Washington, D.C./West End
The West End is the western section of downtown, including the central business district, sometimes known as Golden Triangle or, simply, K St, along with the Foggy Bottom neighborhood. The White House and its grounds function as a barrier between the East End and the West End, with the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Ave closed to motorists. In the daytime, Lafayette Square and the block of Pennsylvania Ave closed to motorists in front of the White House are popular with crowds and street hockey enthusiasts.
K St is infamous, best known as the physical location where money and power in the U.S. collude. The "fourth branch of government": Lobbyists, special interest groups, contractors, and out of work Congressmen all engage in the extremely lucrative business of political influence. This impression isn't totally fair—first of all, some of the lobbying firms are pushing for noble causes, and secondly, many if not most of the professionals are doing business unrelated to politics. But, K St's infamy outside the city is matched by its local infamy as the most boring section of town. Office buildings dominate and everybody leaves after punching out, leaving the neighborhood empty and quiet, save for big business hotels and expense account dinners. There is some truth to this, but the caricature overlooks the fact that there are some incredible restaurants, Dupont Circle is creeping down past M St, and the McPherson Square area now has its own homegrown clubbing scene.
And then, of course, there is the White House. Famous around the world as the home and office of the world's most powerful person, it is the capital icon most associated with the American government. Surrounded by parks, Lafayette Square and the Ellipse, it's also surprisingly accessible to visitors, and makes a nice backdrop for a casual picnic surrounded by history. And, just west of the White House and grounds are some great art galleries, especially at the Corcoran Museum.
To the southwest is Foggy Bottom, an old Washingtonian neighborhood home to George Washington University, and a prestigious stretch of waterfront home to the Watergate Apartments and the Kennedy Center. Foggy Bottom also houses several big international organizations, like the Pan American Health Organization, World Health Organization, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and the American Red Cross, as well as several embassies.
Metro's Blue, Orange, and Silver Lines run through the West End along I St. Foggy Bottom in the west is the most convenient to the Kennedy Center and to George Washington University; it is also the closest station to the eastern part of Georgetown. The walk from Foggy Bottom to the Mall is a little far, but it is the closest metro station in D.C. to West Potomac Park. Farragut West and McPherson Square are mainly for the business district, but they are also both close to Lafayette Park. The latter is also just a couple blocks from the White House Visitor Center.
The Red Line cuts across the northeast part of the area, with one stop at Farragut North right on K St. Metro Center is the next stop to the east, in the East End, and is the closest Red Line stop to the White House Visitor Center.
Downtown is not driver friendly. There are no above-ground garages, and underground garages are expensive. Street parking is metered, near impossible to find on weekdays, and has a two hour limit. Weeknights and weekends see some easier to find parking west of the White House and south of Pennsylvania Ave. Meter restrictions end Saturday at 6:30PM and all day Sunday. It's harder to find parking near Dupont Circle on weekends, although you might luck out around K St after 8PM weeknights.
K St is the main road, while M St is the (one way) route to Georgetown. Connecticut Ave (17th St below K St) is the main route heading north. I-66 comes in from Virginia, but leaving is easier via the Arlington Memorial Bridge south of 23rd St.
It is possible to hail a taxi from the street around the clock, but note that M St going to Georgetown has awful traffic during rush hour and weekend nights—it's often quicker to walk.
Metrobus routes downtown can be confusing, so it's best to make sure you don't ride past your intended stop, or you could find yourself lost in a strange part of town quickly. The following run daily roughly until midnight:
80 runs until midnight from Farragut Square east on K St to Chinatown, and west down 18th St past the Corcoran, through Foggy Bottom, and right by the Kennedy Center.
White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, ☎ . Tours: Tu-Th 7:30AM-11AM, F 7:30AM-noon, sa 7:30AM-1PM. Free.
Built starting in 1792, and first residence for the nation's second president, John Adams, the White House has been the residence and office for each presidency since. The building's chief architect, James Hoban, an Irishman, left a nationalistic mark on the U.S., modeling the President's home after Ireland's National Parliament building in Dublin. While Hoban's vision has survived the past 200+ years, including the 1814 fire set by invading British forces, the interior has hardly been static. As it is, after all, the president's house, each president has taken the liberty of various redecoratings, expansions, and additions—the entire East Wing, for example, was added only during the Coolidge Administration. The last major renovation occurred under Truman, but much of the antiques, artwork, and decorating styles you'll see today come courtesy of a certain First Lady of renowned taste, Jackie Kennedy.
