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Washington
The nation's capital. This simple phrase underscores Washington's global importance as governmental entity as well as its enormous appeal as a tourist destination. John F. Kennedy once said “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm,” and although his tongue was no doubt firmly...
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Introduction
The nation's capital. It's a phrase that underscores Washington's global importance as a seat of government as well as its enormous appeal as a tourist destination. John F. Kennedy once said “Washington is a city of Southern efficiency and Northern charm,” and although his tongue was no doubt firmly planted in cheek, there's no denying its twin roles: governing the nation while charming millions of visitors each year.

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There's such an embarrassment of must-see riches here that putting together a sightseeing itinerary is one truly daunting task. The United States Capitol and the White House define the District of Columbia as jurisdictional entity. The Mall—that green swath stretching from the foot of Capitol Hill west to the awe-inspiring seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial—is where it's at for visitors, encompassing not only seven memorials (Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Korean War Veterans, Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., National World War II, Thomas Jefferson and Vietnam Veterans), the Washington Monument and the National Gallery of Art, but many of the museums identified with one of the world's largest and most comprehensive educational organizations, the Smithsonian Institution.


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But that's just part of the picture; Washington also is a city of vibrant neighborhoods, with a cultural diversity, a cosmopolitan energy and fine arts facilities second to none. With so much to see and do, springtime's cavalcade of cherry blossoms is simply the pale pink icing on top of a very special cake.



 
About the City


Population
601,723

Elevation
23 ft.

Money


Sales Tax
The District of Columbia's sales tax is 6 percent. Additional increments are attached when purchasing alcohol, restaurant meals, rental cars, commercial parking and hotel rooms. The higher tax rates range from 10 to 14 percent. The sales tax in neighboring Maryland and Virginia is 6 and 4 percent, respectively; lodging taxes vary by county.

Whom To Call


Emergency
911

Police (non-emergency)
311 in Washington, D.C., or (202) 737-4404

Hospitals
Georgetown University Hospital, (202) 444-2000; The George Washington University Hospital, (202) 715-4000; Howard University Hospital, (202) 865-6100; Providence Hospital, (202) 269-7000; Sibley Memorial Hospital, (202) 537-4000; MedStar Washington Hospital Center, (202) 877-7000.

Where To Look and Listen


Newspapers
The major newspapers, both distributed in the morning, are The Washington Post and the Washington Times. The weekly Washington Afro-American is available at newsstands, as are various smaller dailies and weeklies. Events are listed in the City Paper, a free weekly, and the daily Style or Friday Weekend sections of the Post.

Radio
Washington radio station WTOP (1500 AM) is an all-news/weather station; WAMU (88.5 FM) is a member of National Public Radio.

Visitor Information

DC Chamber of Commerce

506 9th St. N.W. WASHINGTON, DC 20005. Phone:(202)347-7201 The center has brochures and is open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5:30; closed holidays.


Destination DC

901 7th St. N.W. 4th Floor WASHINGTON, DC 20001. Phone:(202)789-7000 or (800)422-8644


Transportation


Air Travel
Visitors arriving by plane can land at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

Rental Cars
Rental car agencies in Washington are numerous; most have conveniently located offices in the city and nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Arrangements should be made before you leave on your trip. Your local AAA club can provide this service or additional information. Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (800) 654-3131.

Rail Service
Trains pull into the Union Station Train Concourse at 1st Street and Massachusetts Avenue N.E. at all hours; phone (202) 289-1908. Amtrak trains travel to New York daily; the trip takes about 3 hours. Trains depart for Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport every hour from 3:15 a.m. to 10:05 p.m., and also run from the airport to Union Station; phone (800) 872-7245 for reservations.

Buses
The Greyhound Lines Inc. bus terminal is at 1st and L streets N.E.; phone (800) 231-2222.

Taxis
Taxicabs in Washington are metered.

Public Transportation
Transportation by bus or subway is available in Washington.

 
Visitor Information

DC Chamber of Commerce

506 9th St. N.W. WASHINGTON, DC 20005. Phone:(202)347-7201 The center has brochures and is open Mon.-Fri. 8:30-5:30; closed holidays.


 
Getting There


By Car
The Capital Beltway (I-495) encircles the District of Columbia and interchanges with all major approach routes. The eastern portion merges with I-95, which links Baltimore to the north and Richmond, Va., to the south. US 1 and the Gladys Spellman Parkway (also called the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or SR 295) approach the D.C. area from the north; US 50, SR 4 and SR 5 approach from eastern and southern Maryland. Entering the District from the south, via Alexandria and Arlington, Va., are US 1 and I-395.

The remainder of the beltway is intersected by US 29 from greater Baltimore; I-270 links the Washington metropolitan area with transcontinental I-70 at Frederick, Md. Coming from the west and interchanging with the Virginia portion of I-495 are I-66 and US 50; both converge at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge crossing the Potomac River into the city.

Air Travel
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Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) or Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) serve the greater D.C. area. Reagan National, just across the Potomac from downtown Washington, is by far the most centrally located.


From terminals A, B or C, follow the exit signs and take the George Washington Memorial Parkway north to the 14th Street Bridge exit (officially, the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge northbound and the George Mason Bridge southbound). Once across the bridge you'll be on 14th Street N.W. To get to Arlington, Alexandria or other nearby Virginia suburbs, take the I-395 South exit off the parkway (just past the 14th Street Bridge exit).

Taxi fare from Reagan National into Washington averages about $16-$20 but depends on the length of the trip. Metrobus fare is $1.75. Metrorail base fare is also $1.75; fares are higher during rush hours (Mon.-Fri. opening time to 9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.) and depending upon the destination.

Washington Dulles International Airport is about 26 miles west of downtown Washington via I-66 and the Dulles Access Road (SR 267), just west of Herndon, Va. To reach downtown Washington, exit the airport terminal and take the Dulles Access Road east to I-66; continue east on I-66, entering the District via the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bridge to Constitution Avenue N.W. A taxi ride from Dulles to downtown will cost about $65.

Washington Flyer service is available from Dulles to the Wiehle Reston East station. Buses depart every half-hour; one-way fare is $5, round-trip $10. For additional Washington Flyer schedule and fare information phone (703) 572-7661, (703) 572-7635 or (888) 927-4359.

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is about 30 miles northeast via the Gladys Spellman Parkway (SR 295). From the airport terminal area, follow the exit signs to SR 295, then take the parkway west toward the Washington area. You can either exit east or west onto the Beltway or continue into the District, where the parkway becomes New York Avenue.

Taxi fare from BWI to downtown costs about $90, although it varies depending on the final destination. Amtrak service to BWI is available from Washington's Union Station. SuperShuttle provides van service from the D.C. metro area to all three airports. Making reservations at least 24 hours in advance is recommended; phone (800) 258-3826.

Various rental car agencies have offices at the airports. Hertz offers discounts to AAA members; phone (800) 654-3131.

 
Getting Around


Street System
Downtown Washington is basically laid out in a grid pattern. North-south streets are numbered; east-west streets are designated alphabetically by letters (with the exception of J, X, Y and Z). Major diagonal avenues named after states crisscross in both directions; where they intersect there are either traffic circles or rectangular squares or parks.

North, East and South Capitol streets and the National Mall divide the diamond-shaped District of Columbia into quadrants; the Capitol is the central starting point for the street numbering system. The quadrant initials—N.W., N.E., S.W. and S.E.—are an integral part of any Washington address; they determine which of four possible locations is correct.

Southwest is by far the smallest quadrant, encompassing the L'Enfant Plaza office building complex, the Tidal Basin, the Maine Avenue waterfront along the Washington Channel and Fort Lesley J. McNair, a major 19th-century U.S. weapons arsenal.

