wise, was that there are always some surprises about what people end up reading.

1. Trump Hotel Employees Reveal What It Was Really Like Catering to the Right Wing Elite

Photograph by Jeff Elkins

Jessica Sidman wrung the most-read story in Washingtonian history from the servers, chefs, and various employees tasked with catering to the Trump administration’s bigwigs and hangers-on: Hope Hicks received a complimentary “dessert storm” after her food took too long; Rudy Giuliani was there so much someone made a plaque for his preferred table; Trump expected servers to follow a script when he dined, including a presentation of hand sanitizer and his Diet Cokes and mini-bottles of Heinz ketchup opened in front of him. The Trump Hotel’s bizarre reign as a DC power center ended abruptly in early 2021, and the building will soon change hands. But we’ll always have the memories of Tiffany Trump being a frequent no-show after making reservations.

2. A Mysterious New Insect Is Feasting on DC-Area People and Making Them Think They Have Bed Bugs

Photograph courtesy the US Department of Agriculture.

In the pantheon of bad stuff that’s happened in the last two years, oak mites—those ravenous little critters that fell from trees onto our skin last summer and proceeded to chow down—barely registered. But dang, did their bites hurt, and stay with us for weeks!

3. Magic Mushrooms Are Decriminalized in DC as of Today

Photograph via iStock.

The Entheogenic Plant and Fungus Policy Act of 2020 instructed DC police to make natural psychedelics like ayahuasca and mescaline a very low priority for law enforcement. The measure passed overwhelmingly in the fall of 2020 and went into effect on March 15.

4. Joe Manchin’s Houseboat: 5 Things

Joe Manchin speaks with kayaking protestors from his houseboat. Screenshot from Solar Light News on YouTube.

Every time the West Virginia senator was in the news, this swiftly assembled piece of day-blogging content shot up the charts again (thanks, Google). Facts about Manchin’s houseboat Almost Heaven, which we called the “flagship of the centrist Navy,” were a hot ticket for much of 2021.

5. The Women’s March Is Back in October to Rally for Reproductive Rights

The 2017 Women’s March. Photograph by Evy Mages

Thousands gathered in DC and other cities this past October to demonstrate in support of abortion rights after Texas’ effective ban on abortions took effect.

6. Everything We Know About Barack Obama’s 60th Birthday Party

June 18, 2012 "The First Lady reacts as she watches Laura Jarrett and Tony Balkissoon take their vows during their wedding at Valerie Jarrett's home in Chicago." (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Photograph by Pete Souza.

There was an espresso-martini bar! President Biden wasn’t there, but Tom Hanks was! People partied maskless outdoors! (Which is actually pretty safe, but it caused some agitation nonetheless.) DC resident Barack Obama’s diamond anniversary celebration in Martha’s Vineyard sure seems like it was a swell time.

7. The CIA Is Trying to Recruit Gen Z—and Doesn’t Care If They’re All Over Social Media

Photograph by wellesenterprises via iStock.

We’ve all heard stories about embarrassment and career turmoil after the discovery of someone’s old, ill-considered posts on social media. One place it isn’t necessarily bad to have a social-media past? The Central Freakin’ Intelligence Agency, Jessica M. Goldstein reported. Just don’t follow any of the agency’s social media accounts if you’re up for a job there—that’s its own advice.

8. The True Story of Jess Krug, the White Professor Who Posed as Black for Years—Until It All Blew Up Last Fall

George Washington University professor Jessica “Jess La Bombalera” Krug went from being a promising scholar in the field of African history to a national punch line during a particularly nuts portion of 2020. Marisa Kashino tracked her bizarre story from Overland Park, Kansas, to DC (by way of the Bronx).

9. Photos: Washington Is Under Water

Photograph of National Harbor courtesy of PRK Network on Twitter.

Remember that incredibly crazy thing that happened two months ago? Ha, me neither. Good thing we have photos to remind us how vulnerable this region is becoming to flooding and extreme weather.

10. Honey, We Bought the Exorcist House!

Photograph of Ben Rockey-Harris by Evy Mages

Danielle Witt and Ben Rockey-Harris checked out just about everything when it came to buying a beautiful three-bedroom bungalow in Cottage City, Maryland. Except whether it was the site of events that inspired an extremely famous novel and movie about demonic possession. Fortunately, Witt told Washingtonian, demons “do not convey with the house.”


Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. He lives in Del Ray.