Where to Eat, Drink and Sleep Like an Insider in Washington, D.C.
Tour the city like a local
Everyone is paying attention to Washington, D.C. these days with the election the main news, but there are certain places in the nation's capital that the tourists don't know about. Or at least, how to get in them without waiting months for a ticket.
Read on to find out where the best places are to eat, drink and, yes, sleep, in Washington, D.C. Because even after the election is over, and we know whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is our new preisdent, it's still a town that draws 90 million visitors annually, making it one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country.
Opt to stay in luxury
First and foremost is where to stay. If you want a view of some of Washington's most famous landmarks, the Hay-Adams is closer to The White House than any other hotel in the city. This historic hotel was built in 1927, on the corner of 16th and H Streets, and the architecture is impressive. Each room (photo, right) has an understated elegance and luxurious décor.
As an added bonus, American Express cardholders who book through American Express Travel’s Fine Hotels & Resorts program will receive a $100 food and beverage credit, daily breakfast (for two people), late check out and, when available, a room upgrade upon arrival.
Going Off the Record
While at the Hay-Adams, don't miss the panoramic view from the Top of the Hay, the stunning roof terrace that overlooks the Washington Monument and The White House.
If you feel like playing the insider's game, head downstairs to Off the Record, which is known as Washington's best “place to be seen and not heard.” It's a bar where you can rub shoulders with the political elite of past and present. Locals head here for a cocktail after work, and the political-themed menu includes Hillary's Last Word, a delicious gin cocktail (photo, left), or the Trumpy Sour, which is the hotel's take on a whisky sour. Even better, the hotel has original caricatures of the city's most famous names on their coasters.
The OTR Burger is one of the city's best kept secrets, topped with carmelized onion, wild mushrooms, sugar-cured bacon and Gruyere cheese.
Another hot place to head for cocktails is the newly opened Tilt Side Bar (photo, right) on trendy 14th Street NW in the vibrant Logan Circle neighborhood. This intimate bar is the ideal place to hang out with a few good friends, or for a low-key date. Be sure to go on a night that mixologist George Sault is working. Listening to his description of the cocktails he's created is enough to make you long for a PNBL WZRD, with peanut butter washed Deep Eddy vodka topped with a luscious zinfandel, or a Miss Vixen with Elderflower, Aperol and Campari. Go ahead, try both of them. We know it's hard to choose.
When it's time for dinner, go no farther than downstairs from Tilt, to Pearl Dive Oyster Palace (photo, left). It's hard to nab a table at this hot spot, but when you do, it's well worth the effort. The rustic décor gives a warm feel with a bit of southern hospitality. And if you're a fan of oysters, this is the place. The restaurant offers a sampling of east and west coast oysters every night, and you won't want to miss the cornmeal crusted Chesapeake oysters with andouille sausage and sweet potato hash. The fried egg and catfish Po'Boy is another outstanding option, and the wood grilled gulf redfish with sage and native pecan brown butter and stone grits is swoonworthy.
Sightseeing in the nation's capitol
As for where to sightsee, you won't want to miss the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. The building looks like nothing else on the mall, with a bronze-colored outer corona enveloping the structure in an intricate filigree pattern. Tickets for the museum are free, but they have been unavailable since the museum opened on September 24. An insider's tip is to ask the concierge at the Hay-Adams to help you with tickets. The hotel was fortunate enough to receive some tickets in advance, and they're available for hotel guests upon request, at no charge. The museum itself will make you smile, laugh and cry as you tour the plethora of exhibits ranging from Prince's costume, to Harriet Tubman's shawl. Be forewarned, the David M. Rubenstein History Gallery is on the bottom floor and it has up to an additional two-hour wait even once you're inside the museum. Plan accordingly, and try to arrive as early as possible to make sure you have time to tour every floor.
The White House and the US Capitol
And since you're in Washington, D.C., it's a no-brainer to visit The White House. Snagging tickets is easier than you'd expect, with a bit of advance planning. Exactly three months before your visit, email your local congressman or senator, and put in your request for tickets. If you want to see the US Capitol, or the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, you can also request those tickets through your congressman or senator as well. While it might seem like a touristy thing to do, walking through the hallowed halls of The White House and where Congress is in session will make you finally appreciate that 7th grade history class.