Many tourist attractions and the city's wealthiest neighborhoods are concentrated in Northwest. Also in Northwest are American, Georgetown, George Washington and Howard universities; the University of the District of Columbia; Rock Creek Park; and Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Most of Northeast and Southeast are residential, as is the upper part of Northwest.

North of W Street, east-west streets are assigned two-syllable alphabetical names (Belmont, Quincy, Randolph), then three-syllable names (Buchanan, Hamilton, Underwood). Above Whittier Street in upper Northwest, alphabetical names shift to trees and plants with two- (Aspen), three- (Butternut) or four-syllable (Geranium) names. At this point the District ends and Maryland begins, which no doubt delighted planners.

There also are irregularities that confuse even residents. Pennsylvania Avenue, for example, enters southeast Washington from suburban Maryland; is interrupted at Independence Avenue S.E. by the Capitol grounds; picks up again at 1st Street N.W.; is interrupted at 15th Street by the Ellipse; picks up again around the corner at the intersection of 15th Street and New York Avenue N.W.; and continues west past the White House into Georgetown, where it turns into M Street.

The speed limit is 25 mph or as posted; on major arteries it is usually 30 mph. A right turn on a red light is permitted unless otherwise posted. High-beam headlights are prohibited at all times.

The weekday afternoon backup on I-395 southbound out of the city begins early (particularly on Fridays and the beginning of holiday weekends), and traffic soon slows to a painful crawl. If you're visiting, staying in nearby Maryland or Virginia and driving, plan accordingly.

Also remember that carpooling regulations (HOV) govern the number of people in vehicles that use certain heavily traveled highways, such as I-66 and I-395 inside the Beltway. Signs denote designated HOV lanes; the restrictions apply during both morning (6:30 to 9 a.m.) and evening (4 to 6:30 p.m.) rush-hour periods.

Parking
Downtown parking is limited, particularly in the vicinity of the National Mall. Violations are strictly enforced; pay close attention to all signs in the vicinity of any space you're lucky enough to find.

Meters are closely monitored, so be aware of when the “expired” flag is due to pop up as vehicles with meter violations are quickly ticketed. Most meters run for up to 2 hours. Meters are not in force on Sundays and federal holidays, but there is usually a 2-hour parking limit.

Meter rates are $2 per hour in “premium demand” zones (which include the busiest commercial districts) and 75 cents per hour elsewhere. Nighttime parking enforcement hours are in effect until 10 p.m. in such neighborhoods/areas as Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Penn Quarter, the U Street Corridor and the National Mall.

Parking on residential streets in Capitol Hill is often reserved for residents, and a special zone sticker must be displayed on the front windshield. You can park on the street, but usually only for a 2-hour period. There are rush-hour parking restrictions along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue N.W. in Georgetown on weekdays from 7-9:30 a.m. and 4-6:30 p.m. Solar-powered meters in Northwest and Southwest accept credit and debit cards as well as coins.

Hours of operation, time limits and rates are displayed on a decal on each meter; check the information to make sure the parking space is valid before leaving your vehicle.

Parking is prohibited within 10 feet of a fire hydrant, 25 feet of a stop sign and 40 feet of an intersection. Statues are strictly enforced by tickets, but cars are generally towed only when they endanger public safety. If your vehicle is towed Friday after 7 p.m. or anytime on a weekend, you'll need to wait until the following Monday after 9 a.m. to retrieve it.

No Standing zones also are enforced; automobiles are not permitted in these areas except briefly to pick up or discharge passengers. For information about parking regulations, contact the Department of Transportation's Traffic Services Division; phone (202) 645-7050.

Downtown commercial lots and garages can be expensive; many charge $13-$17 or more per day, with a discount if you arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Downtown stores may offer shoppers a parking discount; inquire at the individual establishment. Many garages close by about 7 p.m., but parking facilities located near the Verizon Center, Nationals Park and Georgetown stay open later. For a cheaper and frequently more convenient alternative, use Metro .

Taxis & Limousines
Taxis in Washington are metered. The basic fare is $3.25 for the first 1/8 mile and 27c for each additional 1/8 mile. Other factors, from the amount of baggage to the time of day to the time spent below 10 mph in traffic, might increase the fare.

The rates quoted above are for cabs hailed on the street; rates increase by $2 when a cab is requested by phone and by $1.75-$2.50 for cabs hired at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport taxi stand. Fares for trips to or from nearby points in Maryland and Virginia vary; determine the rate with the driver before setting off. Cabs with Virginia or Maryland license plates can transport passengers in and out of the District, but not between points within the District.

Cab companies include DC Taxi Transportation, (202) 398-0500; Diamond, (202) 387-6200 ($6 basic fare by phone, then $2.16 per mile); and Yellow, (202) 544-1212. Limousine service in and around Washington averages $50 per hour, excluding tax and tip.

Public Transportation
Reaching nearly every point in the D.C. area, the Metrobus system is an inexpensive option. When riders use a SmarTrip card (a plastic, reusable farecard) or cash, the fare is $1.75. The fare for senior citizens ages 65+, persons with disabilities and customers with a Medicare card and valid photo ID is 85c. The fare on express buses is $4. One or two children (ages 0-4) may ride free with an adult paying full fare.

Bus-to-bus transfers are free when paying with a SmarTrip card. Bus-to-rail or rail-to-bus transfers are worth 50c off your trip when paying with a SmarTrip card (not when paying with cash). The transfer time window is two hours from the start of your first trip.

Metrobus operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but service intervals vary by time of day and day of week. Exact fare is required. For information about Metrobus fares and schedules phone (202) 637-7000 or TTY (202) 638-3780. For trip planning services check the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority website.

The red, white, black and yellow buses of the DC Circulator run every 10 minutes daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m., with extended hours for some routes on weekends and during the summer. The system connects riders to many locations throughout the District of Columbia.

The regular fare is $1; 50c (senior citizens and the physically impaired); free (ages 0-4 with adult paying full fare). Exact fare is required. Free transfers between Circulator buses are available with a SmarTrip card. Transfers between Metrorail, Metrobus and Circulator buses automatically receive discounted fares beginning at 50c with a SmarTrip card. For information about routes and fares phone (202) 962-1423 or visit the DC Circulator website.

The Metrorail subway system reaches every part of the city as well as the nearby Virginia and Maryland suburbs. Nine transfer stations (Metro Center, Gallery Place-Chinatown, L'Enfant Plaza, Pentagon, Rosslyn, Stadium-Armory, King Street-Old Town, Fort Totten and East Falls Church) facilitate travel between lines and connect Metro's more than 90 stations.

The Red Line runs from Glenmont, Md., to Shady Grove, Md., via downtown Washington. The Yellow Line runs from Fort Totten in the District to Huntington, south of Alexandria, Va., via Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. During weekday morning and afternoon rush hours, the Yellow Line terminates at Greenbelt. The Blue Line connects Largo Town Center in Prince George's County, Md., with the Franconia-Springfield, Va., station via downtown and Reagan National.

The Orange Line travels between New Carrollton station in Maryland and Vienna-Fairfax, Va., via downtown. The Green Line extends from Greenbelt, Md., south to Branch Avenue in Prince George's County, Md., via downtown. The Silver Line runs from the Wiehle-Reston East station in Fairfax County, Va., to Tysons Corner and then through downtown, ending at Largo Town Center in Maryland. An extension connecting to Dulles International Airport and points west is planned.

Maps displayed at each station's mezzanine include route and fare information; station managers can assist with questions and concerns. System maps also are posted near the doors of each train car. A SmarTrip card or paper farecard is required to enter and leave station faregates; farecard machines are located on the mezzanine level.

Peak fares are effective Mon.-Fri. from 5-9:30 a.m. and 3-7 p.m. and Fri.-Sat. midnight-closing. Peak fares with a SmarTrip card range from $2.15 (minimum) to $5.90 (maximum). Off-peak fares range from $1.75 (minimum) to $3.60 (maximum). Fares are subject to change.