President Jefferson opened the White House to the public, and it has remained so during peacetime (with varying restrictions) ever since. Following the attacks of September 11th, tours have been available only for groups of ten or more, and these must be requested up to six months and at least one month in advance through your congressman if you're a U.S. citizen, or through your country's embassy in Washington, D.C. if you're not. Note that the standard tours focus on the social/residential part of the White House—the East Wing, rather than the working West Wing. Abide by the stated dress code, or you will be refused admission!
You can see the front door from Lafayette Square on the north side, and the back (the more famous curved facade) from the Ellipse on the south side. Political demonstrations typically take place at the front, though larger ones have been known to encircle the fence.
The Ellipse is the park to the south of the White House. During the Civil War, the space was used as a cattle and horse corral, the smell of which festered in the summer humidity, making life at the White House unpleasant enough where there was a proposal to abandon it and relocate—possibly to Meridian Hill, in Adams Morgan. President Grant nixed the idea, and had the grounds improved, installing a fountain in 1876, and two gatehouses relocated from the Capitol to the southwest and southeast corners of the Ellipse.
A number of memorials are located on the Ellipse, including the Butt-Millet Fountain, added in 1913 in honor of two prominent Titanic victims—Army Major Archibald Butt and painter Francis Millet. The Zero Milestone stands at the north end of the park, and is the marker by which all road distances would be measured (this idea was a flop, and only D.C.'s roads use it as a measure). Larger memorials on the Ellipse include a memorial to 5,599 soldiers of the First Division of the American Expeditionary Force killed in World War I, and another memorial in honor of the Second Division in World War I on Constitution Ave. currently, in nice weather, the park serves mostly for the public to enjoy the good views and play frisbee.
Named for French General Lafayette of American Revolutionary fame (better known to his friends as Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette), this park is a national historic landmark seemingly dedicated to the purpose of taking pictures of the White House. The large equestrian statue at its center is of President Andrew Jackson, while the statues on the four corners of the park are dedicated to Revolutionary heroes, all of them foreign: Lafayette, French Major General Rochambeau, Polish General Kosciuszko, and Prussian Major General Friedrich von Steuben.
And if you like bushy-tailed rodents, you're in luck—Lafayette Park is home to the densest squirrel population known to science, lured here no doubt by their lust for power. Look especially for those black squirrels, descendants of a group of eighteen Canadians that escaped the National Zoo during Teddy Roosevelt's presidency.
The blocks immediately surrounding Lafayette Park are part of the National Historic Landmark, and there is much to see here:
- Blair House, 1651 Pennsylvania Ave NW. The Blair House was built in 1824 for Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Lowell, and sold in 1837 to real estate mogul, Francis Preston Blair and inherited by Montgomery Blair. The adjacent house was owned by the Robert E. Lee family. The U.S. government bought the Blair House in 1942, and has since used it as the official guest house for state visitors, at the insistence of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who was tired of running into Winston Churchill and other visitors roaming around the White House in the middle of the night. Today, the Blair house not only consists of the original townhouse, but includes the Lee House and two other adjacent townhouses. The total space of 70,000 sq ft exceeds that of the White House.
- Decatur House, 1610 H St NW, ☎ . M-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-4PM; guided tours: hourly F-Sa 10:15AM-4:15PM, Su 12:15PM-3:15PM. Benjamin Henry Latrobe designed the house, completed in 1818, for naval hero Stephen Decatur and his wife. Its distinguished neo-classical architecture and prominent location across from the White House made Decatur House one of the capital's most desirable addresses and home of many of the nation's most prominent figures. Later residents included Henry Clay, Martin Van Buren, and Judah P. Benjamin. The Decatur House is now used as a museum, and is open to the public. Free; gallery: $5; guided tours: $5.
- Old Executive Office Building, 17th & Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . Tours currently suspended. The Eisenhower Executive Office Building was built in 1871 to house the War and Navy Departments, replacing the obsolete War Office building on the same site. By World War II, the War and Navy Departments outgrew the building, and were spread out in numerous additional temporary structures on the National Mall. After the military relocated to the Pentagon in 1943, the building fell into disrepair and was regarded by President Harry Truman as "the greatest monstrosity in America". The Eisenhower Executive Office Building has since been used for Presidential executive offices. The first televised Presidential news conference took place in the Indian Treaty Room in 1955, and the building now houses the Vice President's office, along with the National Security Council and other executive offices.
- Renwick Gallery, 1661 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . 10AM-5:30PM. The building that now houses the Renwick Gallery was originally the home of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. It was designed by James Renwick, Jr., and construction began before the Civil War. Near completion, it was used during the Civil War as a government warehouse, and construction was finally completed in 1874. By 1897, the Corcoran Gallery collection outgrew the space and relocated to a new building on 17th St. The building was transferred in 1965 to the Smithsonian Institution for use as an art gallery. Free.
