No matter what your political stripe, Washington, D.C., makes a great weekend getaway. World-class museums, parks and monuments — many of them free — share the same zip codes as lively bars, diverse restaurants and chic boutiques. A mix of cool and colonial, the nation’s HQ and its nearby environs offer adventures stretching well beyond the White House and Capitol Hill.
Everyone from top acts like Dave Matthews and Emmylou Harris to up-and-coming artists have played this legendary all-ages venue with its intimate, 500-seat music hall and a larger, standing-room-only space more conducive to dancing. It has a full-service kitchen to boot.
One of the world’s best art collections is housed in the West and East buildings — the latter designed by I.M. Pei — that make up this free national treasure. The bounty extends outdoors with an impressive, six-acre sculpture garden whose pool is transformed into an ice-skating rink in winter.
Even if you can’t catch a performance at this living memorial to President John F. Kennedy, take one of the free, guided daily tours to marvel at the Opera House chandelier and the Hall of Nations’ Italian marble walls. Tours cap off with a trip up to the roof terrace for 360-degree views of the city.
Roughly 500,000 people a year drop by this old munitions plant along the Potomac that boasts the country’s biggest collection of publicly accessible artists’ studios. Watch more than 80 artists at work in a wide variety of media. If you’re so inspired, sign up for a class.
Hand-butchered meats are slow-smoked over a heady blend of oak and hickory logs, resulting in mouth-watering dishes ready to be doused in one of four award-winning sauces. Double down on the smoky goodness with the Kansas City-style brisket burnt ends.
Fresh produce plucked from Maryland’s One Acre Farm gets elevated to new heights at this new Capitol Hill eatery, opened this summer by locavore chef Rob Weland. Oversized jars of pickled peaches and veggies add to the upscale rustic charm of this pantheon of farm-to-table cuisine.
Drink in the panoramic views at the W Washington D.C. Hotel’s swanky rooftop bar and lounge, where communal tables add to the convivial vibe. The 11th floor perch is perfect for spying on the Washington Monument and other notable buildings, including the White House.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign and pop-up events, this Filipino restaurant made its long-awaited debut in September. Rice noodles, pork belly and other staples from the Western Pacific island chain get a sophisticated spin at this intimate eatery that doesn’t take reservations.
The rotating roster of interactive exhibits are designed with kids and adults in mind: Clips and props from “Indiana Jones” liven up the action in an archeology showcase running through Jan. 3, and you can see Jerusalem like never before in a new 3D movie of the holy city airing Saturdays and Sundays through March.
Check your pulse if you can’t find something the piques your interest in this sprawling institution whose portfolio includes a zoo and 19 museums, most of which are free and open every day of the year except Christmas. Download the Smithsonian Mobile app to tailor your visit and get the scoop about what’s going on and where.
Costumed guides toting 18th-century lanterns lead you on an entertaining and educational spin through historic Old Town. Excursions are available for all ages, but you should be at least nine years old to tag along on the popular Ghost and Graveyard Tour.
Take a fieldtrip 15 miles south of D.C. to see where George Washington lived and died. This 18th-century mansion on the banks of the Potomac has been restored to its former glory. The expansive grounds include a four-acre farm, heritage-breed animals, gardens and a slave memorial.
Hike, jog or bike along the 184-mile-long path that follows the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, Maryland. Still have energy? Keep going another 150 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
See D.C.’s monuments by the light of the moon during a guided night bike tour or rent a set of wheels and pedal on your own to Mount Vernon. The company offers bike tours, rentals and Segway excursions from a convenient location on the National Mall.
All that sightseeing can lead to sore muscles. Give your tired legs a rest with a Runner’s Relief massage or one of the other stress-relieving treatments at this chain of day spas with locations in Tenleytown and Alexandria’s Old Town.
Farmers have been hawking their fresh produce in the area now known as Old Town Alexandria’s Market Square since before the United States became a country. They still congregate at this plaza — along with myriad other vendors — every Saturday morning.
Spring and fall are the most colorful times to visit the 446-acre campus whose gardens and collections are linked by nine miles of roads. The arboretum boasts an especially impressive collection of bonsai trees, including one that survived the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima.
Follow in the paddle strokes of George Washington as you leave the Key Bridge Boathouse on a guided kayak tour of the Potomac River past iconic landmarks like the Lincoln Monument and the infamous Watergate Hotel. Or kayak upriver along the tree-flanked waterway in a fall foliage tour, both offered by Boating in D.C.
Miles of hiking trails await on this forested island oasis in the Potomac dedicated to the 26th U.S. president. The only way to reach this national park by land is from Virginia, where it’s a 15-minute walk from the Rosslyn Metro station in Arlington.
A trio of overlooks each lend different perspectives on the gushing waterfalls that are the centerpiece of this national park, where you can kick back with a picnic basket along the banks of the Potomac and explore a network of hiking trails.
Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Prada are a few of the labels you might find at this upscale consignment shop in the Old Town Boutique District. These aren’t your grandma’s hand-me-downs. The shop only accepts pristine items less than 2 years old.
This pedestrian-friendly, 10-acre development in downtown D.C. is flush with high-end brands like Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Hermes. The dining options aren’t too shabby either, with Daniel Boulud’s DBGB Kitchen and Bar and David Chang’s soon-to-open Momofuku.
This men’s apparel shop that prides itself on finding the perfect fit — from T-shirts to blazers — does most of its selling online, but you can visit its brick-and-mortar showroom that recently moved from Georgetown to Navy Yard. Appointments aren’t necessary Monday to Saturday but staff ask that you let them know you’re on your way by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This easy-to-get-to mall on Metro’s Silver Line has all your favorites — 300 or so of them — in one pristine place. Take a break from shopping and relax in the 1.5-acre outdoor plaza where you can catch free movies, concerts and holiday festivities.