By Becca Hensley
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.
History plays a starring role inWashington, DC, the United States’ bold, audacious, urban enclave. Where earth-shaking, life-changing business gets done every day, and with a storied past, the district exudes power and drama like no other place. From blue-blooded Georgetown to high-octane Capitol Hill and a slew of eclectic neighborhoods, DC flaunts a varied allure, with a melange of the best of pretty much everything in the world. Presenting top performances at The Kennedy Center, showcasing museum collections and memorials that bedazzle the senses, tempting with some of the world’s most distinctive and satisfying restaurants and bars, this law-making, deal-signing power vortex on the Potomac has an energy all its own. Visit in springtime when the pink and white cherry blossoms bloom. Plan to shop the boutiques on M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, take a night-time cruise on the river, eat crab in Maryland and sip a fine vintage in Virginia’s hilly wine country.Or, just luxuriate in your eye-catching suite, since the district has some of the most opulent guest rooms in the world.
Pineapple and Pearls At last DC has a Michelin Guide, and two-Michelin-starred Pineapple and Pearls stands tall in its pages. Named for the pineapple as a symbol of hospitality and pearls to recall DC’s certain sophistication, this Aaron Silverman hangout takes a playful approach to clean, but well-conjured food. Go for the 13-course tasting menu, a true culinary journey.
Minibar by José Andrés A fantastical adventure, things aren’t what they seem at two-Michelin starred Minibar, which delights the senses with 20 to 30 astonishing courses, where beets and yogurt mimic stained glass and a watermelon slice tastes like a margarita. Begin in a dreamy, Narnia-white salon with champagne, continue to a progressive dinner in a food laboratory space, then end with dessert at cool Barmini across the street.
Fiola Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s Capitol Hill enclave with one Michelin star attracts glitterati aplenty. It draws from seasonal ingredients to create a gourmet experience that borrows crisp formality from Rome, well mannered chic from the District, and soulful cooking from Fabio’s Le Marche homeland in Italy.
Heading out for a drink? These fabulous bars will provide the ultimate DC experience.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon Boasting the largest whiskey collection in the world, this deal-maker’s den offers a variety of enclaves, including a tiki bar for sunny days. Located in the Adams Morgan area,with nearly 3,000 bottles of whiskey on display, this is the place to taste that obscure spirit. Want privacy? There’s a reservation-only speakeasy in the basement.
Columbia Room This locale offers a three or five course seasonal cocktail tasting menu, paired with courses from duck to oysters. Reserved seating can be upgraded with champagne and Ossetra caviar. Created by Derek Brown, this concept includes three spaces and four experiences, including a spirits library and bar.
2 Birds 1 Stone
Sneak into this secret subterranean bar in Logan Circle, just below Doi Moi on 14th Street. Here, hand-scribed menus and vintage glassware set a mood. Stylish, posh, a little eccentric, the bar gets rave reviews for its meticulous, sometimes far-fetched, ultimately satisfying craft cocktails. Expect crowds after five.
Get out of Town
Head to Virginia and try RdV Vineyards, located in Delaplane, Virginia—just 90 minutes from DC. They pour wine only by reservation and give exclusive, informative tours. Selling the highest-priced wines made in Virginia, and with a Cabernet some say rivals California vintages, Rutger de Vink’s winery is a great place to spend the day.
Park Hyatt Washington, DC
Occupying the penthouse level, the 2,006 sq ft, one-bedroom suite is poised on a corner, overlooking M St and 24th St. Interpreted by global design maven Tony Chi, the contemporary design exudes masculine Americana. Notably palatial, the spa-like bath, anchored with a hand-carved, ruby-colored travertine tub, ceramic tatami flooring and Le Labo amenities, promises relaxation. A grand piano stars in the large separate living area, while myriad balconies frame city views. A full wet bar and farm-style French oak dining table for six add a final bit of swank.
Presidential Suite The St. Regis, Washington, DC Envisioned by designer Myron Wolman to be as celestial and “magical as a white peacock,” this newly redone one-bedroom suite manages to blend the historic hotel’s old-world gravitas with light, airy elegance. Awash in textures and various tones of white, the 2,510 sq ft haven has snow-hued marble floors, chalk-toned velvet upholstery, pearly textures and subtle eggshell elements. Italian-beaded upholstered walls and Spanish and English antiques anchor the expansive space, while fur throws add a luxuriously seductive flair.
Federal Suite Hay-Adams Hotel
Once a private home, this hotel stands tall as one of DC’s most revered landmarks. The Federal Suite, the historic hotel’s most sumptuous refuge, looks out to panoramic views of the White House, Lafayette Square and St John’s Church. Resplendent with sense of place, boasting a small balcony, the two-bedroom suite provides both a residential ambiance and a serious get-down-to-business side. Classic and cosseting, this is the spot to channel old DC charm.
Royal Suite Four Seasons Hotel Washington, DC
A constellation of Swarovski crystal light fixtures illuminate the foyer of the 4,000 sq ft Royal Suite, the premier of the hotel’s six lavish presidential suites. Safety is a priority—flanked by bullet-resistant glass and boasting closed caption surveillance and a private entrance, the extravagant space holds a lounge, living room, library,master suite, gym and bathroom. Oversized Italian sofas and chairs invite repose, while a 60in LCD television and a Bang & Olufsen media system entertain. A stay in the Royal Suite includes use of a hotel car.
Take Three/// Museums
National Museum of African American History and Culture
With entry tickets as scarce as a seat at Hamilton on Broadway, the District’s newest museum has hearts aflutter. Located on the Washington National Mall in a building designed by David Adjaye, the 11-gallery collection presents 30,000 history-teaching artifacts that span 400 years. Ranging from a thumb-worn hymnal to Rosa Parks’ dress, and including wrought iron shackles and a moldering slave cabin, the Smithsonian venue tells a stirring story.
National Gallery of Art With a west building inspired by the Pantheon in Rome and an east building by IM Pei, the National Museum of Art reigns as one of the world’s best places to view art. But the ample, 100-gallery-plus venue got even better this year when it reopened after a $69m refurbishment, which added a rooftop terrace and additional galleries, increasing the structure’s size by 12,250sq ft. Peruse more than 130,000 works of art, which run the entire gamut of history from the Middle Ages to modern times.
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Conceived in 1966 when Latvian immigrant Joseph H Hirshhorn donated 6,000 stellar works of art to the US in gratitude for his chosen homeland’s support of newcomers, the cylinder shaped structure remains a mecca of contemporary culture. Opened in 1974, it continues to draw crowds to its rotating presentation of a 12,000-piece treasure trove. While impressive indoors, the museum is most touted for its garden, which displays such icons as Giacometti’s Monumental Head.