- St. John's Church, 1525 H St NW (16th St and H St NW, across from Lafayette Park), ☎ . Services M-F Noon; Su 7:45AM, 9AM, 11AM; Spanish-language: Su 1PM. Every President since James Madison has gone to a mass at St John's. The church building was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe, and completed in June 1816. The church also occupies the adjacent Ashburton House, on H St NW, built for Lord Alexander Ashburton, the British minister to the U.S., and was used for a period of time as the British Embassy. Free.
- Corcoran Museum of Art, 500 17th St NW, ☎ . M,W,F-Su 10AM-5PM, Th 10AM-9PM. This is the oldest art gallery in the American capital, housed in a beautiful, large Beaux-Arts building. The special exhibits are the big reason to come pay the admissions fee (when you could otherwise walk to some of the world's best free art museums at the Smithsonian), that and the fact that the Corcoran does a better job keeping up with contemporary art. The exhibits here are geared towards a more art-fluent audience, rather than your average curious tourist, and are accordingly a bit edgier and less accessible to a casual visitor. $6.75; seniors: $4.75; students: $3 students; families with young children: $12.
- Diplomatic Reception Rooms, 2201 C St NW (Dept. of State), ☎ , fax: +1 202 736-4232. The Department of State offers guided tours of its formal reception rooms, used for official meetings with foreign representatives. The rooms are a trove of antiques and gifts, old and new, given by foreign governments to the U.S. Tours only by appointment, must show valid ID to be admitted.
- National Aquarium, 1401 Constitution Ave NW (Lower level of the Commerce Department building), ☎ . 9AM-5PM daily; feedings: 2PM. Located in the basement level of the Department of Commerce building, the National Aquarium is much smaller than the one in Baltimore—if you can, make a point to go there instead. The aquarium was recently renovated, though with its small size, there are no dolphin shows. It offers the "America's Aquatic Treasures" exhibit which takes approximately 45 minutes to see. In addition to standard Aquarium fish, there are sharks, eels, alligators, turtles, and other reptiles. Visit soon: this aquarium is closing permanently on September 30, 2013. Adults $9; Children: $4; Under three: Free.
- National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th St NW, ☎ . M-Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 10AM-5PM. Photography and other exhibits on nature, history, and culture. Films, lectures, and concerts take place at the National Geographic Society's Grosvenor Auditorium. The gift shop has numerous books, DVDs, and other items. Good for kids. Free, special exhibits: $10-35.
The Nixon tapes
The tapes weren't shocking just for implicating the president in federal crimes, they were devastating for what they revealed about him personally. Memorable quotes include:
- Octagon House, 1799 New York Ave NW, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Gallery: M-F 8:30AM-5PM; tours Th-F 1PM-4PM (bring an MP3 player to download the audio tour). Designed by William C. Thornton, and completed in 1800, the Octagon House was owned by Colonel John Tayloe, a Virginia plantation owner. A few years later, the Tayloes offered the house for use as the French Embassy, where the Treaty of Ghent was signed by President James Madison to end the War of 1812 (he was working there temporarily following the 1814 burning of the White House). The house was sold in 1855, and since used as a military hospital during the Civil War, an apartment building, a girl's school, and has been owned by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) since 1902. The AIA still owns the house, though they are now located in a large office building adjacent to the Octagon House. The house is now used as a museum, and a gallery is located in the main AIA building. Free.
- Ringgold-Carroll House (Dacor-Bacon House), 1801 F St NW. The Ringgold-Carroll House was built in 1825 for Tench Ringgold, who was part of a three-member team in charge of restoring public buildings in the District of Columbia, following the War of 1812. From 1832-1833, Chief Justice John Marshall resided with Ringgold in the house. In 1835, the house was sold, and a number of prominent people have since lived in the house, including William Thomas Carroll, a clerk at the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Melville Fuller, Senator Joseph Medill McCormick, and Congressman Robert Low Bacon. The Diplomatic and Consular Officers Retired (DACOR) now occupy the house, which is not open to the public except for special events.
- Watergate Hotel Complex. The Watergate is and will be best known for its role in the ending of Richard "I am not a crook" Nixon's presidency. On 17 June 1972 five men employed by Nixon's Committee to Re-elect the President were arrested for breaking and entering at the Democratic National Committee's rooms at the Watergate. The ensuing scandal led to revelations of enemies lists, "campaign fraud, political espionage and sabotage, illegal break-ins, improper tax audits, illegal wiretapping on a massive scale, and a secret slush fund laundered in Mexico to pay those who conducted these operations." And those infamous tapes. Conversations in the Oval Office were automatically recorded, and those conversations were subpoenaed in the Congressional investigation. The tapes revealed President Nixon's direct knowledge and involvement in criminal acts under investigation, as well as his deep seated moral corruption and personal bigotries.
