Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Must See DC

13 Things to do in DC Now

Ornate, yet orderly -- Washington DC is full of dazzling, symmetrical, neoclassical architecture, transporting
visitors to another time, when expert craftsmanship mattered.
This alone is worth a trip to America's capital city.  

We recently ventured to Washington DC for a family commitment, and for a change of scenery.  Since we travel to DC frequently, this time we asked friends that currently live in the area (or who have lived there recently) for some ideas on what to do, aside from the obvious choices. Of course there is the Smithsonian, the White House, the Monuments.  What else, though?  Surprisingly, none of the resident experts were able to come up with a compelling list.  So, now that I am back,  I came up with my own list:

 The National Gallery of Art

If staying in DC for only a weekend, choose one museum (two at most) and savor it.  Otherwise,  bouncing from this collection to that collection can become completely overwhelming, tiring and when it's over, a big blur. For this trip, I chose the Corcoran Museum, only to arrive at its doors to the surprise (astonishment really) that it closed last year. Thankfully, most of the pieces were sent to my next museum choice: The National Gallery of Art, The West Building.  

The National Gallery, colossal and impressive, was built in 1941. At that time it was the largest marble structure in the world, and that's just the outside! Inside, one of the finest art collections in the world is represented.  It didn't disappoint!

By the way, the museum is free. 

Winslow Homer (1873)

 National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden

This garden is suitably entertaining for everyone in the family and can be enjoyed for 20 minutes or 3 hours, your choice. There is also a wonderful cafe in the heart of it.  Here are some of the pieces we were keen on:

Lucas Samara's Chair Tranformation Number 20 B, 1996 

 Robert Indiana's AMOR, 2008
Roy Lichtenstein's House I, 1996

It is an unbelievable illusion. Kid's adore this sculpture:

Claes Oldenburg, Typewriter Eraser, 1998.
This piece playfully evokes the inner child's sense of scale.

Beach Installation at the Great Hall of the National Building Museum

Brooklyn-based (of course) design firm, Snarkitecture, has taken oven the Great Hall of the National Building Museum and installed a perfect summer day at the beach.  The "ocean" is made of almost a million recyclable plastic orbs and the beach is complete with umbrellas and chairs.  But, get to the beach soon, it is only here until just after Labor Day. I trust that they plan to recycle all those balls!

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle is a progressive part of town that hosts a number of quaint shops and restaurants. Easily, we could spend half a day here. 

 Slate Audio Tour Podcast

Forgo the tourist bus, the segway gimmick, or following someone with an umbrella. This time, just grab your smart phone and download a neighborhood walking tour podcast, and listen to it at your own pace.

 We found our podcast at Slate Audio Tours: Memorials on the National Mall, given by an architecture critic. This personal guide uncovered many of the city's unauthorized secrets, the ones never mentioned on traditional tours. Fun!

Kramer Books and Cafe

I adore the few remaining independent Booksellers, and am pleased that this old timer is still around. 

Capital Teas 

The tea movement is burgeoning in this country and with good reason.  Tea is flavorful and has numerous health benefits. These shops, peppered around the city, are a wonderful stop and often offer refreshing, free samples. 

Hundreds of teas to pick, at Capitol Teas. 

Ok, so it is not as quaint as it once was, it is crowded and it has morphed into a giant outdoor mall;  but, that said, Georgetown still remains one of the oldest, most picturesque parts of DC.  And if shopping is not for you, walk away from the popular downtown street (M Street) and back into the side streets, where a bygone era awaits, complete with charming 18th century row houses, perfectly set on cobblestone streets. You half expect horse drawn carriages to amble past. Lovely.

Cafe Milano

As a foodie, any list that I produce needs to include at least one restaurant. Popular among Washington insiders and celebrities, the authentic Italian, Cafe Milano, is worth the hype.  We enjoyed some Italian specialties not commonly seen outside of Italy, including imported Carpaccio salad (below) and pasta e acciughe (anchovy).

 Farmer's Market, Dupont Circle, Sundays

Even when I am not cooking, I always go to the Capitol's largest farmer's market on Sundays, at Dupont Circle. It boasts a wide variety of the regions local produce, is a great outing, and is filled with chatty DC locals.   

Bring your own bag, though. Smartly, they are not given out here. 


Speaking of food, if cooking is part of the plan and you are not interested in the predictable Whole Foods offerings, check out Stachowski's market in Georgetown.  It's a wonderful butcher shop, with various cured meats and cheeses, prepared foods and specialty items.  It is also known to make a mean pastrami sandwich. 

Logan Circle

This area has seemingly transformed overnight. While not nearly as hyped as it's big brother, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle is definitely off the tourist radar, but filled with quaint shops and chef-owned restaurants. It's worth a look.  

Gustave Caillebotte

Check out one of my favorite, but lesser known Impressionist painters, Gustave Caillebotte.  It's at the National Gallery until October 4th, 2015. I enjoyed the exhibit so much that I intend to dedicate an entire post to it. Look for it, next...  

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