Capital Attractions

Washington_Low resBy Kristie Kellahan

AS the power capital of the United States, Washington DC has, at times, been unfairly lumped with a reputation as a conservative town of politicians. The truth is a city far more dynamic and appealing to visitors. Located on the east coast of the United States, about a four-hour drive south-west of New York City, the District of Columbia has a resident population of about 650,000 people – roughly twice the size of Canberra.

Sure, the political and historic landmarks must be seen. No visit to Washington DC is complete without a selfie taken in front of the White House, or a moment with the imposing statue of Abraham Lincoln. At almost six metres, the former president’s seated marble statue dominates the Lincoln Memorial.

A wander along the National Mall – the name given to the tree-lined space between the Washington Monument and the US Capitol Building – turns up a dozen free museums that rank among the world’s best in the fields of art, science and history.

But dig a little deeper and you’ll discover a thriving food-truck scene with tasty cuisine from every corner of the globe served hot and fresh from mobile kitchens whose whereabouts are avidly followed on Twitter and Instagram.
Look beyond the modern art galleries and natural history exhibits and be wowed by Newseum, an unmissable museum dedicated to international news media and the defense of the freedoms of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Get a taste of the undercover life at the International Spy Museum, an interactive attraction that will please kids and grown-ups alike with its role play and fascinating insider intel.

Cheering on the hometown sports teams with a cold beer in hand is a great way to meet the locals. On the baseball field it’s all about the Washington Nationals, while in the National Football League, the Washington Redskins are considered the second most valuable professional sports team in the United States.

Explore the city’s open spaces and well-designed CBD on a rented bicycle, or stand to attention and see the sights from a motorised Segway. With many of the war memorials and historic buildings spread out around the city, it’s handy to zip around on two wheels.

Befitting a city that attracts legions of visitors from the worlds of diplomacy, politics and business, DC is home to many top-notch luxury hotels. The Watergate Hotel – part of the Watergate complex forever linked to the scandal which cost Richard Nixon his presidency – is set to reopen this year after an 18-month complete renovation.

The Embassy Row Hotel celebrated a grand unveiling of its 231 redesigned guest rooms earlier this year following the completion of a US$15 million transformation. Formerly the Hilton Washington Embassy Row, the hotel is located in one of the city’s finest locales; historic Dupont Circle. Surrounded by embassies and within walking distance to dozens of restaurants and galleries, the hotel has one of the city’s few rooftop pools and claims to have the only rooftop pool bar in DC. With DC summers guaranteed to be hot and sticky, the combination of a pool and bar will be welcomed by many visitors to the area.

Working together with like-minded local businesses and community organisations, the hotel has created innovative partnerships like SOME (So Others Might Eat) which helps the poor and homeless of the nation’s capital. The initiative also allows guests to make a difference, with a percentage of revenue from one of the hotel’s suites donated the cause, along with a quarter-dollar of every “special of the day” bowl sold in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Station Kitchen & Cocktails.

The restaurant is the latest address in DC’s burgeoning food scene. Fuelled by local innovators and entrepreneurs, the culinary melting pot is heating up. The New York Times reported that a new restaurant opens in Washington DC “every week”. Celebrity chefs including Momofuku’s David Chang and French wonder Daniel Boulud want a piece of the capital pie, with both opening new restaurants in recent months.

Time your clients’ visit to coincide with Washington DC Restaurant Week, when more than 200 of the city’s best restaurants slash prices to offer three-course lunches for $20.15 and 3-course dinners for $35.15. The event is held twice a year – in the winter and summer – and includes French, American, Pan-Asian, Southern cuisine and much more.

Perhaps the best time of all to visit the capital is in April when warm springtime weather ushers in cherry blossom season. A wildly popular festival is held each year to celebrate the beautiful blossoming of more than 3,000 cherry trees that Japan gifted to the US. Photography enthusiasts and nature lovers aren’t the only ones to go weak-kneed for the glorious explosion of pink and white blossoms all over the city; visitors come from around the world to see the spectacle.

No matter which season your clients visit Washington DC, there’s so much waiting to be discovered.

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