, 2700 F St NW, ☎ .
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is located along the Potomac River, adjacent to the Watergate Complex, in Foggy Bottom. It was built as a private-public partnership, in effort to create a National Cultural Center for the nation's capital. President Kennedy helped move the project forward, and when he was assassinated, the center was named after him as a living memorial. Architect Edward Durrell Stone designed the building, which opened in 1971.
There are three main theaters in the Kennedy Center: the Concert Hall, Opera House, and Eisenhower Theater. The National Symphony Orchestra performs at the Concert Hall, while the Opera House is home to the Washington National Opera and the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The Eisenhower Theater is a smaller venue that hosts theater, musicals, operas, ballet, and dance performances. The Kennedy Center has a number of smaller venues, with various events geared towards children and other audiences. The Millennium Stage, located at the end of the Grand Foyer, hosts daily, free performances. If you are looking for a really special, classic Washingtonian event, the two big ones are right around Christmas—the National Ballet's yearly performance of The Nutcracker, and the Handel's Messiah Singalong. For the latter, the entire audience, mostly of amateur and professional choirs, join the Master Chorus and Orchestra in singing the full oratorio—it's an amazing experience for singers and non-singers alike.
Docent-led tours are available for walk-ins M-F 10AM-5PM, Sa-Su 10AM-1PM every ten minutes. Just head over to the tour desk to get on one. At any time you can head up to the rooftop terrace for a spectacular view (it's probably best to skip the overpriced restaurant). The building more or less closes 30 minutes after the end of the night's last performance.
- Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, ☎ . 6PM daily. Free shows every night at the top of the Kennedy Center, with typical fare including concerts, theater, and dance. Arrive 30 minutes early to be assured a seat; standing room is available. Free.
The White House hosts a number of special annual events, including the popular White House Easter Egg Roll on the south lawn. The annual tradition was started in 1878 by President Rutherford B. Hayes, who invited local children to the White House lawn for the event. The event includes various other activities for children, including face painting, music, magicians, egg coloring, and story telling, along with food. The event is open to children ages 7 or younger. Free tickets are distributed a few days before Easter, though people usually begin lining up many hours in advance, in the wee hours of the morning, as demand far exceeds supply.
Each year in December, the White House Christmas Tree is displayed on the Ellipse, along with a huge Menorah for Hanukkah. Tickets are required for the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, which features the President and/or First Lady lighting the tree. People line up to get free tickets for the event when they are handed out—usually a month in advance. Once the tree is lit, it is open to the public who can see it lit up each evening, along with smaller trees for each state.
Twice each year, tours take place of the Rose Garden and other gardens on the White House grounds. Over the years, the Presidents and First Ladies changed up the gardens to suit their tastes, including a colonial garden planted by Edith Roosevelt in 1902. President Woodrow Wilson's wife, Ellen, replaced the colonial garden with a Rose Garden, which has remained. The East Garden was redesigned by Jacqueline Kennedy, and Lady Bird Johnson created a Children's Garden at the White House. The White House holds the Fall Garden Tours in October, while the Spring Garden Tours are held in April. Tickets are distributed on the morning of the tour—first-come, first served.
- D.A.R. Constitution Hall, 1776 D St NW, ☎ . M-F 9AM-4PM, Sa 9AM-5PM. D.A.R. Constitution Hall is a smaller venue for concerts and other events. It is also home to the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum, which displays fine arts, ceramics, quilts, and other items, and period rooms. Special events held at Constitution Hall have included filming of the popular game shows, Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune. Architect John Russell Pope designed the building, which was completed in 1929 and is designated a National Historic Site. It was originally built to house the annual D.A.R. convention, and was home to the National Symphony Orchestra, prior to the opening of the Kennedy Center. Free.
- GWU Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St NW, ☎ . The Lisner Auditorium at George Washington University hosts various events including concerts and dance performances.
While this is not at all a shopping destination, there are a few shops and restaurants located at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave, near George Washington University, with original townhouse facades preserved on the exterior of the building. There are a couple of really top notch bookstores as well.
Downtown shopping in the West End is rather dispersed, but there are shops at International Square, located near the Farragut West station on the Orange and Blue Lines, and along Connecticut Ave north of K St, and here and there on streets near Connecticut Ave.
