I’ve been to DC twice in my life the first was when I was 17, and the second was during an earthquake. Yes, an earthquake.
The first time was as my High School graduation gift from my Grandparents. It was the middle of the hot and humid east coast summer, but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t used to, so I brought some of my cutest clothes and was a ready to show them off. What I didn’t realize was that my Grandma would insist on walking everywhere. Everywhere. We would leave the hotel by 7:30am and would make in back in time for our hotel’s happy hour. My Grandma is Italian so this meant I was drinking wine with her, although I reminded her many times that the drinking age is 21, and she’d respond “I think it’s 18”. I obviously didn’t mind.
So my Grandpa (who is a saint) and I would follow Grandma’s lead even though we were sweating, and hungry most of the time! This trip was a very educational trip. We did everything and everything. Museums, tours, monuments etc. I believe there was an agenda to this trip because at the time I had decided I didn’t want to go to college, and my Grandparents, who were both teachers strongly disagreed with this choice. So we met members of Congress, interns in the White House, and anyone and anyone who was in politics who would naturally ask me “where are you going to college?” This was not pleasant for my 17 year old self esteem. I had an amazing time with my Grandparents who love me very much but I had experienced DC and decided I never needed to go back…
Until a few years later I went there with two girlfriends for a day trip. We drove down from NYC in a ZipCar, arrived late that night, and woke up early to site see. As we were getting ready there was an earthquake. Yep. Earthquake. No, the east coast does not get earthquakes, but it did that day. Everything was closed. Every museum, every monument, and it was mayhem trying to drive anywhere. So we decided to leave early evening and it took us EIGHT hours to drive home. I walked into my Upper East Side apartment at 4:00a the next day. So now I was really good on DC…
Until a few Months ago I learned the largest dermatology conference in the world was being held in DC. I work a lot with Dermatologist and their patients because I specialize in clear skin, and slow aging so it’s important for me to be up to date in this field. I also had some clients in NY who had recently hired me so I figured I’d make a little trip out of it all.
I was really only looking forward to New York until I arrived in DC and everything felt different. This is an exciting time in DC because of the election and I was actually looking forward to seeing some of the memorials again as they are extremely moving and powerful. When I checked into my room I immediately headed out to find coffee and found the cutest neighborhood called U Street Corridor. I was so impressed and thought to myself, “this isn’t the DC I remember”. Now I was excited.
DC has become extremely creative and you can feel it. It’s young, and there are things happening. It feels a bit like LA’s Westside in this way.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite places that I visited while I was there. I’m a big researcher and was able to check out some of the well known restaurants/cafe’s before and after the conference, and spent one half-day site seeing before heading to NY. It wasn’t easy fitting everything in but I loved making the most of my time there and dare I say it- I can’t wait to go back!
Here are some DC musts and some cool places to check out.
Coffee + Cafes
The Wydown // My first stop in DC. It was so cold out and all I wanted was an almond latte. I camped out in here for a good hour enjoying my amazing latte and making small talk with some of the staff. They played the raddest music that I was Shazam-ing the whole time. I love listening to that music now and remembering this little sanctuary I found from the cold.
La Columbe Coffee // This place is a gem. I had no idea they had some locations in NYC and found out they’re opening some here in LA! (insert angels singing here). The coffee here is special. They have many options in brews, and the staff is more than happy to help even when the line is out the door. I loved their Rwanda and Columbia Workspace brew and treated myself to their Ironman Geisha drip ($7). It’s heavenly. They rotate their blends, and if you happen to be there when they have Geisha- treat yourself!
I went to their Blagden Alley location every day. There are a few spots to sit outside in the calm alley or you can grab a seat inside. Although it’s pretty steady with people throughout the day, it’s still able to maintain a chill vibe. Love love love this place.
Side Note: I stopped in their Chinatown location on my last day to buy some bags of coffee to take home with me. The manager there was more than helpful. I’m still enjoying the Columbia Brew at home and think of the great experience I had there while I use my French-Press. It makes for a very happy morning. Love you, La Columbe.
Baked & Wired // I headed here with my friend on our site-seeing day. It’s located in the heart of Georgetown so we used this stop as an excuse to see Georgetown. Yes, I like to tour places based around their food. They’re very generous with their pours and have some breakfast options, along with their large array of pastries, hence the “baked” in “Baked & Wired. They serve Stumptown Coffee which is always a trusted high-quality option and sell Intelligencia too.
Take your huge cup of coffee outside and enjoy watching the people go in and out- there’s quite the mix of demographics here. When you can’t finish all that coffee in your mug, grab a to-go cup and explore the neighborhood.