Exact fares depend on when and how far you travel. Riders using a paper farecard must pay an additional $1 per trip (50c for seniors and persons with disabilities) at their destination on top of the designated fare. To avoid paying this additional surcharge, riders should purchase a SmarTrip card.

Note: Paper farecard sales at Metro stations began ending on a rolling basis in October 2015, and all sales were expected to end by January 2016. By March 2016 paper farecards will no longer be accepted at fare gates, although their value can still be added to a SmarTrip card until June 2016.

A Metrorail One-Day Pass good for unlimited system travel costs $14.50. It can be purchased from station machines or through the WMATA website.

Up to two children (ages 0-4) may ride free with an adult paying full fare. Senior citizens ages 65+, persons with disabilities and customers with a Medicare card and valid photo ID ride for half the peak fare if they pay with a reduced-fare SmarTrip card or paper farecard. Reduced-fare cards are not available at station farecard machines.

There are parking lots or garages at most suburban stations, but they're often full by 8 a.m. on weekdays. Parking at Metro-operated lots is free on weekends and federal holidays. Parking fees can be paid using a SmarTrip card; major credit cards also are accepted at most parking lots.

Metrorail operates Mon.-Thurs. 5 a.m.-midnight, Fri. 5 a.m.-3 a.m., Sat. 7 a.m.-3 a.m., Sun. 7 a.m.-midnight. Hours are reduced on the following holidays: Jan. 1, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Dec. 31.

If Metro is your only means of transportation in the evening, check the scheduled departure time for the last train; it may depart before the station closes. Final departure times are posted at each station kiosk.

Intervals between trains vary by time and route but are usually between 5 and 20 minutes and are more frequent during rush-hour periods. For further information about routes and rates phone (202) 637-7000 or TTY (202) 638-3780, or visit the WMATA website.

In addition to the ticket machines at Metro stations, riders can purchase passes, farecards and full-fare SmarTrip cards at Metro sales offices at 600 5th St. N.W., inside the Metro Center station and at the Pentagon Transit Center at the Pentagon station. They also are available at nearly 300 participating retail outlets, including Commuter Stores at the Crystal City Underground Mall, the Ballston Common Mall and Rosslyn Center (all in Arlington, Va.); at TRIPS Commuter Stores in Silver Spring and Chevy Chase, Md.; and at The Connector Store outlets in Herndon, Reston, Springfield and McLean (all in Virginia).

For assistance with your SmarTrip card, phone (888) 762-7874, Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Note: In the Attractions section, attraction listings include the nearest Metrorail stop if applicable.


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Essentials
• Put a tour of the United States Capitol (1st Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) near the top of your must-see list. The Rotunda is filled with paintings, frescoes and an encircling frieze that together present more than 400 years of U.S. history. The Exhibition Hall gallery in the Capitol's visitor center tells the story of Congress' domed meeting place through interactive exhibits, architectural models and historic documents and artifacts.

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• Antique furnishings, presidential portraits and beautifully appointed decorations make the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.) a treasure trove of Americana. George Washington is the only president who never governed from the Executive Mansion, but it is one of the few buildings in today's city he would recognize. If you aren't able to take the self-guiding tour (requests must be submitted up to 6 months in advance through your member of Congress), learn more about it at the White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.).


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• Climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial (2 Lincoln Memorial Circle N.W.) and contemplate Daniel Chester French's sculpture of the 16th president, seated in a colossal armchair. Then look to the east for an inspiring vista that takes in the Reflecting Pool, the green expanse of West Potomac Park and the Washington Monument.


• Take the elevator ride to the observation room at the 500-foot level of the Washington Monument (15th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.) for terrific city views.

• In late March or early April spring's arrival is announced by the blossoms of some 3,000 Japanese cherry trees, a 1912 gift from Japan. Their beauty is most fully appreciated on a walk around the Tidal Basin (part of West Potomac Park).

• Attend a concert, play, opera or dance performance at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2700 F St. N.W.).This world-class venue and living memorial to the nation's 35th president overlooks the Potomac River.

• Works by Rembrandt, Renoir and Monet are all part of the superlative collection of paintings in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art (4th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W.). The ultramodern East Building focuses on modern artists like Picasso, Matisse and Warhol. Take a moment to relax by the fountain in the sculpture garden adjacent to the West Building.

• Hang out in Georgetown (M Street and Wisconsin Avenue N.W.); D.C.'s oldest neighborhood has loads of trendy shops and restaurants. On a sunny afternoon, stroll the leafy residential streets lined with handsome brick town houses.

• Let your imagination soar like the wondrous array of aircraft at the National Air and Space Museum (6th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.).You'll see the Wright Brothers' 1903 “flying machine”; Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic plane, the “Spirit of St. Louis”; and exhibition areas showcasing lunar rocks and other cosmic objects.

• Take a break from sightseeing—and endless walking—at the United States Botanic Garden (100 Maryland Ave. S.W.). Wander among tropical plants and flowers, then cross Independence Avenue to lovely Bartholdi Park and admire the grand, cast-iron Bartholdi Fountain.

• The eco-friendly theme continues at Nationals Park (1500 S. Capitol St. S.E.). Home to the Washington Nationals, it's the nation's first green stadium. If you're unable to catch a home game, take a stadium tour instead.



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Restaurants
Our favorites include some of this destination's best restaurants—from fine dining to simple fare.

By Greg Weekes



D.C. foodies love Komi , Chef Johnny Monis' restaurant housed in an unassuming townhouse near Dupont Circle. It's polished but hip—you'll hear bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs rather than Mozart in the background—and the servers are thoroughly professional while remaining friendly and casual. There's no set menu; a procession of small plates comes first, delectable bites like corn pudding with sea urchin or gnocchi with a dab of rabbit ragu. They're followed by a shared main course that often features veal, lamb or fish. Despite being a very expensive indulgence, reservations are a must.

Another Dupont Circle standout is Obelisk . Dinner is a fixed-price, five-course affair that begins with an assortment of small plates. The primi course might be ravioli or squab agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms; the secondi course features red snapper, roasted suckling pig or braised duck leg. For dessert the chocolate blackberry cake is outstanding. The wine list includes a number of regional Italian bottles. Reservations are strongly advised.

If you're power shopping along Wisconsin Avenue and M Street, take a breather and duck into Clyde's of Georgetown for a convivial bite. This is the original Clyde's, and it's a neighborhood institution. The atmosphere is quintessential American saloon: wood floors, oil paintings and a long oak bar. It's a cozy setting for settling down to upscale comfort food like lobster pot pie or butternut squash ravioli. Hanger steak salad or the Tommy Melt, a cheeseburger on an English muffin topped with bacon and a fried egg, are both winning entrées. Wash it down with a stout, ale, lager or bottled beer.

Down-home Southern cooking gets a makeover at Vidalia , where the food has a lighter touch than what you might expect. The basement-level dining room gives off a relaxed, homey feel, and the lounge where you can partake of a pre-meal mint julep could be someone's living room. Shrimp and grits is a Southern classic done very well here, and the jumbo lump crab cake is gussied up with green tomato jam and pickled peppers. Side dishes for the table include traditional favorites like country ham with red-eye gravy and baked macaroni with cheddar and goat cheeses.

Presidents Grant, Cleveland and Harding all dined at the Old Ebbitt Grill , a favorite with journalists, political insiders and tourists due to a location just around the corner from the White House. The ambience is turn of the 20th century: mahogany and velvet booths, brass and etched-glass panels, flickering antique gaslights. The menu changes daily to take advantage of seasonal standouts like crab cakes or pan-seared Chesapeake Bay rockfish. Old Ebbitt's raw bar is one of the best in the District, with an especially large selection of oysters. There's also a very popular weekend brunch.

