Businesses, local government units, and political think tanks all converge in the United States capital five days out of the week. Once they have clocked out for the weekend, the city is your playground.
Check in at the Hyatt Place Washington D.C. (rooms from $120) and immediately head to the hotel’s Ellipse Rooftop Bar and enjoy Happy Hour specials on their cocktails. The view isn’t so bad either. Once you’ve loosened your shoulders and have changed to a more weekend-friendly wardrobe, take an Uber to Chinatown’s Bar Deco (717 6th st. NW, $) and indulge in the four-story pub’s take on American bar classics. The Belly is an indulgent must-eat—think two thick slices of pork belly on top of a double-patty burger. Wash it down with the High Mountain Highball or a pint from the local breweries they have on tap.
Plenty of chain hotels do offer hearty breakfasts, and the Hyatt Place is no exception. Get your fill of sausages, eggs, and even French Toast before 10 a.m. If a caffeine jolt is not your thing, Joe & The Juice (1500 K St. NW) has yoghurts, shakes, and juices to get your day started.
If you were to spend the remaining two days of your getaway visiting one—or all!—of The Smithsonian’s 19 free museums, it’s most definitely time well spent. Start with the crown jewel, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History (10th st. and Constitution Ave. NW). This three-level museum has something to pique anyone’s fancy. You can visit a live butterfly sanctuary (tickets from $6.50), discover the path of human evolution, view all sorts of marine life, and check out the Hope Diamond.
Next, walk southeast for the National Air and Space Museum (600 Independence Ave. SW) and trace mankind’s many adventures in conquering the skies, from aviation history to our journey to the moon. If you are so inclined, the museum also has a planetarium—evocative of middle-school field trips minus the acne.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite from all the walking you just did, take the metro to Cleveland Park, and to Indique (3512 Connecticut Ave. NW) an Indian restaurant that thoughtfully blends the country’s north and south cuisines. The Chicken Kebab Benedict is a personal favorite for its spice-filled spin on this brunch staple. The Achari Chicken Paratha Taco is another solid choice if you’re looking to refuel for even more museum explorations.
A fifteen-minute walk south of Indique is another Smithsonian classic: The 163-acre National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Ave. NW). Say hello to 2700 species of animals, including its most famous resident, the giant pandas. Take part in the zoo’s conservation efforts while burning off more calories than you can imagine: its location is hillside, so it would serve you well to swap your flip-flops for broken-in shoes.
Once you’ve gotten back to your hotel for a refresh, change to your best going-out ensemble and make your way to Kimpton Mason & Rook hotel’s Radiator (1430 Rhode Island Ave. NW) bar. Decompress over olives, croquetas, and charred shishito peppers while downing their Masala Mule or Sunrise Over Osaka—all with a beautiful view of the city.
For some down-home Belgian food, nab a table at B Too (1324 14th street NW). Chef de Cuisine Bar Vandaele’s menu is all about Flemish- and Wallonian favorites: seven variations of moules frîtes (mussels and fries), carbonnade flamande (beef stewed in beer), and l’agneau au truffe (lamb with mushrooms). Don’t miss their killer starters of foie grasmousse (served in a squeeze tube) and lamb kefta, and go nuts over their extensive beer list (Belgian, bien sûr).
Start your last day strong at Birch & Barley (1337 14th st. NW). Chase away any hangovers you may have from the night before with this modern American restaurant’s boozy brunch menu of two cocktails, all the coffee you care to drink, and “the usual suspects” mains: steak and eggs, Croque Madame, chicken and waffles, and the house burger.
If you prefer a lighter, more French-style breakfast, visit PAUL (2000 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) for baguette sandwiches–although the bread is great just by itself–greek yogurt with granola, and ham and cheese croissants. From-the-viennoiserie baked goods are plentiful here as well. Pain au chocolat (chocolatine in other regions), danishes, doughnuts, and turnovers will remind you of your time in Paris.
Even if you are not religious, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Concepcion (400 Michigan ave. NE) is still worth a visit as a refreshing change of pace from the museum binge you just did the day before. The largest Roman Catholic church in North America is a sight to behold with its collection of ecclesiastical art and Byzantine-Romanesque stylings. You can check out the basilica at your leisure, or head to the information desk for free guided tours that happen at least three times a day.
Check out one more museum before you go–Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW). The $24.95 ticket allows access to six floors of galleries and interactive exhibits that showcase how journalism and the press have helped shape the world’s events, from the poignant Berlin Wall gallery to the NBC News interactive newsroom.
Additional images: RadiatorDC, Kaley Dykstra for Unsplash