Washington D.C. is no stranger to debate. As the home of the federal government, and the political heart of America, the nation’s capital is where decisions that impact our country are implemented, from national policies to establishing laws and public services, thereby fueling nationwide discussions since 1790. In fact, Washington D.C. sets the stage for important conversations on a global level, and there are several reasons to visit Washington D.C. now.
But before you head to the nation’s capitol, it’s a good idea to consider where D.C. sits in our country! When my friend Josh and I recently visited, we found ourselves debating a more controversial subject, one that has been a heated debate for centuries: Is Washington D.C. considered part of the south, or part of the north?
Josh, who grew up in New York, is confident D.C. is a Southern state, while I, hailing from Georgia, have always viewed D.C. as part of the North. What started as a silly discussion truly set the tone of our weekend, as we set out to discover the answer, which would be defined by the attractions, the meals we ate, and the people we met. It was a nice respite from the heavier stuff people were going to DC for, and ultimately, one that would set out to prove there’s more to D.C. than politics and government. Did we ever come up with an answer? No, but it was a nice journey to help us explore Washington D.C., from its national roots to its modern allure.
Washington D.C. may be known as the nation’s capitol to everyone in the world, but it still’s shaping its identity, which is why it was such a fascinating city to me. While I went to D.C. with certain expectations, I left with a different impression of what the city is. There are two parts of the nation’s capitol: the traditions, the suited politicians, the historic landmarks, but there’s this other part of the city that’s emerging. The globalism, the younger, “woke” generation bringing new energy, the modern sensibility embraced in design, food and nightlife. That said, here are 5 reasons to visit Washington D.C. now.
5 Reasons To Visit Washington D.C. Now
Transportation — from Dulles International Airport to Amtrak — is so much better
Washington D.C. is a short, 3-hour journey from NYC on Amtrak Acela Business Class (Amtrak celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and Joe Biden famously helped improve the train service during the pandemic). I took the quiet car (and whether the quiet car is actually quiet is up for debate – I talk more about it here).
Amtrak has a better pet program, improved rail corridors, and easier ways to book. For instance, passengers can now view and select their seat during the booking process. As someone who prefers flying, I was quite surprised with the service. I thought it was better than flying domestic first class.
There’s a lot of space, large seats, and the large windows have views of amazing landscape (unlike flights where you’re way above the clouds at 10,000 feet). In fact, I wrote a story on why train travel is better than flying.
Washington Union Station, where you’ll exit, is a historic, 1907 station. I was in awe of the arched, dramatic ceiling of the main Great Hall. Train stations don’t get a lot of love in the US (versus Europe and South America), so this was great to see we do have some cool stations.
For travelers flying in, there’s some great news: The Dulles Metrorail Project – Silver Line is nearing completion on the Dulles Corridor Metrorail project, connecting Washington Dulles International Airport to downtown DC (only rideshare, bus and taxi have been available at this point). Operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the 23-mile extension, which includes 11 new stations, has opened as of November last year!
D.C. is an unusually large city (you would never expect this just looking at a map). Locals need to have a car, and visitors can expect to take Ubers or the metro to get around. In the past few years, electric scooters have been popping up all over the capital. It really is a great way to get around if you plan to do a lot of sightseeing, especially around the National Mall.
Four Seasons Washington DC is one of the best hotels in America — and you can now live here
I’ve traveled to over 113 countries, and I’m known for staying in more hotels than anyone on this planet (just reached 700 hotels last week!).
Four Seasons Washington D.C. is the only 5-star, 5-diamond hotel in the nation’s capital, and it’s one of the best hotels I’ve stayed in. If you want a true Washington DC experience, you need to book this hotel. Seriously. It’s new art program makes it feel like a museum.
The hotel received a $13 million renovation in 2016, but it still feels new. The marble floors were shiny, the spaces are modern and the staff are some of the most enthusiastic and welcoming I’ve experienced in years (that’s where it fits into the “Southern” side of the border – that Southern hospitality is unmistakable!). I did a longer review of the hotel if you want to check it out here.