Summer—or any day when it's warm enough to sit outside—is the time to visit Cafe du Parc in The Willard InterContinental hotel. The sun-dappled sidewalk tables with a view of Pershing Park are as close as you're going to get to a Parisian bistro in Washington, and a delightful spot to linger over a breakfast of croissants, pain au chocolat and freshly brewed Illy coffee. In the upstairs dining room, expect French fare like coq au vin, whole Dover sole a la Meunière with haricot vert, and the traditional grilled ham and cheese sandwich called a croque-monsier.

Next to the Willard is Occidental Grill & Seafood , which has been in business since 1906. The Occidental burger is cooked to order, and you can have it topped with a sunny side-up egg. Dinner entrées include braised beef short ribs with a fennel puree and seared yellowfin tuna with a foie gras sauce. Desserts change seasonally, but crème brûlée, freshly baked cookies or a ginger beer float topped with vanilla ice cream are usually available, and all three are yummy. Conveniently located near the National Theatre, it also offers a seasonal, three-course pre-theater menu.

Penn Quarter, just north of the National Mall, has a variety of restaurant options, and Fiola de Fabio Trabocchi is one of the most popular. Both elegant (a smartly attired wait staff) and rustic (rosewood tables unadorned with a cloth), it specializes in rich, indulgent Italian cooking. Potato gnocchi with basil and toasted pine nuts is a terrific pasta dish. If you appreciate wild game, try the roasted partridge, served with polenta and a wild huckleberry sauce. For lunch, simply grilled fish—like dorado or Arctic char—with locally sourced seasonal vegetables is a relative bargain at this otherwise pricey restaurant.

Washington has lots of Ethiopian restaurants, and one of the newer spots in town to try this distinctive cuisine is Ethiopic Restaurant . The vegetable sampler includes scoops of curried potatoes, lentils, collard greens and other veggies. Tender cubes of beef sauteed in butter and simmered in fiery berbere sauce is guaranteed to break a sweat (if you don't want anything overly spicy, tell your server when you order). Mahogany wood floors, lovely artwork and soft lighting all encourage lingering over dinner.

Many consider Rasika to be D.C.'s best Indian restaurant. Go with a group so you can order a variety of different dishes. The palak chaat appetizer—fried baby spinach leaves with yogurt, tamarind and date chutney—earns raves, as does black cod marinated in honey, dill, star anise and red wine vinegar. Also delicious are the curry stews like chicken tikka masala that are mainstays of Indian cooking; vegetarians should try the vegetable korma flavored with mint, cilantro and coconut. Service is gracious and attentive. In addition to the Penn Quarter location, there's another Rasika on New Hampshire Avenue in the West End neighborhood.

Spacious Rosa Mexicano features 14-foot wraparound windows and hand-carved masks adorning the walls. The “modern, upscale Mexican” vibe means dishes like chamorro (marinated pork shank) and filete con hongos, filet mignon with a wild mushroom-tequila cream sauce. The guacamole, prepared tableside, is a highlight. You'll get more authentic—and much cheaper—Mexican food at a neighborhood taqueria, but the festive ambience is worth it if you're celebrating a special occasion.

Penn Quarter institution Jaleo sticks to what it does best—tapas. You'd expect the gazpacho to be excellent here, and it is—as are other favorites like marinated onions with blue cheese, chicken and ham croquettes (served in what looks like a shoe), sautéed cauliflower with dates and olives, and the ever-popular patatas bravas, chunks of fried potato in a spicy tomato sauce. Be forewarned; all those small plates inflate the bill quickly, and you can end up paying dearly.

Newcomer China Chilcano , on the other hand, has created a buzz among D.C. foodies with a similar concept of small plate sharing that emphasizes Peruvian specialties. Restaurateur and chef José Andrés adds Asian influences to Peruvian classics like lomo saltado, marinated hanger steak flavored with ginger, soy sauce and shishito peppers. The dim sum menu includes such choices as fried pork belly and fried lotus bun with sweet potato, miso and hoisin sauce. Other dishes are Peruvian through and through—ají de gallina is a savory chicken stew incorporating rice, pecans, olives and fresh cheese. The décor is decidedly festive, making China Chilcano a good choice for family groups or a posse of friends. Just be mindful that—as at all tapas restaurants—the number of plates can quickly add up to a hefty bill.

Spike Mendelsohn (of “Top Chef” fame) is the name behind ultra-casual Capitol Hill hot spot Good Stuff Eatery . The menu emphasizes “handcrafted burgers,” and Spike's Sunnyside—topped with applewood bacon and a fried egg on a brioche bun—is a good place to start. Fill a few plastic mini containers with mango mayo for dipping your fries (sprinkled with thyme and rosemary) and order the Salty Caramel Kiss shake, an absolutely yummy caloric indulgence. There are branches in Georgetown and Crystal City as well.

Mendelsohn is also behind next door's We, the Pizza , which works the same sort of understated magic with a pie that Good Stuff Eatery does with burgers. There's nothing revolutionary going on here, just a nicely crisp crust, a good house-made tomato sauce and quality toppings. You can go simple—mozz and fresh oregano—or try something more esoteric, like Virginia ham and roasted pineapple with ginger, honey, lemongrass and just a hint of sauce. Order a slice or a whole pie, and don't forget the roasted garlic knots that come with a marinara dipping sauce. The menu also includes wings, salads and a variety of fruit sodas.

Occupying a historic building that was once a silent movie house and later a pool hall, Ben's Chili Bowl has been serving loyal customers for decades. The chili dog, a half-smoke in a warm steamed bun topped with mustard, onions and homemade chili sauce, is a signature item, along with the chili (again homemade, in meat and vegetarian versions). For a sweet ending, have a slice of German chocolate, strawberry, sweet potato or pineapple coconut cake. There's also a branch in Rosslyn, just across the Potomac River from D.C.

From the floral arrangements to the Gruyère cheese popovers, everything at BLT Steak is outsize. Cocktails are appropriately stiff. Meals start with chicken liver pate to spread on crusty French bread. We like the hanger steak and the Brussels sprouts with bacon and caramelized onions. If you're not in the mood for beef, the lemon-rosemary chicken is reliably moist and tasty. At lunch, try the Wagyu burger with pastrami, cheddar cheese and a fried egg. And if there's any room left over for dessert, the warm chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream should finish you off nicely. Caveat emptor—this is pricey expense account dining.

Lebanese Taverna is a good refueling stop after a visit to the nearby National Zoo. You could make a meal of the mezza, or appetizers, like hummus, baba ghanoush, kibbeh (including a vegetarian version) and arnabeet (roasted cauliflower with tahini dressing), accompanied by pita bread from a wood-burning oven. Fatteh is a traditional yogurt-based dish with chickpeas, pine nuts, garlic and pomegranate seeds; order it with eggplant for a hearty vegetarian entrée. Traditional baklava with honey ice cream is a yummy dessert. If the weather's nice, sit at one of the sidewalk tables under the green umbrellas.

Two restaurants, one close by and the other a definite hike, reward a trip out of the District for those who enjoy food as a sensory experience. In Great Falls, a drive along winding roads leads to L'Auberge Chez Francois & Jacques' Brasserie . The wood-beamed, antique-filled dining rooms feature stained glass and embroidered table linens, and formal service attends to your every need. The menu is a survey of rich, indulgent Alsatian French cookery. For the price of the main dish you also get soup or an appetizer, salad and dessert, making this both an indulgence and a good value. Jackets are requested for men.