Chaia DC // This had been on my list for a few weeks before leaving for DC. I found photos of their beautiful vegetarian tacos all over Instagram. Their location in Georgetown is not far from Baked & Wired, so we planned on stopping here during our stroll in Georgetown. The shop isn’t far from the waterfront so we took our tacos to-go and sat on the steps by the water. Boy were they delicious. My favorite were the beet tacos.
I love that there are more and more fast-casual healthy restaurants popping up in cities. This makes eating healthy so much easier.
sweetgreen // One of my all time favorite fast-casual restaurants. I wrote about them in my NYC guide to staying healthy so finding them in DC was such a blessing. They utilize local farmers for each of their locations. Their salads are always fresh and crisp, and they are happy to answer any questions regarding ingredients. All of their salad dressings are gluten-free which makes is so easy! I can always rely on them. When I go to a sweetgreen it’s like coming home. This is the way all food should be, and I love supporting them. Locations in DC, NY, VA, PA, MD, MA, CA.
Momofuku CCDC // David Chang is the man. As a New Yorker I know all about Momofuku and its many concepts. I have memories standing outside Milk Bar in the East Village with friends waiting for Klossie’s, Cereal Milk, and Cake Truffles. Má Pêche is also a favorite of mine. CCDC had recently opened in DC so I had to check it out. It’s in a newly developed part of town that has new condos and many luxury brands. The space is bright and airy with modern art on the wall which helps keep the mood low-key in such a beautiful space.
Despite the crowd, I was able to have a great lunch in the middle of the work day without running behind. They’ve done such a great job on the service as the staff really cares about your experience. They have a great team there. Theres a Milk Bar right next door, so indulge if you can. A friend of mine ended up going back three times on our trip! Make it a point to go here.
DBGB // Another NY favorite and ironically right next to CCDC. You can’t really go wrong with Chef Daniel Boulud. This French bistro serves mostly meat dishes so I decided to treat myself to some steak here. We came here the last day of the conference and our party of five enjoyed a lot of wine, and a plethora of delicious food. My favorite was the escargot. They were some of the best I’ve ever had, served in warm salad-type dish. Very unique.
Desserts were also really amazing. We had an ice cream with pineapple that tasted like pina colada. Come here to sit at the bar for a drink, or sit and enjoy some no-fuss fancy food.
Cork // This was recommend to me by a friend who works in restaurants in DC. I came here with my friend the first night we arrived. It was just what we needed. We were tired and hungry, but wanted to jump right into the DC food scene. The dishes here are meant to be shared. We ordered amazing scallops, incredible avocado toast topped with pistachios and pistachio oil, chicken, and a salad. We also had one of the most delicious glasses of sparking rosé that I’ve ever had. It’s located on 14th Street in the U Street corridor which has a lot going on! Great area. Give yourself some time to explore.
Founding Farmers // While researching restaurants prior to arriving in DC ( Virgo nature) this is the first place that comes up. The reviews are great and people seem to love it. I was impressed by their values so had this on the top of my list. They’re passionate about supporting local farmers, and serve super clean water.
My first thought upon walking in was “this is just like Houston’s”, a restaurant part of a big restaurant group call Hillstone that I worked at for six years in Manhattan. There’s definitely a lot of Houston’s influence here, which is never a bad thing. There’s always a wait but service is prompt upon seating, and you’ll be out within the hour. We walked to the White House to snap a picture while we waited for our table.
matchbox // They have three locations in DC. The reviews were pretty good and the group I was with was hungry! We had a mix of people so I figured pizza was a safe bet, plus they have many salads and apps to choose from. We arrived at their Chinatown location around 11p (way too late, but while traveling you’ve got to roll with it) and there was still a wait! We waited for 10 mins and were shown to our table. Our server was hilarious and patient as we were a rowdy bunch that night. We shared a bunch of food over lots of laughs.
Old Ebbitt Grill // This is the oldest Saloon in DC. Man, if those walls could talk! It’s located across from the Treasury, which is just so cool to say. It’s your typical American steakhouse. It’s dark and it buzzes with conversation. Our group sat in a cozy booth and enjoyed lots of laughs. I had the crab cakes which are the thing to get. They are ALL crab. Barely any filler. Get these!! Even if you don’t eat here, definitely stop by for a drink or to check out the taxidermied animals hanging on the wall that were hunted by President Roosevelt (poor babies but still cool). You can read more about the history in the link.