- American Institute of Architects Bookstore, 1735 New York Ave NW, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-F 8:30AM-5PM. Possibly the best museum bookstore around, with a great selection of books on architecture and history, along with some architectural photography books and other items. The AIA also host a gallery in their main building and library of artwork related to architecture, which is free and worth a peruse.
- GW University Bookstore, 800 21st St NW (inside the Marvin Center), ☎ . M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 11AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM. There's one reason to come here, and that's GW paraphernalia—apparel, mugs, stationery, books, etc.
- Indian Craft & Map Store shops, 1849 C St NW (located inside the Department of Interior building; photo ID required), ☎ . M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM. Want to own a piece of America? OK, you can't actually walk in and purchase federal lands, or buy a mining permit. The gift shops, however, are open to the public. In business since 1938, the Indian Craft Shop has numerous American Indian handcrafted items, including pottery and jewelry, as well as books. The map store resides under the name of "Earth Science Information Center."
- Reiter's Scientific Books, 1900 G St NW, ☎ . M-Th 9:30AM-7:30PM, F 9:30AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-6PM. The leading scientific, medical and technical bookstore on the East Coast, with a loyal following of visiting scientists and scholars. It also claims the distinction of the city's oldest bookstore, in business since 1936.
- Washington Law Books, ☎ . M-F 9AM-7PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Washington Law Books, affiliated with Reiters, has a selection of books geared towards law students and professionals, as well as books on international studies, political science, and economics.
West End dining equals power dining. Whether you are on K St, or sitting opposite Lafayette Square, you'll be joined by lobbyists, lawyers, contractors, and politicos. There are several stand-out restaurants here, but the most famous are undoubtedly the Old Ebbitt Grill and the Lafayette Room.
- Burger, Tap, Shake (BTS), 2200 Pennsylvania Ave NW (Washington Circle), ☎ . M-Th 10AM-11PM, F 10AM-1AM, Sa 11AM-1AM, Su 11AM-9PM. Upscale burgers in a downscale, but cool industrial sort of cafeteria space. The list of craft beers is long, the burgers are fresh ground on site and potentially come with all sorts of wild toppings, and the milkshakes (which come spiked or "virgin") are delicious. $8-14.
- Greek Deli & Catering, 1120 19th St NW, ☎ . M-F 7AM-4PM. There are a couple very popular bottom-budget Greek places just north in Dupont Circle (which shall remain nameless), with simply awful food. This place, on the other hand, no one seems to know about, and serves fantastic, authentic Greek food at prices just as low. Carryout only, but you've got nice parks right nearby to turn this into a picnic. $3-9.
- Manouche's Hot Dog Stand, 850 20th St NW. Th-Sa 10PM-4AM. If it's a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night between August and May you'll find Manouche's Hotdog Stand. Manouche has been serving late-night hotdogs to hungry George Washington University students and passers-by since 1986, becoming something of a local legend in the process. His interesting anecdotes and personality alone make it worth the trip. $2.50-3.
- Teaism, 800 Connecticut Ave NW (Across from Lafayette Park), ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-5:30PM. Serves Asian/Japanese dishes, such as bento boxes, along with many varieties of pricey tea. Also a good option for breakfast. $2-9.
- Watergate Pastry (in the Watergate), ☎ . M-F 8AM-7PM, Sa 8AM-5PM, Su 10AM-2PM. This pastry shop is both one of the capital's best and a good reason to wander into the Watergate Hotel. Specialties include their excellent sacher torte, as well as the "Nixon donut." $5-8.
- El Chalán, 1924 I St NW, ☎ . M-F 11:30AM-3PM,5:30PM-10PM, Sa 1PM-10PM. Fine Peruvian dining at a very reasonable price, across the street from the World Bank. If you haven't tried Peruvian before, it's a rich mix of Incan, Spanish, and East Asian cuisines (Peru has a large East Asian immigrant population). Look for dishes with potatoes—Peru is the birthplace of the spud, and its cuisine uses some 40 odd varieties. The lomo saltado, a steak dish with heavy Chinese influence, is a local favorite, but if you are up to something more adventurous, the chicken hearts (anticuchos de corazón) are out of this world. This is one of the best options for fine dining on a budget anywhere near the White House, and a great place to relax, sip a pisco sour, and enjoy some fresh ceviche. Noisy on busy nights. $14-22.
- Kaz Sushi Bistro, 1915 I St NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2PM; dinner: M-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. The decor is a little uninspired, but the sushi and especially the other Japanese cuisine here is exceptional and creative (great chef!). $16-30; individual sushi or rolls: $4-7.