It's even farther afield—a 70-mile drive from the nation's capital—but The Inn at Little Washington Dining Room , nestled in Virgnia's rolling countryside in the tiny village of Washington, is well worth both the gas money and the cost of a multi-course tasting menu that will likely leave you in awe. The dining room features plush banquettes and silk-fringed lampshades, with a vase of roses at each table. Chef/owner Patrick O'Connell and his team concoct a seasonally changing menu that utilizes wild fish and game along with locally grown fruits and vegetables. Some classics—like heirloom tomato salad with buffalo mozzarella and cucumber sorbet, or organic, milk-fed pork with locally grown peaches and a potato puree—make repeat appearances. The inn's wine cellar boasts more than 14,000 bottles. Is it worth an out-of-the-ordinary splurge? Definitely.

See all the AAA Diamond Rated restaurants for this destination.



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Attractions
In a city with dozens of attractions, you may have trouble deciding where to spend your time. Here are the highlights for this destination, as chosen by AAA editors. GEMs are “Great Experiences for Members.”

By Greg Weekes

The Smithsonian Institution museums—all AAA GEM attractions—are as good a beginning point as any to launch a Washington sightseeing itinerary, with 10 of them conveniently clustered along the National Mall. Everyone will have their preferences, of course, but you can't go wrong stopping at the National Air and Space Museum . Displays range from the vintage (the Wright Brothers' 1903 Flyer) to the barrier breaking (lunar surface exploration vehicles and all sorts of rockets).


You might want to tackle the National Museum of American History by concentrating on an area of personal interest rather than trying to take it all in at one time. Definitely see the state-of-the-art display gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner and the American Stories exhibition, a collection of historical artifacts and pop culture ephemera that includes everything from a fragment of Plymouth Rock to Dorothy's ruby red slippers. Also check out the artifact walls, glass-fronted cases displaying a rotating collection of objects (everything under the sun).

Next door is the National Museum of Natural History , offering an equally comprehensive overview of the natural world and human cultures. The nature dioramas are state of the art, and the Hope Diamond is impressively large. Partners in Evolution depicts the mutually beneficial relationship between butterflies and plants and features the walk-through Butterfly Pavilion. The trumpeting African bull elephant in the Rotunda is an obligatory photo op.

Across the Mall is the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden , the Smithsonian's showcase for modern art. The exhibits are as intriguing as the building's drum-shaped exterior; don't miss artist Nam June Paik's “Video Flag,” a third-floor installation of 70 video monitors with flashing images that collectively take the form of the American flag. Behind the museum is an outdoor sculpture garden with some interesting figure studies.

Freer/Sackler: The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art offer a double helping of—you guessed it—art from the Asian continent (as well as the Indian subcontinent). The Freer was the Smithsonian's first art museum; it focuses on Egyptian, Islamic, Himalayan, Chinese, Japanese and Southeast Asian art. Its best-known exhibit, however, is the work of American artist James McNeill Whistler. “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room” is a London dining room painted in opulent style. An underground connection leads to the Arthur M. Sakcler Gallery, showcasing Mediterranean and Asian art. Note: The Freer is closed for renovations from January 2016 through spring 2017.

The undulating buff-colored walls of the National Museum of the American Indian resemble no other building on the Mall. Inside are exhibits that recall an often tragic history but also recognize the vibrant cultures of Native groups. Many of the objects on display are part of a collection assembled by wealthy New Yorker George Gustav Heye at the turn of the 20th century. You'll see masks, weavings, painted hides and feather bonnets, but the museum's focus is on people, which makes it particularly fascinating.

Also part of the Smithsonian is the National Zoological Park and its crowd-pleasing animal residents; they include tigers, lions, gorillas, elephants and flamingos. The zoo's current star is Bao Bao, a giant panda cub born in 2013; her parents are Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, on extended loan from the China Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda.

The National Gallery of Art is another GEM. Visit the classically designed West Building for its outstanding collection of western European paintings and sculpture; the galleries featuring Dutch, Flemish, Italian and Impressionist paintings are particularly noteworthy. The I.M. Pei-designed East Building, linked to the West Building via an underground concourse, presents a striking architectural contrast—two sleek triangles (one isosceles and one right) housing 20th- and 21st-century art. Note: The East Building galleries are closed for renovations and are scheduled to reopen in late 2016 or early 2017.

As impressive as Washington's museums are its monuments and memorials, all AAA GEM attractions. Is there anyone who can't identify the Washington Monument ? This white marble spire rises 555 feet above the city. Take the elevator tour to the observation room at the 500-foot level for great city views.

Just west of the Washington Monument is the National World War II Memorial , which has a surprisingly intimate scale given that this global conflict was fought on six of the world's seven continents. There is a stark simplicity in the twin Pacific and Atlantic pavilions and the 56 pillars representing the U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia, each adorned with a bronze wreath.

From the National World War II Memorial, walk past the two Reflecting Pools and climb the steps of the stately Lincoln Memorial . The statue of Abraham Lincoln, 19 feet tall and 19 feet wide, radiates a quiet awe, and carved wall inscriptions from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address are an eloquent reminder of his dedication to freedom for all citizens.

The stark black walls of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial , etched with the names of those killed and missing, retain every bit of their symbolic power more than 4 decades later. Nearby is the Vietnam Women's Memorial; this compelling sculpture depicts a servicewoman cradling a prone soldier in her arms, another holding his helmet, and a third standing with her face turned skyward as if crying out for help.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial National Memorial , dedicated in 2011, overlooks the Tidal Basin. A dramatic, 28-foot-tall sculpture of Dr. King carved from white granite seems to be emerging from a solid block of stone. Excerpts from King's “I have a Dream” and other landmark speeches, inscribed on stone walls, underscore the importance of the civil rights leader's life and work.

A short distance away, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial spreads out along the Tidal Basin shoreline. The four open-air “rooms” chronicle FDR's presidency and his two greatest achievements, guiding the nation through the twin challenges of the Great Depression and World War II. From this outdoor setting it's another short walk to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial , a classical dome supported by graceful columns. The dignified, 19-foot-tall bronze likeness of the third president wears a long coat and a button-down vest. The view looking out over the Tidal Basin from the memorial steps is especially lovely when cherry blossoms are at their spring peak.

The permanent exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , a GEM attraction, is a narrative history depicting how millions of people were killed under the auspices of Nazi Germany. It is an emotionally wrenching experience not soon forgotten. Remember the Children: Daniel's Story presents Holocaust events in ways that younger visitors can understand.

A commitment to freedom stands at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The White House symbolizes the power of the American presidency. The President's Mansion—renamed after British forces burned it in 1814 and the structure was rebuilt and painted white—was periodically enlarged, remodeled and redecorated over the next century. Submit a request for a tour of this GEM attraction in advance through your member of Congress.

Pierre L'Enfant's visionary plan for a new federal city called for the United States Capitol to be its nucleus. The monumental building contains about 550 rooms, although guided public tours of this AAA GEM don't visit all of them. You will, however, be able to see the spacious Rotunda and view artist Constantino Brumidi's fresco “Apotheosis of George Washington,” which decorates the inner canopy of the Capitol dome 180 feet above the floor.

Nearby, the Library of Congress houses a staggering collection of more than 100 million items. As the name implies, it was founded in 1800 to serve the needs of congressional members. The Thomas Jefferson Building is the jewel of this three-building complex, a AAA GEM attraction. Graced with beautifully detailed Italian Renaissance ornamentation, it also boasts a magnificent, octagonal-shaped Main Reading Room filled with sculptures, paintings, murals and mosaics.

Washington National Cathedral stands atop Mount St. Alban in upper Northwest D.C. The exterior of this impressively large structure features thousands of decorative stone carvings—look for the gargoyles—as well as extensive scaffolding, the result of damage caused by the 2011 earthquake (repairs will take years to complete). Inside, enormous flying buttresses and lovely stained glass accentuate the majesty of this AAA GEM.

Arlington National Cemetery

, yet another GEM attraction, is just across the Potomac River from Washington. Row upon row of simple white headstones on more than 600 acres of rolling Virginia hills are interspersed with imposing stones and monuments that honor groups and significant individuals. Two presidents, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, William Jennings Bryan, and numerous military leaders and servicemen are buried here.


