5 Reasons to Love Washington, D.C.

The world's eyes will be on Washington D.C. this weekend but there's a lot more to the United States' capital than its most famous resident. Here are five reasons why you should go

Roasted beets with goat's cheese, puffed grains, honey, mizuna and herb dressing at The Dabney in Washington, D.C. Picture / @thedabneydc

1. The food
Last year Bon Appetit magazine proclaimed D.C. its Restaurant City of the Year, saying there had never been a better time to go out to eat in the capital.

It gushed about the city's vibrant neighbourhood dining scene and the calibre of its chefs, and listed more than a dozen establishments at the top of their game - including The Dabney (pictured) which serves food cooked almost exclusively with live fire.

Other words bandied about the D.C. food scene include "innovative" and "pioneering", attributed by some as a result of the millennials who flooded the city after the Obamas took office. Need further proof? Last year it also joined New York City, San Francisco and Chicago in the Michelin Guide.

2. The memorials
Try to get around as many of the capital’s memorials to fallen leaders and soldiers as you can. All are poignant, emotive and extremely moving, and have been constructed and displayed respectfully.

It’s also worth visiting them again at night, as each has been carefully illuminated and their impact is entirely different. Of special note is the Martin Luther King, Jr memorial, featuring the great civil rights leader’s face emerging from a 9m-tall ‘Stone of Hope’ which sits detached from two large boulders, known as the Mountain of Despair. The statue was inspired by a line in the famous speech: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Another one not to miss is the haunting Korean War Veterans memorial which has statues of 19 US soldiers making their way through an interpretation of the Korean countryside, on patrol.

3. The landmarks
Many of the sites around the city will look familiar, thanks to their starring roles in popular culture and key moments in US history.

One of the most prominent spots is the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the National Mall which you’ll likely recognise from famous protests and rallies, including the civil rights march where Martin Luther King, Jr gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963, and the Vietnam War Moratorium Rally in 1969. You’ll also probably remember it from the famous scene in Forrest Gump, when Forrest and Jenny reunite in its waters. 

You can get pretty close to the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (which is guarded by the Secret Service), and you can tour parts of the famous Capitol building. 

4. The neighbourhoods
For a completely different vibe slightly off the tourist trail, head out of the CBD for a neighbourhood experience shopping, eating and drinking — and maybe take in some live football or basketball.

One of the city’s oldest areas, Shaw played an important role in the social, economic and cultural progress of African-Americans, and was a crucial hub during the civil rights movement. The area is packed with great restaurants (this is where you’ll find The Dabney, pictured top) and is home to concert halls and cool shops.

Over in the equally historic suburb of Georgetown, located next to the Potomac River, you’ll find charming tree-lined cobblestone streets and stately old homes along with top-notch dining, shopping and excellent hotel options.   

5. The museums
Most of the excellent museums in D.C. are free to visit, thanks to James Smithson, an English chemist who donated his estate to the founding of an educational institution for the city.

There are 17 of the Smithsonian Institute's 19 museums and galleries in Washington, 11 of which are on the National Mall. There should be something to amuse everyone — from the National Museum of American History which features such artefacts as Judy Garland’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz and a turntable used by Grandmaster Flash, to the National Air and Space Museum which has two original Wright brothers’ planes (the oldest, the Wright Flyer dates from 1903) and the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia.

One not to miss is the brand-new National Museum of African American History and Culture which features more than 3000 artefacts, from pieces of a slave ship and Ku Klux Klan hoods, to Carl Lewis' Olympic medals and a vest once worn by Jimi Hendrix.

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New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald

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