- Luigi's Pizzeria Restaurant, 1132 19th St NW, ☎ . 11AM-midnight daily. Regulars are fiercely loyal to the pizza, claiming it to be the best in Washington. In the evenings, with its more expensive Italian dishes, it has a nice enough ambiance for a date. $7.50-30.
- Meiwah, 1200 New Hampshire Avenue NW, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-10:30PM, Sa Noon-10:30PM, Su noon-10PM. A highly acclaimed, classy, albeit not entirely authentic Chinese restaurant catering to lawyers, businessmen, and politicians. An excellent option for a business lunch or dinner. Meiwah also offers delivery and carry-out. $12-25.
- Old Ebbitt Grill, 675 15th St NW, ☎ . M-F 7:30AM-midnight, Sa-Su 8:30AM-midnight. The venerable Old Ebbitt Grill. You don't come for the food (which just just fine, American cuisine), you come here for the tradition and the history. This Victorian restaurant and bar a couple blocks from the White House was a personal favorite with steak-eating Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt back in the nineteenth century. It remains a symbol of the classic Washingtonian experience, and will probably always attract power diners. The one selection on the menu that really is excellent is the rightly famous oyster menu. You will need reservations. $18-35.
- Equinox, 818 Connecticut Ave NW, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-2PM,5:30PM-10PM, F 11:30AM-2PM,5:30PM-10PM, Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM, Su 5:30PM-9PM. Celebrity chef Todd Gray's D.C. restaurant, serving fine seasonal American cuisine. Offers a tasting menu, with pasta, fish, and cheese courses. Vegetarian options also available. $45-60; tasting menus: $75-90.
- Georgia Brown's, 950 15 St NW, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-10PM, F 11:30AM-11PM, Sa noon-11PM, Su 10AM-2:30PM,5:30PM-10PM;. This restaurant serves some of D.C.'s favorite upscale southern cooking, such as fried catfish, shrimp and grits, or southern fried chicken, along with traditional southern side dishes. Lunch on weekdays sees a $24 prix fixe three-course menu. Book ahead for the very popular Sunday jazz brunch. $27-55.
- Kinkead's, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave NW+, ☎ . M-F 11AM-2:30PM,5:30PM-10PM, Sa-Su 5:30PM-10PM. American seafood cooking at its finest, often considered the best in the city. Kinkead's raw bar is also popular. Home to an uncommonly fine crab cake. $40-60.
- The Lafayette Room, 800 16th St NW (inside the Hay-Adams Hotel), ☎ . 7AM-11AM, 11:30AM-2PM daily; dinner: M-F 5:30PM-10PM. This restaurant overlooks Lafayette Square and the White House, and is a premier place for power dining. For the price, the food here is underwhelming, but the food, obviously, is not why you come here. $45-55.
- Marcel's, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM, Su 5:30PM-9:30PM. Self described French cuisine with Flemish flair. Quiet, elegant atmosphere. They will wow you with the service, with extra touches everywhere, from occasional free cocktails to the limo service to the Kennedy Center included in the pre-theatre dining. Jacket required. pre-theatre: $52; prix fixe: four-course $75, five-course $90, seven-course $125.
- Occidental Grill, 1475 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . M-F 11:30AM-3PM,5PM-10PM, Sa 11AM-2:30PM,5PM-10PM, Su 11AM-2:30PM,5PM-9PM. The Old Ebbitt Grill outshines this century-old establishment by the White House "Where Statesmen Dine" in terms of fame and age, but not in terms of quality. Anybody who is anybody in D.C. has dined here going back to its opening in 1906, and their images remain on the famous photo-lined walls. If the endless politicos bore you, keep in mind that the Occidental also hosted the Washington Senators victory banquet when the city won its first and only World Series. This restaurant doesn't rest on its star-studded laurels, though, and practices top-notch cookery, and is looking quite sharp following its centennial anniversary and $2 million renovation. $50-65.
- The Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Ave NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-10PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-10:30PM. Chef Tony Conte prepares elegant meat, pasta, and seafood dishes, including lobster. Good selection of wine, and delicious desserts. The last few presidents have all dined here; Condoleeza Rice declared it her favorite in the city. Pre-theatre menu available 5:30PM-6:30PM. $28-45.
- The Prime Rib, 2020 K St NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-3PM; dinner: M-Th 5PM-10:30PM, F-Sa 5PM-11PM. A steakhouse that prides itself on tradition and formality—jackets are a must, and they go well with the beautiful art deco surroundings, tuxedo-clad waiters, and classy Frank Sinatra-esque piano bar atmosphere. The menu can be a little uneven, but the signature prime rib is appropriately excellent, as is the lump crab imperial and the (best in the city) key lime pie. $40-75.