If you have extra time for sightseeing, don't miss AAA GEM attractions in Alexandria, Chantilly, Great Falls, Leesburg, Lorton, Mount Vernon and Vienna (nearby Virginia) and Largo (nearby Maryland), all within a 30-mile radius of Washington.

See all the AAA recommended attractions for this destination.



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D.C. in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Washington, D.C.

By Greg Weekes

Day 1: Morning
For visitors—and many Washingtonians—the National Mall is the epicenter of the nation's capital. Street parking is very limited and also metered, so don't drive; everything is within easy walking distance of Metrorail's Smithsonian station (Orange and Blue lines). When leaving the station, follow signs to the Mall exit.

Your first stop should be the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle) , which houses the Smithsonian Visitor Center. In addition to restrooms, there are several exhibits as well as staff on hand who can answer questions. Then mosey through the Enid A. Haupt Garden , where plantings vary with the season. The garden's centerpiece is the Parterre, a French term meaning “on the ground”; the formal layout incorporates plants arranged in geometric shapes.


Visit the National Air and Space Museum first; you'll beat the crowds if you arrive when it opens. The galleries are filled with all manner of airborne craft, from vintage airplanes to rockets. Then walk in the direction of the United States Capitol to the National Museum of the American Indian . The wampum belts, elaborate headdresses and primitive guns are fascinating, but what makes the NMAI a must-see is the emphasis on cultural pride.

Take a break at one of the benches lining the Mall's crisscrossing gravel paths before heading to the National Museum of Natural History . It's always crowded with school groups and families and so packed with things to see that you'll need to pick a few select exhibits rather than trying to take it all in during one visit. Perennial favorites include animal dioramas, the Hope Diamond and other glittering gemstones in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals and the free-flying beauties flitting through the Butterfly Pavilion.

Note: A timed ticket is required to enter the Butterfly Pavilion, and the wait can be up to an hour. Popular Dinosaur Hall is closed for a complete renovation and will remain closed until sometime in 2019.

Day 1: Afternoon
Have lunch at the museum café of your choice, then head to the West Building of the National Gallery of Art . It has an outstanding permanent collection that includes masterpieces like Renoir's “A Girl With a Watering Can.” Make sure you see Anthony van Dyck's regal works of portraiture; his well-heeled subjects are literally larger than life. The East Building galleries, where the focus is on modern masters like Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Andy Warhol, are closed for renovations until late 2016 or early 2017.

There's more modern art on the opposite side of the Mall at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden . Shaped like a drum, it has a series of curving galleries spotlighting such artists as Willem de Kooning and Alexander Calder, whose colorful mobiles literally hang by a thread. Then stroll through the sunken outdoor sculpture garden and peruse the abstract figure studies and a cast of “The Burghers of Calais,” one of Auguste Rodin's most famous sculptures.

From the sculpture garden, walk back up the Mall toward the Smithsonian Castle. If museum fatigue threatens—or you have kids in tow and they're starting to get antsy—you're in luck. Vendor trucks park regularly along Constitution Avenue and the streets that bisect the Mall. Refuel with a hot dog, soft pretzel, ice cream or a popsicle. Equally ubiquitous are the souvenir trucks, where you can pick up plenty of mementos.

Back at the Castle, two more art museums are just steps away. As the name makes clear, Freer/Sackler: The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art both emphasize art from Asia. The National Museum of African Art exhibits the ceremonial regalia, masks and pottery of sub-Saharan Africa. If you're pressed for time, duck into the Freer to see American painter James Whistler's “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room,” ornately embellished with gilded leather wall hangings and four resplendent golden peacocks painted on wall panels. Note: The Freer is closing for renovations from January 2016 through early 2017.

Day 1: Evening
Keep it simple after all the sightseeing and have dinner at a restaurant within walking distance of the Mall. Lively Rosa Mexicano is lots of fun, especially if there are several people in your party and you order stuff to share, like the guacamole prepared tableside. Nearby on Capitol Hill are two popular casual spots. Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery serves up specialty burgers, fries and creamy, yummy shakes. Next door is another Mendelsohn joint— We, the Pizza , which offers a variety of pizzas whole or by the slice.

If you've still got energy to burn, hang out in Penn Quarter. This touristy shopping and dining district, roughly between H Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and 4th and 10th streets N.W., is centered around the Verizon Center, home to the NBA's Washington Wizards.

Lucky Strike (701 7th St. N.W. in Gallery Place) is a bowling alley in name only—more to the point, it's a place to see and be seen while sipping pricey drinks and perhaps rolling a ball or two down alleys with a backdrop of video screens. You could also hoist a pint of Guinness at Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant (808 7th St. N.W.) alongside enthusiastic locals watching ruby matches on TV. Or if the weather's pleasant, head back to the Mall for a leisurely sunset stroll.

Day 2: Morning
The presidential and war memorials clustered in West Potomac Park, an extension of the Mall, are all worth seeing. Visit those that have special meaning to you: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial , the Korean War Veterans Memorial , the Lincoln Memorial , the National World War II Memorial , the Thomas Jefferson Memorial , the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial National Memorial .

Riding the elevator to the observation room at the 500-foot level of the Washington Monument is fun and the view of the city is panoramic, but a ticket is required and you may well end up waiting in line. If you'd rather relax, take a bench break and listen to the soothing sound of gushing fountains at the National World War II Memorial . Another spot to rest your feet for a few minutes is the quiet little oasis of Constitution Gardens .

A couple of tips: If you're visiting in late March or early April, there is an absolutely lovely view of the Japanese cherry trees in full bloom lining the Tidal Basin. You'll have to time it carefully, though, since the delicate flowers only last a few days and Mother Nature can play havoc with the schedule. Another inspiring view is from the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps looking east toward the Capitol.

Day 2: Afternoon
For lunch with presidential connections, try the Old Ebbitt Grill : Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William F. Harding all dined at this Washington institution, which is still a favorite with journalists, political insiders and tourists. You can't go wrong with one of the freshly prepared salads or (in season) a soft-shell crab sandwich.

Touring the White House is a memorable experience, but arrangements must be made in advance through a member of Congress, and you must be with a group of at least ten people; if you haven't done the required homework, take a few souvenir photos instead. Learn more about the Executive Mansion at the nearby White House Visitor Center . Then stroll around leafy Lafayette Park for a look at the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson and the monuments to Revolutionary War generals standing at each of the park's corners.

Day 2: Evening
Stay in the neighborhood and have dinner at Georgia Brown's , which serves up Southern classics like she crab soup, deviled eggs with pimento cheese and buttermilk fried chicken in an upscale atmosphere that can be downright noisy when the place is crowded and the live jazz band is cooking. It isn't cheap, but worth a splurge if you're so inclined.

There are lots of bars and clubs in the area where Connecticut Avenue, 18th Street and M Street N.W. all meet. Dupont Circle, a few blocks north, also has a hopping club scene. Lucky Bar (1221 Connecticut Ave. N.W. at 18th Street), has a mix of live and DJ music and TVs tuned to soccer matches and college football games.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café (1517 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) is a D.C. institution, a bookstore that doubles as an evening hangout since there's both a restaurant and a bar on the premises. Wednesday through Saturday evenings you can listen to live music while sipping a foamy cappuccino or a Chuck Berry daiquiri.

Day 3: Morning
Quiet, tree-shaded Capitol Hill is a good neighborhood for an early morning walk. Do some stretching exercises in one of the small neighborhood “pocket parks” that dot the Hill; the triangular tract of land at the junction of Independence and North Carolina avenues and 7th Street S.E. is unofficially known as Turtle Park for the six stone turtles created by a local artist.

