D.C. Bucket List: Something for Every Type of Traveler
Customize your Washington, D.C. itinerary with these must-dos to fit every travel personality out there.
Photo By: The Anthem by John Shore
Photo By: Jared Andrukanis
Photo By: Amanda Pressner Kreuser
Photo By: Robert Byron
Photo By: The Mandarin Oriental
Photo By: Dennis Govoni / Getty Images
Photo By: W Washington DC
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Photo By: Anna Meyer
Photo By: Alan Karchmer/NMAAHC
Photo By: Washington.org
Music Fans: Catch a Concert at The Wharf
As the birthplace of Go-Go and home to iconic venues like 9:30 Club and Black Cat, D.C. has long embraced an eclectic music scene. And since opening in October 2017, The Wharf has upped the ante with a Floating Stage, three new live music venues and a vibrant outdoor concert and busker culture. The largest and most impressive spot to catch a show is The Anthem, which has hosted headliners such the Foo Fighters, Lorde and Janelle Monae and will soon welcome Florence + The Machine, the Goo Goo Dolls and Wu-Tang Clan. A blend of industrial and elegant, The Anthem’s design puts a rock n’ roll twist on a traditional theatre and even the last row of seats offers amazing views of the stage. And be sure to come early to experience the pre-show happy hour, seven bars and whimsical food menu (try the Old Bay Crab Mac & Cheese and "Wharfle" - an indulgent waffle with chocolate sauce). Music lovers can also catch more intimate performances at The Wharf at either the Pearl Street Warehouse, an Americana-style space featuring rock, country, folk, soul, bluegrass, rhythm and blues acts, or at Union Stage, a funky spot where fans are up close and personal with the musicians and can enjoy local beers and hand-crafted pizzas.
Hang at the Wharf
Families: Take a dip in The Yards Park Fountain
The Yards is quickly emerging as one of the hottest, up-and-coming D.C. neighborhoods, and playing in the fountain has become a rite of passage for local families and visitors in the know. Parents often get the rare chance to relax on the sidelines as kids are endlessly entertained by the unique water features, including the shallow, in-ground Canal Basin, cascading Waterwall and Dancing Fountains (rest assured, the water is chlorinated). Continue the fun with a picnic lunch on the grassy slope or grab a bite at one of the dozens of nearby restaurants or quick-serve eateries.
Save Room for Ice Cream
After The Yards be sure to save room for a few scoops from Ice Cream Jubilee, a popular, small-batch ice cream shop, known for its inventive homemade flavors like Honey Lemon Lavender, Gin and Tonic Sorbet and Apple Butter Oatmeal Cookie. Families can also take advantage of year-round, kid-friendly events at The Yards Park, and explore the nearby Great Lawn, Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, Boardwalk and River Street Gardens.
Luxury Travelers: Book a Spa Day at The Mandarin Oriental
The only Forbes 4-Star Spa in D.C., the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental is an essential indulgence for travelers craving a luxurious retreat from the frenetic pace of the city. From the moment you enter this tranquil oasis, every detail is customized to your individual preferences, down to the temperature, light color and music in your treatment room.
Cherry Blossom Treatment
For pure bliss, book the signature Cherry Blossom Treatment at the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, which is inspired by Japanese traditions and includes a warm exfoliating cream made with Cherry Blossom rice powder, and full body, shea butter massage. Another must-try is the Chakra Rebalance Treatment, an invigorating ritual, designed to reduce stress and align the bodies chakras for deep relaxation. This unique service includes a vibration massage, vibracoustic frequency healing and meditative nap. Before or after your treatment, be sure to take advantage of the state-of-the-art facilities, especially the Heat and Water Experience, featuring vitality pools, experience showers, steam room and sauna. And complete your spa day by relaxing in a plush lounger by the indoor pool and enjoying a bento box lunch and mimosa.
Social Sceners: Check Out the Stunning POV Rooftop Bar
Ask any Washingtonian for a hot spot with the best view of the city and they’ll direct you to POV. Perched on the rooftop of the W Hotel, this iconic cocktail lounge offers a front row seat to the White House, and the chance to rub elbows with an in-crowd of local party-goers, tourists, politicians and celebs.
Make Time for Bubbly
For a VIP experience, reserve a coveted table or couch at POV along the railing and pop a bottle of bubbles or sip a top-shelf cocktail like their Strawberry Lemonade, Saint Hilaire or signature POV Punch. And be sure to come dressed and prepped to pose for a ton of selfies and group photos that such a killer backdrop will inspire. Pro Tip: Since most tables require a minimum spend, come hungry for appetizers or dinner. Some menu hits include Duck Tostados, Cobia Ceviche, POV Burger and Porchetta.
Foodies and Wine Lovers: Rosé All Day
D.C.’s popular raw bar and restaurant, Whaley’s, has taken “rosé all day” to a delightful new level with their recently opened Rosé Garden. With lush tropical plants, candy-striped pink umbrellas and bright white furniture, this prime happy hour spot along the Anacostia River lures guests with an extensive menu of rosé, rum-filled piña colada coconuts and signature snacks like Bigeye Tuna Crudo, Smoked Blue Catfish Rillettes and a Chef’s selection of oysters.
Share a Seafood Tower
Head inside the main restaurant to try Whaley’s famous seafood tower, along with other standout dishes like Grilled Harissa Swordfish, Pan Roasted Duck Breast, Family Style Seafood Risotto and Coconut Milk Panna Cotta. With rigorous sustainable seafood standards, a warm, friendly atmosphere and lively local crowd, Whaley’s is a neighborhood staple that will keep you coming back.
Art and Culture Connoisseurs: Score a Coveted pass to the National Museum of African American History & Culture
Since its grand opening in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History & Culture soared to instant popularity, quickly becoming the hottest ticket in town. While admission is free, timed entry passes are required, which can be booked online several months in advance, with limited, same-day options on the website or in person (Tip: the museum has experimented with monthlong Walk-Up Wednesdays and Walk-Up Weekdays, so be on the lookout for more). But exploring this historic space is such a deeply moving and transformative experience that it’s well worth the effort for passes.
Experience American History
The only museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture, the NMAAHC will take you on unparalleled journey through the past, present and future of the African American experience. Be sure to dedicate several hours to take in all the unique collections and exhibitions, including a tri-level walking tour of the History Galleries, Heritage Hall, Culture and Community Galleries and Contemplative Court, a beautiful water- and light-filled memorial. And don’t miss special initiatives like "Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture," The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project and "Represent: Hip-Hop Photography."