The Mid-Atlantic Dental Meeting arrives in Washington D.C. on May 5 and concludes on May 6. For doctors who are attending, Spring is an ideal time to visit the District. Temperatures tend to be tamer, and flowers and trees will be in full bloom. While you’re in town, here’s where you’ll want to spend your time, including bars, restaurants and museums.
If the Mid-Atlantic Dental Meeting brings you to town from May 5-6, you’re in luck. Spring is the best time to explore. The mild weather makes walking a joy and the profusion of tulips, dogwood and azaleas sweeten the scenery.
MUSEUMS, MONUMENTS AND OFFICE BUILDINGS
Washington, D.C., is a feast for the eyes. No other city has the White House, the Capitol, and the National Archives, where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are on view. The scores of monuments and memorials pay official homage to our country’s heroes, and the Smithsonian Museums (https://www.si.edu/museums) offer free access to U.S. treasures.
The newest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which debuted last September, presents the African American experience in the United States. The multi-layered story starts with slavery, winds though segregation and protest, and culminates with black triumphs in sports, stage, movies and other arts. Because of the museum’s popularity, visitors must obtain free timed-entry tickets. Check the Smithsonian website.
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Find out about bugs, bones, blue whales and much more at the National Museum of Natural History, home to the 45.5-carat Hope diamond. At the Hall of Human Origins, you can merge your face with that of a pre-human, and visit the Insect Zoo for the tarantula feeding. The National Museum of American History houses such favorite and eclectic finds as the flag that flew over Fort McHenry (the original Star-Spangled Banner), First Ladies’ gowns, Thomas Jefferson’s lap desk, and Dorothy’s ruby-red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
At the National Air and Space Museum, peruse the history of aviation from the dreams of the Wright brothers to space flight. A swirl of curves, the 250,000-square-foot National Museum of the American Indian, constructed of yellowish Kasota limestone, glows softly like an adobe-built kiva at sunset. The facility presents artifacts and cultural information about native nations hailing from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego.
Three non-Smithsonian facilities well worth touring are the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which tells the somber story of the millions of Jews and other victims of Nazi brutality in World War II; the International Spy Museum, which delivers the low-down on espionage; and the Newseum, whose scores of theaters, galleries and interactive stations demonstrate how free speech, supported by news-gathering and distribution, is essential to democracies.
Take advantage of spring’s warm weather to walk or bike the National Mall and adjacent areas, pausing at the Lincoln, Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II memorials, as well as the Washington Monument. To tour the U.S. Capitol or the White House, obtain tickets well in advance by contacting your senator or representative. The Capitol Visitor Center distributes a limited number of same-day tickets. Even without passes, allow time to explore the exhibits at both the Capitol and the White House visitor centers.
At Arlington National Cemetery, across Memorial Bridge in Virginia, hundreds of thousands of people who served the United States are buried. Watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier always re-enforces the solemnity and seriousness of war. Other famous gravesites there include those of John F. Kennedy; his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis; and Robert F. Kennedy.
DINING AND NIGHTLIFE
The District blooms with interesting places to eat, ranging from Michelin two-star dining rooms to spicy cheap eats at food trucks. The recent Michelin Guide awarded stars to 12 area restaurants, and an additional 19 eateries made Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list, which features the best moderately priced eateries.
Chef Aaron Silverman, known for his playful and unlikely combinations of ingredients, features a 13-course tasting menu at two-Michelin-starred Pineapple and Pearls. At his casual, one-starred Rose’s Luxury, tables can be had only by lining up in advance. Usually, you need to be there by 3 p.m. or so for the beginning of the dinner seating at 5 p.m. Professional line sitters—yes, they exist—hold the places of those who can’t or won’t queue up.
Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Fiola, a noted Italian restaurant, received one Michelin star. His Fiola Mare, even without a Michelin star, rates as one of the District’sbest restaurants and the dining room comes with a Potomac River view. The one-star Blue Duck Tavern serves seasonal and innovative American cuisine. Chef Nick Stefanelli’s Masseria, also the recipient of one Michelin star, plates memorable Italian cuisine. Diners choose either a four- or five-course meal or a six-course tasting menu. Zaytinya, among Michelin’s Bib Gourmand recommendations, serves savory Greek/Mediterranean tapas near the Verizon Center.
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Sometimes when exploring a museum, it’s most convenient to eat there. Mitsitam Cafe, at the National Museum of the American Indian, and Sweet Home Café, at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, rate as two of the best Smithsonian cafeterias. Mitsitam (which means “let’s eat” in the language of the Piscataway and Delaware peoples) serves Native American tacos, fry bread, squash, grilled salmon, and other traditional foods. Sweet Home features African American-influenced fare from the Creole Coast, the agricultural South, the industrial North, and the West. Entrees often include Gulf shrimp over grits, buttermilk-fried chicken, and pan-roasted rainbow trout. Desserts can be sweet potato pie and praline bread pudding with bourbon caramel sauce.
To stretch your budget, get lunch at one of the many food trucks. Fill up on homemade stuffed pockets at DC Empanadas, tasty pizza at DC Slices, and for snacks, try the ice-cream sandwiches, cookies and milk from Captain Cookie and the Milk Man. Track the moving feast online at Food Truck Fiesta (foodtruckfiesta.com).
For D.C. nightlife, think theater. Two noted companies offer innovative takes on the Bard, as well as other productions. The Shakespeare Theatre hosts “Macbeth” from April 25 through May 28, and the intimate Folger Theatre presents a program of medieval troubadours’ songs and poetry April 28 to 30, followed by Shakespeare’s “Timon of Athens,” May 9 to June 11.
But it’s not all Shakespearean classics in the capital. Arena Stage has been at the forefront of nurturing new plays and updating definitive American plays since its founding in 1950. The facility hosts “A Raisin in the Sun” on its main stage (March 31 to May 7) and “Smart People,” billed as a “controversial and fiercely funny new play,” is in the Kreeger Theater (April 14 to May 21).
Along with hosting plays, the Kennedy Center is home to the National Symphony Orchestra and the Washington Ballet. The boxy building on the Potomac provides Washington with an extraordinary artistic menu of theater and musicals, dance and ballet, and multi-media performances, as well as chamber, jazz, orchestral, popular and folk music. The Millennium Stage offers a free performance every evening.
ESPECIALLY FOR CHILDREN AND TEENS
Cool off by running through the synchronized sprays with your kids at Georgetown Waterfront Park, an oasis at the foot of M Street NW. Nearby, concrete steps lead to the river, getting you close enough to feed the ducks. The recommended treats for the quackers aren’t crackers or bread. Instead, bring birdseed, barley or oats to toss.
Little ones like riding the carousel on the Mall near the Arts and Industries building. At the National Museum of American History, hands-on activities captivate tots through 6-year-olds at Wegmans Wonderplace, and budding inventors, ages 6 to 12, craft musical instruments, create fashion from trash, or try their hand at being a disk jockey at the museum’s Draper Spark!Lab. Turn your grade-schoolers and teens into secret agents by taking part in Operation Spy, a one-hour, hands-on secret mission at the International Spy Museum that’s fun. Purchase tickets in advance.
Want great city views? Then paddle the Potomac River with a rented canoe or kayak from Thompson Boat Center, something that is likely to please the entire family, even teens. If your your child is 16 or older, consider ending your day together with an evening Segway glide-by of the illuminated monuments. Companies include City Segway and Segs in the City.
Whatever your age or your politics, you are sure to discover many engaging experiences in Washington, D.C.