- Taberna del Alabardero, 1776 I St NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-10:30PM, F-Sa 5:30PM-11PM. Traditional Spanish cuisine served a la carte and as tapas, served in one very romantic restaurant. The three-course prix fixe is highway robbery. The restaurant also offers a dedicated vegetarian menu. Neither tapas nor prix-fixe menus are available on Saturday nights, so that's not the night to get your money's worth. $50-70; M-F prix-fixe: three-course $26, five-course $70, seven-course $85, wine-pairings $40.
- Vidalia, 1990 M St NW, ☎ . Lunch: M-F 11:30AM-2:30PM; dinner: M-Th 5:30PM-9:30PM; F-Sa 5:30PM-10PM; Su 5PM-9PM. Locally renowned southern cuisine in an elegant setting, a la carte or tasting menu. Offers complimentary wine tastings and light hor'd'oeuvres during happy hour (M-F 4PM-7PM). The sommelier loves chatting about wine, it's a free education, which is pretty rare in D.C. $45-60.
The West End is not where the nightlife is. Downtown empties out after work, and the middling happy hour ends by 8PM. After that the whole area is dead. There are a couple of nice, standard bars by GW, a bunch of decent fake Irish pubs just west of Farragut Square, and a few clubs on K St by the McPherson Sq Metro stop. Otherwise, walk a few blocks north to Dupont Circle or catch a cab west to Georgetown.
- Froggy Bottom Pub, 2142 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . M-F 11AM-2AM, Sa noon-2AM. Serving the community and the university for several years, Froggy Bottom is a good place to hang out with friends and enjoy a beer, with the food and beer fairly inexpensive. There is patio seating when the weather is warm, and some pool and foosball in the back.
- Lindy's The Red Lion, 2040 I St NW, ☎ . M-Th 10:30AM-1:30AM, Fr-Sa 10:30AM-2:30AM. Lindy's cooks some solid burgers and various combinations of fast food that appear inspired by drunken GW undergrads, and has a friendly dive bar atmosphere. It's practically on the university campus, so expect lots of students and GW decor. Just watch out for the wrought iron steps.
- Off The Record Bar, 800 16th St NW (in the Hay-Adams Hotel), ☎ . Su-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F-Sa 11:30AM-12:30AM. Recognized by Forbes.com as one of the world’s best hotel bars, Off the Record is known as Washington’s premiere "power bar" (right across the park from the White House), and a place to be seen and not heard.
- Recessions, 1823 L St NW, ☎ . M-Th 11:30AM-midnight, F 11:30AM-2AM, Sa 5PM-2AM. This has got to be the West End's cheapest dive bar, with $3 burgers and $4.50 sandwiches. Weekday happy hours 5PM-8PM see $2.75 "King Kongs"—26oz draft beers, as well as $2 bottles and $2.50 food specials. It's filled with after-work yuppies, of course, but it's still kind of amazing that this place is next to Farragut Square!
- Lima, 1501 K St NW, ☎ . M-Th 10PM-2AM, F-Sa 10PM-3AM. A mainstay of the K St scene, with diverse, international clientele, pricey drinks, house and trance, and a good whiff of pretension in the air. The upstairs Latin American restaurant is worthy of a visit in its own right, and makes for a good combination with the lounge. Tu 18+. Cover: free-$20.
- Science Club, 1136 19th St NW, ☎ . M-Th 5PM-2AM, F-Sa 5PM-3AM. A trendy two-floor lounge just south of Dupont Circle, with little pretense to faux-nerdiness beyond the name, aside from a couple science lab nods in the furnishings. There is significantly less pretension here than other places to the north, despite that it is fashionable—this is no doubt owing to the lack of a dress code, VIP rooms, bottle service, etc. This is just a place to chill out and get dancing. Drinks are disproportionately expensive, but it's hard to complain with no cover.
- Tattoo, 1413 K St NW, ☎ . W-Th 10PM-2AM, F-Sa 9PM-3AM. The least pretentious of the K St clubs is this rock club, with a bunch of flatscreens showing MTV videos, and loud 80s & 90s mainstream rock on the speakers (and some hip hop). Drinks are overpriced, the small venue gets very crowded on weekends, and the crowd on the dance floor is anything but rock 'n roll, but it's a good time nonetheless. Cover: free-$20.
- Best Western Georgetown Hotel & Suites, 1121 New Hampshire Ave NW, toll-free: . An all suite hotel, and a bland chain. It's claim to be in Georgetown is a blatant lie—it's in the business district, and closer to Dupont Circle. The only reason to stay here would be if you find a good deal online. $150-185.