Turtle Park is across from the Eastern Market . For breakfast you should consider Market Lunch, inside the South Hall Market building. Yes it's crowded, yes it's hard to snag one of the few communal tables and yes it's on the pricey side—but the blueberry buckwheat pancakes (“Blue Bucks”) are to die for. The market is open every day but Monday; on Saturdays and Sundays additional vendors set up outside the building.

You'll need a ticket to go on the guided tour of the United States Capitol . It's worth it to see the magnificent Rotunda—with huge paintings, a dome canopy and an encircling frieze all depicting events in American history—but waiting lines can be long. At least trek around the Capitol grounds and admire the scope of this impressive building from different vantage points. Then head over to the Supreme Court Building , a handsome white marble edifice with lofty Corinthian columns. Visitors can attend lectures when the court is not sitting.

Also fascinating is the 1-hour guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building , the most architecturally ornate of the three buildings that make up the Library of Congress . The highlight is the Main Reading Room, a huge, octagonal-shaped space. There are 12 seated figures painted around the collar of the 160-foot-tall dome; each one is 10 feet high.

Engage your senses at the United States Botanic Garden . The main conservatory is filled with tropical vegetation and has a mezzanine level for viewing the jungle-like canopy. Outside are the National Garden and the Regional Garden, both at their most attractive in the summer. Across Independence Avenue S.W. is flower-filled Bartholdi Park ; its centerpiece is the beautifully restored Bartholdi Fountain. The park is a lovely spot to relax.

Day 3: Afternoon
From the United States Botanic Garden, walk along the Capitol Reflecting Pool toward Constitution Avenue, stopping along the way to admire the monumental Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. The equestrian statue of the Union general and 18th president is flanked by two sculptural groupings, Cavalry Charge and Artillery, that vividly portray the life-and-death drama of battle.

Turn right on Constitution Avenue and then turn left on Delaware Avenue, which will take you to Union Station, a grand Beaux Arts building that bustled with rail travel in the 1930s and now serves as a hub for Amtrak. Check out the soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Main Hall and browse the souvenir kiosks before having lunch at one of the hall's fast-food eateries or at the food court on the lower level.

Spend the rest of the day in Georgetown, Washington's oldest residential neighborhood and one of the most popular places in the city to shop, eat or just hang out. The closest Metro stations are Foggy Bottom-GWU (Orange/Blue line) and Dupont Circle (Red line); from each station it's a leisurely 20-minute walk.

The DC Circulator offers a Georgetown-Union Station route daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; buses arrive approximately every 10 minutes on the bus level of the Union Station parking garage (accessible from the mezzanine level) and make several stops along Wisconsin Avenue N.W. in Georgetown. The fare is $1.

Window shop the stores and boutiques along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Then rest your feet at the Old Stone House . The tall, graceful weeping willow tree that long stood over this historic house was felled by a violent thunderstorm in 2012, but there's a rectangular lawn and garden in back that's quiet and lovely, especially in the spring.

Day 3: Evening
For casual dinner conviviality you can't beat Clyde's of Georgetown , a local watering hole for more than 40 years. From roasted pork loin to basil-marinated Chesapeake Bay rockfish, Clyde's does American classics well.

You also can have dinner at Blues Alley (1073 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., below M Street), but most people go for the music. D.C.'s premier jazz club is another local institution, and the list of artists who have played here is legendary. The look is worn around the edges, but that's what makes it a classic. Seating is first-come-first-served, and reservations are essential; phone (202) 337-4141.

Most of Georgetown's bars are the friendly saloon type. Mr. Smith's (3104 M St. N.W., a block east of Wisconsin Avenue) has an antique bar, a garden patio and a piano player who draws an appreciative crowd of regulars. The Tombs (1226 36th St. N.W.) is an ultra-casual hangout frequented by Georgetown University undergraduates.

Note: Metrorail operates until midnight Sun.-Thurs. and 3 a.m. Fri.-Sat., but the last train may depart before the system closes; final departure times are posted at the stations.



close
D.C. in 3 Days
Three days is barely enough time to get to know any major destination. But AAA travel editors suggest these activities to make the most of your time in Washington, D.C.

By Greg Weekes

Day 1: Morning
For visitors—and many Washingtonians—the National Mall is the epicenter of the nation's capital. Street parking is very limited and also metered, so don't drive; everything is within easy walking distance of Metrorail's Smithsonian station (Orange and Blue lines). When leaving the station, follow signs to the Mall exit.

Your first stop should be the Smithsonian Institution Building (the Castle) , which houses the Smithsonian Visitor Center. In addition to restrooms, there are several exhibits as well as staff on hand who can answer questions. Then mosey through the Enid A. Haupt Garden , where plantings vary with the season. The garden's centerpiece is the Parterre, a French term meaning “on the ground”; the formal layout incorporates plants arranged in geometric shapes.


Visit the National Air and Space Museum first; you'll beat the crowds if you arrive when it opens. The galleries are filled with all manner of airborne craft, from vintage airplanes to rockets. Then walk in the direction of the United States Capitol to the National Museum of the American Indian . The wampum belts, elaborate headdresses and primitive guns are fascinating, but what makes the NMAI a must-see is the emphasis on cultural pride.

Take a break at one of the benches lining the Mall's crisscrossing gravel paths before heading to the National Museum of Natural History . It's always crowded with school groups and families and so packed with things to see that you'll need to pick a few select exhibits rather than trying to take it all in during one visit. Perennial favorites include animal dioramas, the Hope Diamond and other glittering gemstones in the Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals and the free-flying beauties flitting through the Butterfly Pavilion.

Note: A timed ticket is required to enter the Butterfly Pavilion, and the wait can be up to an hour. Popular Dinosaur Hall is closed for a complete renovation and will remain closed until sometime in 2019.

Day 1: Afternoon
Have lunch at the museum café of your choice, then head to the West Building of the National Gallery of Art . It has an outstanding permanent collection that includes masterpieces like Renoir's “A Girl With a Watering Can.” Make sure you see Anthony van Dyck's regal works of portraiture; his well-heeled subjects are literally larger than life. The East Building galleries, where the focus is on modern masters like Henri Matisse, Joan Miró and Andy Warhol, are closed for renovations until late 2016 or early 2017.

There's more modern art on the opposite side of the Mall at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden . Shaped like a drum, it has a series of curving galleries spotlighting such artists as Willem de Kooning and Alexander Calder, whose colorful mobiles literally hang by a thread. Then stroll through the sunken outdoor sculpture garden and peruse the abstract figure studies and a cast of “The Burghers of Calais,” one of Auguste Rodin's most famous sculptures.

From the sculpture garden, walk back up the Mall toward the Smithsonian Castle. If museum fatigue threatens—or you have kids in tow and they're starting to get antsy—you're in luck. Vendor trucks park regularly along Constitution Avenue and the streets that bisect the Mall. Refuel with a hot dog, soft pretzel, ice cream or a popsicle. Equally ubiquitous are the souvenir trucks, where you can pick up plenty of mementos.

Back at the Castle, two more art museums are just steps away. As the name makes clear, Freer/Sackler: The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art both emphasize art from Asia. The National Museum of African Art exhibits the ceremonial regalia, masks and pottery of sub-Saharan Africa. If you're pressed for time, duck into the Freer to see American painter James Whistler's “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room,” ornately embellished with gilded leather wall hangings and four resplendent golden peacocks painted on wall panels. Note: The Freer is closing for renovations from January 2016 through early 2017.

Day 1: Evening
Keep it simple after all the sightseeing and have dinner at a restaurant within walking distance of the Mall. Lively Rosa Mexicano is lots of fun, especially if there are several people in your party and you order stuff to share, like the guacamole prepared tableside. Nearby on Capitol Hill are two popular casual spots. Celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery serves up specialty burgers, fries and creamy, yummy shakes. Next door is another Mendelsohn joint— We, the Pizza , which offers a variety of pizzas whole or by the slice.