Wellness + Workouts
Xtend Barre // I was able to take an early morning class here. It’s located in Blagden Alley, across from La Columb. The class was harder than I thought it would be as it works out all those little teeny-tiny muscles you don’t pay attention to. I didn’t have that much time that morning so the class was a perfect as I didn’t leave having to wash my hair. It’s on the pricy side, but I’m happy I went.
Corepower Yoga // I wasn’t able to make a class here, but I did see a few around town. They have great intro rates, but you’ll have to account for time to wash your hair as the rooms are super hot! I’ve taken in Los Angeles and it’s definitely not a workout-and-go type class.
(I wasn’t really able to find many workout classes here. If anyone has any suggestions for next time, let me know!)
Smucker Farms of Lancaster CO. // I found this place on my walk on 14th street. I caught my eye because it reminded me of some of the specialty food shops in Italy. Everything in there was locally sourced and if I was staying for longer I would have done more shopping. They had local grass-fed butters, yogurts, meats, pristine veggies, and such nice staff. I bought some raw sauerkraut to keep my gut happy and immune system up. If you’re super health conscious it’s worth the stop.
You’ll find your typical big brand names around here, along with some smaller boutiques. I really wasn’t prepared on the shopping end as I was mostly concerned with embracing the food scene in DC on this trip but we did know we really only wanted to go to stores that we wouldn’t find elsewhere. When we stumbled upon American Holiday the staff there was able to point us in the right direction.
(We didn’t have much time in Georgetown as we wanted to head to the monuments so here’s what we did!)
American Holiday // This was the first store we went in while walking around Georgetown because it was the first small independent store we found. It reminded me of a highly-curated Anthropology. This is a great spot to buy a souvenir for yourself and/or for a loved one. They have many different price points making it easy to find something. We asked the staff for some recommendations of other special stores in the area. They were happy to help.
L’Enfant // First stop after American Holiday. This store is remarkable. The antiques in here are exquisite. There are some pieces of art here from the 17th century! I love thinking about what other people have owned and why they gave it away, when they got it and what for. It’s worth doing a lap in here and continuing on to explore the neighborhood.
After this we were hungry so we went and got tacos at Chaia and sat on the waterfront before catching a cab to the Lincoln Memorial!
Memorials and Museums
While researching our site seeing for DC I stumbled upon a few IG accounts that helped me a ton in my planning, and inspired some shots of my own! ( @timg @onepoint_two @withthelocals @acreativedc @sebasmarin) These guys had organized a walking tour at 5:00a right before a blizzard. Their photos from that day are amazing! I wish I had been there. I reached out to them for some great places to get coffee and areas to walk around. I took a look at this blog post from the walk and pretty much did the same thing, except it was noon not 5am 🙂
Lincoln Memorial // We started here. I have very fond memories of my Grandmother and I climbing the steps up on my first trip to DC. I’m not sure if this is technically the beginning or the end of the National Mall but I loved starting here. This memorial is so powerful. There’s a stillness you feel once your inside.
Walking up to it is very exciting and once you reach the top it’s really breathtaking. There are views of the whole National Mall all the way to the Washington Momument. The memorial is made of stunning white marble and the walls are are carved with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address & his Second Inaugural Address. This is definitely one of my favorites.
*This memorial is really pretty at night too
After Lincoln, we stopped at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and walked down to the Washington Monument before heading to the National Gallery. Wear comfy shoes because you’ll be doing a lot of walking!
// *The Roosevelt Memorial is amazing. We didn’t have time on this trip but I remember it from my first trip to DC. It’s really engulfs you in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s terms. If you have time it’s definitely worth taking the cab over.
National Gallery // This museum is amazing. There is so much to see and a plethora of different styles of art. The staff is amazing and wants to you have a great experience. A woman was able to tell us exactly where to go and what to see in the timeframe we had.
Definitely check out Leo Villareal’s starry Multiverse connecting the east and west buildings of the museum. You can do some shopping in the gift shop (I love museum gift shopping) and grab a healthy snack in the cafeteria 🙂
There’s a piece by Leonard da Vinci that you can get very close to. Way closer than Mona Lisa at The Louvre.
My favorite piece I saw that day was Odalisque by Auguste Renoir. I found her to be quite beautiful in an untraditional way. She’s covered in beautiful clothing and jewelry that doesn’t seem to belong to her, and she is pleased. She doesn’t seem to be in her natural element. It looks she feeling super sexy on a little wine buzz. // This is what I imagined her to be and this is why I love art!
*If you have more time in DC check out as many museums as you can. They are all in the same area, and they’re all free! Thank you tax dollars 🙂
I hope this serves you on a trip to DC. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or suggestions for my next trip there! Lots of love to you!