- Melrose Hotel, 2430 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . The decor is a bit outdated, but the location and prices are good. It's in the business district, and close enough to Georgetown and the Kennedy Center where you could walk. $140-250.
- The Quincy, 1823 L St NW, ☎ . The Quincy is a converted Holiday Inn, and the renovation hasn't quite masked that, despite claims to the contrary of sleekness and contemporary decor. It's a fine hotel with some great rates nonetheless, and has extended stay suites and meeting rooms geared towards business travelers. $120-180.
- Hotel Lombardy, 2019 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . Old-fashioned boutique hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue just a few blocks from the White House. Rooms are slightly dated, but comfortable. $160-270.
- Renaissance M St Hotel, 1143 New Hampshire Ave NW, ☎ . The luxury Marriott brand. Rooms are on the small side. $190-350.
- The River Inn, 924 25th Street NW, ☎ . This comfortable apartment hotel is located near Foggy Bottom station and the Kennedy Center and boasts large rooms. Note that the hotel's room rates vary considerably, and range from a starting price of $300 in peak periods to less than half that level at other times. At the lower rates this hotel is a real bargain, but the high rates don't represent good value. Politics and history junkies staying here (or in the other nearby apartment hotels) can get a minor thrill by shopping for groceries at the small supermarket in the nearby Watergate complex. $119-$354.
- The Hay-Adams, 800 16th St NW, ☎ . A prominent historic hotel right on Lafayette Square—if you get a window facing south, you'll have quite the view. As you might expect, you have to pay for this location, but the service and accommodations match those prices in quality even without the view. Also offers corporate suite accommodation. $300-800.
- Mayflower Hotel, 1127 Connecticut Ave NW, ☎ . Built in 1925, with extensive gold trim and elegance, this old hotel is has hosted several Presidents and other famous politicians. The level of service, though, has not kept pace with the other historic hotels in the area—the Hay-Adams and the Willard. $280-430.
- Park Hyatt Washington, 1221 24th St NW, ☎ . This is a modern, classy, and big hotel with the level of service you would expect from the prices. The somewhat odd location makes this a better hotel for business travelers. Although, if you can afford a stay here, you probably won't mind spending money on cabs, and the location is very quiet. $400-800.
- Ritz Carlton Washington, 1150 22nd St NW, ☎ . Modern, extravagant hotel located near the Foggy Bottom Metro station, with the deluxe SportsClub/LA located in the hotel. $250-550.
- W Hotel, 515 15th St NW, ☎ . Number one reason to stay here (or at almost any W Hotel) is aesthetic—the rooms, lobby, everything, are gorgeous. Fantastic views from the rooftop bar/restaurant. Huge gym. $270-500.
- Westin Georgetown, 2350 M St NW, ☎ . An unexceptional, but comfortable modern hotel geared towards business travelers, with a quiet location in the business district, and just a few blocks from Georgetown. $250-500.
- The Willard InterContinental, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ . D.C.'s grand old hotel two blocks from the White House. The hotel has tons of history. Every president since Franklin Pierce has stayed here, the first Japanese diplomats to ever stay at a foreign country stayed here, Martin Luther King penned his I Have a Dream speech here—you get the idea. The hotel isn't gliding on previous successes either; the service here is top-notch. It's on the east side of the White House, so it's not as convenient to the business district, but is very convenient to the Mall and the East End. $360-1,000.
- Breadline, 1751 Pennsylvania Ave NW, ☎ , fax: +1 202 822-1209. M-F 7:30AM-5:30PM. A sandwich shop with free WiFi.
- Cafe Phillips, 1401 H St NW, 1776 G St NW, ☎ . M-F 7AM-4PM. Sandwich place near McPherson Square with free WiFi.
- Farragut Park, 17th St NW, between I and K St, ☎ . The Golden Triangle BID provides free WiFi coverage for Farragut Park.
- The obvious next stops are Georgetown to the west or the East End to the east for dining, shopping, and nightlife (a ten–fifteen minute walk or a $1 Circulator bus ride from Foggy Bottom), and south to Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin, and the Mall.
- Slightly less obvious is to head north to Dupont Circle, where the nightlife and dining is a bit more local, and a bit more fashionable.
- Arlington, home to the famous cemetery, National Airport, and more downtown dining and business, is just across the bridge, and is easy to reach via the Blue/Orange lines or by bus (or taxi).
|Routes through West End|
|Springfield ← Arlington ←||W E||→ East End → Largo|
|Vienna ← Arlington ←||W E||→ East End → New Carrollton|
|Reston ← Arlington ←||W E||→ East End → Largo|
|Gaithersburg ← Dupont Circle ←||N E||→ East End → Wheaton|