If you've still got energy to burn, hang out in Penn Quarter. This touristy shopping and dining district, roughly between H Street and Pennsylvania Avenue and 4th and 10th streets N.W., is centered around the Verizon Center, home to the NBA's Washington Wizards.

Lucky Strike (701 7th St. N.W. in Gallery Place) is a bowling alley in name only—more to the point, it's a place to see and be seen while sipping pricey drinks and perhaps rolling a ball or two down alleys with a backdrop of video screens. You could also hoist a pint of Guinness at Fadó Irish Pub & Restaurant (808 7th St. N.W.) alongside enthusiastic locals watching ruby matches on TV. Or if the weather's pleasant, head back to the Mall for a leisurely sunset stroll.

Day 2: Morning
The presidential and war memorials clustered in West Potomac Park, an extension of the Mall, are all worth seeing. Visit those that have special meaning to you: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial , the Korean War Veterans Memorial , the Lincoln Memorial , the National World War II Memorial , the Thomas Jefferson Memorial , the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial National Memorial .

Riding the elevator to the observation room at the 500-foot level of the Washington Monument is fun and the view of the city is panoramic, but a ticket is required and you may well end up waiting in line. If you'd rather relax, take a bench break and listen to the soothing sound of gushing fountains at the National World War II Memorial . Another spot to rest your feet for a few minutes is the quiet little oasis of Constitution Gardens .

A couple of tips: If you're visiting in late March or early April, there is an absolutely lovely view of the Japanese cherry trees in full bloom lining the Tidal Basin. You'll have to time it carefully, though, since the delicate flowers only last a few days and Mother Nature can play havoc with the schedule. Another inspiring view is from the top of the Lincoln Memorial steps looking east toward the Capitol.

Day 2: Afternoon
For lunch with presidential connections, try the Old Ebbitt Grill : Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and William F. Harding all dined at this Washington institution, which is still a favorite with journalists, political insiders and tourists. You can't go wrong with one of the freshly prepared salads or (in season) a soft-shell crab sandwich.

Touring the White House is a memorable experience, but arrangements must be made in advance through a member of Congress, and you must be with a group of at least ten people; if you haven't done the required homework, take a few souvenir photos instead. Learn more about the Executive Mansion at the nearby White House Visitor Center . Then stroll around leafy Lafayette Park for a look at the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson and the monuments to Revolutionary War generals standing at each of the park's corners.

Day 2: Evening
Stay in the neighborhood and have dinner at Georgia Brown's , which serves up Southern classics like she crab soup, deviled eggs with pimento cheese and buttermilk fried chicken in an upscale atmosphere that can be downright noisy when the place is crowded and the live jazz band is cooking. It isn't cheap, but worth a splurge if you're so inclined.

There are lots of bars and clubs in the area where Connecticut Avenue, 18th Street and M Street N.W. all meet. Dupont Circle, a few blocks north, also has a hopping club scene. Lucky Bar (1221 Connecticut Ave. N.W. at 18th Street), has a mix of live and DJ music and TVs tuned to soccer matches and college football games.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café (1517 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) is a D.C. institution, a bookstore that doubles as an evening hangout since there's both a restaurant and a bar on the premises. Wednesday through Saturday evenings you can listen to live music while sipping a foamy cappuccino or a Chuck Berry daiquiri.

Day 3: Morning
Quiet, tree-shaded Capitol Hill is a good neighborhood for an early morning walk. Do some stretching exercises in one of the small neighborhood “pocket parks” that dot the Hill; the triangular tract of land at the junction of Independence and North Carolina avenues and 7th Street S.E. is unofficially known as Turtle Park for the six stone turtles created by a local artist.

Turtle Park is across from the Eastern Market . For breakfast you should consider Market Lunch, inside the South Hall Market building. Yes it's crowded, yes it's hard to snag one of the few communal tables and yes it's on the pricey side—but the blueberry buckwheat pancakes (“Blue Bucks”) are to die for. The market is open every day but Monday; on Saturdays and Sundays additional vendors set up outside the building.

You'll need a ticket to go on the guided tour of the United States Capitol . It's worth it to see the magnificent Rotunda—with huge paintings, a dome canopy and an encircling frieze all depicting events in American history—but waiting lines can be long. At least trek around the Capitol grounds and admire the scope of this impressive building from different vantage points. Then head over to the Supreme Court Building , a handsome white marble edifice with lofty Corinthian columns. Visitors can attend lectures when the court is not sitting.

Also fascinating is the 1-hour guided tour of the Thomas Jefferson Building , the most architecturally ornate of the three buildings that make up the Library of Congress . The highlight is the Main Reading Room, a huge, octagonal-shaped space. There are 12 seated figures painted around the collar of the 160-foot-tall dome; each one is 10 feet high.

Engage your senses at the United States Botanic Garden . The main conservatory is filled with tropical vegetation and has a mezzanine level for viewing the jungle-like canopy. Outside are the National Garden and the Regional Garden, both at their most attractive in the summer. Across Independence Avenue S.W. is flower-filled Bartholdi Park ; its centerpiece is the beautifully restored Bartholdi Fountain. The park is a lovely spot to relax.

Day 3: Afternoon
From the United States Botanic Garden, walk along the Capitol Reflecting Pool toward Constitution Avenue, stopping along the way to admire the monumental Ulysses S. Grant Memorial. The equestrian statue of the Union general and 18th president is flanked by two sculptural groupings, Cavalry Charge and Artillery, that vividly portray the life-and-death drama of battle.

Turn right on Constitution Avenue and then turn left on Delaware Avenue, which will take you to Union Station, a grand Beaux Arts building that bustled with rail travel in the 1930s and now serves as a hub for Amtrak. Check out the soaring barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Main Hall and browse the souvenir kiosks before having lunch at one of the hall's fast-food eateries or at the food court on the lower level.

Spend the rest of the day in Georgetown, Washington's oldest residential neighborhood and one of the most popular places in the city to shop, eat or just hang out. The closest Metro stations are Foggy Bottom-GWU (Orange/Blue line) and Dupont Circle (Red line); from each station it's a leisurely 20-minute walk.

The DC Circulator offers a Georgetown-Union Station route daily 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; buses arrive approximately every 10 minutes on the bus level of the Union Station parking garage (accessible from the mezzanine level) and make several stops along Wisconsin Avenue N.W. in Georgetown. The fare is $1.

Window shop the stores and boutiques along M Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Then rest your feet at the Old Stone House . The tall, graceful weeping willow tree that long stood over this historic house was felled by a violent thunderstorm in 2012, but there's a rectangular lawn and garden in back that's quiet and lovely, especially in the spring.

Day 3: Evening
For casual dinner conviviality you can't beat Clyde's of Georgetown , a local watering hole for more than 40 years. From roasted pork loin to basil-marinated Chesapeake Bay rockfish, Clyde's does American classics well.

You also can have dinner at Blues Alley (1073 Wisconsin Ave. N.W., below M Street), but most people go for the music. D.C.'s premier jazz club is another local institution, and the list of artists who have played here is legendary. The look is worn around the edges, but that's what makes it a classic. Seating is first-come-first-served, and reservations are essential; phone (202) 337-4141.

Most of Georgetown's bars are the friendly saloon type. Mr. Smith's (3104 M St. N.W., a block east of Wisconsin Avenue) has an antique bar, a garden patio and a piano player who draws an appreciative crowd of regulars. The Tombs (1226 36th St. N.W.) is an ultra-casual hangout frequented by Georgetown University undergraduates.

Note: Metrorail operates until midnight Sun.-Thurs. and 3 a.m. Fri.-Sat., but the last train may depart before the system closes; final departure times are posted at the stations.



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