D.C. Travel Planner
Let our experts guide your run to the White House
Think fireworks. Think Founding Fathers. Think all-out family fun. Now's the time to plan that long overdue trip to our Nation's Capital. Things slow down in the summer months when government workers take vacations and Congress goes on hiatus. That translates into big savings. You'll get a great value, and your family will experience a vacation they'll never forget.
Stay in Penn Quarter
Bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue on the south and New York and Massachusetts Avenues on the north, this area lies between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. Once shabby and neglected, it's now the district's hottest neighborhood.
We adore Hotel Monaco. It's a modern boutique hotel with bright colors, distinctive furnishings, and sumptuous linens. Nearby chain hotels include Courtyard Washington Convention Center, Grand Hyatt, and Renaissance Washington DC Hotel.
Penn Quarter is super-easy to navigate. You can get to any attraction quickly and cheaply. Two Metro stations service the area: Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter and Gallery Place-Chinatown. The D.C. Circulator bus connects Penn Quarter to Georgetown, Union Station, and the National Mall.
You won't have to go far to visit the popular International Spy Museum, located next door to the Hotel Monaco. Visitors crawl through air ducts, identify camouflaged agents, and even listen to bugged conversations from other parts of the museum.
The Smithsonian Institution reopened the National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum several years ago to rave reviews. Everyone ought to visit "American Presidents," which claims at least one portrait of every U.S. President.
Navigating the Neighborhood
On weekends, Adams Morgan is packed around the clock. There's plenty to entertain visitors of all ages, but the crowd gets noticeably younger as the night wears on.
Finding a parking spot is nearly impossible, so don't plan to drive. Take the Metro's Red Line to the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan stop, and walk the remaining few blocks, or splurge for a taxi.
Pictured: Order your tea hot or cold at Teaism.
A Wider Range of Flavors
One of our favorite hangouts, Rosa Mexicano serves heavenly pomegranate margaritas ($8.50) and fresh guacamole ($12). For dinner, try Filete con Hongos ($26), a fillet smothered with wild mushroom-tequila cream sauce.
For smaller Mexican dishes and a wider range of flavors, head to Oyamel, chef José Andrés's newest restaurant. Order several dishes, and share them. Our favorites include tuna ceviche ($10), Vera Cruz-style red snapper ($10.50), and Tamales Verdes ($5.50). José's other eateries in Penn Quarter include Café Atlántico and minibar (Nuevo Latino), Zaytinya (Mediterranean), and Jaleo (Spanish).
Adams Morgan: Where a Buttoned-up City Lets Its Hair Down
"Adams Morgan," answers Scott Suchman, a Southern Living photographer who's lived in the neighborhood for years. "It's diverse. It's really cool architecturally. It's more like New York City than any other section of D.C."
The intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road NW. forms the heart of this northwest D.C. neighborhood. Coffeehouses, sidewalk cafes, and funky boutiques snuggle next to all-night bars and dance clubs. Step just off the main drag, though, and you'll find shady streets lined with brownstones, row houses, and elegant apartment buildings.
Restaurants here feature flavors from around the world. You can find just about any cuisine--from Ethiopian and French to Mexican and Caribbean--all within a few city blocks. The food scene points to the rich diversity in both residents and visitors that adds to Adams Morgan's unique character and vibrant atmosphere.
Table Tennis at Comet Ping Pong
This über-design-conscious pizzeria with a table tennis bent draws everyone from urban hipsters to the baby-stroller set, making for a low-key atmosphere where even out-of-towners feel right at home.
Settle into a green-topped booth for one of their wood-fired pies. Thin and crisp, they're smeared with honey-tinged tomato sauce and piled high with smoked mozzarella, asparagus, whole soft-shell crab, or even plain-old pepperoni.
It's not called Comet Ping Pong for nothing. Get there early to put your name on the list for dinner (no reservations), and stake out a spot for table tennis. Allow about an hour for the best time you'll have waiting on a table in D.C.
D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre Company is more than just a player. Few perform the Bard's work with this level of mastery. The company now occupies a comfortable 450-seat stage in the Penn Quarter district, but they've also started construction on an 11- story building that will house the 776-seat Sidney Harman Hall. That's good news for Shakespeare fans. Shows here often sell out, but the theater sells standing room-only tickets for $10 starting one hour before the show.
Ben's Chili Bowl
President Barack Obama likes to stop at this popular U Street dive. Since it opened in 1958, Ben's Chili Bowl has seen its share of history but has managed to remain much the same. Customers still sit on 1950s red barstools and belly up to the Formica counter.
The jewel on the simple menu is Ben's Original Chili Half-Smoke. A cousin to the hot dog, the plump, slightly spicy smoked sausage is grilled and then cradled in a steamed bun and topped with mustard, onions, and homemade chili sauce. It's messy but delicious and truly worth the trip.
Capital Q Texas BBQ
Predictably, the best thing on the menu at Capital Q Texas BBQ is the beef brisket. You can get it on a bun, but to experience the full flavor, order the sliced brisket plate. The spicy red sauce is perfect for dipping.
There are other meats on the menu, with the pork ribs being the best of the rest. Plates come with your choice of two side items, including collard greens and a cold black-eyed pea salad known as Texas Caviar. You can even get an icy Shiner Bock beer to wash it all down.
With its marble floors and barrel-vaulted ceilings laced with 22-karat gold leaf, Union Station ranks among Washington's finest architectural gems. But the working train station also houses souvenir shops and specialty boutiques, as well as chains such as Ann Taylor, Chico's, and Jos. A. Bank.
Head next to beautiful Georgetown, where exclusive boutiques, antiques stores, and furniture showrooms line the cobblestone streets. More than 500 businesses are located within a five-block radius of the intersection of M Street NW. and Wisconsin Avenue. Serious shoppers also make the trek to Tysons Corner, Virginia, 14 miles west of downtown. The area's three shopping malls - Tysons Corner Center, Tysons Galleria, and Shops at Fairfax Square contain more than 400 stores.
Trip Planner - Restaurants
Trip Planner - Hotels, Attractions, Activities, Nightlife
- Hotel Monaco
- Courtyard Washington Convention Center
- Grand Hyatt
- Tabard Inn
- Renaissance Washington DC Hotel
ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
- International Spy Museum
- National Portrait Gallery
- American Art Museum
- National Portrrait Gallery