With 222 rooms and suites, the hotel is on the smaller side – well, sure, 222 rooms seems like a lot, but it’s evenly spread out, so you never feel that it’s overcrowded, but I did love the business of the lobby during peak hours. Also, back to the art. The hotel has over 1,000 pieces of art, so when I say it feels like a museum, with precious artwork, from painting to murals, placed throughout the hotel, this is not an exaggeration.
The landscaped outdoor spaces, indoor passageways with skylight ceilings and atypical design (for instance, the fitness center with floor to ceiling windows has a posh lounge just steps from workout machines) makes the hotel architecturally curious and inviting. Also, Four Seasons D.C. is one of few hotels in D.C. that offers rooms with outdoor spaces, there’s a 3-level spa (with 2-lane lap pool and hot tub), Wolfgang Puck’s Cut restaurant with fine steaks (which, of course, I covered in this story), and a new BMW house car with chauffeured rides for guests.
The other perk? Location, location, location. The hotel is located right at the beginning of famed M Street, but it’s also along the historic C&O Canal and directly across the street from Rose Park.
Love the hotel so much? You can now live here. Four Seasons Washington D.C. recently announced private residence condos that just broke ground and will be available to buy in the near future.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana is finally getting the attention it deserves
Jose Andres is one of my favorite chefs, not just because of his famous inventive cooking style, but because he’s such a good guy (I interviewed him for Vanity Fair years ago). He rules the roost in DC with six restaurants, including Oyamel Cocina Mexicana. It did not get the attention it deserved because it opened August 2020, in the height of the pandemic, then there was that whole insurrection thing (the restaurant is located steps from the National Gallery of Art and U.S Capitol and White House).
In any case, this is a beautiful restaurant with vibrant, festival whimsical colors and murals and light fixtures, but the cuisine is as Jose Andres as it gets – but with a touch more “comfort” versus “molecular gastronomy.” Think authentic masa-tempura battered seasonal fish tacos (served in handmade corn tortillas; Oyamel is the first restaurant in DC where corn is ground in house). If you visit during the summer/fall, the Chile en Nogada, a traditional and seasonal Mexican dish rarely seen in D.C., would be your go-to. The roasted poblano pepper filled with shredded pork, pine nut, plantain and apple, covered in a creamy goat cheese and walnut sauce garnished with pomegranate and parsley, feels straight out of Mexico City.
Maketto is bringing a lifeless neighborhood to life!
The emerging, gentrifying H street and NoMa (North of Massachusetts Ave) neighborhoods are where travelers typically avoided in decades past. It’s like sending someone to the Lower East Side in NYC in the 1980s. Now, this hood is a magnet to the hipster set, and plenty of new restaurants, shops and bars are giving it a much-needed rebirth (or, uh… just birth), thanks to bold and adventurous millennial entrepreneurs and emerging chefs.
Leading the pack into revolution is Maketto, a modern Asian “marketplace” that moonlights as a record and sneaker shop, but also offers a bi-level, indoor-outdoor dining space with courtyard and roof deck. Maketto is all and everything, but it’s most specifically known for its restaurant that’s pioneering the dining scene. It’s also a testament to D.C. being part of the “South” since it’s claim to fame is its fried chicken.
Having growing up in Georgia, I know good fried chicken, and Maketto nails it thanks to young chef Erik Yang Bruner — James Beard nominee and winner of Taste of Waldorf Astoria in 2020. The spice and house made breading gives the fried chicken a rich crisp and crunch and explosive flavor, with sweetness from honey, and juiciness you dream of.
Washington D.C. has celebrated many milestones
Washington D.C. is having its moment. The nation’s capitol has recently celebrated many milestones aside from the airport, including the 160th anniversary of Emancipation Day, which honors the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act of April 16, 1862 that abolished slavery in the District of Columbia.
If you’re heading to D.C., spring is also a great time to go for the Cherry Blossom Festival in March 2024.
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